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|“||I do not remember my name. I do not remember my family. I do not remember my home. But I can remember the game. We played it every day. And I never lost. The game... It's the only thing I can remember about the life I had before I met Doctor Halsey. Since then, I have experienced a lifetime of combat. Through thirty years of war against alien aggressors... I have always known my fate. I knew someday I would die in battle. But now that it is here... now that it is time to die... I find I am not ready.||„|
|~ John reflects upon his life and fate.|
Master Chief Petty Officer John-117 is a Spartan-II commando of the UNSC Naval Special Warfare Command who became one of the most important UNSC heroes during the Human-Covenant war. With over thirty years of active duty, he has become one of the most decorated war veterans in the United Nations Space Command, earning every known UNSC medal except the Prisoner of War Medallion. His goal is to save humanity from hostile alien races. John-117 is the protagonist and main playable character in both the Halo trilogy and Reclaimer Saga.
He was voiced by Steve Downes, David Wald in Halo Legends, and Alex Pccinelli in Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn.
John is only ever referred to by name once in the Halo trilogy of games: by Cortana in the ending cutscene of Halo 3 prior to the credits. In Halo 4 -the beginning of the Reclaimer Saga, both Catherine Halsey and Cortana refer to him by name twice. Humans generally refer to him as the "Master Chief", "Chief" for short, or "Sierra-117". The Covenant, aware of the lethality of the Spartans, refer to John exclusively as "Demon".
However, after the Great Schism and the Sangheili alliance with the UNSC, both Thel 'Vadam and Rtas 'Vadum alternatively referred to him as "Spartan". Forerunner enemies and their AI constructs generally refer to John as "Reclaimer", although they seem to use this term in reference to all humans, and not John specifically. Interestingly, the Ur-Didact in his apparent disdain for humanity, chose to curtly address John as "human". However, after John had successfully infiltrated his way into Mantle's Approach, the Ur-Didact chose to refer to him more respectfully as "warrior" before their final confrontation atop the light bridge.
The personality of John is explored much more deeply in the books than the games. This is in order that players can more easily project their own personalities onto John-117.
As a child, John strove to win at any situation, at all costs. This seems to have been a part of his character even prior to his conscription to the SPARTAN Program, as he pushed himself to win at any game he played, including chess, gravball or King of the Hill. As his career progressed, he transformed his desire to achieve personal victory to a desire to achieve victory for his squad and, by extension, humanity as a whole.
John is tenacious to complete any mission at hand, and often disregards his personal safety in order to win. Indeed, he has often emerged victorious from situations many would consider impossible. Though even a Spartan is not devoid of fear, John simply acknowledges it and puts it aside, while never openly showing it. He is not shy about expressing caution, however, as shown in his first encounter with the Gravemind. John is generally stoic and taciturn, but not devoid of a sense of humor. He often makes dry remarks about the situation at hand, but this seems to be more frequent when interacting with Cortana than anyone else, such as other Spartans.
John is also known as a man of his word and will strive to keep any promise he makes, even at great personal risk. As he was forced to leave Cortana behind on High Charity, John promised to come back for her after dealing with the Prophet of Truth. Cortana chided him not to make a promise when he knew he couldn't keep it. However, despite incredible odds, John did keep his promise, as he fought his way through the Flood into High Charity to retrieve her. Upon finding her, Cortana was in a weak and damaged state. Nearing rampancy, John-117 told her, "You know me. When I make a promise…" to which Cortana replied "You keep it." This encouragement gave her the strength to compose herself after enduring the mental tortures of the Gravemind. John holds great personal respect for his trainer and mentor Chief Petty Officer Mendez, as well as Dr. Halsey, who he considers a mother-like figure. He appears to deny Halsey's claims about his extraordinary luck at several points in the Halo Legends episode "The Package."
In a strange twist of fate, one of John's closests friendships was with the construct Cortana, an artificial intelligence "born" from the mind of Dr. Halsey herself. Cortana was initially assigned to him for his mission to capture the Covenant Prophets. Despite some initial hesitation towards working with an AI out of fear of conflicting directives, John and Cortana quickly formed a formidable team and John realized quickly that Cortana would be a great help instead of a liability. The two's relationship evolved from a partnership to a close friendship over the course of Halo: Combat Evolved, due both the duration of the mission and the life-or-death situations they struggled through. During their adventures, John showed absolute trust in Cortana, believing in her even when Lord Hood was unsure of her reliability, being willing to trust her enough to risk Earth on her word that she had a way to stop the Flood. The two also had similar personalities: they both had a propensity to blow things up, with John commenting he wasn't sure which one of them was better at it.
The pair also tended to enjoy executing high risk plans. After Cortana explained to John his strategy to use a disabled bomb to blow up a Covenant Carrier was crazy, he offered to leave her behind. Instead, she quipped, "Unfortunately for us both, I like crazy." When Cortana begins to go rampant, John becomes desperate to find a way to save her. Her absolute loyalty to him is shown when she restrains the Ur-Didact to save him, telling The Didact when he asks why she's helping humanity "I'm not doing this for mankind," showing she's helping out of loyalty to John. Cortana sacrifices herself to save John and he is clearly devastated by her "death," though he gets to say a goodbye to her in which she can finally touch him, something she has always wanted to do.
Although John has difficulty understanding the 'undisciplined' lifestyle of civilians, he is fiercely protective of their lives and humanity as a whole. The mass slaughter of civilians at the hands of the Covenant was enough to drive even the stoic John into a cold rage. After the massacre of Draco III, John and his Spartans remained on-site until every Covenant soldier responsible for the atrocity was dead.
