Halo 3 CG TV Commercial Commentary

Although it is only sixty seconds in length, there's actually quite a bit of content to pore over in the CG animated Halo 3 TV commercial. It starts slow, moves quickly, and ends suddenly, so pay attention.

There's also a transcript of the events in the advertisement pointing out various items, but without any commentary on what they might mean.

Childhood memories

The most obvious interpretation of the opening scene between the boy and the girl in the grass looking at the stars, is that this is John and a childhood friend. The novels tell us that candidates for the Spartan II program were abducted as children and replaced with flash clones. The innocence and peace displayed here seems to indicate to me that this scene takes place before that abduction; I doubt Spartan II trainees had that kind of free time, nor the inclination for innocent stargazing.

It has been speculated that this scene occurs during training, and that the other girl is also a Spartan II candidate. However, this would lessen the contrast between the peaceful, innocent scene in the ad and the chaotic combat that comes later, so it seems to me much less likely. I do not think the girl is a Spartan II candidate-- or, at least, she and the boy are not during the time this scene takes place.

The theme set up here is a common childish wish: the wish to meet life from another world. As John did not grow up on Earth, humanity has already started to colonize other worlds, but has not yet contacted alien life. That is set up in stark contrast to the reality of the Chief's later life, where his career as a soldier consists of fighting aliens who seem bent on the eradication of humanity as a short-term goal, and the destruction of all life in the galaxy as a long term goal (as unwitting as they might be in that goal).

Location, Location, Location

Bungie would not confirm who the children are or where that scene takes place; however, the way this scene transitions into the battle scene with the Master Chief would seem to strongly suggest that this is a memory of his that he is recalling in a semi-lucid state after being knocked unconscious in the same event that overturned the Warthog behind him. If it is his memory, it is likely he is the male child in the opening scene, and if so, it is likely that this scene takes place on his homeworld, which was a UNSC colony and not Earth itself.

The similarity of the layout of the terrain in the two scenes has led to some speculation that both scenes take place in the same physical location. Since we know the latter events of the ad take place in the same timeframe as the announcement trailer, which roughly speaking is somewhere in the surroundings of New Mombassa, Africa, it means that either the male child in the first scene is not John, or else John spent some time on Earth that is not referenced in the novels. Possible, but perhaps not likely.

Furthermore, the area of Africa where it is speculated these events take place is desert in the present and desert in the future that is Halo's timeframe; the very grassy area in the opening scene of the ad seems inconsistent with this.

Perhaps the strongest argument against the unity of place in the advertisement is that the contrast between childlike innocence and the horrors of war works best if the character, John, is present in both scenes, and it explains the visual transition between the two. If the only link between the two scenes is the place, then the transition from the children's conversation and John's waking up in an African battlefield is wholly arbitrary and reveals nothing of his character. I think it is the less interesting interpretation.

On the other hand, KP says quite clearly "the trailer takes place on Earth". Assuming this means the whole thing, and not just the ending, it would seem to indicate that the two children are not Master Chief or any other Spartans, unless John at some point visited Earth as a child. In this case, the contrast between the opening and closing sequences is intellectual and arbitrary, rather than personal, but the point is still the same: humanity, dreaming of contact with friendly aliens, get their hopes stomped by nasty Covenant.

Voices of Women

The bridge between the two halves of the commercial is formed visually by the appearance of the Chief's helmet in the early scene, overlaid with audio from the second scene, and its persistence in the second scene in the same position. It is also formed by the repetition of the girl's one line of audio, "do you think we'll ever meet them"-- referring to some alien species. As in the "present" the Chief is well acquainted with aliens, this repetition serves to reinforce the contrast between innocent imaginings and harsh reality. The contrast is underscored by the use of a female voice to deliver that comparison. It also offers a chance to insert a second "flashback" into the scene-- the female voice that seems to be Cortana's, saying "Chief, leave me" or perhaps just "Chief, leave" depending on who you ask.

This may occur in this position to underscore again that Cortana is not present physically with the Chief as she was for much of the earlier games. If she is not present, then the request to "leave" is most likely a flashback to some earlier scene, either to when the Chief leaves her on board High Charity, or some other scene.

