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Halo 5 – 3 Reasons Cortana May Not Be Coming Back

/ Jul 16th, 2013 36 Comments

Cortana, faithful AI companion to Spartan 117 A.K.A. Master Chief, has sparked a lively debate amongst Halo fans in the months since Halo 4’s release. Will she be coming back or won’t she? It seems that Cortana, scantily-clad and full of sass, managed to charm her artificial way into the hearts of gamers everywhere. Now that she’s gone, the five stages of grief are nowhere more apparent than on a Cortana thread of a Halo fan forum.

Denial, Cortana can’t be dead She’s a critical part of the Halo storyline. Master Chief is going to find a way to bring her back. Anger, 343 Studios made a big mistake killing off Cortana. No one is going to want to play future Halo titles without her. Bargaining, Cortana can make fragments of herself, there has to be one hidden around somewhere and if there isn’t, there has to be a way to make another Cortana. Depression, the game won’t be the same without Cortana. Who could ever replace her? Acceptance, it was fun while it lasted. Maybe the developer could give Master Chief a younger, hotter sidekick? While many fans still mourn Cortana’s loss, others are beginning to contemplate a Halo future without Cortana and for 3 good reasons…

Reason One

Artistic Integrity has become a hot topic since the ending of Mass Effect 3. Many fans of the Mass Effect franchise felt slighted by it’s less than happy ending. Though BioWare was receptive to the fan campaign to get the ending changed going so far as to release DLC which modified and extended the multiple ending options, they stuck to their guns. The argument made by BioWare for Artistic Integrity poses an interesting question, can video games be considered art?

Merriam Webster defines art as “the conscious use of skill and creative imagination especially in the production of aesthetic objects; also : works so produced”. This can certainly be applied to video games as the gaming industry thrives on technological skill and creativity. If the goal of art is to make the viewer or reader feel something, good or bad, then the anger of fans post-Mass Effect would indicate that video games are steadily forging a place in the art world.

The death of Cortana at the end of Halo 4 did more than elicit an emotional reaction in fans, it performed an essential artistic function, it inspired conversation and more than that, caused fans to ask questions. Her loss caused the player to question the mortality and humanity of Master Chief. Viewing Master Chief’s grief at Cortana’s loss firsthand reminds the gamer that despite all his skills and training, he is not infallible and he will not always save the day. Creating a convoluted storyline about the Master Chief rescuing Cortana or a duplicate of Cortana being found would devalue Cortana’s death and negate all that it accomplished. Gamers would again be lulled into a false sense of security and forget that Master Chief is more than an elite killing machine.

Cortana from Halo 4

Cortana from Halo 4

Reason Two

The popularity of Spartan Ops Season 1 has shown that Halo fans have an interest in the world outside Master Chief and Cortana. With a successful series of novels a few movies and a television series in the works, Microsoft clearly has plans for the further development of the Halo franchise. Killing Cortana is a logical solution to prevent the storyline of future titles from becoming stagnant. Yes the gamer could continue killing Covenant aliens and saving the world with Cortana at their side as they’ve done in the last four Halo titles but how will we ever come to know Master Chief better unless we see how he interacts with other characters besides those currently in his UNSC comfort zone?

Cortana’s death leaves room for the introduction of new characters who through their interaction with Master Chief will give players a clearer picture of the man behind the Mjolnir. There are many characters auxiliary to the conflict between the Covenant, the Forerunners and the humans including other AI. Other alien races too have the technological capabilites of UNSC AI like the Huragok/Engineers, lovable methane filled balloon creatures we have yet to see in a Halo game. Yes we could keep the same old but wouldn’t new characters and missions related to those characters be more interesting and provide more room for plot development and character growth?

Reason Three

Bringing Cortana back without a cliched or complicated storyline poses some difficult problems. Creating a new Cortana would require the UNSC to reacquire Dr. Halsey. ONI issued the order to have Halsey executed in Spartan Ops Season 1 making her understandably reluctant to help the UNSC. Even if the UNSC chose to make another clone of Halsey’s brain, as Cortana points out to the Master Chief in Halo 4, a new AI might act and talk like Cortana but it wouldn’t be Cortana. Could Master Chief find a Cortana fragment somewhere? Fragments created by smart AI are left behind to perform specific tasks and are reintegrated by the AI once those tasks are completed. While the fragments may retain the general personality of the core AI, they are nowhere near as capable or intelligent as the core AI. Would fans really want to have Cortana back if she was only a hollow shell of her former self?

Ultimately, Cortana provided an emotional foil to Master Chief’s stoicism and it is probable we have not seen the last of Cortana. Future titles may choose to explore events prior to Cortana’s death but her death also provides fans with an opportunity to become more connected with Master Chief. While John-117 may never become the comrade in arms that other FPS games set their protagonists up to be, he has the potential to become more than the stalwart savior of humanity, he has the potential to become legend and it seems like 343 Studios understands that too.

