The final levels of Halo and Halo 3 in which you're desperately driving your Warthog as the entire ring is disintegrating around you - especially in Halo when you have the Covenant and Flood fighting each other all around you.
Halo: Combat Evolved
Turns out Keyes can ride Covenant Dropships (albeit with assistance from Cortana), and fairly good at it too! As demonstrated by flattening two Hunters just after un-docking.
The beach assault on Silent Cartographer. Charging up the beach with a dozen Marines behind you, gunning down the Covenant while the Halo theme blasts in the background....awesome.
Johnson is the king of CMOA quotes. One favorite is from Halo: Combat Evolved, when he's briefing his Marines on Legendary difficulty:
Johnson: "Men, we led those dumb bugs out in the middle of nowhere to keep them from getting their FILTHY claws on Earth. But, we stumbled on to something they're so hot over, that they're scrambling over each other to get it! Well, I don't care if it's God's own Anti-Sonuvabitch Machine, or a giant hula-hoop, we're not gonna let 'em have it! What we will let 'em have is a belly full of lead and a pool of their own blood to drown in! AM I RIGHT MARINES?!
Marines: Sir, yes sir!
Johnson: Mmh-hmm! Damn right I am. Now move it out!
In the Anniversary edition, the terminal in "Keyes." We already knew from The Flood that Keyes was resisting the Flood's efforts to take the data from him, but the terminal shows Keyes' resistance, it shows the pain and fear and sheer Body Horror of being integrated into the Flood, and it features the Gravemind taunting Keyes over and over about how the Flood have all the knowledge they need....but Keyes does not break.
My personal favorite moment was everything Avery Johnson did during the last mission. Teaming up with the Arbiter was cool enough, but the best moment had to be when he was opening the Temple door with repeated blasts from a hijacked Scarab, while sardonically commenting in between giant laser blasts, "KNOCK! KNOCK!".
To a San Antonio Spurs fan, even his name is a CMOA.
No, no, no. The utter Crowning Moment of Awesome came in the real-time demo: Chief and Cortana are battling their way through a war-torn city. They evade several patrols of grunts and Jackals, survive a drop-attack of Brutes, and manage to out-race a Phantom troop carrier. They come to a halt in sight of their target, a damaged Covenant cruiser. Suddenly pods rain down around them, and out pop five black-clad Special Ops Elites, each armed with one-hit-kill energy swords. Chief surveys the odds and drops one of his SMGs.
One simple line that seals "The Great Journey" as one of the best videogame moments of all time:
"The Hunters have come to our aid, Arbiter! They will fight by our side!"
What about Johnson's best quote in reply to 'Regret, regret...'
Johnson: "Dear humanity, we regret being alien bastards, we regret coming to earth, and we most definitely regret that the corps just blew up our raggedy-ass fleet!"
To top it off, the title of the next chapter, which begins with your ship being knocked down, is "They'll Regret That Too".
Don't forget this gem on Legendary:
Johnson: "Usually, the good Lord works in mysterious ways. But not today! This here is 66 tons of straight-up, H.E-spewing dee-vine intervention! If God is love, then you can call me 'Cupid'!"
Cortana: "Thanks for the tank. He never gets me anything."
Johnson: "Oh I know what the ladies like."
Same scene, different line on Heroic:
Johnson: "Back when I joined the corps we didn't have any fancy shmancy tanks! We had sticks, two sticks! And a rock for the whole platoon! And we had to SHARE the rock! So buck up! You're one lucky Marine!"
Of course the section titles for that level are CMOA material, my nomination being "Ladies Like Superior Firepower"
Johnson has a skull named after his badass quoting.
Johnson: "I would have been your daddy, but a dog beat me over the fence!"
Of course, another shining example would be this quote:
Johnson (in a Scarab in front of the core): Hey, bastard! Knock knock!
Not to mention getting onto the Scarab in the third level... Of course, they let you grab an effin' sniper and a rocket launcher first.
Toward the end, the Arbiter comes across of group of Brutes stationed next to a group of holding cells. Inside of the cells are a couple of Hunters and a couple of Elite Councilors. The Arbiter has the option to quietly shoot out the force fields. You can guess what happens next.
