Halo 4 continues the story of the Master Chief in the Halo franchise (actually the seventh official game, three others tell side-stories not involving MC). It is meant as a new starting point for the franchise and the beginning of a second trilogy called "The Reclaimer Trilogy".In the aftermath of the Covenant/Flood conflict Master Chief was left drifting through space in the partially destroyed frigate Forward Unto Dawn. Placing himself in hibernation, four years later he is woken up by Cortana as they come upon an artificial Forerunner planet called Requiem. Trying to find their bearings, they learn more about the Forerunners and come into conflict with an ancient warrior known as the Didact.The game was officially launched on November 6, 2012, and takes place four years after the events of Halo 3. It has a Spin-Off live-action series called Halo 4 Forward Unto Dawn, which features a new group of Naval officers-in-training as their school is attacked by the Covenant in the early days of the war... and then Chief shows up. The first episode was released on October 5th, 2012, with the next four parts released over the following four weeks.The multiplayer aspect of this game was overhauled extensively, being justified as "War Games" conducted by the UNSC flagship Infinity as training grounds for their SPARTAN-IV program note SPARTAN-Is (such as Sergeant Johnson) were early augmentation experiments. SPARTAN-IIs (which include Master Chief) were a carefully selected group trained from a young age and coincided with the MJOLNIR armor development. SPARTAN-IIIs (which include NOBLE Team) were a streamlined and more numerous version of SPARTAN-IIs. SPARTAN-IVs involve adult volunteers from across different military branches. Detailed customization loadouts and armor permutations are available as you level up your character.In addition, the story of the campaign is expanded upon through Spartan Ops (effectively replacing the Firefight mode of ODST and Reach) whose storyline takes place six months after the single player campaign, you are placed into key locations and have to complete a mini campaign of sorts as you confront enemies and achieve objectives. Spartan Ops is designed to be expanded upon throughout the game's lifespan, with more stories and chapters that will bridge the gap to Halo 5.
Adult Fear: Imagine, you're taking a romantic vacation, with your children safe and sound in New Phoenix, and you come back to see that they, along with everyone else in the city, are dead. Even worse if you were a soldier and aware of what REALLY happened to them.
Airstrike Impossible: The final level opens with one of these. Master Chief, piloting a Broadsword fighter, must dart close enough to the Didact's ship to remain within the protection of its shields as it traverses through slipspace, dashing closely past shifting geometry and point defense fire.
Camera Screw: In co-op mode, anyone crashing into the wall will make the other players' screens shake with the force of the impact, making it much more likely for a series of crashes to follow soon after.
Cortana: I was put into service eight years ago. AIs deteriorate after seven.
Alien Sky: On Requiem. Mostly because there's a roof.
Aliens Speaking English: Averted with the Covenant, who are heard speaking Sangheili, though curiously words like "Requiem" and "Forerunner" are said in English. The Didact speaks poetic English immediately upon escaping from the Cryptum. So does the Librarian, but that is at least justified being a mental communication with Chief, which is also implied to be an ability of the Didact. It's also been shown since the very first game that Forerunner translation devices are incredibly advanced.
All There in the Manual: The game has several essential plot elements which aren't explicitly explained in-game, but only in expanded material such as the novels. For example, the fact that the Covenant you fight are not the mainstream Covenant but rather part of an originalist splinter group led by Jul 'Mdama.
The Didact's apparent telekinesis is, in truth, a device called a constraint field, which no one would know without having read The Forerunner Saga.
Also, the backstory for why Halsey is in cuffs and being interrogated by an UNSC officer is explained in Glasslands, while the backstories of both the Librarian and Didact are primarily explained in The Forerunner Saga and the Halo 3 terminals.
Animation Bump: Previous games always rendered cutscenes using the game engine itself, which has always been cutting edge in power and quality, but there are specific cutscenes that are clearly made from a dedicated animation software.
Apocalypse How: Although Didact is prevented from completing killing every human on Earth, he still manages to kill the entire population of New Phoenix. It's still quarantined six months later when Infinity starts.
Artifact Title: Mild aversion: a Halo does briefly show up, Installation 03, but it serves little purpose to the plot. It is a lot more important in the background, being where the UNSC got a lot of the Forerunner technology they are now applying (the UNSC Infinity being a big example) but is otherwise only a minor detail in the game itself.
