Halo was influenced by the War on Terror in subtle ways

When Halo: Fight Evolved shown up in 2001, it began the heels of the Sept. 11 attacks in New york city City and Washington, D.C. While the video game had actually been years in the making, its developers had no concept that their item would show up on the doorstep of what would ultimately end up being the United States’ longest-running dispute: the bigger War on Fear in the Middle East, and the 20-year project in Afghanistan.

The War on Fear would have a transformational impact on the U.S.’s militaries, triggering a host of modifications in how the nation salaries war, from the weapons, systems, and devices that the military takes onto the battleground. The dispute’s effect wasn’t restricted to the edges of the battleground, and its impacts can be seen in whatever from our political discourse, to the clothes we use, to the home entertainment we take in every day.

The Halo series turns 20 this year, and in doing so, it brackets the War on Fear, offering a picture of the development of how the military salaries war, and how that militarism has actually permeated into pop culture. Individuals we interviewed who were included with the franchise state that the occasions of the fear attack and the wars that followed didn’t straight affect the instructions of the video games, however the weight of the war made its existence understood around the edges, through little modifications and developments that appear throughout the series.

Military sci-fi has constantly had a strong connection to the state of the modern-day armed force. Warfare exists all the method to the roots of the category; H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds checks out Britain’s relationship with manifest destiny, while the arrival of the Cold War and the possibility of nuclear damage triggered Robert Heinlein to muse about citizenship and power-armored soldiers in his 1959 unique Starship Troopers.

As such, when Halo got its start, Bungie had lots of motivation from the world of sci-fi to bring into play, varying from impressive science fiction books like Larry Niven’s unique Ringworld and Iain M. Banks’ Culture series, to gritty military sci-fi books like Heinlein’s Starship Troopers and Joe Haldeman’s The Forever War, and to movies James Cameron’s Aliens and George Lucas’s Star Wars.

A soldier stands on the back of a warthog while pointing a turret gun

Image: Microsoft

A soldier stands on the back of a warthog while pointing a turret gun, with the scene featuring updated graphics with more detail

Halo: Anniversary
Image: Microsoft

However those early designers likewise wished to inject a level of familiarity for gamers. The world of Halo included not just fantastical megastructures like alien rings and ancient innovations, however the blocky human ships and weapons that were developed to look like they were consistent with the world we currently reside in.

Joseph Staten, Bungie’s director of cinematics for Halo: Fight Evolved, Halo 2, and Halo 3, states that while the studio made use of a range of sci-fi classics for motivation, “the primary goals for the human United Nations Space Command (UNSC) hardware in the early games were familiarity and contrast. As we launched players on an epic space adventure, we wanted them to immediately feel at home driving the human vehicle or holding the human weapons.”

To get that familiarity, Halo’s designers aimed to the real life, pulling motivation from then-modern military innovation and style. “I used all kinds of military reference,” states Marcus Lehto, Bungie’s imaginative art director for the franchise up through Halo: Reach, “for the creation of many things like the Chief, Warthog, Pelican, Scorpion, and Marines.”

Staten indicate the color design for the weapons and soldiers as an example: “UNSC gear is mostly subdued greens and browns — colors you would expect if you’re familiar with modern military gear — whereas Covenant colors are bright purple or orange or even gold. By rooting the UNSC military hardware in the familiar, we created space to explore the exotic.”

Three soldiers sit aboard a ship

Halo 2
Image: Microsoft

As an outcome, the style of Halo’s military world feels both science imaginary and familiar at the very same time. The UNSC Militaries are covered in blocky body armor that seems like a natural development from the post-Cold War U.S. military. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989, the U.S. military went through not just a downsizing, however modifications in how it equipped its workers: the U.S. Army presented brand-new uniforms and systems for soldiers to bring devices, updating devices that was held over from the Vietnam war.

With the start of the War on Fear in the 2001 dispute in Afghanistan and in Iraq in 2003, the U.S. as soon as again started to reconsider how its workers were equipped. The broad swirls that comprised the M81 Forest camouflage utilized in the 1980s and 1990s paved the way to the soft greens and tans of the Universal Camouflage Pattern in 2005, and the MOLLE (Modular Lightweight Load-Carrying Devices) system — pouches that might be installed onto adjustable accessories — ended up being commonly embraced in 2003 as the U.S. released its offensive in Iraq.

