New Documentary Vid Coming, Brutes Not Playable Characters

Ahh, the Halo rumor mill. When the tabloids fail to satisfy or even titillate, Halo rumors always ride to the rescue.

A Microsoft blogger in Belgium apparently reposted verbatim an electronic mail message sent from a "bigwig" at Microsoft about a video due to hit Xbox Marketplace on December 20th. The email alleged the 7 plus minute video would focus on the Brute race-- which would be playable in Halo 3-- and feature two and a half minutes of gameplay footage.

HBO followed the breadcrumbs on this one, with forumgoers pointing out that a new documentary video was consistent with statements Bungie made last month, but Frankie was quick to quash the "playable Brutes" part in several community forums.

Of course, that didn't stop the discussion there, as many fans debated back and forth about whether Brutes, as a playable race in campaign, would have been a good idea or not, which only brought out all the Arbiter fans and detractors again over whether or not his inclusion in Halo 2 was a good idea.

We already know Bungie isn't doing it... but if they had, would it have made sense? And would fans (at least some of them) have liked it?

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Embrace, Extend And Extinguish

There certainly would have been some logic, or at least precedent, to the idea of adding a playable Brute to Halo 3.

Halo 1 introduced us to the human forces, and the person of the Master Chief, whom we play in that game. Conflict with the Covenant has been ongoing for awhile, but throughout that first game we see the story consistently from the Chief's perspective, both in gameplay and cutscenes. Halfway through, the Flood are added to the mix, and eventually we have four-way battles with humans, Covenant, Flood and Sentinel forces involved.

Halo 2's exposition begins with perspective switches between Human and Covenant forces, starting with our introduction to the Arbiter, the shamed commander of the Covenant forces at Halo Installation 04, and culminating in our taking him as a playable character to fight against Heretic Covenant forces on the mining installation.

Halo 2 also introduces to the Brutes as another race in the Covenant, and we see some of the story from their side, as Tartarus participates in a plot to unseat the Elites from their special place as the escort of the Prophets in the "Great Journey", conspiring with Truth and betraying the Arbiter.

So in Halo, the Covenant are clearly the bad guys. We later see other foes, and all are engaged in combat with one another, but our loyalties and sympathies always remain clearly with the Chief and the human forces he is fighting to protect. The other opponents have their own agendas, but we never see through their eyes, and at best, we use the fighting amongst the other factions as a way to give the Chief some rest.

Halo 2 isn't entirely like that. The game draws us in to sympathize with at least one member of the Covenant-- the Arbiter, unfairly blamed for the destruction of Halo, and a pawn in Truth's plot. Through him, we're given an opportunity to see what the Covenant think their ultimate goal is, and to see one of their number begin to unravel that myth.

It would not be unreasonable in the least to see a similar pattern repeat itself in Halo 2. Bungie might easily have taken Tartarus' replacement and made him a playable character, to have him run the same gauntlet as the Arbiter before him; to transition from blindly following the orders of the Prophets, as the Arbiter does when assassinating the Heretic Leader, to discovering for himself the truth behind the purpose of the Halo installations, as the Arbiter does in Halo 2.

Of course, if one considers the Covenant to be currently split into two factions, one led by the Elites and the other by the Prophets and Brutes, then this leaves the Prophets (or, rather, the Prophet of Truth himself as an individual) as the only remaining Covenant villain. If Tartarus' perspective was reduced to his own individual greed for glory, rather than a collective desire on the part of the Brute race to usurp the Elites' special position in the Covenant-- and that itself based only on a blind belief in what the Prophets told them-- then it is much harder to hate them.

It's All About The Game

Could playing Brutes have been made fun?

That is probably less easy to determine from the safety of an armchair. Bungie may not ever even have considered it, so perhaps no testing was ever done or will be done.

Certainly the physical similarity of the Master Chief and the average Elite allowed Bungie to swap them one for one in campaign mode, as well as to make the Elite model and skin available in multiplayer mode. Despite the vociferous statements of particular fans, Bungie says that neither model has an advantage over the other.

That would most likely not be true of the Brute, however. Its physical size is quite different from those of the Elites. In Halo 2's campaign mode, Brutes absorb quite a bit more damage, despite not having shields. Their special "berserking" behavior when groups or invdividuals are heavily wounded, reminiscent of the behavior of Myrkridia in Myth 2, would also be difficult to integrate into campaign with a Brute as a playable character, and would probably have to be discarded.

A Brute as a playable chraracter would either have to be given a shield generator, to be put on a par with the other playable characters, or else forsake that for consistency with Halo 2's brutes, which might change gameplay quite a bit.

To play as a character with no shield, lots of health, and very strong melee attacks might be interesting for some, but since Bungie stressed the similarities between the way one plays the Arbiter and the Chief as one of the reasons why they felt they could introduce him (the only significant difference being the Arbiter's active camo) one tends to think even if Bungie had considered such a thing, that this might have complicated matters a bit.

Action Distraction

Perhaps the final reason not to start telling Halo 3's story from the perspective of the Brutes is that there are already too many balls in the air that Bungie has to catch. There's a Covenant civil war, a race to activate the Ark, Cortana trapped by Gravemind-- there are a lot of conflicts to settle as it is.

If the Brutes were to change sides, that just complicates things further; and Bungie would likely have to spend at least a few cutscenes and a couple of levels getting players to sympathize with this new character, just as they did with the Arbiter. Given that the Arbiter's inclusion itself is still controversial, adding a third element might be more trouble than it is worth. If the playable Brute was included instead of the Arbiter, this would upset both fans of the Arbiter as well as those who only want to play as the Chief. If all three characters were included, it's possible we might not play enough of any of them to satisfy that particular character's fans, with the result being that nobody would be happy.

It probably won't stop the complaining; but while an interesting idea, Bungie most likely made the right decision in not adding a playable Brute.

Disloyal beasts. Hmmph.