Artificial Stupidity: Vehicle gunners are pretty good about avoiding firing powerful area of effect weapons if friendly units or vehicles are near their targets, preventing collateral damage. However, they are not quite smart enough to know when this does not apply. For example, a Covenant Wraith tank will avoid firing plasma artillery at the player if the player is next to a Covenant hovering sniper-perch (since it counts as a friendly) while still lining itself up to make shots on the target. The player may then fire through the gap between the raised perch and its base without the Wraith firing back or even moving out of the way. On a related note, vehicle drivers are as terrible as ever.
Ascended Meme: As tea-bagging is practically a Halo pastime, the developers even acknowledged it, as you can create a hologram over somebody's body which will then begin tea-bagging it.
Awesome but Impractical: The sticky detonator gun in the campaign. It can usually kill hunters in two hits provided you hit their weak spots from behind, the bomb sticks to the enemy if you hit them with it, and has quite a nice explosive radius, making them very useful for taking out groups of enemies bunched up together. That said, you can usually only carry about five rounds at best, the guns themselves are pretty rare and don't really show up till late in the game, so it limits their usefulness.
On a similar note, human weapons fall victim to this too in the campaign because first, max ammo capacity has been reduced compared to the other Halo games. Secondly, you don't run into human weapons or even ammo caches for them in most of the levels very often note In constrast to other games, they often had dead marines laying around with lots of weapons/ammo strewn around them as a convenient excuse to give you ammo, and show that some marines made it to various places before dying. And third, their power levels are about the same as the alien weaponry, so there's much much point in using them during most levels.
Barbie Doll Anatomy: Cortana, as usual, but this time even more noticeable, given her . . . ahem . . . remodeling.
Base on Wheels: The UNSC Mammoth, which is both larger and faster than the Elephant from Halo 3, carrying more vehicles and ordnance, and equipped with a railgun/mini-MAC (both terms are used interchangeably) for line-of-sight artillery strikes.
The MAC merits some notice - according to its weapon specs, it is capable of hitting targets in planetary orbit.
BFG: Alongside the old standbys (Spartan Laser, Rocket Launcher, Fuel Rod Gun), we get two new examples. A man-portable Railgun is available on the UNSC side of things, and the Forerunners have the Incinerator Cannon, the unholy fusion of a rocket launcher, flamethrower, and shotgun.
Bittersweet Ending: The Chief prevents the Didact from destroying Earth, but Cortana sacrifices herself in the process to ensure that Chief survived the nuclear explosion aboard the Didact's ship.
Spartan Ops Season 1 ends with Jul M'dama and his forces escaping requiem with half of the Janus key and Dr. Halsey, who seems to have made a Face-Heel Turn after realizing that the UNSC had ordered her death. On the other hand, the crew of the Infinity has the other half, without which Jul's half is uesless, and they also managed to escape Requiem.
Body Horror: The Composer peels away skin, muscles, and the skeleton, one at a time to leave its victims as digital shells of their former selves to be made into Prometheans.
Bond Villain Stupidity: The Didact twice delays by telekinetically lifting the Chief and monologuing to him rather than killing him outright. The second time, all he had to do was shut off the hardlight bridge and let the Chief fall. He also doesn't bother carrying any weapons.
Boom, Headshot: The Promethean Crawlers can be killed with one shot to the head, going down with a satisfying explosion and a flash that Cortana mentions as being a 'data purge'. That said, almost anything that has a head goes down in one headshot once its shields are down, or if it doesn't have them. Knights are able to take more than one headshot on higher difficulties but are still weakest there, and Hunters' 'heads' aren't actually heads given that they're worm-conglomerations. Automatic weapons are still unable to score headshots in the game engine, although the Forerunner Boltshot pistol can despite the fact that it has no scope and is not explicitly a precision weapon.
Breaking the Fourth Wall: An easter egg can be found with two marines talking about an inverted stick on The Composer, which pokes at how most players use non-inverted sticks anyway.
Marine: We need to test the Mantis. Can you try looking up for me?
