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- “Halo is an epic journey to save humanity from a terrible menace.”
The Halo universe is the sprawling fictional universe in which all Halo media takes place. Many of Halo's central events are set in the 26th century of the human Gregorian calendar, with humanity colonizing the galaxy only to stumble upon a hostile alliance of aliens known as the Covenant who, motivated by the power of the Prophets and the promises of paradise-after-death, are bent on humanity's destruction.
In the Halo Universe, there are lots of players, factions, political groups, races, planets and species. The main factions are as follows:
United Nations Space Command
- Main article: United Nations Space Command
In the 26th century, most of humanity is ruled by the United Nations Space Command (UNSC). As most of the canon material from the Halo Universe is from the ongoing war we see the future mainly through the eyes of the UNSC's military arm called the United Nations Space Command Defense Force (UNSCDF). The UNSCDF are commonly seen defending planets. During the events of Halo 2 the UNSCDF fought the Covenant over Earth in a last-ditch attempt to protect the human race.
The UNSC was formed by the United Nations when over-population on Earth started becoming a severe problem in the early 22nd century. Run by HIGHCOM, the UNSC is Earth's premiere defense against the Covenant. The Navy houses the divisions of Marines (including the Orbital Drop Shock Troopers), the Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI), and the fleet. Originally designed to keep the peace between neighboring planets and star systems, when certain rebellious factions began to present a problem in the late 2510s, the UNSC was forced to police its colonies to keep privateers and pirates from raiding them.
- Main article: Covenant Empire
The two original species of the Covenant, the Prophets (San 'Shyuum) and the Elites (Sangheili), spent years locked in a bitter war over the control of the remains of an ancient race, the Forerunners. The Forerunners themselves were long vanished, but large amounts of their technology still existed. The Prophets wished to use the technology to search and explore the galaxy, but the Elites believed such usage to be a desecration of their holy artifacts. As the devastating war ravaged both species, the Elites saw that the only way for them to win was to do the exact thing they opposed; use their own Forerunner technology to adapt and befit their vessels. The English word "Covenant" means "Religious Alliance" or "Binding Agreement" (between two or more parties), usually used to describe an alliance between a faction of men and a god, or between two factions of men with holy goals. This name is well suited to the Covenant because of the "binding Covenant" formed between the two alien races, the Prophets and the Elites, when the latter promised to defend the Prophets as they searched for the Sacred Rings which are said to start the "Great Journey". The "Great Journey" is the term that the Prophets use to explain the disappearance of their gods, the Forerunner race. The quest of the entire Covenant, the Great Journey is the basis of all of their worship. As the Covenant Empire grew over a millennium, more species were enslaved to their cause, although, up until the Covenant Civil War, none of them were quite as important to the Prophets as the Elites.
At first, the Covenant were mostly held together by a need to survive, but as their society advanced, so did their technology, culture and religion. Now the polytheistic Covenant control a large part of the Orion arm of the Milky Way galaxy and their society is a complicated caste system, with the Prophets still on top, governing the Covenant along with the Elites. The Covenant is a theocracy, based on a prophecy about the Sacred Rings and the Great Journey. The actual context of this prophecy is unknown, but the Prophets' faith in it is the reason for their yearning desire to activate the Halos, to "propel all who are worthy along the path to salvation!" A theory is that the promise of the journey goes like this: The Forerunners were so advanced, that they had found a way to propel themselves to god-like status using their technology. To oppose this, a race called the Flood attacked the Forerunners and attempted to stop the activation of this technology, for some unknown motive. Before the Flood could stop them, the Forerunners activated the Halo array, and ascended to godlike status. The Covenant's goal is to find the Halo array, and use it to propel themselves to godhood as well.
The current Hierarchs of the Covenant, want to destroy Humanity due to the threat they pose to their religion: if Humankind really are the Forerunner's heirs, then all that the Covenant believe in is false. Not wanting the truth about humans to get out, they launch a genocidal war against humanity.
