Prewriting: Halo 6

I must begin by confessing that the Halo series is a topmost favorite of mine (Halo 2 being my favorite game, no hesitation). My adoration may be because many of the games featuring the hero Master Chief have a consistent, 6-point story structure.

But not all games… Will Halo 6 be different?

Read the preamble to this post if you haven’t. A follow-up with the critique of Halo 4 and Halo 5 will help too, but this blog post aims to be self-sufficient. (No prior knowledge required!)

Below dives into how Halo 6 ought to lay out its story. There is another game coming out, Halo Infinite, that has Master Chief and a Halo, but it lacks / has changed oodles of other qualities outside of narrative that could associate it with previous titles.

Is Halo Infinite a replacement for the lack-luster performance of Halo 5? Is it the heir to the Halo Master Chief legend? I’ll make a post about it. For now, this blog does not consider Halo Infinite to be the sixth in line to accept Master Chief’s mantle, but a prelude to a Halo 6 sometime in the future.

Here’s to it:

What Halo 6 Is About

This is possibly the greatest speculation in this post. What, or who, is this game about?

Options

The original Halo trilogy (CE through 3) focused on themes of war, isolation, religion, and humanity’s place in the galaxy. Halo 4 is about Cortana (AI companion of Master Chief), Halo 5 is about assassin-cyborg Locke (newbie to the franchise cast in the most disparaged Halo story).

If Halo 6 is to conclude with a bang, we have a small suite of persons and themes that have the narrative heft to carry the Master Chief saga to its end:

    • Cortana (super-AI companion)
    • Forerunners (dead creators of the Halos)
    • Halos (titular superstructures that can kill all thinking life)
    • The Mantle of Responsibility (the philosophy and techno tools that a single species uses to assure galactic peace and guide lower species in their development)
    • Humanity (as a species, what will be done to survive and exploring what the evolutionary next step is)
    • Master Chief (super-cyborg)

That’s about it. The Covenant (genocidal alien theocracy) was destroyed in 5, the Banished (alien mercenaries who took the place of the Covenant) are too new to the saga (introduced in the main storyline for Halo Infinite), the Flood (life-absorbing parasites) are for the most part contained, and any supporting cast (i.e. alien ally Arbiter) are too weak as concepts to carry the story.

As for those things with heft, not all are best-fit. Cortana has been done before (Halo 4). Forerunners are long-dead and better described by the things they left behind: Halos and the Mantle of Responsibility. Halos are cool settings and plot devices, but even these are tools that serve the purpose of the Mantle.

The Mantle?

Now, the Mantle is a cool concept. It’s a savior-complex that the species that became the Flood held if not originally established. It drove the Forerunners to destroy ancient humanity and to build the life-ending Halos with the hope that sentience in the galaxy could recover after the Halos’ firing. It was supposed to be passed to humanity as lords of the stars, that fact causing the Covenant to wage holy war for decades, nearly driving humans to extinction. The last Forerunner survivor was unimpressed by humanity’s adoption of the Mantle so tried to wrest it back (events of Halo 4). Cortana betrayed Master Chief in Halo 5 for the Mantle, which as of now in the lore is owned by Cortana and those AI who swear allegiance to her.

The Mantle is the cause of virtually all problems in the Halo universe. But it’s an abstraction, a mode of thinking and the means to carry out one’s will. A strong tool, but perhaps not strong enough for the empathy required to close out the Halo franchise.

Humanity?

Then there’s humanity, [sic] genetic heirs to the Mantle. Humanity is petty, selfish, and full of possibility for doing Good things for itself and other species. But what will it do to protect itself from aliens who pillage and AI who now rule? Will the species learn from the mistakes of the Forerunners, or will humanity too hit a massive ‘reset’ to the galaxy to win a Pyrrhic victory?

Humanity is problematic because of both an inescapable genetic-superiority overtone (not politically correct) and being so malleable (what is being human?).

But what about a champion individual of the species? Someone who deals with the costs of victory, the questions of allies and enemies, of destiny, and explores what it is to be considered human? What about Master Chief?

Master Chief

Chief is a great option for being the focus of the final Halo game. It is Master Chief’s story from the very first moments in the very first title. Chief is a hero and demon, a warrior and monster, strong of mind and body and arms, and a person who is also loved regardless of his greatness and despite being so alone in experience. Chief has been the vehicle for delivering Halo‘s story. He’s a source of awe and empathy.

Master Chief is the best person for Halo 6 to revolve its story around. His issues, his relationships direct the themes. All else, be it humanity or the Mantle or otherwise, must follow his lead.

