Master Chief and Kratos Do A Whole Lot More Outside Fortnite
When these Spartans dance, the gods take note
My first reaction was shock. It was soon followed by intrigue. Kratos and Master Chief are flagbearers when it comes to driving PlayStation and Xbox console sales across the globe. At the steering wheel of God of War and Halo respectively, their shoulders bear burdens that far exceed the responsibilities of selling consoles. Kratos’ body is literally covered by the ashes of his dead family. Meanwhile, Master Chief is a faceless machine bred for combat. Few see him as the John he once was. And even Kratos hasn’t exactly come to terms with who he has become. Should the grim Ghost of Sparta and a green walking tank be reduced to equals among Fortnite’s snazzy personas and sentient pancakes in a battle to the finish?
It’s a good question. The part-time outing has incited all sorts of reactions. It has divided zealots, with some welcoming the move and others treating it as heresy. I won’t deny that I was among the latter at first. But eventually, I realized why Microsoft and Sony would even consider the move, let alone play along. With over 350 million players, Fortnite is a cultural phenomenon that shows no signs of stopping. Epic Games has tended to the flames that propelled the battle royale game to its lofty pedestal, catering to an audience that is as diverse as it is committed. 15.3 million players showed up for its showdown against Marvel villain Galactus.
It’s a testament to how well Epic Games knows its fanbase and how it doesn’t refrain from throwing rivalries aside to team up with some big names. Artists like Marshmello and Travis Scott have performed virtually to millions of loyal fans. From Marvel and DC to now PlayStation and Xbox, Fortnite is still going all out on big-name collaborations. The move exposes millions of hyper-casual gamers to some of the biggest names in the history of videogames. Sure, Fortnite lacks Halo’s tight gunplay or God of War’s visceral combat and powerful narrative. But it has the numbers and an addictive gameplay loop set in a breathing world that appeals to a demographic far larger than any game in the past.
With that out of the way, let’s see what these Spartans have gone up against in the past. From almighty gods to fleets of alien champions, they weren’t afraid to get their hands dirty.
Kratos — God of War
“If all of Olympus will deny me my vengeance, then all of Olympus will die!”
Full disclosure: I’ve never owned a PlayStation. My encounters with the divine embodiment of vengeance were always on a friend’s PSP or PlayStation console. Nonetheless, even a glimpse at the wreckage Kratos leaves in his wake is reason enough to fear him. Once a respected general, a cruel twist of fate leads to Kratos killing his family while under Ares’ (the then-Greek God of War) command. Their ashes cling on to Kratos, giving him an appearance “as pale as the moon,” a gut-wrenching stab of misery that he will never forget.
Themes of vengeance and sorrow permeate God of War. While its latest iteration does shift its focus towards the bond between father and son, previous games didn’t stray from the path of embedding slaughter deep into your muscle memory. Consumed by wrath, Kratos has faced everything from bizarre Greek creatures to the gods themselves in battle. However tilted the playing field was, all Kratos did was rip and tear until the deed was done. A mere mortal marked with destruction threw a significant portion of the divine Greek pantheon into disarray.
God-slaying involves a fair bit of tricky boss fights that freshen up the “kill everything getting in the way” experience. Hulking colossi and grotesque magical beings shape the very nature of the battlefield as they strive to best Kratos. The challenging battles that ensued gave action games a template to build upon across several console generations. Be it Poseidon’s hulking horses made of wild water torrents or the towering mass of muscle that constitutes Cronus, every engagement with the enemy is something to look forward to. In an age where fetch quests and daily tasks pepper games, God of War doesn’t just scratch the right itch. It cuts to the bone.
Master Chief — Halo
“I need a weapon.”
- Master Chief
Full disclosure: I’ve played every Halo game out there (yes, 5 was terrible). 20 novels in, the possibilities that Halo’s sci-fi canon presents to videogames are downright incredible. Over the course of numerous titles, there’s no denying the indelible impact the franchise has had on first-person shooters. Regenerating health and two-weapon loadouts are staples in the industry today but what really set Halo apart is what it once promised. And I’m not talking about its impeccable multiplayer component that kickstarted online multiplayer on consoles.
The scope of the campaigns’ sandbox-esque missions is made apparent right when you take an all-terrain Warthog for a spin. But underneath its bombastic trappings lies a sprawling sci-fi narrative of a tireless struggle between humanity’s finest and a grave intergalactic threat, bound with tactical gameplay and memorable character arcs. True, the protagonist is a man of few words. But when an alien armada is at humanity’s battered doorstep, the Chief’s trigger finger preaches with a golden shower of lead.
Having said that, Halo does have its solemn moments bereft of the bravado and swashbuckling action first-person shooters are known for. Halo: Reach pits hope against hope with notable characters dying left, right, and center, only for their sacrifices to pay off in the end. The unending swarm in Halo: Combat Evolved’s iconic Library mission is a desperate encounter I won’t forget in a hurry either. Couple that with some of gaming’s most iconic soundtracks and it’s no surprise why people still place their bets on Halo Infinite getting the timeless franchise back on track.
One doesn’t have to squint to see the gilded thrones these Spartans occupy in the hearts of gaming veterans. While Fortnite isn’t known for gritty combat or a potent narrative, it still serves as a portal that could draw in a new generation of casual gamers towards franchises that defined genres and defied expectations. After all, playing as irate Kratos or nearly wordless Chief is certain to evoke emotions, be it awe or nostalgia. Or a laugh (ouch). It’s a bold experiment that could certainly use some Spartan firepower. I can’t wait to see how this cultural juggernaut’s roster expands with time and how Fortnite expands as a medium of expression amidst unprecedented times.