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Why 343 isn't ready to show us Master Chief's face

But is it prepared to kill Halo's iconic hero?

343 Industries, the developer charged with continuing the Halo franchise now Bungie has left it behind, isn't ready to show the world Master Chief's face.

But is it prepared to kill Halo's iconic hero?

As Halo franchise development director Frank O'Connor has much influence over the ongoing Halo universe, from books to anime to live action TV series to the games themselves.

He told Eurogamer "we're not ready to show the Master Chief's face" - continuing a policy set by Bungie in 2001 with Halo: Combat Evolved.

"The funny thing about the Chief is he's actually really well described," O'Connor told us at Eurogamer Expo.

"If you went down into that line and found a nerd with a deep canon Halo t-shirt and said describe the Master Chief to this police sketch artist, that police sketch artist would then produce a perfectly accurate rendering of an older man, almost painfully pale, almost albino white, with pale blue eyes, reddish hair, close cropped to a skin head, and maybe the last remnants of freckles he had when he was a kid."

O'Connor was referring to Halo: The Fall of Reach, the 2001 sci-fi novel penned by Eric Nylund. It is a prequel to the first Halo game and explains the origins of the SPARTAN II super soldiers and the Master Chief himself.

Halo: The Fall of Reach, the 2001 novel that reveals Master Chief's troubled origin.

Despite being well-described in the fiction, fans have never actually seen Master Chief's face in any official Halo image or movie. But he has taken his helmet off. At the end of the first Halo game the Chief removes his helmet, but the camera pans away, preventing us from seeing what lies beneath.

"It's funny we don't then show his face," O'Connor explained. "But that's a device to keep the player invested in the character and keep the player from constantly being reminded that they're not a hero or that they have to be a boy or they have to be a girl, or whatever that is."

O'Connor pointed to Valve's Half-Life series, which stars silent protagonist Gordon Freeman, as an "extreme" of this philosophy. "The flip side there is his face is on the box. So everyone knows what that character looks like and they can draw Gordon Freeman perfectly well. You can't really do that with Master Chief."

He added: "These are gamey elements, and you don't have these discussions about movie characters necessarily, and it doesn't matter with books because people fill in the blanks."

So, 343 Industries isn't prepared to show us the Master Chief's face. But, is the developer, with the next Halo trilogy set to begin next month with Halo 4, prepared to kill him off?

I've killed Master Chief about 50 times practising that demo - Halo franchise development director Frank O'Connor.

"I've killed him about 50 times practising that demo," O'Conner quipped in reference to his Eurogamer Expo developer session, a video of which is below. "Sergeant Johnson died a lot in the game too and then finally died in Halo 3.

"That's a conversation I can't get into. I'll say that in Halo 4, things happen. Previously we've been scared to commit to difficult paths in our game, but good interesting stories have things that happen in them that are not comfortable and that are meaningful and that are permanent.

"I'm not trying to hint at something other than our general philosophy and the shift in the attitude we're taking about storytelling. We can make the story matter more to people by doing things that matter. That's not rocket science. Luckily we have a publisher and owner that allows us that freedom and they trust us to make the right decisions with the fiction and the universe."

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