Saturday, 21 March 2015

Halo: Nightfall

I can't believe it's almost been 10 years since I played the first game in the Halo series, Halo: Combat Evolved. When I first played it I was working and living with my brother in Northern Ireland for around 5 months, and after days of working a long shift in a terrible, terrible job, I would get back to his place and play Halo all night. It was incredible. From “The Silent Cartographer” mission, first coming up against the Flood to hearing “Rock Anthem For Saving The World” blast through the speakers in the games final level, it was an astounding experience. The game made you feel like a hero, had truly revolutionary game mechanics and still stands out and a must-play for any fans of the first-person shooter genre. Though I loved the first game I have to say that I didn't like much else beyond that. I know I'm in the minority, but Halo 2 onwards just didn't do much for me. Sorry. I played them all but the series, especially since Bungie left it in the hands of 343 Industries, isn't as good or as special as it once was. Since the humble days of Halo: Combat Evolved the series has become a multimedia cow, and just with the likes of Star Wars, Halo is being milked into books, graphic novels and short films/feature films. This latest entry in Halo's expanding universe is a welcome one, but not one that is a must-see.

Directed Sergio Mimica-Gezzan and out now on Blu-Ray and DVD comes Halo: Nightfall, probably the best attempt at a live-action take on the franchise, but one that doesn't quite nail it. Nightfall is a mini-series that consists of 5 episodes, which combined racks up to 120 minutes, basically making it a Halo film. As I just said before, I played the entire series up until Halo 4, but I kind of forget exactly where the series is after it's conclusion. Nightfall focuses on the SPARTAN-IV solider Jameson Locke, who is a character that will appear in the upcoming Halo 5: Guardians. Essentially Nightfall serves as Locke's origin story, as this series takes place after Halo 4 and prior to Halo 5. The plot follows Locke and his team that, after they're investigating possible terrorist activity on a colony, are caught up in a  biological attack that only targets humans. Working together with former SPARTAN-II soldier Randall Aken, the teams journey ultimately brings them to Installation 04- the original Halo ring destroyed by the Master Chief in Halo: Combat Evolved

The story in Nightfall is actually really fun, and it has everything you'd want as both a Halo and non-Halo fan- guns, marines shooting at things, aliens, some decent dialogue, badass Halo armour, motherf*cking Installation 4 from Combat Evolved and an appearance by a Sangheili (even if the CGI is bloody awful). So at the very least it's clear that 343 Industries and producer Ridley Scott did their best to finally bring the look of Halo to the small screen. They've achieved that. Though it does look a little grittier and darker than what I personally see Halo as, it's still a nice representation of its world for TV. The mini-series isn't hard to follow or particularly smart, but it's got it where it counts in terms of Halo-ness, and thankfully doesn't force it down the throat of non-hardcore fans such as myself.

That said, the problems arise with the fact that literally every character in Nightfall is utterly forgettable. This really isn't a problem with the various members of the team though, as each one is clearly only there as cannon fodder and I didn't care about them one way or the other. However, it is a problem when I generally found the character of Jameson Locke- you know, the main character in Nightfall and a character that will be playable in Guardians- to be an absolute husk of a human being in terms of personality, back-story and, above all else, likeability. He grunts from scene to scene, looks constantly angry and I didn't really like spending two hours with him and his team. It was always going to be hard for 343 industries to create a new non-Master Chief protagonist whose face we can actually see, but in Nightfall I couldn't sympathise or relate with this dude. I don't want the Master Chief as the lead in a Halo TV series. I want the expanded series to focus on different and interesting characters, but the character of Jameson Locke is neither of those.

Halo: Nightfall is a very mixed bag. The action was pretty sweet and the story was satisfying, but the characters were less entertaining than a kick in the balls and that effectively dragged the whole thing down for me. After the film adaptation by Neil Blomkamp and Peter Jackson feel through a few years back, I keep feeling as if the series will never have a definitive moment on TV/film when we think, “now THIS is Halo”. Nightfall is Halo of course, but it's yet another mishandled expansion of the franchise that while good, could have been incredible.

Halo: Nightfall just about stays alive with a 3/5.


Denis Murphy

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