The New Voice of Halo

Halo 4 is a great game. Some might claim that it’s one of the best shooters to be made in years or that it’s revolutionary for the genre… I don’t know if I’d go so far to say that. But it was fun to play through and I can’t wait to play some co-op with the guys over here at At the Buzzer when we get a chance. This isn’t a game review of Halo 4, indeed there are plenty of those out there on the internet just waiting for you to go and read them. Is it a game worth playing? You bet. Is it a 5 out of 5 stars game? Well I can’t honestly tell you; as I’ve yet to seriously play any of the multiplayer content that is a core component of the game as a whole. What I really wanted to take a second to talk about was the one thing in the single player campaign that I think a lot of reviewers are just going to gloss right over…

Master Chief finally talks…

Now I know what you’re going to say;  “Jason, the Master Chief talked in all of the Halo games. This isn’t anything new.” And you’d be right, he did talk in the previous Halo games. But only in cut-scenes. At no point, while under the players control, did the Master Chief ever utter a single word. All those soldiers crying out for assistance? All those military big shots handing out orders left and right? None of them knew if MC heard them, or just happened to coincidentally wandered onto the same battlefield and blow the stuff up that they needed to get blown up.

It’s a small thing, I’ll admit. But it always bugged me that MC was stuck in the limbo between a full on silent protagonist and a fully voiced character. It was like the writers at Bungie were afraid to sit down and pen out all the things MC would need to say as he wandered around killing Covenant. Look if you want to go the silent protagonist route, ala Gordan Freeman of Half-life or The Rookie from Halo 3: ODST, that’s totally fine. You then build in other characters to provide a “voice” for the game as the main character runs around saying nothing. Cortana was pretty much built for this, and filled that role when the player was in control of the MC. But then you’d hit a cut-scene and BAM! Suddenly MC has the urge to voice his opinion.

Really Master Chief? You’ll spend hours in complete silence, ignoring the direct orders of your superiors or the cries of your allies but somehow find your voice to spit out a few lines of dialogue? Or sure, you could argue that he’s the “strong and silent type” or that Bungie didn’t want to “take control” away from the player by having Master Chief say things while they were playing. But at the end of the day both of those lines of argument only support the case for a truly silent protagonist. The real reason I suspected they did it? Because they weren’t sure how to craft a story without falling back on cut-scenes, and didn’t want MC to be silent during those. So, instead of crafting a fully first person experience were the “cut-scene” are also from the main characters perspective (like Half-life 2) they took the easy route and just gave Master Chief a voice during the cut-scenes. In other words, laziness and lack of writing talent.

Luckily for all of us though, 343 Industries (the new team behind Halo 4) are not lazy when it comes to drafting up one hell of a story. Within the first few minutes of game-play in Halo 4, The Master Chief goes from being a guy that’s about as hard to read as a book written by Helen Keller, to a full-fledged character whose goals and opinions you can immediately get a sense for. He’s a no non-sense, level-headed soldier with just the right amount of sarcasm to keep his otherwise serious nature from being a complete bore. In essence; an actual character that I totally believe has saved the world on more than one occasion. He’s not crazy or over the top, nor is he too by-the-book to have made some of the ballsy moves he’s made in the past.

He is, essentially, exactly the character that the other games portrayed him as. Only it didn’t take THREE WHOLE GAMES worth of content to get me to realize what kind of person he is. Just one, well-written level with plenty of lines of layered dialogue between himself and his AI companion. A trend that continues through-out every level of Halo 4’s single player campaign.

Look, say what you will about Halo 4. The game has plenty of great things going for it that fans should be excited for. But for me personally the biggest reason Halo 4 has re-sparked my interest in the Halo franchise is that, for once, I can finally enjoy the character I’m playing as. I can empathize with the Chief, I can feel sad with him as he loses friends or grit my teeth as he has to pull everyone’s butts out of the fire yet again. Most importantly though, I can play these new Halo games with the knowledge that I’m not just playing as some soldier named Master Chief. But that I’m playing as John 117; a super soldier who’s devoted his life to making sure mankind has a place among the stars, no matter the personal cost…

For that, 343 Industries, I can’t thank you enough. You’ve taken a character I lost interest in after his second game, and turned him into a character I can’t wait to play as once more. That’s not an easy thing to do. Job well done, and keep up the good work!

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