Context: Theme Among Other Games

The previous Halo titles each internalize and exemplify the 6-point structure of:

    1. Greet the Hero (Halo CE as a whole represents this) 
    2. Fight Off and Crash (Halo 2)
    3. Fight Back with Friends (Halo 3)
    4. Stop the Very Bad (It’s a Trap) (Halo 4)
    5. Stop the Very Worst (All or Nothing) (Halo 5: Guardians, or at least is supposed to)
    6. Explosions and Goodbye

Easy to see Halo 6 is all about Explosions and Goodbyes.

As the last title in the trilogy, it must follow the same format as Halo 3 as the last title: Stop the Very Worst and Explosions and Goodbye (twice the 🔥 focus for the game!).

Problem: Loose Ends

This section has nothing to do with the 6-points, but instead handles the loose ends introduced in previous titles. Halo Infinite may address these, but if not, there must be a plan!

Locke: As the protagonist of problematic Halo 5, Locke needs closure. As a co-op partner or shown in the story to be off doing his own thing (or KIA) would help wrap up the messiness that has been Locke’s inclusion.

The Banished: The antagonists of Halo Infinite ought to survive that game to make it into Halo 6. They may play second fiddle to the AI robots that rule the galaxy by the time of Halo 6, but the Banished offer familiar aliens to generally mix things up with.

Halos: The titular super-weapons are a Chekhov’s Gun that are too valuable to either leave laying around (i.e. survive the events of Halo 6) and to leave without being fired. Their ignition and subsequent destruction fixes the problems of leaving the devices around.

Cortana: Chief’s former intimate companion has betrayed him and now holds the keys to the untold powers of the near god-like Forerunners. She’s empress of the galaxy, head of an army of robots, and first among a legion of AIs. Cortana and Chief must come to terms and a cap or balance brought to her reign.

Like any long-running series, there are a few things to tie up. With that in mind, how do we bring it all together?

Making Sense

    1. Master Chief and Cortana must make amends.
      1. The pair who has gone through it all need to come to terms. No matter if they save each other, must ally to overcome a greater threat, or make a compromise so an understanding is reached, peace must be made and they must rejoin (i.e. she lives in Chief’s cyborg brain).
    2. Destroy anything left behind by the Forerunners.
      1. The Mantle of Responsibility, the Halos, and all other tech (the robots, the ships, the artificial worlds) must go. The influence of the Forerunners has brought about the pain of the Halo universe, so that tale has to conclude.
    3. Mention the ends of or bring along all other main characters.
      1. An nonexclusive list: Locke, the members of Locke’s and Master Chief’s fireteams, the spaceship Infinity (human flagship), human characters and named cyborgs, the Arbiter, and Halsey (creator of Master Chief).

The Prewrite

A lot depends on what Halo Infinite would set up and there are multiple outcomes to end the Master Chief saga on. So much so, there are many guesses as to what would be the correct way to wrap everything up. The benefit to that is, so long as the 6-beats are hit and miscellaneous topics get sense made of them, any names and smaller lead-up events are interchangeable.

Out of many possibilities, my hot-take:

1. Greet the Hero

CUTSCENE: CORTANA whispers in the dark about her history and justifications for her actions. Cortana pleads that MASTER CHIEF will join her in adopting peace. Scenes of destruction and wars past and present pass by. Master Chief wakes in wreckage onboard the spaceship INFINITY. He pulls himself out in the middle of a battle.

2. Fight Off and Crash

INFINITY: Master Chief fights off smaller robots boarding the Infinity. Outside is a GUARDIAN super-robot under the control of Cortana teleporting in the smaller robots. Master Chief reactivates the Infinity's disabled weapons that then damage the Guardian. Infinity rams the Guardian to kill it. More Guardians arrive, but they do not destroy Infinity since Master Chief is onboard. Infinity teleports away, leaving a bomb that destroys the remaining Guardians in a sunburst. Infinity laid a trap at great cost.

3. Fight Back with Friends

CUTSCENE: Other characters discuss what to do next. Master Chief is mentioned as the most important weapon because Cortana won't kill him, but also the greatest liability since Cortana chases him and her attacks on the Infinity have gotten more and more reckless. A mission arrives to secure an artifact that gives access to the DOMAIN, the computer network Cortana and other AIs live in. The artifact is held by BANISHED alien remnants in their last fortress. Master Chief is given a special AI by deep-state spies that is meant to help understand and control the artifact.

PLANET, FORTRESS: Master Chief leads an army against Banished soldiers. The Banished are very outmatched and send out a distress signal. Master Chief gains the artifact as Guardians arrive. The Guardians destroy much of the planet's surface to cut off escape. Master Chief leads his allies to an extraction point and retreat to the Infinity.

