October 5, 2008

Old Familiar Feeling: Aliens

> — Valor @ 5:00 pm

A detailed account of how the beloved science fiction of Aliens influenced the Halo trilogy.

In 2006, Gamespot asked Jaime Griesemer, “What were the inspirations for [Halo’s] mythology?” The Bungie designer for Halo: Combat Evolved and design lead for Halo 2 answered that among other sources, “For movies, obviously there is a big Aliens influence.” [i]

So, how did Aliens influence Halo?

Well, to answer that question, a brief summary is in order for the science-fictionally deprived.  Aliens is a 1986 action-heavy sci-fi film directed by James Cameron.  “A sequel to the 1979 film Alien, Aliens […] is regarded by many film critics as a benchmark for the action and science fiction genres.  In Aliens […] Ellen Ripley returns to the planet LV-426 where she first encountered the hostile Alien. This time she is accompanied by a unit of Colonial Marines.” [ii] Beyond the first two films there were other sequels in the series, directed by neither Ridley Scott (Alien) nor Cameron and aren’t of much interest to us in this article.

Certainly the tone of Aliens versus that of the Halo trilogy as a whole is drastically different.  If Aliens is the gritty space combat flick, Halo is the brightly colored Star Wars-esque space opera, complete with its own cyborgian Jedi who single-handedly dispatches villains by the legion.   However, in Aliens, even when Ripley and the big bad Colonial Marines come knocking with their futuristic boomsticks they find themselves reduced to prey.

This tonal difference between the franchises is perhaps most keenly felt in the contrast of their villains.  Aliens’ antagonists, “Xenomorphs,” are the more “believable” and realistic of the two.  Halo’s evil alien conglomeration, the “Covenant,” and the horrific zombie spawning, “Flood,” are comic-bookish by comparison.  Then again, it’s much easier to sell a single, silent, animalistic species that crawled out from under some rock as “believable” than an entire cast of alien races with society and culture, bent on galactic domination in big purple spaceships.

[Continue to Part One]

Note: It should be stated in advance that Valor is a guest writer and that the following is a work of his own doing, based on his own opinions. The work and the opinions expressed here are not necessarily those of the Ascendant Justice site, staff or owner.


  1. Cool article. It reiterated all of the things I had noticed about the similarities between Halo and Aliens. Driving the Warthog through the first cave in Halo: CE and when you’re escaping the Pillar of Autum reminded me of when the APC was in the facility in Aliens.

    One thing I thought was different was how the assault rifle looked. The assault rifle in Halo reminds me of the starship in Aliens and was one of the first things I noticed about it when I first bought Halo back in 2001. Maybe Bungie did that on purpose or it’s just me.

    Another interesting thing was that Master Chief awakes from cryo like the colonial marines do in Aliens. Both pods open the same way too.

    I also liked the similarity between the schematics for the atmosphere re-processor and the trip mine. Both objects blow up and have a wide damage radius.

    Comment by MC Warhammer — October 5, 2008 @ 5:41 pm

  2. I knew most of these similarities, but when you put it all down on paper, it almost looks like a straight up jack.

    Also you missed one.. 3rd pic from the bottom on part 3: Marines KEEP IT CLEAN!!

    Comment by huskerblackshrt — October 6, 2008 @ 12:55 pm

  3. Haliens!

    Comment by c0ld vengeance — October 6, 2008 @ 1:07 pm

  4. Glad you noted Shawn Elliot’s mention after the Live Action trailer.
    He’s not at 1up anymore though..

    Comment by Zeouterlimits — October 6, 2008 @ 2:46 pm

  5. Aha! So im not as crazy as all my friends say i am!

    Its pretty obvious that Halo took from Aliens, And I think thats starting to come around the other way.

    I recently heard from my Uncle, who actually works at Gearbox, where they are developing the new Aliens game, That they were looking into a veriety of sources for Creative Influence. One of the franchises they were looking at, ironically, was Halo.

    What goes around comes around,Huh?

    Comment by Desert Rat — October 6, 2008 @ 7:15 pm

  6. Well… I’m not surprised, I knew it, the subtle hints, and when I bought Aliens on DVD you could just see it. Heck, they just ripped Aliens and added a bit more. Could be called a compliment, if we watch the way the Aliens universe is going…

    Comment by Shadow_of_Manhattan — October 6, 2008 @ 9:29 pm

  7. Never seen Aliens before, so this was pretty interesting.

    Think you’re stretching it with some of the in game/ in movie dialogue comparison. If someone says ‘I’ve got a bad feeling,’ half the population of the world would reply ‘You always have a bad feeling’. Granted, this may be ripped off from Aliens as well, but I say this and I’ve never seen the movie. And ‘dustoff’ isn’t a common term? I dunno.

    Assault rifles might be stretching it a bit too… They’ve gotta have triggers… And a pointy end…

    Comment by Sierra Bravo — October 7, 2008 @ 5:30 am

  8. Thanks for the comments guys.

    Sierra Bravo,

    I went out of my way to say that I didn’t think the AR was visually similar to the Pule Rifle, as some claim. I did speculate that the digital ammo counter was probably inspired by the Pulse Rifle though.

    Comment by Valor — October 7, 2008 @ 11:29 am

  9. Everything on this site is facinating. everything i read on this site leave my mind full of questions and hypothesis’s(if thats a word). i hopr to read your insights on the halo universe for a long time!

