Halo – Who Are Jul ‘Mdama’s Covenant?

The end of Halo 3 saw the death of the Prophet of Truth, the final destruction of the now Flood-infested capital city of High Charity and the apparent destruction of the Covenant as we knew it, with the remaining Elites making peace with humanity and the Human-Covenant war officially coming to a close. So why is it then that in Halo 4, Master Chief goes back to fighting Elites again? Didn’t the Elites leave the Covenant in Halo 2? How can the Covenant be back when it was destroyed in Halo 3? If you have ever found yourself asking these questions when playing 343 industries’ Halo games, then this crash course in post-war Covenant history will help fill answer these questions.

The Great Schism

Years of internal conflict followed the fracturing of the Covenant as the Brutes and Elites fought

The origins of Jul ‘Mdama’s Covenant lie in the Great Schism, an event triggered during the events of Halo 2 that fractured the Covenant Empire. In the chaos surrounding the discovery of Installation 05, the death of the Prophet of Regret and the release of the Flood, the Prophet of Truth enacted the first stage of his plan and replaced all the Sangheili (Elite) guards with Jiralhanae (Brutes). This angered the Elites to the extent that many left the Covenant, and the Arbiter assumed leadership over most of the Elite forces in the immediate area around Installation 05, as High Charity descended into civil war. The holy city’s defence fleet practically destroyed itself in open combat as the Elites and Brutes battled for dominance, and to make matters worse High Charity itself was infiltrated by the Flood and transformed into a dreaded hive.

So by the time of Halo 3, the surviving Elites from High Charity and Installation 05 came to Earth in what few ships had survived, and this new fleet, dubbed the Fleet of Retribution, aided UNSC forces and would later form the backbone of the Swords of Sanghelios, the Arbiter’s new faction that opposed the Covenant. Following Halo 3, the Arbiter’s forces returned to Sanghelios and would establish themselves as a proper faction, amassing fleets and thousands of followers, mostly Sangheili who saw through the Prophet’s lies about the Great Journey. However, not all Elites saw it that way, and from as early as the first days of the Great Schism in Halo 2, Elite warlords in Covenant space took advantage of the fracturing of the Covenant and established their own tiny empires, often on colony worlds and former outposts. Considering the sheer size of the Covenant, this meant that there were now dozens of these factions, each sporting significant military assets usually comprised of the older and out-of-date domestic patrol fleets of the old regime.

The Rise of Jul ‘Mdama

The opportunistic ‘Didact’s Hand’, Jul ‘Mdama

So before Truth had even met his end, the Covenant itself had already fractured beyond repair as a result of his actions. The fragile relationship between many of the races of the once mighty empire dissolved, with Covenant space rapidly descending into a disorganised mess. With the fall of High Charity, the Covenant’s centralised capital city and primary control centre, coupled with the deaths of all three Hierarchs, communications between Covenant worlds began to break down. Some, like the Sangheili colony of Hesduros, were aware that the Covenant had fallen but were unaware as to the circumstances, whereas some colony worlds refused to believe that the Covenant had even fallen at all. Although these worlds were hardly equipped with state-of-the-art Covenant technology, they all each possessed a defence fleet, ground troops and other military assets. In theory, an opportunistic figurehead who was aware of everything going on behind the scenes could have easily taken control of the Covenant and there would have been little issues, minus the loss of High Charity.

A Hesduros-produced Elite Combat Harness was radically different to its Covenant counterpart

Unfortunately for the Covenant, however, this didn’t happen in time. Although, a leader would eventually emerge to reignite the flame of the original Covenant, albeit without the former empire’s unity and co-ordination. Jul ‘Mdama, a pragmatic Sangheili who disavowed the Covenant religion but still revered the Forerunner’s technological prowess, recognised humanity as the greatest potential threat to the Sangheili, as their rapid expansion would stunt Sangheili development. As such, he worked his way into extremist Covenant factions and began to advertise himself as the new Prophet, amassing followers with the promise of taking them to Forerunner technology. By swaying several colony worlds to his cause, including Hesduros, Jul ‘Mdama’s military assets rapidly expanded, to the extent that his followers and even some in the UNSC began to refer to his faction as simply ‘The Covenant’. Although they were using outdated or improvised equipment, armour and ships, the new Covenant was just as fanatical and driven as the original regime had been. This would only intensify when Jul’s forces found and finally gained access to the Forerunner Shield World of Requiem, as not only did they gain allies in the Prometheans, but they also increased their claim to the former Covenant faith when they allied themselves with the Didact.

Awakening

A CRS-class light cruiser from Halo 4

So, by the time of Halo 4, Jul ‘Mdama’s Covenant were not only a fairly large military force, but also a significant threat to humanity, despite their status as a ragtag Covenant splinter faction. as previously mentioned, the ships and technology used by Jul ‘Mdama’s Covenant were hardly up to the usual Covenant standard, but they were still capable. The bulk of their fleet was initially made up of CRS-class light cruisers, a diminutive ship formerly used for patrol duties that was a tiny cousin of the Covenant’s much larger mainline battleship, the CCS-class battlecruiser. As the supply of these ships began to dwindle, however, colony-based shipwrights began to manufacture new Sangheili warships based off old designs, such as the Sangheili Man O’ War and the gigantic Brigantine carrier. These ancient designs, upgraded with modern Covenant tech, began to slowly replace the old Covenant warships in the fleets of both Jul ‘Mdama’s Covenant and the Arbiter’s Swords of Sanghelios. Likewise, newer models of Ghost, Wraith, Phantom and Banshee began to replace the aged and rapidly dwindling Covenant vehicles. Many of Jul’s old Covenant ships amassed around Requiem for three years, attempting to gain access to the planet, when the UNSC Forward Unto Dawn, carrying the Master Chief, drifted into orbit.