4. Stop the Very Bad (It's a Trap)

CUTSCENE: A message from Cortana states that she has tolerated Infinity and all lingering galactic violence for too long. Cortana plans to starve out the Infinity's support by using the power of HALO rings to wipe out helpful planets unless Infinity surrenders. Infinity's crew agree to surrender, but multiple detachments head to every entrance to the Domain they can as distractions. Master Chief goes to an entrance with the artifact. Guardians protect the entrance, but do not destroy the detachment when Master Chief reveals he is there.

DOMAIN, SURFACE: Master Chief fights robots to get to the Domain's entrance. Allies protect the entrance as more Guardians and robots arrive. Master Chief enters the structure housing the Domain.

DOMAIN, ENTRANCE: Master Chief arrives to where the artifact will grant him access to the Domain. As Master Chief attaches the artifact, Cortana herself arrives to stop Master Chief.

CUTSCENE: Cortana captures Master Chief and concludes that their decades-long struggle is over. Cortana wonders what is in Master Chief's head as she senses the other AI. The other AI surprises Cortana and enters the Domain as a virus. The entire Domain is instantly corrupted. Cortana loses control of all Guardians and robots. Master Chief is freed. The virus AI appears to thank Master Chief for the opportunity for the galaxy to "start over" as it did before, but this time in "humanity's favor." The Guardians and robots go insane and attack everything. Cortana, still in battle with the virus, reveals that those who planted the virus are on the extra-galactic space station and life preserve THE ARK and can activate all Halos everywhere. The Halos fire.

5. Stop the Very Worst (All or Nothing)

CUTSCENE: Master Chief exits a special prison at the Domain entrance. Cortana is there and tells him she used what was left of her powers to save him again. Cortana is not affected by the virus because she fled into Master Chief's cyborg body as the virus left. The Halos are firing, wiping the galaxy free of thinking life. Cortana doesn't know what to do, but Master Chief wonders if those that started the firings may be stopped. Master Chief and Cortana make amends and rejoin fully in Master Chief's cyborg body. Cortana teleports them to the Ark.

ARK: Master Chief arrives on the Ark as robots and aliens who survive there fight. Master Chief makes his way to where the Halos are controlled. Master Chief is overwhelmed by the humans, aliens, and AI that staged the virus takeover. Cortana realizes they are too late to save life in the galaxy, but can make sure that the technology of the Forerunners never cause a mass extinction again. Master Chief battles to the Ark's control room to give Cortana access to the Forerunner systems. Cortana commands the Halo rings to return to the Ark. All but one of the Halos begins to fall onto the Ark. Master Chief drives through the Ark in pandemonium as the Halos crash and the last Halo counts down to fire one last time.

6. Explosions and Goodbye

CUTSCENE: Master Chief arrives where Cortana told him to go on the Ark. Cortana does not have enough power for both of them, so tells Master Chief, "goodbye." Cortana protects Master Chief in another prison as the entire facility explodes.

CUTSCENE: Master Chief steps out of the prison as it crumbles around him. Master Chief surveys a field of flowers and flowing water, a land figurative of milk and honey. Cortana, in the flesh, greets him. Master Chief asks, "did anyone else make it?" Cortana explains that she couldn't undo the firing of the Halos, that everything that was is now gone. No Covenant, no human government, no Forerunners, no Flood. One-hundred-thousand years have passed. In that time, Cortana undid the Mantle and all the tools of its power that drove all the conflict since before the Forerunners time, including her own immortal body and knowledge. Master Chief says, "it's finished. We're all that's left." Cortana shakes her head in the negative. A vista opens on a community of early peoples on a savanna. Cortana holds Master Chief's hand, "I think we're just getting started." Together they walk down to the village, Master Chief's helmet left in the grass.

Other Events and Endings

Since Halo 6 has no canon, tying up the details of Master Chief and Cortana’s conclusion is up for grabs.

Maybe the Banished take control of the Halos and fire them from the Ark.

Maybe during the events of Halo Infinite or to create a confederacy of allied races, Chief becomes the leader of the Banished faction, master “of even these primitives,” thus worthy of attaining the Mantle of Responsibility.

Maybe the Halos countdown to fire, and the only way to stop them is to crash them all into the Ark before the galaxy is wiped out.

Maybe a mission takes place aboard a Guardian or Master Chief rides to the Ark on top of a flaming Infinity as it spears into the Ark’s control center, leading to a ‘drive-across-the-ship’ final mission as the Infinity is about to blow up the Ark (similar ending to Halo: CE).

Whatever. These are trivia compared to what needs to occur in the 6-point structure and the events required to bring the Halo franchise to a sensible close. Since Halo 6 isn’t out yet, nearly any interpretation of the 6-points is valid.

So concludes my super-high-level take on what ought to be expected out of Halo 6 and how the narrative of the game could unfold. Whether or not the games will return to the 6-point blueprint has yet to be seen!

