When the new Arbiter trailer for Killer Instinct arrived earlier this month, fans were quick to point out that it sounded like the iconic Halo anti-hero would not be voiced by Keith David in the fighting game. Now, Microsoft has confirmed that David, who has voiced the Arbiter in Halo games for years now, is not doing the voicework and explained why that is.
In a blog post, developer 343 Industries explained that Killer Instinct's Arbiter isn't exactly the same Arbiter from the Halo games--and this opens up new opportunities.
"We get it, we get it," 343 said. "The answer is that from pretty early on it was decided that to both make things easier from a fictional explainability perspective, as well as take full advantage of all the cool opportunities available in the Killer Instinct ecosystem, that it would be best to create a versatile 'could be anyone' Sangheili warrior for the role, while leveraging the obvious advantages that the familiarity of the Arbiter title and characterization might afford us.
"Just as countless Arbiters have faced impossible odds to represent the honor and glory of their people, this Arbiter was created to represent the glory and honor of the Halo universe against an impossible new challenge."
343 acknowledged that you might not buy this explanation -- but video games are crazy, man.
"How can we say all that with a straight face? Shut up is how," 343 said. "How does this explain why he's fighting a cyborg dinosaur in a Mediterranean oasis? Silence fool! How does this explain some very cool Easter eggs on a Sanghelios-inspired level? Shut your noisehole is how."
Halo franchise development director Frank O'Connor stressed that David will always be the true Arbiter--even if he's not voicing the character in Killer Instinct.
"[Keith] David of course, IS "The Arbiter" from the Halo game universe for all intents and purposes, and will continue to be as long as he'll have us," he said. "But in Killer Instinct, we wanted to create multiple visual variations of the combatant archetype in the classic fighting game style, and so we leaned heavily on the 'Hall of the Arbiters' concept from the games, where we see armors and costumes from historical Arbiters in a kind of mausoleum. So our KI Arbiter is in some ways an amalgam of Arbiters past, as well as more modern Sangheili warriors. And further, like Spartan Nicole-458 from Dead or Alive 4, it helped to insert a subtle canonical buffer between their game and ours, so that players aren't scratching their heads when the Covenant's historical champion is fighting a Battletoad in Chicago...
"I mean, not that there's anything wrong with that..."
For lots more on Arbiter's Killer Instinct appearance, moveset, release window, and more, check out this post.