I’ll take an example of my issue. There’s concept art of a Banished Base where you have these Brutes standing on a cage full of emaciated human prisoners with heaps of human skulls and bones on the outside. Now, they imply it’s that grim but for the most part the game is heavily playing this down.
Fair point. There’s a line of Marine dialogue that says the Marine was experiencing something like Stockholm Syndrome for the cage he was kept in; I thought that was weird. The only Marines the player comes across in cages are dead, if I’m not mistaken. All of the living Marines are rescued from those energy chains of which the Banished seem to be so fond. But that’s a tangent, heh.
A man claiming he’s a victim and wants to die with honour isn’t sympathetic if that’s what his army is doing. By their own admission this is just so they can be more powerful. It crosses a red line.
I think it’s important to remember that Escharum isn’t a man, he’s Jiralhanae. He doesn’t value empathy, compassion, or mercy. He’s a violent, bitter, and frightened warrior who only cares about his own organization’s wellbeing. The player can have sympathy for him anyway. I think of pitying Escharum as a kind of rebuttal to his own nature, and John’s response to his death not only reflects that refusal to become as cruel as he was, but it’s consistent with the Chief’s past characterization, and of Spartan-IIs generally.
By having a silent protagonist this basically goes unchallenged apart from some ambient dialogue with the marines.
I think that’s a valid criticism, but to be fair, it’s par for the course for Halo. I’ve been replaying Halo 3 lately, and I noticed that I feel like I’m influencing the world but not really a part of it when it comes to the story. Silent protagonists sometimes work, but I think they’re less effective in Halo than I’ve often seen claimed.
But my main point is the lack of that interaction hurts. When two boxers are getting ready for a fight, you still have all those pre game meetings and conflict to set the stage. You can’t have that if the Chief basically ignores Esharum.
I’m inclined to believe that this is the point. Escharum wants desperately to have this rivalry with a legendary opponent, but trying to become John’s rival is like trying to have a rivalry with a firearm or a vehicle. He has a job to do, and he’s not interested in personal vengeance at the expense of his mission. Like he said to the Warden Eternal,
“Worse than you have tried.”
At the moment, I can’t think of any villain with whom the Chief has had an actual rivalry. There may be one, but I think he sees his “rogues gallery” as obstacles to be overcome rather than people to hate.
Well that’s my issue with Atriox. Chief has had his adoptive home-world destroyed and seen countless other humans worlds meet the same fate. All of which entirely unprovoked and in which his people are directly responsible for. For this scumbag to come and demand vengeance on humanity for Doisac, a single planet, is absurd. I don’t think that should mean the Chief empathises with the Brutes at all. Hatred and contempt would be the result; at best stoicism.
There’s a passage in Shadows of Reach on page 171 that sheds some light on this:
"The Covenant had stolen [Linda’s] past. She wanted to put a 114mm HEAP round through the head of every alien she saw (yes, even the ones who were supposedly allies now, she realized with a sharp pang of guilt), to burn their homes and raze their cities and wipe even the memory of their malevolent empire from the galactic record.
And she despised herself for being so weak. Because hate was surrender.
Hate gave control of one’s thoughts and feelings to the enemy. It made a soldier predictable, and when a Spartan became predictable, the next thing she became was dead.
So a Spartan could not hate."
I believe that this is John’s attitude as well, more or less. He could easily allow himself to experience those feelings of contempt and hatred, but he knows that he would be the worse for it.
We have an example as early as Halo 2 to show this: John made the Prophet of Mercy’s suffering mercifully shorter than it would have been had he left him there to be consumed by the pod infector. He didn’t curbstomp the Prophet or kill him in some brutal way, either. He just removed the source of Mercy’s torment (and continued consciousness) and moved on.