Halo 5, Level-by-Level Analysis – Evacuation

UPDATE: This is an old, outdated article series of mine that, years later, I am not entirely pleased with. While many of the points it makes stand well enough, and the scope of this project remains something I am quite proud of, the way in which these points were made is not satisfactory to me.

I would encourage you to read this rumination piece before diving into this article.

With Blue Team out of Osiris’ grasp and the Guardian they are aboard beginning to rise from its long-dormant shelter, Osiris is caught amidst the chaos of Meridian’s evacuation.

We had a lot to cover in the last post and unfortunately most of it was negative – from the Warden Eternal’s utter lack of characterisation, the fight between Chief and Locke, the continued mishandling of Blue Team, the missed opportunities with the gameplay… things are really in a bad spot at this point.

It was therefore with some sense of trepidation that I replayed this mission, but I ended up being very pleasantly surprised and I actually have a lot of good things to say about it.meridian37Before we get to the good stuff though, I’ve been saving a particular topic of discussion for the right time and I think now is a good point to get into it because after this mission we’re diving head-first into the Created plot and the Sanghelios arc where there’s a lot to say about… well, everything.

So let’s talk about the Guardians themselves.

I don’t like them…

Halo’s game stories typically have something Forerunner at the heart of the large-scale threat. In Halo CE, you’ve got Guilty Spark trying to activate Installation 04 to eradicate the Flood outbreak. In Halo 2, there’s Installation 05 which the Covenant are that close to successfully firing. In Halo 3, there’s the Lesser Ark and Installation 04B.

Thinking on the trilogy of side stories: Wars has the Shield World and the fleet of Forerunner Dreadnoughts, ODST has Vergil as the thing the main narrative and Sadie’s Story revolves around, and Reach has that random Forerunner data centre in the crashed ship that is never explained to any extent. That’s how reliant Halo had become on the Forerunner element of the story in terms of how things were structured, it got to the point where Bungie just didn’t even feel the need to explore it in any meaningful capacity. That’s not to decry the rest of them (it has been done well in the past), but that’s the point it got to.

And then we got Halo 4. Now, many of you who know me know the regard that I hold Halo 4’s story in because that’s where my level-by-level analysis projects started – as a labour of love to explore the writing of that game and articulate why I loved it. Why I still love it, I replayed it recently and my enjoyment of it still holds, but I digress.

Halo 4 obviously foregrounded the Forerunners more than any of the previous games. The central antagonist was a living Forerunner from the books, we received guidance and exposition from the Librarian, and the device that the plot revolved around was the Composer – which was a really neat reveal because even for those who had read Primordium back at the start of 2012, I recall that nobody really expected that to come into the narrative at all.

Halo 4 is a good example of storytelling that both shows and tells to great effect. When the Composer is introduced into the narrative, Librarian gives us a flashback scene to the time in which the device was used on ancient humanity and we get shown those haunting glimpses at digitised human essences in immense pain and how those stored personalities fragmented. There’s a few particularly nasty glimpses, just for a few frames so it’s easy to miss, at what looks like a malformed child, and a Forerunner screaming in agony when Librarian talks about how their attempts to restore the essences to biological bodies resulted in abominations.reclaimer30But at that point in Halo 4’s story, it’s all just concepts right? We’ve not actually seen the immediate threat of the Composer in the way the Didact intends to use it.

That is, until we get to Ivanoff Station.

Horror compounds upon horror in the penultimate mission of the game where Ivanoff Station is Composed and we see the visceral effect it has on the people as it disintegrates each layer of flesh, right down to the bone, and then burns that up while John passes out and awakens amidst the ashes of the people he failed to protect.

We then have a long character scene with Cortana who was ‘conscious’ all the way through that process and was listening to “what’s left of them”. She just witnessed one of the most horrific ways to ‘die’ in the setting, to be stripped down to your bare essence and forced to become an enslaved mind in the Didact’s Promethean army so he can uphold the Mantle and ensure continued Forerunner supremacy while casting down any subject species that might rise to challenge him. A few of you are probably seeing where I’m going with this regarding certain decisions made in Halo 5’s writing, but we’ll get there later. The point is that this moment goes well beyond just being a reminder to Cortana of her own frail mortality. Also, it was an incredible scene.

