Halo for Beginners: A Short (Not Really) Summary of the First Halo Game for Those of You Who Are Curious

I love Halo.

It’s my absolute favorite video game of all time, and it holds a very special place in my heart. As such, expect more posts about Halo in the future.

Today, I thought I’d provide a commentary-laden synopsis of the first game’s story, just in case you don’t know squat about Halo, but you really want to fill that empty place in your soul that you never realized was empty until now, so of course, you want to fill it.

I am not in any way sponsored by Microsoft or anything, but I highly recommend this game to anyone who has a love for:

  1. Immersive sci-fi universes
  2. Faceless protagonists
  3. Celtic music
  4. Space vehicles named after animals
  5. One hell of a good time

Anywaysies, let’s begin!

Me wearing my Master Chief helmet and T-shirt
Aw yeah, let’s do this

Our story starts in an unknown region of space. A giant space-ship flies closer to us. This is the Pillar of Autumn (which is one of the best names for a spaceship EVER). We hear two voices from on-board discussing whether or not we “lost them.”

The first voice is that of Captain Keyes, the captain of the fine, rectangular ship we’re seeing. He’s a gruff-looking dude, but he’s just dripping with honor and duty and all that jazz. He’s a stereotypical ship captain. The next voice is female, and it is from the ship’s AI, Cortana. (Remember her, she’s important.) AIs get to select how they appear to people, and Cortana chooses to show herself as a naked, gorgeous-looking woman who is blue and covered in lines of data.

Apparently, Keyes, Cortana, and everyone on the ship is running away from an enemy alien force known as the Covenant. (Why the aliens would name themselves the Covenant is beyond me, but that’s what they’re called.)

The Autumn made a jump through slipspace (think hyperspace from Star Wars), but Cortana fears that the Covenant, with their uber-advanced space technology is going to follow them. Sure enough, Covenant ships appear, and there is no way the Pillar of Autumn can outmaneuver them all.

In front of the Autumn, Keyes and Cortana spot a strange object. (I’m gonna let you know now, it’s Halo.) It’s this giant ring-shaped world just floating in the middle of space. Since there’s nowhere else to go, Keyes decides to land on that.

(Honestly, I would have been a little more hesitant to land on a humongous ring. How would you even land on that anyway? The inside of the ring is covered in oceans and landmasses, and the outside appears to be made of this vibrant metal.)

While Keyes is readying the ship for the battle ahead, he tells Cortana to wake up the Master Chief, and the way he says it, you know that the Chief is going to be this bad-ass guy who solves everyone’s problems.

Master Chief is in some kind of cryo-sleep pod, but he was frozen while still in his suit of armor, which is fortuitously lucky because he’s thawed and woken up without so much as a cup of coffee, let alone a shower. The Covenant has begun their attack on the Pillar of Autumn, and some of them have boarded. Chief has to rush through the halls of the Autumn weaponless, dodging plasma fire left and right. He makes it to the bridge without a scratch because he’s awesome.

Once he appears in front of Keyes, the Captain tells him the situation. Since they’re landing the ship on the ring-world, Keyes wants Master Chief to take care of Cortana and stop her from falling into enemy hands. Cortana’s like this detachable hard drive with a personality, so if the Covenant got a hold of her, they could learn a bunch of human secrets, which would be not good, to say the least.

Master Chief’s armor comes complete with a USB port kind of thing, so he takes Cortana from the Pillar of Autumn’s control board and plugs her into his helmet. From this point on in the game, Cortana can speak to Chief (and us, the player) directly, telling him where to go and highlighting points of interest on his faceplate/visor/heads-up display.

Keyes then hands the Chief an unloaded pistol and sends him on his way. (We find ammo soon enough, but seriously, Captain, you just sent your best soldier into certain danger with an unloaded weapon. Shame. Shame. Shame.)

Chief and everyone else on the Pillar of Autumn make their way to escape pods and jettison themselves toward Halo.

Except for Keyes. He tries to land the Autumn manually. Those kinds of giant ships were probably not meant to land on a planet ever, but Captain Keyes sometimes makes decisions that aren’t rational. (Like giving his super soldier a pistol with no bullets.)

