Flood Firefight is being added in Halo 3: ODST for the first time in 12 years, with a new update to Halo: The Master Chief Collection for the launch of Season 8.
After twelve years, Halo has finally added the Flood into Firefight. In the patch notes for Season 8 of Halo MCC, 343 industries announced a few new additions to the game that would be coming in this round of new content. This includes a new map for Halo 3 ported directly from Halo Online that is inspired by the classic Halo 2 map Turf, some new armour sets for Halo 3 and helmets for Halo: Reach inspired by ancient history and mythological figures, and some new weapon and vehicle skins.
Among these announcements, however, was the detail that Halo 3: ODST’s Firefight mode will be getting an update to its customisation options, allowing for wave-by-wave editing of the Firefight experience in much the same way as Halo: Reach’s Firefight functions. This is great news for players, because it offers more customisability, but it also opens the door for some very interesting possibilities that, thankfully, MCC’s developers seem to have explored to their fullest extent.
Included with these patch notes were two pictures, one of which showed the loading screen for the Turf remake, called Icebox, and the other showed an example of a custom Halo 3: ODST Firefight game in which the player is fighting against two Flood Combat Forms. This is big news, because up until now only Covenant enemies have featured in Halo’s Firefight mode, and although fans have been asking for the Flood to be included in the mode for many years, fighting against the Flood in Firefight has never been possible without mods. Until the release of MCC Season 8, that is.
Another interesting idea that was alluded to, but not directly stated, by a 343 industries employee replying to fan messages is that Elites will also be added to the customisation options of Halo 3: ODST’s Firefight. This is also very interesting, because if this is true, it will be the first time that the Elites will be included as an enemy in Halo 3’s engine. In the original Halo 3, Elites are allied to the player, and in Halo 3: ODST, no living Elites appear in the Campaign or Firefight. This will open the door for completely new encounters in Firefight, and some have even suggested the idea of the Flood and the Covenant fighting each other during a Firefight game, which would add a completely new twist to this game mode.
With these new additions to Halo MCC, fans continually look to the future and speculate as to what new things could be added to MCC in the future. The implementation of Flood into Halo 3: ODST’s Firefight have had many fans hoping that the Flood will soon come to Halo: Reach’s Firefight, but unfortunately that is unlikely due to the fact that the Flood never appeared in Reach – Halo 3: ODST can have the Flood ported into it’s modes because it uses the same engine as Halo 3, which features the Flood. The fact that Halo: Reach never featured the Flood makes it unlikely that they will ever appear in the game, outside of mods of course.
However, there are a lot of things that are more realistic that have been suggested as potential future additions to MCC, both by fans and by the developers themselves, albeit in informal tweets or interviews. One idea that has been circulated is the possibility of adding more armour customisation to classic Halo 2’s Elites using assets from the campaign, for example allowing players to use the Ranger, Honour Guard, Arbiter, Councillor, Spec Ops Commander and Heretic Elite armours in multiplayer.
There are other possibilities that have been theorised by fans as potential additions that could be made to the games, for example adding armour from Halo 3 into Halo: Reach and Halo 4, adding new skulls into the campaigns, adding new armour and skins to Halo 2: Anniversary’s multiplayer mode, and adding more usable content into the classic Halo 2 multiplayer that makes use of assets that are featured in the code but not currently used, such as the Shadow or Prophet Throne.
Although it is inevitable that support for Halo: The Master Chief Collection will eventually end, the future for the collection seems bright as there is still a wealth of possibilities for new content to be added in the coming months, and the release of official modding tools for each Halo game by 343 industries further increases the possibility for modding and community-created content that we could see for MCC soon. We have already seen some fantastic community-created content, such as complete campaign mods for Halo 2. Despite the recent controversies surrounding Halo: Infinite, the future for Halo still seems positive.
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“Did you know, Arbiter, that the Elites have threatened to resign? To quit the High Council? Because of this… exchange of hats?“
“We have always been your protectors.“
“These are trying times for all of us.“
-The Prophet of Truth and the Arbiter discuss the Brutes replacing the Elites as the Honour Guard of the Prophets
The Changing of the Guard
After the Prophet of Regret was assassinated by the Master Chief during the events of the Halo 2 mission Delta Halo, the Prophet of Truth decided to take radical action, allegedly in order to protect the remaining Hierarchs from attack. This resulted in all the Elite Honour Guardsmen being replaced by Brutes in a controversial and unprecedented move.
However, the Prophet of Truth’s decision to replace the Elite Honour Guardsmen with Brutes in response to Regret’s death was more than just a precautionary measure, it was the first step in his plan to remove the Elites from the Covenant entirely and replace them with the Brutes.
The question remains, however: why would the Prophet of Truth want to replace the Elites, a loyal race of powerful warriors, with the Brutes, a race whose greatest achievement up until this point had been nuking their entire civilization back to the Stone Age?
The Great Schism
The answer lies in the Prophet of Truth’s grand plan to ensure the firing of the Halo Array, as he was certain that the Elites were never true believers and as such declared the entire race Heretics. The Prophet of Truth’s decision to do this was an early sign of his increasingly power-hungry, treacherous and unstable personality that would eventually result in the death of the Prophet of Mercy.
Truth would later order the Brutes to begin killing their Elite counterparts once the Elite Councillors were grounded on Delta Halo. During the mission Gravemind, we see first-hand the result of Truth’s treachery as High Charity is torn apart by civil war as Brutes and Elites fight each other for control of the city.
Truth’s motivations for doing this were more than just religious, he saw the Elites as a threat to his power. The Elites had powerful figureheads in the Covenant such as Rtas ‘Vadum, the Arbiter and the Councilors, and Truth sought to kill anyone who would limit his power in a bizarre religious purge.
The Prophet of Truth’s Master Plan
After the Prophet of Truth’s decision to betray the Elites resulting in a huge civil war in High Charity, the Gravemind chose the most opportune moment to attack the city with a captured Human ship filled with Flood spores. This soon resulted in High Charity being infested with the Flood, forcing Truth to flee in the Forerunner Dreadnought that powered the city.
Disconnecting the ancient ship from High Charity doomed the inhabitants to die at the hands of the Flood, and Truth’s once-mighty Covenant was reduced to a handful of carriers and cruisers. This last fleet fled to Earth in a last-ditch attempt to find the Ark, and the remaining Elites followed close behind. Unfortunately for Truth, the remaining Human forces on Earth, including Miranda Keyes, Sergeant Johnson, Lord Hood, the Arbiter, the Master Chief, and of course the legendary Chips Dubbo were able to repel his forces long enough for the Elites to arrive at Earth.