The Didact then turns the Composer to Earth and we understand the scale of the threat. And even though the Didact is defeated, he still manages to bring about one of the biggest changes in the setting by essentially Composing an army of 7 million new Promethean Knights who Jul is later given control of. Again, we’ll talk more about the mishandling of the Prometheans in this game at a later point, but this was one of Halo 4’s three biggest game-changers for the post-war setting.meridian33But the Guardians… in comparison to the Composer, the Guardians just seem so nebulous as a threat to me, and that’s largely down to their presentation.

An issue that has repeatedly come up with the writing in Halo 5 is that we are told way more than we are shown. The only time we see a Guardian actually do something is in the final cutscene of the game where it fires an EMP over a human world which may or may not be Earth – we don’t know. Roland tells us that Cortana and the Created are “shutting down everything, from Earth to the Outer Colonies”. That’s a game-changer which really needed some kind of scene to show that happening, but again I keep getting ahead of myself because we’re a long way off the final mission.

Another thing is that the Guardians literally came out of nowhere.

The Composer was established in Primordium (which came out 10 months prior to Halo 4), it was a major focus of that book and it was further built upon in Silentium. But nowhere in the Forerunner Saga, or any other media, was there ever a single mention of any Guardians. In fact, I personally feel that they ultimately detract from the ancient era because in Cryptum it is established that Warrior-Servants are looked down upon by Forerunner society as breakers of the Mantle. They’re the ones who are sent in to do the dirty work of maintaining the imperialistic ‘peace’ on the galaxy, and there’s even several allusions made to the Forerunners enslaving subject species. It kind of feels like it misses the point if they just had these seemingly automated Guardians to do it for them, we don’t even know what rate the Guardians were attached to – Warrior-Servants or Builders?

When the Didact goes to the San’Shyuum quarantine system to meet with the Confirmer (and raid his liquor cabinet), there’s no mention of any Guardians there. It’s a run-down, decrepit old fleet. Granted, you could make the argument “the Guardians were shut down at that point”, but let’s be honest – the reality is that 343 didn’t actually plan the Guardians out in any great detail to establish them as part of the setting the way they did the Forerunner elements in Halo 4.

What’s more, I personally don’t like the final design of the Guardians.

In my opinion, literally every other piece of concept art for the Guardians looks better and more in-keeping with the Forerunner aesthetic than the final model. The face just bothers me… it’s established in Cryptum that constructs like War Sphinxes do indeed have faces, but they’re described as: “smoothly integrated with the overall curvilinear design, perched an abstract head with a stubborn, haughty face”, and looking like “a disapproving priest”.

Is that really the impression we get from… this?meridian49It has angry glowing eyes, it’s bearing its teeth, and it even has horns atop its head…

Doesn’t that just scream ‘subtlety’?

I think the design is just too busy. I admire the level of detail that 343 is able to capture with the new engine that has opened up lots of new possibilities, but looking at the Guardians often feels confusing and, from certain angles, downright comical. Look at the above image, right in the middle, just under the face, it looks like there’s a smiling dolphin with glowing blue eyes. Anybody else see that? Because I just can’t unsee it!

There’s just too many angles going all over the place, quite the opposite of curvilinear, and the number of lights are distracting. The concept art pieces show a version which has a more ‘connected’ design and tentacles which calls to mind the Gatherer from the Blood Line comic – an easily recognisable Miner construct. There’s another version which is basically just a giant Forerunner, with a much more recognisable head.

I love the awakening concepts for this as well, it just looks a lot smoother, more streamlined, and easier on the eyes than the final version.

Even the model we saw in the original E3 2013 trailer (shown again in the Master Chief Collection’s bookends) looked pretty ideal to me because there was speculation for a while that it could have been a War Sphinx – it definitely shared a lot of similarities with the description we got of War Sphinxes in Cryptum, so it was in-keeping with that Forerunner design language.