Basically that whole level was a CMOA just for having friendly Hunters in it. As everyone knows, Hunters are a royal pain to kill when you're against them, so naturally it feels good to let the enemy be on the receiving end of that pain for a change.
That cable, I'm going to cut it. Apparently one of the three lines Halo 2 was framed around, the other one still in the game being I am a monument to all your sins. Also, very awesome.
It establishes the Arbiter as both Crazy Awesome and a foil to the Chief: rather than leave a deactivated bomb on his ship, the Chief goes into space and hurls it back at the enemy. Rather than go the long way around to try to catch a fugitive, the Arbiter sends the space station he's on into freefall.
The closing lines just before the game's credits sequence:
Lord Hood: Master Chief, you mind telling me what you're doing on that ship? Master Chief: Sir...finishing this fight.
Used both ingame and in the tech demo showed at a pre-release showing of the game, the awed statement of a pinned down Marine upon seeing who had come to back him up.
When I asked for reinforcements... I didn't think they'd send a Spartan.
Taking down the Prophet of Truth, while fighting side-by-side with the Flood.
"I am Truth! The voice....of the Covenant!"
"And so, you must be silenced."
What about the fight between the TWO SCARABS? You get to ride in the little-used Hornet, drop into the Scarab, shoot out the energy core, and watch as it blows up fantastically...and THEN, you do it again. And all the while, some of the games most awesome music is playing, leading to pure, gut-wrenching epicosity.
What makes it even more epic is when you enter the hornets just as the music reaches its climax. Two huge war-machines slamming into the ground just as "One Final Effort" takes its most epic turn: "Dun, dununa, dundundunununa...". Heck, one even roars at you (they're basically giant hunters, really, which makes it even more epic).
It's also the ways you can take down the Scarabs that add. Either jump in a Hornet's cockpit and shoot the Scarab's power core, jump on as a passenger and airdrop in, or grab a ground vehicle and jump from a ramp onto the Scarab.
"Now the gate has been unlatched, headstones pushed aside. Corpses shift and offer room, a fate you must abide!" You knew it was coming, you knew he would turn on you just as soon as Truth was dead but the speech, the Arbiter and the Chief going back to back and the massive evil tentacles raising up from the bottomless pit just completed it so much.
Any time you get to kill a Scarab is CMOA material.
Offensive Bias gets one shortly (storyline-wise) thereafter when he lures Mendicant into a perfect trap. He mentions throwing around battleships like fighters, and doing things to the laws of physics that would drive his crews mad if they were still alive. Please note that Mendicant's first move in the battle is a Zerg Rush.
Mendicant Bias gets one himself in the final terminal, only accessible on Legendary:
"You don't know the contortions I had to go through to follow you here, Reclaimer. I know what you're here for. What position do I take? Will I follow one betrayal with another?"
"You're going to say I'm making a habit of turning on my masters. But the one that destroyed me long ago, in the upper atmosphere of a world far distant from here, was an implement far cruder than I. My weakness was capacity - unintentional though it was! - to choose the Flood. A mistake my makers would not soon forgive. But I want something far different from you, Reclaimer. Atonement."
"And so here at the end of my life, I do once again betray a former master. The path ahead is fraught with peril. But I will do all I can to keep it stable - keep you safe. I'm not so foolish to think this will absolve me of my sins. One life hardly balances billions. But I would have my masters know that I have changed. And you shall be my example."
One simple exchange:
Elite: "Brute ships! Staggered line! Ship Master! They outnumber us three to one!"
Ship Master: "Then it is an even fight."
That one line proves beyond any and all doubt just how Badass the Elites are (in case you're guessing, the Elites completely thrash the Brutes).
To put it in context, though, it had been the Sangheili's job to fly and command the Covenant fleets for thousands of years. The Sangheili Commander was just delighted the battle was more even this way - without the numerical advantage it would have been just a mere Curb-Stomp Battle against the less experienced Brutes.
Even a comparatively minor character like Gunnery Sgt. Reynolds gets one, telling a Brute interrogating him, under heavy torture, to "Kiss...My...Ass". Of course, he is voiced by Nathan Fillion. Reynolds was being held in the air by that Brute... by his throat. The fact that he was able to breathe is impressive in and of itself.