Bungie's Frankie, in an impromptu question and answer session on the bungie.org IRC chat server, said that the events in the commercial occur around the same time as the events in the Halo 3 announcement trailer. Certainly the sandy environment seems consistent. The battlefield shown at the end of the commercial certainly would provide reason enough for the battle scarring seen on the Chief's armor during the trailer.

Frankie did, however, refuse to disclose when in the game these events occur.

Leave Me Or Believe Me?

If that second voice is Cortana, then what she is saying is at least as cryptic as her dialogue in the announcement trailer. Perhaps more so, because here, there's a lot less to go on.

Originally I thought the line was "Chief, leave me" which could be understood simply as a reference to her urging the Chief to track down Truth on the Forerunner ship, leaving her to fend off Gravemind on her own. The announcement trailer (as well as the final cutscene in Halo 2) seem to show her facing the consequences of that advice.

However, after several repeated viewings, I'm starting to come around to the idea that what she is actually saying is "Chief, believe me." which could put a whole new perspective on things. While fans have been suspicious of Cortana since the very start, not only because of her erratic behavior in Halo 04's core and in the novels, but also because of Bungie's history with menacing artificial intelligences, there has yet to be any really solid evidence of menace from her to the Chief or to humanity at large.

If she is indeed pleading with the Chief at this point to "believe [her]" that might indicate that something has transpired between the end of Halo 2 and this point in time in the Halo 2 plot that causes him to lose trust in her.

That's A Neat Trick

The device that the Chief uses to protect himself from the incoming plasma fire, presumably a plasma mortar fired by one of the Wraith tanks we also see at the end of the ad, is certainly something we have not seen before.

Asked about its origins, Frankie said it was owned by ONI (Office of Naval Intelligence) but would say no more. Bungie warned Halo fans expressly that the advertisement was not designed to accurately portray gameplay; so the inclusion of this device does not mean it will appear in gameplay or that as the Chief you'll be able to use it. However, when pressed on the question, Frankie refused to say unequivocally that this is not a gameplay feature, so it may be something that Bungie is toying with, something that may or may not make it into the final game.

If it should be something that becomes a gameplay element, it may be indicative of a change in both the scale and nature of certain combat encounters, especially facing large numbers of vehicles, as we see at the end of the trailer.

Rarely in either of the two previous games are more than two or three Wraith tanks encountered at once. Most of the time, a Scorpion tank is made available for use during these encounters AotCR in Halo 1 is such an encounter. The only other level in Halo 1 that includes Wraith tanks is AotCR's evil twin, Two Betrayals, but in that case you have to do without the Scorpion.

When you face Wraiths on Delta Halo, a Scorpion is available to you. None is available on Uprising, although the Wraiths are trapped in such a small area that commandeering one or both is very possible. In Great Journey there are no Scorpions, but you have access to Banshees to attack Wraiths, and the Scarab takes care of a few for you as well.

Even so, as a single foot soldier, there are limited options for taking on vehicles like Wraiths, especially in large numbers. At the end of this ad, we see the Chief running towards a group of fourteen figures, with five Wraith tanks in the background. The special device, and the shield it created, allowed him to survive a near-blank-range plasma blast that we can only assume came from one of those Wraiths. In Halo or Halo 2, that would almost certainly have been fatal, even in a vehicle. That we see him strategically use a device that allows him to survive such a hit may be indicative of the fact that Halo 3 could contain encounters where the Chief must defeat several enemy vehicles without armor backup of his own.

Look Ma, Two Hands

Another possibly "not indicative of gameplay" moment is that the Chief activates the shield device with his right thumb, then throws it down to the ground with his right hand. At the time, he is also holding a pistol in his left hand, and has an assault rifle slung over his back.

When asked if the shield device was a grenade, Frankie was evasive, wondering why it was assumed to be a grenade.

Grenade or not, in Halo 2 while it is possible to use a weapon in each hand or hold a weapon in your right and throw grenades with your left, it was not possible to wield a weapon in the left while doing something else with the right.