- Main article: Flood
The Flood (called The Parasite by the Covenant) is a species of virulent, parasitic organisms that thrive by consuming other sentient life of sufficient biomass, no matter where in the universe, thus leading Forerunners to the creation of the Halo Array. The Flood appears to be a hive or communal mind, existing in several stages that eventually lead into the creation of a central intelligence known as the Gravemind. Next to nothing is known about their origin, except that they were created from something Precursor. Whether they were actual Precursor remains or created by the Precursors or both is unknown. The Flood settled upon a Forerunner world, where they were found and subsequently battled. It has been revealed that humans discovered and then fought them while fighting the Forerunners until they were defeated by the Forerunners, who had no idea about the Flood, and devolved humanity after centuries of war leading to their solution, which didn't involve wiping the whole galaxy clean being lost. Faced with the Flood spreading throughout the galaxy and consuming every sentient being, the Forerunners created twelve artificial Rings called the Halos. The point of the Rings was to wipe out all sentient life, thus starving the Flood of any organisms of sufficient biomass to sustain them. Through their own interpretation of Forerunner artifacts, the Covenant believed these rings were actually devices that allowed the Forerunner to transcend this plane of existence into godlike state, and sought to do the same by activating them once more, though doing so would wipe out all sentient life in the galaxy. Although it seemed the plan had been successful at eliminating the Flood threat, samples of the organism kept on the rings for study were released on at least two of the installations through accidental means, putting the Galaxy once again at risk of complete destruction by the scourge.
The Flood grow and reproduce via the assimilation of other beings, using corpses and found biomass in order to spread. They are incapable of sexual reproduction, instead they fester inside a host until a certain time period, after which they explode and new Flood are given off. Once a Gravemind is formed however, the Flood advance to a stage where they no longer require hosts for this, only biomass and calcium, which they require to feed on, and to build bodies with. Once they have advanced, they create hives which can produce thousands of Flood inside large pustules on walls and other surfaces, which act as incubators. During this stage, the Flood are able to build their own life forms using captured biomass and calcium deposits. The Flood continue in this fashion recurrently until either everything is devoured, or until they are stopped, the former usually occurring.
- Main article: Forerunner
Once the dominant civilization in the Milky Way galaxy, the Forerunners reached the pinnacle of technological advancement approximately 100,300 years before the Human-Covenant war. Apparently charged by the mysterious Precursors with protecting less advanced civilizations in the galaxy, they fought against the humans in a Human-Forerunner war. They then stumbled upon the Flood and fought a three-hundred-year long war to stop the parasitic species from consuming the galaxy. When it looked like they were going to fail, they built and activated the Halo Array - sterilizing the entire galaxy of sentient life including themselves, starving the Flood into submission, and repopulating the galaxy again with those few species saved from extinction.
All that remains now of the Forerunners are the ruins of their ancient temples and cities, a few scattered pieces of functional technology, and their automated combat and maintenance constructs.
- Shaw-Fujikawa Slipstream Space, better known as Slipspace is the primary method of faster than light travel in the Halo universe. A Forerunner Crystal captured at Reach allowed for manipulation of space-time and Slipspace, dramatically shortening the length of travel time through Slipspace.
- Wheeled contrivances similar in appearance to today's vehicles are used by the UNSC. However, the Covenant prefer to use hovering technology assumed to be based on Forerunner technology.
- Humans have not exacted the science of Slipspace jumping, and can often end up hundreds of thousands of miles away from where they want to be. The Covenant had worked a way around this, and could pinpoint jump anywhere in the galaxy, even maintaining their formation.
- Standard AI's are incredibly intelligent within their programmed fields whether that be battle strategy, or maintaining plantations on Human colonies.
- "Smart" AI's are created by mapping human brains. They are far smarter than "dumb" AI's. They have no limit to their imagination or intelligence other than that of their maximum storage capacity. However, "smart" A.I.s have a limited lifespan of seven years before they go mad, or "rampant".
- Little is known of any Covenant AI's, called Associated Intelligence.
