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Halo: Combat Evolved

Halo: Combat Evolved / Xbox
editor score 9.1
user score 10.0
Release Date




First-Person Shooter






Microsoft Studios


Halo: Combat Evolved is a first-person-shooter, created by Bungie Studios, a subsidiary of Microsoft Game Studios at the time. The first entry in the popular Halo franchise, Combat Evolved was released as an Xbox launch title on November 15, 2001. It is one of the most popular video games for the Xbox, with over five million copies sold. Its sales are rivalled by its sequels, Halo 2, and later by Halo 3. It has been available as an Xbox Originals title since December 4th, 2007, allowing users to download the game on Xbox Live Marketplace.


First screenshot released.
First screenshot released.

The first known iteration of Halo was a real-time strategy game (something that was later achieved by Halo Wars) cited by Bungie to be "basically Myth in a sci-fi universe." Steve Jobs presented the first public viewing of Halo at MacWorld 1999 during his keynote address. At the time, Halo was going to be a simultaneous Mac and Windows release. Prior to MacWorld Halo had only been viewed behind closed doors by journalists who were required to sign a non-disclosure agreement. At this point Halo was intended to be a third-person-action game, in which a ship crash lands on a ring world and early versions of the Covenant aliens appear simply to loot what they can with the humans forced to resort to guerrilla warfare.

The first official trailer was shown at E3 2000 and was well received. One month later on June 19th 2000 Microsoft announced that it had acquired Bungie Studios; Halo had become an Xbox exclusive. Bungie rewrote the game's engine and the game became a first person shooter. Playable demos carried mixed reactions up to its release simultaneously with the Xbox on November 15th, 2001.


At E3 2011, it was announced that on November 15th, 2011, exactly ten years after the release of the original Halo game, which went on to spawn one of the most popular video-game franchises of all time, the new holders of the legal rights to the franchise would be releasing a remake of Halo: Combat Evolved for the Xbox 360, featuring an identical game engine but bleeding-edge graphics layered over it. This slightly budget-priced remake is entitled Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary.


Backstory / The Pillar of Autumn

The plot of Halo: Combat Evolved begins in the year 2525. Humans, under the United Nations Space Command ( UNSC) have harnessed faster-than-light "Slipspace" travel and have colonized hundreds of planets in solar systems across the galaxy. During the Human expansion, they encounter an alliance of alien species, called the Covenant, who are inexplicably intent on the complete eradication of Humankind from the galaxy. Fortunately, the UNSC had previously created a supersoldier program to deal with terrorists, labelling the genetically-modified subjects " Spartans," and equipping the super soldiers with a suit of power armour made of the most cutting edge technology available, that was soon made even more formidable with the addition of energy shields based on stolen Covenant technology.

In August of 2552, the Covenant find the planet Reach, a major Human military stronghold, the second-most well protected planet after Earth herself, and assault the planet with a massive fleet. Reach falls, and most of the Spartans are lost in the battle. One, however, Master Chief Petty Officer John-117, commonly known as simply " the Master Chief," escapes aboard the UNSC Pillar of Autumn, a Halcyon-class battlecruiser, that flees into Slipspace away from Reach at a supposedly random vector. The Pillar of Autumn falls out of Slipspace several weeks later in an unknown quadrant of space, unable to contact any other UNSC forces. There, they find a massive artificial installation, shaped like a perfectly round ring, orbiting a gas giant. Cortana, the ship's onboard AI, notes to Captain Jacob Keyes that the ring's inner concave features a terraformed landscape similar to most terrestrial planets, and even has atmosphere and gravity levels comparable to that of Earth.

The Pillar of Autumn
The Pillar of Autumn

Within moments of exiting Slipspace and finding the ring, the Pillar of Autumn is located by a Covenant starship, which was already in the vicinity of the ringworld when they arrived. The Covenant, however, withhold bombarding the Autumn with plasma weapons so close to the ring, and instead deploy infantry to board the cruiser. Just before the Covenant's arrival on-board, the Master Chief is awakened from cryo-sleep, from which he makes his way to the bridge, where Captain Keyes gives him his pistol. Keyes's plan is to crash-land the Autumn on the habitable ringworld. Before leaving, the Master Chief takes the chip that contains Cortana and inserts the chip into his MJOLNIR suit in order to prevent her from falling into Covenant hands. Together, the Master Chief and Cortana make their way through the quickly-deteriorating Autumn, toward the ship's escape pods, where the remaining marines on-board have prepared for evacuation. The Master Chief enters a escape pod, and it jettisons from the Pillar of Autumn as the cruiser careens into the atmosphere of the ring.