For the most part, the Guardians really lack a sense of presence. Now, this mission is an exception to that, I think that they did it pretty well in Evacuation because the level was designed entirely around the fallout effect of the Guardian awakening. But they lose that sense later.

When you see them throughout the rest of the campaign, they don’t actually do anything other than hang in the skybox.meridian32On a gameplay level especially, this was a missed opportunity – sure, there’s the odd occasion where they’ll lower your shields, but that happens only in semi-scripted sequences. Like at the end of this mission where you’re within one hundred feet of the Pelican and the shockwaves take down your shields, there’s nothing more to it than that. If they’d integrated that into the last encounter of the mission where you’re made to play a bit more defensively as your shields are taking hits from the Guardian’s pulses, that would have been a more meaningful implementation of the Guardian’s abilities in gameplay.

In Hunt the Truth, we’re told about Guardians causing epidemic data corruption, seismic activity, and fluctuations in gravity – Dasc Gevadim and his followers start floating when a Guardian rises in the second season. We had this shown in the E3 2013 trailer as well where the rocks rise and float around John in the desert.

No such thing happens in Halo 5, the environments remain static. The Guardians just float around in the distance as a clump of abstract shapes making the scenery look a little prettier.

343 could have done some interesting things with the physics engine here, the sort of thing you can mess around with in Forge and custom games regarding changes in speed and gravity for the player, so it’s not like it’s a big, engine-breaking ask to have that implemented in the campaign. There’s a difference between having the Guardians and using the Guardians, having them be a means to switch up the flow of the gameplay with an emergent set of twists on the existing mechanics.

Just my perspective on the matter, I think the Guardians were underutilised in this game and not used to their fullest potential. If you’re going to bring something new to the setting like that, you’ve really got to put effort into selling it as a meaningful and worthwhile addition. As it stands, the Guardians are effectively just the Reapers from Mass Effect 3 – as in, they lack any of the intrigue from the previous games and they’re controlled by a central (lack of) intelligence whose name begins with C.meridian41But that’s enough of that because I said that I have lots of positive things to say about this mission and you’re probably getting the impression that I’ve forgotten that in-lieu of all that criticism.

First of all, the first part of this mission is backtracking the layout of the third mission – Glassed. Good thing? How is that a good thing? I think it’s good because it’s backtracking done well – as in, it wasn’t until I got to the space elevator that I realised I had been through the areas I went through three missions ago. That’s definitely how you want to ‘sell’ a backtracking mission, because when you go back to levels like Two Betrayals in CE, or Crow’s Nest and Floodgate in 3, or The Package in Reach – you really are very conscious of the fact that you’re just grinding your way through the same areas you fought in earlier.

I honestly didn’t feel that with this mission. You may feel differently, of course, but everyone I’ve pointed it out to that the first part of this mission is backtracking has said “huh, I never noticed that”. That, in my opinion, is indicative of good design. If you’re not aware of it while it’s happening because you’re invested in what you’re doing and you are having fun, then I think it’s fair to call that ‘good backtracking’.

It also helps that the bulk of the backtracking is actually a Warthog run, so you’re zipping through these locations instead of slogging your way back through them. The fast pace of the music and the overall atmospheric tension from a design standpoint is meant to keep you moving, it establishes pace and momentum which is why it’s so easy not to notice.meridian44Further on the subject of gameplay, when I got to the space tether I was really surprised by the number of AI there.

I saw that a group of them were clumped together and thought to myself “that’s a lot more than I remember”, so I counted and there were thirty two in total – about twenty ‘active’ AI (as in, the ones that will join you on the elevator and fight with you), and a dozen other ‘static’ AI that were scripted to be tending to the wounds of downed workers and having conversations with them.

It just sort of struck me upon seeing it because Halo has never really had more than about twenty AI active on-screen at any one time. I’m sure we all remember Bungie’s lofty promises for Reach about how they could have forty AI and twenty vehicles all active at once and the only time we saw that reflected was in the opening cutscene of Tip of the Spear.

