Halo (franchise)

HaloGenre(s)Developer(s)Publisher(s)Xbox Game StudiosPlatform(s)First releaseHalo: Combat EvolvedNovember 15, 2001Latest releaseHalo InfiniteDecember 8, 2021

Halo is a military science fiction media franchise. The franchise is currently managed and developed by 343 Industries, and owned and published by Xbox Game Studios. Primarily taking place in the 26th century, the franchise centers on conflict between humanity and a variety of alien species. The artifacts of a long-disappeared race, the Forerunners, play a key role; the eponymous Halo Array are immense, habitable and ring-shaped superweapons that were created by the Forerunners to destroy the parasitic Flood, but which the alien Covenant mistake for religious artifacts of transcendence. The series launched with the first-person shooter video game Halo: Combat Evolved and its tie-in novel, The Fall of Reach in 2001. The latest main game, Halo Infinite, was released in 2021.[1]

The games in the series are critically acclaimed, with the original considered the Xbox’s “killer app”.[2] This led to the term “Halo killer” being used to describe console games that aspire, or are considered, to be better than Halo.[3] Fueled by the success of Halo: Combat Evolved, and by marketing campaigns from publisher Microsoft, its sequels went on to record-breaking sales.[4][5][6] The games had sold over 81 million copies worldwide, with more than $6 billion in franchise grosses.[7] Halo has since become one of the highest-grossing media franchises of all time, spanning multiple best-selling novels, graphic novels, comic books, short movies, animated movies and feature films, as well as other licensed products.

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Plot[edit]

Hundreds of thousands of years ago, the Mantle of Responsibility belonged to the Forerunners. However, the Precursors wanted to remove such power from Forerunner hands and give it to the human race. In retaliation, the Forerunners drove the Precursors into extinction. Among the last of the Precursors, one let out a spore, hoping for it to spread and repopulate the Precursors. It spread like wildfire. However, instead of creating Precursors, the spore made a parasite known as the Flood. The Forerunners fought the Flood, which spread through infestation of sentient life and had overrun much of the Milky Way Galaxy. Exhausting all other strategies, the Forerunners conceived the Halo Array — ring-shaped megastructures and weapons of last resort that would destroy all sentient life in the galaxy to stop the Flood. Delaying as long as they could, the Forerunners activated the rings and disappeared.[8]

Nearly a hundred thousand years later in the 26th century, humanity—under the auspices of the United Nations Space Command, or UNSC—colonizes many worlds thanks to the development of faster-than-light “slipspace” travel. Tensions between the government and colonies desiring independence sparks violent clashes. The UNSC sponsors the SPARTAN-II Project to create an elite group of enhanced supersoldiers to suppress the rebellions covertly.[9] In the year 2525, human worlds come under attack by a theocratic alliance of alien races known as the Covenant, whose leadership declare humanity heretics and an affront to their gods—the Forerunners. The Covenant begin a genocidal holy war. Their superior technology and numbers prove decisive advantages; though effective, the Spartans are too few in number to turn the tide of battle in humanity’s favor. After the Covenant invade Reach, the UNSC’s last major stronghold besides Earth, Master Chief John-117 is left one of the few remaining Spartans.

The rediscovery of the Halo rings sets the humans against the Covenant, who believe they are instruments of transcendence, not destruction. Master Chief and his artificial intelligence Cortana are instrumental in the destruction of a Halo ring to stop the Covenant and the threat of the Flood. The Covenant descend into civil war following the expulsion of the Sangheili species, with many grappling over the revelation that their religion is false. The disgraced former Covenant Sangheili commander known as the Arbiter, along with the rest of his race, help the humans destroy the Covenant and stop its leader, Truth, from activating the Halo Array via the Ark. The Human-Covenant War ends, though new conflicts begin to emerge throughout the universe.

In the post-war era, the UNSC creates a new generation of Spartans, and tensions between the UNSC and colonist rebels resume. The Forerunner known as the Didact briefly returns to assert supremacy over humanity, though he is foiled by the Master Chief and Cortana, who is initially believed dead in the attempt. Cortana’s survival through the Forerunner repository of knowledge known as the Domain leads her to break with the UNSC and assert a new hegemony over the galaxy, with artificial intelligence (the “Created”) in control.[10] After two years of a scattered war between Cortana and the UNSC, Cortana attacks the Banished, a mercenary organization largely led by the Jiralhanae race. The Banished win the resultant conflict, terminating Cortana and battle the UNSC for control of Zeta Halo.[11]

Game series[edit]

Release timeline2001Halo: Combat Evolved200220032004Halo 2200520062007Halo 320082009Halo WarsHalo 3: ODST2010Halo: Reach2011Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary2012Halo 42013Halo: Spartan Assault2014Halo: The Master Chief Collection2015Halo: Spartan StrikeHalo 5: Guardians20162017Halo Wars 2Halo Recruit2018Halo: Fireteam Raven201920202021Halo Infinite

Original trilogy[edit]

