Tuesday, May 23, 2017

The True Story of Halo

When someone mentions the video game Halo, what do you think of? Green super soldier running around shooting aliens? An amazing first person shooter? A game that's over hyped and not that good? What about Bungie, do you think about them and all they've done? Well whatever comes to your mind, the fact is Halo is a widely popular series that has been very love or hate among gamers. Some like it, others don't -- simple as that. But whatever your feelings are on the series at the moment, I ask that you put it all aside because today I'm going to tell a lot of you that Halo isn't what you thought it was -- or rather, it's story isn't. This may sound strange to you at first, but a lot of Halo fans out there today don't even know the story! And I'm not just talking about those who only play it for multiplayer, but those who have completed the game's campaign as well. Now of course that statement doesn't apply to everyone, and there will be many of you that already know what I'm about to say -- but feel free to keep on reading anyway!

(Also, spoiler warning)

If you ask someone what's the story of Halo, what do you think they'll tell you? For those who have actually played the game, I'm sure it goes a little something like this: Halo is a game about the Spartan Master Chief who is attacked in space, and crash lands on a strange object that looks like a Halo. With his AI Cortana, Master Chief explores Halo, fights against the aliens, discovers the truth of Halo, and escapes after destroying it. It's a pretty basic story, and people accept it for what it is... Except, that's not actually the story. In fact, it's only a small part! The real story of Halo begins with The Fall of Reach, and is what one could call a tragedy. Rather than being your standard space marine war story, Halo is actually a story of a group of children kidnapped from their homes, and forced to become the new "Spartans." It's a story of their struggles, and the eventual outbreak of war. It's a story never told in game, and it all begins with a novel.

The Fall of Reach:

At the beginning of the novel "Fall of Reach" we learn about the current state of the universe. Humans have left Earth and began colonizing other worlds, and many groups have gone rogue to fight for their own independence in space. To fight back against this a scientist by the name of Catherine Halsey sets out to put her new project in action -- the Spartan II project. The idea behind this project was to basically create a new "300." They would look for young kids who showed promise in their eyes, kidnap them, replace them with clones (that would in return die young at an early age so their parents wouldn't suspect something), and then force them through extreme training to create the best soldiers possible. It was sort of an expansion to a previously failed attempt to create super soldiers, but using kids trained for it rather than adults. One such child was a young boy named John, who had his life changed forever after a chance meeting with Dr. Halsey and Captain Keyes (yes, the very same from Halo 1).

After being taken, John was forced to adapt to his new life. He became good friends with another young boy named Sam, and a girl named Kelly. The three would become like family over the years, and along with the other children they would constantly be forced to fight against the odds. Strict training missions had them look death in the face, and horrible experiments, that were done to enhance their bodies, either left them broken beyond repair, or dead. Those who survived such tasks eventually went on take part in real missions for the military, and those who didn't were either sent away, or died from their injuries. It was a brutal project, and John did whatever he could to ensure as many of his friends survived it. However, he also learned that loss was sometimes necessary. Saying goodbye to his Spartan family never became easier for John, but it's something he would see time and time again when the Covenant entered the picture.

During the war against the rebel forces, things took an unexpected turn. First contact was made with another alien race, and things went bad. The Covenant was a group of alien invaders that seemingly only sought the destruction of humans. Destroying entire worlds wasn't a problem for the Covenant, and humanity didn't stand a chance. That is, until they mobilized the Spartans.

The Spartan IIs were kept a secret from the public, but with the Covenant threat they quickly became known. Equip with a new type of armor that would turn a normal human into mush if they were to put it on (as explained in the novel, even tiny movements were enough to snap normal human bones and kill a person as they reacted to the pain and made other slight movements), the Spartans headed out to fight the alien forces, with John as their Master Chief. The battles that followed would mostly result in human losses, but they never gave up and continued the fight. Eventually a plan was hatched to capture a Covenant ship, and the events that lead to the beginning of Halo began to unfold. Equip with the brand new AI Cortana (whom was created from a scan of Dr. Halsey's mind), John teamed up with Captain Keyes and his crew to go about this mission; however when the Covenant reached Reach (the location of the military's main base -- and the planet the Spartans considered home), things went bad.

Splitting his team between air and ground, John and his fellow Spartans joined the battle to protect their base. While John joins the fight in space, he sends many of his team down to Reach below with his trusted friend Fred in the lead. Although at the time John thought Fred and the others would have the easier job, he soon learned this was not the case. Reach became a total loss (those who have played Halo Reach would know more about this), the fight in space was a failure, and Captain Keyes had no choice but to order a jump to safety -- using coordinates taken from the Covenant earlier. This is where Halo 1 begins.

Although this is the basic story of Fall of Reach, this summary only scratches the surface. The novel itself is actually more about John and his friends as they grow and learn about the universe around them. We see the characters develop over time, we see their struggles, and we get to see all of the events that would eventually lead to other story elements featured later on. The story also introduces us to Dr. Halsey and all of the things she's involved with, and Captain Keyes and his crew. Despite being such important characters to the story, it's possible those who play only the games will not even remember them (or possibly not even know they exist). Of course it doesn't stop here though.