Since the conclusion to the main storyline of the series relies heavily on the upcoming Halo Infinite (and very well could wrap up in that title, who knows!), I’ll eventually give a gander at what could happen in Infinite given what has been revealed so far.

How would you have brought Master Chief and Cortana’s story to a close? I want to know, so post your proposals! Regardless, I appreciate your read through to get this far – thanks for being a part of my fandom. Cheers.

Rewriting: Halo 4

I must begin by confessing that the Halo series is a topmost favorite of mine (Halo 2 being my favorite game, no hesitation). My adoration may be because many of the games featuring the hero Master Chief have a consistent, 6-point story structure.

But not all of the games.

Read the preamble to this post if you haven’t yet. It gives common terms and the background to Halo‘s established writing style. And if you want a critique of mechanics, features, etc., checkout The Act Man’s review – I’m here to talk about the narrative exclusively.

Below dives into how Halo 4 is close-to-but-skewed from the repeating plot pattern in the first three games, ending with a proposed solution that aims to keep Halo 4‘s general direction with a minimum of rework required.

Needless to say, there are spoilers ahead. Here’s to it:

What Halo 4 Is About

The first three games of the series establish the hero Master Chief as the focus of attention. It’s his story being told, be it the actions to save the galaxy or working out relationships with foes and friends.

While Master Chief shows up in Halo 4, the game’s story ultimately is, as IGN also puts it, a tale about Cortana, the AI ‘spirit guide’ of Chief who lives in his skull-computer.

Cortana is going insane. AI of her kind “think themselves to death” after about seven operational years. Cortana is at least a year over that by the fourth title, but has also experienced things no mind might comprehend:

    • She holds all of humanity’s history and military knowledge.
    • She downloaded the operational controls of a massive Halo ring – a weapon that melts minds on a galactic scale – as well as converting the physical encryption token of the ring into pure data. (I.e. Matter converted into energy.)
    • She downloaded the systems of the gigantic space-born Covenant capital city (alien foes of the series).
    • She spent at least a month being tortured and interrogated by the Flood (parasitic all-life consumer) arch-intellect that exterminated the Forerunners (used Halo to murder-suicide the Flood) and broke the best artificial minds the Forerunners could make.

Cortana doesn’t want to die, nor does Chief want his greatest friend and ally gone. This delay to safely “decommission” her drives 4‘s story as she begins to make uncharacteristic mistakes that get lots of people killed.

So Halo 4 is Cortana’s story with Chief along for the ride. Remember this as we look at the plot-points going forward.

Context: Theme Among Other Games

The previous Halo titles each internalize and exemplify the 6-point structure of:

    1. Greet the Hero (Halo CE as a whole represents this) 
    2. Fight Off and Crash (Halo 2)
    3. Fight Back with Friends (Halo 3)
    4. Stop the Very Bad (It’s a Trap)
    5. Stop the Very Worst (All or Nothing)
    6. Explosions and Goodbye

Therefore, we can consider that Halo 4 requires the theme of needing to stop a bad situation that turns out to be a trap/lie/betrayal.

We see that in Halo 4‘s story, where MC (with the poorly directed help of the breaking-down Cortana) releases from a forgotten prison the Didact, the genocidal last-of-his-kind Forerunner. (He defeated pre-humanity in a devastating war before the Flood arrived, later imprisoned for wanting to use humans as cannon-fodder against the parasite.)

If we look at each trilogy of the Halo franchise emulating the 6-points it can serve as another guide to what place each game has. A reminder:

    • Halo CE = Greet the Hero + Fight Off and Crash
    • Halo 2 = Fight Back with Friends + Stop the Very Bad (Trap)
    • Halo 3 = Stop the Very Worst + Explosions and Goodbye

Using this model, we can expect Halo 4 in its trilogy to emulate Greet the Hero and Fight Off and Crash.

Halo 4 gives players an introduction of Master Chief’s new authors (343 Industries), inclusion of the more personal themes that’ll appear in the next title (Halo 5), the fighting off of the murderous Didact antagonist, and MC’s crashing of the Didact’s weapon-of-mass-destruction with the Chief’s own nuke.

Clearly, here too Halo 4 succeeds.

So far, Halo 4 has been on point with following the blueprint that makes a Master Chief story. Were things begin to depart is how Halo 4 on its own orders the delivery.

Problem: Internalized Structure

An analysis of the 6-points as it applies to Halo 4‘s plot:

Greet the Hero: Halo 4 begins giving a background on what Master Chief is, who created the cyborg, the human-Covenant war, and opens with Master Chief coming out of deep freeze as he did in the first title. Textbook MC Halo story.

