You know the end, this is the beginning.
Now, I know what you’re saying, we’ve been over this whole thing a thousand times over, what can you bring to the table this time over?
Well, my answer is simple, I’m not aiming to yell at you how this is a piece of trash that needs to be removed from existence, rather the opposite actually, I want this story to remain with us for the years to come, I want it to become better than it is, and having watched Rogue One literally yesterday, I seem to have a new appreciation for this game’s story and desire for it to be the better game in the series.
But how do we do that? Well, the short answer is that we must retcon this story or portions of it, redo this from scratch, that way it fits in the overarching story of the universe and makes sense.
Now, I am not yearning for a retcon of Noble Team, actually, I want them to be the best characters we’ve had to date, how do we do that, though? We expand their characters in-game, and we make Levi’s bloody comic canon for god’s sake.
We build on the characters that Levi built, the way Levi wrote Noble Team is ten times better than anything Bungie did with this game, which I seem to recall a certain cave scene in the middle of the first arc of the game, which I don’t really see much wrong with it, it just needed more character in there, more development, about as close as it gets to being genuine is through Jorge-052, our gentle giant.
Now, let’s retcon most of the first half. Let’s start our story elsewhere, through the eyes of SPARTAN-B312, a first mission before we get thrown into the howling dark of Reach and its impending doom.
Our new story starts here, with Noble Six, in the middle of an ongoing strike operation against an HVT (High-Valuable Target.) We don’t play it at first rather instead we see the sheer skill of Six through a silent, first cutscene where he sneaks into an insurrectionist camp in an outer colony, we’ve got nothing but an M6C/SOCOM in our hands, the game gives us control and we move through the retrofitted UNSC base with URF logos painted over the once scratched UNSC logos.
We mow through the Innies, killing them one by one, or striking them head-on, however, you’d like to proceed with the mission, and we meet up with our HVT, cut to black, cutscene start playing and we see the true nature of Six in this moment, the lone wolf hunting his prey, this moment the man frantic and scared, reaches for the nearest weapon to him, raises and fires at Six, which is deflected by the energy shield.
To which Six responds with raising his pistol and putting a bullet in between his target’s eyes without any hint of remorse as he then clips his magnum into his magnetic holster and proceeds to leave the scene, and here we cut to black once more and we begin to listen to a certain familiar melody, we hear the drums hitting hard, as the screen shows us “Reach” written on it on a white background, and yet another image of Six’s helmet in his own hands as he stares at it on a warthog, the driver attempts to do some small talk that gets quickly shrugged off by six as everything we see we see it through his eyes.
“Awful big fish needing a glorified cab all the way out here, sir” The marine beside six speaks and six stares at him for a few seconds before pulling on his helmet and the HUD booting up around his visor. “We’re coming in, sir.”
Two fly birds fly low ahead as Six looks up and the screen changes view, as we see those two falcons flying by as we see the scene with the warthog that we know and love, heading straight for that base which we actually see on the horizon.
It doesn’t take long as we cut to another scene where we see the fly birds landing by the parked warthog, seeing plenty of UNSC Army troopers jogging about the base and Six walks past two landed Falcons, one of which harboured Jun sitting inside it loading his weapon. And we enter a room full of Spartans next, our first team, and we’re being transferred here.
From lone wolf to a team player.
I guess you can see where I am going here, subtle changes, enhancing the experience, etcetera. These characters don’t have to be removed, the story doesn’t have to go away. We just need to find a way to fix it and this is the best way I can go about it.
So, welcome, to the new Halo: Reach. Get some coffee, sit down, boot up Overture from the Halo: Reach soundtrack and read.
Reimagining the fall. . .
At first glance there’s quite a bit wrong with this game, at least, if you know stuff from The Fall of Reach, or any other piece of media set on this beautiful rock called Reach and at a first glance you could think I hate this story too, but the truth is that I don’t I have probably spent more hours on this game than Halo 3, though less than ODST that’s for sure.
