After four years adrift in space, Cortana awakens John-117 to investigate a disturbance on the Forward Unto Dawn.
Dawn is the first campaign level of Halo 4 and takes place aboard the wreckage of the UNSC Forward Unto Dawn, as it is heading directly for Requiem. This mission re-introduces John-117 and Cortana, and is the first appearance of the Covenant Remnant faction.
The level starts with John being awakened by Cortana due to some unknown activity aboard the ship. John is sent to investigate. As he looks around he discovers Covenant searching the ship and after dispatching them he finds out that there is an entire Covenant fleet assaulting and that the Dawn is being pulled inside the Forerunner planet Requiem. Cortana directs Chief to activate the Hyperion missiles to get rid of the Covenant Cruiser, John does so but has to fire them manually. The Cruiser gets destroyed and John runs for the escape pods as the Dawn is still being pulled inside Requiem. But John doesn't make it and is sucked into Requiem along with the rest of the UNSC Foward Unto Dawn.
Several ship parts are floating in space in a tight group.
2557 - FOUR YEARS AFTER HALO EVENT
As the largest part comes into closer view, the name "Forward Unto Dawn" becomes visible. Cut to the inside of the ship. An automated message is playing.
- Cortana: "Mayday, mayday mayday. This is UNSC FFG-201 Forward Unto Dawn requesting immediate evac. Survivors aboard. Prioritization code Victor zero five dash three dash Sierra one one seven."
Scene shifts through in the ship as several ship parts float in the ship. Scene shifts to a core room, which starts shaking. Suddenly, a visible scan line appears that moves through the ship, scrambling some of the still active electronic parts. Scene continues to move, entering the cryoroom. A bright blue light is visible at the far end of the room. The light source is shown to be a sphere of blue light on an AI pedestal. As the ship shakes again, the sphere disappears as blue light shines on the pedestal, replaced by the figure of Cortana sitting down.
Cortana gasps and looks around. She stands up. A hologram appears in front of her, with the words "UNSC" visible on the top left. She starts moving things around. Cortana begins searching desperately, shaking her head and looking visibly scared. She reaches a status report, with red circles outlining hull breaches. 5 red circles are highlighted on the ship. She then brings up the cryostatis control page. One of the sections shows John-117's MJOLNIR armor. Cortana presses the command to reactivate after some consideration. The status update with the red words "ACTIVE" comes up. She closes her eyes and turns to John's cryotube.
- Cortana: "Wake up, Chief. I need you."
The frost covering its glass surface thaws, and John-117 can be seen. Cut to black.
- John-117: "Ungh…"
- Cortana: "Chief! Easy. You've been out for a while."
- John-117: "Where are we?"
- Cortana: "We're still adrift on the Dawn."
- John-117: "Why did you wake me?"
- Cortana: "Hang on. Bringing your systems online now."
John's HUD appears on his visor.
- Cortana: "I rewrote your suit's firmware while you were out."
- John-117: "You've been busy."
- Cortana: "Activating the ships's gravity generators."
The drifting crates and debris in the room drop on the floor.
- System: "Partial system restoration. Initializing system diagnostics."
- Cortana: "Chief, look up. You need to pull the manual release."
John looks up and pulls the cryo-tube's manual release lever. The cryo-tube opens and John steps out and walks over to the holotank that Cortana is occupying.
- Cortana: "Seems like old times."
- John-117: "Ready to get back to work?"
Cortana crosses her arms.
- Cortana: "I thought you'd never ask."
John pulls Cortana out of the holo-tank and inserts it into his neural interface. John raises his MA5D Assault Rifle in preparation for combat.
- Cortana: "We've got intrusion alerts lighting up on multiple decks. Our best bet to figure out who's boarding us is the observation deck - four floors up."
- John-117: "Could it be a rescue team?"
The ship shakes violently.
- Cortana: "I wouldn't bet on it."
John enters a room with a holo-table displaying a hologram of Forward Unto Dawn. If the player activates the terminal in front of it:
- System: "Weapons systems online."
- System: "Gravity controls online."
- System: "Ship propulsion offline."
John-117 maneuvers down many hallways.
- John-117: "How long was I out?"
- Cortana: "Four years, seven months, ten days."
- John-117: "Somebody should have found us by now."
John enters a circular room with a center console displaying a holographic replication of the Dawn's predicted drift course, showing the ship being pulled toward a red icon. Suddenly, a large, orange wave of energy scans the ship, producing a loud noise and disrupting all electronics.
- John-117: "What's that?"
- Cortana: "Sensor scan, high intensity. Doesn't match any known patterns."
- John-117: "How close are we to the observation deck?"