This may be something that just "looks right" for the trailer and is not indicative of anything deeper; but it may be possible in Halo 3 to have more precise control over what each hand does-- say, perhaps, gun with the left and grenade with the right, which would certainly help when trying to throw grenades from behind cover in certain situations.

Not Yet?

The ever-reticent Chief's only line of dialogue in the advertisement, the flippantly-delivered "not yet" in response to radio inquiries about him, might just be the same monosyllabic bravado we're used to from him.

However, might it not be a portent of things to come? Might not the resolution of this story, however it turns out, claim the Chief's life?



Anyone else hear Cortana say "Time to go, Chief. Leave--!"

Actually...upon the 15th play through...maybe it's the little girl's voice saying "Time to go."

The parallels work best if that sequence has one voice from each time period.

One can easily imagine the little girl ending that exchange with "time to go" indicating that they should both go back home and go inside. Perhaps it is even his sister.

Although the context is different, the content is echoed in Cortana's "leave" line (regardless of what the content actually is-- it could me "leave me, Chief" or "don't leave me, Chief" or any variation on that idea. The word "leave" seems fairly clear, and that alone sets up the comparison between the content of the two female voices' speeches in those few seconds.

Rampant for over se7en years.

After repeatedly viewing it myself, the only thing I can clearly understand is Cortana saying "leave!" with the emphasis. The sounds that follow are hard to make out.

I don't support the "don't leave me" opinion as it is out of character for her to say, that and she's nowhere nearby (we think) to be left anywhere. I assumed if anything she was warning/guiding the Chief by using Delta Halo's communication system.

Unless Cortana has pulled a Durandal or more likely a Tycho on us, and needs to reinforce to the Chief to believe her, I think she is simply doing what she has always done for him, look out for him. She knows she doesn't need to tell him to win, he always wins.

previous post is by me...

damn it sorry about this

Just a note, Frankie confirmed it's the little girl delivering that line.

Rampant for over se7en years.

Of course, those children don't necessarily need to represent any of the characters we already know from the Halo world. However, it's more fun to speculate that they are, and I think adds great depth to the story.

So, I'd like to append my comments on who they could be. The possibility that it is John could still exist, in the sense that he could simply be recalling a time from his childhood from a place similar, or not necessarily so, from his own childhood.

I'm not sure where Kelly is from, but if she were from Earth there could be a connection with her spirit there. I definitely think this is the weakest and most unlikely of cases, especially since we've never met Kelly or any other Spartans in the game.

Maybe most intriguing to me, is the possibility that the boy is no one in particular and the girl is the girl from which Cortona was created (that is how that was done, right?). It's a girls scream that transitions us. You hear the girl's question again after transitioned to the battle. And, both the girl and Cortona apparently urge MC to leave or get going. MC and Cortona obviously have a strong connection and he still senses her spirit. If this were a spot where Cortona's "donor" had been in the past, the spirit of that experience could very likely still be sensed by MC. Along these lines, the helmet is a large focus of the trailer. The helmet being the bridge between Cortona and MC.

Of course, I may be reading too much into it, but I like the way that works.


There's one flaw in your argument there.
Cortana was created from a flash-cloned recreation of Dr. Catherine Hallsey's brain, as we learn towards the last quarter of The Fall Of Reach.

- Talon

I started a thread at HBO to get input from their too.

They re-informed me of that fact too. However, I don't think that is a flaw in my question, as it could still, then, be an experience from Halsey's childhood. Right?

Yea I see how you could say Dr. Halsey is the girl, but then you can't say the boy is John. Imo it's more likely that the boy is John then the girl Dr. Halsey.

I'm considering Cassandra as a candidate for the girl we see in the ad; for those who don't know, she wrote a letter to John-117 in the "Conversations in the Universe" booklet included in the Halo 2 Limited Edition.

Again, this is assuming that the boy is John... but I consider this probable, as that makes the narrative more cohesive (it's easier to see that first part as a recollection of a concussed Master Chief that way, instead of just an exterior commentary) and more a story about the Chief.

-- Steve

Check out my comments to this post: http://carnage.bungie.org/haloforum/halo.forum.pl?read=767438

The boy says it in a sing song voice, like you'd say, 'Cah-ass, hunee buns, I'm calling youuu...'.