Although Truth was able to flee to the Ark, the Elites were close behind, and as soon as they arrived the Elite fleet were able to make short work of the Brute fleet whilst the Master Chief and the Arbiter destroyed Truth’s forces on the ground. By the time the Prophet of Truth got round to firing the rings, the last of his fleet and the final two Scarabs of the Covenant had already been reduced to scrap metal.
The Fall of the Covenant
The Prophet of Truth’s hubris would eventually come back to haunt him, however, as his decision to betray the Elites would not only result in Humanity being saved from certain extinction by not only the Covenant but also the Flood, but it would also lead to Truth’s Brute forces being absolutely devastated by the surviving Elites during the Battle of the Ark.
During the Prophet of Truth’s final stand on the Ark during the mission The Covenant in Halo 3, he desperately attempts to fire the remaining Halo rings as the Arbiter and the Master Chief infiltrate the Citadel and finally kill the Prophet once and for all. In the end, Truth’s faith in the Brutes turns out to be poorly placed, as the Arbiter finally executes the Prophet after the Master Chief deactivates the Halo array after murdering all the Brute bodyguards.
Clearly, had Truth not ordered the Brutes to remove the Elites from the Covenant, Humanity would have lost a powerful ally and Truth wouldn’t have had to worry about a civil war, the war with Humanity and the war with the Flood. Truth’s decision to betray his allies inevitably causing him more harm than good, as it not only lost him the Holy City of High Charity but also the Covenant itself.
Despite the death of the Prophet of Truth, the Covenant did survive, albeit in a fractured form that was a hollow shell for its former self. Warlords like Jul ‘Mdama began to seize Covenant assets like backwater defence fleets, outdated weapons and mothballed vehicles in order to continue the Covenant’s crusade against Humanity.
This inevitably led to the conflict between the Elites and the Brutes taking on a new form, as there was now also a civil war between the Elites loyal to the Covenant, led by Jul ‘Mdama and other warlords, and the Elites that followed the Arbiter and were allied with Humanity, called the Swords of Sanghelios.
In Halo 5: Guardians, Spartan Locke is able to finally put Jul ‘Mdama down and help the Arbiter to remove the Covenant’s final stronghold on Sanghelios, freeing the Elites from Covenant influence. However, the Covenant undoubtedly survives in some form or another, because as long as one faithful believer survives, the Covenant survives, and although the main enemy in Halo: Infinite seems to be the Banished, there is no doubt that Halo fans have not seen the last of the Covenant, despite the Prophet of Truth’s inability to hold the Empire together.
It’s one of the first things you see when you start the first level of Halo: Combat Evolved – Installation 04, the eponymous Halo ringworld, was the first experience of a truly familiar yet alien environment for a generation of children, teenagers and even young adults across the world, and for that reason it has been solidified as an iconic piece of science fiction imagery that is the definitive alien setting for many Halo fans. It is for this reason that we will be exploring and appreciating the masterfully crafted environment of Installation 04, the definitive Halo Ring.
The genius of the Halo ring is its simplicity – on the exterior, the ring is a simple geometric circle made of polished metal and dotted with neatly arranged blue lights. But on the interior surface, the ring is a chaotic, beautiful landscape of oceans, islands, forests, deserts, snowy vistas and uncannily Earth-like cloud formations. When standing on the ring, the skybox is sliced in two with the familiar ring arcing up into the sky, giving you a perfectly view of any other part of the ring, wherever you are standing. This defining trait of the Halo games has become one of the most recognizable pieces of Halo’s identity that resonates even with those who have never played the game.
The Crash of the Bumblebee
Halo: Combat Evolved’s first level, The Pillar of Autumn, is designed to be in-keeping with first person shooter games of the era – the level is composed for corridors with occasional open rooms and some narrow passageways, but generally a formulaic level layout. This is done to introduce players to the game controls, the player’s abilities, the enemies and the weapon sandbox, but the true genius of this design choice does not fully become clear to the player until they reach the second level – simply titled Halo. Escaping their doomed frigate aboard a Bumblebee lifeboat, The Master Chief and Cortana crash-land on Installation 04, and as the player emerges from the crashed lifeboat and sees the iconic ringworld arcing into the sky, they know that the true Halo experience begins here.
The game’s designers, Bungie, clearly knew that the environment that they had created would be loved by their fans and so the level Halo gives the player plenty of time to explore the immediate area without interruption – Cortana even comments on the ring’s flora and fauna, and how her scans have detected thousands of different varieties of plants and animals on the ring. Throughout the level you walk among bubbling brooks, forests of deciduous trees, valleys, rockfalls and cliffsides. The entire level takes place on a beautiful mesa, and when at the edge the player can see an incredible view of the ocean far below. But the player is soon introduced to another defining aspect of Installation 04’s design – the simple, geometrically-designed metal structures that protrude, almost incongruously, from the natural environment around them. Stark, smooth metal bridges cross natural waterfall chasms, caves are expanded by cavernous metal hangars, and tall angular towers dot the landscape, each one occasionally firing a tranquil blue beam of light into the sky.
While exploring an innocuous-looking cave, the player also discovers yet another common feature of the ring – vast chasms that extend down impossibly far, crossed by glowing bridges of solid light, that extend so deep that where they lead is shrouded in thick fog. What makes the ring so fascinating is that everything seems to have been built with a purpose – but what that purpose is cannot be determined, it is left a complete mystery. The enigmatic identity that is forged for the ringworld within the first level in which the player sets foot upon it is one of the defining reasons why Halo became so popular as a franchise. The feeling of wonder and mystery that is invoked by the environment of Installation 04 is difficult to describe, not least because it is a treasure-trove of nostalgia for many Halo fans. But one thing is certain – the Halo ring makes an impactful first impression.
Under Cover of Night
The very next level gives the player a clear view of the ring’s environment at night, as the story takes Master Chief and Cortana to a desert mesa to attack a Covenant ship to rescue Jacob Keyes, Captain of the Pillar of Autumn. The most interesting thing about this level is that it gives you an idea of how day and night work on the ring – the night-time is a result of the sunlight being blocked by a nearby gas-giant, Threshold.
The nighttime view of the stars as well as the various planetary bodies visible in the sky near the ring is incredible, and although the opportunity to see it is brief as the level takes the player deep within the bowels of a Covenant ship, the developers still put the time into making the skybox look incredible for those who want to take the time to appreciate it.
