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I believe it was back in Jul when Microsoft's Phil Spencer made the statement about how the Halo franchise "lost its way" without Master Chief as the main character. When it was dredged up again recently as a link in a GIO article, that for the life of me I haven't been able to find, I started thinking about the implications of what he said and the broader topic of preservation of a franchise's identity. Personally I thought the statement seemed like an unnecessary and ungrateful stab in the back of Bungie on their way out the door and an attempt to win over the fans before actually earning it, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it did make me think.
The comments have me wondering, as far as Halo is concerned, if going right back to Master Chief really is the right move for the franchise. If we go back and look at the games, there's a pattern of progression that really takes off once MC is frozen at the end of Halo 3. Most noticeably from a story standpoint. If we look at the first entry, it's clearly your average everyday shooter with cursory glances at a relatively simple story throughout. The second game didn't actually progress the writing any, but it did elevate the story to stand on an even ground with the gameplay as far as how much the player was asked to invest in it. Halo 3 was the first game to set the story at the forefront of the action, the first to feel like you work actually working towards some bigger sequence of events while carving your own personal swath of destruction.
Despite this progression the first three games lacked a key element that I consider necessary for developing a player-character bond. For all intensive purposes Master Chief might as well not even be human. He's an invincible machine of war. No face, no personality, no humanity. Master Chief is a fine character for an action game, just like the Terminator is a fine character for an action movie, but he lacks serious depth. What makes him interesting is his role in a bigger story, but as a character he's one dimensional.
Master Chief is in stark contrast to the SPARTAN-IIs from Reach. The idea of the SPARTANS on Reach, the fact that they aren't these unstoppable doom machines, that's what made Halo: Reach the first Halo game that I actually felt compelled to buy myself. And as I sit here and read/listen to what Phil Spencer says I can help but think it's going to be difficult for 343 to avoid taking a step backwards with the reintroduction of Master Chief as the main focus.
Outside of the series it has me wondering when it's necessary to keep characters around and when it isn't, when it's time to move on from the original and tread new ground. It's quite a confusing topic for me. I see things like the Uncharted game for the PSV and can't help but feel like it's going to suffer without the whole crew of familiar characters involved. At the same time I listen to BioWare's announcement that ME3 will, without a doubt, be the end of Shepard's story, and I feel confident that it really should be. Those two games are both examples of extremely well written games with very fleshed out characters, and yet they fall at two entirely separate ends of the spectrum.
Got any games that you think should head in a new direction? How about some that you think should never change? How about your thoughts about Halo's move back to Master Chief as a main character.
I was surprised he said that. It seems like the franchise would have more success if it didn't always have to include master chief. Great blog!
Maybe 343 will add some depth to Master Chief. But, the characters in the squad of Reach really was fantastic.
From what we've seen so far of Halo 4 it looks like 343 wants to expand MC's personality. They constantly refer to him as John now and this could be a good sign. I personally thought the story in halo 2 and 3 were the weakest in the series because they were so epic and grandiose that we lost the focus on the characters themselves. Odst and reach brought that focus back. I am mainly hoping that the reclaimer trilogy narrows the focus a bit. I doubt it will though.
Perfect explanation. Master Chief may as well be renamed Super Robot Suit Killer Man and nobody would notice. He doesn't have any personality. It's hard to "lose your way" when you didn't have much to lose in the first place.
i didn't really find the reach spartan's as compelling as most people do, they all were really cliched and of course there was the "ghost" character named Emile, it was a good game, but for all the halo games have been since halo 2 , the multiplayer, well that's my opinion at least
I think going back to Master Chief is a bad choice overall. My favorite in the series is Reach, mostly because they have the best characters and story. Maybe they will try to evolve the story and character of MC in the Reclaimer trilogy, but as of now, well I don't know if I want that.
I'm glad Mass Effect is losing Shepard, this should be the conclusion of his series, this is it. Mass Effect has such an expanded universe that they should really do something like an offline console MMO or something. Or just a totally new story or something.
I think it has a lot more to do with progression and scope of the story rather than the characters themselves. I honestly can't recall anything from the second half of Reach from a story standpoint, and ODST seemed like a complete waste of 5 hours (the amount of time it took my girlfriend and I to beat it).
The core Halo games just possessed a certain aspect to them that just made them more memorable. I don't believe it was really character development as much as it was just over the top situations combined with being a character who was the galaxy's last hope. ODST and Reach just didn't have the same epic scale.
The thing with Master Chief is that while, yes, he is a one dimensional character that is what he is supposed to be. Bungie decided to make the player take over the role of a faceless hero so that the player felt like they were Master Chief. Now I'm not saying that was the best choice but it was a conscious decision by the developer. And they still continue that into Reach and ODST. It's true that in both games you are part of a squad who's characters are more fleshed out but in both cases you still play as the Rookie (ODST) and Noble Six (Reach) who are even less fleshed out than Master Chief.