I remember the first time I played through Tip of the Spear, the music, the setting, the warthogs ready for battle followed closely by a small contingent of falcons and as that battle ensued you could see the Paris-class frigates dropping in, long story short, it was fairly amazing.
So, what I am seeing is that there’s not much we need to change, and why is that? Because most of it is already perfect, from the sabres to the ONI Sword Base, it was amazing.
What we need to change, however, is the run of the game, how long certain things last, the character development, etcetera. We need more character in this game where most of them quite frankly feel like a piece of bland cookie, their deaths don’t leave anything to most of us and whether we like them or not is left entirely to subjection, and subjectiveness is a two-way blade if used wrong. This entire story and the game uses this wrong.
Mistakes we need to correct:
- Ignoring The Fall of Reach
- Characters lacking every sense of development and personality.
- Lacking explanations on several occasions.
- Disconnection from the overarching story of the Halo Universe in the long run
- Start and End cutscenes of the planet glassed and the planet terraformed.
- The Pillar of Autumn’s presence at the wrong place at the wrong time.
Now, how do we fix these? Well, for the most part, it is easy, let’s give the characters more dialogue, give them good, solid dialogue, something very genuine, we know Emile had an older brother that sacrificed himself for Emile, play with that card a little, give the strong, stoic man a moment of softness, don’t just let him follow the badass trope, give him a genuine characterisation. “I’m ready! How ’bout you!”
Jorge, he’s a bloody Spartan-II, take a card from Aiken, make him wiser, but very twisted in mind, caring for those in his world and his everlasting attachment to it due to something he did to someone, maybe he experienced the sight of a mourning child after he himself executed the parent who was a target and a known Innie. “Reach has been good to me, It’s time to return the favour.”
Kat, She’s strong, confident, smart, but she’s an insecure little girl, whose confidence boost is knowing things, getting everything she can from different uplinks either covenant or UNSC because she can, she’s frightened by the Covenant and Glassings, build up on that. “I know we’re losing, I want to know if we’ve lost.”
Carter, he’s easy going, smart, the best tactician around, he trusts his team and his team trusts him, give him human moments, insecure about orders, let him be wise but caring of his team like any leader is. Not just be ready to go to battle after every single mission. Give him something meaningful to fight after, aspirations that he obtained after he stood there in front of his future armour fresh out of augmentation. “You’re on your own Noble, Carter out.”
Jun, the quiet, smart, caring human of the group, he grows attached to his targets not through love but by compassion, but he still pulls the trigger, he is ever vigilant, attentive, recognises patterns. Perhaps suffers from PTSD from combat against the Covenant. Build upon him with the little seeds spattered across his character from his newest appearances on Initiation and more. “I kill the enemy, but do not hate them.”
Build up on them throughout the game, either gameplay or cutscenes, this is where I think ‘idle’ missions or lowered weapons missions could work out perfectly if done the right way, alleviates some of the weight from cutscenes and provides a special moment for characters to be built upon before the next mission, and there’s plenty of missions in Reach that could work with these, three of them at the least, the one after Exodus, before Exodus itself, it would have been a great moment to develop Six, the lone wolf lost in the middle of nowhere after he fell from space and saw the loss of Jorge firsthand, first lane to the disappearance of half a bloody ship. That’s a great moment for a mission very much a-la Uncharted 3 with the Sahara Desert.
Carter’s death, how did he get wounded? Explain this, show the plasma bolts hitting him. Emile’s death is perfect as is, develop him more, make his words carry even more weight you can develop him when he and Six are the last ones standing from the Noble Contingent.
Here we have fixed two main issues, lack of characterisation and lack of explanation, easy fixes, make some of these cutscenes longer, provide more dialogue, etc.