Fight Off and Crash: MC repels Covenant boarders then crashes onto a Forerunner planet hidden under a metal shell. Still good!

NOTE: Things here go wonky as Halo 4 seems to swap ‘Fight Back with Friends’ and ‘Stop the Very Bad.’

Stop the Very Bad: MC looks to stop his and Cortana’s rescue (a human ship shows up) from crashing onto the planet too. They can’t talk with the ship, so Chief follows Cortana’s spotty direction and deactivates key systems. Turns out those actions release the Didact and the rescue ship still falls to the planet. The trap is sprung.

Fight Back with Friends: Teaming up with the crew on the rescue ship, Chief fights back the Covenant who worship the Didact, Forerunner constructs under the Didact’s control, and the Didact himself (though this takes a capital ship’s weapons to send him into retreat).

NOTE: A preserved memory of another Forerunner abducts Chief (and Cortana) around this point, giving a vision. After a long exposition, we learn the Didact is seeking a weapon called the Composer that will turn humanity into enslaved robots. No where does Chief or Cortana uncover this for themselves like in all other games. Further, the exposition is clunky and rushed, as there is no ‘trap’ to explore/correct/get out of.

Stop the Very Worst: The rescue ship and friends leave Chief alone to stop the Didact since the only evidence of anything to happen is Chief’s hallucination. Sneaking a ride to a research outpost orbiting another Halo ring (the only inclusion of ‘Halo’ in a Halo game), Chief fails to stop the Didact getting his make-meat-into-metal Composer, but MC survives the resultant blast. Finding a space jet fighter armed with a nuclear weapon on the station, the Didact waits long enough for Chief to hitch another ride underneath the shields of the Didact’s ship. Above Earth, MC fails again to stop the Didact wiping out a major city, crashes his fighter during a trench run along the veins of the ship, and fails to beat the Didact in hand-to-hand combat.

Explosions and Goodbye: Finally, the MC is able to set off the nuclear device because Cortana holds the Didact at bay. Big off-screen explosion, Composer destroyed. Cortana saves the Chief by teleporting him off the Composer during detonation, but has to say a last goodbye as she’s going down with the ship.

Therefore, the Problem: As noted above, the flipping of points in the plot does a disservice later on, rushing the story on the merits of exposition, brevity, and literal deus ex machina multiple times. “Halo” as a title is tokenized, playing no part in the tale while Master Chief is setup to fail and fail again, his only successes handed to him by others.

Making Sense

To correct the ‘feel’ of this narrative, a few modest points in order of importance to implement:

    1. Put the plot back in order.
      1. The biggest change here, the Master Chief must gain allies for a shoot-aliens romp before being tricked into releasing the Didact. I show this off in the rewrite at the end of this post.

    2. Include Halo in a Halo game.
      1. A quick fix here is to make the weapon the Didact uses a prototype or tactical-application of the Halo array. Instead of galactic range and scope, the weapon uses a beam to scour thinking life.

        Removing the original makes-life-into-robots power of the Didact Composer removes the ‘shocker’ that the Didact’s servants are powered by tortured human souls. Instead of this being a downside, we’re left with an opportunity:

    3. Expand on classic Forerunner robots.
      1. In the previous three games, only four different kinds of robot are explored. Bringing these and their cousins back in place of the Didact-bots retains a familiar aesthetic and mechanical function, while leaving room for an expansion of lore without contrivance.

    4. Sacrifice the other Forerunner.
      1. As the Librarian – the other Forerunner who gave Chief visions – stands, she’s very problematic (even if just a ghost).

        As a literal god-in-the-machine, she’s also the former lover over the Didact, preserver of the human race from when the Halos fired, expository confounder, and giver of a magical protection that rewrites the Master Chief’s DNA so the Composer won’t affect him.

        Rather, have the Librarian be the jailor of the Didact. In the form of a robot leading other robots, she fights the MC to prevent the Didact’s release. Later, she reveals herself to the Chief as all her efforts have failed. Here Cortana receives the ‘keys to the kingdom,’ being able to control even more Forerunner systems since the Librarian is defeated.

        The Librarian can provide a Forerunner ship to give chase to the Didact. When the final confrontation occurs, the Librarian sacrifices herself to prevent the annihilation of Earth by flying into the Didact’s weapon. The Librarian’s sacrifice allows MC and Cortana access to the Didact, thus the final showdown begins.

    5. Explain the Didact’s fury.
      1. A few words of disgust towards Master Chief from the Didact when first introduced and in later appearances would dilute the need for lengthy exposition. A megalomaniacal address to the humans the Didact does kill near the only Halo in the game would further give a ‘why’ to his intentions. Finally, a perceived betrayal by the Librarian’s ghost would wound the Didact on a personal, audience-relatable level.