One moment that's not really attributed to one character - Miranda's frigate coming in to land after you clear out the LZ on the Ark. Watching Forward Unto Dawn grow from a speck on the horizon... and keep growing... very fast... until the thousands of tonnes of metal grinds to a halt hovering above your head, and the turbulence from it's passage sends your Warthog rolling like tumbleweed. It can even pick up a Scorpion tank.
Then, immediately afterward, when you get to mount up on a Scorpion tank:
Marine: Tank beats Ghost...tank beats Hunters....tank beats everything! I could do this all day!
That scene is made even more awesome if you manage to give the four marines riding your tank Fuel Rod Guns.
Master Chief. Upside down tank. The ability to right any flipped vehicle. Not only is it a CMOA for Master Chief, but also both the player (for flipping the tank in the first place), and the tank. (It bounces around hysterically after Chief trows it some 10 yards.
Flipping a tank apparently isn't that big a deal in the Halo universe, as many types of characters can do it. However....see below.
Apologies if this is in the wrong spot... On The Ark, Master Chief is alone, but he has a rocket launcher. Used all but two rockets to take out the last bastion of enemies prior to the Wraith Clearing house. He's got 3 marines left living and 1 brute prowler... so he gets the fuel rod cannon a grunt dropped, and rockets to one guy and fuel rod cannon to the other. NPCS never run out of ammo... hop on prowler, and you've killed all 3 wraiths, ghosts, and both towers in a matter of about 1.4 minutes. The amount of pure awesome of killing 3 wraiths with a prowler, and overwhelming firepower of doom... it's just so beautiful.
Multiplayer, Sandtrap map. Make the Elephant fly.
Towards the end of Cortana, after just rescuing Cortana, she asks the Chief his plans to get off of High Charity. Which, need I remind you, is wall-to-wall Flood. Chief's reply:
Thought I'd try shooting my way out. Mix things up a little.
Even better when Cortana decides to get a bit of revenge on the Gravemind by talking the Chief through blowing up High Charity.
The end cutscene of "The Storm". Expecting, like most things by the UNSC in the games, a little piddly assault by some Longsword fighters, but no, not just Longswords... three fricking starships rumble over your head!. That was unexpected, to say the least. We'll overlook the fact that really they did bugger all damage and merely served to activate the shiny portal of doom in favor of the sheer awesomeness. The music certainly helps.
Whether you like Guilty Spark or not, you have to admit that his ability to take on Master Chief without any problem was just awesome.
Miranda Keyes' rescue of Johnson. It doesn't work, but that it does not make it any less awesome.
The beginning of the the mission "The Covenant" which shows both UNSC and Elite dropships in formation to make one final strike against the Covenant. The music only makes it better.
All of the level "The Covenant" counts as this. This is the Covenant's Last Stand against humanity. It is the final major land battle in the Human-Covenant war, and the Covenant throw everything they have left at you, with the crew of Forward Unto Dawn doing likewise. Appropriately, it has more total forces and more variety of vehicles than virtually any other battle in the series. The music "One Final Effort" plays, and then the Covenant send twoscarabs against you.
If you manage to pull it off, having Johnson ride along with you during the final escape, especially if he manages to man the machine gun.
Captain Cutter and Serina at the conclusion, flying the Spirit of Fire to safety. As Serina says, "Threading a needle while accelerating around an exploding star while inside a planet that's falling apart? Sure, why not?" She may have been sarcastic, but she then proceeded to do just that.
It must be said, ODST in Wars are awesome in their own. Mainly due to the ability to drop them to any point of the battlefield you have line of sight to from freaking orbit. When one lone Warthog can effectively spawn a Zerg Rush of regenerating infantry... yeaaahhh...
You've seen how unstoppable Scarabs can be in Halo 2 and 3. And now you can turn the tables whenever you're playing the Covenant. If you can get one of these on the field, the match is pretty much over.
Many of Forge's actions, but the most memorable is when he wanted to talk with the Arbiter as "man to freak" twice. the second time he talked The Freak to death.
To clarify, he takes on an Arbiter man-to-man and wins. By stabbing the Arbiter with his combat knife so he can impale him with the guy's own energy sword. Badass Normal doesn't even begin to describe John Forge.
