My Big Dumb Recap Of Halo's Ridiculous Story

by Jeff Marchiafava on Nov 02, 2012 at 09:30 AM

If you're like me, Halo's confusing plot has always taken a backseat to blasting aliens. Still, if you want a refresher before jumping into Halo 4, here's what I remember. You're welcome.

If you're looking for a more serious explanation of Halo's complex lore, Miller's got you covered. This is what I remember of the story in-between all the parts where you're shooting things. My knowledge may not cover everything, but I've still managed to save the galaxy from alien invaders five freaking times, so I'm willing to classify my understanding of the lore as "good enough."

Halo: Combat Evolved

Hail To The Chief
In the first three games, you play as Master Chief, a Spartan-II super soldier. The Spartan program was used to make normal puny soldiers into total badasses, and Master Chief was one of the lucky candidates who didn't die from the procedure. So right off the bat Master Chief is already pretty awesome, and pretty much the galaxy's last chance for survival. Oh, he also has a holographic woman named Cortana that lives inside of his head. She's kind of important.

Hello, Halo
The first game starts with Master Chief waking up on the Pillar of Autumn, which is under attack by an alien alliance called the Covenant. Captain Keyes tried to escape the Covenant by warping to an unknown area in the galaxy, which happens to be right next to the planet Halo. The ship was still damaged, though (some Captain), so Master Chief jumps ship in an escape pod.

After landing, Master Chief finds out that Captain Stupid crashed the Pillar of Autumn onto Halo, and then promptly got himself captured by the Covenant. Your job is to free him while investigating the weird ringworld. How does a planet form in the shape of a ring? The answer: it doesn't! It's actually a giant machine made by an ancient alien species, but we'll get to that later. First, Master Chief has some alien asses to kick.

The Covenant
As stated earlier, the Covenant is an alliance of aliens that are at war with humanity. These include the baby-talking-pushover Grunts, the cheap-sniping-bird-dude Jackals, the not-quite-as-good-as-their-name-implies-but-whatever Elites, and the "Holy-crap-get-that-thing-away-from-me!" Hunters. Later sequels would introduce more species in the Convenant, but these are the important ones. They're not the only enemies Master Chief has to kill, however.

Open The Flood Gates
After rescuing Keyes and some other survivors, Master Chief tries to enter Halo's control room in order to see what the heck the giant alien machine actually does. Meanwhile, however, the Covenant prove that Captain Stupid isn't the only one capable of making mistakes, as they accidentally release a plague of zombies called the Flood.

The Flood is another species of alien that infects and mutates other living organisms in order to control them. They're also pretty freaky looking, and have a tendency to swarm their enemies. The Flood eventually eats Keyes, so Master Chief decides he should probably stop them.

Guilty Jerk
In order to stop the Flood, Master Chief teams up with an idiot robot named 343 Guilty Spark. Guilty Spark tells Master Chief that he has a secret weapon that can kill the Flood, so our hero decides to help him.

Unfortunately, the weapon is guarded by the best security system in the galaxy; getting to it requires travelling through the Library, the longest and most monotonous video game level ever created, which kills intruders with its sheer boredom.

Master Chief is a badass though, so he takes some No-Doze and makes it through. But right before he activates the machine, he receives a last-minute warning from Cortana, informing him that activating the Halo will kill all life in the galaxy. See? I told you she was important.

Guilty Spark soon realizes the jig is up and tries to stop the Master Chief from destroying the ringworld. However, he's no match for the veteran space marine; Master Chief shoots Guilty Spark with a laser from his own robot henchman (snap!) and then hightails it off the planet before blowing it up.

Coming Up Next: Do I seriously still have four more games to summarize?!

Halo 2

Meet The Arbiter
In a surprise twist, players take control of a Covenant Elite commander during periods of the second game. The commander was blamed for not stopping Master Chief from blowing up the first Halo, because the Covenant still don't know how those stupid rings work. He gets tortured awhile for being a heretic, but eventually gets promoted to Arbiter because, all things considered, he's still more of a badass than most of the incompetent aliens in the Covenant.

Another Halo?!
While the Arbiter is busy killing heretics, Master Chief and the rest of the humans are partying back on Earth because they blew up the Halo. Then more Covenant show up and start invading the planet. Master Chief fends off most of them, then chases after the main ship with Cortana and Keyes (no, not the dead one – Captain Stupid's daughter) as it tries to escape. Our heroes then find another Halo world, and decide they might as well blow that one up too, before the Covenant can activate it. Idiots!

Little Shop Of Horrors
Here's where things start getting weird. At some point, the Arbiter figures out that Guilty Spark (he's back, by the way) and the leader of the Covenant are planning to activate the new Halo, and that the only way to stop the annihilation of all life is to team up with Master Chief to destroy it. Before they agree to work together, however, they both independently fall into a big hole on the new ringworld and get caught by that giant plant seen above – naturally.

