If ODST showed the Halo series could survive without Master Chief taking centre stage, Reach shows that planetary defence would probably go a lot smoother if he did. In his stead are the six-strong Noble team, a band of rugged SPARTANS dutifully tasked with driving warthogs, using melee attacks and being far too cool to ever look at any the many explosions they cause.
And, yes, Noble Team are a competent alternative to the stoic, one-man-army antics of Master Chief, the squad often going about their business by splitting off into smaller groups and kicking naughty Covenant bottoms. When it comes to acting as a posse of AI sidekicks, they certainly know how to get the job done. But Halo: Reach is billed as an emotional experience, and Noble Team have about as much collective personality as a bag of potatoes with faces drawn on. Watching their tumultuous downfall carries absolutely no sentimental weight whatsoever.
Part of this comes from one of the biggest examples of dramatic irony practiced in recent years. Reach's downfall is preordained, and its very destruction segues into the opening sequences of the original Halo: Combat Evolved. Given that Master Chief was introduced as the last surviving SPARTAN, you know Noble Team's activities aren't going to go exactly to plan.
This doesn't translate to an experience anything less than stellar, but if you bought into the belief of Reach showing the emotions of those giant superhumans, the ones living underneath those shiny visors, your expectations will need to be readjusted. Their role in the game is staunchly as support, with all their supposed expertise and offensive potency going up in a puff of smoke whenever the black bars roll away and the shooting begins.
Jorge is the useful one, a thunderous man-mountain who struts around with a minigun and actually manages to Get Things Done. On the other end of the scale you have Emile, who's all bark and no bite: the skull painted onto the front of his visor hides the fact he's utterly useless the one time he takes to the stage. In the middle you have chatty sniper Jun and the po-faced seriousness of deputy Kat and bossman Carter.
They all exist to make way for you, however. Noble Six, whose only identifiable shred of personality comes from getting chewed out at the start of the game for having some lone wolf tendencies in his top-secret file. Six's background is classified, and his opportunities to speak are scant. He, like Master Chief, is almost entirely a blank slate, existing solely to facilitate the player's submersion in the world.