It is worth noting that several other levels in the game also take place at night, such as Two Betrayals, which offers the player a unique night-time view of Basis, a moon of Threshold that also acts as a de-facto moon for the ring itself, casting eerie blue moonlight into an icy canyon, lighting up the snow and icicles with calming light.
The Silent Cartographer
A perfect example of a wonderfully intricate environment on Installation 04 is the Silent Cartographer island, the setting for the level aptly titled The Silent Cartographer. Cortana explains that the Cartographer is a map room installed by the ring’s builders to locate the various important structures and facilities dotted across the ring, including the Control Room. To get to the Cartographer, Master Chief and Cortana must navigate a sandy tropical island located far out into the ocean, and within this island are many of the metallic structures that are seen across the ring. One of these is the Cartographer room, the question is, which one?
This level is somewhat unique in that it offers the player a less linear layout of level design and instead presents a wide open environment that the player must explore to discover the various secrets needed to unlock the Cartographer. Along the way you battle various types of Covenant enemies but you also see some wonderful examples of the Installation 04 environment, from a secluded cove filled with trees and a wide metal ‘plaza’ of sorts to a vast underground facility hugging the wall next to a huge cavernous chasm beneath the ‘plaza’ that extends down into nothingness. The juxtaposition of the peaceful sunny island and the dark dangerous complex beneath is a perfect illustration of the duality of Installation 04.
The Winter Zone
Master Chief’s quest to prevent the Covenant from seizing Halo’s control room soon takes both him and Cortana to an icy valley which contains the all-important facility, and Cortana explains that the inclement weather appears to be deliberate – the environment systems of the ring were specifically tailored to cast certain areas into an eternal winter. This is great news for the player, as we get to experience the iconic environments of Installation 04 in a winter setting, complete with an everlasting torrent of perfectly-rendered snowflakes swirling in the sky.
By far one of the most memorable sections of this level takes place on a huge metal bridge crossing the icy valley, tethered to the valley walls with beams of blue light. The fast-paced combat scenarios complement the unique design of this area, as the multi-tiered bridge allows for several creative strategies that the player can use to sneak up on the enemy. The fields of ice that dot the plans of this terrain give the impression that this area was once a lush valley like the one visited earlier in the game, except this landscape was frozen almost in an instant, as if the trees, lakes and fields were suddenly encased in ice.
Another interesting element of this snowy environment is the indoor areas – traversing the various canyons in this level require the player to enter incongruous metal doors that lead to a honeycomb of metallic interior tunnels that seemingly go on for ever, connected to nearly identical rooms that each contain bizarre humming machinery and ornate items of worship. Overall the winter environments of Installation 04 are among its most dynamic locations, not least because of the still-active machinery buried within the ice.
Hidden Secrets of the Swamp
If the dank swamps of Installation 04 were not foreboding enough, they hide a terrifying secret that answers many of the questions posed by the environmental storytelling of the game up until its sixth level. Up until this point the player has traversed desert mesas, icy valleys, tropical islands and grassy canyons, and wherever they go they have been faced with strange metal structures, dark chasms crossed by bridges and underground facilities containing dozens of sealed doors. Now at last, within this deep swamp, the ringworld will finally yield some of its secrets.
As anyone who is familiar with Halo will know, the truth behind the Halo ring is a terrible one – the entire structure, as well as the six others like it scattered across the Galaxy, are designed to wipe out all sentient life in the Milky Way galaxy in order to prevent a malicious, parasitic life form known as ‘The Flood’ from consuming everything in the Galaxy. The Halo array is part of a vast network of gigantic facilities built to wipe the Galaxy clean of life and subsequently re-seed all its habitable worlds with new life once all traces of the Flood have been eradicated. But in a futile attempt to discover a cure, the ringworld’s makers – the Forerunners, kept some specimens of Flood preserved on the Halo, and unfortunately it is within the foreboding swamps that these specimens reside.
The swamp environment is perfectly crafted to give players subtle hints that something is not quite right – by the time the Master Chief arrives, having left Cortana in charge of Halo’s Control Room in the previous level, the Covenant have already unleashed the Flood by accident, and the remains of several squads of Covenant soldiers indicate that all is not as it seems in this level. But by far the eeriest thing about this level is the environment – the swamp itself is perfect in every details, from the light splashes of rain to the ominous ambient sounds that surround you, not to mention the various crashed Human and Covenant dropships you can find around the area. All around you movement is detectable just beyond your reach, and your motion tracker pings with confusing feedback as supposedly friendly shapes shamble around in the darkness.
The Final End
After the discovery of the Flood inside the sinister containment facility, the best place in the game to hear some of the creepiest ambient sounds, including the iconic ‘factory wind howl’ that sends chills down the spine of every Halo fan, the game rapidly descends into a frantic nightmare as the player tries desperately to stay one step ahead of the Flood and destroy the ringworld before the parasite finds a way to escape.
Even after the destruction of the Halo, however, many fans felt a sense of loss – the unfortunate events of the game force you to destroy a beautiful, ancient world in order to save the Galaxy – not to mention annihilating an entire Covenant armada with it. Thankfully, Halo 2 would give us the chance to visit yet another Halo ring, this one sporting a very different style of architecture and environments. Nonetheless, it is unlikely that any Halo fan will forget their first experience stepping out of the lifeboat on Installation 04, and the happy memories that they made there.
The Halo fanbase is in uproar after huge announcements related to Showtime’s Halo TV series seem to imply that the show will take a radically different approach to the story than the games did. The once intangible and near-mythical Halo TV series, which seemed to be in limbo for the best part of five years, has recently made waves with exciting announcements – first, that the show actually exists, and second that it had cast its Master Chief. From there, however, things started to get strange and perhaps even a little scary for die-hard Halo fans.
To get the ‘bad news’ out of the way first, it seems highly likely that this new TV show is set in a different universe to the Halo series we know and love – either that, or it is playing extremely fast and loose with the canon. Story details ranging from changes to dates, characters, locations and events seem to imply that both the Covenant and the UNSC will be very different in this new retelling of Halo’s beloved story. Arguably the most significant change is to do with the Keyes family, most notably the idea that Doctor Halsey is Keyes’ ex-wife. Those who are familiar with the lore will know that, although Keyes and Halsey had a child together, they were never married in the original timeline. Secondly, their daughter Miranda is described as a Doctor rather than a Commander, and that her speciality is Covenant languages and cultures.