The games of the original Halo trilogy were developed by Bungie, and are first-person shooters in which the player experiences most action from the protagonist’s perspective.[12] The first title in the series is Halo: Combat Evolved on Xbox, released on November 15, 2001.[13] The game was initially intended to be released for Windows and macOS, until Microsoft’s purchase of Bungie in 2000 led to the game becoming an Xbox launch title and delaying any release for personal computers for 2 years.[14][15] Halo: Combat Evolved introduced many gameplay and plot themes common to the whole trilogy. Players battle various aliens on foot and in vehicles to complete objectives, while attempting to uncover the secrets of the eponymous Halo. One concept introduced in Halo: Combat Evolved, is limiting the number of weapons players could carry to two, forcing them to carefully select their preferred armament.[16] Players fight with ranged and melee attacks, as well as a limited number of grenades. Bungie refers to the “weapons-grenades-melee” format as the “Golden Triangle of Halo“,[17] which has remained fundamentally unchanged throughout the trilogy. In Halo: Combat Evolved, the player’s health is measured in both hit points and a continually recharging energy shield; the sequels forgo the hit point system, although it returns in spin-offs.[18] A Windows and Mac OS X port was later developed by Gearbox Software, and released on September 30 and November 11, 2003, respectively.[19][20] A stand-alone expansion, entitled Halo: Custom Edition, was released as a Windows exclusive, and allowed players to create custom content for the game.

Its sequel, Halo 2 was released on the Xbox on November 9, 2004, and later for Windows Vista on May 17, 2007. For the first time, the game was released in two different editions: a standard edition with just the game disc and traditional Xbox packaging; and the Collector’s Edition with a specially designed aluminum case, along with an additional bonus DVD, extra booklet, and slightly different user manual. Halo 2 introduced new gameplay elements, chief among them the ability to hold and fire two weapons simultaneously, known as “dual-wielding”.[21] Unlike its predecessor, Halo 2 fully supported online multiplayer via Xbox LIVE. The game uses “matchmaking” to facilitate joining online matches by grouping players looking for certain types of games.[21] This was a change from the more traditional “server list” approach, which was used to find matches in online games at this time. Upon release, Halo 2 became the game played by the most people on the Xbox Live service that week; it retained this title for over two years – the longest streak any game has held the spot.[22]

Halo 3 is the final game in the original Halo trilogy, ending the story arc begun in Halo: Combat Evolved.[23] The game was released on the Xbox 360 on September 25, 2007.[24] It adds to the series vehicles, weapons, and a class of items called equipment.[25] The game also includes a limited map-editing tool, known as the Forge, which allows players to insert game objects, such as weapons and vehicles, into existing multiplayer map geometry.[26] Players can save a recording of their gameplay sessions, and view them as video, from any angle.[27]

At E3 2014, Microsoft and 343 Industries announced Halo: The Master Chief Collection, released on November 11, 2014, for the Xbox One. The game includes the full campaign and multiplayer modes of Halo: Combat Evolved, Halo 2, Halo 3, and Halo 4. The campaign of Halo 3: ODST was later released as downloadable content, and was free for those who bought The Master Chief Collection during late 2014.[28]

Reclaimer saga[edit]

Following Bungie’s split from Microsoft, 343 Industries – a studio established by Microsoft in 2009 – took the helm of the Halo franchise.[29][30][31] 343 had already co-developed the Halo Legends animated series and had overseen production of Halo: Reach and 2011’s Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary.[32] The next game in the series, Halo 4, was announced at E3 2011 as the first entry in what would be originally known as the “Reclaimer Trilogy”.[33][34] The game included many staples of previous games, such as new or redesigned weapon types,[35] an improved map-editing tool[36] and expanded multiplayer options and maps.[37] Halo 4 was released worldwide on November 6, 2012,[38] achieving record sales for the franchise.[39] In a new addition to the series, a story-driven multiplayer campaign entitled Spartan Ops was released over the weeks following Halo 4‘s release, telling what happened after the end of the main game.[40]

Halo 5: Guardians, was released for the Xbox One on October 27, 2015.[41] The game takes place across many worlds, mainly the Sangheili homeworld, and revolves around Spartan Locke’s hunt for the rogue Master Chief, who is trying to find Cortana.[42]

The third part of the Reclaimer Saga, Halo Infinite, was announced during E3 2018.[43] It brings the focus back to Master Chief, and Halo’s roots by taking place on the new Zeta Halo. The story mainly focuses on exploring the deeper lore of the Halo series, the aftermath of the war with Cortana, and battles with the Banished.[11]

Spin-offs[edit]

The success of the main Halo trilogy spurred the creation of spin-off games. Halo Wars is a real-time strategy game developed by Ensemble Studios for the Xbox 360. Set in the year 2531, the game takes place 21 years prior to the events of Halo: Combat Evolved. Much effort was spent on developing a control scheme that was simple and intuitive, unlike other console strategy games.[44] The game was announced at X06, and released in February and March 2009.

In a July 2008 interview with MTV, Microsoft’s head of Xbox business, Don Mattrick, stated that Bungie was working on a new Halo game for Microsoft, independent of other Halo projects. An announcement of the new Halo project was expected at the 2008 E3 game exposition, which Bungie stated “has been building for several months”, but was delayed by their publisher Microsoft.[45] The Halo announcement was to be part of Microsoft’s 150-minute E3 presentation, and was cut to trim the presentation down to 90 minutes; Microsoft stated it wanted to give the game its own dedicated event.[46] After the release of an ambiguous teaser trailer on September 25,[47] the project was revealed as Halo 3: Recon, later changed to Halo 3: ODST. Set between the events of Halo 2 and Halo 3, players take control of elite human soldiers called Orbital Drop Shock Troopers (ODST). The game was released on September 22, 2009.

