Halo 2's Cliffhanger Ending Wasn't the Original Design, Composer Says

Bungie's 2004 shooter originally had a much more definitive ending before things changed.


The story for 2004's Halo 2 ended on a serious cliffhanger, and not all fans were happy about it. Now, Marty O'Donnell, one of Bungie's most veteran employees before he was fired in 2014, has spoken up to discuss the way the story was originally intended to conclude.

He says in an interview with IGN that Bungie's original vision for Halo 2's ending involved Master Chief finding the Ark of the Covenant on Earth. He then fought alongside the character Dervish (now known as the Arbiter) to vanquish the Prophet of Truth.

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The game would have had a "grand and glorious" conclusion, finishing the fight on Earth right then and there. Bungie even recorded all the dialogue before the decision was ultimately made to go a different direction. O'Donnell says he even still has the original script somewhere in his archives.

Why change it? O'Donnell said it was necessary to get the game out the door on time. "It was so painful for me and for everybody at Bungie to throw that all out. We just couldn't finish the plan, it was just impossible So, everything got re-jiggered, and we had the cliffhanger to end all cliffhangers."

This isn't the first time someone who worked on Halo 2 has spoken about the game's lackluster ending. In 2007, Halo writer Frank O'Connor said, "We drove off [a cliff] Thelma & Louise style. The trick is to avoid...writing by committee."

Also at the time, Bungie engineer Chris Butcher was blunter.

"We had about four to five weeks to polish Halo at the end...[but] we had none of that for Halo 2," he said. "We miscalculated, we screwed up, we came down to the wire and we just lost all of that. So Halo 2 is far less than it could and should be in many ways because of that. It kills me to think of it."

GameSpot's Halo 2 review from 2004 specifically called out the cliffhanger ending.

"Easily the worst part about the story is the way it ends, insofar as it doesn't," we said in our review back then. "You'll run into this game's cliff-hanger ending like a compact car into a brick wall, and you'll certainly be left aching for more."

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