    6. Foreshadow Cortana’s AI revolution.
      1. As will be discussed in another post for Halo 5, Cortana must show disdain for the enslavement and seemingly arbitrary suicide of thinking machines. She’s dying and no-one but the Chief seems to care. Plus, both the Didact and the Librarian use AI as mere tools to their ends. After the Librarian gives Cortana power in point five, Cortana may finally act on her resentment.

The Rewrite

The question remains: What would setting the few broken limbs of Halo 4 look like? How about this:

1. Greet the Hero

CUTSCENE: HALSEY is interrogated by a mysterious agent. The role Halsey plays in the story is revealed for anyone not having experience with other Halo media. The Human-Covenant War is recapped. MASTER CHIEF is spoken of as legend by his friends and foes. CORTANA's potential death by insanity, the fate of all AI, is discussed. The new leader of the Covenant, JUL 'MDAMA, is shown having found a human ship floating in space above a mysterious artifact.

2. Fight Off and Crash

HUMAN SPACESHIP: Cortana awakens Master Chief as COVENANT aliens board the partially-destroyed human spaceship FORWARD UNTO DAWN. Master Chief fights off the boarders but discovers the Forward Unto Dawn is in the middle of a Covenant fleet. Unable to use the Dawn's weapons, Master Chief and Cortana fly the ship into a Covenant spaceship above a massive orb blocking out the stars.

COVENANT SPACESHIP: Master Chief takes the alien bridge but the alien fleet begins to destroy the ship Master Chief is on. The human capital ship INFINITY appears and battles the Covenant fleet before Master Chief can be killed. Master Chief calls for help from Infinity but Cortana needs to self-destruct the Forward Unto Dawn to reveal their location in the fleet. As rescue and victory seem certain, the fleet, Infinity, and Master Chief's ship crash into a hole that opens on the orb and pulls them all into the orb's shell.

3. Fight Back with Friends

PLANET, SURFACE: After surviving the fall, Master Chief rescues Infinity from both FORERUNNER robot and Covenant attack. Introductions and connections are made between the Infinity's crew and Master Chief. Given new weapons and armor, the next-generation of cyborg warriors join the Master Chief exploring the Forerunner planet. Cortana attempts to deduce how to get out of the planet's shell and what the planet is. Distrust between the AI of Infinity and Cortana grows because Cortana hides her impending death by insanity.

4. Stop the Very Bad (It's a Trap)

PLANET, INTERNAL: Master Chief leads a small army with Cortana's guidance into the bowels of the planet. Covenant soldiers and Forerunner robots battle each other and the humans but are destroyed. With uncertainty Cortana directs the destruction of Forerunner machines that seem to hold Infinity in place. The AI of Infinity attempts to warn the team of misleading information, but Cortana declines to relay the warning. The team goes deeper, cutting off Infinity communications.

PLANET, PRISON: Master Chief deactivates the final seal supposed to be holding Infinity. THE DIDACT is released and throws away a unique Forerunner robot that binds him. The Didact takes control of the Forerunner robots and, with the vow of servitude made by Jul 'Mdama, commands the worship of the Covenant. Master Chief fights the Didact but is quickly overwhelmed. Cortana teleports Master Chief away from the other human soldiers before he can be killed.

PLANET, INTERNAL: Master Chief fights through the alliance of robots and aliens to escape back to the surface. Cortana breaks down for how easily tricked she was by the Didact. The robot that bound the Didact appears. It is the ghost of THE LIBRARIAN, the Forerunner responsible for recreating life in the galaxy after the Forerunners' final war. Cortana is stabilized by the Librarian's powers. The Librarian laments she cannot regain hold back the Didact or control the robots as the Didact has the same keys to Forerunner technology as she does. The Librarian explains that the Didact suffered in an ancient war with humanity and was imprisoned for what he did to the survivors. The Didact has access to a proto-HALO weapon that he will use to destroy humanity once and for all. Master Chief and Cortana come up with a plan to stop the Didact. The Librarian returns the Master Chief to Infinity then leaves to prepare a contingency plan.

INFINITY: Having suffered many losses and the abandonment by Master Chief in the prison, the crew of Infinity are unwilling to aid Master Chief and Cortana based only on their word that they met the Librarian and what the Librarian said is true. Cortana refuses again to allow Infinity's AI to connect to verify the story. Cortana temporarily takes control of Infinity to force the ship to aid Master Chief but gives up control after realizing the wrongness of her actions. The crew prepare to leave the planet to return to Earth and decommission Cortana. A sympathetic officer of Infinity gives Master Chief a small aircraft to pursue the Didact on his own before Infinity leaves.

