He's one of gaming's most iconic heroes, but who is the voice behind Master Chief from the Halo franchise? It's almost easy to underestimate the impact Halo: Combat Evolved had on the first-person shooter genre during its release in 2001. The game arrived on the Xbox and innovations like limiting players to only two weapons at once or using shoulder buttons for grenades would soon become standard in the genre moving forward. The game also featured a rich, fleshed-out universe and lore.
It also introduced Master Chief himself, a supersoldier whose face is never revealed. Halo was a massive success for the Xbox, and the release of 2004's Halo 2 became a major event. The sequel expanded the universe further and it received acclaim upon release. The original trilogy wrapped up with Halo 3 in 2007 for the Xbox 360, though this was far from the end of the series. Director Neill Blomkamp was set to make his feature debut with a Halo movie after directing some well-received short films for the third game. Peter Jackson was set to produce, but when the project fell apart, Jackson instead produced Blomkamp's District 9 instead.
At this point, Halo's Master Chief ranks among Super Mario or Metal Gear's Solid Snake as one of gaming's most recognizable characters. Just like voice actor David Hayter's growly tones became inseparable from Snake, Master Chief's gruff voice became an important aspect of the character. Even more so, since his face is never seen. The man behind Master Chief's voice is Steve Downes, a now-retired DJ who had worked with developer Bungie on another title prior to Halo: Combat Evolved.
Downes was told Master Chief was a terse, Clint Eastwood in Fistful Of Dollars-style character who is a man of very few words. Steve Downes has since voiced Master Chief in every Halo game and will return for 2020's Halo Infinite. TV miniseries Halo 4: Forward Until Dawn featured a much younger version of Master Chief, and while it was originally planned to bring Downes back but de-aging his voice, the character was ultimately voiced by Alex Puccinelli instead.
Steve Downes has also exclusively played Master Chief throughout his voice acting career, aside from playing Peter Quill for an episode of The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes. While Master Chief is hardly the chattiest video game character, Downes has invested him with a lot of gravitas, and his relationship with A.I. Cortana formed an important emotional core for the series. Actor Pablo Schreiber (Den Of Thieves) is set to play Master Chief in Showtime's Halo show, which is due in 2021, so time will tell if he's able to project the character's gruff authority like Steve Downes can.