Origin of the UNSC
In the years 2160-2200, various governments and factions fought for control of Earth and its first Colonies. As overpopulation and unrest on Earth mounted, new political movements formed including the Jovian Frieden and Koslovics led by Vladimir Koslov, resurgences of Fascism and Neo-Communism which waged the Interplanetary, Rain Forest Wars and Mars clashes and were defeated by the victorious United Nations Space Command who emerged as the rulers of most of humanity.
Insurrection and the SPARTAN-II Project
While the UNSC became the governing body for most of Human space they never fully defeated various rebel groups. By 2517, the UNSC was facing extremely low morale due the ongoing near-civil war dubbed the Insurrection. In order to remove the rebellion without a significant sacrifice of Human life a Dr. Catherine Halsey moves forward with the SPARTAN-II project. 75 gifted children were abducted and replaced by flash-clones, and drafted into the UNSC. The children went through rigorous training and physical augmentations. Code-named SPARTANs, these genetically enhanced troopers were trained from the age of six into a life of battle, and would become a great asset against the rebels and from 2525, the Covenant.
The Human-Covenant war Begins
On February 3, 2525 the UEG colony of Harvest detected an unknown object on its long-range radar. The object was constructed with materials unlike anything seen before. All contact with Harvest was lost soon after. Ships sent to the system revealed that it was destroyed by an alien group, the Covenant. A battle group was sent but was defeated by the technologically superior Covenant ships. Only one ship made it back, the CMA Heracles. They returned with a message that was sent to them, pre-translated, saying, "Your destruction is the will of the gods, and we are their instrument".
In response, Vice Admiral Preston Cole mobilized the largest space fleet in Human history to retake Harvest. The fleet defeated the Covenant ships at Harvest in 2531 but at great cost with Cole losing two-thirds of his fleet. The highly advanced Covenant shielding and weapons systems simply outclassed anything they had and so began the slow destruction of the Human race. One by one the UNSC colonies were lost until by 2535, virtually all of the Outer colony worlds had been destroyed by the Covenant and the Inner colonies were being invaded. The Cole Protocol was established by military order: all Human vessels must ensure that Covenant forces do not find Earth. To achieve this whenever they must jump out of a battle, they must do so to a randomized vector that points away from any Human worlds.
Fall of Reach
By 2552, many of Humanity's Inner colonies had been destroyed by the Covenant. The UNSC leadership assembled a strike team, including some Spartans, at the Human command base on the planet Reach. In a move of desperation, the UNSC planned to launch a targeted strike against the Covenant leadership. This plan was abandoned when the Covenant launched a surprise attack on the world of Reach.
During this battle, most of Reach is overrun and glassed, and the Human fleet obliterated. John-117, is able to escape on the ship UNSC Pillar of Autumn along with her crew. In fleeing the Covenant fleet, the Autumn's onboard AI, Cortana, uses some coordinates from a recently discovered Forerunner artifact that leads them straight to the Forerunner's Installation 04.
The Pillar of Autumn exits Slipspace to find a mysterious ring shaped space station orbiting the gas giant Threshold. The ring, referred to by the Covenant as "Halo", is an artificial construct that is teeming with life. A Covenant fleet, however, is also present, and a subsequent battle heavily damages the UNSC Pillar of Autumn and the ship crash lands onto Halo.
The first Halo game begins in earnest with John-117's escape from the Autumn, and continues upon landing. The first levels of the game deal with an attempt to reach Halo's control center to uncover its purpose. It is soon discovered that the Covenant have accidentally released "The Flood", a parasitic alien species. The Flood sweep across Halo, devastating Human and Covenant forces positioned on it. The release of the Flood prompts 343 Guilty Spark, an eccentric Forerunner A.I., to try to activate Halo's defense system, a pulse weapon that, when fired, would wipe out all sentient life in the galaxy large enough to be hosts for the Flood. Technically, that installation only has a maximum effective radius of 25,000 light years, but the pulse would trigger other installations as well, effectively killing all intelligent life in the galaxy. This system is designed to stop the Flood from spreading through the universe if they escape confinement from Halo by the only way possible: starving the Flood of any life source that can sustain them.