Its when the chief turns towards the helmet, but b4 he picks it up.

Its before the marine says, over the radio, 'Chief, are you with us?' and Cass(?) says, 'Do you think we'll ever meet them?'

Looks like Cass was John's girl. Maybe she still is. Its just that she's recovering in some hospital somewhere.

Could that shield be what the new mysterious function of the X button is? Could make sense that they beef up your defense if you are going to face so many enemies at once.

I can't rule that out, but since the shield is generated by a device that is lost upon "detonation", I doubt that the X button will only be for an item that you'll have to replenish. I wouldn't like the idea of MC having an unlimited supply of those things.

I think that would be a greater possibility had the sheild been gerenated by an upgrade in the Mjolnir (sorry for the spelling).

You might also consider that Cortana could possibly be saying "Chief, please[...]"

If you listen to it with some quality headphones it's pretty clear she says "Chief, leave me."

Seriously, the big brute swinging the hammer right in the middle of the other brutes at the end. No one else caught that?

Frankie confirmed the figures are Brutes, and one has a hammer.

Tartarus, though, is dead.

Rampant for over se7en years.

... aboard the Twilight Compunction encounted by Voro 'Mantakree around Delta Halo and again, about 16 light years from Onyx.

Then again, much like Sangheili have Fleet Masters in gold armor, alpha brutes may simply be a rank - like Chiefs of local villages here, today.

I agree that John is the most likely candidate for the boy, and the girl's specific identity is unknown. However, both of them are wearing matching black unisuits, suggesting some form of uniform or the underlayer of armor. To me, this says "SPARTAN program."

I tend to agree with the debate about the children. The fact that they both wear the same thing does stick out. Plus maybe this flashback could be on Reach (yes it was a military world but there were the VIP areas that were supposedly very nice) Since they were trained on Reach this could simply be John and another spartan Kelly, Linda, unknown... I think the helmet is significant because after the boy (John?) says i hope so, do you? he looks back at the girl and just sees the helmet. Aside from an overlap to current events and it being his helmet, maybe its significant of fallen brothers, the other dead spartans. Maybe this girl was a spartan but was killed in action, or thought to be dead, or taken away(Kelly)

The fact that the both these children are SPARTANS could also be agrued when the girl says "time to go". The children apparently got very good at being able to sneak about and do as they wished during theyre limited free time, mainly night. The time to go could refer to them needing to be back at barricades(military lofts) before anyone noticed. In Fall of Reach when MC is going to the meeting before getting his new aromor he remembers as a child training when they used to sneak into the VIP area and steal food and other things, so why say they couldnt go out and just relax?

To join in the rampant speculators...
The helmet is in the place of the little girl. If, as some folks suggest, the Spartan we see isn't the MC, maybe the position of the helmet could mean that the Spartan is that girl, not the Chief, who likely is the little boy in the memory.

Dovetails with the comment that the three-bolt gloves aren't the same as the Cheif's current five-bolt ones. And, given it's around the same time, could mean that there are is at least one other Spartan in-theatre.

In the third Halo novel - Halo: First Strike - remember that the female spartan that was INCREDIBLY fast on her feet was 'taken' by Catherine Halsey? There is every chance that this could indeed be Kelly...however that would mean that Kelly would be on a hell of a lot of steroids to have the voice that said "Not yet" in the trailer. The plot thickens...

Great write up but I think after he puts the helmet on Cortana says "Cheif, Do you read me?" or something along the lines of that.

[quote=Anonymous]Great write up but I think after he puts the helmet on Cortana says "Cheif, Do you read me?" or something along the lines of that.[/quote]

A marine, over the radio, says, 'Chief are you with us?'.

I think that's what you heard. Its b4 Cass(?) asks, 'Do you think we'll ever meet them?'

Just repeating what a fan said on Bungie.net

In the Halo commercial when Cortana says "Chief, believe me" perhaps she is talking about the flood. Remember at the end of halo 2 how she now left there with Gravemind, and he says something about ".....now I will ask and you will answer." After that Cortana doesn't protest, but instead, she just says, "Okay, shoot." What I am trying to get to here, is that mabye, the flood could have finally found Earth.