    Comment by compoo14 — November 5, 2008 @ 4:25 am

  10. Very nice analysis. I am particularly amused by the “Old Familiar Feeling” banner at the beginning.

    Comment by Dragonclaws — December 12, 2008 @ 7:00 pm

  11. Very interesting, I’ve seen Alien and Aliens before and noticed some similarities but this really hits home. I agree though that, especially with respect to science fiction, all new works take from previous works. “Authentic” content is rare these days, and the Alien series really just did an outstanding job of portraying a future-esque atmosphere and environment. Despite these similarities, the Halo series is genuine in that it delves into a different plot and story than Alien. It’s unsurprising that, given the personality of the Bungie staff, comic references and homage are paid to the Alien films. If Aliens stole from “everybody,” then Halo did too. =)

    An excellent article Valor – look forward to reading more of them.

    Comment by Thee MC — December 21, 2008 @ 11:24 am

  12. I do hope that halo remains one of the most in depth, comprehensive universe ever imagined in all media. I do believe that other games or films or any other form of entertainment will be inspired by the halo universe, but I don’t believe that their stories will expand as wide as halo’s.

    Comment by Chaz — January 4, 2009 @ 7:08 am

  13. Hmm… in the last picture with the “Jonesy” poster, it also has a poster that says ‘Keep it Clean!’
    I wonder how long Bungies been keeping that one up their sleeve?

    Comment by el davo rox — March 1, 2009 @ 3:49 am

  14. I always thought the Flood’s infectious forms looked like face-huggers…
    I did think the dropship comparison was a tad strange, though. All aircraft (or spacecraft, as the case may be) follow a certain shape, and the cockpit is generally at the front sos the the pilot can see where they’re flying and not, say, smash into a mountainside every flight. Wings or airfoils are generally located further forward of center unless it’s a craft designed for very high speed, and sci-fi creators generally add protrusions even if airfoils aren’t needed just so the audience sees a familiar shape. Dropships like those in Aliens and in Halo are simply analogous to amphibious landing craft combined with helicopters, so I’d expect them to be common to sci-fi where teleportation of some sort isn’t preferred.
    The prominent blue in Halo could be from Aliens, sure, but it could also be from Microsoft, too. Think of how much blue they use for every possible application, whether it be on a computer or in a commercial. Or could it simply be that certain colors mean certain things in sci-fi: just as glowing green is somehow always radioactive, perhaps cool blue is high-tech? Possibly?
    Also, to be fair, there are so many stories with a mysterious, ancient, advanced race now gone that it’s become a staple of sci-fi, and of myth in general (Atlantis?), to write in such a race.
    The rest of the aesthetic resemblance between Aliens and Halo was pretty close, though, especially with the Marines.
    By the way, probably since I’m a Star Wars nut, “I’ve got a bad feeling (about this),” elicits an entirely different response from me. Oh well.

    Comment by TheAsterisk! — April 6, 2009 @ 5:39 am

  15. …… pretty funny

    Comment by Odiua — May 17, 2009 @ 7:27 pm

  16. I am a great fan of the first-person-shooter Halo. I really didn’t expect the Halo franchise to go for a strategy game. I personally like Red Alert 3, so Halo Wars seemed a fantastic idea for me. All I can say is that this game is for those who love strategy games – although I prefer the PC for them as the mouse makes them easier to play.

    Comment by PS3 — July 1, 2009 @ 9:10 am

  17. There are some similarity but on the whole I think what’s been pointed out is stretching it a bit far.

    Also, flood infection form are much larger than a football. They are shown in game to be as large or larger than a man’s head. Also, the biology is much different from xeno facehuggers. Infection forms are soft bulbous things with numerous tentacles that pop when forcibly hit.

    And the fleshy sacs that contain infection forms are much larger than xenomorph eggs. They are seen from a distance in the picture, not to mention you see them from the perspective of a somewhat colossal human(6’10” and weighs half a ton when in his armor).

    The military dialogue I also find to be somewhat forced, as if you went to a real military and heard such utterances, would you be convinced they too were taking it from the show? I think it’s more along the lines of dialogue reflecting what you would actually hear.

    Just my opinions though. I also think it would do well to show differences along with the similarities, such as the differences in the flood. The gravemind being a sentient hivemind that culminates knowledge from the sentient creatures it absorbs with the infection form, and the “pure” flood which can change between different forms. As well as the elites being more akin to human anatomy(in regards to flesh and bone, rather than structure), rather than being like xenomorphs who have exoskeletons. For instance.

    There’s also the whole thing about the halo and its six brother rings that get rid of all sentient life that the forerunners built and used to sacrifice themselves to stop the flood. But I guess that import part of the plot doesn’t matter as much when you’re only looking for similarities?

    Also, I don’t think the character models look like who you think they do. They’re blocky, poorly lighted character models, they could look like anyone. It’s also of note that Sgt Johnson didn’t have a cigar in the first game. I don’t seem to remember him having a cigar in the second game either. Curious that you choose the third game to depict him.

    Alright, I’ve said enough. Probably too much. Eh.

    Comment by GraveProteus — January 15, 2010 @ 3:39 am

  18. Interesting article.

    Anyway, I think comparing dialogue is pretty dumb, EVERY game on the market today reference various movies, books and other popular culture items. I would think that a lot of the dialogue that resemble, is intentional and not something that has “unconciously” been stolen from Alien.

    A lot of other things resemble, but I for one think quite a lot of what you’ve dicovered are discovered the same way as conspiracy theorists discover their theories, by finding evidence where there really is none.

    Was a good read though!

    Comment by Ivar — February 8, 2010 @ 4:46 am

  19. Great article – a lot of excellent comparisons.
    I think it’s important to mention the influence of Robert Heinlein’s original “Startship Troopers” novel on both the “Aliens” Colonial Marines and the Spartan’s powered armour in Halo. The Mobile Infantry were the earliest badass armoured spacetroops I know of, and the book came out in the 1950’s. The CM’s in “Aliens” capture the tone of Heinlein’s characters much more than the MI in the Paul Verhoeven movie.

    Comment by PaladinX155 — February 17, 2010 @ 9:58 am

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