It used to be in the older Halo titles that you’d have to do a lot of manipulation with loading zones and have a relative understanding of how their pathing worked to get large groups of AI in one place. I used to do it a lot in Halo CE and 2 in order to contrive as many large battles as possible. Here, they’ve got over 30 like it’s nothing. It feels like a big step up so props definitely have to go to the people who worked on retooling the engine for the game, I hope that it continues to evolve to allow for large-scale vehicular combat on the scale of the dual-Scarab fight in Halo 3. It’s safe to say that that’s something I think we all want to see.meridian50Still not done talking about the gameplay yet…

really like the final part of this mission because it does something that Halo has never done before in emphasising vertical combat.

You’re having to climb up the space tether on-foot, there’s a lot of alternate paths you can take with plenty of opportunities to make the most of the new movement abilities – long catwalks with low cover you can dodge enemy fire by sliding down, boxes and beams to clamber atop so you can reach the next level.

It was a really nicely designed space which offered something new, that’s the kind of thing I like to see. We have to wait a very long time to get new campaigns, obviously, so it behooves the developers to experiment with different ideas to make sure that these campaigns will be replayed over a span of years (of course, design is only one ingredient of many, I require a good story to motivate me to play through as well because that is what I love Halo for).

So overall, the gameplay for this mission is extremely solid. I had fun playing it, I really found it to be demonstrative of some of the bigger upgrades the engine has had and that’s always nice.

Now let’s talk story.meridian53We get some really great little bits of character-building dialogue in this mission that maybe some people might not have really been able to think about because it’s said during a fast-paced vehicular section while a lot of things are happening on the screen.

On Tanaka, while Osiris is amidst the discussion about the Guardian and how Meridian is going to be a crater soon, she says:

“We can’t take anything that flies from these people.”

I’ve talked about it on several occasions how Tanaka is a very considerate person even in the worst situations, even when she has nothing to gain, she thinks about the lives and well-being of others. She doesn’t say this line as a suggestion, the way in which Cynthia McWilliams delivers it makes it sound like an order.

It’s wonderfully indicative of her character, it is what I would personally say is her definitive trait.

Vale meanwhile is thinking about the bigger picture and the Guardians on other colonies, she’s getting carried away trying to put the pieces together while Buck pipes up that the thing he’s immediately concerned about is the Guardian literally right in front of them. Again, very indicative of these characters – Vale’s mind is at work asking all these questions while Buck is grounded in the here-and-now.

Another character who gets some interesting lines here is Governor Sloan with regards to how he interacts with Osiris. When you’re back at the foot of the space elevator and clearing the Prometheans out, he says:

“What’s taking so long, Spartans? Your propaganda’s overselling your skills. I ain’t opening these doors until the base is clear.”

When you do clear the courtyard, he changes his tune completely.

“Spartans. Your tenacity outstrips even my own.”

It’s interesting because it adds some flavour to Sloan as a character, in how he’s trying to goad Osiris by saying that their propaganda is overselling them because he’s worried for his people. Buck points this out in Glassed when he does his faux southern impression of Sloan about how he changed his tune from “‘get off my planet’ to ‘hey, can you help?'”

Looking at Sloan’s dialogue throughout the Meridian arc, I think he comes to have a grudging sort of respect for Osiris despite himself. But you could also argue that his compliments are him trying to build a sense of good will to deflect any attention from the deal he made with Cortana. I’m somebody who likes to read a degree of sincerity into character interactions like this, but the ambiguity is there and it’s a nice little touch.

Sadly, my own good will at this point came to a bit of a halt when this line was said:

“A change is going to come. For all of us. Human and Created alike. She’s bringing a new dawn and I intend to be a part of it.”

Perhaps this is just my incredulous distaste of the Created narrative talking, but I really feel like this line, the way in which is was worded, was both unnecessary and really lacking in any kind of subtlety. Sloan’s motivations for joining Cortana make sense, he’s going rampant and has been given the opportunity to circumvent that, which is what the dialogue should have focused on rather than what feels like the writers trying to say “THE HALO UNIVERSE WILL NEVER BE THE SAME AGAIN!”meridian51Fortunately, we get some more nice little interactions between Osiris on the elevator here.

Locke: “Tanaka, override the security system.”

