It’s that time again folks. Time for another Halo synopsis for beginners. You should probably skip right on past this post if you’re not inclined to read a fairly lengthy post on the events of the Halo 2 campaign.
We left off in the first game with Master Chief and Cortana escaping the exploding Halo ring. The beginning to Halo 2 opens on the Covenant Holy City, High Charity.
Side note: Nearly everything that the Covenant gives a name to sounds religiously zealous.
An armored Elite is being escorted to the head of a throne room by these large, furry aliens we have never seen before. These big guys are called Brutes, and you’ll learn to appreciate the new dynamic they bring to game-play. They have a habit of going berserk and charging at you in a rage when their shields are down.
These sickly-looking aliens, also hitherto unseen, are waiting for the Brutes and the Elite on these floating chair things at the head of the throne room. These are Prophets, leaders of the Covenant, and they have gathered to give the armored Elite a talking-to.
Apparently, they blame the destruction of the Halo ring on this hapless Elite. See, the Covenant viewed the ring as holy, and its destruction is “unforgivable.”
Whatever. These pretentious ass-wipes can go suck an egg. Did they honestly expect a single Elite to stop the destruction of a planet-sized Halo ring?
So the Prophets upbraid the Elite and decide to punish him like the assholes they are.
Side note: For some reason, Halo 2 has the aliens speaking English even though in the first game they spoke in an unintelligible gibberish.
Meanwhile, conversely, the Master Chief and Sergeant Johnson are getting rewarded for surviving the shit-storm that was the first encounter with a Halo ring. They’re getting an official ceremony on an orbital station above Earth.
See? Humanity appreciates its heroes.
So while Chief and Johnson are getting medals, the Elite back on High Charity is getting branded as a heretic in front of a raucous crowd of aliens.
The contrast is not lost on us.
Anyway, all good things must come to an end (Valar Morghulis). The medal ceremony is interrupted by a sudden attack on Earth by the Covenant fleet.
Questions as to how the aliens discovered humanity’s home planet are ignored in the face of the destruction the Covenant immediately begin wreaking on the planet. Chief and Cortana get back to work immediately, taking down a Covenant cruiser with their own dirty bomb and then traveling down to Earth’s surface to bring the fight to ground-level.
Helping the Chief are Sergeant Johnson, the guy who knows what ladies like, and Miranda Keyes, the daughter of the unfortunate Jacob Keyes from the first Halo.
Thanks to Master Chief’s awesomeness, the Covenant invasion is repelled, and the Prophet who was leading the attack, the Prophet of Regret, beats a hasty retreat. Miranda, Johnson, and the Chief decide to follow him through the slipspace jump he makes, and the whole bunch of them end up at another Halo ring.
Meanwhile, that Elite who was wrongfully disgraced is brought before two other Prophets. They have decided to give him the mantle of Arbiter. This position is given to Elites who devote their lives in service to the Covenant and who always take on the most high-risk missions. It’s a position of honor, but it’s also a guaranteed suicide attempt.
Like I said before, those Prophets are assholes.
The newly-named Arbiter is appreciative of his chance to redeem himself though. He is given his first mission to track down an escaped Elite who is called the Heretic. This Heretic leads a band of rebel Elites and Grunts who fight against the rest of the Covenant.
I like this guy already.
While the Arbiter fights the Heretic, the Heretic hints that the Prophets have been lying to the rest of the Covenant. However, instead of getting to the truth of this statement, the Arbiter just kills the Heretic anyway.
343 Guilty Spark makes a surprise appearance. He survived the explosion of the first Halo, and he encountered the Heretic afterwards. Spark’s teachings were what convinced the Heretic the Prophets were deceivers.
You think for a moment that maybe now the Arbiter will listen to what Spark will say, but a Brute shows up and zaps Spark down before a longer conversation can be had.
This Brute has a name, and it’s Tartarus. And no, we don’t like Tartarus.