Halo / Truth and Reconciliation / The Silent Cartographer


The Master Chief's escape pod crash-lands onto the ring, killing all the marines within and knocking the Master Chief unconscious. After regaining consciousness, the Master Chief learns that other pods have landed safely within the vicinity and Cortana intercepts Covenant chatter revealing that the Covenant have seized the wreckage of the Autumn and have captured Captain Keyes himself, holding him prisoner aboard the Covenant ship Truth and Reconciliation. Collecting what is left of the UNSC Marines, the Master Chief, Sergeant Avery Johnson, and dropship pilot Carol Rawley (known in-game by her callsign "Foe Hammer") make a push for the Truth and Reconciliation, where they plan to rescue Keyes from capture. Upon meeting up with him again, Captain Keyes reveals that he has learned through eavesdropping on his captor's conversations that the Covenant call the ringworld " Halo," and that they deem it not only as a religious relic, but as a powerful superweapon, one with enough influence to give its manipulator the power to control the galaxy. Cortana remarks she had intercepted several transmissions referring to a "control room," and that she assumed the Covenant were looking for a control room to a cruiser damaged in the battle above the ring. Instead, the Covenant are actually looking for Halo's control center. Cortana believes that the Humans can get there first if she can interface with a local mapping station referred to by the Covenant as the "Silent Cartographer".

Committed to stopping the Covenant before they find the Control Room, and reinvigorated after the successful invasion of the Truth and Reconciliation, the marines on Halo begin a large-scale assault for the Silent Cartographer. In the meantime, Keyes gains information regarding the location of a large Covenant weapons cache. Believing he and a group of marines led by Sergeant Johnson can seize the cache, he leaves to make his way there, without the Master Chief, who is sent to find and operate the Silent Cartographer. The Chief is successful in this mission, and learns the location of the Control Room, as Keyes and Johnson close in on the weapons cache, deep inside a dense jungle several hundred miles away from the Cartographer island.

Assault on the Control Room / 343 Guilty Spark

Assault on the Control Room
Assault on the Control Room

Foe Hammer brings the Master Chief and Cortana as close as she can to the Control Room, where the Master Chief makes a push through heavy Covenant resistance--the heaviest yet seen on Halo--for the Control Room, which is a vast chamber with a holographic Halo rotating around the perimeter and central platform. Upon reaching the Control Room (and locking the Covenant out of it), the Master Chief removes Cortana's chip and uploads her into the terminal. She exclaims that the wealth of information is nearly intoxicating, even for an AI like herself, and mentions that an ancient alien race called the Forerunners built an array of Halos just like this one, millions of years ago. And as she uncovers this information, she stops abruptly. Horrified by something unknown to the Master Chief, she orders him to find Keyes and to stop him from opening the weapons cache "before it is too late."

Leaving Cortana in the locked Control Room, the Master Chief and Foe Hammer hurry for the jungle. Once in the jungle, beneath the fog and foliage canopy, the Chief finds corpses of Covenant soldiers-- Grunts, Jackals, and even Elites--and an abandoned Pelican dropship playing a looping distress message. Traversing the jungle, the Master Chief finds a facility nestled into the side of a bluff--the cache Keyes came to find. Inside the facility, the Chief finds little trace of Captain Keyes, Johnson, or the marines amongst the scattered and panicked Covenant troops and Covenant corpses, but finds massive amounts of alien blood splattering the walls, far more than would be created by being shot by Human weapons. Later, he comes across a single marine who appears to have lost his mind, shooting at anything that moves and telling "those things" to stay away from him, and that he won't let them get him. Deep within the facility, the Master Chief finds a heavy blast door locked from the outside by a UNSC tech-lock. Activating it, the Master Chief opens the door and finds a marine corpse slumped against the door. Another marine's helmet lies nearby on the ground, next to a large pool of blood. The Master Chief links up with the video feed from the missing marine's helmet, which shows Keyes and Johnson investigating the cache before being ambushed by a new, unidentified non-Covenant alien species. The video feed shows Keyes's group completely overrun by the pulpy creatures before the video ends abruptly, citing the marine's death as the cause for disruption.