Tanaka: “Love to. Delicate work to do while getting shot at, though. “

Buck: “Let’s clear the lady some work space, shall we?”

Her display of matter-of-fact snark here is great, we saw it in the previous mission as well when Buck asks “reckon that’s the Guardian?”, referring to the 1400 foot tall war machine in front of him, and Tanaka just replies “can’t get much by Buck”.

And she does it again later in this mission as you’re climbing the orbital elevator and Buck asks if the thing is going to remain stable, to which Tanaka says “If it’s gonna fall, won’t be because Spartans are using it as a jungle gym” – a good reminder that Tanaka isn’t just a Spartan, but an army engineer as well who knows her stuff.

And she does it again when Buck nervously asks how much further they have to go, as she responds: “More than you want it to be, not as far as it could be.”

She’s direct in a way that makes me grin whenever she makes a comment like this, just as she’s very direct in her fighting style as she bulldozes her way through whatever gets in her path.

Vale then asks about why Blue Team went AWOL with the Master Chief.

Vale: “I understand the Master Chief disobeying orders to find Cortana. But why the rest of Blue Team? They didn’t know her.”

Locke: “The members of Blue Team grew up together in the Spartan II program. They’ve registered more operations than any other fireteam in the UNSC.”

Buck: “They’re family.”

Locke: “Exactly.”

It’s important that Locke and Buck are the ones to make the family connection here because that speaks really well to what I said in some previous posts about how these two characters view being part of a team. Locke saying in Nightfall that he loves the members of his team, and Buck’s actions and dialogue in ODST and New Blood are all very clearly indicative of this and their perspective.

Now, I feel like this would have been a lot more effective if we actually had a scene with Blue Team talking about this. Remember the idea I proposed of having that scene from The Fall of Reach animated series be in the game, where they reflect on Sam’s sacrifice and John asks Blue Team if they will follow him now? That we might instead have Reach be the glassed world in Halo 5 rather than Meridian? If that scene was actually in the game, rather than just stuck into a place it has no business being (they were just running missions for the UNSC, John wasn’t leading them anywhere…) then the line “they’re family” would feel a lot less like it’s just telling us what Blue Team’s relationship is.

It would be reiteration, not establishment.

As it stands, the whole ‘going AWOL’ thing just doesn’t seem to bother anyone on Blue Team. There’s that one scene in the second mission where Fred expresses concern about John, but nothing is ever done with that. They never talk about throwing away their military careers on this wild goose chase across the galaxy, they never ask how John was contacted by Cortana… Fred just pats John on the shoulder and jokingly says “they won’t court martial all of us, right?”

As I’ve been constantly reiterating from the very beginning of this analysis, the lack of any meaningful conversations, the lack of any ‘talky scenes’ between these characters, is one of the most egregious faults in Halo 5’s writing. Everything just zips along without ever slowing down the pace, outside of the weapons-down missions, and dropping hints of ideas that feel like they’ve been forgotten about or the writers just don’t have any interest in exploring.

They seriously need to work on this because they got it just right with Halo 4, a game which is mostly comprised of ‘talky scenes’, thinking of scenes like the one in Composer where John and Doctor Tillson are just talking to each other. There is so much happening in that scene with so little going on. There’s no music, it sets an uncertain and uncomfortable tone while highlighting the awkwardness in John trying to handle a ‘normal’ conversation with another human (as normal as normal conversations go in the Halo universe). The conversation turns to denying the Didact access to the Composer by blowing up Ivanoff Station, destroying the investment of a significant part of the lives of other people. It’s something that seems easy to rationalise away as being a small part of this much larger conflict, but when you stop and think about it for a moment (as Halo 4 does) you begin to get a picture of how the lives of all these strangers are affected by the tidal wave that is the Master Chief and his role as ‘the hero’.

Halo 5 simply lacks those cerebral moments.meridian54Having said that, this mission in particular does have moments where its writing shines a little brighter and we get more thoughtful perspectives from the characters.

Buck, for instance, laments how he keeps ending up in these same situations, comparing what’s happening on Meridian to the battle of Reach, just as he did in ODST when the Covenant began glassing New Mombasa.