- Cortana: "It's directly above us."
John leaves the circular room and leads into another rectangular room with an elevator.
- Cortana: "The elevator doors look sealed tight."
John approaches the elevator doors and pries them open with his bare hands.
- Cortana: "Chief, be careful!"
John successfully gets through the elevator doors. The elevator shaft has been depressurized causing a few crates to hit John from outside the elevator shaft. He grabs the side of the elevator shaft, avoiding falling debris from the top of the shaft, while slowly climbing the shaft to reach the next level.
- Cortana: "Because some areas might have lost pressure!"
- John-117: "Right."
John climbs a few feet. Debris falls from the top of the shaft and he is forced to act fast.
- Cortana: "Chief, watch out!"
John-117 jumps to the left, managing to avoid the falling debris.
- Cortana: "I didn't realize the ship had deteriorated so badly."
John manages to climb to the top of the shaft, avoiding falling debris. After stepping into the opening to the next level at the top of the shaft, a Sangheili wielding an Energy Sword emerges from the smoke. John blocks the Sangheili's sword strike, punches it in the side of the head, then grabs it's jaws and throws it down the depressurized elevator shaft. The shaft's door locks behind him.
- John-117: "I thought we had a truce with the Covenant."
- Cortana: "A lot can happen in four years. Either way, he's probably not alone. We should be careful."
John continues and enters the Observation Deck. The windows are covered by the blast shields. A Sangheili is fiddling with the console, while multiple Unggoy are patrolling on the lower deck. John takes them out.
- Cortana: "That's the last of them. Find the override for the blast shields so we can see what we're up against."
John heads for the controls and activates the override, the blast shields begin to open.
- Cortana: "The good news is these Covenant aren't outfitted like standard military. It's possible we just came across a rogue salvage ship."
The blast shields open all the way. A Covenant fleet consisting of several CRS-class light cruisers are seen holding position in front of the Dawn. A mysterious planet can be seen in the background. A formation of Banshees fly close to the observation deck windows and flies away.
- Cortana: "…or we might have stumbled into an entire Covenant fleet."
- John-117: "Maybe they haven't recognized us."
Two Phantoms, carrying landing craft, lower into view.
- Cortana: "That's one possibility."
The Phantoms fly to both sides of the Observation Deck.
- Cortana: "Landing craft, flanking us!"
The landing craft breach the glass, the Deck begins to lose pressure. Several Covenant troops board the ship.
- System: "Warning. Atmosphere breach. Activating emergency barricades."
John eliminates the forces in the area.
- John-117: "We need to get off this ship."
- Cortana: "We've got bigger problems. We've got a cruiser on an intercept course. Head for the elevator banks."
John heads for the elevators. (If player checked the weapons systems)
- John-117: "Didn't the ship's sensors say we still had weapon systems online?"
- Cortana: "Yes, but since the ship was torn in half, we can't access the weapons stations. We'll have to fire them manually from the outer hull."
(If player did not check weapons systems)
- John-117: "Are any of the ship-to-ship defenses online?"
- Cortana: "Only the Hyperion Missiles, but we'll have to fire them manually from the outer hull."
John enters an elevator and rides it down a few floors until it opens to another hallway. He fights through more Covenant forces eventually reaching a stairway.
- Cortana: "That cruiser's shields are down. Assuming they don't raise them, that missile's going to be one heck of a surprise."
John continues on encountering more resistance.
- John-117: "These Covenant seem more fanatical than the ones we fought before."
John encounters more Covenant forces, this time including Kig-Yar.
- John-117: "How far to the missile?"
- Cortana: "We're just about there."
John enters a large room and meets more Covenant forces, defeating them. John eventually makes his way to an airlock.
- Cortana: "The auxiliary launch station should be on your left out of the airlocks."
Some distortion appears on John's HUD.
- Cortana: (distorted) "You'll have to prime the launch for ignition."
- John-117: "Cortana?"
- Cortana: "It's nothing. Just get to the launch station."
The airlock doors opens revealing the Dawn has moved closer to the mysterious planet.
- Cortana: "Uh-I'm sorry, did I miss orbiting a Forerunner planet at some point?"
- John-117: "One thing at a time."
- Cortana: "Chief, you need to find the missile controls."
John eventually reaches the launch station and activates the controls.
- Cortana: "Launch initiated."
The silo door on the far side opens, a missile rises, preparing to launch, one of the blast doors is jammed.
- Cortana: "Great. The blast door's jammed. The missile won't fire until it's cleared. Get down there!"
Phantoms drop more troops into the area, forcing John to take them out before he can launch the missile.