Moments after viewing the feed, the Master Chief is ambushed by a massive swarm of the small, pulpy aliens, now accompanied by larger Combat Forms. The Combat Forms resemble--and, indeed, are--rotting Covenant and Human corpses, now under the control of the smaller Infection Forms. Fighting his way out to the jungle, killing both former enemies and allies now controlled by the parasite, the Master Chief exits the facility on the far side of the bluff, and is assisted by a number of airborne robots of unknown origin, armed with powerful laser weaponry that seems to be perfectly designed to destroy the mutated creatures. The leader of the robots (which are known as Sentinels) teleports the Master Chief to a raised position atop a gigantic tower, and introduces himself as 343 Guilty Spark, the Monitor of Installation Zero-Four (the Forerunner term for this specific Halo, as there are seven total). Spark exclaims that someone--the Covenant, who he calls an impatient and overzealous group of aliens--has released the Flood, the parasitic lifeform now rampant upon the soil of Halo. Calling the Master Chief a "Reclaimer," the Monitor states the only way to stop the Flood is to activate Halo itself, a task for which they require the Index, a Forerunner tech-key located within a tower called the Library.

The Library / Two Betrayals

Master Chief fighting off The Flood in "The Library"
Master Chief fighting off The Flood in "The Library"

The Monitor escorts the Master Chief through myriad waves of Flood Combat Forms, commenting that that the Chief's weapons are highly ineffective against the Flood, and makes several comments regarding the Master Chief's lack of preparedness for Flood containment protocols. On the way, Guilty Spark mentions that the Flood are contained on Halo for study, and that, in the case that the Flood escape Halo, they would consume all sentient life in the galaxy. Once at the Index, the Monitor absorbs the key's data, and teleports both himself and the Master Chief back to the Control Room.

When the pair arrive at Halo's Control Room, Cortana reappears in the terminal just as the Master Chief inserts the Index to activate the ring's weaponry. She impedes the process and uses her command of the ringworld's systems to temporarily disable the Monitor. Cortana derides the Master Chief for falling in step with Spark without knowing the full capability of Halo's power. "Halo doesn't kill the Flood," Cortana explains, "it kills their food. Human, Covenant, whatever. We're all equally edible."

The Chief questions the Monitor, who seems strangely confused that the Master Chief was ignorant to this knowledge--as though he should have known this before. When Cortana absorbs the Index's data and is reinserted into the MJOLNIR armor, the Monitor summons a squad of Sentinels to attack the Master Chief, who now fights a war on three fronts--Covenant, Flood, and Sentinels. Cortana and the Master Chief escape, and Cortana--having completely assimilated the vast breadth of Halo's information--tells the Master Chief that the only way to guarantee Halo cannot be fired, which would trigger the rest of the rings in the array and thus destroy all sentient life in the galaxy, is to destroy it entirely, and that the only way to destroy Halo is to detonate the fusion core inside the wreckage of the Pillar of Autumn, and that the only way to detonate the Autumn's core is with a special set of passcodes contained in a chip implanted in the brain of Captain Keyes. Therefore, he must be rescued at all costs.

The Master Chief destroys the three generators powering the majority of Halo's central functions, buying enough time for Cortana to find Keyes before the Monitor can reboot the ring's arsenal. With that done, she determines that Keyes--alive or dead--is on-board the now Flood-controlled Truth and Reconciliation.

Keyes / The Maw

Cortana manages to transport them to the Truth and Reconciliation via a teleportation tactic similar to that which the Monitor uses. Immediately, Keyes, sounding pained and on the verge of death, radios the Master Chief to turn back, to leave Halo by any means possible. The Flood, having completely overrun the ship, gather piles of Covenant corpses in the two largest rooms for some unknown purpose (later entries in the series imply that this was in preparation for the construction of a Gravemind). And as the Chief makes his way toward Keyes, he learns that the Flood are repairing the Truth and Reconciliation, planning to leave Halo in order to consume more sentient life. The Chief finds Keyes, but finds him too late. Keyes is totally consumed by the Flood and has been absorbed into a large, fleshy growth of Flood tissue. Cortana remarks that Keyes wanted them to leave by any means possible, and the Master Chief obliges, punching his hand into the softened skull of the deceased captain, physically removing the chip from within. Black-armored Covenant special operatives arrive on the ship to thwart the Flood threat, and they are distraction enough for the Master Chief to hijack a Covenant Banshee and escape the Truth and Reconciliation.

The Master Chief climbs onto the Pillar of Autumn
The Master Chief climbs onto the Pillar of Autumn

As the sun rises on Halo, the Master Chief's Banshee reaches the Autumn, which has already been occupied by Flood and Sentinel forces since the Flood incursion. At the Autumn's bridge, Cortana uses Keyes's chip to activate the self-destruct sequence, but it is stopped by the Monitor, who has taken full control of the ship's remaining functional systems. Although Cortana has finally run out of ideas, the Chief suggests they do it the old fashioned way: damage the fusion core using grenades or rockets, rendering it unstable to the point where detonation becomes inevitable.

