Halo Season 2 feels less like a video game – in a good way

The minds behind it Halo season 2 has seemingly learned their lesson. The first episode, which premieres February 8 on Paramount Plus, is a stark contrast to the season 1 pilot. The plot is sharper and more focused, while Master Chief (Pablo Schreiber) and Silver Team feel more in line with the Spartans we’ve seen in twenty years of games. That, combined with improved visual effects, correcting the previous season’s mistake of making the Covenant aliens look tacky and fake, makes for a season premiere that not only feels like a course correction, but something even the most dubious fans will enjoy.

The first episode, called ‘Sanctuary’, begins on the bleak planet Sanctuary. Master Chief is present with his Silver Team unit – Riz-028 (Natasha Culzac), Vannak-134 (Bentley Kalu) and my favorite, Kai-125 (Kate Kennedy) – on what starts out as a routine mission as a babysitter for regular people. archive Marines as they evacuate the planet before the Covenant warships approach. When a unit of Marines goes missing, Master Chief is sent to find them. But when he does, the soldiers are ambushed by a group of Covenant elites in a battle that finally makes the aliens the superior force they should be.

Watching elites drag unsuspecting soldiers into the mist transformed them from the strange-looking jokes they were in season 1 into something legitimately terrifying. In the Halo games, when we are first introduced to the Covenant on Reach (yes, I am aware that humanity’s first contact with the Covenant takes place in Halo Wars, but work with me here) we don’t see them at first, just the bodies they left behind. And when we see them, it’s a visceral “Oh shit!” moment. That feeling is reflected in ‘Sanctuary’. Also, seeing a bunch of plasma swords appear from a cloud of mist is really cool. Finally, Halo is about a bunch of unstoppable super soldiers versus immobile aliens – it doesn’t work if they don’t look cool.

Finally Halo is about a bunch of unstoppable super soldiers versus immobile aliens – it doesn’t work if they don’t look cool

While Halo hasn’t completely abandoned the plot points introduced in season 1, but they do seem to have been reduced so that more important plots come to the fore. One of my biggest complaints from season 1 was that Riz and Vannak never got a chance to show a little personality the way John and Kai did. “Sanctuary” immediately corrects this error. Vannak shares with Kai that he has removed his emotion chip and as a result now enjoys watching nature documentaries in his spare time, even joking to John that a steep cliff to climb would mean nothing to an ibex – which is emphatically not the case is. have the advantage of the Spartan’s powerful armor.

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Spartan teams were the beating heart of the series: RangeThe noble team, ODST‘s Helljumpers, Halo: Guards‘ Blue Team and Fireteam Osiris, and even John and Cortana themselves. Season 1 didn’t have that, and Halo feels more like Halo should when John plays off his comrades and keeps them in line, especially against other Spartans or their commanding officers in the UN Security Council.

Elsewhere in the episode, we catch up with Soren-066 (Bokeem Woodbine) and Kwan-Ha (Yerin Ha). Soren still controls his fiefdom on Gibraltar – a space station connected to a giant asteroid that resembles Mass effect‘s Omega – while Kwan Ha earns a living. I like Soren’s story because it’s interesting to see who and what becomes a Spartan when given the chance to be selfish, but this B-plot feels like a Marine in Halo 3 who has a weapon you want – very susceptible to an ‘accidental’ case of friendly fire.

When John and Silver Team return to Reach after managing to rescue just one of the missing Marines, they are put on standby, effectively grounding them. The team learns that this is on the orders of the show’s new villain, James Ackerson (Joseph Morgan). He’s supposed to be a meaner Dr. Halsey (who went MIA at the end of season 1) effectively spotlights John’s memory of what happened at Sanctuary.

While some fans consider it an abomination that John took off his helmet in the first place, that Pillar of Autumn sailed

I understand there is a wealth of media out there, including the Halo games’ depiction of Master Chief, with characters expressing a full range of emotions from behind a helmet. And while some fans may consider it an abomination that John took off his helmet in the first place, it is Pillar of Autumn sailed way back in season 1, episode 1, so it’s high time we acknowledge that Pablo Schreiber plays an effective character, regardless of whether we see his face or not.

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There’s a great scene where he visits a VR salon where he looks at a hologram he created to resemble Cortana (Jen Taylor). There’s a deep longing in his confession that he feels like a part of him is missing now that Cortana has been ripped from his head, and a deep pain in his face when the VR doesn’t respond to him the way the “real” Cortana would. The helmet then becomes an effective dividing line between Schreiber’s two characters: the stoic Master Chief Petty Officer John-117 who ignores the Silver Team’s jokes during a mission, and John the human who experiences human emotions for the first time. To quote the kids these days, “Let him cook.”

In fact, based on this first episode, I’m willing to extend this adage to the showrunners. Last season’s pilot was too concerned with recreating the details of the Halo games. There were extensive first-person action scenes, complete with a HUD that looked almost exactly like this HaloThe game’s UI, sounds of gunfire and armor charging, ripped straight from the game, and even a gory insta-kill with a plasma gun. It felt like they did all that thinking it was those bells and whistles Halo fans want this to come at the expense of conveying a story worth coming back to (though I still did and still enjoyed it).

This premiere feels like the showrunners finally understand that while they don’t have to look too closely to the games, they can tell a good story Halo story, it’s worth having at least some of that knowledge. Last season felt like playing a video game. But this first episode feels more like Halo, and I can’t wait to see more.

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