Naturally, this would wipe out Humanity as well, and so the final levels of the game revolve around John-117's attempts to destroy Halo before it fires by self-destructing the POA. Despite the abuse sustained during the space battle and the following crash the Pillar of Autumn remained intact, and was subsequently occupied by investigating Covenant forces and later by Flood.Having manually triggered a destabilization of the power cores John-117 and Cortana commandeered a Longsword from one of the Pillar of Autumn's docking bays and achieved a safe minimum distance before the ship exploded, causing the ring-world to fragment.
Operation: First Strike
The novel occurs between the first and the second Halo games. Operation: FIRST STRIKE starts off with Master Chief and a few other survivors in space above the destroyed Halo. They capture a Covenant flagship and make their way back to Reach. When they arrive they find most of the planet ravaged. Yet something is strange. The Covenant usually glass a world and move on, but there are small patches of the planet left unscathed. In an alternate storyline we find out that other Spartans have found an ancient Forerunner structure under ONI's CASTLE Base. There they find a crystal that warps space-time.
Cortana, now in control of the Covenant ship, docks with a partially destroyed UNSC ship and combines their power. After toying around with the controls she realizes that the Covenant know virtually nothing about the technology they possess. She redesigns the plasma cannons to fire more effectively, increasing their destructive power. She also finds out how the Covenant moves so easily through Slipspace. The technology she gathers could effectively turn the tide of the war.
After going through many battles John-117 and other Spartans discover a massive plot to attack the Sol system . They covertly attack and destroy a massive Covenant refit and repair station, which results in the destruction of an attack force many times larger than the one that attacked Reach. In doing so they lose the Covenant flagship; however, they save the UNSC ship and escape back to Earth with it. Thus, begins Halo 2.
The game starts with a Covenant attack on Earth. Master Chief begins on one of the three hundred space defense platforms that orbit the planet. After repelling the Covenant boarding parties, the battle shifts to Earth's surface. A Covenant ship over the city of New Mombasa makes a desperate slipspace jump to escape. The UNSC ship, In Amber Clad manages to follow it. In an alternate storyline, the Arbiter, the disgraced elite commander of the fleet which was destroyed around the first Halo, crushes a movement which argues that the Covenant teachings are false.
John-117 is transported to the vicinity of another Halo ring - the Delta Halo - on which they land. John manages to assassinate the Prophet of Regret, one of the hierarchs. The Covenant ships bomb the area, and John is last seen sinking in the water. At the same time, the Arbiter has been sent to the Library to retrieve the Index, the key to activating Halo. Once there, he is betrayed by the Brutes, who reveals that the Prophets want the Brutes to take over the Elites' role in the Covenant. Both John and the Arbiter wake up in the hands, or rather the tenticles of a Gravemind, which is the highest form of Flood. He sends them to 2 different places, John is sent to High Charity, and the Arbiter to the Control room, all in a desperate attempt to stop the rings from firing.
John fights through High Charity, finding the body of the Prophet of Mercy, another Hierarch. He arrives too late to find the index though, and decides to leave Cortana behind so that she can detonate High Charity if there is a chance of the ring firing. John escapes through the Forerunner Dreadnaught which was in the centre of the city. The Arbiter manages to find the Index and prevent the rings from firing.. 343 Guilty Spark reveals that although the Index was removed before Delta Halo had time to complete it's firing sequence, it sent signals to other Halos in the Galaxy, putting them on standby mode. Now, they can be activated remotely from the Ark, whose exact location is not revealed at this point.
Halo 3: ODST
Halo 3: ODST tells the story of what happened after the Covenant slipspace jump that damaged the city New Mombasa in Halo 2.
Prior to the slipspace rupture in Halo 2, a large number of ODSTs are destined to drop into the Covenant Carrier that evaded Earth's orbital defenses. The drop is initiated, but the ODST squad of Gunnery Sergeant Edward Buck is commandeered by his superior, and former love interest, Captain Veronica Dare of the Office of Naval Intelligence to drop into the city of New Mombasa, as opposed to the Covenant carrier. The slipspace rupture causes the assault on the carrier to fail, and Buck's/Dare's squad to scatter and land in different parts of the city.