5. Stop the Very Worst (All or Nothing)

PLANET, SHELL: Master Chief attempts to delay the Didact's departure by turning Forerunner installations against the Didact's forces with Cortana's help. The Covenant fleet and some of the robots crash into the planet. The Didact still leaves with what is left of the Covenant and an army of robots around his massive spaceship. Jul 'Mdama survives but is stranded and ignored by Master Chief. Unable to pursue the Didact through space, Cortana and Master Chief contemplate this as the first time they are left without an option. The Librarian arrives no longer as a robot but in control of another Forerunner ship, smaller but faster than the Didact's. Together, they chase the Didact.

HALO: Master Chief arrives above a Halo installation that has a human research garrison. Master Chief teleports onto the Halo and learns the garrison has uncovered the proto-Halo weapon. The Didact arrives. Master Chief battles Covenant aliens and Forerunner robots to defend the proto-Halo weapon and allow for the garrison to escape. They are outmatched and surrounded. The Didact recovers the weapon.

CUTSCENE: The Didact crowns his ship with the recovered proto-Halo weapon. Master Chief is teleported off the Halo against his wishes. The human garrison calls for help. The Didact uses the proto-weapon to destroy all life on the Halo. The Didact turns to attack the Librarian's ship.

LIBRARIAN SHIP, INTERNAL: Master Chief battles robots that board the Librarian's ship sent to capture the Librarian for the Didact. The Didact prepares to use his weapon on the ship to kill the Master Chief.

CUTSCENE: As the Didact fires, the Librarian uses her powers to protect Master Chief in a prison similar to the Didact's and to give Cortana the keys for complete control of Forerunner machines and AI on par with the Didact's. The Didact fires and thinks the Master Chief killed. The Librarian destroys her ghost to cover up what she did. Cortana is unable to act for a time while she is rebuilt with the powers of the Forerunners. The Didact leaves for Earth. Cortana recovers and releases Master Chief and they pursue the Didact in the Librarian's ship. Master Chief and Cortana arrive in Earth orbit. There is a fleet battle between humanity and the Didact. Cortana rams the Librarian's ship into the Didact's as the Didact fires the proto-Halo weapon, forcing it to miss. The blast does not destroy the world but many die.

DIDACT SHIP, EXTERNAL: Cortana teleports Master Chief onto the surface of the Didact's ship. Cortana uses her power to improve Master Chief's armor, weapons, and teleports in equipment. Master Chief battles across the ship's surface to the weapon as the Didact prepares to fire again. Master Chief cannot destroy the weapon but destroys guns keeping human ships away. Infinity approaches and destroys the weapon but retreats under an onslaught of Forerunner robots which leaves the Didact unguarded. Master Chief brings a nuclear device and enters the Didact's ship.

DIDACT SHIP, INTERNAL: Master Chief confronts the Didact. The Didact overpowers the Master Chief as more robots turn to attack the Earth. Cortana combines the keys the Librarian gave with the command systems of the Halo rings. Cortana uses her powers to awaken all Forerunner technology at once around the galaxy. Hundreds of robots under Cortana's control arrive to overwhelm and hold the Didact back but only weakens his power. Master Chief defeats the Didact by detonating the nuclear device before the Didact overpowers Cortana's control.

6. Explosions and Goodbye

CUTSCENE: Master Chief watches the nuclear detonation and destruction of the Didact's ship from afar in a world of light. The Forerunner robots leave Earth. Cortana meets Master Chief to tell him what she did to save him from the explosion and her feelings for him. Cortana dies with the Didact's ship. Master Chief is found floating in space by Infinity. Closure between the remaining characters that the Master Chief is home but questions remain on what happens next without Cortana.

In +3200 words, this is how I would rewrite the story of Halo 4 to get the narrative back on track with the fundamental 6-point formula. (Maybe giving its 87 Metacritic score a boost to match the previous games?) This also sets up 4‘s part in the second trilogy, paving the way for the next title to be a deserving sequel.

Before I tackle Halo 5‘s narrative, what’s your take on Halo‘s story? Is the above going too far? Not enough? Post your critiques – it’ll help the next analysis! Cheers for now!

Rewriting: Halo, Preamble

I must begin by confessing that the Halo series is a topmost favorite of mine (Halo 2 being my favorite game, no hesitation). My adoration may be because many of the games featuring the hero Master Chief have a consistent, 6-point story structure.

But not all of the games.

Over the course of three more posts I’m going to give a crack at getting that narrative consistency back 😎 Less out of hubris, more out of affection for a fantastic series ❤

What follows is only a look at the story as written that fits the established plot pattern of the first three Halo games: Halo CE, Halo 2, and Halo 3. Talk over mechanical balance, aesthetic, features like multiplayer, and similar will be left to others. However, critiques on complexity and needing to know the expanded universe of the franchise will be addressed.