Though these changes seem interesting, particularly in that Miranda has chosen a more scientific-based role rather than a military one, they have been unfortunately brushed aside by those who are complaining about another change to the Keyes family in this new TV show, as Captain Keyes is played by Danny Sapani, who played Colonel Manton in the excellent Doctor Who episode A Good Man Goes To War, and EastEnders actress Olive Gray will be playing Miranda Keyes. To those not in the know, these two actors are black, and as the Keyes clan was Caucasian in the games, this seems to have caused quite a stir. Doctor Who’s male-to-female regeneration has recently shown us that change is not always as hard to accept as it initially appears. As many stalwart fans have pointed out, as long as both Jacob and Miranda Keyes have their British accents, it shouldn’t matter what colour their skin is, particularly in the homogeneous 2550s.
Hopefully most Halo fans will be more worried about the changes to the lore, something actually worth complaining about. The biggest deviation from the norm of Halo is the announcement that Charlie Murphy’s character Makee is a human who has been raised by the Covenant. This seems bizarre at face value, as the Covenant was driven to destroy Humanity out of religious fervour in the games, as they believed that all Humans were an affront to their religion. Nonetheless, this does not mean that a Human being raised by the Covenant is completely impossible, though many fans have pointed out that at this point it seems as though the Halo TV series is defined by its blatant disregard for the lore.
Halo TV Show Theories
So with the basics of the controversial details of Showtime’s Halo TV Show listed above, it is now time for some damage control. How can this show reconcile the drastic differences in the canon with the firmly established lore of Halo that we know and love?
Theory 1 – It Just Will
The first theory is the worst theory – the idea that the TV show will simply try to bolt this story onto Halo and expect fans to just go with it. Admittedly, this is highly unlikely. It might be easy for fans to assume that the production team behind this TV show don’t care about Halo lore given the evidence, but it is unlikely that 343 industries would green-light this project knowing that it would upset fans after release. In truth, it is far more likely that 343 industries wants all this ‘bad news’ to be announced well in advance to give fans a chance to assimilate it.
Theory 2 – The Show is an Alternate Timeline
This seems like a logical, if wholly un-Halo, way to get around the strange changes to the lore in this new TV show. There are two broad ways this could be done – an ‘in-universe’ alternate universe as in Star Trek, or a ‘canon’ alternate universe like Disney’s Star Wars. It could be that the fact that the series is a ‘parallel’ universe plays into the plot in some way, perhaps even to explain some of the blatant inconsistencies that already plague Halo’s lore. Either way, it would account for the differences in Miranda’s job role, the Covenant doctrine, and (for those who care) the Keyes’ family pigmentation.
Theory 3 – Miranda will Survive
This is less of a broad theory and more of a specific prediction related to Miranda. As we know she has taken a scientific career path and not a military one, we can infer that she has a closer relationship with her mother than her father, as in the games she chose the military to follow in Keyes’ footsteps. Will this choice ultimately affect her fate? In Halo 3, Miranda’s gung-ho attitude was eventually her undoing, whereas a more reserved and calculated Doctor Miranda Keyes might not make the same mistake.
Theory 4 – Makee is a Secret
This final theory relates to Makee, and the idea that she is a human who has been raised by the Covenant to hate Humanity. Whilst this sounds odd on the surface, we do not know the specific details, so we cannot judge the validity of this idea until we see it executed in practice. But how could this idea work? There are two most likely methods. First is that Makee is a secret Covenant project, perhaps even a weapon. Second is the idea that Makee has been raised not by the Covenant as a whole, but by a single member – perhaps a Sangheili or San’Shyuum – who keeps her a secret.
In all seriousness, it is understandable why Halo fans are confused and perhaps a little alarmed over the decisions that have been made relating to Showtime’s Halo TV series. After all, Halo is a behemoth of a franchise that has managed to keep its lore (mostly) intact for nearly 20 years, which is quite a feat considering how much expanded universe material there is. Halo fans are as dedicated to their franchise as Star Wars fans, Star Trek fans and Doctor Who fans are to theirs, which is no easy feat.
Despite everything said above, it is even understandable why some are concerned about the Keyes recastings – after all, change for change’s sake is usually a bad move. But, to those who are concerned about this decision, 343 industries confirmed that the casting was carried out based on who was best suited to play the role. The caucasian Captain Keyes was rendered, not cast, and anyone playing him for real would ideally need gravitas and a suitable screen presence, two traits that Danny Sapani showed during his brief time on Doctor Who.
As far as the changes to the lore go, we can only wait and see. There are some other interesting morsels here and there that imply a much grander and multi-layered human side to the story, such as the casting of Shabana Azmi as the infamous Admiral Margaret Parangosky as well as Bokeem Woodbine as dissident Spartan washout Samuel-066. It could well be that the story of the Halo TV series is deeper and more multi-faceted than the games could have been, which makes sense given the fact that Game of Thrones is allegedly a prime source of inspiration. Halo fans may finally get a depiction of the legendary intrigue, guile and back-stabbing of wartime Human politics, particularly if ONI is set to play a significant role. Nonetheless, there will inevitably be more rumour, controversy and pointless speculation to come – as far as Showtime’s Halo TV series goes, we’re just getting started.
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The Flood. One of the most loathed enemies in all of video gaming history, the scourge of the Halo Galaxy, and the ancient enemy of humankind. Anyone who has played the Halo games knows the Flood well, but despite their importance to the Halo story, little has been divulged in the games themselves that explain the origin of the space parasite.
However, Halo’s vast and expansive lore has offered an explanation as to how the Flood came about, and that is what we will be exploring today. Strap in, because this post not only delves into some deep, deep Halo lore, but this story is long. Really long. Millions of years long, actually, as our story begins in roughly ten million years ago, give or take a few hundred thousand years.
Before delving into the tale, we must first establish the main players. Before the Forerunners even existed in the Halo universe, there was another race that dominated the Galaxy – the Precursors, a near-omnipotent race of shapeshifters who utilised their extremely advanced, magic-like technology to hold the Galaxy in balance. They created the Mantle of Responsibility, the philosophy of a single race having a duty of care over the rest of the Galaxy, and they held the Mantle for eons.
However, the Precursors eventually decided that the time was right to pass on the Mantle of Responsibility to a new race. As they had created every race in the Milky Way, the Precursors had to choose which of their creations would inherit their most treasured cultural and political achievement. Initially, it fell to the Forerunners to inherit the Mantle, but at the last minute the Precursors decided that it would be Humanity, not the Forerunners, who achieved this noble goal.
