June 15, 215
As Cortana’s imprisonment from the Gravemind progressed, the most haunting thing the Master Chief, Spartan John-117, witnessed during the time before he rescued Cortana from High Charity, were cryptic messages from his AI companion. Although he later learned that Cortana’s messages, other than the one recovered from the crashed CCS-class Battlecruiser at Voi, were from the Gravemind, there could very well be a more rhetoric, more fourth-wall breaking purpose behind them. What’s that purpose? Let’s walk through it at Halo 3 movement speeds.
The first thing the player will notice about the ‘Cortana Movements’ is that they’ll slow down gameplay to an irreversible halt, torturing the poor, poor human into trembling in fear as their screen turns a bitter blue before their mortal, innocent eyes. As their hands sweat, drenching their miserable controllers, and as their ears are battered into ribbons by the infamous voice of Jen Taylor, they’re left with a bitter memory after completing Halo 3’s campaign. This is a memory that stains them to the end of their days (studies show that exposure Cortana Moments can decrease human life expectancy by a staggering 0.0000000000001%).
Here’s the kicker: if Bungie was so dedicated to making the most plot-hole free, well-written story ever, why would they hamper it by adding those atrocious crimes against the Mantle that were Cortana Moments?
The answer lies within the moments themselves. Take a look at the following dialogue from a Cortana Moment, featured in the level “Crow’s Nest:”
“You have been called upon to serve […] You will be the protector of Earth and all her colonies […] There will be a great deal of hardship on the road ahead […] You will become the best we can make you […] This place will become your home.”
Obviously, the first thing to notice is that all quotes, except for the last one, are repeats of some of Catherine Halsey’s lines in Halo: The Fall of Reach. That means these Cortana Moments are directly nodding to the expanded lore…something the rest of the story did not. Considering that the Cortana Moments are ripe with references to Halo’s seemingly nonexistent expanded universe, and that they truly are Precursor-tier miserable experiences…Could it be that Bungie included them in the game to convey the consequences of Halo games actually making use of the rightfully ignored EU? After all, the inclusion of the lore requires storytellers to distract from their own story in order to recap relevant stories told in other media, and requires gamers to actually get off their consoles and (gasp) read for some time! Clearly, just clearly, the way Cortana Moments halt gameplay in its tracks is directly reflective of that.
Likewise, one should note the transition between the last two moments. There is significant rhetorical purpose here, which once again demonstrates the consequences and/or dangers of exposure to Halo’s lore.
“This place will become your home.”
Infer that the subject in reference by Cortana, “this place,” is actually the lore. Psychologically speaking, the mere existence of that vast wealth of radioactive knowledge which we refer to as the ‘Haloverse’ is enough to tickle our inmate sense of curiosity, and hook us onto a journey to learn as much as possible. Basically, the lore literally figuratively becomes our home.
“This place will become your tomb.”
Alas, this is where we witness the consequences of lore exposure. Once we’ve allowed our human curiously to be seduced by the expanded media, the subsequent lack of time to sleep, due to us churning time into reading, causes us to lose our job. Then, to continue our now immovable quest to know every corner of the universe, we churn out the remainder of our bank accounts in purchasing novel after novel and comic after comic. By that point, we’re broke and out of food. We then die, on the streets, freezing to death in the pale winter winds.
It’s certain now: Bungie didn’t create Cortana Moments to torture helpless gamers, but rather to warn them. The expanded universe was kept out of the games for a reason, and under close scrutiny, we can learn why. Avoid the lore at all costs. You will not survive. Bungie demands. And yet, with 343 insistent on giving people who actually took the time to explore the incredibly intricate universe in which Halo resides their fair share of catering, with Halo 4 making full use of the lore, we can only know one other thing—
The Recloremation has already begun…and we are hopeless to stop it.