Are you a Halo fan? What do you think about Cortana’s death and potential appearance in future Halo games? Sound off in the comments section below.

Master Chief and Cortana aboard the UNSC Infinity

Master Chief and Cortana aboard the UNSC Infinity

Alexandra Mangen
Alex is a nerd who "loves loves loves" gaming. She's a huge FPS gamer but also dabbles in RPGs and MMOs. If it's entertaining and well designed, she's game.
Alexandra Mangen
Alexandra Mangen

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36 responses to “Halo 5 – 3 Reasons Cortana May Not Be Coming Back”

  1. Walrus says:

    I really never cared for Cortana much in any Halo. Let er go.

  2. nativemuffin18 says:

    To me Cortana is gonna come back through halucinating from the MC’s point of view like Rick did with Lori in TWD.

  3. Japanese Nerd says:

    Maybe she make a come back in more of those somewhat annoying “Cortana Moments” we all remember from Halo 3.

  4. outlaw187 says:

    She will come back…but as a part of John but only in his head…only bc she told him tht he was not just a machine but more…so I think tht will play a big part in halo 5

  5. Daniel Percent says:

    Maybe this is when the Arbiter comes back in and sides up with 117….The elite community have all been waiting for a fantastic Halo with the main camera focused on the elites. The concept with the Arbiter coming back in to help out is just what Halo needs for a good story line in the next two games.

  6. Nathan Juan Smith says:

    cortana will come back but not in the way we want her too it will be a sad and some what tragic way i have a feeling that we wont be seeing her till the 6 game and i also have reasons to beleave that chiwf will give his life to bring her back as we all know john cant fight for ever but he will always be the savour no matter what and i am truly upset for this because halo is my favourit game not because of the multiplayer but because of the story and its beauty and how it pulled my heart strings and made me feel soo close too a character i never knew in the real world

    • Exare says:

      I ran out of breath reading this in my head. Your parasentence killed my brain.

      PS I agree with you. The Halo games have been a surprisingly emotional ride and to see Cortana and the Chief lose each other, it’ll bring the waterworks for sure.

    • dadiocoleman says:

      Do you use punctuation?

  7. Exare says:

    I wish I had a Cortana.

  8. tkk says:

    why do i even bothered in the first place, you’re a girl.

  9. serpx says:

    Just wanted to be the nerd that points out the Engineers do appear in a Halo game — Halo: ODST. But it’s okay, I don’t consider ODST a main Halo title if you want to mean it in that fashion. 🙂

  10. David Allen Mulkey says:

    I don’t want Cortana to come back. She was a main character in the old story line. This is a new trilogy. Master Chief will be forced to face his humanity for the first time in his life. I grew up on Halo. It was the first game my little brothers played. Bungie created a living, thriving universe. I don’t think (as fans) we want Halo to become a recreation of “Days of our Lives” in space. When someone dies they don’t come back. It’s reality.

  11. An Anonymous X says:

    She’s the new Librarian. I feel it is so.

  12. kris says:

    Did nobody pay attention to the dialogue in halo 4? The librarian clearly stated that they had found a way to take organic material and turn it into a digital form. She also explained that they were working on a way to reverse the process…. to turn digital form into organic mass.

    I think its a fairly reasonable assumption that the chief is going to look for a way to bring her back, and maybe even to turn her into an organic creature. She did say she always wanted to be able to touch him after all.

    Having her as an organic character would also allow for the progression of the story in terms of other players. She wouldn’t be able to go along with him so could form the same kind of relationship as otacon from metal gear solid. He was able to build up the basis of a relationship and form bonds with other characters.

    • ThomasBorger says:

      This makes the most sense to me. As long as Cortana’s an AI, they can’t keep developing the tension between them without it getting … weird. Plus, imagine how that changes their dynamic – they’re finally in physical space together, but there’s no way she can help him like she once could. She’d almost be a liability. How does that affect their partnership?

    • disqus_alPvUBtCwD says:

      cortana already turned into a physical being at the end its called Metastability its the theoretical fourth stage of rampancy, where an AI can be considered fully “human.” While a metastable AI can be considered to be the holy grail of cybernetics research, the only AIs who have possibly achieved metastability are 032 Mendicant Bias, Cortana and Juliana.

  13. Robert Reis says:

    After Halo 4 I kept thinking about how forerunners tried to turn themselves digital and when it failed they couldn’t come back intact. So I thought technically it sounds like the bringing back part works, just not the initial converting to digital. Therefore, we have an elegant solution to Cortana’s rampancy. Since it would seem Halsey won’t be viable in time to save Cortana (assuming she’s in Halo 5), the only other way to save her is making her flesh and blood with forerunner tech. I think just having this option in the storyline is way too tantalizing for a writer to give up.,, Thus Cortana is coming back, if only to be made human. Now I’d imagine this would fall late in the trilogy (if not at the end) and there’s obviously going to be some cost involved with this… probably (and unfortunately) it will cost Master Chief his life to “save her.”

