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Halo: Nightfall [Review]

It took five weeks, but each of episode of Halo: Nightfall is finally released (they were unveiling one per week since the launch of Halo: The Master Chief Collection), but is it everything Halo fans have waited for? At roughly twenty to thirty minutes per episode (and a little longer if you include the second story experiences which I'll delve into shortly), it's essentially a full length film in its entirety, but it's definitely not a AAA blockbuster movie you'd see from Hollywood.

So what's so special about Nightfall? Firstly, it's produced by Ridley Scott (Alien, Blade Runner) and is a story based on an upcoming character that will be playable in Halo 5: Guardians; Agent Locke. The whole purpose is to give you a glimpse into who Locke is before Guardians' holiday 2015 release so that you know more about the man that he is, or was.

Halo: Nightfall Group Shot

I'll attempt to try to avoid major spoilers where I can, but if you're already planning on watching it but just haven't had the time yet, I suggest sitting down and enjoying it before reading further. Mike Colter plays Jameson Locke, leader of a small ONI (Office of Naval Intelligence) team following a lead and searching the human colony world of Sedra for a smuggler. Once they spot the smuggler, they see a handoff of some sort of explosive to a Sangheili (Elite) terrorist and race to stop him before he reaches the city core.

The Elite makes his way to the main city (as there's a peace treaty in place between humans and the Covenant) and sets off this mysterious explosive before falling to his death. Instead of an expected massive explosion, a shockwave releases and travels miles from the epicenter but with seemingly no effect or damage. Shortly after though it seems that humans are becoming extremely ill, having their veins turn black, though it's random and not every human is affected. ONI quickly figures out that it's only affected humans though, so it seems as though there's a new biological agent that can be weaponized to eliminate mankind without firing a shot.

Halo: Nightfall What's Going On?

Obviously needing to do something and find out more about how this weapon was found and made. They manage to get vital information out of the caught smuggler and seek to go where the weapon came from to prevent any further attacks. Locke is forced to work with a Sedran commander for this mission, having Randall Aiken (played by Steve Waddington) accompany them once they realize where they must go. Once they found out their destination, I got very excited as a Halo fan. They realize that the biological element came from a partial piece of Installation 04, the Halo that Master Chief destroyed in Combat Evolved. If that doesn't excite you, you aren't a Halo fan.

Nightfall takes place between the events of Halo 4 and Halo 5: Guardians, and at first I thought that the Aiken character was going to be a simply throw away addition, but once you learn more about his past, he instantly becomes much more intriguing. It turns out that Aiken used to be a Spartan but left the program, something once thought impossible. Again, simply knowing as simple as that, that should really excite you as a Halo fan if you know your lore beyond just the games.

Halo: Nightfall Squint

I don't want to delve too much more into the main plot, but it does have its ups and downs. Episode 1 sets the main plot, 2 is when they reach the ring world, and the remaining 3 episodes are all about survival and getting home.

Be warned though, the "next time on" segments to tease the following episode usually gives away the main sequences and don't leave a lot of surprise. Interestingly, while you watch the episodes you'll get notifications that allow you to delve further into some back story or side events that take place during the same time but simply wouldn't make sense in the linear narrative of Locke's story. These are called Second Story videos and can be optionally watched, but I would recommend doing so as they do give a lot of background information of specific events that aren't fleshed out in the main narrative itself. They're usually only a few minutes long and you'll also earn in-game bonuses for Halo: The Master Chief Collection.

Now that the series has ended and the credits have rolled, I feel I have a good idea of who Locke is, what his morals are, and what to possibly expect in Guardians since he will be a playable character. What's very interesting about Locke though is that sometime between Nightfall and Guardians, Locke becomes a Spartan IV, the latest and greatest UNSC super soldiers.

Halo: Nightfall Locke and Load

What makes the Spartan IV's so unique is that they are volunteers instead of children kidnapped when they are young and thrust into the program like Master Chief was. Like most, it was a little disappointing to find out that some of Chief's screen time in Guardians was going to be split with this new mystery Spartan, but after seeing all of Nightfall, I've come to really like Locke for his beliefs and morals.

I understand that Nightfall is to be treated as a web series, and obviously isn't going to have a ridiculous budget as if it was a Hollywood production, and even though its budget was much higher than the previous live action Halo film, Forward Unto Dawn, the special effects are quite underwhelming.  We only see an Elite, its ship, and a bunch of Hunter worms, but aside from that, there are some shows on TV that will look better in the special effects department.

Halo: Nightfall Hidding

My biggest disappointment with Nightfall though is its underuse of Aiken. I understand the whole point of Nightfall is to give Locke's origin story, but simply dropping a bomb like how Aiken used to be a Spartan but then not delve into it further seems criminal. The final episode was handled well, and the way that Aiken 'handled' the drawing of straws had emotion to it and really made you respect his character. The monologue at the end with Locke was touching, but I was there was a little more closure overall with some of the minor plot points.

I was hoping that Nightfall would explain more about Locke became a Spartan, how he met Arbiter, and why he's searching for Master Chief, but it's clear that this was simply intended as an origin story to give you some background going into Guardians. The middle episodes can be a little slow, but I did enjoy the final episode and how it portrayed Locke and Aiken.

I'm sure that it's the Halo bias in me, as I'm a rabid fan and have every novel, game, and a room full of toys, but I think Nightfall has its successes. It may not be the Halo movie we've all been wanting for years now, but it did succeed at making me care about Locke, a mysterious character that I'm sure I'm going to know a lot more intimately once Guardians releases Fall 2015.

Halo: Nightfall Locke

See you in Valhalla.