Now, how do we connect to TFoR? Easy, acknowledge the events more, acknowledge Red Team heading down to the generator, acknowledge the fall of Gamma Station, etc, you can easily do this through radio chatter and making the one cutscene at the end of Long Night of Solace longer, showing us the start of the engagement in orbit. Acknowledge the events up until Long Night of Solace happen before TFoR’s engagements.
That makes it four issues straight out of the way, what’s next? The Intro and Outro cutscenes, don’t show them. Show them at the end of the credits connecting both cutscenes together showing us the glassed and terraformed landscape of Reach, along with Halsey’s speech, give us that sense of hope, after you have taken it all from us in the game, you know the end, this is the beginning remember your own catchphrase? Yeah. Use it literally.
So that leaves one last issue, and this one is a big one, as it can lead and make the story much better and even more memorable.
The Pillar Of Autumn.
You can argue many things about this point and time in the game, yeah, it is badass, yeah, it is a plot hole, etc.
But the one thing we all fail to see is the sole purpose as to why it was there in the first place, this was Bungie’s sendoff to the series, they wanted that last bit of nostalgia and they wanted us to see such a gracious ship to give us that last sense of goosebumps they could take from us, while still taking more from us at the end of the game, letting us see the Installation 04 and the PoA approaching it slowly as we listen to the original theme once again,
“Cortana all I need to know, is did we lose them.”
“I think we both know the answer to that.”
As the mood slowly builds up back to Reach’s theme.
This entire moment, was there to serve as a massive sendoff and goodbye from Bungie that quite frankly didn’t work and they ignored their own lore in the process. Though, what if I could tell you that they could’ve made this better and they could’ve made it fit, you’d believe me? Because I have the perfect way to close this game.
Alright, remember this?
The UNSC Andraste, what if we could use it to make this whole thing better, let’s give it a try.
Instead of the giant bird on the ground, the modified Halcyon-class that we all know and love, what if this was the one bird waiting for us, it is rated for atmosphere, it is quick and it certainly doesn’t interfere with the canon, so let’s do this.
Nothing is changed, we proceed to make a run for the shipyard and graveyard, you race Emile in that last moment as Emile speaks over the radio with you about him, how his brother saved him, etc, something about being alone has made his obsidian armour crack. He’s laughing about some stuff, you listen to him, Six replies a few times and you hear his voice inside your helmet.
But this comes to a stop as you find yourself coming closer to your objective and Emile gets back to business, the closer you get the more enemies you find, Yamn’ee, Unggoy, Sangheili, Jiralhanae, etc.
You reach the launch pad and final destination, you have to help the marines clear it as Emile head up and to the Onager on the platform above, you finish the engagements, a pelican comes down and you’re greeted by an old, worn scruffy officer.
The dialogue plays out the same, there are no changes, only that it isn’t Keyes meeting you there. As Keyes would be fending off the Covenant on orbit and making time for John to return and the Frigate to get up there.
Officer: “Good to see you Spartan, Halsey assured me I could count on you”
Six: “Not just me, sir.”
Officer: “They’ll be remembered…”
Officer: “Cruiser! Adjusting heading for the Andraste, Noble Four I need fire on that cruiser or we’re not getting out of here! Do you copy?”
Emile: “You’ll have your window sir..”
Officer: “Bridge. This is the Captain we have the package, returning to the autumn, over.”
This is where we’re forced to watch Emile get taken out by the Sangheili sneaking up on the Onager through the Phantom that Emile missed, and we hear the always remembered last words of Emile and Six then going
“Negative, I have the gun.”
To which the officer replies with “Good luck to you… Spartan.”
Keyes or not, this takes nothing away from the weight of the scene, only that sense of nostalgia we get seeing the behemoth of a man that is Keyes standing there. Saying his last goodbyes to this group of valiant Spartans.
