Note: This is part three of a four part article which contains major spoilers to not only the games in the Halo series but also the various novels and other media. Proceed at your own discretion. To read part one, please click on the following link: An Obsessive’s Guide to Halo – Part 1. To read part two, please click on the following link: An Obsessive’s Guide to Halo – Part 2
Thus far, we’ve covered a whole lot of Halo lore that many might not be too accustomed to. But now we’re going to start diving into the most important part of the Halo timeline. In this article I’ll be covering Halo: Reach as well as Halo: Combat Evolved. There’s a lot to cover in this section, let’s get to it.
July 24th – August 30th 2552 (The Fall of Reach – Halo: Reach/Halo: The Fall of Reach)
Halo: Reach was the sixth Halo game to be released and served as a prequel to the events of the original trilogy of games. It was also the last Halo game to be developed by series creators; Bungie.
Decades after the Human-Covenant war began humanity was well and truly on the defensive. The Covenant had barrelled through numerous colonies and were slowly making their way towards Earth. Due to the Covenant’s barbaric glassing of planets Earth’s location was to be kept the utmost secret. Any ship, facility or planet that fell to the Covenant was ordered to initiate the Cole Protocol – the complete destruction of all data matrices and the self-destruction of UNSC ships to avoid revealing Earth’s or any other planets location.
At the beginning of July 2552, a massive battle between the Covenant and the UNSC was fought above the planet Sigma Octanus IV. Both sides took heavy losses but the UNSC managed to successfully repel the Covenant. What seems like a victory however was soon to become a disaster. A ship named the UNSC Iroquois retreated to the planet Reach – humanity’s second planet after Earth and the main military stronghold of the UNSC – but had unknowingly been tagged by a Covenant tracker. The Covenant had discovered the location of Reach.
Later in July, a team of SPARTAN III soldiers (SPARTAN III’s were seen as expendable over the vastly superior SPARTAN II’s and were developed in complete secret) and a SPARTAN II were sent to investigate a disturbance at the Visegrád satellite relay on Reach. Noble Team were handpicked as the best of the best at what they do. Upon arriving at Visegrád – and anticipating insurrectionists – they discovered the worst thing they could possibly imagine. A Covenant scouting team, whom they quickly despatched.
After getting word to their higher ups, it was obvious that the Covenant were prepping and invasion force. Noble Team was sent into a Covenant “dark zone” to help set a counter attack in motion. The UNSC and Covenant clashed – with the former making a good push – until it was discovered that a Covenant super carrier vessel had been cloaked in the lower atmosphere the whole time.
Covenant deployments became more widespread and the UNSC planned to destroy the Covenant super carrier with a “Slipspace bomb” which would rip the carrier in half. Noble Team’s resident SPARTAN II – Jorge – was lost on this mission, staying behind to manually arm the bomb. His sacrifice was in vain however, as the Covenant sent the largest fleet ever witnessed to Reach in order to destroy it.
After the loss of their second in command – Kat – during the Siege of New Alexandria, Noble was redeployed to raze a high priority structure. Sword Base was occupied by the Covenant, but after reaching it they were diverted by Dr. Catherine Halsey to help defend a Forerunner artefact buried deep under the ground. Halsey explained that the artefact contained the location of humanity’s only hope and bestowed a fragment of the A.I. Cortana with this information to Noble 6. They were ordered to take it to a ship named the UNSC Pillar of Autumn which was waiting for them.
As this was going on, SPARTAN John-117 – also known as Master Chief – was being deployed to Reach Gamma Station to initiate the Cole Protocol on databases which had not been purged. The mission was successful but Master Chief lost two of his SPARTAN comrades in action – James and Linda. After rescuing several marines – including Sergeant Avery Johnson – Master Chief evacuated them back to the Pillar of Autumn. Master Chief also brought back Linda who, whilst clinically dead, could have a slim chance of survival. Master Chief entered cryosleep along with Linda.
The Pillar of Autumn set down in Aszod to await the package from Noble Team, who were now down to just half their numbers. Their commander – Carter – was killed when taking on a scarab defence platform by initiating a kamikaze manoeuvre. The SPARTAN known as Emile was killed by an Elite who stabbed him through the abdomen with an energy sword. Noble 6 handed over the Cortana fragment to the captain of the Pillar of Autumn – Jacob Keyes – but refused to go with them. Noble 6 stayed behind and manned a magnetic accelerator cannon to ensure the Pillar of Autumn escaped into slipspace.
Noble 6 was later killed in action as the Covenant took complete control over Reach. The planet was glassed and now nothing could stand between the Covenant and Earth.
September 19th – September 22nd 2552 (Battle of Installation 04/Alpha Halo – Halo: Combat Evolved)
Halo: Combat Evolved was the first Halo game to be released and was a major new IP for Microsoft’s new Xbox console. The game was a critical and commercial success and set the benchmark for first person shooters for the next decade.
