The finale sequence in Halo: Reach is one of the most memorable parts of the game, but members of Bungie’s dev team had to fight to put it in the game in the first place.
Okay, there’s no easy way to say this, but – if it wasn’t obvious enough from the headline and teaser – this news post will contain severe spoilers for the ending of Halo: Reach. In other words, if you read past the part marked “Spoilers,” and you get spoiled, it’s your own damn fault.
***SPOILER ALERT. SPOILER ALERT.***
One of the most surprisingly poignant moments (for me, anyway) in the entire Halo franchise was Noble Six’s – that is, your own – last stand at the very end of Reach. After covering the launch of the Pillar of Autumn to set the events of Halo: Combat Evolved in motion, you are given a single objective: “Survive.” It’s ultimately impossible, as more and more Covenant swarm you on the now-desolate surface of a destroyed Reach, and Noble Six eventually goes down fighting.
When asked by UGO to explain the inspiration for the scene, creative director Marcus Lehto said that they ultimately saw the game as a “tragedy overall.”
We wanted to tell the story of the Spartans sacrificing everything they had, and we thought it would be a cop-out if we didn’t really bring it to a true ending with the Spartan that you create and that you fight with through the entire campaign and all the way to the very bitter end. If we didn’t actually do the right thing to that character and bring them down with the planet … After they had already succeeded in making sure that one thing that gave humanity any hope was actually saved, (we decided) they were going to go out all gung-ho and guns blazing.
Still, said Lehto, it was hardly a unanimous decision within Bungie. “It was a crazy, controversial thing within our studio. We had a lot of people who were like, ‘No, we shouldn’t end it that way. We should allow the player to play on and, in their heads, keep living.’ But we wanted to bring it to a close.”
“[It] was one of the parts of the game that we wrestled with for months, and there were many different iterations with the ending,” agreed executive producer Joe Tung. “There was a point where the ending didn’t happen at all like it happened now. It was so important to us that the game ended well.”
It was important, of course, because this wasn’t just Bungie’s farewell to Noble Six and the planet Reach – but to the studio’s Halo franchise as a whole. It was important “from the perspective of Bungie saying goodbye to the entire universe,” said Tung. “We spent so much time wrestling with how to end the game, and I think it ended up being such a great farewell, not just for the game, but for the entire involvement in the universe and a fitting farewell to Halo from Bungie.”
“And there wasn’t really anything we could do with the end, the demise, of Noble 6 because that leads into the events just prior to Halo 1,” said Lehto. “It was a great way just to bring everything full circle for the franchise.”
I certainly thought so, anyway.