John is known to show an exceptional care for soldiers under his command, while at times viewing them as a liability rather than an asset (more out of fear and concern for them than for himself). By 2552, after his experiences on Halo, John acknowledged to Corporal Locklear that, armor and enhancements aside, there was little difference between a 'normal' soldier and himself. This is not to say that John was previously without compassion. During the Battle of Installation 04, when searching for the survivors of the Pillar of Autumn, a Marine named Fitzgerald was wounded by an Unggoy with a Needler. John-117 retrieved a first aid kit and expertly treated the wound, taking time to ask the Marine if he was alright. By 2552, most members of the UNSC held "John-117" in complete awe, even among his Spartan comrades. His exploits and prowess quickly made him a legend in his own time, and his mere presence on a battlefield was enough to inspire the hope of victory regardless of the odds.
Despite his life of military indoctrination, John is not entirely submissive to command. On multiple occasions John has directly disobeyed protocol, and even superior officers that contradicted what he personally thought was right. On the UNSC Gettysburg during Operation: FIRST STRIKE, Dr. Halsey decided to test his morality by giving him two data chips, one containing information regarding Avery Johnson's immunity to the Flood, which would surely lead to his dissection by ONI with little chance of replicating his immunity. The other was missing this data, and John originally planned to sacrifice his friend in accordance with directive, but realized that one man can make a difference, and crushed the complete record into dust.
Later in 2557 when John and Cortana made their way aboard the UNSC Infinity, after Cortana's rampant outburst surprising everyone in the room, Captain Andrew Del Rio acted on his resentment of John-117 for questioning his orders to flee Requiem and subsequently ordered that Cortana be destroyed. Before Commander Lasky could retrieve her, without hesitation John did so first, displaying his unflinching loyalty to Cortana, and that not even the UNSC would stop him from doing everything in his power to save her. Del Rio personally ordered John to hand her over, but he refused, responding, "no, sir." After the infuriated Captain ordered his arrest, Commander Sarah Palmer refused to act, and John-117 promptly left Infinity in a Pelican Gunship to stay behind on Requiem to stop the Didact.
John's age is affected by the same ambiguities as all beings who undergo extended voyages through space. By technical human Earth years, John is approximately 46 years old in 2557; this provides an upper limit of sorts - he is no older than 46. However, during the 27 Earth years that he has spent fighting the Covenant, considerable time was spent in slipspace. He also spent four years, seven months, and ten days in cryonic stasis stranded aboard the UNSC Forward Unto Dawn from 2552 to 2557. The aging process is slowed in slipspace by cryonic stasis chambers; in which cellular aging can be halted almost completely.
Also, one could expect that individuals participating in slipspace travel might be subject to the time dilation associated with travel at relativistic speeds, so there could be more discrepancy involved there as well. It should also be noted that while no direct correlation can be made between his age and the events on Requiem, there exists the possibility that when the Librarian altered John's evolutionary process, it may have affected the aging process as well as a number of other physiological functions within him. All these factors contribute to a very mixed and inaccurate estimation of his age.
Until the release of Halo 4, John-117's face has never been seen in the games, and therefore his appearance is left mostly to one's imagination. The novels Halo: The Fall of Reach and Halo: The Flood give some insight to John's appearance. Early in Halo: The Fall of Reach, when Dr. Catherine Halsey and Lieutenant Jacob Keyes go to Eridanus II to observe John as a child, he is described as "a typical six-year-old male, with tousled brown hair and a sly smile that revealed a gap between his front teeth." In Halo: The Flood, referring to John in 2552, he is described as having "Short hair, with serious eyes, a firm mouth, and a strong jaw." He is described as being unnaturally pale, a consequence of spending most of his time in his armor.
In the ending cutscene of Halo: Combat Evolved, John takes off his helmet, and the camera pans upward, leaving the head obscured by the ship window frame as he sets the helmet to his side. Some people have used Halo: Custom Edition development mode to move the camera. However, Bungie's 3D artists did not produce a separate character model for this occasion, just a separate helmet model; if the animation is viewed from inside the ship, it appears as if John takes off his helmet, revealing an identical helmet underneath. Players have also found an Easter Egg in the Halo 3 Beta. Using a Mongoose, players can reveal what looks like a face in a Spartan's helmet. However, Bungie has confirmed that this is Marcus R. Lehto's face, not John's.
For the first time, John's face was shown without a helmet in Halo: Helljumper Issue 1. The comic illustrated the fight between John and four ODSTs. As expected, his face is seen from the side and is covered up in shadow, hiding any specific facial features.
John's face can be seen clearly on the front cover of Halo: Fall of Reach - Boot Camp Issue One as a six year old child.
In Bungie's Happy Halodays 2010 holiday card, the back of John-117's head can be seen since he is not wearing his helmet, in which he has dark brown hair.
Franchise development director Frank O'Connor gave a description of Master Chief's appearance on October 9 in an interview with GameTrailers: “an older man, almost painfully pale, almost albino white, with pale blue eyes, reddish hair, close cropped to a skin head, and maybe the last remnants of freckles he had when he was a kid.” He also confirmed that Halo 4 would not actually depict Master Chief's appearance. This, however, is somewhat false, since in the Legendary ending of Halo 4, in the end of the epilogue, John is shown walking into a large hall which consists of Spartan-IVs, and has his armor removed. As his helmet is removed, the camera pans into his eyes so a part of his face is shown, consisting of the description given by Frank O'Connor.
- Named eight greatest video game character ever by Electronic Gaming Monthly.
- Master Chief Battles in Chicago against the covenant on the Cover of Halo 2. He recently visits the city in the whole franchise including the Trailers.