The Master Chief often presents a fairly solitary figure in Halo. Even with the presence of his former AI companion, Cortana, running and gunning has always been a pretty lonely affair. That’s how things have always been for us Halo enthusiasts.
Oddly, though, that’s far from how the Master Chief began his unintended military career, because when he first started out there were 74 other Spartan-II recruits – each of them taken at the age of six, placed into a gruelling military training regime, and thrust onto a path that would have galactic repercussions. But more importantly, at this stage, the Chief was never alone.
It’s pretty much a given in most video games nowadays that the last, best hope for mankind inevitably falls on the shoulders of an individual who is often the last of their kind, pulled out of retirement, or sometimes the only person capable of utilising a form of technology or some etheric power beyond the means of ordinary mortals. And it’s the same for Halo.
When the Master Chief first arrived on our screens, via the original Xbox, back in 2001, the supporting fictional documentation with the game stated that Master Chief was the last surviving Spartan-II. Those of us who managed to grab a copy of the first Halo novel: The Fall of Reach realised just how many there used to be and what happened to them leading up to the events in Combat Evolved.
So shiny, much armour.
As it turned out, the Master Chief, also known as Spartan-117 or John, formed several key friendships in the early days of his training, and together they would evolve into Blue Team, the legendary Spartan-II unit that features in the forthcoming Halo 5: Guardians. Two of the Spartans, Linda and Kelly, became permanent members of the team. But another, Sam, inevitably gave way to Fred after being KIA (Killed in Action) during one of the initial engagements with the Covenant in 2525, more than thirty years before the events of Halo 5.
For many Halo fiction fans, this has been something that we’ve always wanted to see in-game. We’ve wanted Blue Team to make an appearance or, better still, provide playable characters in another galactic instalment of the franchise. And after fourteen years we finally got our wish.
Halo 5: Guardians mixes the fictional background and the current gameplay in a more sedate, but no less entertaining, way than Halo 4 did. I enjoyed Halo 4 tremendously, but for the average Halo player not aware of the wealth of backstory, Halo 4 is simply a cacophony of information, all presented in the form of the Didact and his unusual and seemingly nonsensical hatred of humanity. Halo 5, though, provides a simple set-up that’s easy to understand: The Chief and Blue Team take matters into their own hands and it’s up to Locke and Fireteam Osiris to track them down and bring them in. Along the way there’ll be Forerunner technology rearing its ugly, and galaxy-threatening, head, all while the Arbiter tries to bring the rest of his people to heel under his somewhat more enlightened direction.
But for those not familiar with the main players in Halo 5: Blue Team, Osiris and the Arbiter, allow me to shed some light. Blue Team is currently made up from four Spartan-IIs. These are John (Master Chief), Fred, Kelly, and Linda. Each member specialises in a certain field of warfare. John is insightful, tactically astute, a natural leader. Fred is superb at close quarter battle but is equally capable at range. Kelly is the team scout and the fastest of the Spartan. Linda is the sniper and has unparalleled marksmanship.
Osiris, consisting of Spartan IVs takes a slightly different approach. While Blue Team were created for the pure brutality of war, Osiris come from an age where technology has advanced enough to give them the edge over their former Sangheili enemy. Locke specialises in the acquisition of key personnel and classified materials. Tanaka is the technical specialist, capable of utilising both human and alien technology. Vale is the language expert, proficient in Sangheili language and dialect. Buck, a former ODST, is a former team leader and close quarter battle specialist.
Fireteam Osiris, sporting an equally varied collection of armour
Both teams provide something different, evident by their respective opening scenes in the campaign. Osiris, with their updated technology and weapons, storm down a snowy mountainside in pursuit of Jul ‘Mdama. Their approach is nothing short of dramatic and their encounter with the enemy is filled with explosions and almost choreographed gunfire and close quarter combat. It provides a somewhat youthful and energetic introduction.
Blue Team, on the other hand, present a more patient, deliberate, and experienced front. With more than twenty five years of military experience, Blue utilise stealth until the last possible moment and then quickly dispose of the initial Covenant presence by using their immediate environment: the vacuum of space.
Even their names provide an ever-widening gap between youth and enthusiasm, and age and guile. The Spartan-IIs all have what I would consider more traditional names: John, Fred, Kelly, Linda. Even the team name suggests a more traditional approach, and harkens back to a day when the teams all featured colour-related monikers: Red, Green, Black, Grey.
In opposition we have something more complex and more edgy. The etymology of Osiris is based in Egyptian mythology. And then there’s the names of the team members to consider: Locke, Tanaka, Buck, and Vale. Of course, while the members of Blue Team utilise their first names, mainly because that’s all they know, Osiris use their surnames. This further reinforces the sense of opposition that Osiris have in relation to Blue Team. Experience and tradition vs youth and innocence, in a manner of speaking.
In a way, it also provides a reflection of who the Master Chief use to be. Several years ago, the Chief would follow orders, seemingly regardless of their effect on his own personal safety or his team. I suppose, as he saw it, it was his job, what he was trained to do. Now, though, Locke seems to have filled that temporary void, following orders to the point of alienating the entire UNSC, and perhaps his fellow Spartan-IVs.
Check out Linda’s ‘Lone Wolf’ motif on her sniper rifle and the rabbit on Kelly’s shotgun
So that’s it in a nutshell. Or at least what I understand from what I’ve seen. A nice, simple, straightforward scenario with no unexpected adversaries popping up half way through the game like the Flood did in Combat Evolved.
But this is Halo and we know better, don’t we?