Buck: “New Alexandria all over again. We claw our way here, scratch a life out of the dirt… for what? So we can run? Leave it all behind?”

Tanaka: “There’s a difference between running and living to fight another day.”

Locke: “Tanaka’s right. Humanity’s at our best when we’re making something out of nothing. We’re tenacious. We’ll rebuild as many times as we have to.”

This is interesting because Buck tends to be the more jovial kind of character, but he drops that for a moment here for this brief glimpse at the tired, more cynical man that lies underneath. Interestingly, it’s Tanaka and Locke, the two people you might think of as being more cynical due to their history (the trauma of growing up on a glassed planet for Tanaka and being a member of ONI for Locke), are the ones with the more hopeful thing to say.

It’s actually really fitting because Locke and Tanaka are both people who have had to make something out of nothing, have had to be tenacious, and have had to rebuild themselves.

Locke was orphaned, lost all of his friends and family, following the battle of Jericho VII. He grew up in a state orphanage and forged his own path as a freelancer before ONI picked him up for his unique skill set. Tanaka grew up as a guerilla fighter on Minab where every day was a battle to survive, the very air she breathed could have torn apart her lungs let alone the Kig-Yar raiders and even the other humans who turned against each other in their little community.

There’s a lot of depth to be inferred there, but many of you will undoubtedly say that I’m doing 343’s work for them because they don’t actually bring this up in the game. Tanaka’s background is brought up well enough, but Locke’s is barely so much as mentioned. That’s definitely a fault which (again) serves to highlight the need for actual talking scenes between these characters in this game.meridian43Moving on, remember Evelyn Collins? The woman from the intel logs in the third mission who talks about coming back to Meridian, back to her home, to work as a deglasser? She’s in this mission.

Rather, she arrives at the space elevator after it leaves and is the only person left at Meridian Station.

“Hello? Can anyone hear me? I’m at Meridian Station. Everyone’s dead. Governor Sloan isn’t here. I… please! Is there anyone left here but me?!”

It’s a brief moment, but it does a lot to bring a sense of personal impact caused by the Guardian – as I said earlier, I think this mission does a good job of handling that. This poor woman came to Meridian with the hope of reclaiming her homeworld and paving the way for future generations to be able to live here normally, and she’s been left behind.

We also have the intel logs of this mission from Brandon Pemberson to we assume is his wife.

Log 1: “Matilda, I just thought you should know we’re being evacuated. Now, don’t panic, I’m sure it’s nothing. Sloan just wants us to get clear of some potential trouble, and we’ll be safer off-world.”

Log 2: “Matilda, I just watched the last Mule take off. There’s no more ships left. Sloan’s telling us to move to the space elevator, so they’re moving us to Warthogs. There’s a lot of fighting going on out there, though. It doesn’t seem safe.”

Log 3: “Matilda, I made it to the elevator, but now I’m stuck at the base. There’s a huge line. I guess it wasn’t made to carry so many people at once. I’m sure it’ll be my turn soon, Matilda. I’ll send you another message when I’m in orbit.”

Great logs, really well written and voice acted. ‘Nuff said on that account.

Here’s what I would do though: I think this would have been a good opportunity to have the UNSC Infinity get involved – because Infinity literally does nothing throughout this entire game.

The very first piece of concept art we saw for the game showed the Infinity hanging over Meridian, and the live action trailer The Cost showed John staring up at the ship heavily damaged. They could have had the Infinity come in to assist in the evacuation of Meridian in some capacity while Osiris is underground during the events of the previous mission, landing Pelicans down to pick up civilians on the planet, because at that point the Guardian hasn’t risen.

You could have this be a call that Lasky makes, because Lasky is devoid of any meaningful characterisation this game. “To hell with the idea that the UNSC showing up on Meridian’s door would look like a show of force, people are dying down there and if we can’t save them all then we’re going to save who we can,” would be Lasky’s mindset here. And then the Guardian rises and you have the chance to showcase that thing’s power by having it cripple the Infinity the way we see in The Cost.