After a blind slipspace jump in an attempt to return to Earth, the Pillar of Autumn arrived above the planet Threshold. In reality, Cortana had planned this random jump as it would bring them into the proximity of one of the Halo rings. The Covenant were already lying in wait at the ring – known as Installation 04 or Alpha Halo – and engaged the Pillar of Autumn. Master Chief was awoken from cryo sleep where he was bestowed with Cortana and told to evacuate the ship whilst Captain Jacob Keyes initiated the Cole Protocol.
After successfully evacuating in a life pod, Master Chief landed on the surface of Alpha Halo. The Marines in his pod died upon impact but small contingents still remained scattered through the area, including Sergeant Johnson. After rescuing the Marines from Covenant attacks and travelling through various caves that certainly weren’t natural formations a plan was devised to rescue the now captive Jacob Keyes from the Covenant cruiser, the Truth and Reconciliation. After boarding the ship from its gravity lift, Master Chief and a handful of marines battled through corridor after corridor until they found Keyes and escaped on board a commandeered Covenant Spirit.
Two separate assaults were launched on the Covenant soon afterwards. Master Chief led a team of marines on a beach assault on what was known as the Silent Cartographer island. After fighting their way to the cartographer, Master Chief learns the location of Halo’s control room and sets off to find it.
Meanwhile, Jacob Keyes and Sergeant Johnson infiltrated a research facility the Covenant had seemingly taken an interest in, possibly due to a weapons cache. What they didn’t know was that this research facility was one of the last places in the galaxy to house live Flood specimens, and the Covenant had inadvertently unleashed them from containment…
After learning the location of Halo’s control room, Master Chief and the Marines assault it in an attempt to stop the Covenant from doing something rash. Once there, Cortana interfaces with the systems and discovers that the location Keyes was looking for the weapons cache is a containment facility and that it has been compromised. Cortana stays behind to scour through Halo’s systems whilst Master Chief rushes to save Keyes.
Upon arrival at the facility in the swamp things take a rather sinister turn. Master Chief finds a crashed Pelican dropship but no signs of any Marines and hears assault rifle gunfire in the distance. Once he enters the facility there still seems to be no signs of life but there are definite signs of a battle having taken place. Further on, Master Chief finds a Marine’s helmet and accesses the on-board camera. He finds that Keyes, Johnson and the Marines were overrun by an enemy he had never seen before. Immediately afterwards the same enemy engages him and he attempts to escape the facility. Once he has reached the swamp again a mysterious floating orb requests Master Chief’s help. 343 Guilty Spark is the caretaker of Alpha Halo and requires Master Chief’s assistance in activating its defence protocols to take care of the Flood. They teleport to the location known as the Library, to acquire the activation index.
After fighting through four difficult stories of Flood, Guilty Spark and Master Chief arrive at the index chamber where they acquire the index. Guilty Spark exclaims that the Flood is spreading at an alarming rate and they need to hurry to the control room.
Returning to the control room, Guilty Spark asks Master Chief to insert the index and activate Halo. Just before he does, Cortana jumps out of the system and tells him to stop. She explains that Halo is an ultimate weapon of mass destruction and activating it would destroy organic life in a wide radius. Guilty Spark is outraged that Cortana is in the system and turns Halo’s defensive sentinels on him. After destroying three phase generators to stop Guilty Spark from manually firing Halo, Cortana attempts to locate the Pillar of Autumn’s crash site where they will overload the fusion reactors and destroy the ring. Cortana then procedes to teleport herself and Master Chief to the Truth and Reconciliation in search of Keyes.
Upon arriving at the Truth and Reconciliation they find it’s overrun with Flood. Jacob Keyes’ signal seems to be originating from the ship, as he’s the only one who has the access codes for the crashed Pillar of Autumn it’s of the utmost importance that he’s found. After fighting through the winding corridors once again, Chief and Cortana arrive at the ship’s bridge only to find that Keyes has been completely consumed by a Flood brain form. Master Chief’s only option is to punch a hole in the remains of Keyes infected head and remove the implants in his brain. Cortana analyses the implants as Master Chief hijacks a Covenant Banshee to reach the Pillar of Autumn.
After using explosives to overload the Pillar of Autumn’s reactors, Master Chief uses a Warthog to travel to the other end of the ship to escape via a Longsword fighter that remains in a hanger.
After escaping the surface of the ring, the Pillar of Autumn detonates and destroys a large chunk of Alpha Halo. The ring completely destabilizes and is no longer a threat.
August – September 2552 (Halo: First Strike)
Halo: First Strike is a novel which ties the events of Halo: Combat Evolved and Halo 2 together. Whilst this article is already running far too long with the vast amount of information there is, it’s quite necessary to mention this particular novel as it – without spoiling too much if you’ve not read it- addresses some key plot points. Halo: First Strike details how Master Chief , Sergeant Johnson, Cortana and several SPARTAN II’s from Reach manage to find their way back to Earth. It also details how most of a Covenant fleet which was being sent to Earth – who’s location was discovered due to information the Covenant had unearthed on Alpha Halo – was completely annihilated before it had a chance to depart. It also explains just how Sergeant Johnson was able to survive the Flood on Alpha Halo – hint: he’s a badass.
Keep an eye out for part 3.5 over the next few days which will conclude this area of the Halo story arc with Halo 2, Halo 3: ODST and Halo 3!