The Halo series is going to be 14 years old come this November. It’s hard to believe, but we are now 14 years out from the launch of Halo: Combat Evolved back in 2001. That’s 14 years of games, comics, and books to fill in the lore, and 14 years for Halo fans to get familiar with it. We as fans know about the origins of the Master Chief and the SPARTAN-IIs. We know every explicit detail about the whole sordid affair: about how they were abducted as kids, how they were trained to fight from an early age, and how they were replaced with clones doomed to die. Indeed we’ve known this and so much more, and we’ve known it all for a long time now. It’s old news and uninteresting…well for those of us in the audience it is…
As part of their effort to generate interest in Halo 5: Guardians, 343i has revealed that at least part of the game’s premise is the collision of truths. Those truths being the clean and heroic “truth” spun by of the in-universe organization known as the “Office of Naval Intelligence” (aka “ONI”), and the grim and dirty truth of reality being brought to light by the Master Chief and others. We were first introduced to this by two live-action trailers and another teasing that everything thing we thought we knew about the Master Chief was a lie.
These trailers, combined with a weekly podcast and other clues being periodically release are all part of the “Hunt the Truth” campaign being run up until E3. It’s quite plainly a hype campaign, but its one that’s actually adding something worthwhile to the universe. You see, while we initially thought that the whole “question what you thought you knew about the Master Chief” angle was meant for us, the audience, it’s actually not. How could it be? We were there. We saw what the Chief did, and we were there as he made each and every decision. How can we possibly doubt a character when we know more about them then they know about themselves? The answer: we can’t. We won’t. And we’re not supposed to. We were there, but all the other inhabitants of the Halo universe weren’t. The message isn’t aimed at us, but instead the in-universe populace.
“Hunt The Truth”, or at least its podcast, is the chronicle of how all the ugly truths about the Spartans’ origins are brought to light. Within the Halo universe, everything that we know about the Chief and the events of the books/games/comics are all closely guarded ONI secrets. If any of it, especially the origins of the Spartans (a particularly nasty business) were to come to light, it would cause public outcry on a massive scale. What we’re seeing is the prelude to that. The struggle of one journalist and his allies to bring to light the incredible injustice that was the SPARTAN-II program. We don’t know yet if they’ll succeed, but if they do, it would perfectly set up the collision of truths hinted at in the previews: ONI’s perfectly tailored and heroic picture pitted against the bleak and ugly reality of things.
I’m inclined to think that the reveal is at least partially successful, otherwise we wouldn’t be seeing these hints of ONI branding the Master Chief as a traitor. It all seems to be a major hint towards some of the themes/backstory for Halo 5, but that’s another post entirely. Suffice it to say, hype-campaign or not, we’re getting to see a new side to the lore we’ve all known for so long. To us its the truth, but to the average person in-universe it’s all just the faintest of rumors whispered only when no one else is looking. We know what the truth is, and now we get to see if it’s able to overcome all the lies that have tried to take its place.
Even if you’re not a Halo fan, I recommend giving yourself a quick overview of the SPARTAN-II program and checking this out. It’s really quite fascinating seeing the lore from the perspective of those uncovering it!
If you’ve been following Hunt the Truth, how do you think it will play out? Got any theories? If you haven’t been following it, have you encountered anything similar for other games over the years?