This Is How The Story Ends

In response to those who've asked me what do you think of Halo 3 I wrote a long piece on finishing the fights. Halo, being a first person shooter with a linear story has a number of "finishes", though. There are the conflicts the player is a direct party to, but there are other story elements as well, and action that takes place away from the player.

How well does Bungie bring this epic trilogy to a close?

So You Must Be Silenced

Unlike the Prophet showdown in Halo 3, the silencing of Truth is a cinematic affair, and fairly brings to a close the Arbiter's personal agenda in Halo's storyline. Blamed for the Chief's destruction of Installation 04 and sent on a suicide mission to assassinate a Heretic and retrieve Delta Halo's Index, the Arbiter learns the truth of what Halo does from 343 Guilty Spark, Gravemind and the Master Chief and vows vengeance on Truth and the Brutes for their betrayal of him and his kind.

In fact, making this an entirely intraCovenant conflict may explain why Halo 3 shows an entirely different side to Truth from Halo 2. In Halo 2, Truth's time is occupied by the layrinthine machinations necessary to start the Great Journey; playing Tartarus and the Arbiter against each other, securing the Oracly and the Index as well as a couple of required Reclaimers. He's so devious the audience must wonder if anything he says means what it appears to.

Halo 3's Truth seems far more on the level; his speeches are all mixes of straightforward practicalities with dogmatic justifications, intended to keep the troops motivated to cover his back while he completes the preparations for the Journey. He doesn't have any maneuvers left to make. The Elites, led by Half-Jaw and the Arbiter, have split off from the Covenant, but at least amongst Truth's forces he retains everyone else. The Brutes apparently do not have a new top Chieftain to replace Tartarus, at least, not one that functions as a character in the story.

Truth's behavior when confronted by the Arbiter is also not quite what I expected. I was convinced that Truth's enthusiasm for the Great Journey was spurred more by ambition than belief, and that seems borne out by his assertion that the Great Journey will make him a God-- a haunting echo of Durandal's "escape will make me God" from the Marathon series.

If this were so, why not make the Arbiter an offer? Why not offer to share that godhead? Why not plead or apologize-- blame his compatriots? Perhaps the simple answer is that all that might end up working to the same end if the Arbiter refuses, and simply waste screen time. Fair enough. Still, the central pin of the argument-- that there is no evidence that any "journey" really exists, and that Halo will kill everyone-- is not brought up. Arbiter tells Truth, cryptically, that this moment "will not last" but it's unclear whether this is a rebuttal or merely a threat. If Halo were a Bond movie, this is where Truth would get the drop on his would-be attackers and then explain his entire evil plan before being unexpectedly defeated. I suppose I should be grateful that Halo avoids such a hackneyed mechanism, but on the other hand, it does seem like there are a few things one might want to learn from the old codger before dispatching him-- about the details of how the Elites' religion was suborned by the Prophets, about what the role of a Reclaimer is, about why humans had to be exterminated. Basically, the audience might liked to have known what Truth knew, and when he knew it. Too late now, although I'm given to understand some of this is revealed in Staten's Halo novel, Contact Harvest.

In the end, the primary motivations for doing Truth in appear to be vengeance first and self-preservation second. Which I suppose is fine-- up until that point, the primary characters believe they are safe from the Halo installations, and are fighting to protect the rest of the galaxy. Only 343 Guilty Spark knows differently, and while he urges the Arbiter and the Master Chief to action based on that information, he keeps the details to himself.

You Are Forerunner

Nothing like a bit of figurative language to send Bungie fans into a tizzy.

Where the Arbiter gets to run Truth through on his plasma blade, 343 Guilty Spark is left for the Chief to deal with. While the Truth scene glosses over what could have been a potentially revealing argument with a brief trade of aphorisms, Guilty Spark is a bit more forthcoming.