Officer Bransley gets one in his opening appearance. At first, just some cop driving the commissioner. Then when Kinsler starts trying to rape Sadie he pulls the car over, gets out, walks around to the back, and drags Kinsler out of the car when he punches the bastard twice! An Establishing Character Moment if there ever was one.
The final battle. An insane three-versus-a-metric-buttload killfest with rockets, hammers, and an engineer providing you with energy shields.
An Engineer lighting the cigar of none other than Sergeant Johnson in the epilogue cutscene.
Wwhen the gravity hammer-wielding Brute Chieftain is about to finish off Romeo, the rest of the squad kicks its ass just in time. This includes Buck leaping onto its back, the other two tackling it, with Buck finally stabbing it in the neck with his knife. Quickly followed by "Get this thing off of me." Awesome.
This deserves reiterating. In a series where Puny Earthlings is in full effect, Buck killed a Brute Chieftain by stabbing him in the throat. AWESOME.
Stabbing doesn't really express what he did. He was up there carving it's throat out for a good 9-10 seconds with a pretty sizable bowie knife.
The Stand just before this deserves a mention also. Just five dudes (Romeo, Buck, Mickey, Dutch and some NMPD guy) with the heaviest weapons in the entire game against wave after wave of banshees, phantoms and infantry. Even better when watched at a slight distance in theater mode. And when that scene starts, Autobots, Rock Out! comes into full effect.Hell yes.
"Well, what can I say? It was a hell of a night."
A Brute Captain gets one: "Hurry Courage, warriors! Take this hill or die upon it!"
Usually interrupted halfway through by a hail of 7.62mm from the stationary turret aimed right at its face.
The Rookie gets one. A lone, regular human, surviving on their own in a Covenant-infested city for hours? Even Dare says that he's good.
A regular NMPD officer gets this. She's in the headquarters talking to Dare, who wants her to get some people into the Superintendent's data center. The woman replies that she can't do that, and Dare apparently threatens to have her fired. The woman laughs and says the following.
Woman: (laughs) There's a Covenant ship hovering outside my office window, there's a sniper in my lobby, and you're threatening to have me fired? Good luck! (slams phone down).
Jonas is a Badass Normal. One CMOA has him sitting on a car to stop it. Keep in mind the man is 6'10" and 500 pounds.
Jorge's and Emile's Dying Moments of Awesome - manually detonating a slipspace bomb that annihilates a Covenant Supercarrier, and killing an Elite right after it impaled him, respectively, and Noble Six using a mass driver to one-shot a Covenant Battlecruiser.
Actually, given Carter's kamikaze Pelican run into a Scarab and Noble Six's final moments against all those Elites, EVERY member of Noble Team has a Dying Moment of Awesome - except Kat and Jun.
Another one, but this time with a random Marine: at the beginning of Long Night Of Solace (the space level) when you get in the base you see a dead Ultra Elite with an energy sword. An Army Trooper kicks the body, and it's implied he killed it.
The beginning of Tip of the Spear. You are probably embarking on one of the largest UNSC offensives in the games! AND IT IS AWESOME, especially when a pair of ships come in after you destroy an anti-air turret and start shooting down at the larger battle below you.
Chief has said alot of badass things: "Finishing this fight", "I need a weapon", "To give the Covenant back their bomb". And yet, these all pale in comparison to his response to a superior officer ordering him to hand over Cortana for termination:
Del Rio: I...am ordering you...TO SURRENDER THAT AI! Chief: No, sir.
The crew of the Infinity, Lasky in particular, deserve one for unanimously pulling a Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right on Captain Del Rio. The guards who are supposed to be guarding a Pelican and arresting you? They wave you on, direct you to some heavy weaponry and telling you to kick some ass. Fleetcom then gets one for recognizing what an idiot Del Rio was, and locking him up for it.
The Didact awakening, if for nothing else than for sheer scale.
A villainous one, the Didact with the flick of a wrist reducing the bloody damn Master Chief himself to a helpless sob at the mercy of the Warrior-Servant... granted, he was employing the use of a constraint field to telekinetically lift him, but still remains significantly badass.
