It was billed as a "live-action short." We've had those before, for Halo 3…
…and for Halo: ODST…
…and we were supposed to have one for the upcoming Halo:Reach. Instead, we get this:
WHAT a disappointment. "Landfall" and "We are ODST" both have some genuine emotional resonance to them. "Birth of a Spartan" is utterly devoid of the stuff. I could care less who that kid is on the table having yellow and blue Kool-Aid injected into his veins.
This is not a "live-action short" which functions as commercial, it's a straight up commercial. There's a difference. A "short" is still attempting to have some integrity as a film. In this case, the aforementioned emotional resonance. The desperation of the ODST's in Landfall as they try to track Master Chief's descent into the atmosphere, because it's more important than their lives. The maturation of a child into a grizzled veteran as showcase of the determination the ODST corps stands for.
This is such a lost opportunity. Halo:Reach has the potential to present a story which is a serious tragedy. We know how it ends. Everyone dies. The discovery of Reach by the Covenant is almost the beginning of the end for humanity, and it's only by the skin of its collective teeth that Master Chief pulls his species back from the brink.
I was hoping that this short would set the tone. Carter has to know that he's volunteering for a suicide corps. When he sees the picture of his family, that could be a moment of saying goodbye. Perhaps that was the intention, but it doesn't work. It's the closest thing we get to a human moment, and it falls decidedly flat.
It's very easy to use this to read into the future of the Halo franchise itself. Halo is extremely played, and not in the sense of total hours logged by gamers. Halo 3's graphics were dated very quickly, the campaign was a tack-on, and the multiplayer was an improved version of Halo 2. Halo:ODST actually had the superior story and characters in my opinion, and served to energize my enthusiasm for the canon, but then Halo:Legends came out and I felt it was extremely lackluster.
Halo:Reach could easily rest on its laurels and offer a new graphics engine, some new weapons, some new game modes, but still be the same old Halo multiplayer. We'll find out on May 3rd, but I don't just want multiplayer. I want a story with some dramatic meat to it.
I hope that this commercial disguised as a short doesn't portend the amount of effort put into the Reach story and campaign. There's nothing worse than when a franchise rests on its own success and stops caring or innovating. It only matters to me because I've been a fan of Bungie since the original Marathon for the Mac. I have faith in them, as a company. I know they can deliver what I want if they put their minds to it.
Let's put away "Birth of a Spartan" and blame it on someone other than Bungie, for now. I think that's for the best.