With the reviews of Halo 5: Guardians pouring in, many reviewers and critics are panning the campaign mode in the game. One point of contention has been the marketing blitz for Halo 5, with many critics blaming the promos for the Xbox One exclusive as a point of contention with how the campaign plays out.
Before we move further, just be aware that Halo 5: Guardians spoilers will be discussed below.
IGN posted an opinion piece claiming that the Halo 5 ads lied to consumers, and in a sense they did. Many of the thematic elements seen in Halo 5: Guardians are not even remotely close to what 343 Industries and Microsoft set up with their marketing campaign. Yet, if you pay close attention to everything released leading up to Halo 5‘s release last week, you’ll notice something that sticks out.
They were meant to be lies.
For those not following, one of the taglines for Halo 5: Guardians has been “Hunt the Truth.” From the Halo: Nightfall series all the way to the final episodes of Season 2 of the HUNT the TRUTH podcast series, 343 Industries is trying to set up that a cover-up might be happening. Ben Giraud and Petra Janacek in that series are clear examples of pawns in the Office of Naval Intelligence’s (ONI) attempt to cover-up what was happening with the Spartan program, and eventually meeting Fero and the cover-up of the colonies being destroyed by the Guardians seen in Halo 5: Guardians.
However, when you look at how these ads have been positioned, they give both truth and the lie ample exposure. Chief does go AWOL. Locke is tasked with hunting Master Chief down, as is seen in Halo 5: Guardians. However, the ads can also be seen as the lie ONI is trying to tell us that there’s no threat out there. If you look at the marketing from the angle that these ads are ONI spin, they are consistent with the overall story that Halo 5 is trying to tell.
The problem is, however, that Halo 5: Guardians is too reliant on everybody playing the game knowing all the expanded history. And as a result, Halo 5 and the ad campaign used to launch the game seem entirely inconsistent with what’s being told overall. This is exacerbated by two “dueling” ads featuring Master Chief (seen below) and Spartan Locke, both telling the same story from the different points of view. This could be seen, if you look at Halo 5’s marketing as ONI spin, as another way to peg the Master Chief as a traitor, willing to kill another Spartan. However, again, if you’re not paying close enough attention (or attention at all), Halo 5: Guardians doesn’t make any sense, because it cannot stand on its own.
And that’s the real issue with Halo 5: a convoluted story, which unless you know everything in the universe will not make sense. Unfortunately, Halo 5’s marketing doesn’t help in that instance.
For most Halo 5: Guardians buyers, story is important, but not the end-all, be-all of the Halo experience. However, it sets up a scary future with how 343 Industries plans to continue to tell Locke and Master Chief’s story with future Halo titles. With a story that is entirely dependent on players listening to all the audio-dramas, reading the books, watching shows, and checking out comics, Halo is turning into a franchise with an expanded universe that seems more important than the games themselves. And that itself is cause for Halo 5: Guardians to be simply an outline on how the Halo narrative is told moving forward.
Having an expanded universe is good, but only when the main story, the one the vast majority of your consumers will enjoy is the most important one.
What did you think of Halo 5: Guardians and how its story and marketing influenced your experience? Sound off in the comments below.
[Image via Microsoft]