And this is the start of Halo 4, Master Chief awakens following his four-year cryo-sleep to find he is in orbit around a Forerunner Shield World surrounded by Covenant ships, and immediately sets to work destroying one, demonstrating the weaker status of CRS-class cruisers compared to the CCS-class battlecruiser. It would seem, therefore, that ‘Mdama’s Covenant were significantly weaker then the previous Covenant had been, although that is not necessarily the case. Following the Didact’s attack on Earth at the end of Halo 4, Jul ‘Mdama’s Covenant became a primary target of the UNSC. After Halo 4, during the Spartan Ops missions, the UNSC Infinity returns to Requiem to deal with the considerable number of Covenant forces that remain there, and the following ‘Requiem Campaigns’ would later expand into a massive conflict for control of the Shield World. Unwilling to relinquish Requiem to humanity following the death of the Didact and the defection of Doctor Catherine Halsey to Jul’s cause, the Covenant destroy the Shield World and flee into space. Forming a unified fleet, Jul Mdama’s Covenant would fortify its presence on Sanghelios and other former Covenant worlds. However, a crippling blow would be dealt to Jul ‘Mdama’s faction soon after the destruction of Requiem, and it ties into the rise of Cortana’s faction of rogue AIs, the ‘Created’.

Second Fall

Jul ‘Mdama fight Spartan Locke in his final duel

By the time of Halo 5: Guardians, Cortana had taken over many of the AIs in the Galaxy, including the Prometheans. This sudden turn took Jul ‘Mdama completely by surprise, and his Covenant experienced a mini-Great Schism of its own when their forces were suddenly forced to fight both the UNSC and the Created. Taking advantage of this confusion, Doctor Catherine Halsey managed to contact the UNSC, betraying Jul ‘Mdama to them in exchange for recovery. By this time, Jul was on the planet Kamchatka, attempting to determine the purpose of a Forerunner communication node that activated, causing his Prometheans to turn on him. This led to a massive battle on the planet, during which SPARTAN Fireteam Osiris managed to fight their way to Halsey and assassinate Jul ‘Mdama in the process. And just like that, the head of the New Covenant was severed. By another stroke of extreme bad luck, the retreating Covenant fleet from Kamchatka was then destroyed by Blue Team, leaving a massive power vacuum in the faction formerly known as Jul ‘Mdama’s Covenant.

Following this, the remains of Jul’s Covenant rallied at the city of Sunaion on Sanghelios. Described by the Arbiter as the Covenant’s final stronghold on the planet, Sunaion had served as a bastion for the religion as much of the population of Sanghelios gradually swayed over to the Swords of Sanghelios. By this point, even before the death of Jul ‘Mdama, the Covenant had begun to splinter – one of the factions only CAS-class carriers was stolen by an Elite named Sali ‘Nyon and his forces who formed a whole new splinter faction, and as such the Covenant had truly descended from religious theocracy to deranged fanatical cult. By the time the Arbiter’s forces arrived at Sunaion, the Covenant had resorted to blaring loud transmissions through loudspeakers across the city, insisting on the supremacy of the Covenant faith as their fleet and army crumbled.

Aftermath

And thus ends the tale of Jul ‘Mdama’s Covenant. Whilst it seems fitting that the remains of the Covenant Empire would fight on to the bitter end, it may not be the end for the Covenant, as despite the death of Jul ‘Mdama, many faithful Covenant citizens still remain. Following the rise of Cortana’s Created at the end of Halo 5: Guardians, not much is known about the state of the Halo universe, although it is known that Cortana travelled to Balaho and managed to sway the Unggoy population to her cause, suggesting that she may continue where Jul ‘Mdama left off – as an opportunist who manipulates those who clung to the Covenant religion and fashions them into a military faction for power. Ultimately, Jul ‘Mdama’s Covenant proves the same enduring point that the Fall of the original Covenant did – that religious theocratic oligarchies are bad, especially when the leader happens to be a power-mad callous pragmatist willing to exploit the faith of their followers and achieve their goals regardless of the cost.

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Halo – Top 10 Covenant Ship Classes

One of the most instantly recognisable aspects of Halo besides Master Chief and the Halos themselves is the Covenant. The bright and ornate weapons, the multicoloured armour of the alien soldiers and particularly the sleek curved metallic purple aesthetic of the ships and technology that define the Covenant have become closely tied to Halo’s identity. Covenant ships, in particular, have become iconic staples of the franchise, as both terrifying adversaries and, in recent games, powerful occasional allies. Welcome to the Top Ten Covenant Ship Classes, starting with:

#10 – CRS-class Light Cruiser

A small and compact version of the familiar Covenant cruiser design, the CRS-class light cruiser is a tiny cousin of the CCS-class battlecruiser, the mainline Covenant warship during the war against mankind. Despite this, humans didn’t see much of the CRS-class during the war, as it was primarily used for patrol and support duties within the borders of Covenant space. It was only following the Great Schism and the fall of the Covenant, when opportunistic Sangheili and Jiralhanae warlords began pillaging former Covenant space for assets, that the CRS-class began to see widespread use as a mainline warship. Jul ‘Mdama’s Covenant Remnant faction in particular made use of this kind of ship in its fleet, meaning it was primarily seen during the events of Halo 4.

#9 – Sangheili Man O’ War

This tiny post-Covenant warship was used extensively by Covenant Remnant factions following the fall of the Covenant as the design dates back centuries. Due to a shortage of mainline Covenant ships after years of infighting, various Sangheili factions began to manufacture their own ships from traditional designs updated with modern technology. The result is a compact light warship that makes full use of Sangheili mastery of warship design coupled with the power of the reverse-engineered Forerunner technology of the Covenant, and at present the full capabilities of this warship have not been fully explored. The Arbiter used a fleet of them as escort ships during the Battle of Sunaion on Sanghelios, suggesting that they run rings around traditional Covenant warships due to their nimble mobility.