    Just my 2 cents, but it all seems to be viable in the canon and fit the style of the Halo games… of course, that’s only in my head haha.

  14. Bob says:

    Leaving Cortana alive and expanding on their relationship might have been more interesting. They could’ve just expanded MC’s “away” missions when he and Cortana were just separated and MC worked with other characters on missions. They could’ve been more interactive with him instead of just shoot shoot shoot. They could’ve avoid her death and expanded the depth of MC’s personality in the series. They began to explore this in Halo 2/3. Why not resurrect her? So what if the critics and hard core fans don’t agree. Everyone doesn’t have to take such a hard approach like ME3 did to it’s fans in Shepard’s death. Maybe even bring Cortana to life somehow. Hey, why not? It’s the game/fantasy world. Why not make it more RPG’ish like ME3? Giving the players options in dialog used by MC? Veer away from being a straight shooter only game.

    • Kwagga says:

      I like where you going Bob! I couldn’t agree more with your statement! I’m what you’d call a really-really-casual gamer. I don’t even own an gaming console. But as per my previous post… I’d buy Xbox one, just to explore the deeper emotions, and relationship between Master Chief and Cortana… I can’t help but feel melancholy, and hope John-117 will experience love. Call me a hopeless romantic and a clichĂ©, but I believe love is what gives Human’s their compassion, their…Humanity. It’s illogical to think that a Solider fights for no reason, no cause. Sure John-117 was indoctrinated, and choice was removed from his hands, but he must be fighting for more than just the sake of fighting. He is fighting for, Humanity. But I hope he can reclaim his.

  15. FitsHisFace says:

    serpx is correct Engineers appear in Halo ODST. They are a major part of the gameplay. You have to save Virgil and protect him. He is an Engineer. You also have 2 achievements in the game centred around enginners. 1 to kill them all and 1 to save them all. They also appear in Halo Reach.

    That’s Halo CE, Halo 2, Halo 3, Halo ODST and Halo Reach. That’s 5 Halo games then came Halo 4.

    Great topic you have here and your correct it has all us Halo fans searching for answers. Here is how I see it. Cortana is a clone of Halsey. Halsey carries The Librarians geas (as all humans do, just more of it than anyone else).

    Halsey = Master Builder
    Cortana = The Librarian

    117 = The Didact

    The reclamation has begun………………………….

  16. kieran prenter says:

    343 really screwed up halo 4 as they didnt say what happened to the arbiter and y the elites are fighting unsc again also they should have at least mentioned the flood in some way e.g. general saying well done chief for finishing of the flood on halo. The ending was bad because of cortana especially as it has never been mentioned that she had a limit of how many years she had to live ( 8 years ) but it had been more than 8 years as you see her in halo reach also were theve been frozen for many years cortana doesnt freeze she lives on. so in conclusion the life span was idiotic and doesnt work from halos timeline, arbiter needs his story and so do the elites.

    • disqus_alPvUBtCwD says:

      The Fall of Reach happened in 2552, Cortana was put in service on November 7th, 2549 the year Halo 4 is set is 2557 and last I checked that difference is 8 years. There was enough info given about the elites you are fighting, they broke off from the other elites and are called the Storm covernant they are the ones that still believe in all that forerunners are our gods mumbo jumbo. The flood was mentioned in terminal along with lore about the librarian, Didact and the ancient humans. If u also expected them to have some reward ceremony crap for the master chief while he was on another planet fighting a new threat then you are a dumb ass. Also why refer to Thel’Vadam as the arbiter? Arbiter is a rank and it is not necessarily good to be ranked that because they get sent on suicidal missions to regain there honor, If you want to know more about Thel’Vadam then read Glasslands. Cortana will be back eventually maybe not in Halo 5 but probably Halo 6.

      • Alex says:

        Not to incur any wrath on myself but Thel’Vadam is back to being called The Arbiter by the Elites. It is referenced in the novels. He is still called Arbiter because to the Elites that is still one of their best titles and those that recognize what he did to uncover the prophets’ lies use it as a mark of honor.

  17. Gabe says:

    Engineers were in 4 I forget what mission but there is a reserve on infinity.

  18. Link-77 says:

    She’ll come back as a nut job psychopath, betcha. Think about it, whilst appeasing certain sectors of the core fan base, it’ll also add a whole new dynamic to the relationship that Cortana shared with the Chief. Also, agree with kris, she’ll return in an organic form. Can true love win out??? (this would have to handled extremely carefully as it could come across as mawkish or clichĂ©d)

  19. Kwagga says:

    I must say, I only recently stumbled upon Halo (Forward Unto Dawn Film) and I’m already hooked! I must say if the dev’s are going to expand on Master Chief and Cortana, and the epic love story – I’ll just have to buy myself an Xbox! – and I’m not even a gamer!

    I’ve watched the cinematics over and over, and it’s really an emotionally charged roller coaster. I can’t help but feel a deep sadness for Master Chief, and wish he would experience the essence of humanity…love.

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