Halo 5: Guardians is widely considered to be the weakest entry in the Halo franchise, even if it still stands as a pretty great game in its own right. Part of the reason why fans were so hostile towards 343 Industries’ latest Halo game is that it ditched Master Chief for a new protagonist, one that wasn’t particularly compelling or likeable.
Master Chief wasn’t removed completely from the game, and your playable character in Locke fought alongside Master Chief’s team, often coming across each other during battle and throughout the campaign.
The interactions were cool and the story did a relatively good job in weaving it all together. The problem persisted however in that Locke was just a terribly forgettable character to have as the lead protagonist of a Halo game.
Thankfully, 343 Industries listened to our cries, and the studio plans to double-down on Master Chief in Halo 6.
Speaking with GamesTM (via WCCFTECH), 343 Industries head, Kiki Wolfkill, along with franchise director, Frank O’Connor, spoke about the importance of Master Chief, and how the studio won’t pass the character up again in future Halo games.
“We took some digs for storytelling in Halo 5, but they were absolutely merited,” O’Connor said. “We very much realised that people wanted Master Chief’s story of Halo 5.”
O’Connor said that the team had marketed it in a way that they hoped would bring about an element of surprise, but nothing could stop series and Master Chief fans from being disappointing, “because they wanted more Chief”.
“They loved Blue Team, they liked Osiris, but they wanted Chief,” O’Connor continued. “And that has been a big learning. Chief we tend to think of as kind of a vessel for your adventure rather than necessarily this major character in the universe. He’s really just your entry into the universe.”
Master Chief has been the foundation of the Halo franchise for years, and O’Connor acknowledged that people had become attached to him over the last 15 years. “They’ve started to sort of fill in the gaps that the character deliberately has for gameplay reasons with a genuine emotional attachment,” he said. “We certainly underestimated that with Halo 5.”
O’Connor said that the cry for more Master Chief after Halo 5 was “significant”, and that the character is more important to the franchise now than he was before the last entry was even released.
“Instead of focusing on bringing new characters into the world and expanding the playable characters we’ve sort of shifted the focus a little bit to making the world a little bit more realistic and compelling and, I would say, more fun for players who get to inhabit the Chief in the future, pretty much as they demanded.
“Doubling down on Master Chief story and the amount of focus on him was probably the easiest learning from Halo 5. That was a really simple thing to absorb and embrace.”
In an interview back in 2015, Halo 5’s design director Kevin Franklin told me that the game’s bigger battles are inspired by the series’ novels, which often depict larger scale conflicts compared to what we see in the games.
While he was referring to the Warzone multiplayer mode, I could definitely see the inspiration in the campaign. Further to this, Halo’s storytelling techniques offer a deeper look into the backstory of Blue Team and Master Chief’s relationships. Developer 343 Industries hinted at the time an interest to tell a more detailed and structured narrative in its games in an effort to pay more respect to the expanded universe, and Halo 5 certainly achieves this goal. I wouldn’t say that it was explicit in the backstory or intentions of the characters, but it was clearer.
The character development also points to a pretty extravagant conclusion once this part of 343’s story reaches full circle. Unfortunately, and as O’Connor and his colleagues fully acknowledge, Locke isn’t a particularly interesting character. I felt that he didn’t quite live up to the expectations of the expanded lore being introduced in Halo 5.
The game’s structure has us moving between Locke’s and Master Chief’s teams, which was great, especially when it all ties together towards the end, but I found myself clamouring for more interaction with Master Chief.
It looks like I’ll get it with Halo 6.