#8 – SDV-class Heavy Corvette

A small ship used primarily for escort duties, the most famous SDV-class heavy corvette to Halo players is the Ardent Prayer, the ship that Jorge-052 and Noble Six hijack and use to destroy the Supercarrier Long Night of Solace during Halo: Reach. During that mission we get a detailed look at the inside of an SDV-class with key areas like the main hangar, the bridge and the communications room being explored in-depth by Noble Six. The SDV-class also proves that it is more than capable of taking on and destroying a Human Frigate, as the UNSC Savannah meets an unfortunate end during ship-to-ship combat with the Ardent Prayer after a fierce fight. SDV-class Corvettes saw more use as a mainline warship after the war, as Covenant Remnant factions began to grow desperate and push escort craft into a more mainline role following the Great Schism.

#7 – CPV-class Heavy Destroyer

This distinctive Covenant vessel was a medium-sized destroyer used for ship-to-ship combat and the arduous planet-glassing process that often following Covenant military victories. As such, they became a common target for UNSC firepower and thousands of these ships met their end during the war, though their heavy armour and deadly weapons meant that many went down with several kills to their name. Though they are not seen as commonly during the main Halo games, as infantry tended to see more of the carrier class ships like the CAS that were focused on troop deployment, the CPV-class Heavy Destroyer would have been a common sight for UNSC Navy personnel in space battles, and they were almost as feared as the CCS-class battlecruiser.

#6 – Sangheili Brigantine

An ancient, massive class of carrier used by the Sangheili during their early pre-Covenant years, the Brigantine design was re-purposed following the fall of the Covenant to serve as a replacement for the increasingly rare CAS-class Carrier. Ironically, the Bringantine is actually larger and more powerful than its Covenant-era predecessor, and as the Elites have built the new ships to modern specifications, including Covenant technology, the Brigantine is a powerful ship to contend with. Luckily for humanity, it would seem that most of these ships currently belong to the Swords of Sanghelios under the command of the Arbiter, although Cortana’s Created may be manufacturing more of these ships for their new Covenant Remnant allies.

#5 – Sangheili Carrack

This large capital ship was once a mainline of pre-Covenant Sangheili fleets, but fell out of use as a warship following the War of Beginnings and would later serve as merchant ships. In modern times, the Carrack design has been reclaimed by ex-Covenant warlords for their fleets, so it is seeing widespread use for the first time in centuries, albeit a version upgraded with modern technology. Unlike modern Covenant ships, older Sangheili ships tended to be single-purpose, but the Carrack is an example of a multi-purpose ship that serves as both a carrier and a cruiser. This is likely the main design of post-Covenant warship that players will encounter in Halo: Infinite, although depending on how much time has passed since the events of Halo 5, things may have changed.

#4 – Sangheili Blockade Runner

Of all the ancient Sangheili ship design that have been resurrected by post-Covenant Sangheili factions, the Blockade Runner is perhaps the one that most closely resembles the later Covenant-era warships, suggesting that this is the ship that would go on to most heavily inspire the shipwrights of the Covenant. The model of Sangheili Blockade Runner seen in the games is the Hekar Taa-pattern design, a versatile corvette with powerful armaments that is known for its fast and aerodynamic design. The Swords of Sanghelios made extensive use of this design of ship around the time of Halo 5: Guardians.

#3 – CSO-class Supercarrier

A behemoth of a Covenant carrier, the CSO-class is perhaps most famous for its role in the Fall of Reach, as the supercarrier Long Night of Solace was only destroyed at the cost of Jorge, several Sabres and a UNSC Frigate, and dozens more appeared through Slipspace immediately following this, signalling imminent doom for the forces on the planet below. Visually, this class of supercarrier resembles an up-scaled version of the more commonly seen CAS-class carriers, although it dwarfs the vast majority of other Covenant ships as this gigantic capital ship is capable of transporting entire occupation forces single-handed, meaning a fleet of them is more than capable of taking on an entire solar system of enemy defences. The only downside to the CSO-class is, perhaps, its unwieldiness – and the fact that it presents such a massive target means that it is vulnerable to sneak attacks like the one Noble team executed against the Long Night of Solace.

#2 – CAS-class Carrier

The most common type of carrier seen during the Human-Covenant war, the CAS-class carrier struck fear into the hearts of any Human for decades, as the sight of these ships in the sky usually signalled imminent death. The bulk of Covenant infantry were transported via CAS-class carriers, so they often presented a valuable target for the UNSC. Perhaps the most famous ship of this class is the Shadow of Intent, a carrier that was stolen from the Brutes by none other than Shipmaster Rtas ‘Vadum and used as his flagship for the waning days of the Human-Covenant war, transporting Human forces to the Ark and evacuating all Human and Elite forces once the battle was over. After the war, the CAS=class carrier was a sought-after asset, as so many had been destroyed during the Great Schism that they were now exceedingly rare.

#1 – CCS-class Battlecruiser

The mainline Covenant warship for much of its existence, the CCS-class battlecruiser was a formidable warship capable of taking on almost any UNSC ship single-handed and prevailing. These ships were designed to be multipurpose vessels for both space combat and planetary occupation, so they were fast, heavily armed and able to transport hundreds of ground troops. Though many were used during the Human-Covenant war to devastate Human fleets, they were a rare sight after the Covenant’s fall. During the events of Halo: Combat Evolved, two missions are primarily set in the belly of the CCS-class cruiser Truth and Reconciliation, presenting a unique opportunity to explore the interior of this iconic Covenant vessel. Overall, though it may not be as massive as the CSO-class or as sought-after as a CAS-class, the CCS-class battlecruiser is undoubtedly the go-to Covenant warship for its speed, versatility and powerful weapons. Sadly, it is likely that no more of these ships will be seen in future Halo games, as the Great Schism saw many destroyed. However, this ship will always be what fans immediately think of when people think of ‘Covenant Warships’.

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How to Fix – Halo: Reach

Welcome to another article in our How to Fix series, a collection of features dedicated to outlining the main issues with the story of a film, game, TV show episode or book and suggesting ideas of how to effectively ‘fix’ it. As stated in previous installments of this series, the subject in question does not necessarily have to be something that is already bad – a prime example of a How to Fix article covering a title that is already of a decent standard is this one. Halo: Reach is without a doubt a legendary game. With a community that is still active to this day, and the recent announcement of a PC release that is likely to lengthen this game’s already impressive post-launch lifespan, the game is still a popular title even nearly ten years after its release. And yet, as popular and enduring as Bungie’s final Halo title is, there is still a lot about the story of the Campaign in particular that can be improved. So, how could Halo: Reach be fixed?

