Warning: This post contains some widely known albeit significant spoilers for Halo: Reach and Left 4 Dead 2’s “The Sacrifice” campaign.
Anyone at all familiar with the lore of Bungie’s Halo franchise already knows the fate of the Spartan heroes of Halo: Reach. Not a single Spartan makes it off Reach alive save the Master Chief, savior of the universe. Similarly, Left 4 Dead 2 fans already know Bill’s fate, the grizzled old man of the first Left 4 Dead, before playing through “The Sacrifice,” the game’s latest DLC that features the campaign that leads to his fateful demise. Knowing the tragic outcome of both Halo: Reach and “The Sacrifice” allows players to experience a unique and potentially powerful finale. Yet, in arriving at their respective conclusions, Reach and “Sacrifice” both take significantly divergent paths, each of which has its own strengths and weaknesses.
Knowing their audience would (by and large) be aware of the fall of Reach, Bungie flaunted the imminent threat of death throughout their game. Reach creates dramatic tension by having players wonder not if the Noble Team crew will die, but how and when. The titular planet is utterly enveloped by Covenant forces. The amount of slaughter visited upon Reach and its denizens is readily apparent in nearly every level. The tone of the entire game is somber, contemplative, and bleak. If it were not for existing knowledge about the Master Chief’s fate, I dare say that few players would walk away from Reach inspired to continue the Halo experience. And rightfully so—there are more than a few occasions where all hope seems lost for Noble Team.