The Rookie wakes about six hours later and must find his squad. He roams the city at night, discovering with the aide of the city's Superintendent AI, the fate of his fellow squadmates. He then picks up on Captain Dare's distress signal. The Rookie fights his way into and through an underground facility where they meet up, and continue to fight their way through a massive Drone hive (wakened by the earlier detonation of an ONI Building at the top of the shaft at the hands of Mickey and Dutch). They both fight their way to the Superintendent data core, and discover a Covenant engineer, one of many biological supercomputers and unwilling assistants to the Covenant, who has taken apart the Superintendent's memory core and possesses vital information on the Covenant.
They, along with Buck, fight their way to the highway, and then down it. They arrive at a building where they hold off waves of Covenant until Mickey, Dutch and Romeo arrive to pick them up. They arrive just before the Covenant prepare to glass their previous position, actually discovered to be an excavation project. They manage to escape just in time, only to realize that the Covenant has found what they were looking for.
Battle of Onyx
The novel, which tells the story of the battle, begins with a group of SPARTAN-IIIs deploying to a Covenant fleet refueling depot on Pegasi Delta. They proceed to destroy the facility, but due to unexpectedly heavy Covenant resistance, all but two of the three hundred Spartan team is wiped out. The only survivors, Tom-B292 and Lucy-B091, are revealed to be only twelve years old, and Lucy is traumatized and rendered mute.
The novel then cuts to a raid by the SPARTAN-II Blue Team on a rebel base at planet Victoria to recover stolen nuclear warheads. The team is nearly captured by a rebel ambush, but is saved by the timely, intuitive intervention of Kurt-051. Shortly afterward, the novel cuts to a meeting between the top leadership of ONI. In this meeting, they agree that the SPARTAN-II program is prohibitively expensive and that a more streamlined, "disposable" breed of Spartans must be trained for high-risk operations.
Trained on the restricted planet of Onyx the top three teams of the S-III Gamma Company, Teams Saber, Katana, and Gladius, conduct a training exercise run into some previously undiscovered Forerunner Sentinels. Through a series of events the Covenant are alerted to the existence of Onyx and the human forces discover an ancient Forerunner city, and are guided into a massive dome by Halsey, who determines that the entire planet is a shield world referred to by the Forerunners as The Sharpened Shield. Fighting off determined Covenant pursuers, they press on into the heart of the planet to discover that the planet is literally a massive bomb shelter for the Forerunner to survive the activation of the Halos. However they find themselves alone in the vast habitat; for some reason, the Forerunner never entered this structure when the Halos were first activated. Kurt-051 stays behind to activate a pack of FENRIS warheads, thus killing himself, the Covenant pursuers, and obliterating Onyx.
Late Battle of Earth and Installation 00
Halo 3 takes place two weeks after the end of Halo 2. The Covenant have all but obliterated human resistance on Earth, and have committed most of their forces in East Africa, near the ruins of Mombasa. Marines and the Arbiter recover John-117 after jumping from the Forerunner Dreadnought as it entered Earth's atmosphere, and they all make their way back to the local UNSC base, Crow's Nest. John-117 defends the base, and is cut off, along with a small group of Marines. They make their way to the town of Voi along the Tsavo Highway through numerous Covenant outposts.
It is revealed that a large Forerunner artifact has been dug up under the African desert by the Covenant, and the Prophet of Truth is going to activate it. Presumably this is the Ark, so therefore this would activate the Halos, and so a hasty attack is set in motion by Lord Hood to destroy the Forerunner Dreadnought with a surprise aerial assault. Master Chief clears Voi of all Covenant anti-air units to clear the path for Lord Hood's frigates for an assault on the dreadnought. However, the assault on the dreadnought has absolutely no effect, and Truth activates the artifact all the same. A large portal is created above the artifact, into which the Covenant forces disappear. Soon after, a derelict Covenant cruiser appears out of Slipspace, and crashes nearby, infested with Flood.