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Story and Campaign

Though epic in its scope and powerful in its delivery, Halo: Reach’s story does leave something to be desired by the end, especially after multiple playthroughs. The early story is gripping as it peppers multiple clues about Halsey and the Covenant through the various missions – the discovery of Halsey’s data in the first mission, to meeting Halsey herself, and then after that being chosen by Cortana to get her to the Pillar of Autumn so that the story of Halo: Combat Evolved can kick off. But there are many aspects to the story, particularly later on, that are unexplained, and plot threads left unanswered. Some of these are smaller, more nitpicky things such as ‘Why do Emile and Jorge hate each other?’ and ‘What was Carter and Kat’s prior history?’ that are never truly resolved as the various characters die before their stories can progress. Whilst this does add to the shock factor and warfare immersion initially, as it keeps the player on their toes and reminds them that warfare isn’t kind, but after multiple runs through the story you expect the deaths to come and yet there is still no way of expanding on the character’s backstory.

As for the campaign itself, the gameplay is almost perfect – there really isn’t much to fix here, as Halo: Reach has some of the largest and most intricate levels in all of the Bungie games, and despite not featuring any Flood or Forerunner enemies, the game still manages to make the levels feel varied as it features the most Covenant enemy varieties of any Halo game to date, even beating Halo 2. That being said, as with many later Halo games, your allies do not feel as useful in this game as they did in previous titles. Although your Noble squadmates feature in some levels as AI bots to help you through the mission, in a manner similar to that of the Arbiter in Halo 3, they are not exactly masters of aiming precisely on target – in fact, one might go so far as to say that the Noble team AI is almost totally pointless, and the Marines actually offer better support to the player in missions than their Spartan compatriots do. Not only that, but the AI driving for Noble Team seems to be particularly bad – an infamous example of this being Kat’s godawful attempts at keeping the Rocket Hog steady during the run on the AA Guns in Tip of the Spear, only to topple both herself and the player off a cliff.

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Multiplayer

Although Halo: Reach’s multiplayer is perhaps one of the most treasured of all the Halo games, and the recent announcement that it is coming to PC via the MCC has fans ecstatic, upon its initial release the game was met with a mixed reception from fans, who called it too far of a deviation from the classic Halo formula to be considered a ‘true’ Halo game. They were of course referring to the additions of armour abilities, specifically Sprint and Armour Lock, which were quite radical additions to the Halo sandbox at the time but, in hindsight nearly 10 years later, these pale in comparison to some of the additions that Halos 4 and 5 would go on to add, so by comparison it doesn’t look as bad – although the dreaded firefight-stalling pace-shattering Armour Lock still remains one of the games most controversial features.

As for the maps, there are plenty – although almost all are sourced from either the Campaign missions, or Forge World map variants. This is not necessarily an issue in itself – after all, Forge World is a really diverse map and, as previously discussed, the Campaign does involve a variety of different terrains and arenas, so the developers definitely had plenty to source from. The main problem with Reach’s maps is the lack of specialising particular maps for particular kinds of game – with the addition of Sprint, as well as Anti-Vehicle Armour Abilities such as Jetpack and Armour Lock, many of Reach’s maps moved away from map control and layout memorisation. This is further exacerbated by the inclusion of Loadouts, though these are not present in all game modes online, and in recent years the Reach multiplayer seems to have moved away from Loadouts and Armour Abilities and more towards emulating the classic Halo style in some game modes, suggesting that they have taken fan criticism to heart.

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Weapon and Vehicle Sandbox

Though there is no denying that Halo: Reach had a fantastic weapons sandbox, including a diverse variety of new weapons such as the Grenade Launcher, Focus Rifle, Concussion Rifle, Plasma Launcher and the legendary Target Locator, one of the essential elements missing from Reach’s weapons sandbox is specialisation – many of the weapons have counterparts that do a similar or, in some cases, the exact same job. Examples of this include the DMR and the Needle Rifle, both one-shot weapons capable of landing headshots and good for medium-long range aiming, the Plasma Rifle and the Spiker, both two-handed automatic Covenant weapons with a similar rate of fire, and the Concussion Rifle and Grenade Launcher, both of which are short-range explosive weapons for clearing out large areas. Some weapons do have special traits, such as the Needle Rifle’s supercombine and the Grenade Launcher’s EMP, but overall some more diversity in the weapons sandbox might have been better – the DMR is a solid rifle, but the Battle Rifle reigns supreme.

Speaking of notable absences from Reach, many previous Halo vehicles are absent from Reach’s sandbox, including the Chopper, Prowler, Spectre, Hornet and Elephant – and although there are some new vehicles, like the Revenant and the Falcon, overall Reach’s vehicles seems to be the only aspect of the game in which it feels like there is actually less content than there was before. This would begin a trend in Halo games up until Halo 5: Guardians in which the number of Covenant vehicles usable in the game is drastically reduced, which is a shame considering that they are among the most fun vehicles to drive. As always, the Banshee, Ghost and Wraith all feature, and Reach’s Banshee has the best handling of all the Bungie Banshees – but unfortunately, the addition of the limited boost feature for all three vehicles has significantly reduced their effectiveness. Overall, Reach’s vehicles are perhaps its game’s biggest shortcoming, but there are two particular vehicles of note in the game, ironically the two vehicles original to the game mentioned earlier, the Falcon and the Revenant. The Falcon is an instant fan-favourite, the ‘team troop carrier’ that was ideal for Capture the Flag getaways – although there should have been an option to turn on the pilot’s main weapon and the inner passenger seats for Custom Games. As for the Revenant, it is hilariously fun to drive and finds a sensible middle ground between the Ghost’s speed and the Wraith’s firepower. Plus, it has a passenger seat!