The Master Chief fights through waves of Covenant, Flood, and Sentinels, all assaulting each other as well as the lone Spartan, who appears to be one of the only Humans left alive on Halo. After detonating the four reactors, the Chief successfully damages the fusion core and starts the inevitable chain reaction. Foe Hammer, having survived the Flood infection in her Pelican, tells the Master Chief to grab a Warthog from the vehicle depot and meet her at a landing pad just under a kilometer down the length of the ship, where she can extract him and Cortana and escape the destruction of Halo. Driving over Flood forms and dodging Sentinel laser cannons and Covenant plasma fire, the Chief makes it to the landing pad with minutes to spare, but Foe Hammer is ambushed by a pair of Covenant Banshees, and her Pelican crashes and explodes.

The crashed PIllar of Autumn in the final level "The Maw"
The crashed PIllar of Autumn in the final level "The Maw"

With no time to mourn their most recently slain friend, the Master Chief and Cortana make one final charge: a Longsword starfighter is docked at the far end of the ship, and if they can make it there in time, they can use it to escape Halo. Seconds before the Autumn detonates, the Chief boards the Longsword and flees the ring, managing to get to a safe distance just before the nuclear reaction creates a shockwave whose power is enough to shatter Halo entirely, sending massive, concave shards careening through space. The Chief uses the Longsword's sensors to search the debris field, hoping that other UNSC marines escaped the ring before its destruction. But there is nothing left but dust and echoes.

Cortana states that with Halo and the Covenant fleet destroyed, everything is finished, hinting at a sense of optimism. But the Master Chief, removing his helmet, remarks that the two of them are " just getting started."

After the credits, 343 Guilty Spark is seen flying through space amongst the giant scraps of the ring.


  • The Master Chief - Spartan 117, he is Humanity's last, best hope against a ruthless alliance of various alien races known as the Covenant.
  • Cortana - An incredibly advanced AI who directs you through the game as she monitors troop movements and relays waypoints.
  • Captain Jacob Keyes - The Captain of the Pillar of Autumn. Leads troops after crash landing on Halo until he is infected by the Flood.
  • 343 Guilty Spark - Robotic AI monitor of Halo. Uses the player to carry out his purpose of activating the ring world. May have gone insane after running unchecked for thousands of years.
  • Staff Sergeant Avery Johnson - The iconic sergeant that supports the Master Chief and commands the marines.

Gameplay Mechanics

Halo was a revolutionary first-person shooter in the controls department, inventing the concept of using the two analogue sticks to move and aim, while on the PC you use the keyboard and mouse. It differs from most others at the time in the damage system, you have the standard health bar with eight bars which decrease if you're hit while your shields have failed (can be replenished with health packs). As opposed to picking up an "armor power up" the player always has shields which slowly take damage when hit like a secondary health bar, if hit enough they fail and your health begins to decrease, and if you keep your head down long enough they recharge. Halo made this style of health regeneration popular within many games made today, and this reason is one of many of why Halo was so revolutionary. Along with popularizing health regeneration Halo also popularized restricting the player to only carrying two weapons at a time, simultaneously solving the problem of cycling through large numbers of weapons on a console pad and forcing developers to make every weapon "count", as the pistol could no longer be a near-useless weapon of last resort, for example. It is also remembered for its extremely tight controls which made it the first great feeling FPS, on the console.


SPNKr Rocket Launcher
SPNKr Rocket Launcher

The weapons are separated into two categories, Covenant and Human. The Human side is fairly standard, with futuristic looking versions of the classics ( assault rifle, shotgun, sniper, etc.). The Covenant technology is all energy based weaponry that fires charged bolts of plasma, or needles/crystals. The plasma rifle and plasma pistol both make use of the bolts of plasma, which you never reload but your gun does over heat and run out of battery charge. The needler uses crystals to hit and stick to the enemy doing average damage, but when many are stuck to the target simultaneously, it causes them to explode causing heavy damage. The plasma grenade is much like the frag grenade except it sticks to an opponent if they're hit with it.

MA5B Assault Rifle
MA5B Assault Rifle

Power ups include over-shields, health packs, and active camo (invisibility).

In the PC port of the game, done by Gearbox Software, two additional weapons were added to the multiplayer arsenal, the UNSC Flamethrower and the Covenant Fuel Rod Cannon. The Fuel Rod Cannon became playable on consoles in the sequel, Halo 2, but the flamethrower remained out of players' hands until Halo 3. It is as yet unknown whether or not the Xbox 360 remake Halo: Combat Evolved - Anniversary will feature these two weapons.