The Flood:

The second novel in the series is the story many will know. The Flood is based off of the story in Halo 1 and picks up the moment Captain Keyes makes the jump and ends up in front of the strange floating object "Halo." Here is where the game also opens, but the novel takes a different path. Rather than following Master Chief 100% of the time, The Flood tells the full story of the events of Halo 1, and actually follows multiple groups of characters. You have the Master Chief story of him and Cortana exploring Halo and fighting the Covenant, you have multiple groups of soldiers (that do eventually meet up), and you even get to see a team of Covenant aliens as they search for the humans and try to prevent them from escaping Halo. This set up allows for the full story to be told, and explains everything that happens in the first game. What was originally a simple escape story that lead to the discovery of the parasite creatures known as the Flood and the destruction of Halo, becomes a fully fleshed out story of mystery as each group fights to survive on the strange object.

Although this is a retelling of the game, with only around 1/3rd of the story being shown in game, this can be an issue later on. The things that Keyes does, as well as the other soldiers on Halo did are once again lost to the player, which can make things very confusing going forward. Sadly Keyes and his team (whom many may become attached to during the first novel) meet a tragic end, but the actions of other characters do make a huge difference in the end, and help lead the story into Halo 2. However the biggest impact on the story happens in the 3rd novel, and it's what will answer so many questions and fix the "plot holes" some fans may have realized. Although, they technically were never plot holes to begin with, but many don't know that.

Third Book:

The third book titled "First Strike" is the real game changer in the Halo story line, or rather, it's the book that makes everything else in the series possible. When fans go into Halo 2, they are greeted with more story than in Halo 1, but that story is also a bit "off." Fans playing the games, once again, just accept it and go with it, but in reality they are missing out on a lot (to say the least). On top of everything that happened in Fall of Reach, and during the events of Halo 1 (and it's book), there is a massive gap between 1 and 2 where a lot of key story events happen. This includes how Master Chief escaped from the space around Halo, the reason Johnson is still alive when he clearly "died" in Halo 1, and it also shows us how characters such as Linda survived the events of Fall of Reach as well... Although, many may not have even known who she was until Halo 5 released... Either way the story is massive, and is the reason Halo 2 even happens.

In First Strike, Master Chief comes across another ship in space. On this ship is Johnson (again, who should be dead), as well as other soon to be fellow teammates. It turns out Johnson suffers from a rare illness caused by exposure to the Covenant's plasma weapons. Normally a soldier would be taken off the field and be locked away for MANY months of treatment, but Johnson refused and continued his fight. Because of this sickness though, the Flood was unable to infect his body as seen in Halo 1, thus leaving him alive. Afterwords he, the Chief, and the others come up with a plan to steal a Covenant ship, and make their way back to Reach. While it may not seem like much at first, this ship was actually commanded by a well known character, and is the reason half of Halo 2 even happens. Who was this commander who abandoned his own ship and charged as a criminal? I'm sure you know. (And if you don't, it's the second main character of Halo 2... The one you spend a lot of time playing as...) Because of this event though, a lot of things were set into motion, and the future of the war was all but decided.

Because John was able to capture the ship and get the commander branded a heretic by the Covenant, he was able to make it back to Reach to help his fellow Spartans, he was able to find Linda frozen in space and get her back to Dr. Halsey for surgery, he was able to help get Fred, Kelly, and other Spartans off of Reach before it was 100% destroyed, and they were even able to discover that the Covenant had found the location of Earth (by mistake at that), and destroy a massive fleet to buy Earth more time to get ready for it. All of this became possibly only because they captured that Covenant ship, and the events of Halo 2 would eventually even lead that commander "heretic" to join John's side as well. All of these events plus more unfold all within this third book, and despite being how important it all is, many fans have no idea this story even exists.

Fourth Book and Beyond:

Halo and it's story doesn't stop there. Although Halo 3 ends the original story arc, there is actually much more to it. There have been many books, side stories, comics, and even movies and anime OVAs released for this series, and all of them add something to the overall plot. One book actually follows Johnson's story back when the war first began, while others tell the stories of the Spartan IIIs and connect even more with games such as Halo Reach. The overall story of Halo is one massive sci-fi adventure, and the games themselves only show a small fraction of it, while leaving a lot out as well. Because of this a lot of people who play the games don't even know the full story of Halo, and there's a chance that they never will. On the flip side, because Halo's story is mostly shown in other media, it's a story non shooter fans can enjoy as well. Really if you're a fan of sci-fi at all, and want a good book series to get into, then Halo really is something you should check out. Although the newer entries in the series since 343 took the games over may be hit or miss for some people, the original series of books are still a great read.

So, again I ask you. What is the story of Halo? Honestly I've only scratched the surface. If you want to see the story, you're going to have to read it yourself!

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