IT IS HARD TO PUT INTO WORDS HOW DIFFICULT IT IS TO BE A HALO FAN IN 2022.
Upon its debut over 20 years ago, the video game revolutionized and changed first-person shooters forever. However, even today, the franchise has had its ups and downs which have made it one of the most talked about games ever, let alone by the millions of fans who are quite outspoken about their love for Halo and the direction that 343 Industries has taken the recent games. These fans have raved and ranted about their love and hate for the new installment, in particular Halo 4 and Halo 5. However, Halo Infinite changed things upon its release last year and people were looking excited to be part of the new Halo universe again. Unfortunately, it was a short-lived moment for them as the Halo TV series debuted shortly after and destroyed their hopes for the future of the franchise.
A BRIEF HISTORY
Halo is a first-person shooter, action-adventure game franchise that follows the galactic warfare of many different factions in a distant future. We play as a Spartan soldier named Master Chief, one of the most iconic characters in videogame history. Master Chief is a highly skilled soldier, fantastic in all sorts of combat activities, and a tactically gifted mastermind. However, the threats that he is facing, most notably the Covenant, are genuinely dangerous foes that force him to sharpen his mind even more than his blade. The game franchise brought several new concepts to the table, such as semi-open worlds within a first-person game, as well as vehicles with mounted weapons and even flying vehicles. The shooting mechanics felt fresh and exciting upon its debut, with a difficulty spike that you could genuinely find a challenge in, as well as a character and storyline in Campaign Mode that you could immerse yourself into.
Since its debut in 2001, Halo has been one of the biggest names in the gaming world. The franchise came out of nowhere and made the studio Bungie a household name.
On the other side of the coin, Halo is also one of the most divisive video game franchises to ever be created. With each new installment, purist fans are often vocal about the changes that developers have made, holding true to the very specific nature of the game and showing an unwillingness for it to adapt with evolving technology and trends.
Halo: Combat Evolved was the first installment in the franchise, quickly becoming a mega hit in the gaming world. However, Halo 2 was the real showstopper, pushing the global fanbase into the millions and making lots of money for Microsoft. Halo 3, while massively popular, added a few changes that some fans didn’t agree with, but it would be nothing compared to the scrutiny that its follow-up, the spin-off Halo: Reach, was faced with as the gameplay seemed to be shifting more towards Call of Duty and further from what made Halo so unique to begin with. Halo 4 was the breaking point for many fans who figured that the franchise was dead at this point, with Halo 5 somehow enraging them even more.
HOW THE FRANCHISE’S BY ZAYN BATES STORY PUSHED FANS AWAY
More than anything, the franchise is known for its fantastic storytelling. This is where 343—who took the reins after Bungie’s departure—messed up, especially when they decided to mess with the formula that fans loved.
Rather than Master Chief being put in dangerous galactic warfare and global threat situations, pushing players to give it their all to ensure the safety of all humanity, the franchise evolved into something
else, causing us to question the very existence of the Halo world and introducing new factions, new enemy types, and new characters that didn’t really serve much of a purpose
This is where fans realized that they weren’t being done justice; that their favorite characters were being forced into different narratives than they were previously meant for. Master Chief is highly beloved by audiences around the world, so when you include a random plot where he is falling in love
with an AI named Cortana, it just doesn’t work because the AI is programmed not to feel those emotions. Not to mention, the narrative is executed poorly and Cortana is eventually turned into some sort of world destroying entity in the fifth game.
THE HALO SERIES AND HOW IT HAS BROKEN FANS
Considering how passionate this fanbase is and how much disservice they’ve faced throughout the years, it makes sense why Paramount Studios put a lot of time and effort into their new streaming series, giving it one of the highest budgets in the history of television. They really want to make this one of their flagship titles for the Paramount+ subscription service.
Fortunately, the series is doing a few things right, even if they’re failing on elivering those high notes that people are expecting from Master Chief’s story.
Perhaps the biggest mistake this series made was revealing Master Chief’s face. This is something that the Halo games have never done—even the 343 games, which were pretty infamous for their bad storytelling.
The only times that you see his face are when he’s shown as a child or mere snippets where you can’t really make out his facial features. This not only maintains the aura of mystery surrounding Master Chief as a character but ensures that we feel his alienation from the rest of humanity. Here’s a man who doesn’t feel many emotions, and isn’t allowed to show most of them, and that helmet is a symbol of that.
If you’re developing a Halo story, you need a compelling main character and there is no other like Master Chief. However, the biggest issue here is that the series doesn’t really dive into Master Chief as the character more than it does his human identity, John-117. The plethora of flashbacks disrupts the show’s pacing simply to force us to care for John-117 as a character. Unfortunately, we still never feel like we know him by the end of the first season and, even worse, we don’t really understand any of his motivations.
There are several factors to consider before outright calling the new Halo “bad.” If there’s one thing it flourishes with its production value. With a $90 million budget behind it, the CGI and the action is genuinely going to be something spectacular, if not absolutely cutting edge in a way that only adds to the viewing experience.
The action is at the core of this show, and it works to perfection, with a plethora of gunfights, hand-to-hand combat sequences, close quarter brawls, and just an absolute insane number of explosions. The shields and the swords look great, even if they lack a bit of color. The Covenant are animated well, and their design is very accurate when comparing it to the games.
Despite below-par writing, the acting is exceptional, especially that of Pablo Schreiber, who plays Master Chief, who has to act from within a helmet. He simply does justice to
the character we know and love, someone so mysterious, and yet hopeful; a symbol of
humanity’s everlasting struggles. Pablo does a fantastic job of getting the voice just right to where you can feel the emotions despite him being largely faceless.
IS THE HALO SERIES OF MASTER CHIEF’S STORY?
This is a controversial question, there is no right way to answer this. The Halo franchise has been through a lot, and the fans have suffered enough. The best thing that we can say about the new Paramount+ series is that it’s not canon. That’s a controversial statement in its own right, especially because it’s developing a beloved fan base quite quickly.
However, the series is truly missing the essence of Halo, both literally and figuratively. There are so many mistakes in its writing that it truly miss the mark of being even a fun TV series. Likewise, the corny banter often makes it hard to watch, while other times we can’t help but shake the notion that it’s ripping off Disney’s The Mandalorian.
Though, in the grand scheme of things, this is a completely different story set within the Halo universe. It’s a different timeline and a story of its own. Sure, it has the same characters as the games and it might even have the same plot, but it’s not based on the games it’s inspired by and loosely adapts the events from the games. It’s hard to adapt beloved IPs such as Halo, and you have to give
Paramount credit where it’s due, especially for where it thrives. However, when it comes to the narrative, this series suffers a lot from an overall lack of focus on the story they’re trying to tell.
The Halo series might seem like a great starting point to dive into the franchise, but it’s not a great representation of the video games or the comics, or even the animated stories. It’s an entity of its own that follows its own rules and world-building separately from the games.
As much as I disagree with the way Paramount has showcased Master Chief in this series, I would still love to see a different interpretation of the character and in a much more meaningful way.
Halo, the TV show, isn’t bad by any means, and perhaps the jumping off point we need to get to something even better. Fingers crossed for a more in-depth and nuanced portrayal of the characters in the franchise. But for now, the best we can do is hope that this series finds a better path for the characters they are dealing with now.