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After releasing Halo 3, Bungie decided to create a prequel to the original Halo trilogy. As the game would take place on a human world doomed to be destroyed, their focus on the environment in the game was extensive. Longtime Halo composers Martin O’Donnell and Michael Salvatori returned to compose Reach‘s soundtrack, aiming for a more somber sound to coincide with the story. Reach was announced at the Electronic Entertainment Expo 2009, and the first trailer was shown at the 2009 Spike Video Game Awards. Players who purchased ODST were eligible to participate in a Reach multiplayer beta in May 2010; the beta allowed Bungie to gain player feedback for fixing software bugs, as well as improving gameplay before finalizing the release. Microsoft’s budget for the marketing campaign of Reach was the largest yet in the series, and created award-winning live-action commercials, action figures, and interactive media to promote the game. After release, the game grossed US$200 million on its first day, setting a new record for the franchise. Reach additionally sold well internationally, in addition to moving more than three million units its first month in North America. Critical reception was positive, with reviews from GamePro, IGN, and Official Xbox Magazine calling it “the best Halo title yet.” The game was Bungie’s final work on a Halo release.

In October 2017, 343 Industries developed and released a virtual reality demo title in partnership with Endeavor One called Halo Recruit.[48]

In 2018, 343 Industries partnered with Raw Thrills and PlayMechanix to develop a coin-operated arcade game called Halo: Fireteam Raven that was released in the later part of 2018, with Round1 USA and Dave & Buster’s arcades releasing first.[49][50]

Alternative reality games[edit]

Alternative reality games have been used to promote the release of Halo games, beginning with the Cortana Letters, a series of cryptic email messages, circulated by Bungie prior to Halo: Combat Evolved‘s release.[51] I Love Bees was used to promote the release of Halo 2. The game revolved around a website created by 42 Entertainment, commissioned by Microsoft and endorsed by Bungie. Over the course of the game, audio clips were released that eventually formed a complete five-hour story set on Earth between Halo and Halo 2.[52][53] Similarly, Iris was used as a viral marketing campaign for the release of Halo 3.[54] It featured five web servers containing various media files related to the Halo universe.

Cancelled projects[edit]

Several spin-off titles were planned or rumored for the Game Boy Advance,[55] Gizmondo,[56][57] Ultra-Mobile PC,[58] and Nintendo DS.[59][60][61] Microsoft announced an episodic video game to be developed by film director Peter Jackson’s Wingnut Interactive in 2006.[62] The game, Halo: Chronicles,[63] was ultimately cancelled as part of budget cuts tied to job layoffs in January 2009.[64][65][66] Ensemble Studios developed a Halo-themed massively multiplayer online game, often referred to as Titan Project, or just Titan. The project was cancelled internally in 2007-2008, without a formal announcement from Microsoft.[67][68]

343 Industries announced a free-to-play Halo multiplayer game for Windows PC, Halo Online, in 2015. The game launched with a closed beta test limited to Russia that year. The title was developed with Saber Interactive using modified version of the Halo 3 engine, and published by Innova Systems.[69] The project was cancelled in August 2016.[70][71] Players modified the game to circumvent the region limitations and add new content after the project’s official cancellation.[72] The “ElDewrito” project saw legal takedowns from Microsoft for violating its game usage rules.[73] Despite this, ElDewrito’s playerbase remained active, and the modders claimed its popularity hastened Microsoft’s plans to release a Windows version of Halo: The Master Chief Collection.[74][75]

Other appearances[edit]

Halo characters have appeared in tie-ins, such as the characters Spartan Nicole-458 and the Arbiter being playable fighters in Dead or Alive 4 and Killer Instinct: Season Three, respectively.[76][77] Master Chief was added as a playable character in Fortnite alongside a stage inspired by a Halo multiplayer map in 2020.[78]

Another game, Halo 2600, has the players control Master Chief and fight through 64 screens with varied enemies. It was written by Ed Fries, former vice president of game publishing at Microsoft, in 2010 for the Atari 2600.

The Halo theme tune was also available as downloadable content for Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock.[79] In Forza Horizon 4 one level has the player racing across the map in the Warthog as the Master Chief, with the Halo ring visible in the sky, Cortana on the radio and various Covenant based obstacles to avoid.[citation needed]

Development[edit]

Bungie[edit]

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Bungie was founded in 1991 by Alex Seropian in Chicago, Illinois, who partnered with programmer Jason Jones to market and release Jones’ game Minotaur: The Labyrinths of Crete. Focusing on the Macintosh game market because it was smaller and easier to compete, Bungie became a preeminent game developer on the small Apple Macintosh platform. What became Halo started as a real-time strategy game for the Mac, originally code-named Monkey Nuts and Blam!,[80] and took place on a hollowed-out world called Solipsis.[51] The planet eventually became a ringworld, and an artist, Paul Russel,[81] suggested the name “Halo”, which became the game’s title.[82]