The entire first half of the final mission. This doesn't do it Justice. The Entire Level is just one big long CMOA for the game itself. You fly a Broadsword Fighter (Which is basically a souped up Saber), fly it along the Diadact's ship gunning down all the Defenses he can throw at you, then you reach the end of the trench run segment. The level then opens up into a nice circular area and above you is the Infinity, all the while you have Neil Davidge's score blasting out the most hopeful and awesome score.
The second half ain't something to forget about either, for that matter.
After eleven years of pleading and begging from the fans, the Pelican is finally legitimately playable. (only in campaign however)
At the end of the Shutdown level, featuring the aforementioned Pelican, the Didact escapes from Requiem, along with several Liches. Chief hitches a ride on one of them by skydiving onto it, and slamming his knife into the side. The Lich he's on flies out of the portal, and he's told to get below deck because of an imminent slipspace jump. What does he do? He says that there's no time, and fires his thruster pack to get behind a part of the Lich. In essence, Chief is the only character who has entered and exited slipspace while OUTSIDE a ship. Bad Ass at it's finest there.
The Gravity Hammer's sole appearance in the campaign, and wielding it to ruthlessly massacre entire scores of enemies like they had been made of paper.
The Didact's Badass Boast in the Epilogue, also doubling as a Motive Rant for why he was so bent on targeting humanity.
At the beginning of the second level, Requiem, you walk from the wreckage of the Dawn and several Covenant ships into a small cave system. A little ways in, you see an opening with light streaming through, walk through it... and you find yourself standing on a cliffside, greeted with the sight of a Forerunner world in all its glory, massive, shining towers floating over huge complexes covering the ground, shifting and extending miles into the air, where a roof covered in glittering blue lines is just visible between the clouds, all backed with the most glorious music ever heard in a game. Just... perfect.
Usually in Halo games, getting to ride the Scorpion is nothing but awesome, since you can utterly go to town on the hapless Covenant. Getting it in Infinity is no exception, when John not only gets that, but an entire Spartan-IV assault team under his command to stage a supersolder assault to save the Infinity, complete with music blazing, and the tanks firing nose sounding so much more like someone trapped an artillery piece to your back. The AI Spartans are no slouches either, even on Legendary! It doesn't stop once you reach the Infinity, when you get to jump into a freakin Mantis, and mow down the Covenant inside the ship itself!
In the mission "Midnight", the Infinity facing off against Didact's warship Mantle's Approach. The epitome of each species' military might and technological strength, facing off to determine the fate of earth. Epic.
Immediately afterward, it drops not just a fighter wing or two, but an entire damn fleet from it's hangars and immediately goes to town on the Covenant. Why is this so awesome? Because for the entire Human/Covenant war the UNSC was routinely slaughtered in space combat. Now the shoe is on the other foot, and damn is it awesome.
Two words describe the size and awesomeness of the Infinity in this scene: underslung frigates.
During the third chapter of episode one Crimson and Majestic are both attacking similar structures, and Palmer proposes a race to see who accomplishes their objective first. If Fireteam Crimson wins DeMarco complains that Crimson didn't meet the same sort of resistence they did; Palmer says that Crimson actually had more Prometheans to fight. You can even do this alone.
Crimson playing Big Damn Heroes multiple times in Episode 2. First for some scientists and later for a squad of marines. Too bad about Gagarin.
Sarah saving the Infinity by kicking the artifact.
Episode 3, Chapter 4 ends on the player equipped with a Mantis standing on the beach of Valhalla fending off wave after wave of Phantoms and Banshees pouring from a cruiser until a missile strike can take it down. With four players, it is simply epic.
Episode 5, Chapter 5. You have to try and fine Spartan Thorne, who was transported down to Requiem in the same manner as Dr. Glassman. After killing half a Covenant platoon, you find he's not there. Next thing you know, the other half of a platoon drops down to kill you. Shrug-worthy? Not really. Roughly 80% of the platoon are HUNTERS.
Thorne beating off the two Elites he hadn't already killed, ripping off Glassman's grenade-vest, and chucking it at the horde of Elites rushing them.
All of Episode Seven for Crimson. They basically take back The Infinity alone.
Thorne and Gek's epic throw down match. Majestic Team killing Gek and saving Thorne is one for them as well.