What it comes down to is the compartmentalization he spoke of earlier; while the Forerunners may have designated humanity as the "Reclaimers" and given them the responsibility for activating the installations, should the time come, Spark's only real concern is for his own installation, and it shows. Deprived of it once, he can't bear the thought of it again, and one human life-- that of Sergeant Johnson-- simply doesn't measure up in comparison.

He's got a point, too-- after all, if both 04a and the Ark are destroyed, the system of installations may be fatally crippled, and there's no reason for believing the galaxy really is safe from the Flood. After all, what about Delta Halo? Gravemind sent a ship to Earth and High Charity to the Ark. How do we know he didn't send other ships elsewhere, not to mention Flood that may be loose on other rings?

There's also precedent for Forerunner AIs to take matters into their own hands when it comes to fighting the Flood. The Terminals tell the story of the space battle being waged when the Installations were first fired, killing both the organic Forerunner ship crews and the Flood infestation, leaving the balance of power in the hands of AIs.

If Bungie wanted to leave open the possibility to do more Halo stories about the Flood, they certainly achieved that.

Having Your Cake...

No, that's not a Portal reference.

You have to admire what Bungie achieved with the final cutscene of Halo 3. My only regret is that even after completing the game on all difficulties, it's inaccessible from the main menu, unlike Arrival. So if you want to see it, you have to start the final level, Halo, from rally point alpha, and play through the final run. If doing that weren't so much fun, I'd be upset.

When that cutscene first starts to run, with the Chief and the Arbiter jumping into the Dawn's hangar bay in a Warthog (regardless of what vehicle or vehicles you're actually using, or if the Arbiter is even with you) I thought it a bit awkward until I realized what they were trying to achieve. The rolling tank serves to separate the Chief and the Arbiter. The Arbiter makes his way forward to the Dawn's bridge, but the Chief nearly falls to his death, creating the camera angles necessary for the "if we don't make it" Chief-Cortana moment.

Of course, it's not apparent why Bungie bothered to show those things until the next cutscene comes. The Dawn, seemingly sheared in half, crashes on Earth, presumably having returned there through the same portal that brought it to the Ark. The return of the Arbiter clears the way for a Human-Elite peace of sorts, with Lord Hood coming to terms with the end of hostilities and the loss of the Chief.

Which is, of course, the brilliant bit. The audience doesn't know yet what's happened to the Chief, and it's only fitting that he'd be presumed dead. With the war over, the need to keep up morale that led to all Spartans being listed "MIA" instead of "KIA" falls away; and the "117" scrawl that takes the place of the Chief's photo (a picture of the helmet would just be silly, and Bungie's not going to show you the Chief's face now) is a really nice touch.

Hood gives a nice speech and has a wonderful little exchange with the Arbiter who gets to bookend his role in Halo 3 with another "were it so easy" that brings the story, and his relationship to the Chief, full circle.

It'd be sacrilege to mention this scene without bringing attention to Marty O'Donnell's score. It transforms the scene from something that would probably fall flat with all except the most hardcore of fans into a scene that I have to admit makes me misty-eyed when I watch it. The fact that he's been preparing for it since 2004 or earlier probably doesn't hurt, especially when you note track names like "Unforgotten" and "Remembrance" from Halo 2.

So with this memorial service Bungie gets to have its cake...

...And Eat It, Too

Because of course the Chief isn't really dead. Lost somewhere in space with Cortana on the other half of the Dawn, the Chief gets to hang up his spurs and go back into cold storage, which brings his role in the Halo story arc full circle as well. The Chief was always, if not an actual reluctant hero, certainly not a wise-cracking bloodthirsty caricature. He never gloried in violence, and there's some real emotional value in the simple action of putting away his rifle, even if he and everyone in the audience knows it's temporary.

Perhaps, even... very temporary.

