Though the original did a lot right - the opening moments, even if they did borrow heavily from Unreal, were an epic and powerful start - I've found the franchise to be a series of diminishing returns.
I get that much of what Halo did has been adopted by the rest of the genre. I get that the lore and backstory of the universe is much loved, but for whatever reason, it has never chimed with me. None of it.
I don't like the Halo aesthetic, the design of its alien worlds, or the enemies, or flimsiness of its weaponry. I don't like the handling of the vehicles. I find Master Chief to be a bland protagonist, who hasn't earned his status as a gaming icon. And I don't like what feels like the laziness of the levels: repetitive shooting galleries, which enemies are simply teleported into in a way that feels like padding, rather than design.
And yet... I've played all of the Halo games at length. I've finished them all. I've embarked on more multiplayer matches than you might care to estimate. Why? Because I want to play these amazing games that everyone else goes on about.
I'm left so bewildered by how out of sync I am with the rest of the games media when it comes to Halo, that I end up entertaining absurd conspiracy theories about everyone being in the pockets of Microsoft. I don't believe that for a moment, but I can't shake the notion that, on some subconscious level, we're all buying into the myth that Halo is great. That we've all been brainwashed by its contrived efforts to feel epic.
"Look at the size of those levels! Listen to that lovely orchestral score! Only a great game would feel so expensive!".
You might think, therefore, that I've approached Halo 5 expecting to dislike it. On the contrary, I'm almost as brainwashed as anyone - every single one of these games I've played expecting to love it. Every single time I've come away scratching my head as to why I didn't. It's with the heaviest of shoulders that I report Halo 5 is no different.
WHAT IS DIFFERENT?
Here's what's new this time around: the campaign is slanted towards co-op gameplay. You're part of a team of four Spartans - led by Master Chief in a handful of levels, or by Spartan Locke in the majority of the game.
Obviously, you can play offline, but that's clearly not where Halo 5's priorities reside. Your character has a number of new abilities - a shoulder charge that can take down enemy shields or break through barriers, you can climb up low-hanging ledges, you've a Mario-style ground pound, and a general feeling that you're faster and more powerful than before. Plus your allies can revive you should you fall. Oh - and the guns do have more kick to them.
Clearly, these elements are in the campaign because they need to be in the multiplayer. It's here where 343 Studios has invested most of its energy: as well as all the traditional modes, Halo 5 boasts the brand new Warzone competitions.
These drop you into huge maps, where your opponents are both other players and Xbox-controlled bots. Powerful weapons pop up mid-game, while you can request more equipment, vehicles and perks from consoles - depending on how flush you are with "requisition cards".
I've seen Warzone being talked about like it's a brand new epoch in multiplayer gaming, and the saving grace of Halo 5. It's solid, it's enjoyable, but I don't see it. I honestly don't. And that once again puts me out of step with almost every other review I've read of this game.
Admittedly this: most of the reviews of Halo 5 have called the campaign underwhelming - but underwhelming barely even covers it.
It lacks any stand-out moments, only a couple of set-pieces, and manages to upstage itself with cut-scenes that are more exciting than the levels.
The story is bland and slaved to the convoluted Halo lore, and the new characters every bit as dull as Master Chief. Worse still, this is a return to the repetition that crippled parts of the original couple of games.
Many reviews seem to have appended the criticism by praising the graphics - at least one describing this as the best looking Xbox One game to date. God knows what they're seeing, because it isn't. Not by a long way.
In fact, Halo 5 looks disappointingly last-gen, and rarely feels as pretty as the last few instalments in the series. I don't know whether they've sacrificed detail to achieve 60 frames per second, but there are sloppy textures throughout, a sense of distant objects being plonked into the level without any depth of field. For what is supposed to be a flagship game, it doesn't feel like one beyond the marketing and hype, which goes to great lengths to insist that it is.
When it comes to the multiplayer portion, Guardians has received universal acclaim. I mean, it's fine. Warzone is epic, though I'm inevitably out of my depth, and cannon fodder for most of the other players. That always serves to temper my enjoyment of online play - and surely given the lack of focus on single-player, I can't be the only one who finds this disappointing? Unfortunately, there's no chance of me ever playing the game with my similarly skill-lacking mates at home: there's no local multiplayer, for some reason.
Thing is... I'm not a massive fan of Destiny, but even I can see that Halo 5 feels tired next to it. You can see why Bungie wanted to work on something new - Destiny feels fresh, where Halo 5 feels old, stuck in a rut. In fact, it almost feels like a backwards step given how it really doesn't capitalise on the power of the current generation of hardware. Unless you really, really, really need to play all your games at 60fps. Which maybe you do if you're into your online gaming.
So... I dunno. I don't like writing this sort of review, because I don't want it to come across like I'm being contrary just for the sake of it. I really don't like bringing the work of other reviewers into it, but it's only because I'm striving to get my head around why I'm not towing the party line.
When I'm well aware that my opinion sits so far outside the rest of the industry, so far beyond the 'official version of events', I fear it looks like I'm being deliberately iconoclastic and obtuse. Rest assured, I'm not. I honestly don't think Halo 5 is a great game. It isn't a disaster, but the campaign is weak and bland, the graphics underwhelming, and multiplayer striving to play catch-up next to Destiny. But it isn't the sort of quality you expect from what's being positioned as a flagship title.
The best I can say is that it's possible that this just doesn't gel with my own tastes, and that whatever it is that other people love about Halo 5, and Halo in general, just isn't for me.
SUMMARY: Halo, I must be going...
SCORE: 3.43 out of 11.7