Episode 9 shows that DeMarco can be quite the badass with an energy sword - with Majestic covering him, he cuts down at least three Elites and a few Knights with little effort.
Halsey keeping half of a map to every piece of Forerunner technology in the galaxy from falling into Jul M'dama's possession, and throwing it to Majestic Team while being carried away by Jul.
Forward Unto Dawn
An Elite Zealot corners the remaining Hastati members. It laughs, draws back its sword... then gurgles and slumps to the ground, Chief behind him with a blood-covered knife. Best Big Damn Heroes in the series.
In Part 5, Chief confronts a massive Hunter alone with an Assault Rifle while Hastati flees. Minutes later, Chief quietly appears. His only comment on the encounter is to ask for ammo, as he wasted his on the Hunter. Minutes later, the Hunter's partner tracks down the squad. While Lasky distracts it, Chief leaps onto its shield, climbs onto its back, jams a grenade deep into the cluster of eels in its midsection, and backflips off. Seconds later, the Hunter blows apart. A surviving Lekgolo eel squirms pitifully on the ground, before Chief's boot smashes it into a pulp.
Silva gets one. She picks a Carbine rifle, and despite not knowing how to use it, snipes a Jackal. She is the first of the cadets to kill a member of the Covenant.
She later manages to kill two Jackals by shooting through that little hole in their shields, while on a moving Warthog.
That's not even counting how much awesome is in the novels. Anyone else remember Linda sniping Banshee pilots with ricochets off the inside of their own cockpits from kilometers off....while hanging upside down....and shooting one-handed?
The above example? The day after she is brought back to life.
Anytime Linda is sniping, it is a CMOA. She is never shown to miss a target, and generally nets one shot kills. Not to mention the fact that she apparently prefers to snipe from impossible positions.
And Kelly-087 luring several Sentinels into a trap, and stopping to flip one of them off. Even her teammates are impressed. This is after she dodges a laser blast.
And Will walking up to that Hunter and PUNCHING it to death... Nice.
The S-II's get a collective one in First Strike when they have to jump out of their Pelican in mid-flight, and basically survive what amounts to a skydive at five thousand feet without any parachutes. Also in 1,000 pounds of armor that was definitely NOT designed for that kind of use (this would bring their terminal velocity to about a third of the speed of sound).
It bears repeating; flipping off a Sentinel. That is all.
Marvin Mobuto in the novel The Flood. He was detached from his squad on the original Halo and Guilty Spark used him as the Reclaimer before the Master Chief, and he got far before he was killed. Doesn't sound impressive? He was a regular Marine wearing only the standard UNSC-issued ballistic body armor, and he was going through theLibrary. When the Flood finally killed him, his body was so thrashed and mangled they couldn't infect it. Hell, when the Master Chief himself finds what's left, he says (and I quote): "I didn't know you, Sarge, but I sure as hell wish I had. You must have been one hard-core son of a bitch."
There's actually one more sentence to that eulogy: "You would have made a great Spartan." This is from MASTER CHIEF, the best Spartan who ever lived.
Fall of Reach: a wounded Marine shoots down two Banshees with a rocket launcher from the back of a moving Warthog.
In Contact Harvest, the planetary AIs get a CMOA for using the defunct ground-to-orbit mass driver to take out a Covenant ship. Bear in mind that this is a FIXED mass driver.
In Ghosts of Onyx, The Elite commander comes up to a mortally wounded Kurt and says "One last fight demon. Then you will die and we will reopen to silver path." Kurt just laughs and says "Die? Don't you know, Spartans never die." Then he detonates the nukes.
In the same book, Will-043 took on two Hunters by himself and managed to rip one of them apart with his bare hands. He was unfortunately not as lucky in dealing with the second one.
Travelling back to the early days of Halo, the famous Keyes Loop of Fall of Reach: a puny UNSC Destroyer (485m) manages to, with one of the most brilliant, most balls-out ship maneuvers in the entire series, take down three Covenant ships (two frigates - 1000m - and a destroyer - 1500m) and scare a fourth (a light carrier - 1455m) into escaping. This is the move that got Jacob Keyes promoted to Captain and single-handedly boosted the morale of the entire local UNSC force.