Mantis Marine: On it. *Pauses for a moment, then looks down.* Aw C'mon! Who's the idiot who inverted the stick?
Marine: There's a switch in the options panel you can toggle.
Mantis Marine: Yeah, yeah...I just found it. *The Mantis looks up*
Marine: Way better.
Mantis Marine: It just doesn't make sense. The thing's a mech, not a fighter.
Call Back: The last thing Master Chief said to Cortana before going into cryogenic sleep in Halo 3 was "Wake me... when you need me." The Halo 4 reveal trailer has Cortana repeatedly calling out, "Chief, I need you!"
In the beginning of the game, her first words to John as he wakes up are "Wake up, John. I need you", a reference to both his last words in 3 ("Wake me... when you need me") and the fact that she went into a First Name Basis with him by the time of the end of 3.
When Cortana tells the Chief that she is going through rampancy, and he tells her that he will get her to Earth to be fixed up by Halsey, she says, "Don't make a girl a promise you can't keep", an approximate line from Halo 2 and Halo 3.
At the end of the game, Chief finally takes off his helmet... and we don't get to see his face due to the camera. Again. Except in the Legendary ending, where a small portion of his face with his eyes shadowed out is shown.
During the mission Shutdown, Cortana instructs the Chief to enter a Forerunner energy field, to have his shields disrupt it. This also occured in the level Two Betrayals in Halo: Combat Evolved, and Cortana notes she's pulling the idea from their old playbook.
During a cutscene Cortana is flying a ship and Master Chief tells Cortana to 'pull up' repeatedly before she crashes it in to the side, just like what Master Chief did in CE. Though it was played for laughs in CE, and here it is played for drama.
Came Back Wrong: The Composer was designed to digitize sentient lifeforms, in order to escape the Flood. However, the process was flawed and the digitized consciousness turned into "abominations" when returned to physical form (Didact used it to create his Prometheans). The Forerunners abandoned the device because of this, but the Didact decided it was still preferable to galactic mass suicide.
Character Development: Master Chief himself does not change a whole lot, but there is a great deal more elaboration on his personality and character. Bucking the previous tradition of him only speaking in cutscenes, here he is more willing to talk during gameplay. The personality he displays is consistent with the personality he is shown to have in the Extended Universe, with an unfailing sense of duty and very protective of Cortana. This game brings these elements closer to the surface.
John has spent most of his life tasked with saving lives and protecting the human race at all costs, which causes a unique personality clash when he was interacting with civilian scientists he had just saved. In addition his "bred for combat" nature and superhuman abilities make him distant even to his fellow soldiers.
Chekhov's Skill: In a gameplay sense; The opening level has a sequence of the Chief climbing and crawling in first person. This mechanic doesn't come back up again until the final level, where the Chief is injured and hanging off the edge of a light bridge, forcing him to climb up and attack the Didact.
Cliff Hanger: 343 Studios shows surprising restraint by averting this, despite the fact a 5th and 6th game are almost certainly inevitable. The Didact is dealt with definitively, and no loose plot threads are left obviously unaddressed.
Continuity Lockout: The previous games by Bungie had plots that were largely self-contained to the game series. The plot of Halo 4, in contrast, depends heavily on the player already being heavily familiar with the expanded universe material. Also see All There in the Manual.
In Mission 3, Master Chief gets tackled by a Forerunner Promethean Knight and he punches it in the face, all shown through first person. This is nearly identical to one of the defining early moments of Noble Six in Halo: Reach, a Spartan suggested to be very similar to Master Chief in that regard. The only difference, which notes the differences in strength between a SPARTAN-III and SPARTAN-II, is that the Chief manages to throw off the assailant on his own. The Knight then rather politely teleports away to be faced later in a straight-up gunfight.
The Mantis's official nomenclature is "HRUNTING/YGGDRASIL Mark IX Armor Defense System", and is possibly the current version of "HRUNTING/YGGDRASIL Mark I Prototype Armor Defense System" that was piloted by Ghost which appeared in the Prototype section of Halo Legends, and also a successor to the "HRUNTING Mark III [B] Exoskeleton", a.k.a. the Cyclops, from Halo Wars.
At the end of mission 4, Lasky states that the UNSC has established bases at two Halo rings- specifically, Installations 05 and 03.