The first Halo game was announced on July 21, 1999, during the Macworld Conference & Expo.[83] It was originally planned to be a real-time strategy game for the Mac and Windows operating systems, but later changed into a third-person action game.[14][83][84] On June 19, 2000, Microsoft acquired Bungie and Halo: Combat Evolved became a launch title for the Xbox video game console.[15] After receiving Xbox development kits, Bungie rewrote the game’s engine, heavily altered its presentation, and turned it into a first-person shooter. Though the first Halo was meant to include an online multiplayer mode, it was excluded because Xbox Live was not yet available.[85]

Halo was not intended to be the Xbox’s flagship game due to internal concerns and gaming press criticism, but Microsoft VP of game publishing Ed Fries did not act on these concerns. The Xbox’s marketing heavily featured Halo, whose green color palette meshed with the console’s design scheme.[86]

The success of the game led to a sequel, Halo 2, which was announced on August 8, 2002, at Microsoft’s New York City X02 press event.[87] It featured improved graphics, new weapons, and a multiplayer mode on Xbox Live.[88][89] Halo 3 was announced at the 2006 Electronic Entertainment Expo.[90] The initial conception for the third game was done before Halo 2 was released in 2004.[91] It utilized a proprietary, in-house graphics engine, and employed advanced graphics technologies.[92][93]

They created two more Halo games before becoming independent as part of their deal with Microsoft: a side story Halo 3: ODST and a prequel Halo: Reach in 2009 and 2010 respectively.

343 Industries[edit]

Following the release of Halo 3, Bungie announced it was splitting off from Microsoft and becoming an independent limited liability company. While Bungie remained involved in the Halo series by developing games such as ODST and Reach, the rights to Halo remain with Microsoft. To oversee everything Halo, Microsoft created an internal division, 343 Industries,[94] serving as “stewards” for the franchise.[95] Frank O’Connor, formerly a Bungie employee,[96] now serves as 343’s creative director.[94]

In announcing the formation of 343 Industries, Microsoft also announced that Xbox Live would be home to a central hub for Halo content called Halo Waypoint.[97] Waypoint is accessed from the Xbox 360 Dashboard and offers players access to multimedia content in addition to tracking their Halo game “career”. O’Connor described Waypoint as intended to be the prime destination for Halo.[98]

The company’s first new game, Halo 4, was released on November 6, 2012, to “generally positive” reviews.[99][100]

In December 2014, 343 Industries general manager Bonnie Ross expressed Microsoft’s aim for the Halo series to last at least 30 more years.[101]

The company later released Halo 5 for the Xbox One on October 28, 2015.

In December 2020, it was announced that the company would be discontinuing support for legacy online services for Halo games operating on the Xbox 360 on January 13, 2022. It was stated that the time and work required to maintain these services was not a priority compared to the support required for modern and future Halo titles.[102]

The company released Halo Infinite for Windows, Xbox Series X/S, and Xbox One on December 8, 2021.

Cultural influences[edit]

In 2006, in acknowledgment of the “wealth of influences adopted by the Bungie team”, a list of Bungie employees’ favorite science fiction material was published on the company’s website.[103] The developers acknowledged that the Halo series’ use of ring-shaped megastructures followed on from concepts featured in Larry Niven’s Ringworld and Iain M. Banks’ Culture series (of which Consider Phlebas[104] and Excession[103] were said to be particularly influential). In a retrospective article in Edge, Bungie’s Jaime Griesemer commented, “The influence of something like Ringworld isn’t necessarily in the design – it’s in that feeling of being somewhere else. That sense of scale and an epic story going on out there.”[104] Griesemer also explained, “One of the main sources of inspiration was Armor [by John Steakley], in which a soldier has to constantly re-live the same war over and over again. That sense of hopelessness, a relentless battle, was influential.”[104] The Flood were influenced by the assimilating alien species in Christopher Rowley’s The Vang;[104] it has also been speculated that the Master Chief’s name “John 117” may have been a reference to a character named Jon 6725416 in Rowley’s Starhammer,[105] or to the John Spartan character of Demolition Man.[106] An IGN article exploring the literary influences present in the Halo franchise commented on similarities between Halo and Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game: aspects of the SPARTAN Project and the design of the Covenant Drones are perceived as reminiscent of the super soldier program and Buggers found in the novel.[105] Bungie has also acknowledged James Cameron’s film Aliens as a strong cinematic influence.[107]

A report written by Roger Travis and published by The Escapist compares Halo with the Latin epic Aeneid, written by classical Roman poet Virgil. Travis posits similarities between the plots of both works and compares the characters present in them, with the Flood and Covenant taking the role performed by the Carthaginians, and the Master Chief’s role in the series to that of Aeneas.[108]

Music[edit]

Martin O’Donnell and Michael Salvatori produced much of the music for Bungie’s Halo games. Approached by Bungie to produce something ancient and mysterious for Halo‘s debut, O’Donnell decided to compose a theme using Gregorian chant, with him joining in with others to sing the vocal parts.[109] Due to the varying nature of gameplay, the music was designed to use change dynamically based on the gameplay.[110] To afford a more enjoyable listening experience, O’Donnell rearranged portions of the music of Halo into standalone suites, which follow the narrative course of the game, for the soundtrack releases.[111] For Halo 2, the soundtrack included licensed music from Incubus and Breaking Benjamin alongside the orchestral score; Steve Vai performed guitar portions.