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Conclusion

All things considered, Halo: Reach is definitely one of the best Halo games in its own right, as it remains one of the most unique and creative Halo games in history and definitely a fitting sendoff for Bungie. The inclusion of Reach into MCC, and the concurrent and long-awaited release of Reach on PC, is definitely good news for fans. Overall, the issues that Reach experienced early on were mostly due to sudden and unexpected changes that fans weren’t happy with but, in hindsight, Reach seems far closer to the earlier Bungie games like Halo 3 now that the new pariah of the franchise, Halo 5: Guardians, has released. No prizes for guessing what the next Halo How To Fix will be about…

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Halo 3 Multiplayer – Top 5 Halo 3 Maps

Halo 3’s multiplayer  is one of the most fondly remembered of all the classic Halo games, and the recently news that it will finally be coming to PC after over 10 years has many fans excited. In light of the recent announcement of Halo: The Master Chief Collection on PC, we’re counting down the Top 5 Maps in Halo 3 Multiplayer – discounting remakes, for now…

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#5 – Narrows

This map usually leads to games that are best described as hilariously frantic. Considering the fact that many players will stick to the upper level of Narrow’s ‘bridge’, the actual play-space of this map is actually quite small. As a result it is best suited for small arena-style games, but usually ends up being used for 4v4 matches. Whether or not this is a good thing depends on your point of view – on the one hand, Narrow’s multiple paths can lead to some interesting strategies with 4 players on a team, including a two-pronged assault on the opposite side using the gravity cannons and the lower bridge to take the enemy by surprise. However, if both teams are disorganised matches can end up with both teams just mincing each other in a war of attrition (usually involving frag grenades). Overall, if you’re using it for the right kind of game, Narrows is easily one of the best maps in the game – small but packed with potential. The map design is reminiscent of Gephyrophobia, a Halo: CE PC map involving a huge bridge over a cavernous chasm, although Narrows is a far more downsized affair that involves no vehicles. Then again, adding a Banshee to the map might make things interesting…

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#4 – Sandtrap

Speaking of vehicle maps, none of them hold a candle to Sandtrap, a map designed with vehicles in mind. The most memorable and exciting feature of this map is the Elephants, gigantic UNSC transport vehicles that serve as drive-able mobile bases that can make for some creative and interesting matches. Players have also created entire gametypes around the Elephants, such as a Pirate game in which both teams are disallowed from touching the sand and must use the Elephants as makeshift boarding vessels. However, Sandtrap has much more to it than just these vehicles – almost every vehicle in the game can be featured on this map (depending on settings) and the huge size makes for some hectic gameplay. The ring design makes races a common social gametype for this map, and even if vehicular combat isn’t your style, the semi-submerged Forerunner ruins in the map make excellent hiding spots. Inquisitive players who delve deeper into the ruins may find themselves rewarded with better power weapons, the Sniper Rifle being a particularly deadly example.

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#3 – Guardian

This is perhaps one of the most popular maps in Halo 3, simply because of its versatility. Being set in a strange arena-shaped structure suspended among humongous trees in a Forerunner forest, the map has a very distinct identity both in terms of its aesthetic and its gameplay. This map is very reminiscent of previous Halo arena maps such as Lockout and Wizard, and like all good Halo maps it has excellent vertical movement options. The Gravity Hammer placed at the very bottom-centre of the map is usually the thing that players rush for when a game starts, making for some intense combat in the confined lower area of the map. Another spot that seems to attract frantic fights is the area around the gravity lift, as well as the central arena – a combination of a Shotgun and Needler nearby often leads to teams trying to wrestle control of that area early on. As for the visual design of the map, you couldn’t ask for a better setting – the forest harks back to several iconic levels from Halo: CE and Halo 2, and the bright grey Forerunner structures break up the greens and browns of the various trees.

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#2 – The Pit

A classic Halo arena, The Pit is relatively simple in its aesthetic, being set not on an ancient Forerunner facility but instead in a simple military training ground on a human planet – but it is also surprisingly complex in its actual level design. What at first appears to be a simple setup disguises an intricate maze of power positions and weapon placements, and experienced players know the best areas of the map to defend or set up an ambush. Due to its various tight corridors that surround an open exposed playspace, the map is particularly good for free-for-all matches or games with particularly large teams – Halo is known for its hectic firefights over power weapons, and The Pit is a great map for this. Overall, as arenas go, The Pit has a bit of everything – wide open spaces, tight enclosed corridors, hidden power weapons and some great opportunities for intense firefights.

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Honourable Mention – High Ground

A favourite for objective or assault-style games involving one team attacking and the other defending, High Ground is set in an abandoned UNSC base near the coastline, and the fact that the facility has clearly seen action in the past opens up some creative strategies for assaulting the base, as a full-frontal assault on the main gate is usually not the best way to go – that is, at least, until you can get it open. The primary objective of attacking teams, whatever the gamemode happens to be, is always to open the main gate – this creates a kind of multi-tiered style of gameplay in which, if the defenders fail the first objective of defending the gate control console, they all fall back further into the base to concentrate on defending the objective. As good a map as High Ground is for Objective games, it features here as an honorable mention as it is not the best choice for standard team or free-for-all Slayer games, but is still a fantastic map in its own right.