The escape pod the Chief is in makes a rough landing, so rough, in fact, that everyone else aboard it dies from the impact. Master Chief and Cortana have to behold the splendor of Halo all by their lonesome. (And I’m telling you, it looks phenomenal. When you look up in the sky, you can see the inner surface of the ring stretch up to each side of you. It’s freakishly beautiful and unforgettable.)

They don’t have long to take in the surroundings. The Covenant, damned fast bastards that they are, have landed on Halo too. They hound the Chief everywhere he goes. Cortana leads the Master Chief to several pockets of human survivors, and it’s while they’re getting them to safety that Cortana overhears from some Covenant chatter that Captain Keyes has been taken prisoner. He managed to land the Autumn, but the Covenant got to him before he could regroup with Master Chief.

The game then takes the Chief to this midnight mission where he has to sneak aboard a Covenant cruiser and take back the Captain. He gets to use the sniper rifle prolifically, picking off Covenant Elites (the tall human-ish aliens), Jackals (the shield-carrying aliens), and Grunts (the pathetic small aliens).

Master Chief meets Hunters on this mission too, these giant armor-covered aliens that shoot giant, green blasts of plasma at him that can take down his shield faster than Cortana can scream, “Chief!”

Once on the Covenant cruiser, Cortana and the Chief make it to the brig. The cruiser is a damned maze. Without Cortana, Chief would have gotten lost. And every surface appears to be purple. (Is purple the Covenant’s favorite color?)

Chief rescue Keyes. While he was in captivity, he learned from his Covenant captors that Halo is a weapon, and they want to use it against humanity. Keyes can’t have that happening, so he decides that they (and by they, he means the Master Chief) have to get the controls to Halo before the Covenant do.

Keyes then sends Master Chief and Cortana to look for a Map Room, which will tell them the location of Halo’s Control Room. Without any breaks, he sends them to the Control Room as soon as they know where it is. Master Chief is a one-man army. (Some of the credit goes to you, the player, for handling the role of the Chief so well.) He takes on waves of the Covenant. Friendly soldiers might join him occasionally, but they drop away like flies. (Especially if you’re playing on the Legendary difficulty setting.)

Once Master Chief and Cortana get to the Control Room, he plugs her in to the system. (I don’t know how or why a human AI is compatible with the console, but that’s just how the story goes.) Turns out, Halo was made my an ancient race of beings called the Forerunners, and they built it for a specific purpose.

Before Cortana can tell Chief exactly what the purpose is, she flips out. She starts shouting at him to find Captain Keyes and stop him from whatever he’s doing. (Apparently, there was no time for a simple explanation.) But Master Chief is an awesome super solider, so he just runs off to do as he’s told.

Cortana sends the Chief to Keyes’ last known location. It’s in this weird, swampy area. (The environment is clogged with moss-draped trees and eerie fog, and you immediately start getting the heebie jeebies.) To make matters worse, Keyes was checking out an underground part of Halo, so the Chief has to take an elevator down to these gray, subterranean hallways where everything looks the same.

As he makes his way through these hallways, he catches sight of Covenant bodies. They’re just lying everywhere. Master Chief just arrived, but already, it’s ghost town. (No way, you think to yourself, did Keyes take care of all of these guys.) Since Master Chief left Cortana plugged into the Control Room, she’s not around to tell him where to go. (You really start to miss her nagging and bossiness right about now.)

Eventually, he enters a room sees a collection of dead human soldiers. He goes to an abandoned helmet nearby and watches a recording of what happened. Keyes and company stumbled onto a door the Covenant had apparently been trying to lock immediately after opening it. Not using any sort of logic, Keyes ordered his soldiers to open the door again. Inside was something worse than the Covenant. A bunch of skittery little creatures with tentacles that can worm their ways inside your body start pouring out, and you watch in horror through the recording, as Keyes and his group is overrun.

Enter the Flood.

The small Flood creatures that infect people (humans or Covenant, it doesn’t matter which) are known as Infection Forms. Once they’re inside you, they turn you into these zombie-like creatures, known as Combat Forms. Instead of Covenant, Master Chief now has to fight these guys.

