It’s hard to encompass 16 yeasrs of gaming with one franchise in one blog post. This article is in no way all encompassing, but does give you a synopsis of my history and experience with Master Chief from the video games. Novels and other media have not been included (with rare exception) so that any who just follow the games can read along and not be lost in further discussion.
Fair warning, this article is a long read and there will be no TL;DR.
Pre-Master Chief History:
I was a Nintendo then Playstation guy. I hadn’t even considered an XBOX until a friend of mine had me try out theirs one day while I was visiting. The game I played? Yep, HALO! And so starts my journey.
Halo CE/Master Chief
The ever so brief time I had playing Halo on my friend’s console was just enopugh to convince me to by it. It wasn’t really the console itself, but rather the game. I was enamored by this green armored super solider. The super hero-esque look of him was a big draw. I’m a HUGE Iron Man fan, so Master Chief was akin to him, insofar as te armor was concerned, to me.
I wasn’t an FPS guy, but there was something about this game that had me locked in quick. It really came down to it being Master Chief. The fact that I was Master Chief, so to speak, was just the coolest thing. Back then I really didn’t know much at all about who Master Chief was or his origins. And you know what? I really didn’t care. To me, I was Master Chief and that was plenty enough. Racing through the Pillar of Autumn blasting away at strange aliens was thrilling. I felt like a bad ass!
Stepping out onto Halo itslef was of course awe inspiring and the adventures that were had were epic. The graphics at the time were state of the art. But again, it waasn’t even that. It really was about being Master Chief. That feeling you get when marines are looking to you or when Grunts scurry away in fear…You just KNEW Master Chief was a force to be reckoned with.
Oh of course I died many times in the campaign. I wasn’t very good at Halo when I first started my journey but, that didn’t matter. I was having FUN! The flood were definitely scary back then but I knew if I played hard enough and long enough, that I’d overcome that. And I did! As Master Chief!
The battle had been won, Halo destroyed and I was very satisfied. Had the franchise stopped there, it still would have been an epic game. But no…we were in for SO much more!
Master Chief gets an upgrade. The new armor looked powerful. I definitely felt like a walking tank!
The fight brought Master Chief to the streets of New Mombasa. There we faced down multiple Jackal Snipers. And you were anything like me back then, you had more than a few curse words for them and the many times you were picked off…Still, persistance paid off and I was able to make it through.
Along the way boarding a strange large walking bug like thing that came to be known as a Scarab. Eventually finding my way aboard the Covenant’s massive Flagship almost world, High Chraity. There, were every being you came across was an enemy. Was there ANY chance to win? YES! YOU are Master Chief! Beating back hoardes of aliens, culminating in an epic battle against Tartarus. That was one HELL of a boss battle! TO me it STILL ranks as one of if not the best Halo boss battles to date. While the game ended rather abruptly, one thing we knew for sure, the fight was not yet finished and we WOULD see and play as Master Chief again!
Okay, how about that introduction? Chief falling like a rock on a piece of metal? Johnson thinking he’s dead and saying he wasn’t going to leave him behind, then Chief saying, “Yeah, you’re not.” MAN, that was EPIC! Not to mention, this game was now on the 360. I remember the graphics being SO amazing versus the previous 2 Halo games. Still it wasn’t just that. The environments were better, the music was, as always, stellar and the ambient noise of the game made it so much more lifelike. But it still came down to being Master Chief. In the previous 2 games, I rarely played co-op campaign and when I did, it was always with my brother-in-law. Now with connectivity to the rest of the world being so much better, I finally decided to branch out and find other people to play Halo with. And I did. Many, MANY people. Now though, instead of playing clones of Master Chief, other people jumped in and played as the Arbiter or Usze or N’tho.
Still, if you were the one hosting, you got to play as Master Chief and THAT was awesome! Knowing that you were leading Elites into battle showed how much more superior Master Chief was. Here were aliens that stood a full head higher or more than Chief and yet, they deferred to him!
Even by this third game we still didn’t know a ton about Chief. Yes, we now knew his originas and BTW, I think the Fall of Reach was an amazing book! I HIGHLY recommend you read it if you want to get the backsotry to Chief and in great detail.
I played the Halo 3 campaign the most of any campaign, not just back then, but even up til now. It was a campaign I just couldn’t get enough of. By then, Chief was well defined as the super soldier he was touted to be. So I played the campaign over and over to se how I could beat the missions in different ways. No matter what I tried, Chief ALWAYS prevailed, if I was persistent.
Once again battling on Earth, you felt the urgency of the need to win. But it wasn’t just against the now Brute enforced Covenant, now we had to face down the flood…on EARTH! Floodgate was a terrifying mission. The immediate change from the mission previous that was brightly lit to this now fire engulfed dark setting told you that worse things were to come. Yet…as Master Chief, I was ready for the fight. It wasn’t easy and it shouldn’t be.
