Hi! So in this post I am going to analyze the way that Spartan armor in the four numbered Halo games help to establish the themes of each game. It should be fun.
In the first game, the Spartan armor is very sleek and futuristic, with clear references to motorcycle armors in the head and boots to really sell the “Combat Evolved” subtitle of the game. Master Chief is meant to be the future of warfare, more compact, deadly and elegant than a tank. The belt is a subtle touch, looking far more similar to the purple metallic coils present in Covenant architecture than anything else created by humans in the series. Master Chief overall looks quite similar to the Covenant; emphasizing how different he is to the brown, squared-off armor-clad marines.
In Halo 2, several massive changes can be seen. Every part of the armor is more textured and covered in detail; his inner thighs show industrial venting, his boots are covered in detailed armor, and his helmet looks less like a motorcycle helmet and more like industrial shielding. Halo 2’s version of the Spartan armor evokes a tank on legs; a powerhouse of deadly force far more at home in a desert than on an alien spaceship. The armor’s notable emphasis on practicality over sleekness is fitting, as Master Chief spends much of the second game defending Earth. His armor makes him appear more a product of this need for defense; a protector of humanity than an agent of its space militia.
Less has changed between these games, but the armor is notably less banged up than it was in the previous game. It is more golden and very reflective; this is Master Chief at his best, in a new system with all-new graphical capabilities and shiny new armor. While it may not be very noticeable just from the pictures, much less of the surface area of this armor is covered in industrial detailing than the previous ones; such that when I first saw footage of the game’s multiplayer, I thought that the textures were unfinished. In retrospect, this is the best looking armor so far, reflective of the level of polish put into the game. By toning down the curvature of the first armor and the detailing of the second, Bungie helps to sell the game as the ultimate Halo experience.
Then they made Reach, which tried a lot of new things, much of which was extremely successful. While that game no doubt deserves discussion, it was marketed with a variety of Spartan armors rather than the classic Mjolnir base armor made iconic by the numbered games. Thus I will be skipping to Halo 4.
Halo 4 made the most drastic changes since Halo 2, reflecting the switch to a different developer and the start of a new trilogy. Every aspect of the armor was completely redesigned, and the end result is a more bulky and imposing version of the character, as seen in the second picture. In Halo 4 Master Chief is more alone than he has been in previous games, spending much of the campaign exploring the world of Requiem with minimal assistance from the military. As such Master Chief is depicted as a much more self-reliant figure, with ornate armor more reminiscent of a knight than that of an armored soldier. This also matches his new role in the game’s universe as a hero who ended the war with the Covenant and the Flood, and subsequently went missing for years. His armor is more knightly because he is now a relic of the past rather than the future of armed combat.