Needless to say, the Forerunners were less than happy with this decision. Either due to feelings of resentment or as revenge for the denial of their ‘birthright’, the Forerunners rose up and attacked their creators. Despite the fact that the Precursors were almost all-powerful, they had no combat experience whatsoever. They were shocked that one of their own creations would defy them to such a degree. In time, the Precursors were all but destroyed.
As such, the Forerunners claimed the Mantle of Responsibility, and the remaining Precursors were forced to flee to the far edges of the Galaxy. Desperate to survive, the last of the Precursors employed several methods to prolong their existence. Some went into stasis, some left the Galaxy altogether, but most decided to use their shapeshifting ability to take the form of a fine powder, which was held in containers and left to drift in space until such a time when the Precursors could return to prominence.
Meanwhile, the Forerunners assumed the role of Galactic custodians and the Humans were none the wiser to this entire conflict. For some time, things continued on in relative peace, with the Forerunners keeping order and the Galaxy essentially ticking over as the Precursors intended. That is until the previously mentioned fine powder was discovered by ancient Humanity.
Located drifting cargo ships that would occasionally crash-land on planets near the edge of their space, Humankind discovered the powder in dozens of transparent cylinders and, after some testing, found that it was harmless and useless, but nonetheless took some for study. They began to test the powder on small domesticated animals called Pheru, basically the ancient Human equivalent of a modern Canine, and found that over time the powder promoted docile behaviour in the creatures.
The populatiry of these Pheru spread throughout the Galaxy. Other races, such as the San’Shyuum, began to take Pheru as pets. For hundreds of years, nothing happened. Then, just as the Pheru had become as engraciated within Human and San’Shyuum society as possible, the first signs of what would soon be called ‘The Flood’ began to show.
The Flood Rises
The behaviour and physiology of the Pheru exposed to the powder began to change at an alarming rate. First, soft loose fur began to grow on the backs of some Pheru, which other Pheru often consumed. This was odd, as Pheru were known to be herbivores. Eventually the fur began to be replaced by small, fleshy growths – these were also consumed by other Pheru, and led to birth defects and more radical changes in their behaviour. The infected Pheru became aggressive, and to make matters worse the early signs of the infection began to show on Humans as well.
Before long, the infected Humans began to consume the flesh of their fellows. Throughout Human space, panic ensued, and the same was true for the San’Shyuum. Before long those that had become infected were almost unrecognisable, they began force-feeding their infected growths to other humans, and the Flood spread like wildfire. Before long they were primed to wage war against the Ancient Human Empire.
And wage war they did. The Flood ravaged Human space, forcing them to flee across the Galaxy. This leads into the events described in the Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary Terminals, to sum up briefly, the Humans aggressively fled into Forerunner space with the Flood hot on their tail, the Humans began sterilising planets that showed signs of Flood infection, and in response the Forerunners, completely ignorant of the Flood threat, cast judgement over Humanity and regressed them to a primitive state.
Due to their haste in condemning Humanity, the Forerunners were caught off-guard by the Flood ten thousand years later. Nobody is quite sure why the Flood waited so long to attack – the Forerunners believed that Humanity had found a temporary cure, but by now it was far too late to ask them about it. Others suspected that the Flood waited deliberately in order to maximise the impact of their sudden attack, similarly to how long the Pheru took to mutate being put down to a conscious decision by the Flood so as to not raise suspicion.
Whatever the reasons, the Flood attacked after a centuries-long wait. Caught off guard, the Forerunners lost dozens of colonies and billions of Forerunners were infected within just a few years. A horrendous campaign ensued in which the once mighty Forerunner empire was whittled away as the Flood continued their relentless advance. In response, the Forerunners became increasingly desperate.
The Forerunners created an advanced Ancilla known as Mendicant Bias, an AI designed to destroy the central intelligence of the Flood – the Gravemind. Unfortunately, Mendicant Bias was infected by the Logic Plague and defected to the Flood. The Didact’s plan to use a Composer on Humanity to create a new race of Promethean soldiers was undone by his wife, the Librarian, who at this point was dedicated to a programme of galactic conservation. Machinations within the Forerunner political elite meant that, after exhausting every other strategic option, the Halo Array was developed and deployed to wipe out all sentient life in the Galaxy.
The tragic history of the creation and development of the Flood is one of Halo’s darkest tales. Whilst it is easy to point the blame at the Forerunners for their own fate, they did eventually make the ultimate sacrifice in the hope that the Flood would never return. Unfortunately, due to their desire to ensure the Flood could be cured, the Forerunners also used the Halo Rings as research facilities, storing Flood specimens there. This ensured that the Halo Array, a weapon designed to be the ultimate counter to the Flood, was actually the Flood’s ultimate salvation – and given that a Halo Ring is confirmed to be present in the upcoming Halo: Infinite, we can be assured that the Flood will make at least a minor appearance after years of absence.
Throughout the Halo games we, the players, gain a complex and deep insight into the Covenant military in all its forms, since they comprise the main bulk of the enemies fought in the Halo games, particularly the original trilogy. From the diminutive, cowardly Grunts to the easily angered Elites and every Jackal, Hunter and Drone in between, Halo fans basically know the Covenant warrior castes inside out.
However, despite interacting on the front lines with various Covenant troops, we are never shown or told in-game exactly how many species make up the Covenant. So today, we will be taking a look at all of the species that we know to be in the Covenant, be it military, leader or civilian.
The primary races of the Covenant, as previously mentioned, are the military. Led by the Elites, the armed forces of the Covenant represent one of the most effective fighting forces in the Galaxy, not least due to its impeccable methods of species-based specialisation. In other words, every race of the Covenant that has a potential combat role to play is put to work in the military.
The classic Sangheili that we all know and love, the Elites form the backbone of the Covenant military hierarchy in the majority of Halo games. Not only do they use their influence to keep frightened Grunts or mischievous Jackals in line, but they also represent one of the most powerful soldiers on the field with powerful energy shield and the best Covenant weaponry.
Like the Elites, the Grunts are probably the first thing that pops into your head when you think of ‘Covenant’. Known to the Elites as ‘Unggoy’, these diminutive, goblin-like creatures make up the vast majority of the Covenant military. Despite their large numbers, Grunts are individually weak and cowardly, although they will stand and fight if being led by an Elite or other powerful commander.
These avian aliens are somewhat unusual among the Covenant military in that they are not devout believers in the Covenant religion like the Elites, Brutes or Grunts. Instead, Jackals (or ‘Kig-Yar’) work solely for profit. Protected by personal energy gauntlets, the standard Jackal infantry can present a challenge, particularly in groups, but by far the most lethal is the infamous Jackal Sniper.