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#1 – Valhalla

Regardless of which map took the top spot, there will inevitably be people who disagree. After all, each individual Halo fan will have their own opinion of which maps are best based on their personal experience, their playstyle, and even their favourite aesthetic. However, few can argue that, objectively, Valhalla is a truly astounding map. There are plenty of excellent maps in Halo 3 that invoke similar gameplay ideas – maps like Standoff and Sandbox, to name a couple – but although they are both excellent, they both fall just short of topping Valhalla. Combining the best elements of almost every aspect of Halo’s multiplayer at the time, this perfectly blends vehicular combat, oppurtunities for map control, power weapon positioning and team-based combat. With the classic trope of two bases, one canyon, Valhalla harks back to two of the most popular Halo maps of all time – Blood Gulch and its Halo 2 remake, Coagulation – but at the same time takes a completely new spin on the layout – it is considerably smaller in scale compared to Blood Gulch, but the more varied terrain and map topography allows players on foot a better chance, and the addition of the man cannons on the bases cuts down map travel time and improves the pacing of objective-based games. Speaking of which, Valhalla is a classic objective map – the telltale sign of truly great map design in Halo is when a map is perfectly suited for both Slayer and Objective gametypes, and Valhalla is one of the most popular maps in the game for both categories. By staying true to the classic Halo map design philosophy but tweaking the transportation system of the map from teleporters to man cannons, the Bungie managed to create a perfect balance of the vehicle combat from Blood Gulch and the intense run-and-gun firefights of Beaver Creek within Valhalla’s map design and it stands as a suitable middle ground between these two gamemode-tailored maps. At the end of the day, nothing beats the simple but effective map design of two opposing bases in a canyon, one red, one blue.

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Halo: Reach – Why Forge World is Actually the Best Halo Map Ever

Halo has a huge number of maps, many of which have become timeless classics. Fans who spent hours each evening duking it out in arenas like Hang ‘Em High, Blood Gulch, Lockout, Midship, High Ground and countless others will all agree that Halo has some of the best map design and optimisation in the FPS world. Alongside Call of Duty, Halo may have among the best oppurtunities for map strategy in the console FPS market. One thing that Halo has over Call of Duty, however, is the diverse variety of settings and locations that the maps are based around – from terristrial battlefields to some wacky off-the-wall mazes.

The title of this piece may come as a surprise to most fans – at the end of the day, compared to the professionally-built multiplayer maps in the game, Forge World cannot compare – in its default state it is practically useless for most gametypes, and its vast size makes it a poor choice for local multiplayer. However, the clue to Forge World’s success is in the name, as this map was created with one particular purpose in mind – it is the ultimate Forge environment. At the time of release, Forge World had the biggest selection of Forge items of any Halo map, and the fact that Halo: Reach’s Forge system expanded and improved on Halo 3’s Forge in almost every conceivable way, it isn’t hard to see why Forge World was one of the most anticipated features of the game in the run-up to Halo: Reach’s release.

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The iconic Blood Gulch remade in Forge World’s Canyon

And, unusually for the modern gaming world, it actually lived up to the hype. Since it was released Forge World has become one of the most popular maps of all time, and fans have used the tools available in Halo: Reach’s Forge to create some extraordinary creations. But it is not just the expansive Forge options that make Forge World great – after all, Bungie could have simply released a blank sandbox that allowed players to build whatever they want in a large space. But Bungie aren’t known for cutting corners and would often go the extra mile, and that is exactly what they did with Forge World. At the time of release it was the largest Halo map to date, so large that the developers were able to re-create several sizeable maps from classic Halo games within the space of Forge World itself, such as Blood Gulch, Ascension and Sanctuary, all made using the various natural features of the map, and the Forge budget is the largest of any map in Halo 3 or Reach with 10,000 credits – for a sense of how big that is, most Halo 3 Forge maps barely surpassed 1,000.

The fact that so many classic maps have been remade in Forge World illustrates how versatile the map is, and betrays the fact that a lot of the map’s natural terrain and topography is either inspired or directly recreated from the environments of classic Halo maps. For example, the ‘Canyon’ section of Forge World is very similar to Coagulation, and the aptly-named ‘Pillar’ rock formation in the ocean is what forms the basis of Ascension (and its remake). Perhaps the most efficient and creative use of space in the map is the Collosseum, a large hangar-sized indoor arena embedded in a cliff-face, and the fact that the grassy area on top is the perfect size for either sports-based minigames or remaking many of Halo 2’s arena maps.

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Forge World’s Island, the location of many popular Forge maps

These are just a few of the possible locations to Forge on the map – others include ‘The Island’, an assymetrical playspace surrounded by water that includes a cave system, a mountain and several rocky paths for vehicular play – and that is just the basic layout, before any Forging has even been done. With some creativity and imaginative level design, fans can use the prexisting structures to make some truly incredible creations, such as using the Canyon as the crash site for a spaceship or building structures around the Waterfalls to create a suspended arena surrounded by flowing water. This is all made much easier due to the fact that Forge World was the first Forge map to allow players access to the elusive ‘Structures’ section, allowing them build their own buildings, bases and even entire arenas when previously all players could do in Forge was edit weapon and vehicle placements. This opened up a huge variety of gameplay sub-types with Forge, such as creating artwork, playing a Forge 1v1 with a friend or even creating intricate minigames and mazes.

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Forge World’s beautiful skybox is yet another reason why this map is so memorable

Needless to say, many of these features have gone on to be included in later Forge versions, and it has to be said that both Halo 4 and Halo 5: Guardians have Forge modes that expand massively on the features of Halo: Reach. For example, Halo 4 added dynamic lighting to Forge, meaning that the structures you create will actually cast shadows, and Halo 5: Guardians completely reworked the Forge tool to make it much more developer-focused, adding scripts and all sorts of features that have taken map-making to a whole new level. However, the Forge frenzy that began with Halo 3 was truly actualised in Halo: Reach, and the one map that stands out from all the others when any fan thinks of Forge is, of course, Forge World. It does somewhat beg the question of why, with all the new features and upgrades that 343i have added to Forge, they haven’t remade Forge World itself for the new generation of Halo players. 343i have released some Forge sandboxes in the past, such as Forge Island, several blank sandboxes and some smaller Forge arenas in Halo 5, but none of these have ever truly lived up to the variety, creativity and diversity of options presented by Forge World itself.

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Halo – MCC Gets a PC Release and Reach DLC – Classic Halos FINALLY get a PC Release

In a stunning move, 343 industries have exceeded fans’ expectations two-fold by not only announcing that Halo: Reach will be added to MCC, a wild but popular fan request, but also announcing that the long-awaited PC release for MCC is imminent and, remarkably, the game will be available on Steam. This is perhaps the biggest piece of Halo gaming news since the announcement of Halo: Infinite, and fans are ecstatic.