Promethean Vision is noted to work with VISR 4.0, an upgrade on the system used by The Squad in Halo 3: ODST.
In Halo: Primordium, the Composer isn't as horribly mind-destroying as it's made out to be. The protagonists Chakas and Riser get the minds of two deceased humans implanted in them, and said minds act fine, aside from some expected disorientation. The Librarian herself actually uses the Composer to store many humans' minds for safety. The process is also described as very relaxing instead of gruesome and painful. Perhaps the Didact was misusing the device?
In the very opening of the game, they show SPARTAN-IIs early in the war. However, they're wearing Mark VI armor like Master Chief, when less then a handful of S-IIs got that armor and it wasn't introduced until October 2552. Worse, it's the Chief's customized Mark VI that only he received. It's implied that this is part of Halsey's imagination but for that, see Voodoo Shark below.
According to the Essential Visual Guide, the prologue armor is simply a Mark IV variant that Cortana used as a base for her customization of the Chief's Mark VI.
Several media depicting the Infinity, such as Halo 4 Forward Unto Dawn, show a large fleet of cruisers escorting the ship to Requiem. That fleet is nowhere to be seen in Halo 4, though they could easily have been destroyed by Requiem's gravity well before the Chief encountered it.
Cool Plane: The new Broadsword fighters of the UNSC. While the Sabres may have been the first energy-shielded spacecraft deployed by the UNSC, the Broadswords are mass-produced, and armed with higher-caliber autocannons and improved missiles. They are also capable of packing Havok nukes if needed. They also likely possess more powerful propulsion, given their performance in cutscenes and their ease in operating in both aerial and space environments (without needing boosters to reach orbit).
Cool Starship: The UNSC Infinity, being the highlight of this instalment, and the setting for the entire multiplayer aspect of the game. Also the biggest and most powerful ship ever constructed by humanity, implementing all manner of Covenant and Forerunner technology reclaimed by the UNSC over the years. That said, its shields still glow golden just as Spartan shields do (instead of the blue/purple of Covenant and Forerunner shielding), and its armament is still centered around missiles and MAC weapons - albeit, very powerful, improved MACs and missiles that are seen to be capable to shooting up Covenant ships badly and forcing the Didact's Cryptum to flee even when the Infinity was grounded on Requiem.
The Mantle's Approach counts as well. The fastest and most heavily armed ship in the Forerunner fleet, and thus at this point very likely the most lethal ship in the galaxy until Chief sets off a nuke inside it. 88 miles wide and 230 miles tall, with a reconfigurable interior and exterior thanks to Hard Light, it's an impressive specimen to say the least.
The Battlestar: Infinity is certainly this. Possesses very heavy armament of its own, but is also capable of deploying what is essentially a small fleet of frigates, and dozens of squadrons of fighters and dropships from its internal bays.
Crippling Overspecialization: The new Railgun. Classified as an anti-infantry weapon, it really is... just that. It's powerful enough to tear through the toughest of infantry, cutting down Knights and Elites, but does underwhelming damage to light vehicles and practically nothing to tanks. Justified in that it is said to rely on a combination of kinetic energy (via magnetic acceleration) and explosive fragmentation (triggered on impact) to knock out energy shielding, instead of a pure armor-piercing kinetic shot like that used by the the Gauss Warthog, which is much better suited to penetrating vehicular armor.
Cutscene Boss: The Didact's abuse of a constraint field makes him impossible for the Chief to take in a straight fight, even after being augmented by the Librarian. The game doesn't even let you try. You end up just watching Cortana immobilize him, then plant a grenade in his chest.
In the Scanned trailer, one frag grenade is shown to send three Promethean Knights flying, two of them off a cliff to their presumed deaths. Frags don't have anything near this kind of destructive effect on Knights in-game.
A minor example in the cutscene following the Broadsword flight segment of the final campaign mission, Midnight, the Chief is shown doing several rolls as he dodges and weaves past the shifting geometry of the Didact's ship. These rolls are, of course, impossible to do when actually piloting the Broadsword in-game.