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Comments

[quote]I suppose I should be grateful that Halo avoids such a hackneyed mechanism, but on the other hand, it does seem like there are a few things one might want to learn from the old codger before dispatching him-- about the details of how the Elites' religion was suborned by the Prophets, about what the role of a Reclaimer is, about why humans had to be exterminated. Basically, the audience might liked to have known what Truth knew, and when he knew it. [b]Too late now, although I'm given to understand some of this is revealed in Staten's Halo novel, Contact Harvest.[/[/b]quote]

Yep, it's all in there. How he came to be the evil Prophet he is in all the games, how the war itself started, where the freakin' Brute Chopper originated, why the Humans were set to be destroyed without any chance of peace (answers a question in the Halo 2 "Conversations of the Universe" between two Elites wondering why the Spartan's, being so good, weren't allowed to join the Covenant...)

Fadewindu from HBO here...

"Perhaps, even... very temporary."

Damnit Narc! What a way to leave me hangin'! Now you got me wondering even more than before about the future of MC. Ugh, I can't take this anymore.

On a serious note though, can we please get your thoughts on the final legendary cutscene please? Joseph stated that hints can be gleaned from looking at the lights on the mysterious planet; however, I can't seem to find anything. Maybe I'm not looking hard enough, but it'd be nice to get your insight on the meaning of said cutscene.

Hello

What do you mean with perhaps very temporary .. each halo game took 3 years to make ..

Hello

What do you mean with perhaps very temporary .. each halo game took 3 years to make .. so

[quote=Anonymous]Hello

What do you mean with perhaps very temporary .. each halo game took 3 years to make .. so[/quote]

If, for the sake of argument, there was a Halo 4, that featured Cortana and the Chief, and covered the events resulting from their encountering the object seen in the legendary cutscene, and those events more or less immediately follow the conclusion of Halo 3, then it is possible to say that their wait was "very temporary" regardless of how long Bungie would take to develop such a hypothetical game.

Hypothetically.


Rampant for over se7en years.

... where did Staten say this? I must have missed it! Link needed! Curiosity piqued!

He mentioned the bit about Truth in an HBO forum post about a week back or so I think. The other information is in the novel itself, Contact Harvest, which is already out.


Rampant for over se7en years.

[quote=Anonymous]Fadewindu from HBO here...

"Perhaps, even... very temporary."

Damnit Narc! What a way to leave me hangin'! Now you got me wondering even more than before about the future of MC. Ugh, I can't take this anymore.[/quote]

Hehe!
[quote=Anonymous]
On a serious note though, can we please get your thoughts on the final legendary cutscene please? Joseph stated that hints can be gleaned from looking at the lights on the mysterious planet; however, I can't seem to find anything. Maybe I'm not looking hard enough, but it'd be nice to get your insight on the meaning of said cutscene.[/quote]

I think most people are reading way too much into it. However, I will say what it isn't: it isn't the colony ship Marathon, for instance. That rumor went around pretty quickly, mostly from people who didn't realize that the Martian moon that was hollowed out to build the Marathon was a captured asteroid that is not spherical, and the object in the Legendary cutscene looks spherical.

It also looks like the textures on it are similar to those on the underside of a Halo installation, which indicates Forerunner manufacture to me (or perhaps Precursor manufacture? Pre-precursor manufacture?)

Just as the first scene aboard the Dawn is a foil to the memorial service-- to say yes, everybody thinks he's dead, but he isn't-- that one is designed as a foil to the previous Dawn scene-- to say yes, he thinks he gets a quiet rest from killing things to save the universe-- except he doesn't, because there's something mysterious and perhaps dangerous nearby.

Think about it. From Halo 1 we don't know there are other Halos until past the halfway point. We don't hear a mention of the Ark until the end of Halo 2. Everybody thinks the Ark is on Earth for the first half of Halo 3 (in fact, I'm not entirely sure that it wasn't originally supposed to be on Earth when Halo 2 was supposed to have at least three more levels).

