Before we continue with BITS, I’ve been touching on the outlines of October’s goals, one of which is inspired by Microsoft’s Halo franchise. Taking notes on the games, I began to see an intense correlation between each in what they want the player (you and I) to do.
Out of that study, I’ve honed a few points that seem to be quintessential for any main-installment Halo game featuring the Master Chief (our hero!).
Halo games have points that, if adhered to, seem to make them better received than other games. (I’ll show this off in the next section.) Metacritic scores are used for reference to how well a game is accepted by the audience.
- Hero Raised
- The first scene in the game is of the main character(s) being raised up. Be it Master Chief standing up from his coffin-like pod or the soon-to-be Arbiter being lifted to the rack, the first scenes put the hero in the limelight 🌟
- Fight Off (and Crash)
- The first encounter, say 10% of the story, is about surviving an enemy attack and crashing ⚔
- Fight Back (with Friends)
- To wrap up the first half of the story is about turning the defense of point #2 into an attack with allies against the enemy 😎
- Stop the Very Bad (a Trap)
- The midpoint of the story kicks off when the hero is charged with stopping something very bad from happening (the hero is likely directly involved with its cause 😱). However, the “Very Bad” or the means of stopping it is a trap, leading to:
- Stop the Very Worst (all or nothing)
- The storied climax, the last 25%, the end of all free-willed life in the galaxy (a recurring theme). The hero succeeds here or everything is done for 💀
- Explosions and Goodbye/Hello
- Something has to explode in the closing scenes 💥 And someone must say goodbye and hello to something else.
- Hero Raised
The Points of Each Game
Halo: Combat Evolved
- Raised – Master Chief is called out of his cryo-pod to save everyone when all other efforts have failed.
- Fight Off – MC beats back alien boarders to the spaceship Pillar of Autumn, but both the Chief and Autumn crash-land on the titular Halo ring.
- Fight Back – Gathering survivors of the crash, MC explores, raids, and brings the fight to the enemy.
- The Bad – The galactic plague known as the Flood escape, but the Chief can use Halo to stop it (not with friends, since most everyone died when the Flood got out). Problem: Stopping the Flood means killing all sentient life in the galaxy.
- The Worst – MC has to stop the Halo ring from firing while armies flee in the face of the rampant Flood.
- Explosions – Chief uses explosions to cause the Autumn to explode into a mini-sun, ripping the Halo ring apart. There is a suggestion MC can say goodbye to all of his enemies, yet he thinks he’s only greeted their arrival. (A final scene shows the robot caretaker of the ring flying away, a robot that literally says “hello” to all it meets.)
This sequel (95 score) plays on the point themes a second time, especially with the introduction of the Arbiter co-lead.
- Raised – The Master Chief is given a very publicized medal high on a space station above Earth, humanity’s home. The Arbiter is given a very publicized torture high on a tower above High Charity, the alien enemy’s home.
- Fight Off – The MC fights off boarders aboard the space station, eventually crashing into not one, but two spaceships as he gives “the Covenant back their bomb”. The Arbiter seems to be bringing the fight to some alien traitors on a space station, but instead he needs to fight off the Flood as his allies die or depart before the Arbiter crashes the space station into a gas giant.
- Fight Back – Chief (and a small army) brings the fight to the enemy in a besieged human city and chases them when they depart onto a new Halo ring (cue exploration, raiding, and upsetting all the plans of the enemy). The Arbiter gathers allies as he fights through ancient robots and Flood that keep him from his goal: getting the key to activate the Halo ring.
- The Bad – Captured by the Flood, MC aims to stop the enemy leader from firing the Halo ring. It’s a trap, of course, as the chaos the Chief is causing allows the Flood to break out on High Charity.
- The Worst – Also captured by the Flood, the Arbiter moves to stop an enemy subordinate from firing the Halo ring which, again, will end life.
- Explosions – MC arrives in the middle of all out war above Earth while the Arbiter stops the Halo firing just in time with the effect of it being a wet firecracker (a play on the explosion point). MC says hello to the human defenders as the Arbiter greets new human, alien, and robotic allies. (The final scene shows the Flood greeting Chief’s left-behind AI companion aboard High Charity.)
A whopping 94 score means Halo 3 is a taste of the same for the franchise.
