Halo 5 – impressions
Finishes it yesterday, in thep ast week, here’s some thoughts while it’s still fresh:
+ looks at all times polished and even good sometimes however:
-, – , – , – was 95% of the time incredibly increeedibly bland and generic in it’s visual design/world/world building/visual language. It all was “generic mech-i sci-fi” writ large. At any moment you look you seem something that looks “cool” yet I easily found myself spacing out at just how same-same everything was. And I could also tell this based on the reactions of my wife as I would keep saying “look, this looks good” but then 2 seconds later she would look away and the thing is, i felt the same even while playing: the recipe is always the same: at any moment you look at the screen you see a) big empty mechanical surfaces without visual interest (hardly any wear and tear, planlife or life or use, even though they were supposedly houndreds/thousands/millions of years old b) on which boring visually uninteresting mechanical humanoid characters were walking and the camera was taking it’s sweet time to keep showing this. And the characters felt so bland, not just story but visuals too that:
-, -, -, I think I was like 60-70% through the game until I realized the 4 characters in my team were actually sometimes also another 4 characters, that’s how little they looked different and how bland mechanical and without personality or personal style flair they were. Only then did i have a flash of realization that the game keeps switching me between two teams of opposing 4 characters. You may laugh at me if you want, but i think this shows a huge flaw in the visual design. This is made worse by:
-, -, -, very very bland story, that I couldn’t care less about. Soldiers always talking like there’s a great urgency, like there’s not enough time, and this in EVERY mission, this has to do with:
-, – the game has very bad pacing, Like a good game I expect to have highs and lows, moments of quiet and moments of action, tension alternating with awe, this game felt like it was always trying to do tension, tension, rush, rush, rush. There’s pretty much always some big scale battle going on, and banter of “quick quick, we don’t have time…”
+ the game felt uniformly polished looking, like consistently AAA quality in the content presentation, smoothness of running and flowing things forward
+ it kept moving forward, which was good and kept me going even to the point of finishing it, too bad:
-, -, – a lot of the game felt like a series of interconnected arenas. They were not small, but there was always the feeling of “clear the enemies and the next door will open” a few times even leading to confusion or fear of bug because of some lost enemy. And this wave based fighting felt very much the opposite of any personal adventure or exploration (for some reason i keep wanting to contrast this to the now ancient aged game Unreal )
+, +, – Music is good, and now that i listen to it separately there’s even great musical moments, but little of that was to me apparent while playing the game. Maybe it was the monotony of the wave based enemies, or the annoying pointless in-between soldier-soldier dialogues, but most of the time i didn’t notice it (maybe also shows that it wasn’t used good, at the right moments & the existence of moments of breathing to notice it), except a few times when i remember thinking what a waste it is was when they overused and abused the “finish the fight” (i think Halo 3) majestic song which had tones of grand last stand but this as a completely trivial moment which meant nothing, and then again, and then again, trivializing it and being a bit lame if one thinks it was an attempt to project greatness feeling and a feeling of story and purpose in which such were missing
-, +, – The whole game and world, instead of being an excuse to see and feel alien worlds and interesting stories felt populated only by faceless fighting soldiers. I thought for a while in a mission about a mine i’ll get more of a feeling of a colony, but that was super shallow (Rage shined in contrast to this) while for the most I’d see a grand looking camera fly by some alien structures, but instead of seeing some indication of alien or even human living activity there there would be only more faceless soldiers doing nothing
-, -, – I found it incredibly embarrassing and annoying that they kept the signature halo little silly enemies and even worse they gave them some silly voices saying stupid things. This further destroyed any pretense of this being a well thought out universe with interesting participants with own motivations. I get it, it must’ve been a whole different world in 2001, 16 years ago when the first Halo game was made, and maybe back then they were meant as a little comic relief, but today, with such a big franchise, this felt just embarrassing. Even under obligations of keeping the identity I would’ve hoped modern days would at least try to minimize such enemies, make them less common and overshadow them by something more immersive.
-, – there’s this one race of robotic aliens that appears again. It was there in Halo 4, it felt there too lazy, and it does so even more in these bland environments. The weapons they drop are pretty cool looking, but their designs I find totally lazy and cheap. Sure, clean and sleek, but lazy and part of this bigger problem of the look/atmosphere of the whole game.
– the dialogues in the story I also found pretty bland and forgettable.
-, +, – I’m not a huge fan of the game always forcing you to switch weapons. It’s like it thinks it’s “game design” is more important than your fun or player choices. I get that it forces you to try different weapons, but this is even if you don’t like it, aaand it feels a little silly to in the middle of battle constantly be trying to pick a new type of weapon for ammo aaand at the beginning of new mission segment it keeps forcing you back with a selection of weapons which you’ve already many times shown the game you don’t like, but it disregards that and puts you back with them. I get it that it can be justified as “but it fits the characters”, but i still find it bad for disallowing player expression and agency.
Overall I’d give the game a 1 on a -5 to 5 scale. Surprising maybe given all my complaints, but still it does feel like a AAA title, even if I was very disappointed. It did keep going forward so that I liked and is why I actually finished it.