It seems entirely possible to me, if not downright likely, that the destruction of the Ark may have attracted someone's attention. Destruction of a Halo might not have; after all, it appears that the Ark itself was prepared to cope with that event quite well; I assume that originally it would have completed 04a and sent it through a portal to the proper position. Now that can't happen; the entire Halo array is now seriously, if not completely, compromised.

If there's any population of any species that held responsibility for the array prior to humanity, and they are in communication, this might attract their attention.

Or, perhaps the object is the seat of Mendicant Bias' intelligence-- perhaps he had the Ark build him something he could escape in?

There are lots of possibilities, and which one it is may not be important, or even indicative of what happens in Halo 4 if there is ever such a thing. Remember, this was supposed to be the end of this story arc (whatever that means).

I think the idea of that scene is to say that MC and Cortana continue on and have more adventures whether or not there are going to be games based on them.


Rampant for over se7en years.

Remember at the end of GoO, when the rest of the Spartans ended up inside of that Dyson Sphere? Is it possible that our intrepid hero is about to land on the outside of that sphere? After all, it is possible that the sphere transitioned back into normal space after the destruction of the Ark, which could have possible controlled the Slipspace bubble the sphere was in. Of course, that's probably incorrect, but it's just a guess.

zwitterion117

[quote=Anonymous]"Perhaps, even... very temporary."
On a serious note though, can we please get your thoughts on the final legendary cutscene please? Joseph stated that hints can be gleaned from looking at the lights on the mysterious planet; however, I can't seem to find anything. Maybe I'm not looking hard enough, but it'd be nice to get your insight on the meaning of said cutscene.[/quote]

As much I hate to post here anonymously, I feel I must...
What is revealed in the lights is a symbol- Which has great signifigance. Toward the bottom of what you can see of the planet, there is a large pattern of lights that looks something like two circles combined with a 5-point star. (Missing one point, albeit.) Throughout the Alternate Reality Game (ARG) that took place this summer, called Iris, this symbol was everywhere. Particularly, it was the avatar of a Forerunner AI called Adjutant Reflex. [spoiler]So now, as the Chief and Cortana head there, it's more than likely they are heading to a forerunner outpost.[/spoiler] However, about a third of the way into the ARG, Adjutant Reflex was 'terminated' by a superior AI.[spoiler]So whether or not he is even there, The Chief and Cortana will more than likely start their next adventure exploring a Forerunner world, more than likely untouched.[/spoiler]

Read Ghosts of Onyx and the ending will be explained

[quote=Anonymous]Read Ghosts of Onyx and the ending will be explained[/quote]

Think you're jumping to conclusions there, sparky. Events and objects in GoO suggest some possible interpretations of that last scene, but nothing more than that. Where GoO actually ends is also a point of discussion itself.


Rampant for over se7en years.

Great article. Nice to know there are other people who thought as highly of the ending as I did.

[quote=Anonymous]Fadewindu from HBO here...

On a serious note though, can we please get your thoughts on the final legendary cutscene please? Joseph stated that hints can be gleaned from looking at the lights on the mysterious planet; however, I can't seem to find anything. Maybe I'm not looking hard enough, but it'd be nice to get your insight on the meaning of said cutscene.[/quote]

Personally I think what Joseph might have been refering to was that the lights on the planet seem to have the same patterns as the lights that appear on the outside of the Halo rings.

Whether that means there is a Halo-esque world on the interior of the sphere can only be speculation. Note that we have no sense of scale and it could be huge.

What I've always wondered is how High Charity got to the Ark in the first place. In Halo 2 Cortana says that the Forerunner ship in the middle of the city is its power supply, when that is gone how did it have power to make the jump to Earth? Assuming that Gravemind found a way to do that, why did he not launch a second Flood attack on Earth? The Elites had already taken most (all?) of their ships through the portal, so there would have been no one to glass the planet once the Flood arrived. Maybe Gravemind was in a big hurry, but I find it hard to believe that he would put all of his eggs in one basket.