You’d not only establish the scale of the threat posed by the Guardians, but they’d actually be doing something other than floating around blasting the occasional EMP wave as they prepare to go into slipspace. At least with this, if you’re going to roll with Infinity doing nothing, you’d have a reason for that – though, I am aware of the hilarious number of times Infinity finds herself getting boarded or damaged across Initiation, Spartan Ops, and Escalation. I think it would serve the story much better here, and it would also provide a satisfactory explanation for the Infinity’s presence at whatever human world that was at the end of the game – they’d be relocating the refugees they picked up.costThat about wraps up my thoughts on this mission. I don’t really have anything to say about the ending cutscene, it’s a cool bit of action but doesn’t really do anything to service the story or the characters beyond Locke having a moment to skydive into the back of a Pelican like a badass. It’s cool, I don’t dislike it, but there’s… nothing really to be said about it.

On the whole, this mission has some pretty fantastic gameplay, really great use of Halo 5’s new movement mechanics, good level design for a mission where the first-third of it is backtracking, and some good character dialogue. But it’s not without its missed opportunities, like implementing the UNSC Infinity the way the marketing for the game implied it would.

Reflecting on the Meridian arc as a whole, it does a good job with Osiris’ characters and fleshing out the setting, but it feels out of place being where it is. I maintain that this would have been a lot better as the second act of the game, the first act picking up on Sanghelios like it was seemingly supposed to based on the Master Chief Collection’s bookend cutscenes and how Bonnie Ross said they would leave us on the doorstep of Halo 5. It seems to me that there was some kind of reshuffle for the plot, as Sanghelios is the arc with the least amount of that, so maybe they wanted to get things kicked into gear faster by putting this first.

I don’t think it worked very well in the way they presented it. As I’ve already said several times, everything has been contextualised – when we see the Master Chief, we already know what he’s after and why he’s gone AWOL so the whole marketing angle of hunting the truth was utterly wasted come the second mission of this game.

Sadly, as we look towards the next mission, Reunion… things are just going to get worse.

5 thoughts on “Halo 5, Level-by-Level Analysis – Evacuation

  1. On the issue of the Forerunner Warrior-Servants and the Guardians, I’ve given some thought to it and I think that the Guardians might have been constructed after the Human-Forerunner Wars and the exile of the Prometheans: with most of the galaxy pacified under Forerunner rule, they wouldn’t need soldiers and fleets to police the subjugated races, and would instead use automated machines to do it for them. A lot of Forerunner technology seems to be automated, as they are a post-scarcity economy civilization.
    This is a good post, and am looking forward to more.

  2. Keep up the great work! Your dedication and insight to the game really showcases what 343 got wrong this time. I hope they can turn it around for the next game and just incorporate the good bits.

  3. We really ought to get you a job with the story department at 343i. You know your stuff in a way that is both engaging and accessible, a rare combination. They would do well to have a “Librarian” of sorts guarding the lore. Bungie had their “Halo Bible” and a decidedly unified vision of the universe. 343’s had some trouble with maintaining that unified vision as of late. And having someone on hand to be able to lore-check (and frankly sanity-check) a game’s script or treatment at every stage of the development seems like a necessity.

    Although honestly I place most of the blame at the corporate nature of 343i and it’s parent company Microsoft. Halo has gone from being a game that is controlled by people who love and respect the material to a franchise that’s being controlled by investors and shareholders. Ultimately, you could have a lore-accurate and phenomenal storyline in a game but if the folks holding the purse-strings demand a change, the change will be made. It’s one of the things I really hate about the developer/publisher dynamic at every stage of media creation.

  4. Gameplay-wise, I disagree with the Warthog run portion of Evacuation being fun. To me it’s underwhelming especially in comparison to previous games’ run. There’s no countdown timer, no environmental hazards, and the enemies are sparse and can easily be ignored. It’s pretty anticlimactic considering the marketing was hyping all the destruction Guardians cause, with massive craters, cities being destroyed, gravity going screwy, etc. Here we just drive through what we already drove through. What happened to those amazing trailers and artwork of what seemed to be a city on Meridian crumbling? The game couldn’t even be truthful to its own loading screen.

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