When originally in development, Halo: Combat Evolved was not planned as a trilogy. However, following the critical and commercial success of the first title, a sequel became expected and, of course, Microsoft was more than keen to have a second major exclusive on the Xbox. Bungie got to work on Halo 2.
The developer had strong ideas for extending the story and gameplay experience that couldn’t fit into one game but that didn’t mean to intentionally end the campaign on such a cliff-hanger. Fans were left agonizing as the final cinematic ended so abruptly without warning. It may seem obvious now that we have Halo 5: Guardians and even Halo: The Master Chief Collection that the second instalment would not be the final game in the series, but that doesn’t mean a story should be left unfinished. Now, the game’s composer has finally spoken out about how Halo 2 was really supposed to end.
In a new interview as part of IGN Unfiltered, Marty O’Donnell decides that enough time has passed since the game’s original release, and he can finally unveil the truth of what was originally supposed to happen. The plan was not to cut to black after Master Chief’s dramatic line of “Sir, finishing this fight.” It turns out that players were not only supposed to find the Ark of the Covenant, but that there was supposed to be a final showdown with the player working alongside the Arbiter, who was then called the Dervish. This ending went further than just storyboarding, it even went so far as finalizing the performance with the cast.
“We actually recorded the original ending with the actors. So, I have that some place. If I went back through my archives, I bet you I could actually put together the ending scenario with Michael Wincott as the Prophet of Truth. Basically, you were supposed to go back to Earth City, find the Ark and at that point that was the Ark that opened up . . . that was where the Ark was, it wasn’t some other place. That thing on the Earth was where the Ark had been buried by the Covenant and the Prophet of Truth had come back to there and the ending was you and the Dervish chasing the Prophet through the Ark and having a grand and glorious conclusion on Earth, finishing the fight right there on Earth.”
O’Donnell told IGN’s Ryan McCaffrey that it was “so painful” for him and the rest of the team at Bungie when word was received that everything would have to be re-written – throwing out what had been devised out and creating the cliffhanger that would make it into the final game. It’s worth noting that he doesn’t cite any pressure from the publishers in making the changes, just that it came impossible to do, so the plan changed and things got ‘re-jiggered’.
So if the recordings of the actors performing this original ending actually exist, will we ever see it put together? It would make for some great fan service or even a pretty special Master Chief Collection DLC. These kind of secrets behind the curtain of game development are fascinating. Sometimes it’s an alternative plot or it could even be a completely cancelled game, like the lost Superman game footage that was uncovered. What other secrets are developers hiding from us?