These gigantic titans always work in pairs, and each one is actually a hive-creature composed of hundreds of Lekgolo worms. When a Lekgolo colony reaches a certain size, it will split into two and form the bond-brothered Hunter pairs, known as the Mgalekgolo. Since joining the Covenant, these behemoths have been outfitted with heavy armour, huge shields and a distinctive fuel rod cannon.
Having only joined the Covenant relatively recently after almost wiping themselves out in constant civil war, the Brutes (or ‘Jiralhanae’) have a newfound fervor for the Covenant faith, although their hulking forms and obtuse personalities make them difficult to get on with. The Brutes have a longstanding rivalry with the Elites, and this would erupt into a full-blown conflict during the Great Schism that ultimately shattered the Covenant Empire.
Flying insectoid creatures that live in hives and thrive on carrying out mechanical repairs, the Drones (known to the Elites as Yanme’e) are not particularly enamoured by the Covenant religion but have used the Covenant’s technological superiority to their advantage. Having enhanced their flight capability and armed themselves with Covenant weapons, the s are one of the most dangerous races in the Covenant military.
These races are key members of the Covenant Empire but, for one reason or another, they were deemed unworthy of combat duty and serve purely logistic or technical support roles. As such, they are rarely seen by humans, with some having gone the entire length of the 25 year Human-Covenant War without being seen by a single human.
The first species on this list that occupy a purely non-combat role, the Engineers are life forms that were artificially created by the Forerunners during the waning days of their conflict with the Flood. Known to the Covenant as Huragok, these createures care only for carrying out repairs and building new things. Engineers are docile and could even be considered cute, and many joined the UNSC after the downfall of the Covenant.
The figureheads of the Covenant religion as well as the political leaders of the Covenant Empire, the Prophets (or San’Shyuum) were once tall, athletic creatures capable of extraordinary feats of physical combat. However, due to the loss of their homeworld before the Covenant was even formed, the Prophets today are feeble and rely on gravity belts or thrones in order to move around. Following the destruction of High Charity and the downfall of the Covenant, very few of these enigmatic creatures remain.
These races, although still Covenant Civilians, have their own sub-faction within the Covenant, in that they are races that have an alliance with or have tentatively joined the Covenant, but have no active role in either the military or the main logistic hubs of the Empire.
For example, many races of the Covenant Fringe live on the outskirts of Covenant space, light-years from even the most remote human settlement. As such, these species are even rarer than regular Covenant civilians, and because the Fringe has not been fully explored in any form of Halo media, even 343 industries aren’t certain exactly how many races the Fringe consists of. We do know of a few, however.
Yonhet are diminutive, humanoid creatures that have a particular knack for hunting down Forerunner relics. For this reason some were inducted into the Covenant to use as artifact retrieval specialists or scouts, but none were ever involved in combat. It wasn’t until after the war, when the Covenant was splintered, that the Yonhet emerged to find a role in the post-Covenant galaxy.
Although their canon status was in limbo for over a decade, the elusive ‘Drinol’ – a cut race from Halo: CE and Halo 2 – has finally been confirmed to exist within the Halo universe, and they are assumed to be one of the members of the Fringe. These giant creatures are used for their brute strength and are known to cause massive collateral damage, so were rarely seen even on the front line of the Covenant war.
So, with all the known Covenant races listed here, we can conclude that there are at least ten races in the Covenant at the height of its power. However, as previous stated, neither we as players nor the development team of Halo are sure exactly how many species the Covenant consists of.
The previously unknown Covenant Fringe are a relatively new concept that has not been explored properly in Halo games, books, TV shows or comics, so until we get a full outline of what species are in the Fringe, we will never know exactly how big the Covenant really was.
Still, even without the Fringe, the Covenant is still a large and diverse alliance of alien species, and although it inevitably ended in disaster, one cannot help but admire the fact that the Empire stood for so long despite being made up of so many opposing races. What the Covenant lacks in transparency, it makes up for in diversity.
Halo 5: Guardians is a controversial installment in the Halo franchise for a variety of reasons. The games marketing didn’t accurate represent the actual content of the game in the eyes of many players, the decision to have over twice as many Locke levels as Chief levels in the campaign was unpopular with fans and the addition of microtransactions in the form of REQ packs is an issue still debated to this very day. But looking back at Halo 5: Guardians in hindsight, now that the multiplayer is fixed, the initial shock of Cortana being the villain has worn off, and Halo: Infinite will soon release its first trailer, is the game as bad as people remember?
A lot of people complained that Halo 5’s campaign felt too short, despite the fact that it has five more levels than Halo 4. In truth, three of Halo 5’s levels are confined to one area and feature no action, so there are less combat-heavy levels than one would initially think. The new fast-paced movement and fluid verticality allows for players to move across the map much faster, meaning that even though the actual sandboxes themselves seem a lot bigger, the time taken to traverse them are the same, relatively speaking, to previous Halo games.
In a similar fashion to the quantity over quality, the game features far more dialogue and expanded lore than past games, as the new squad mechanics means that the player is never alone and there are now hundreds of fully-voiced audio logs scattered throughout every level. However, the idle chatter between squadmates irritated some players, particularly since some of the dialogue seems forced out of nowhere. As many other critics have already pointed out, Halo 5 leaned too heavily on wider expanded lore to tell its story, rather than building the characters and plot in the game itself as the levels progressed.
To give credit where its due, the dedication to Halo’s vast expanded universe in Halo 5: Guardians is admirable. Many fans believe that if the main focus of the game had been improved with equal focus on Chief as on Locke and more levels to span out the story, the audio logs would have been a fantastic icing on the cake. The requirement of having to read and look up on so much wider lore to understand Halo 5’s story, however, is less appetizing.
There is no doubt now that Halo 5’s multiplayer is fun and diverse, but that wasn’t necessarily always the case. One of the biggest issues with Halo 5 on release was the lack of multiplayer content – 343 industries and Microsoft promised a year or more’s worth of free content updates, but this was later revealed to simply be a ploy to save them time, and the updates were simply adding content into the game that really should have been there at launch. As previously said, the fact that the updates have now all been released means that Halo 5 has a great multiplayer, but modes like Infection, Firefight and Oddball really should have been in the game from the beginning.