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The music of Halo helped spur a renewed interest in chant music.[112]

For Halo 2‘s soundtrack, producer Nile Rodgers and O’Donnell decided to split the music into two separate volumes. The first, Volume One, was released on November 9, 2004, and contained all the themes as well as the “inspired-by” music present in the game (featuring Steve Vai, Incubus, Hoobastank, and Breaking Benjamin). The second release, Volume 2, contained the rest of the music, much of which was incomplete or not included in the first soundtrack, as the first soundtrack was shipped before the game was released.[113] Halo 2, unlike its predecessor, was mixed to take full advantage of Dolby 5.1 Digital Surround Sound.[114] In 2014, the in-game music was rerecorded and remastered for the Halo 2 Anniversary release which was part of the Master Chief Collection which included remastered versions of all Halo games with Master Chief as the protagonist.

The soundtrack for Halo 3 was released on November 20, 2007. O’Donnell noted he wanted to bring back the themes from the original game to help tie together the end of the trilogy.[115] The tracks are presented, similarly to the previous soundtrack for Halo 2,[113] in a suite form. Unlike previous soundtracks, where much of the music had been synthesized on computer, the soundtrack for Halo 3 was recorded using a 60-piece orchestra, along with a 24-voice chorus.[116] The final soundtrack was recorded by the Northwest Sinfonia at Studio X in Seattle, Washington.[117] The soundtracks were bundled and released as a box set in December 2008.[118] A soundtrack for Halo 3: ODST was released alongside the game and included many of the tracks from the game.[119]

For Bungie’s last game in the Halo series, Halo: Reach, Martin O’Donnell and Michael Salvatori returned to compose the soundtrack. O’Donnell wrote “somber, more visceral” music to reflect the darker nature of the campaign and style of the game. As Bungie had been making Halo 3: ODST and Halo: Reach at the same time, Martin O’Donnell had also been composing the soundtracks at the same time, but production for the music of Halo: Reach did not begin until after the release of Halo 3: ODST. The soundtrack was released on iTunes on September 15, 2010, and in a two-disc set on September 28, 2010.

For Halo Wars, the task of creating the game’s music fell to Stephen Rippy. Rippy listened to O’Donnell’s soundtracks for inspiration and incorporated the Halo theme into parts of his arrangements. In addition to synthesized and orchestral components, the composer focused on the choir and piano as essential elements, feeling these were important in creating the “Halo sound”.[120] Rather than use the Northwest Sinfonia, Rippy traveled to Prague and recorded with the FILMharmonic Orchestra before returning to the United States to complete the music. A standalone compact disc and digital download retail version of the soundtrack was announced in January 2009 for release on February 17.[121]

The music of Halo 4 was composed by Neil Davidge and Kazuma Jinnouchi. The Halo 4 Original Soundtrack was released on October 22, 2012, followed by a two-disc Special Edition on November 6. Neil Davidge served as an out-of-house composer for 343 Industries which proved to be very expensive leading Kazuma Jinnouchi to take over the responsibility of music production for Halo 5: Guardians. The music by Neil Davidge and Kazuma Jinnouchi for Halo 4 received mixed reviews, being recognized as creative music but too different from the original Halo formula.

In 2014, Kazuma Jinnouchi confirmed he would be composing the soundtrack for Halo 5: Guardians. On October 30, 2015, Halo 5: Guardians Original Soundtrack was released on CD and Vinyl. The soundtrack used a 30-person choir located in Prague, Czech Republic. The orchestral soundtrack was recorded at the Abbey Road Studio over the duration of 5 separate trips.

In 2017, 343 Industries and Creative Studios released a sequel to Halo Wars titled Halo Wars 2. The soundtrack was composed by Gordy Haab, Brian Lee White and Brian Trifo under the direction of Paul Lipson who had helped in the audio and music of nearly every previous Halo title. The Halo Wars 2 soundtrack featured many melodies from the music that Stephen Rippy had composed for the first Halo Wars but with new arrangements and more melodies to represent the individual characters. The original game soundtrack was released on February 17, 2017, and released digitally on February 21, 2017.

Adaptations[edit]

The Halo franchise includes various types of merchandise and adaptations outside of the video games. This includes bestselling novels, graphic novels, and other licensed products, from action figures to a packaging tie-in with Mountain Dew. Numerous action figures and vehicles based on Halo have been produced. Joyride Studios created Halo and Halo 2 action figures, while Halo 3 poseable and collectible action figures, aimed at collectors, were produced by McFarlane Toys and became some of the top-selling action figures of 2007 and 2008.[122] MEGA Bloks partnered with Microsoft to produce Halo Wars-themed toys.[123]

Books[edit]

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As part of Microsoft’s multimedia efforts, Microsoft Studios decided to create a tie-in novel for Combat Evolved. Eric Nylund wrote Halo: The Fall of Reach in seven weeks, and published in October 2001.[124] The game itself was turned into a novelization by William C. Dietz in 2003, called Halo: The Flood.[125] Nylund would write additional Halo works including the novels First Strike (2003) and Ghosts of Onyx (2006).[126] Other novels have been written by Joseph Staten, Tobias S. Buckell, Karen Traviss,[127] Greg Bear,[128] Matt Forbeck,[129] John Shirley,[130] Troy Denning, and Cassandra Rose Clarke.