Halo: Combat Evolved's multiplayer component was a culmination of excellent design decisions and all around balanced gameplay. With an abundance of maps that rewarded player movement and inventive decision-making, and a weapon sandbox that was uniquely well-balanced, Halo: Combat Evolved was not only a fun game to play with a large group of players in a casual environment, it was also an extremely deep, competitive experience.

Since the Xbox Live platform did not exist at the time, Halo: CE did not have online multiplayer, though it supported two-player local play for co-operative mode, four-player local play for multiplayer mode, and up to sixteen-player multiplayer via system link, connecting four Xboxes with four players each. The PC port added real online multiplayer to the game, multiplayer Banshees, and an additional six maps created from scratch by Gearbox.

Halo PC Exclusive Maps:

  • Danger Canyon
  • Death Island
  • Gephyrophobia
  • Ice Fields
  • Infinity
  • Timberland


Halo: Combat Evolved gained a large community of fans through the internet and in the gaming media. It also inherited the Bungie fan community that already existed and gained many new fans due to its fantastic campaign mode and multiplayer matches. By connecting up to 4 Xbox consoles through System Link (with Ethernet cables and a router if necessary) Halo LAN parties made Halo: Combat Evolved a phenomenon. Players could play up to 16 player multiplayer matches while all being in the same location to trash talk and berate each other. A year after release Halo: Combat Evolved was already being played competitively in tournaments and online using legal tunneling software such as Xbox Connect. While Halo: Combat Evolved's gameplay was simple and straightforward, it has spawned a highly successful series with fans all over the world.

Halo Custom Edition

Halo: Custom Edition
Halo: Custom Edition

Halo: Custom Edition is a free expansion that requires a key code from Halo: Combat Evolved to be played. Custom Edition was made by Bungie Studios, which was ported to the PC by Gearbox Software. Halo CE was released by Gearbox as an unsupported version of the original game. However, users do not need to pay to play it, as it is downloadable from selected websites. Halo Custom Edition has the ability to load and play user-created content and maps created with the Halo Editing Kit. Many custom levels have been created by dedicated members of the modding community and have been posted for download at a large number of websites.

Custom Edition's Halo Editing Kit let people create many things including:

  • Level geometry
  • Bitmaps
  • Player Character
  • Weapons
  • Vehicles
  • Sounds
  • Game Interfaces
  • Level Scripts and Interactivity
  • Objects
  • Special Effects
  • Animations
  • Single Player Modifications
  • HUDS


Marty O'Donnell & Michael Salvatori created the now famous soundtrack for Halo. The soundtrack was released on CD shortly after the release of the game.

The Halo Original Soundtrack
The Halo Original Soundtrack
Track #Song TitleRunning Time
1.Opening Suite3:33
2.Truth and Reconciliation Suite8:25
3.Brothers in Arms1:29
4.Enough Dead Heroes3:00
5.Perilous Journey2:26
6.A Walk in the Woods1:52
7.Ambient Wonder1:57
8.The Gun Pointed at the Head of the Universe2:26
9.Trace Amounts1:51
10.Under Cover of Night3:41
11.What Once Was Lost1:40
12.Lament for Pvt. Jenkins1:14
13.Devils, Monsters1:30
14.Covenant Dance1:57
15.Alien Corridors1:48
16.Rock Anthem for Saving the World1:17
17.The Maw1:06
19.On a Pale Horse1:35
20.Perchance to Dream1:00
21.Library Suite6:47
22.The Long Run2:12
23.Suite Autumn4:22
25.Dust and Echoes2:49

PC System Requirements

  • Windows 98SE/ME/2000/XP -- 128 MB RAM
  • Processor - 733 MHz
  • Hard drive - 1.2 GB
  • Video Card - 32 MB/ 3D T&L capable

Online/Multiplayer Requirements:

  • 56.6 kbps modem or LAN; broadband to run a server


  • 8x CD, sound card & speakers/headphones

Mac System requirements


  • Macintosh computer with 800 MHz or faster processor
  • Mac OS X v10.2.8 or higher
  • 256 MB RAM
  • 32 MB AGP Video Card (GeForce 2MX/ATI 7000 or better)
  • 1.4 GB hard disk space
  • Internet or LAN connection required for online play


  • 1GHz G4 or faster processor
  • Mac OS X v10.3
  • 512MB RAM
  • 64MB AGP Video Card (GeForce 4ti-ATI 9000 or better)

Xbox Originals

On December 4, 2007, Halo: Combat Evolved became available on the Xbox 360's Xbox Originals download service for 1200 Microsoft Points.