This can only mean good things for the Halo community, as provided that 343 doesn’t make the same mistakes as they did with MCC’s Xbox One release back in 2014, the Halo community is going to grow with a new influx of PC players who are either newcomers to the franchise and are curious or nostalgic former fans, perhaps those who never bought an Xbox One and switched to either Playstation or PC, who will now take the opportunity to revisit the franchise.

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Xbox 360 Era Halo Games are coming to PC at last on the MCC –

Another important thing to note is that the release of MCC on PC will mark the first time that Halo 3, Halo 3: ODST, Halo: Reach, Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary and Halo 4 will be released officially on the PC. In fact, a mainline Halo game hasn’t been released on PC since Halo 2 Vista in the mid 2000s, so this announcement is a big leap forward for Halo in the PC community. With the inclusion of the full classic multiplayer systems for all the Halo games, as well as Firefight, Spartan Ops, Forge, Theater, and not to mention the Campaigns for every classic Halo game, MCC in its current state is quite an impressive game in terms of content.

However, there are some technical conditions to this release regardless of what version of MCC you have – for console users, Reach’s Campaign and Firefight are premium DLC, whilst the multiplayer and forge are available for free. For PC users, each game in the MCC will release separately in chronological order – that is, starting with Reach, then CE, then 2, and so on. 343 industries have decided to release MCC on PC in this way to ensure that there are as few issues as possible with the release and to mitigate any immediate problems. Whilst this may frustrate some PC users who really want to play Halo 2 Anniversary or Halo 3 on PC, this is a good sign that 343 industries are have learned from the mistakes of the original release of MCC in 2014.

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More NEW Content for the MCC is Coming

To get involved in what is essentially the Beta for Halo MCC (starting with Halo: Reach) on PC, and the concurrent Beta for Halo: Reach on the console version of MCC, it is possible to sign up to the Halo Insider program via the Halo Waypoint site.

The PC release and the inclusion of Reach are not the only pieces of good news, however. 343 industries also confirmed in the same announcement that the long-awaited Custom Games Browser is also coming to MCC. This will allow players to search for live Custom Games and join them as they would a Social Matchmaking game. This makes it much easier for players to set up their own Custom Games with enough players to test a forge map, try out a wacky game mode, or just host their own matches on the classic maps or modes they love that don’t pop up as often in Matchmaking. This is already a feature of Halo 5: Guardians and it was perhaps the best thing added to the game since Jorge’s Chaingun, and it was able to give the game a dignified send off as its impressively long post-release life came to an end at last.

However, as bombastic and exciting as all this glamorous news is, let us not forget that this isn’t even the full extent of the work that 343 industries is doing on the Master Chief Collection. In fact, months before this update dropped, a previous update to MCC that added new Skulls to Halo: CE also came with a promise that more content is being created for the classic Halo games, particularly new game modifiers in the form of either Skulls from later Halo titles being created for their classic predecessors, or even brand new Skulls that are being developed and tested by 343 industries behind the scenes. Factor in the Halo: Reach release, and the fact that Halo is coming to PC, and this opens up some exciting new opportunities, particularly with the idea of Custom Skulls, an idea that several fans have put forward as a possible means 343 industries could use to bringing modding to MCC on PC. Speaking of which…

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Modding Halo MCC on PC Will be Possible – But Not on Release

Although not every fan would necessarily ask for it as a feature, the idea of including modding capability for Halo: MCC on PC has been thrown around. For one, we know that modding Halo on PC is hardly a new idea – mods have been created for Halo: CE (via the official Halo: Custom Edition), Halo 2 Vista (but only just) and even Halo 5: Forge for PC, and we have already covered a popular new mod that was recently released for Halo: CE on Sacred Icon before – known as Halo: SPV3, this incredible mod is a full conversion that adds features from many other games to the original Halo and expands the weapon sandbox, levels and enemy variety. Could this kind of content become available for all the games included in the MCC for PC in the future? Could we see a new renaissance of the Classic Halo portfolio thanks to the ability of the community to continuously create new content?

Given that games like Skyrim or Star Wars Battlefront II, both games that have been available for a considerable number of years, still have a massive playerbase thanks to the release of new mods, it could well be possible that the Halo community, which has suffered more than a few distinct schisms and crises since 343 industries took over the series, may finally come together once again in the way that the original release of the MCC back in 2014 was intended to.

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Halo MCC – Top 10 ‘Additional Skulls’ That We Want To See Added to MCC

In the most recent update to Halo: The Master Chief Collection, 343 industries did something unexpected, exciting and ridiculous – they added new skulls to Halo: Combat Evolved, supplementing the game with several skulls that expanded its already impressive array of skulls from Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary that was released in 2011. Halo: CE now features several skulls that, until now, had only been present in Halo 2, like Anger and Ghost, and several more that are staples of the modern incarnations of Halo, such as Thunderstorm and Tough Luck. However, in the blog post accompanying this update, 343 industries suggested that not only will the other Halo titles in the MCC be receiving new Skulls in the future, but also that there will be brand new skulls added to the game that have never been seen before. Since then, fans have been speculating as to what these skulls might do, so here is a list of the Top 5 ‘Additional Skulls’ that fans want to see in Halo: MCC.

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#10 – Invincible Allies Skull

This one is fairly low on the list because, if it ever exists, it will more than likely be a 0x scoring skull, and rightly so – having invincible allies would make the game very easy, in a similar fashion to infinite ammo, but it cannot be denied that having invincible allies would also be hilarious and would open up opportunities for weird and wacky glitches as it would be possible to blast or whack allies into areas that they would usually not enter. This skull has been brought up several times in relation to Halo: CE, as Marine snipers would often teamkill their allies when firing a rapid sequence of shots at eye-level , if marines walked into their line of fire. This Skull might even open up entire new ways of playing levels – if your Marine allies could survive 343 Guilty Spark on Halo: CE, or your Grunt allies could survive Sacred Icon (the level this blog is named for) on Halo 2.