Destroying High Chairity just after finding Cortana was about as epic as you could get it and a worthy mission for Chief. Going to yet another Forerunner installation, this time the Ark was again awe inspiring. Halo was big, but the Ark was HUGE! It still has yet to be outdone by any other Forerunner construct. In fact, we are lucky enough that we will be visiting it again soon in Halo Wars 2! Anyway, back to Chief…
The betrayal of 343 Guilty Spark and his killing Johnson hit hard. In this war ANYONE could die. We just lost Miranda Keyes earlier in the campaign. Now Chief was in for the most heart-pounding adrenaline race to escape as there ever had been in a Halo campaign. I can’t even recall the number of times I played that final mission. Both as driving a Warthog AND playing 4-player co-op in Ghosts. Every time it was a rush and STILL is to this day! That leap to freedom to the Forward Unto Dawn, however improbable was PURE Master Chief.
Once again, the franchise could have stopped there and indeed many of us thought it would. Master Chief had cemeneted himself as an iconic hero that just couldn’t be beat!
While the adventures of Chief took a break, we got to play as one hell of a bad ass Marine Sergeant in Halo Wars as Sergeant Forge, then as equally bad ass ODSTs in Halo 3 ODST. Following that, was the mysterious Noble 6 in Halo Reach. And while all of those characters was awesome, none of them could hold a candle to Master Chief. (Well, Jorge was close…gawd I miss him…)
Now a new studio had taken over the franchise from vaulted creators Bungie and 343 Industries was born. Not only did Chief get a rather strange upgrade of armor (while in Cryo sleep), 343 endeavored to bring us a new Master Chief. One that was more fleshed out and humanized. This move however left a split in the Halo community. We now knew we were no longer Master Chief, that we were just sideline beings manuevering this hero of heroes. Gone was the feeling that it was WE who were the saviors of the galaxy to now be replaced by someone who while we knew more of, we couldn’t quite identify with. Of course we all knew Chief was human. However, Halo 4 showed a vulnerable side to Chief. That was something we had never seen, nor considered. Adnt o be honest, many STILL do not agree with. As a lore fan however, I came to accept this new interpretation of Master Chief. Now I was getting more emotionally involved with the character instead of just being full on hardocre mode all the time.
Chief struggling to find his connection to humanity again after being lost for so long was a strange feeling. Though as the season veteran of decades of battle, he fit right back in with the military establishment. However, his human side was ever more creeping out. It showed itself fully we Chief disobeyed a direct order from Captain Del Rio by NOT giving Cortana to him to be destroyed. Chief’s connection to Cortana was so strong that by the end of the campaign, when Cortana “died” we truly felt sorry for Chief. Not as oursleves anymore, but as the humanized character he had become.
Where when and how could Chief go on without his best friend, some might even say his love?
Chief now was reunited with his former fireteam in Blue team. We got a brief glimpse of what this grand team of Spartans were. Far too little of it, IMO. Chief once again was disobeying orders. And again, it was for Cortana. Had he gone rogue? Well, in the truest context, yes. But that did not and still does nto mean he was wrong or that he was the bad guy. I NEVER once thought that and still don’t, even though the ad campaign for Halo 5 tried to tell us otherwise.
We were force fed a new Spartan in former ONI Agent Jameson Locke and wow did the community show it’s revolt for the character. In all of the mission for Halo 5, we only got to play as Chief in three of them. THREE!
Chief now had to face off against the very ‘person’ he loved most in his life, that of Cortana. The Warden Eternal was just something that got in the way (far too much, if you ask me. The familia connection of Blue was present, though not pronounced. I hope we get more of that in the next game. Chief’s humanity that was brought forth in Halo 4 seemed to take a step back in Halo 5. It was still there, but diminished. What roller coaster of an emotional ride is 343 having us take here? Master Chief to me, in Halo 5 didn’t feel as bad ass as he was prior, NOR did he feel as humanized either. He was a shell of his former self in both ways. It’s not his fault…it was the writing and the decision making of persons we don’t yet know who were responsible for those decisions. So place balme where you may.
The introduction of Locke wasn’r good, wasn’t even much mixed. It was mostlyt against, in the Halo community. 343 should take heed in that and bring Chief back to the forefront. And it needs to be one way or the other. Either he’s the bad ass super soldier we first came to love OR the humanized version that we became more emotionally attached to. Trying to mix the two just didn’t work in Halo5, IMO. And Locke again was/is NOT the answer.
Look, I’m sorry folks, but the story of Halo IS Master Chief. If you disagree with me, fine, you are of course okay to do that. But I will NEVER accept Halo (at least the numbered games) as anything but Chief’s gig. Any talk of killing Chief off, to me, is ludicrous. It’s akin to killing Mario of Nintendo. It just SHOULDN’T be done! Not even having him retire. No, he NEEDS to go on and on. He’s a super soldier. His enhancements can allow him to live longer and still be strong for DECADES to come. Do I expect Halo to last that long? Well, who know. I hope so. But even if the franchise were to end, I still would not want to see Chief killed off. Because…well, you never know when we might need him again, right?
Suffice to say, I’m still enthralled by the characrter of Master Chief. He is the face of the franchise and the reason I came back to Halo so many times, even when the franchise took side turns with off-shoot games. If Chief goes out fo the picture, I fear it’s a loss I just won’t be able to overcome and would be faced with leaving Halo altogether. That’s something I don’t even want to think about, so I hope 343 doesn’t ever consider it.
If I had to describe Master Chief I would say that he is more than a man, he’s more than a super soldier. He embodies the very heart and sould of what bravery means, of what honor means. And THAT is something we all should want to strive for!