The Halo 4 Case for Greatness

Like many others, last Tuesday I picked up a copy of Halo 4 before going to oust our president. I immediately noticed that the game raises some interesting questions.


First: the meaning of greatness. Some context: The genetically-engineered super soldier and protagonist Master Chief is the last of his kind. And he, of course, saved the galaxy from the theocratic — shades of Al-Qaeda? — Covenant, a group of alien races that serve as the series’ primary villains.

A character in the game questions this. He certainly likes to kill, the character asks. Doesn’t that make him a sociopath?

The doctor who created him dismisses the claim. The Chief is a good man, she says. Look at his accomplishments.

Fans of the game will know that Master Chief stopped at nothing to defend humanity. He cares not for himself. He nearly died. And when we last saw him, he sat frozen in a ship, forever caught in the eternal drift of space.

Second: bioethics. As mentioned, characters begin to question the purpose of the SPARTAN program that created Master Chief. They’re right to do so: the leaders of the program stole children from their parents and replaced them with clones. They altered their DNA to make them perfect. And they fitted them with incredibly advanced armor. The kicker: all of the other SPARTAN soldiers died. Master Chief survived. Does human nature, then, even burst through the attempts of the technocrats and authoritarians who wish to play with it? These questions will likely be further explored as this new trilogy progresses.


We live in uncertain, turbulent times. Our president won re-election, and now he’ll attempt to complete the fundamental transformation of the United States, the dream of progressives since Woodrow Wilson.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

As Walter Russell Mead noted in a post after Hurricane Sandy, terrible storms swirl just beyond the horizon. Our calm will soon be shattered.

We can protect ourselves from a storm like Sandy by taking proper precautions; at the Mead manor we have candles, firewood and food stocked against the possibility that our power will go out. But one day, dear reader, a storm is coming which neither you nor we can survive. The strongest walls, the sturdiest retirement plans stuffed with stocks and CDs, the best doctors cannot protect us from that final encounter with the force that made and will someday unmake us.

We often forget about the fragility of civilization. He compels us to remember this in order for us to be strong. He writes:

The world needs people who have that kind of strength and confidence. Storms much greater than Sandy are moving through our lives these days: the storms shaking the Middle East, recasting the economy, transforming the political horizons of Asia. It will take strong and grounded people to ride these mighty storms; paradoxically, it is only by coming to terms with our limits and weakness that we can find the strength and the serenity to face what lies ahead.


It’s good, then,  to see such a game remind people the meaning of greatness and the importance of ethics — especially since the next stage in the Halo saga is called “the Reclaimer Trilogy.”


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