A collection of Halo short stories, Halo: Evolutions, was simultaneously released in print and audiobook formats in November 2009. Evolutions includes original material by Nylund, Buckell, Karen Traviss and contributions from Bungie.[131] Tor re-released the first three Halo novels with new content and cover art.[132] Another collection, Halo: Fractures, compiled new and previously released short fiction in 2016.[133]

By August 2021, the Halo series consisted of thirty-six novels by various authors.[134]

Comics[edit]

The Halo universe was first adapted into the graphic novel format in 2006, with the release of The Halo Graphic Novel, a collection of four short stories.[135] It was written and illustrated by graphic novelists Lee Hammock, Jay Faerber, Tsutomu Nihei, Brett Lewis, Simon Bisley, Ed Lee and Jean Giraud. At the 2007 New York Comic Con, Marvel Comics announced they would be working on an ongoing Halo series with Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev. The limited series, titled Halo: Uprising, bridges the gap between the events of Halo 2 and Halo 3;[136] initially planned to conclude shortly before the release of Halo 3, the constant delays led to the final issue being published April 2009.[137]

Marvel announced at the 2009 Comic Con that two new comics, a five-part series written by Peter David and a second series written by Fred Van Lente, would appear the coming summer and winter.[138] David’s series, Halo: Helljumper, is set prior to Halo: Combat Evolved and focuses on the elite Orbital Drop Shock Troopers. The five-part series was published between July and November 2009.[139] Lente’s series, originally titled Spartan Black, revolves around a black ops team of Spartan supersoldiers assigned to the UNSC Office of Naval Intelligence.[140] The rebranded comic, Halo: Blood Line, debuted in December 2009.[141] A comic-retelling of the novel Halo: The Fall of Reach was the most recent comic series entitled: Halo: Fall of Reach. Fall of Reach was split into three mini-stories: Boot Camp, Covenant, and Invasion.[142] Two new series were announced in 2013. A three-part series, Halo: Initiation was released August 2013 with Brian Reed returning as writer.[143] Also announced was Halo: Escalation, an ongoing comic series covering the period directly after Halo 4.[144]

By August 2021, the Halo series consisted of thirteen different graphic novels and comic book series, written by various authors.[134]

Live-action[edit]

Unproduced feature[edit]

In 2005, Columbia Pictures president Peter Schlessel began working outside the studio system to produce a Halo film adaptation. Alex Garland wrote a script,[145] which was then pitched to studios by couriers dressed as Master Chief. Microsoft’s terms required $10 million against 15 percent of gross; most studios passed, citing the lack of risk for Microsoft compared to their large share of potential profits. 20th Century Fox and Universal Pictures decided to partner to produce the film, paying Microsoft $5 million to option the film and 10 percent of grosses.[146] Peter Jackson was slated to be the executive producer,[147] with Neill Blomkamp as director. Before Blomkamp signed on, Guillermo del Toro was in negotiations to direct.[148]

D. B. Weiss and Josh Olson rewrote Garland’s script during 2006.[149] Pre-production of the film was halted and restarted several times.[150] Later that year, 20th Century Fox threatened to pull out of the project, leading Universal to issue an ultimatum to Jackson and Schlessel: either reduce their large “first-dollar” revenue deals, or the project was ended. Both refused, and the project stalled.[146] Blomkamp declared the project dead in late 2007,[151] though Jackson insisted the film would still be made.[152] Blomkamp and Jackson collaborated on District 9, but the director told /Film that he was no longer considering working on a Halo film if the opportunity arose.[153] The rights for the film have since reverted to Microsoft.[154] Blomkamp would produce a series of live-action shorts as promotion for Halo 3, collectively titled Halo: Landfall.[155]

Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn[edit]

Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn is a live-action film and miniseries set in the Halo universe. Although shot as a feature-length film, Forward Unto Dawn was originally released as a webseries consisting of five episodes released between October 5, 2012, and November 2, 2012. The series’ plot, occurring in the early days of the Human-Covenant War circa 2526, revolves around Thomas Lasky, a young cadet at Corbulo Academy of Military Science, and how John-117 inspired him to eventually become a leader. Lasky is also a prominent character in Halo 4 as a commander on the UNSC Infinity. The name of the series, aside from being a reference to the UNSC frigate Forward Unto Dawn, is given new significance in the series as part a running motif based on a poem. The film cut was released on Blu-ray and DVD on December 4, 2012.