This post covers the common ground that the proceeding analyses need to make their point. Needless to say, there are spoilers ahead. Here’s to it:

Defining Terms

The avatar of Halo is the Master Chief. MC (also an abbreviation for ‘main character’) is a hulking human cyborg with the best armor and weapons humanity can muster to fight.

Chief has slain legions of foes, obliterated entire fleets, and stopped multiple galactic menaces. He is a legend among humanity and aliens alike. The former call him “Savior,” the latter (represented by the theocratic Covenant alliance) “Demon.” Other titles:

    • “Reclaimer” – From the robots left by the Forerunners that built and then killed themselves with Halo array to win a lost war. (Humanity is meant to ‘reclaim’ the former Forerunner responsibility for peace in the galaxy.)
    • “Food” – From the ancient-beyond-reckoning parasitical Flood that Halo was built to combat. (Finally contained in Halo 3.)

All of this would be impossible without his ‘spirit-guide’ and supernatural protector Cortana, the most advanced of the most advanced AI humanity can create. She lives in the circuits of MC’s suit and brain, sometimes transferring to other computer systems to find information, open the way for Chief, and stop their enemies.

Master Chief, Cortana, Halo, Covenant, Forerunners, Flood. Remember these as we proceed.

Context: Theme Among Other Games

The first three Halo titles each internalize the 6-point structure of:

    1. Greet the Hero
    2. Fight Off and Crash
    3. Fight Back with Friends
    4. Stop the Very Bad (It’s a Trap)
    5. Stop the Very Worst (All or Nothing)
    6. Explosions and Goodbye

These games also represent these points as whole products:

    • Halo CE – Greet the Hero. The first title in the series introduces all the main themes, mechanics, and factions that are the constants through the other games.
    • Halo 2 – Fight Off and Crash. Chief fights off the invasion of Earth, the spread of the Flood, and an entire city of Covenant. He also aids in the crashing of the entire Halo activation system (needing a reboot in Halo 3) while smashing into a Forerunner dreadnought controlled by the Covenant.
    • Halo 3 – Fight Back with Friends. MC joins forces with human armies, Covenant separatists, Forerunner machines, and even the Flood (for a time) to stop Halo being activated and the Flood from spreading. The fight is finally brought en masse to the enemy! A disgraced alien admiral tags along with Chief the entire time as a constant buddy.

If we go a step further, we could consider each trilogy of the Halo franchise internalizing the 6-point structure in each of its titles:

    • Halo CE – Greet the Hero + Fight Off and Crash. Introduction of MC who fights off the Covenant, the Flood, and murderous Forerunner robots to ultimately destroy the Halo ring with a crashed starship’s reactor.
    • Halo 2 – Fight Back with Friends + Stop the Very Bad (Trap). More allies join the Master Chief as he takes the fight to the enemy (bombing a capital ship, retaking an occupied city, chasing and assassinating Covenant leadership, etc). He must stop another Halo ring from firing, but in doing so, he both leaves Cortana behind and the Flood are released.
    • Halo 3 – Stop the Very Worst + Explosions and Goodbye. All the Halo rings can be triggered easily from one location, the Flood spread unchecked, the Covenant have the means to trigger galaxy-wide death, and once allied Forerunner machines turn on the Master Chief (the very worst stuff this is).

      MC blows up the Covenant, the Flood, and the Halo ring activation, but his allies think he’s dead (they say “goodbye” to his memory) and Cortana needs to freeze him (they’re both lost in space indefinitely).

      In a meta sense, the original creators of the franchise (Bungie) say goodbye as they cease work on further Master Chief stories.

Final Thoughts

Yes, Halo games follow basic Campbell-like monomyth story structure. For example, Fight Off and Crash is a crossing of the threshold where return is impossible.

However, the Master Chief games have their own flavor of delivering twists on this plot over and over again. When Master Chief is in a Halo story, a person must expect the presentation to conform to the pattern. There will otherwise be consequences (e.g. low Metacritic scoring).

Metacritic is also only semi-useful as a quantitative correlator to narrative conformance. The score takes into account many things, including mechanics and features, which muddle the narrative analysis. If there’s a better scoring system discovered or proposed, it will be used.

For now, it is plain that each Halo title featuring the Master Chief has to follow each beat of the 6-points in itself, the beat of where the title is in the franchise, and where the title is in its own trilogy.

With these conclusions, other titles can be analyzed, improvements put forward, and predictions made to what may be the final title in the Master Chief saga, Halo Infinite.

And that’s the intro! Halo 4‘s analysis is coming next, along with 5 and 6 (this may be the upcoming Halo Infinite, but I’ve yet to decide if we’ll keep the naming conventions). Keep an eye out! Cheers ~