Except when playing Halo: Reach on Legendary. Then they die a lot.
When Halo 4 entered the fray and people scrabbled around to try to locate a copy in an attempt to achieve some arbitrary ranking, I chose to return to Reach. This seems like a backwards move considering the game has been out for several years and a highly anticipated sequel (albeit with different developers) has beamed itself into the public consciousness, but I felt it was right. Everyone has a particularly personal attachment to something. Just because that personal attachment manifests itself in the form of a piece of media doesn’t make it any less valid. Reach defined my complete and heartfelt plunge into gaming. People often proclaim how Super Metroid, Ocarina of Time or Baldur’s Gate initiated that real, true response to gaming and I wish I could claim the same, I truly do, for in that respect I would have engaged with gaming far earlier.
As it is, Halo Reach was the primary initiator, dosing yours truly in that everlasting glow of immersive video-gaming. Having played games beforehand, the story of Noble Team was one of very few stories that changed how I viewed the medium. With a penchant for story-driven, well scripted tales, the lore surrounding the Halo Universe was something that I found fascinating. However, with that being said, I found this game to be the first of the series to veer off slightly into character driven territory, which for someone like me was, and still remains, perfect. The tenderness with which Bungie tell the tale is poignant, a word that doesn’t often adhere to the general environment of intense and constant violence that the game thrives off. Nevertheless, with the team ethic and the individuality of each Spartan came a new perspective. Whilst there is an understood acceptance of John-117 being the voiceless soldier in order to allow the player to fill his shoes, there was a video game shaped hole just waiting to be filled by a variety of diverse, yet equally intriguing characters.
Maybe complex is a more apt word?
Expanding on why complex is likely the correct word, we can look at just about any character and examine and analyse their respective position in and outside of the team. Jorge-052, for example, is the only true SPARTAN-II, a class he shares with a certain Master Chief. However, why the game works so well is because it perseveres to install in the player a sense that these are not robotic entities, traipsing around in their armoured suits, bred as machines. They have been indoctrinated and made into super soldiers by Halsey and her scientific team, yet underneath that all they are still inherently human. Jorge demonstrates a caring and touching attitude towards civilians, which is an unheard quality for someone of his class. Perhaps “Big Jorge” with his Heavy Machine Gun demonstrates the juxtaposition of personality and action. A person can kill for a living, but they can still possess seemingly inexplicable traits, such as fondness for another.
Jorge is the obvious example, purely because his personality differs so greatly from what we’ve seen before with John-117, but each Reach character exemplifies Bungie’s attitude this time around. Another aspect of the story that doesn’t get nearly enough attention is the irony of fate that the developers portray through each death. Bungie has created this awesome, epic tale of humanity on the brink of destruction, fighting tooth and claw to survive, and it’s beautifully replicated throughout Halo: Reach.
Each personality relates to each character’s death. Noble-6, the mysterious one-man army ends up how he started. The final mission is a wholly impressive indication that Noble-6 is the perennial lone-wolf at heart. A nice reference to his skills in this lone capacity comes when Dr. Halsey mentions that he is as lethal as John-117. Carter-A259, as captain and commander of his team goes down with his ship, gloriously saving his remaining team from certain annihilation at the hands, or feet, of a Scarab.
Yet, when this is all said and done, it is pertinent to point out that the majority of these team member died when they were without their team-mates, thus demonstrating that not everything is as concise as perhaps we thought. They may be more effective in their individual skill-sets, but just possibly their true strength lied in their unity. This is Bungie, hitting the very pinnacle of their script-writing abilities and creating a stunningly elegant piece of storytelling.
You see, because of the aforementioned bits and bobs, I have this weirdly strong connection to the game, and in particular its story. Whereas many have clambered the heights of multiplayer, I have instead found my mistress in the campaign mode.Therefore, because it is such an important piece of gaming from a personal perspective, it always deserved one last hoorah before I set my sails towards the supposedly much improved Halo 4.
I’m not the easiest person to get along with if you’re a piece of media of the video game variety, yet Reach really changed my somewhat squinty viewpoint.
In many ways, this is as intimate as Halo can get. It is a much more pinpoint experience with Noble Team fighting for a place they can each call home. There is the ever-looming idea of a much grander, much more sinister plan at work, the Covenant planning a galaxy wide elimination of human-kind, yet at its core it is a story about a group of ceaseless soldiers determined to give their dying breathes for the chance to protect those they have been tasked with protecting.
So, to quote Emile-A239, I say to Halo: Reach:
“It’s been an honor.”
To the next Halo trilogy, I quote Jorge-052::
“Look, Reach has been good to me. It’s time to repay the favor”.