SPOILER WARNING: The plot of ODST and some of Reach will be discussed in this post!
When ODST was released, I was totally hyped. It was a Halo game with a protagonist that did not have the gravitas or plot strings of Master Chief. No shields, no dual wield, a weaker melee, shorter jump, a darker setting, and more tactical options. The protagonist would explore the city of New Mombasa after the Covenant have wrecked it and would determine the details of his squads demise by examining the wreckage they’d left behind.
This is a premise that has promise that the game did not exactly fulfill. It is true that there’s no shields, but there’s stamina, which is like shields. No dual wield, two new weapons which were kind of useful. The silenced submachine gun wasn’t all that useful but the silenced pistol was. But the melee attack was still really lethal, and no one would ever notice if someone compared the jumping and running speeds of the Rookie and Master Chief unless they were demonstrated side by side. But to me, the most disappointing aspect of ODST was the story: everyone gets out alive! A little banged up, a little dirtier but breathing! These were humans, not super-soldiers, dropped from low orbit into a wrecked, Covenant occupied city, separated from each other, facing the same kind of enemies and odds as Master Chief and getting out of it alive.
Throughout all of the Halo series up to ODST, Master Chief fights alongside regular marines and ODST troopers whom the Covenant cut through like wet paper bags. Master Chief survives and turns the tides because he is more than human. Bungie, in ODST, had the opportunity to tell a story that can connect to regular humans through loss and struggle, and everything ends up hunky dory.
When Halo: Reach was announced, I wasn’t excited. I knew Reach was glassed by the Covenant and it was a major loss for the UNSC, but after ODST I didn’t feel confident that Bungie would make use of that dramatic of a setting to do anything but give us another Master Chief Lite story. It wasn’t until the game was released, when other people were describing it as the best Halo story yet, that I actually got interested in playing it.
Thus far, it has delivered. Reach is taking a beating and the outlook is pretty hopeless. Jorge died blowing up a Covenant cap ship, just before a whole lot more pop into orbit. Kat takes a needle in the brain out of nowhere. Characters, heroes, potential Master Chiefs are dying.
Which is how things should be. Master Chief is so important and instrumental in the survival of the human race because he’s the last of the SPARTAN-II project. He’s the last super-soldier. If the rest of Noble team were to make it off of Reach alive, the question becomes “Where the hell were they during the first 3 Halo games?” In order to maintain that Master Chief mythology, no one can get out of Reach alive except him.
I’m on mission 9 out of 10. There are four more members of Noble team left. I’m sincerely looking forward to some grade-A heroics and an ending that preserves the legend of Master Chief.