You can always rely on the Halo series to have great music, and even though it was a piece from the original game, hearing it kick in as Master Chief and the other three members of Blue Team hurtled through space towards a Covenant-infested ship in Halo 5 did make me go all gooey inside.
Smashing through a window, the team then casually employs its booster packs to stop being sucked out of the newly created hole into space. The Covenant in the room aren’t so lucky. It’s very close to being a comedy moment in a Halo game. I am intrigued.
But half an hour later, having sat through a lot of grey and washed-out blue environments, fired off mostly human weaponry that has less of the sci-fi fun factor of the guns of Halo games past, listened to a lot of canned exposition from Chief and his team, and outsmarted some unimpressive (unfinished) enemy AI, I’m no longer intrigued. I’m a bit bored. I made the note “Call of Halofall;” it looks like Halo 5 takes cues from elsewhere, and is unlikely to be a trailblazer like its elders.
Developer 343 says that Halo 5 is “built from the ground up” with co-op in mind, so much so that the campaign literally cannot be played without a squad at your side. Map sizes are apparently four times the size of in Halo 4, with a campaign twice as long as the last game’s. But as I watched one of the development team work his way through an early level in Halo 5’s campaign, I found it hard to get excited about it. Adding in booster jetpacks (Titanfall, COD), iron sights (Titanfall, COD) and up-close stabby stealth kills (every other game ever) is all well and good, but where are Halo 5’s own ideas?
I expected a lot more from my time with Halo 5 at Gamescom. Of course, actually playing it would have been better, because watching someone go through a rehearsed demo is lame, but it didn’t look much like a “proper” Halo game. It looked too real. Too militaristic. Less science-fictiony and colourful.
Co-operative play, with a bunch of AI or human teammates, will be fun – especially with levels designed to accommodate different approaches. Multiplayer will be fun, as many of us already know from the beta. Halo 5 will be polished as hell; it’s a flagship title for Microsoft and it wouldn’t allow anything other than a flawless-looking game out there. But Halo used to set the bar. I’m worried that Halo 5 might just be banging its head on it.