- Raised – The Chief crashes into a jungle from orbit (this isn’t the “crash” yet) and seemingly from the dead is raised up out of his crater.
- Fight Off – Chased through the jungle, the Chief has no rest as the base he shelters in is besieged. This section ends when he literally crashes down a mountain-tall elevator.
- Fight Back – With base survivors and soldiers he picks up along the way, the Chief gathers an army as he battles his way to fire the humanity’s biggest cannons at the enemy leader’s ship. Wounded but undeterred, the enemy flees and MC gives chase over the Ark, a remote control for all Halo rings. (There’s an iffy bit here where the Flood arrive and must be fought off, but it’s not long and sets up a later point.)
- The Bad – The enemy is about to activate the Halo rings and only the Master Chief (and the united army behind him) can stop it. This is just what the Flood want…
- The Worst – Thus, the Flood arrive on the Ark, an area free of the Halo influence… Except for a single Halo, the replacement for the ring destroyed in Halo: Combat Evolved. (Another section of having to go rescue the AI aboard a Flood-infested High Charity.)
- Explosions – The Halo explodes! The AI companion of the Chief says goodbye to him as he freezes in stasis indefinitely. Humanity and the Arbiter say goodbye as they think him dead. (After the credits, we see a dark planet light up as the Chief floats towards it, a “hello” if I’ve ever seen one!)
The first title from 343 Industries, it runs into a bit of trouble falling below 90 in its 87 score for a game featuring Master Chief. It’s my concern that it’s the switch of “The Bad” and the “Fight Back” in their places along with a number of other trend-breaking changes (multiple failures to stop the enemy in a row, humans not on MC’s side, a faceless protagonist, etc.).
- Raised – Chief comes out of the freeze because he’s needed again.
- Fight Off – Aliens board the MC spaceship and in a classic Master Chief move, he shoots them with a missile to the face. The ship proceeds to crash onto planet hidden under a metal shell.
- The Bad – Rescue has arrived, but they’ll get trapped (or destroyed!) if they approach the planet. MC races to let them know it’s a trap, but in turn, is tricked into releasing a genocidal prisoner of the Halo builders.
- Fight Back – Gathering weapons and new super soldiers, MC fights back against aliens and robots. Nothing much new here except for rescuing the people meant to rescue the Chief.
- The Worst – The prisoner escapes and captures a genocide weapon (it makes people into tortured warbots?). The MC fails, people die, but the Chief is now power level over 9000, so chases the prisoner before he can kill Earth.
- Explosions – A grenade and a nuke go off. The AI companion saves the MC, but seemingly sacrifices herself to do it, so must say goodbye. (As the credits roll, we are introduced to the new human soldiers and weapons they’ll take up to secure their place in the galaxy. Plus, we see part of the Chief’s face for the first time!)
Halo 5: Guardians
We drop even lower with an 84 score in what I can only conclude is not a Master Chief Halo game. The MC makes an appearance but is clearly the co-star to Locke, the first character we play as. (To also mention all the trend breaks is a post unto itself.)
- Raised – Both Locke and Chief fly down onto hapless enemies and are just doing their job versus acting as the last means to prevent doomsday.
- Fight Off – Locke brings the fight to some aliens here, but at least MC fights off alien boarders to a space station? There is no crashing.
- Fight Back – Locke chases Chief and leads civilian resistance against awoken killer robots. The Master Chief goes exploring on a new planet, abducted by a giant robot.
- The Bad – Locke wants to stop both Chief getting his AI companion back and giant robots waking up and destroying human colonies. Chief fights back against a protector robot keeping MC from the AI.
- The Worst – Turns out the giant robots are under the control of the AI. Guess she’s going to take over the galaxy, removing free will to bring eternal peace. MC is captured by her so it’s up to Locke to stop her and free the Chief. (Spoiler: he only does the later.)
- Explosions – For the first time in Halo history, the main character fails at stopping the worst thing. Without an epic explosion, only a single human ship and the super soldiers flee from the AI’s virtually complete victory.
A solid and final Halo game from Bungie (91 score). It doesn’t have the Master Chief, but that’s OK as it also strays a bit from the point-formula.
- Raised – Noble Six (the hero) rises over mountains and forests on a helicopter as the newest member of a super soldier team.