Luckily, the plant isn't just any old plant – it's a zombie plant that controls the Flood. The plant realizes the Flood will also be destroyed if the ring gets activated, so it teleports the duo to different places on the planet to stop the Covenant. At the same time, however, the plant also infects Master Chief's ship, 'cos that's what zombie plants do.

Ark Attack
The Arbiter and Master Chief eventually succeed in stopping the Covenant from activating the new Halo planet, but it's still primed to kill everyone – along with all the other Halo planets. In order to stop them, Master Chief has to track down a control station called the Ark; blowing it up will eliminate the Halo threat once and for all. Before he can do that, however, we get a great big "To Be Continued" message. Son of a...

Halo 3

About That Ark...
Halo 3 starts with Master Chief and company fighting more Covenant forces back on Earth, while the Covenant leader, known as the High Prophet of Truth, opens some kind of portal to the Ark. Everyone else follows him to the Ark, including: Master Chief, the Arbiter, the Elites (which are good guys at this point), Keyes (she's still alive, somehow), Johnson (who hasn't been important enough to mention until now), and Guilty Spark. I'm not sure why everyone thinks Guilty Spark isn't a jerk anymore, but whatever.

When they all get to the Ark, Truth kidnaps Johnson in order to activate all of the Halo rings, because using the Ark requires a human for some reason. Keyes gets killed in the process, continuing her lineage's longstanding tradition of sucking. Then the Flood shows up to infect everything, but the zombie plant leader once again joins Master Chief and the Arbiter to stop the activation.

Scarabian Knights
At some point in Halo 3, you fight a Scarab, the gigantic Covenant vehicle pictured above. Destroying the towering structure requires Master Chief to immobilize and climb inside of it, then damage its power core, resulting in a massive explosion. I mention it here not because it's all that important to the story, but because it remains the most badass moment of the entire series.

Everyone Gets Betrayed
Back on the Ark, the Arbiter kills Truth, preventing the activation of all the Halos. Then the zombie plant turns on our heroes, but Master Chief incinerates it. Then Guilty Spark turns into a jerk again when he realizes the Ark is creating a new Halo ring to replace the one Master Chief blew up in the first game. Guilty Spark kills Johnson so he can control the ring, then Master Chief and the Arbiter kill Guilty Spark. What is this, Hamlet?

Hit The Snooze Button
After all the turncoats are dead, Master Chief and the Arbiter decide to blow up the new Halo planet, which will kill the Flood and destroy the Ark in one fell swoop. They succeed, but as they're escaping on the Forward Unto Dawn, it gets caught halfway through the portal.

The front half, carrying the Arbiter and the other good Elites, gets transported back to Earth. The ass-end of the ship, carrying Master Chief and Cortana, drifts into nothingness. At the very end, Cortana activates a distress beacon, and Master Chief takes a well-deserved nap.

And now we're all caught up for Halo 4! Wait, weren't there two more Halo games?

Halo 3: ODST

Sucks To Be You
ODST follows a squad of UNSC shock troopers on Earth during Halo 2, after Master Chief and company warp off to find the second Halo. Our poor ODST squad is left in New Mombasa, where they try in vain to defeat the rest of the Covenant occupying the city. Unlike previous Halo games, ODST sports more of an open-world design. However, most gamers didn't like playing as wimpy troopers instead of Spartan-II super soldiers.

Engineering The Future
During their battles, the squad finds out that the Covenant are looking for something underneath the city, which turns out to be a Covenant Engineer – a slave alien species that the Covenant use as biological supercomputers. This specific Engineer doesn't like being a slave supercomputer, though, so it defects to the humans. The squad then tries to fight off the pursuing Covenant and escape with the Engineer. They succeed, and the Engineer provides them with valuable information – but not before New Mombasa gets nuked by the Covenant. That's what you get for sending someone who isn't Master Chief!

Halo: Reach

The End Is Only The Beginning
The latest installment of the Halo series is chronologically the earliest installment. It stars Noble Team, a squad of  cheapo Spartan-IIIs who we know from the beginning aren't making it out alive. Noble Team is tasked with investigating a Covenant invasion of planet Reach, which quickly turns into an all-out war. The game ends at the very beginning of the first Halo – I think that's the Circle of Life that monkey was singing about in The Lion King.

Everyone Dies
The soldiers of Noble Six fight to defend Reach and deliver Cortana to Captain Keyes on the Pillar of Autumn, dying one-by-one in order to accomplish their goals. The game ends with the Pillar of Autumn escaping the planet and warping to the Halo ringworld at the beginning of the first game. The player stays back on Reach to ensure the ship escapes, and is left to fight until his or her inevitable death. It's kind of a bummer – but if you've got to die, I guess ensuring the survival of humanity's last hope is an honorable way to go. 

That said, it will be nice to take Master Chief out of cold storage next Tuesday.

Still don't know the difference between a Covenant and Forerunner? Neither do I! Come back next Tuesday, when Miller answers all of our questions in his updated guide to Halo's fictional universe.