We all know what happens here, though, we get on the gun, we shoot down a few phantoms in sheer badassery and then we fire at the cruiser’s beam as it prepares to fire and we let the ship escape, the only thing though is that this time it was the Paris-class heavy cruiser, UNSC Andraste
The ship gets loose from the couplings on the launch station, takes off and it is quickly followed by a small escort of frigates and longswords that took off from the same shipyard as the cruiser moves away, you quickly lose sight of the frigates and we’re left alone, on Reach awaiting impending doom that comes to both you and the planet. Here the screen cuts to black.
We get another cutscene, we see the frigates run past a blockage of Covenant ships, one instantly goes boom as it rams a covenant cruiser, we see a group of UNSC ships still fighting in the horizon and our objective The Pillar of Autumn fending off a group of Covenant squatters as the cutscene cuts and we are placed in the cockpit of a Longsword fighter commandeering it as a simple Army pilot as the original theme of the Autumn plays in the background and you’re tasked with the defence of the ships, you see them blow up substantially one by one except for the Andraste as it links up with the Autumn a pelican being immediately dispatched once they’re in close enough proximity with the package, and you’re tasked with escorting it as you then see the Andraste blow up in your rear view.
The Pelican makes it to the Autumn’s hangar deck, safely as your pilot yells to the autumn “Autumn, break off! I say again, break off!-” To which is cut short and all you see is a ball of fire as your fighter goes up in flames and your pilot gets ejected straight out of the Longsword’s window and we see the autumn breaking off from orbit and running away from the planet as it started a random jump sequence and we see it jump as your pilot slowly dies and you see everything through his eyes drifting in space among wreckage and cold corpses.
Thus, we cut back to Noble Six, walking into this big place, looking at the bodies of fellow Spartans scattered across the field as he moves across it slowly paying attention to each and every one of them in a cutscene as he crouches down and checks on the gear of one of them, searching for any identification just to know who laid before him and they were the Spartans of Gauntlet whose last resting place was the same place of their last stand against the Covenant after finishing their mission and staying behind.
Six continues on as he walks upon a platform and looks up into the sky and looks around him as all he can see is red and incoming Covenant forces.
And with no other thing to do, Six performs his last task of business among his brothers and sisters.
Some glimmer of hope, of survival as you get placed on Six’s boots, grab your weapon and start fending off against unlimited hordes of Covenant forces one by one you drop them as your visor slowly starts to break before you until it finally gives in and you leave your helmet behind as the cutscene starts playing.
And subsequently, Six ends up giving his own life. Dying in battle.
Thus, the screen cuts to black, and we see a last glance into the game, we see a calm sight of Installation 04 and a very familiar sight as we see a Class-3 Bumblebee falling from the sky and crashing nearby, followed by the sight of the Autumn crashing in shortly after. Cut to black with the Halo theme sounding in the background ever so gently.
Here’s where we get the credits, connecting directly to Halo: Combat Evolved & Halo: The Fall of Reach perfectly honouring new characters and being the massive send off that Bungie wanted it to be.
It achieves to tell a new story, it achieves to be open to all players and it achieves at being, quite frankly what could be one of the best Halo games by far.
So, where do the outro and intro cutscenes fit? At the end of the credits of the game, albeit much movie-like, but it achieves to feel right at home in my opinion if you merge both cutscenes together and Halsey’s speech as well as that sense of emotion that will be incremented by ten through seeing Six’s helmet at the end of everything. It feels right at home, serves its purpose and thus, finishes Bungie’s last submission to the franchise like a huge explosion of nostalgia, emotion and amazing story coupled with amazing missions.
And this, however, is only but one man’s dream and his perfect Halo: Reach. One that never happened, and probably will never happen.
But one can dream, right?
And this is the end of this chapter, reimagining the Fall, of Reach.
It was quite a ride writing this one, feel free to correct me in some stuff you see worth correcting and feel free to disagree.
But this is my perfect Halo: Reach, and I am sure many can agree that this could be their perfect Reach as well.
And as always, be good, live your life and play Halo all the time, boys.