- Fight Off – In a slow start (this section takes awhile), Six has to survive an alien ambush and defend a base, ending with an orbital strike on a hovering alien ship, it crashing down.
- Fight Back – With an army, Six attacks enemy entrenchments. They destroy just about everything. This is a bit of a trap, as The Bad arrives, blasting away part of the human fleet.
- The Bad – A super ship of the aliens arrives. Six takes the fight up to the enemy in space and detonates a bomb to kill off an alien super ship. It’s a trap because a teammate dies to set the explosion just as dozens of similar super ships arrive.
- The Worst – Full-scale invasion of the planet. The battle is lost. A key resource to ending the war with the aliens must be delivered and evacuated off-planet.
- Explosions – Defending the vessel now holding the resource, Six shoots into the weapon-hole of a super ship, causing it to go nova and clears a path for the vessel to flee (goodbye). (In a final scene, a cracked helmet of death grows flowers and new life, a salutation to the rebirth of the world from sacrifice.)
Halo 3: ODST
Not a game about super soldiers and not a linear game per say, I’m only including Halo: ODST as reference despite the 83 score. (I’ll do my best to align the chronological narrative to the points found in other Halo games.)
- Raised – Hero “Rookie” is literally raised from sleep before being dropped from orbit into a besieged city. Here comes the crash from Fight Off as an explosion sends Rookie through a couple of buildings.
- Fight Off – Rookie battles invaders through the streets as Rookie’s squad mates do the same.
- Fight Back – Squad mates team up with local forces to mess up the alien advance. Rookie gains an ally of the city’s AI.
- The Bad – The enemy is making moves to compromise the city AI and the AI has important data to combat the aliens.
- The Worst – The AI has transferred to an alien bio computer. While the computer is friendly, it is squishy, so Rookie and the team must fight their way out of the city.
- Explosions – As Rookie flies away in a stolen dropship, alien warships devastate the city in nuclear fire (goodbye and good riddance). (In a final shot, the bio computer is greeted by an interrogator who asks to be told everything it knows.)
For the sake of brevity since we’re already >2000 words in, I’m skipping the games that aren’t first-person shooters or stories about the Master Chief (it may already be guessed that these games are less well received).
The Point of a Game
Does the 6-Point structure of Halo conform not just in each game, but for each game as a franchise? Take a look:
- Raised (H:CE) – Master Chief, the hero, is introduced and raised as a legend for stopping alien armies, a life-consuming plague, and the death of all life by the Halo ring.
- Fight Off (H2) – Master Chief fights the enemies who’ve invaded his world (Earth) and even his mind (the Flood capture him and communicate telepathically). The crashes here are those of the Halo system (it fails so resorts to remote control we see in point #3) and ideologies as the alien command and belief structure breaks down. (OK, fine, a bit of a stretch.)
- Fight Back (H3) – Leading united armies in a scale unseen in previous points, Master Chief brings the fight to aliens, robots, and a plague without a cure. Over-powered super soldier stardom at its finest.
- The Bad (H4) – Master Chief releases a killer on the galaxy who has a grudge against humanity, whose trap of rescue lured MC in and leads to an AI companion’s seeming death. (The question lingers if this point, “The Bad”, refers to the lowest Metacritic score so far.)
- The Worst (H5) – The killer released by Master Chief in point #4 starts a rising up of murder robots across the galaxy in the control of the “dead” AI. Master Chief is supposed to stop this, but fails and instead is saved by a character we haven’t seen until this point. (Of note, this has the lowest Metacritic score of any Master Chief game.)
- Explosions (H6, unreleased) – So what may we suppose of the sixth game? Supposedly Halo Infinite is supposed to be the next main entry, but I decline that notion in favor of a true Halo 6 being released.
In any case, we should expect lots of explosions. (LOTS.) A greeting and meeting of enemies and allies, a final farewell to the Master Chief and the Halo franchise. We may only wait to see if the next game finishes the fight, and if how it is done is better received than its immediate predecessors.
And that’s the 6-point story structure of Halo! We see that if a game conforms closely to the formula of the first installment, it will be well regarded. If not, the game will be overshadowed by its peers.
Do you agree that this is the story structure of successful Halo games? Why do you disagree? How did this change how you perceive Halo? Drop a comment – I want to know if I’ve missed something!
Thanks in advance and for getting this far. Cheers!