The newest mode in Halo 5 that drew a lot of attention to the game on release of the Warzone mode, which is a fun PvPvE mode involving two teams that compete to defeat A.I. bosses and complete objectives whilst battling each other and a plethora of Covenant and Forerunner soldiers. This mode is heavily tied to the new REQ system, and the basic formula works like this – if you have all the REQs, this game is hilarious and fun. If you don’t have any REQs, the game will be a frustrating grind. However, one thing that can be said about the REQ system is that if you choose to forego buying a single REQ pack with money and instead stick simply to the in-game currency purchasing method, it makes for a rewarding challenge to unlock them all.
Forge and Firefight
A more recent Warzone mode is Warzone Firefight, which removes the PvP aspect of Warzone and focuses it completely on PvE. This mode features 5 rounds of 5 minutes each in which a team must eliminate A.I. bosses or bots to complete each objective. As each round progresses, the targets will become more difficult until eventually Legendary and Mythic bosses will appear. The REQs can be used in this mode, and some say that this mode is actually the most fun way to play Halo 5 – it has a ‘party mode’ feel to it, and is ideal for kicking back and having a bit of fun. However, another feature in the game vies for that top spot, and that is the Forge mode. Available on both Xbox and PC, Halo 5’s Forge is something above and beyond what previous Forge modes have offered.
In Halo 5’s Forge, you can create almost anything – thanks to a completely revamped system involving custom objects, light scripting, a plethora of new Forge-able materials and the new engine, the mode has allowed the community to create some truly amazing things. Each and every single past Halo map has now been remade in Halo 5, and thanks to the Custom Games Browser you can actually play these maps online. The inclusion of all the REQ weapons and vehicles in Forge allows for some really fun and diverse maps – imagine a version of Big Team Battle but with every weapon and vehicle being the maximum-level REQ version, with Carbines that shoot Needle Rifle bullets, Anti-Air Wraiths, Hannibal Scorpions and Nornfang Sniper Rifles. Anything is possible.
So, What Went Wrong?
It might seem odd to some that Halo 5 was poorly received, as it is still a great game in its own right. The general consensus on this game is that if it had been a standalone title with no expectations to live up to, it would be looked back on far more fondly by gamers. Unfortunately, as it is the fifth installment in a hugely popular and successful series, it is stuck in a limbo – it isn’t quite good enough to impress Halo fans, and yet it is so drenched in the deluge of Halo’s lore and identity that it is fairly inaccessible to non-fans.
Hopefully 343 industries have learned from their mistakes with Halo 5, as it already seems like Halo: Infinite will take a more back-to-basics approach that the franchise sorely needs. Still, it is important that we do not let Halo 5’s successes fall under the radar, and as a community the Halo fanbase needs to make 343 aware of the things that they did right in Halo 5 – such as the returning classic characters, diverse weapons sandbox, interesting audio logs, and above all the incredible Forge mode, to ensure that these great ideas are carried over into future Halo games.
Since the first tidbits of Halo: Infinite’s story were teased in the Discover Hope trailer, fans have been scrambling to find as many details about the game’s plot as possible. In the typical Halo trailer style, hints were dropped about the nature of the game’s plot but we are given very little tangible clues as to where the story of Halo is up to in the lead up to the sixth main instalment in the series.
However, there is a lot that we do know post-trailer, as there were several hints, some obvious and some not, as to where we are with this new Halo game following the cliffhanger ending to Halo 5. The fact that the trailer is set on an adrift Pelican, with Chief floating around in space near a critically damaged Halo ring, would seem to suggest that some form of conflict has just occurred, further implied by the Marine’s quote that humanity “Lost Everything”, which suggests that a significant battle took place on the ring at some point that did not go well for the UNSC. Not only that, but the conflict seems to have torn a hole right through the surface of Zeta Halo.
Stalwart fans of the series know all too well that Halo rings are particularly difficult to destroy, at least not without great sacrifice – at the climax of Halo: Combat Evolved, Chief destroys Alpha Halo by overloading the fusion reactors aboard the UNSC Pillar of Autumn, sacrificing the cruiser to annihilate the Halo. Fans have pointed out that, although the damage seen to Zeta Halo is distinctly different from the cataclysm that destroyed Installation 04, it is still very possible that the Humans decided to damage the ring to prevent anyone – particularly Cortana – from using it.
It is known that the UNSC had at least one base on Zeta Halo, so it is possible that the Humans there sacrificed themselves to destroy the base and, in turn, destroy the ring. However, there is a much more likely possibility that has some fans worried – what if the ring was destroyed by the UNSC Infinity? Now, it is unclear how much actual firepower would be needed to do this, and we saw in the first cutscene of Halo 4’s Spartan Ops that the UNSC Infinity was more than capable of ramming through enemy targets with little-to-no damage, but it seems there is only one clear conclusion that fits all the evidence that we have so far. The UNSC Infinity destroyed itself in order to deny Cortana access to Installation 07.
What does this mean for the future of the series? The Infinity was, in many ways, 343 industries’ poster-boy for the post-war UNSC, in that it was an obscenely powerful one-ship fleet that is very, very big. But some fans have complained in the past that this depiction of the post-war UNSC is not realistic, and contrasts with the guerrilla-style warfare that Humans had to adopt in previous Halo titles. It could be, therefore, that 343 are replicating the same feeling of backs-to-the-wall combat that the original trilogy was known for.
So the question remains – where will the story start? If Halo 5: Guardians’ trailer was anything to go by, it could be that we have already seen the opening cutscene to Halo: Infinite, in that the launch trailer is what will kick off the campaign. Provided we get sufficient context as to what happened between the end of Halo 5 and the start of Halo: Infinite, many Halo fans would be more than happy with this – a break from the lore-heavy, ensemble-cast Halo 5 would be seen as a welcome change – and it would place players firmly into the shoes of the Master Chief for some good old-fashioned Lone Wolf Halo action.
From the iconic Ghost to the elusive Shadow, we rank the Top 10 Covenant Vehicles in Halo here at Sacred Icon
The Covenant have a lot of vehicles, and each and every one is unique in its own way, which is one of the things that makes Halo so fun to play. Since Halo: Combat Evolved players have been thrilled at the prospect of stealing an alien hovercraft, and inevitably driving it off a cliff. After all, driving a tank is all well and good, but driving an alien tank is better. As such, welcome to the Top 10 Covenant Vehicles in Halo, starting with:
#10 – Shadow
A Covenant transport vehicle that only features in one level of Halo 2, the Shadow is the ‘Bus’ of the Covenant, used to transport squads of soldiers around. The Shadows that players face in the Halo 2 level Metropolis are adapted for transporting Ghosts, and opportunistic players will destroy the Shadow’s cargo before it can be used. However, Shadows do feature a massive heavy plasma cannon for defence, so the task is not easy. The Shadow very nearly didn’t appear on this list, primarily due to the fact that it isn’t actually driveable by players, however the plasma cannon can be manned if the vehicle’s crew is killed, and those who do so will find that it can fire at a comically fast rate when operated by a human, making it quite a destructive tool if the chance to use it ever arises.