These modifications happened because of the in-the-field experiences that the military dealt with, states Matthew Callahan, a previous Marine who served in Afghanistan as an infantry attack Marine and later on as a fight professional photographer in Syria who developed the Galactic Warfighters photography series in 2015. Particularly, he states, it was the 2 years of fight that saw consistent improvements in the kinds of devices that soldiers brought into fight: “Marines look closer to Special Forces now than they ever have. They’ve got suppressors on their weapons, they have the half-shell cut helmets with the Peltor hearing protection, all kinds of stuff.”

An essential motorist of that modification is the resources provided to the unique forces neighborhood. “They are very small and they have a budget that eclipses most anything that you can possibly imagine,” Callahan states. “They’re constantly playtesting equipment.” The outcome is a trickle-down impact that sees devices relocation from SOCOM to the other branches of the U.S. armed force. He indicated one example of where he’s seen these sorts of upgrades: while in Syria in June 2017, the Marine Corps commandant, basic Robert Neller went to the nation and the Militaries stationed there. “The common sentiment was like, ‘Hey sir, we need these over-ear hearing protectors,’” Callahan states. “‘Every single Marine needs them.’ Look a year and a half, two years later, and every infantry marine pretty much has them now.”

A soldier stands still, showing his gear

Halo 3
Image: Microsoft

The very same sort of development happens within the world of the Halo universe, as mankind has actually been at war with the Covenant for years (the in-universe dates range from Feb. 11, 2525 to Dec. 11, 2552). Josh Holmes, imaginative director for Halo 4 (and manufacturer for Halo 5) states, “If I recall correctly, we did talk about the length of the war and its impact on equipment in the field. We also tried to take into account the continued advancement of military technologies over time, alongside research into some of the alien technologies recovered from the Covenant. We were walking a fine line, because we wanted the updated designs to feel like a natural evolution of the already established UNSC aesthetic, but with this modernization in mind.”

From video game to video game, it’s simple to see the modifications and upgrades that participate as the war advances. In Between Halo 2 and 3, the Militaries and Orbital Drop Shock Troopers get some updates to their particular packages: brand-new armored plating to much better cover their upper bodies, limbs, and heads, in manner ins which look as though they’re developed to both boost their maneuverability and security. By the time we pass completion of the Human-Covenant war in Halo 4, the marines are equipped with a lot more customized equipment. Their chest armor consists of strapping, MOLLE strips (to connect devices and pouches to), and helmets that look more similar to what real-world soldiers are using. The Militaries don’t make a look in Halo 5’s project, however the security specialists on Meridian Station boast comparable armor and devices, while their presence apparently mirrors that of the development of the military specialist field. Jointly, those modifications to the devices think about the modifications that any military goes through when it’s continuously in action for years, whether it’s twenty years of the War on Fear, or the Earth-Covenant War. In both circumstances, that experience is shown with hardware that’s altered to enhance adjustability and convenience for the user, the capability to personalize one’s package, and the intro of security enhancements, like much better protection or hearing security.

Holmes states that the War on Fear didn’t play a specific function in driving their styles for the video game, however that “we’re obviously influenced by our experience in the real world, and we did want to bring a more realistic perspective on what it would be like to engage a hostile alien force.” Those conversations, he states, assisted notify how they established the weapons that the UNSC utilized: “We tried to update the design language for the UNSC and draw inspiration from modern military equipment to help ground things for players.”

A soldier stands facing the player, showing off their gear

Halo 3: ODST
Image: Microsoft

Lehto likewise states that he wouldn’t define the video games as intentionally keeping up with the modifications to real-world equipment while he was dealing with the franchise: “I would not say that we kept up with the War on Terror and evolution of gear for that in any way. Halo, while always grounded in something familiar, carved out its own aesthetic, which just improved in fidelity over the years as the engine tech and rendering capability improved.”

An essential consider the style modifications, he states, was that the Halo video games went through a development as a direct outcome of the boosts in computational power that the Xbox lineup saw, initially from the initial gadget all the method approximately the existing Xbox Series X. “As the engines and the consoles improved,” Lehto states, “it dramatically changed our polygon and texture budgets for all assets in the game, allowing us to build much higher resolution content with more detail.”