Halo: Nightfall[edit]

On April 3, 2014, it was announced that Ridley Scott and his production company, Scott Free Productions, were working on a Halo digital feature alongside 343 Industries and Xbox Entertainment Studios; Scott would be the executive producer, with David W. Zucker and Sergio Mimica-Gezzan as the directors. The feature was expected to follow the same format as Machinima’s Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn.[156] On June 9, 2014, it was announced at E3 2014 that the feature, titled Halo: Nightfall, would be included with Halo: The Master Chief Collection at its November 2014 launch. The feature introduces a new character to the franchise, Agent Jameson Locke, played by actor Mike Colter; Nightfall is considered to be his origin story.[157] Locke is one of the Spartans portrayed on the cover art and plays a large role in the series.[158] On July 24, 2014, 343 Industries released the first trailer for the feature.[159] Halo: Nightfall is available to watch through Halo Channel, an application for the Xbox One, Windows 8.1 and Windows Phone.[160] On March 16, 2015, the series became available to stream, download, and buy on physical disc.[161]

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Paramount+ television series[edit]

On May 21, 2013, Xbox Entertainment Studios and 343 announced that a live-action television show of Halo would be produced with Steven Spielberg serving as executive producer through what is now Amblin Television. It was originally titled Halo: The Television Series. Neill Blomkamp was rumored to be directing the pilot for the series.[162] Xbox Entertainment Studios shut down in 2014. Later, it was announced the series would premiere on the American premium cable network Showtime.[163] It had been in development hell for many years. On March 1, 2018, it was announced that the series would start filming in late 2018, with speculation of the series airing in mid- to late-2019.[164] On June 28, 2018, Kyle Killen was hired as showrunner and executive producer and Rupert Wyatt as director and executive producer.[165] On December 4, 2018, Wyatt stepped down as director and executive producer from the project due to scheduling conflicts.[166] On February 21, 2019, Otto Bathurst replaced Wyatt as director and executive producer.[167] On April 17, 2019, it was announced that Pablo Schreiber was cast as Master Chief.[168] On August 2, 2019, Deadline reported that Natascha McElhone had been cast in two key roles: Cortana and Dr. Catherine Halsey, Bokeem Woodbine was also cast as Soren-066, along with Shabana Azmi as Admiral Margaret Parangosky, and Yerin Ha as Kwan Ha. It was also announced that the series would be released in early 2021.[169] Filming was incorrectly reported to have officially began in October 2019.[170] In November 2020, Jen Taylor, who voiced Cortana in every major game in the Halo franchise, replaced McElhorne in that role.[171] It then was reported that filming began in February 2021 and that ViacomCBS was shifting the show from Showtime to Paramount+[172] with Showtime retaining production credits. The series premiered on March 24, 2022.[173]

Animated series[edit]

Microsoft announced at Comic-Con 2009 that it was overseeing production of a series of seven short anime films, together called Halo Legends. Financed by 343 Industries, the animation was created by six Japanese production houses: Bee Train Production, Bones, Casio Entertainment, Production I.G., Studio 4°C, and Toei Animation. Shinji Aramaki, creator and director of Appleseed and Appleseed Ex Machina, served as the project’s creative director. Warner Bros. distributed Legends on DVD and Blu-ray in February 2010.[94][174] Six of the stories are officially part of the Halo canon, with the seventh, made by Toei, intended to be a parody of the universe.[175]

An animated version of The Fall of Reach was included in the Halo 5: Guardians Limited Edition and Collector’s Edition.[176][177]

Reception and critical response[edit]

Aggregate review scoresAs of December 17, 2021. Game Metacritic Halo: Combat Evolved Xbox: 97[184]PC: 83[185] Halo 2 Xbox: 95[186]PC: 72[187] Halo 3 Xbox 360: 94[188]PC: 88 [189] Halo Wars Xbox 360: 82[190] Halo 3: ODST Xbox 360: 83[191] Halo: Reach Xbox 360: 91[192]PC: 81[193] Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary Xbox 360: 82[194]PC: 79[195] Halo 4 Xbox 360: 87[100] Halo: Spartan Assault PC: 70[196]Xbox One: 53[197]Xbox 360: 51[198] Halo: The Master Chief Collection Xbox One: 85[199] Halo: Spartan Strike iOS: 86[200]PC: 66[201] Halo 5: Guardians Xbox One: 84[202] Halo Wars 2 Xbox One: 79[203]PC: 70[204] Halo Infinite Xbox Series X/S: 87[205]PC: 81[206]

The Halo franchise has been highly successful commercially and critically. During the two months following Halo: Combat Evolved‘s release, it sold alongside more than fifty percent of Xbox consoles.[207] Halo 2‘s sales generated US$125 million on its premiere day, making it the fastest selling United States media product in history up to that time.[208][209] Combined with Halo‘s sales, the two games sold 14.8 million units before Halo 3‘s release.[210] At the end of 2007, Halo 2 and Halo: Combat Evolved were the number one and two best-selling Xbox titles, respectively, and Halo 3 was the best-selling Xbox 360 title.[211] The Halo series had sold more than 81 million copies by 2021.[7]

Total franchise sales amounted to more than $6 billion in 2021.[212]

The soundtracks to Halo 2, Halo 3, ODST and Reach all appeared on the Billboard 200 charts for at least one week.[213] By May 2011, total gross of Halo merchandise was $2 billion, with 40 million copies of the games sold.[214] The total amount climbed to $2.3 billion in July 2011,[215] and $2.8 billion in January 2012.[216] Total franchise grosses exceeded $4.6 billion by October 2015, with 25% of the figure from non-game-related merchandise.[217]

The Halo adaptations have been successful as well. Many of the novels have appeared on Publishers Weekly‘s bestseller charts and the Halo Graphic Novel sold more than 100,000 copies, a “rare hit” for the games-to-comics genre.[218] Ghosts of Onyx, Contact Harvest, The Cole Protocol and the first volume of Cryptum appeared on The New York Times bestseller lists,[125][219][220][221][222][223] and The Cole Protocol also opened 50th overall on USA Today‘s bestsellers list.[224] Tor’s first three novels sold more than one million copies by April 2009.[225]