(Once the suspense is gone and you know what you’re fighting, the Flood aren’t that hard to deal with. They’re still creepy and gross, don’t get me wrong, but you’re the Master Chief. You don’t need to panic when you’re the Master Chief.)

After getting a bit lost a couple of times, Chief makes it back to the surface. The Flood are attacking from all sides now. It was preferable fighting them in the metallic hallways underground than in the misty swamp above. But suddenly, as if from nowhere, these floating machines emerge from the fog and start zapping away at the Flood.

Another machine appears, happily humming, and it tells the Master Chief that the Flood has broken out and it needs his help to contain it. Then, without permission, it teleports him away.

This machine is called a Monitor. It’s a robot the Forerunners (makers of the great Halo, remember) made to keep an eye on the facility. His name is…343 Guilty Spark. (I know, it’s a weird name.) The other machines zapping the Flood are called Sentinels. They just seem to exist to zap things.

Guilty Spark teleported Chief to a place called the Library, so that he can collect an Index. This Index, when placed in the Control Room, will activate the Halo and then destroy the Flood.

Spark seems a little off-kilter as he leads Chief through the Library. He keeps humming to himself and randomly saying, “I am a genius.” Meanwhile, Master Chief has to fight a flood of Flood around every corner. The Library is infested with them.

After what feels like hours following 343 Guilty Spark through countless corridors, the Chief finds the Index, and Spark teleports him back to the Control Room.

(Wish he could have teleported us right to the Index, but then a whole mission of the game would be gone.)

Once at the Control Room, Chief walks right up to the panel where he plugged Cortana in and puts the Index there. The rooms buzzes with some kind of energy, but then the buzzing fades away, like something was turning on and was then turned off. Guilty Spark is confused, but then lo and behold, Cortana appears, royally steamed at Chief. She was the one who stopped the activation of the Halo from within the system.

She berates the Chief for being a moron (essentially) and tells him that Halo does not destroy the Flood. Rather, it destroys the Flood’s food. Any living organism that the Flood could infect within 25,000 light-years is eradicated with a single burst from Halo.

Chief is like, “My bad.”

Spark doesn’t see what the big deal is. He insists on firing the Halo. However, with some quick thinking on Cortana’s part and some quick moving on the Chief’s part, the two run away from the Control Room with the Index still in their possession.

So now, not only does Master Chief have to fight the Covenant, he also has to fight the Flood and the Sentinels (those machines that zap the Flood, but now have no compunctions about zapping Chief).

Quite randomly, Cortana gets a message from Keyes. (He’s alive? What? How did he survive the Flood? Short answer: he didn’t.) He was absorbed by a Hivemind, a goopy collection of Flood parts. The Flood, as a collective, wants to know where more living and infectable organisms can be found, so they’re trying to probe Keyes’ mind to discover where Earth is.

Like a champ, Keyes holds on to that information long enough for Cortana and Master Chief to make it to his position. Once there, Chief punches a hole through Keyes’ skull, removing the Captain’s neural implants (which have the codes to the Pillar of Autumn, conveniently enough).

The Chief and Cortana return to the downed Pillar of Autumn. Cortana’s master plan is to blow the ship up, which will cause a large enough explosion to destroy the ring-world and everything on it.

The last battle is a tough one. 343 Guilty Spark sends a gazillion Sentinels Chief’s way to stop him, but with enough perseverance, he and Cortana set up the ship to explode. Master Chief then has to race through the ship to get to a hangar bay before the ship blows up in order to find a ship that’s capable of flying in space. (You literally race through the ship. You get in a vehicle and drive your way to the end. It’s funny, but when we were walking through the ship, the hallways didn’t seem large enough to drive through.)

The Pillar of Autumn blows up.

Halo is destroyed.

Master Chief and Cortana live to fight another day.

Phew! That was a lot. But you just can’t condense greatness.

2 thoughts on “Halo for Beginners: A Short (Not Really) Summary of the First Halo Game for Those of You Who Are Curious”

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