That boost in information allowed Halo’s artists to build on the initial visual of the characters, enabling them them to include ever-more practical information to the world — whatever from the straps and buckles that hung on a Marine’s armor, to the pouches, devices, and equipment that they used, down to the wrinkles on pockets and uniforms. The group kept the very same style concepts while consisting of more information that retroactively improved the kinds of equipment that the UNSC soldiers brought with them throughout the galaxy.

However while the equipment does comply with an in-universe style concept, there are brand-new additions that appear along with their real-world equivalents. The helmets that the Militaries sport in Halo 4 include the universal night vision goggle install on the center of each helmet’s forehead, something that the U.S. armed force has actually commonly embraced, while others have functions that look a fair bit like the Peltor hearing protectors incorporated into the style. Others have body armor that comes with MOLLE strips for installing devices, and other functions like knee pads that become part of trousers; all of these are functions have actually ended up being commonplace in equivalent, real-world uniforms seen on battlegrounds today.

Callahan mentions aspects like the intro of the M392 Designated Marksman Rifle in Halo: Reach as one example of when Halo’s designers have actually taken some hints from the real life: “That is an acknowledgement that designated marksmen exist [in the Halo universe] — we had them on our deployment,” he states. Other minutes consist of other littles hardware from throughout the world to the addition of the ODSTs in the franchise.

A soldier stands close to the player, showing off their gear

Halo: Reach
Image: Microsoft

Callahan states that these sorts of style additions aren’t simply restricted to simply Halo; other franchises have actually taken style hints from what contemporary armed forces equip their soldiers with, varying from tasks as differed as Rogue One, The Force Awakens, Fight: Los Angeles, or Stargate SG-1. “The First Order troopers,” he states, had “the first introduction to a chest rig that we’d ever seen in Star Wars” — a completely contemporary style component to a franchise that initially drew much of its motivation from Vietnam and The Second World War. “The reality is,” he states, “that America has been engaged in a protracted war in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, and the Middle East, and that’s precisely why we get that bleed into our popular culture.”

Considering that the start of the War on Fear, critics have actually raised issues about the potential customers of extreme militarization of non-military areas. Cops departments regularly make use of surplus military hardware and devices, for example, a pattern that the ACLU states makes police more dangerous to run in the neighborhoods that they serve.

That militarism extends into pop culture too. The military and the show business have actually teamed up for years, producing movies to offer disputes abroad to the American public. In other circumstances, that collaboration has actually been a bit less on the nose, with the numerous branches of the U.S. military functioning as experts. Callahan indicate Halo: Reach as one example of where military experts assisted to increase the credibility of the military world: “ONI, the Office of Naval Intelligence, ‘Winter Contingency,’ the radio communique, the chatter, and just the way that everybody conducted themselves — it’s as if the folks at Bungie just hung out with Navy SEALs for like a year.”

A visor zooms in to show soldier gear up-close

Halo 4
Image: Microsoft

That respect for the armed force can bring with it some darker aspects. “The big picture implication,” Callahan states, “is January 6th. That is the big picture implication —radicalization. It’s feeling like you need to militarize yourself to defend yourself, and to just enact that violence on others.”

“That bleeds over into our popular culture with games like Call of Duty. It’s not that playing violent video games makes you violent. No, it sows the seeds to become a violent person,” Callahan states. “It’s not the only thing. It’s just the nature of social media and how the internet echo chamber works. You take this trickle-down effect and this armor, this gear, all of this high-speed, low-drag equipment designed for people operating under circumstances in which they have a 50/50 chance of coming out alive — actual warfare, actual combat — and you see it at every far-right, extremist protest here. It’s like everybody’s arming themselves. Everybody has a right to defend themselves — I’ll never disagree with that assertion — but this isn’t that.”

The requirement to represent genuine military culture, classification, and devices makes good sense for a video game franchise like Halo; audiences long for realism and the excitement that it can bring. However it’s worth observing and comprehending the expense, and the requirement to guarantee that there’s a specific divide in between actual battle zone and the civilian world, since of the propensities that it brings. As the stating goes, if all you have is a hammer, every issue appears like a nail. If you’re surrounded by the components of a military way of life in all elements of civilian life, it’s simple to see dangers where they don’t exist.

Jobber Wiki author Frank Long contributed to this report.