Overall, the Halo series has been very well received by critics. Halo: Combat Evolved has received numerous Game of the Year awards.[226][227] In March 2007, IGN listed it as the top Xbox game of all time, while readers ranked it the fourteenth best game ever on “IGN Readers’ Choice 2006 – The Top 100 Games Ever”.[228][229] Conversely, Game Spy ranked Halo: Combat Evolved tenth on its list of “Top 25 Most Overrated Games of All Time”, citing repetitive level design and the lack of an online multiplayer mode.[230] Halo 2 also received numerous awards,[231] with IGN listing it as the number two top Xbox game of all time in March 2007.[228] From its initial release on the Xbox in November 2004 until the launch of Gears of War on the Xbox 360 in November 2006 – two years later – Halo 2 was the most popular video game on Xbox Live.[232] Halo 3 was nominated for and won multiple awards; it won Time magazine’s “Game of the Year” and IGN chose it as the Best Xbox 360 Online Multiplayer Game and Innovative Design of 2007.[233][234][235] Most publications called the multiplayer aspect one of the best features; IGN said the multiplayer map lineup was the strongest of the series, and GameSpy added that the multiplayer offering will greatly please “Halo veterans”.[236][237] Complaints focused on the game’s plot. The New York Times said the game had a “throwaway” plot and Total Video Games judged the single-player aspect ultimately disappointing.[238][239] The series’ music and audio has received enthusiastic response from game reviewers.[237][240][241]

Cultural impact[edit]

The main trilogy, particularly its protagonist, are considered iconic and a symbol of today’s video games; a wax replica of Master Chief was made by Madame Tussauds in Las Vegas, where Pete Wentz compared the character to notable characters from previous generations like Spider-Man, Frodo, and Luke Skywalker.[242] GamesTM stated Halo: Combat Evolved “changed video game combat forever”, and Halo 2 showcased Xbox Live as a tool for communities.[12] Game Daily noted Halo 2‘s launch was “easily comparable to the biggest in other sectors of the entertainment industry”, marking the first time a video game launch has become a major cultural event in the United States.[243] Halo has been described as a series that “has reinvented a genre that didn’t know it needed to be reinvented”, with aspects of the main trilogy being duplicated in other first-person shooter games multiple times.[244]

Variety called Halo “the equivalent of Star Wars“.[245] The fandom is referred to as the “Halo nation”.[246]

Machinima[edit]

The Halo franchise spurred an array of productions in an emerging genre of machinima—the use of games for filmmaking.[247] Most productions are set outside Halo canon, while others are based on fan fiction closely relating to the story. Halo 3 includes a saved film function that allows camera angles not possible in previous games, and other features that simplify production. The game has become one of the most popular tools for generating machinima, and Microsoft updated its user license agreement to allow noncommercial distribution of such films.[248]

A notable machinima production is the comedy series Red vs. Blue created by Rooster Teeth Productions. It has achieved an unparalleled level of success in Halo machinima in specific, and machinima in general; it is credited with bringing attention to the genre.[249][250] Red vs. Blue generated annual revenues of US$200,000, and special promotional episodes were commissioned by Bungie.[249] The first series, The Blood Gulch Chronicles, ended on June 28, 2007, after 100 regular episodes and numerous promotional videos.[251] Subsequent series include The Recollection, which contains more dramatic elements than its comedic predecessor,[252] Project Freelancer, The Chorus Trilogy, Anthology, and The Shisno Paradox. Other machinima series include Arby ‘n the Chief, Fire Team Charlie, The Codex, and the in-game interview show This Spartan Life.

Esports[edit]

Players began creating impromptu Halo tournaments and local parties after the release of the first game. Bungie looked at the success of these matches as inspiration for crafting the online multiplayer components of Halo 2.[253]

Larger organizations soon began operating Halo competitive games. In August 2002, G4 hosted the Halo National Championship Finals, a FFA [free-for-all] tournament involving sixteen players from across the country (hosted by Wil Wheaton of Star Trek fame.)[254] The Associates of Gaming Professionals (AGP), which focused solely on Halo, held its first event in November 2002.[255] Inspired by friends placing bets on their Halo matches, Mike Sepso and Sundance DiGiovanni formed Major League Gaming the same year.[256]

Microsoft and 343 Industries sponsored their own professional Halo league, called the Halo Championship Series (HCS), in 2014.[257] It was started in partnership with the Electronic Sports League (ESL). Seasons 1 and 2 ran on The Master Chief Collection.[258] In August 2015 Microsoft announced it would be increasing the total prize pool of the HCS to $1 million USD, for the newly announced Halo World Championship, which will be the debut event for Halo 5.[259] This prize pool was later announced to be crowd-funded, which later resulted in Major League Gaming announcing that the prize pool had climbed to $2 million USD. Later that week, 343 announced that the prize pool was locked at $2.5 million USD. This was the largest console esports prize pool ever.[260]

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References[edit]

External links[edit]

  • Official website
  • Halo Archived October 14, 2016, at the Wayback Machine at Bungie
  • Halopedia – an external wiki
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