John-117 and the Arbiter make their way toward the ship, and as they near its location, a group of Elite-controlled cruisers appear, striking up an alliance with the Humans and helping rid the city of Flood. Master Chief enters the ship and retrieves a message from Cortana, warning that High Charity is heading to Earth, full of Flood. It is decided that only the frigate Forward unto Dawn, the ship of Miranda Keyes, along with the Elites, will go through the portal after Truth, and stop him from activating the rings, as well as finding the 'solution' to the Flood that Cortana's message spoke of.
The Human/Elite force arrives at The Ark, and engage the Brute fleet. Master Chief makes landfall and finds the Cartographer of the Ark, which leads him to the location of the remaining Covenant Loyalist forces, at the Citadel. This leads to a trident strike at three shield generators guarding the Citadel at the heart of the Ark. Once all three generators have been deactivated, John-117 and the Arbiter breach the Citadel after Truth kills Miranda Keyes and forces Sergeant Major Avery Johnson to activate the rings. Upon executing the Prophet of Truth, the forged alliance between the UNSC-Separatist Forces is broken, as their cause to eliminate The Covenant is complete. After John-117 and the Arbiter escape the Flood, they discover that a new Halo is being built to replace Installation 04 which is nearly complete. John-117 decides that the only way to destroy the Flood was to activate the newly built Halo, which was out of range of the other installations, with Cortana. The Arbiter leaves to gather the surviving forces and get them ready to leave, and John-117 heads to the crashed High Charity to recover Cortana. After wading through tantamount to infinity of Flood, he recovers her and escapes to the new Halo with the Arbiter.
After fighting their way up to the top of the Control Room, John-117 and the Arbiter enter the Control Room, and attempt to activate the ring. However, 343 Guilty Spark attempts to stop John and Johnson from activating the ring, saying that the charging sequence of the incomplete Halo will prove too much for the structure, and cause it to tear itself apart. In the fight, 343 Guilty Spark mortally injures Johnson, but fails at killing Master Chief, whom destroys him with a Spartan Laser. They succeed in activating the ring, however as expected, the installation begins to fall apart, and once more does Master Chief makes an attempt to escape Installation 04 in a Warthog. The two board the Dawn, which then proceeds toward the portal. The Dawn heads into the portal just as Halo fires, which closes as it gets halfway through shearing the Dawn in half.
Half of the Dawn, as well as the Arbiter, crashes back on Earth, and a memorial service is held for those who perished in the Covenant/Human war, ending on the note of John-117's death.
At the end of the credits, a last cut scene shows that John-117 survived, and put himself into cryosleep, as Cortana activates a distress beacon. The rear half of the Forward Unto Dawn is seen hurtling through space toward Requiem.
In Our Universe
The first Halo title Halo: Combat Evolved quickly became known as the first "Killer App" for Microsoft's popular Xbox video game console when it was released in 2001, achieving both critical acclaim and financial success. Halo was later published on the PC and finally released for the Mac (for which it was originally developed prior to Microsoft's acquisition of developer Bungie). Shortly after that, the company (Gearbox Software) that ported Halo to PC released Halo Custom Edition as a free, downloadable and achievable extension to the Windows port of Halo.
The second game, Halo 2 was released in 2004, breaking sales records and becoming the fastest selling United States media product in history. Halo 2 US sales top 125 million dollars; UK retail celebrates successful launch September 7.
A third game, Halo 3, has been released for the Xbox 360 and closed out the first trilogy in the Halo series.
The Halo games have become well known for the high quality of their graphics, gameplay, physics, and storyline.
Halo Wars, a Real Time Strategy game, was released for the Xbox 360 in 2009.
Halo 3: ODST, another First-Person Shooter, was also released in 2009.
Another game in the franchise, Halo: Reach, was released in 2010.
This was followed by a remake of the first, Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary, marking the 10th Anniversary of Halo.
Further expanding the Halo universe are several novels, which provide insight into the background story.