John eventually defeats the Covenant forces and approaches the blast door.
John pushes, and then kicks the blast door to its proper position.
- Cortana: "You did it! Get back."
The missile launches, destroying the cruiser, which was charging its energy projector. The cruiser shatters into pieces and the debris drifts over the Dawn. Suddenly, an orange light from the planet scans John.
- Cortana: "Chief?"
- John-117: "The Covenant weren't the one's scanning us."
A circular opening on the planet begins to open, emitting a bright blue light.
- Cortana: "So now can we worry about the giant metal planet?"
- Cortana: "It's using a gravity well to pull us inside the surface!"
Everything floating outside is pulled toward the planet.
- Cortana: "We've gotta hurry, the second we cross the dome's event horizon, its atmosphere is going to tear us apart."
- John-117: "Where are the closest escape pods?"
- Cortana: "Aft vehicle bay! I'm tagging the closest airlock, go!"
John heads for the airlock and makes it inside.
- System: "Hull integrity at 30%."
John head back into another hallway.
- System: "Warning. System de-pressurization."
John heads down a hallway, the floor collapses slightly before he can reach the end.
- System: "Please immediately proceed to nearest lifestation. Hull integrity at 25%."
John heads into a room with a few Unggoy, the floor collapses, forcing John to go around the perimeter of the room.
- System: "Emergency escape pods have been depleted in this area."
- Cortana: "All but one of the grav generators just went dark."
- John-117: "Just keep me pointed at that vehicle bay."
John enters a large room with more panicking Unggoy, the ship continues to collapse around John.
- System: "Hull integrity at 15%."
John continues toward the vehicle bay, a wounded Sangheili limps down the hallway.
- System: "Hull integrity at 10%."
- Cortana: "We're almost there!"
- System: "Hull integrity at 5%. Personnel are advised to evacuate immediately."
John continues on.
- System: "Warning. Warning. Catastrophic de-pressurization."
As John makes it to the vehicle bay, one of the doors is ripped out. The room is de-pressurizing.
- Cortana: "Chief!"
John tries to hold onto the door but can't. He manages to grab hold of a railing.
- Cortana: Hold on!"
The railing eventually gets pulled out, John gets pulled out of the ship and into the debris field. Covenant ships are also being pulled into planet.
- Cortana: "We're caught in the gravity well."
- John-117: "Can you track the escape pods?"
- Cortana: "Negative! Look out!"
John continues to drift through the debris. One of Dawn's debris hits a cruiser, causing an explosion on the Covenant warship. John drifts through the hole in the cruiser the explosion left. Suddenly, a piece of debris flies at John. Cut to black as the debris hit him.
- There is a terminal under the staircase to the left of the walkway at the beginning of the mission which speaks briefly about the previous Halo games and John's involvement. Interacting with it unlocks the Digging up the Past Achievement.
- It was said by IGN that the mission takes about 45 minutes to complete, but it can be completed in as little as 15 minutes.
- The first two levels of Halo 4 seem to be reminiscent of the first two levels in Halo: Combat Evolved with John waking up from cryo on a UNSC ship (Forward Unto Dawn vs. Pillar of Autumn), surrounded by a Covenant fleet and then a crash landing on a Forerunner installation (Requiem vs. Installation 04).
- There is an easter egg when the player is supposed to open the blast doors. If the player instead looks through the glass floors in front of the blast doors, he or she can find the Halo 4 Limited Edition underneath one of them. This isn't the only place where the Limited Edition is seen. If you look up fast enough at the start of the level, there is a Limited Edition seen floating, then falling once pressure stabilizes, as well as before you head out to the hull to launch the missile, another copy can be seen on the floor.
- When playing in co-op, if Player 1 is positioned at the blast door while player 2 activates the missile control (or vice versa), Player 1 can immediately activate the blast doors causing the mission to progress and all enemies to despawn.
- After killing the Minor Elite in the beginning of the game, go ahead until you see an elite and some grunts. If you wait, they will be talking in their alien tongue. At some point, the Elite will say something about the "Didact."
- At the late part of the mission when the ship is being sucked in by Requiem's gravity well, there is an energy sword that can be found. However, it is not much of use because at this point in the mission, most enemies will not attack.
- It is possible to be killed by the phantoms that extend docking tubes. You can also be killed by explosions towards the end and flying debris outside.
- You cannot be killed by falling debris on the elevator.
- In co-op, it is possible to obtain an Energy Sword with unlimited plasma after completing the elevator shaft sequence.
- There is a glitch in when you are activating the magnetic clamps at the end of the level. If you are holding a Storm Rifle, it will appear as a Plasma Rifle on John's hip.