#9 – Halo 2 Grunt Birthday Party Skull

This one is slightly less likely, but many now forget that in the original Halo 2, the Grunt Birthday Party Skull had a totally different effect to what it became in later Halo games. Originally, activating the skull caused all headshots to turn into plasma grenade explosions, so any time a projectile heads a character’s head – even if they are dead – it creates a plasma explosion. This skull’s effect was likely altered as it did make the game easy, as you could wipe out entire squadrons of Grunts or Flood with a single headshot, but the skull was still fun to use and, like the Grunt Funeral Skull that has somewhat continued its legacy, it can sometimes create lethal deathtraps for the player. If the Grunt Birthday Party Skull in its original form did ever return to MCC, it would likely be implemented under the name ‘Grunt Birthday Party (Classic)’, or perhaps even be given a completely new name. Either way, that feature is sitting dormant in the code of Halo 2: Anniversary and it needs to be released.

#8 – Universal Bandana

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This isn’t an idea for an original or returning Skull, but it is one of the most commonly requested ideas on Halo forums when fans are asked what Skulls they want to see implemented into Halo: MCC, and it is easy to see why. The Bandana Skull allows for exploration and exploitation opportunities in Halo: CE and Halo 2, but is not a feature for Halo 3, Halo 3: ODST or Halo: 4. As far as the hints that 343 industries have dropped in their blog posts are concerned, Universal Bandana will be implemented into Halo: MCC in due course, as it is likely that each game will be updated in separate updates.

#7 – Angry (SPV3)

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Those who haven’t played the excellent SPV3 mod for Halo: CE on the PC will likely not be aware of the Angry Skull, but it is an excellent idea that was implemented to SPV3 but would likely work on any and all Halo games. The Angry Skull turns all previously allied AI against you from the start of the level, meaning you not only have no allies at any time but also have vastly more enemies, and some sections of levels that would usually be a breeze become vicious gauntlets. If this Skull was ever implemented to Halo: MCC, parts like the first section of Crow’s Nest on Halo 3, that features almost 50 Marines, will add to the challenge, particularly if playing on Legendary with other Skulls on. This Skull would likely score around 1.3x, as it would drastically increase the difficulty of many levels.

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#6 – Combat Evolved Vehicle Armour

This Skull would essentially make all vehicles invincible, like they were in Halo: Combat Evolved. As in Halo: CE, this would not apply to certain vehicles like Banshees, Ghosts, Wraiths and likely other enemy vehicles, but would exist to give UNSC vehicles more versatility, especially on Legendary difficulty. This Skull would be non-scoring, likely having a 1x score, although a 0x score is possible. In other Halo titles this Skull would affect the Warthog, Scorpion, Mongoose and Mantis, and perhaps in Halo 2 Arbiter levels it would affect certain Ghosts, Spectres and Wraiths depending on which vehicles are intended for the player in each mission.

#5 – Bottomless Clip

As this feature exists as an option for Halo: Reach and Halo 4 in Forge and other modes, Bottomless Clip would surely not be a difficult feature to program into the campaign. After all, Bandana already gives players infinite ammo, and whilst this Skull would surely have a 0x score, it would make levels like The Storm and Tsavo Highway on Halo 3 a blast (literally). There would be other, practical uses of Bottomless Clip too in several of the Halo campaigns for the purposes of map exploration, boundary breaking, exploits and other shenanigans that Skulls are commonly associated with.

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#4 – Bang Bang

This Skull was from Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary, but modders have since been able to access it and discover that the effect turns all weapon sounds into a voice recording of a man saying ‘Pew’. Whilst the idea is funny, the execution requires improvement, and if this Skull is to be added it should be on the condition that all weapons get their own individual voice clips that associate with that weapon, of people trying to imitate the weapon sounds of Halo, that would be pretty funny. Grenades would definitely just be someone going ‘Bang!’ though. Since the gameplay change is entirely aesthetic, this Skull would probably just have a 1x score.

#3 – Wuv Woo (Halo Wars)

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This Skull, which until now has only featured in Halo Wars, turns certain weapon projectiles into rainbow lasers with love hearts spewing from them, a sickening display which strikes fear into the hearts of all who see it. In Halo Wars, the Skull only works on Scarab beams, but for Halo: MCC, each type of weapon should have its own comical design – rainbows for Covenant weapons and confetti for UNSC weapons, perhaps? And in Halo 4 the Promethean weapons can fire multi-coloured blasts instead of their usual standard orange. Again, this Skull is aesthetic, so would likely score 1x.

#2 – Third Person

Based on a cut Skull for Halo 3: ODST, Halo: MCC should include a Skull that switches players to a third person perspective, like in Theater mode or when in a vehicle, at all times – meaning players will have to rely on the HUD more in a fashion similar to the original Star Wars: Battlefront. When combined with the Blind Skull, this Skull would open up great opportunities for making Machinimas, and would allow players to player the Halo games again in a whole new way.

Honorable Mentions:

  • Big Head Mode Skull (All enemies and allies have engorged craniums)
  • Halo 2 Black Eye Skull (Meleeing enemies gives you Overshields like in Halo 2)
  • Gamble Skull (You do more damage, but take more damage)
  • Reverse Assassins Skull (All allied NPCs are permanently cloaked)
  • Brawl Skull (Enemies favour charging melee attacks over ranged weapons)
  • Permanent Cloak (Halo CE/Halo 2) – The player is permanently cloaked
  • Overshields (Halo CE/Halo 2) – The player has recharging overshields

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#1 – VISR Skull

This simple but interesting idea for a Skull would essentially combine the ideas implemented into Halo 3: ODST and Halo: SPV3 by giving the player a night-vision mode instead of a flashlight for levels that are bathed in near-total darkness. Although this Skull would be fairly difficult to program, as it would require coding the VISR mode into all 4 mainline Halo games featured on the Master Chief Collection, but the end results would definitely be worth it. After all, the VISR mode was one of the best things about Halo 3: ODST, and bringing that over to the other Halo games would open up new styles of combat for each title, particularly in the Anniversary modes with their dynamic lighting.

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