#9 – Chopper
A Brute scout and rapid attack vehicle that is as menacing as it is unsafe, the Chopper was born from a desire of the developers to give the Brutes more of an identity as a race, and as this is their primary vehicle, it embodies everything that the Brutes are known for. The massive front wheel that doubles as a ram is unwieldy and offers no protection to the driver but is a devastating weapon, capable of destroying a Warthog. The Chopper is a fun vehicle to drive, but it is monstrous in its appearance and would probably be the most uncomfortable vehicle to use for transport on this entire list.
#8 – Spirit
The original Covenant dropship featured in Halo: Combat Evolved, the Spirit is immediately recognisable for its tuning-fork shaped design, and was the Covenant’s mainline dropship before the Phantom became prominent. It is undoubtedly fast, able to clear entire valleys in seconds, but its unwieldy design makes it a less than ideal form of transport. Since the player cannot drive this vehicle, we never get the chance to see how this ship performs, but Captain Keyes is able to use deftly fly this ship and even use the prongs as battering rams to squash a pair of Hunters, which gives us enough of an idea of the capabilities of this vessel. However, with with only one plasma turret for defence, the Spirit doesn’t stand a chance of beating the Phantom.
#7 – Wraith
The Covenant’s main tank, the Wraith comes in several variants, the most common being the standard plasma mortar version. This weapon might seem an odd choice for a main battle tank, as the Human equivalent, the Scorpion, is arguably more effective with its direct and to-the-point 90mm cannon. But the Wraith’s weapon is not to be underestimated, as many inattentive players who fail to heed its characteristic hollow wail will be taken by surprise as fiery blue death rains down from the sky. Driving this vehicle is fun too, although the tank is very slow. Some variants come with a secondary gunner position to fend off boarders, and the infamous Anti-Air Wraith is a completely different variety altogether, featuring double Fuel Rod Cannons. Through a glitch players can drive this Wraith in the campaign of Halo 3 several times, and it proves incredibly effective.
#6 – Spectre
The Covenant’s answer to the Warthog, the Spectre is a fast and nimble vehicle designed for rapid attack and scouting. Its design means that it can hold a driver, a main gunner and two passengers, one more than the Warthog can, meaning that if both riders are equipped with heavy weapons, the Spectre can pack quite a punch. Its E-brake and excellent hover systems mean that it is even capable of driving up walls, provided the angle isn’t too steep, which is a fun and unique feature. The only thing that really lets the Spectre down is its light armour, and the fact that it only ever appeared in one game.
Honourable Mention – Prowler
It is also worth mentioning the Prowler, the Brute answer to the Spectre that appears in Halo 3. This vehicle, like the Chopper, is designed to embody Brute design philosophy, so all the emphasis is on the front ram for maximum damage. Unlike the Spectre, the Prowler’s turret is at the front, meaning it does offer some protection for the driver from forward-facing attacks. However, the Prowler’s driver is dangerously exposed from all other angles, meaning the vehicle can be stranded with a well-placed sniper shot, leaving the exposed gunner as the next logical target.
#5 – Ghost
One of the Covenant’s most iconic vehicles, the Ghost is a common sight in Halo games, usually driven by an Elite but occasionally by Brutes, Grunts and the occasional opportunistic Marine. Fast and highly manoeuvrable, the Ghost is the perfect one-man scouting vehicle, and its broad front armour shields the driver from forward facing attacks. However, it is vulnerable to attacks from the side, and some models can be critically damaged by a single shot to the exposed turbine on the side. Regardless, the Ghost is a fun vehicle to drive that handles very well and features powerful armaments in its two front plasma cannons.
#4 – Banshee
Any veteran Halo player would recognise the tell-tale wail of the Banshee as it arcs down for an attack run, as this light air vehicle is the Covenant’s primary airborne attack craft and often escorts dropships or guards large Covenant targets from the air. Later Halo games feature vast aerial dogfights against Banshees, and Halo: Reach even introduced a space variant, meaning that wherever the Covenant is airborne, Banshees are likely involved. There have been many variants of the Banshee over the years, with some focusing on speed and manoeuvrability and some featuring heavy fuel rod bombs.
#3 – Revenant
This fast attack vehicle is the ultimate Covenant cruising machine. Essentially a Covenant sports car, the Revenant combines the speed and agility of the Ghost with the punch of a tank, featuring a ‘mini-Wraith’ medium plasma mortar that lacks the raw power of the Wraith’s heavier version but is more than capable of mopping up other light vehicles. The Revenant features room for a single passenger, half that of the Spectre, but the Revenant is arguably better armoured and gives the driver control of the main weapon.
#2 – Phantom
The Covenant’s primary dropship, the Phantom is an ideal flight machine that features multiple armaments of either plasma turrets or plasma cannons, is capable of flying in space, transports entire squads of soldiers into battle, and can either deploy its troops via gravity lift or, to save time, open the passenger compartment up and drop the troops directly onto the battlefield. The Phantom’s only weakness is the engine turbines, which can buckle under concentrated heavy weapons fire and in some games the dropships can be destroyed due to a chain reaction if enough damage is done to the propulsion systems. Sangheili Phantoms are even fitted with active camouflage, meaning they can go completely invisible at a moment’s notice.
#1 – Scarab
The ultimate ground assault vehicle, the Scarab is a behemoth four-legged walker that comes in several varieties, each more deadly than the last. The most common design is the one seen in Halo 3, Halo 3: ODST and Halo: Reach, which sports a huge rear-mounted anti-air gun and a main beam cannon capable of ripping through vehicles. This model can be destroyed, however, if enough damage is done to the leg joints and the vehicle is boarded, as enough firepower directed at the power core will cause an overload. However, the version seen in Halo 2 towers above its weaker counterpart, is completely indestructible and sports two heavy plasma cannons and a main beam emitter capable of tearing through buildings. Not only that, but it features a more enclosed main control room and space for transporting dozens of soldiers, making it the perfect vehicle for almost any terrain.
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
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
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.
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.
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’.
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.
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.