[quote]the need to keep up morale that led to all Spartans being listed "MIA" instead of "KIA" falls away; and the "117" scrawl that takes the place of the Chief's photo[/quote]

I interpreted it the other way: the UNSC still isn't listing Spartans as KIA, but someone felt the Chief should be honored on the monument, so they graffiti'd it there. Before the credits were done rolling, we (my sis and I went through on co-op for the first go round) were speculating on the symbolism of it all. There isn't any hard evidence that the Chief was dead, and so in a way, the Spartan never died.

I thought it was a nice little throwback to GoO and an acceptable way for the Chief to go, then of course the final scene started up.

I read it, and I agreed with some but not all of what happened.
This is what I thought happened:
Halo 2 Is the first part of the series, and in the end ends up on the ship
Halo 3 Is whatever happened after the ship, where he arrives and lands. Also halo 3 end is where he goes into cryotube
Halo 1 Is the whole big trick. Just look, whats the first thing in halo 1? You come out of a Cryotube, whereas in halo 3 end you go in one

There are a few flaws:
Nothing is explained at the end of halo 2 in the beginning of halo 3, might not be before
Halo 3 ends up being in a cryotube in a fragment of the ship, and in halo halo 1 hes inside a cryotube in a ship.

Basically if theres a Halo 4, It would probably come after flying on the ship in halo 1 at the end.

~SNIPERDan124

No, the novels cover the gap between one and two. Your only logic is that he begins and ends the trilogy in a cryo tube, but the ship in halo 1 is not only half of a ship and it's populated by more than just cortana and chief.

[quote=Anonymous]I read it, and I agreed with some but not all of what happened.
This is what I thought happened:
Halo 2 Is the first part of the series, and in the end ends up on the ship
Halo 3 Is whatever happened after the ship, where he arrives and lands. Also halo 3 end is where he goes into cryotube
Halo 1 Is the whole big trick. Just look, whats the first thing in halo 1? You come out of a Cryotube, whereas in halo 3 end you go in one

There are a few flaws:
Nothing is explained at the end of halo 2 in the beginning of halo 3, might not be before
Halo 3 ends up being in a cryotube in a fragment of the ship, and in halo halo 1 hes inside a cryotube in a ship.

Basically if theres a Halo 4, It would probably come after flying on the ship in halo 1 at the end.

~SNIPERDan124[/quote]

You really didn't pay much attention while playing, did you?

What about the fact that in Halo 1, Captain Keyes dies, and in Halo 2, they give his daughter a posthumous medal for him?

What about the fact that in Halo 2 the Chief meets Commander Keyes, and in Halo 3, he already knows her?

C'mon. This is really, really silly.


Rampant for over se7en years.

Forgot to mention (part of my halo theorie in previous post) Halo 2 has gravemind, Halo 3 has gravemind blown up, and halo 1 there is no mention of him, not to mention a new armor

[quote=narcogen]

He's got a point, too-- after all, if both 04a and the Ark are destroyed, the system of installations may be fatally crippled, and there's no reason for believing the galaxy really is safe from the Flood. After all, what about Delta Halo? Gravemind sent a ship to Earth and High Charity to the Ark. How do we know he didn't send other ships elsewhere, not to mention Flood that may be loose on other rings?

[/quote]

As to Gravemind sending ships elsewhere, he tried... and failed. About halfway through the level "Floodgate" when the Elites land to assist you, there is a short speech given by one of the Elites that lands. I only just caught it the other day because I'm usually too caught up in trying to stay alive. Anyways, he goes on about how the fleet managed to contain Graveminds escaping fleet, except for this one ship that they followed through Slipspace. It wasn't in a cutscene so I doubt everyone heard it.

Other than that, great review!

ResilientMonkey

Hi

Joseph Staten once said before Halo 2 was releasd that the Forerunner died in our Galaxy.But that doesen´t mean all of them are gone.And the Chief is still outside of our Galaxy .. so ..