Don't forget about the second space battle. A few hours later, a UNSC fleet arrived in time to face off against Covenant reinforcements. The lineup was 48 UNSC ships against 24 Covenant. Thanks to a refit and repair station absorbing a Covenant plasma torpedo volley, the UNSC fleet was able to divert all engine power to recharging their MAC guns. This allowed them to fire two volleys in rapid succession, destroying two-thirds of the Covenant fleet in one fell swoop. The two fleets then engaged in earnest, and after an eight hour battle, the Covenant retreated. The final casualty count was 18 Covenant ships destroyed vs 25 UNSC. While that may not sound impressive, one must consider that, due to the Covenant's vastly superior technology, the UNSC usually requires a three-to-one numerical advantage to even equal a Covenant fleet. For the UNSC to not only win the battle, but lose only seven more ships than the Covenant, is essentially a curb stomp battle.
Or even earlier when Cole was still a junior officer, the fleet he was with had been ruined via nuke and everyone else on the bridge was killed. He sent a message to the insurgent Corvette offering to surrender his Destroyer, then right as they docked he fired a nuke from inside his hanger-bay into the open hanger-bay of the Insurrectionist ship. He then opened up the side missile ports aimed right at them and ordered the INSURGENTS to surrender, pulling off a metaphorical dramatic gun cock in the process. Bonus points for having forward thinking not seen since Ender.
Fall of Reach. The Cradle. When it blocks Covenant plasma salvos from hitting the UNSC battlegroup. And they don't launch any escape pods. The entire UNSC force there is stunned, then they really go to town on the Covenant. To clarify, the Cradle is a drydock.
From the Landfall live-action videos. One involves a Marine tearing a spike grenade (which, in the video, is the size of a baseball bat) out of a wall, then chucking it into the air, hitting a Banshee in mid-flight as it passes by, blowing it away. There's also another with a Marine fearlessly facing down a charging Chieftain with a hammer, then firing a rocket launcher and blowing the Brute to pieces. Another gets pinned through the arm to a wall by a shot from a Brute Spiker and keeps fighting while he's being cut down, covering his squadmates and the medic who's trying to saw him off the wall.
In The Fall of Reach, the roughly eight-year old Spartans are dropped individually across a large wooded area. They manage to group up and take out a team of Marines and steal their Pelican dropship. Using rocks.
In The Fall of Reach, the Master Chief slaps away an anti tank missile in his first outing in with Cortana and the Mark V armor.
In First Strike, the Spartans that meet up with Dr. Halsey. They all have extensive injuries, and yet they were still on their feet and fighting. Let's put this in perspective.
Fred: Torn Achilles tendon, three cracked ribs,and contusions on both kidneys. And was deemed "fine".
Will: Cracked tibia and internal bleeding.
Vinh: Torn deltoid muscle, three broken fingers, and a herniated disk.
Isaac: Internal contusions, and both shoulders were dislocated and re-inserted incorrectly.
Kelly: Low blood pressure, high body temperature, moderate bleeding in her liver, and a completely collapsed right lung.
From Glasslands: Lucy punching Halsey full on in the mouth and speaking for the first time in years after getting fed up with Halsey's inability to act decently to the Engineers that treated her kindly and were the group's only chance to escape the Dyson sphere.
Dr. Halsey not frakking dying after getting punched in the face by an armored Spartan (or even getting seriously injured). Granted, Lucy was probably more frustrated than murderous (or Halsey would have lost her head), but this is still a genetically enhanced, cyborg Super Soldier punching a senior citizen in the face.
First Strike, when Admiral Whitcomb and Lieutenant Haverson lure an entire Covenant armada into getting blown up, using themselves as bait, which probably ended up being the only thing saving Earth from being overrun in Halo 2. For the record, they lured in over 500 ships, twelve survived.
The Didact executing the Primordial. Bonus points for the method in which he does it: he causes something made to live forever to die of old age. Even more bonus points when it's pointed out that he basically just killed his own god.
We don't see Miranda do much Naval asskicking in the games, but Halsey's journal mentions that in her first engagement, she destroyed a Covenant destroyer while commanding an outdated and unarmed science vessel. By ramming it through the atmosphere of a nearby planet and into its surface while setting the engines to explode.