Back with the Chief, he and his friends land on the new Halo ring, still in pursuit of the Prophet of Regret. No matter how many guards are thrown at the Chief, he shoots them all down and then punches the Prophet of Regret to death.
Side note: No, seriously, Chief punches the Prophet to death. It’s in the game. You get close to the guy in his stupid floating chair, you hop on, and then you start whapping him in the face. It’s pretty funny.
After this, the Chief falls into a lake and is yanked further down by this weird tentacle thing that appeared out of nowhere.
The game then chooses to have players play as the Arbiter after that cliffhanger of a mission. The Arbiter has been sent to the Halo ring as well to back up the Prophet of Regret. (He’s a tad too late.) Since the Chief is partially responsible for the Arbiter’s disgrace, the Arbiter can’t wait to confront him again.
But that all takes a backseat to political maneuvering. (Because we all play Halo for the politics.)
The Prophets have decided to replace the Elites in the hierarchy of the Covenant with the Brutes. This pisses off a lot of Elites.
The Arbiter mostly stays out of this debate. He’s already been demoted if you think about it. The Prophets of Mercy and Truth send him to find the Index to the Halo ring. If you recall from the first game, the Index to a Halo ring can be used to set it off, which would destroy nearly all life in the galaxy. The Arbiter doesn’t know this though. He thinks, as does most of the Covenant, that firing the Halo rings will initiate a Great Journey. (Which it kind of does, if you think of death as a great journey.)
Since the ring poses such a threat to all life, including humanity, Miranda Keyes and Johnson are also on the hunt for the Index.
They get to it before the Arbiter does, but the Arbiter steals it from them.
This victory is short-lived for the Arbiter because Tartarus shows his ugly mug and steals the Index from the Arbiter, right before kicking him down into a bottomless chasm. Turns out the Prophets don’t want to simply subdue the Elites onto a lower hierarchical rung; they want to eliminate them from the ladder completely.
Don’t worry. The Arbiter didn’t die.
Turns out that the tentacle creature that took the Chief also rescued the Arbiter. The tentacle creature is none other a Gravemind, a collection of Flood organisms that talks. Yup, the Flood is back too.
The Gravemind talks to both the Chief and the Arbiter and tells them that they need to stop the firing of the Halo ring. It’s in all of their interest to do so. He finally shoves in the Arbiter’s face that the Prophets have been lying to everyone about this Great Journey.
Side note: The purpose of the Halo rings is to destroy the Flood.
The Gravemind then teleports the Chief and the Arbiter to different places so that the two of them can separately work together to prevent the ring from firing. Chief ends up on High Charity. As he walks through the bowels of the city, he and Cortana realize that she has to be left behind in High Charity’s network. Cortana destroyed the last Halo ring by blowing up a ship’s reactor core, which caused a big enough explosion to tear apart the ring. Both she and the Chief realize she might need to do the same thing with this Halo ring if all else fails. (Arguably, High Charity would cause an even bigger explosion than the Pillar of Autumn.)
However, the Chief has to follow one of the Prophets, the Prophet of Truth, to his departing ship. Truth is heading back to Earth, and who knows what kind of mischief he’s planning back there. Chief has no choice but to follow him.
So Cortana and the Chief part ways, with the Chief promising to come back for her.
The Arbiter gets the cooler end mission. He rallies a bunch of Elites to his cause, and he and his buddies attack the Covenant forces. He saves Johnson, Keyes, and 343 Guilty Spark, and together, the three of them stop Tartarus from firing the Halo.
But only just in time.
Unfortunately, since Tartarus actually put the Index in to activate this ring only to have the procedure suddenly halted, the Halo rings everywhere have been placed on standby, ready to be activated from another remote location as a kind of fail-safe. This means that if someone gets to that remote location, they could fire every existing Halo ring with the press of a single button.
Side note: What kind of fail-safe is this?!
Halo 2 ends with the Prophet of Truth’s ship appearing back near Earth, the Master Chief hidden aboard it.
That was the worst cliffhanger of my life.