In the second episode of Spartan Ops, Hoya of Fireteam Majestic is able to one-shot a Knight at moderate range with a shotgun. Assuming Heroic as the difficulty Halo is "meant to be played on" as described by the game, this is impossible even at point-blank range.
By the second half of the first season of Spartan Ops, cutscene power is a fairly clear factor of Nominal Importance. Named characters like Thorne, Palmer and Lasky are able to cut down opponents with weapons that normally would not be so effective, whereas nameless Marines with Assault Rifles are still just as weak as you'd expect them to be.
Forerunner infantry weapons. In gameplay, they're around on par with UNSC and Covenant weapons, while in the Terminals they take down human soldiers in combat skin with single shots.
Damn You, Muscle Memory: The addition of sprinting has led to another button shuffle; the default controls are now virtually identical to Call of Duty's. Sprinting pushed crouching to the B button, which pushed grenade switching to the D-pad. Prepare to teabag the ground while you try to equip a sticky.
Being shot no longer takes you out of zoom. So basically if you never bothered to scope in when taking fire before, you're at a huge disadvantage.
Being a game after the war, where Cortana, John-117's closest friend, is in distinct danger of going rampant, this seems to be in effect. There's also the fact that, unlike in Halo 3, the Chief is unable to prevent the Composer firing, though he does stop it before it makes it past one city.
The Covenant have been redesigned to be even more alien and animalistic, even more so than in Halo: Reach. Also like in Reach, Grunts no longer speak "wacky" English.
Deader than Dead: The Didact isn't just blasted with a grenade at point blank range by Chief, no he survives that. He than slips off the hardlight bridge and falls to his doom into a slipspace portal, which have been known to make unshielded objects disappear from existance.
Desperately Looking for a Purpose in Life: The Covenant Remnant, who are completely adrift now that the Great Journey is no more. This is emphasized by the message they've been broadcasting to Requiem for the past 3 years, which is just an Elite crying out "Didact! Didact!" in a sad, lost, and desperate voice.
Diegetic Interface: As usual, the motion tracker, Deflector Shield meter and weapon readouts are painted on the inside of the Chief's visor. This game takes it one step further by adding some translucent artifacts and a few fins to screen, representing the visor and the edges of the helmet and creating the illusion that the player is genuinely wearing it.
Difficult, But Awesome: The Thruster Pack, which might seem like a useless short speed burst at first, vastly inferior to the other armor abilities... until you realize that it amplifies any movement in any direction, allowing speed-strafes, rapid retreats, accelerated falling, elaborate combinations involving jumps, man-cannons and gravity lifts, and basically whatever creative movement you can think of, with a fairly short recharge time as well. Also, the Forerunner LightRifle, which has the fastest kills of any precision rifle once you realize that its scope gives it a damage boost when activated, and indeed, once you get used to using its orange-tinted 3x scope. The rifle functions as a combat rifle when fired from the hip and shoots a controlled burst of three small shots, but when zoomed, the indicator shows the columns of three bullets turn in a solid one bullet column making it double as a sniper rifle.
Disintegrator Ray: Many of the Hard Light Forerunner weapons have the quality of disintegrating their targets, such as the Binary Rifle, Incineration Cannon, and the Pulse Grenades, though the last two are not necessarily "rays". Given that prior to the activation of the Halo Array the Forerunner were battling the Flood, this was probably an intentional effect to make sure no organic mass was left behind for the Flood to infect.
An Elite wrestled with in the first level is thrown by the Chief down an elevator shaft.
The Didact gets pushed off his light bridge by the Chief's grenade, causing him to fall into a slipspace portal.
Doppelgänger Spin: The Hologram, making a return from Reach mostly unchanged, but now with the added trait that, if it runs forward on to an enemy corpse, it will begin to tea-bag it, making it even more distracting and, perhaps more realistic than the previous version.
Elite Mooks: The Promethean Knights are the new additions to this instalment. The Covenant Elites are... not so elite, having suffered a Badass Decay wherein they are now both more numerous and, with the exceptions of the Zealots and Generals (who actually are elite among the Elites), relatively easy to kill.note (This can be justified by the Elites in this splinter faction not necessarily being drawn from the frontline warriors that the Chief faced elsewhere were, nor do they have access to as good quality equipment.) On the UNSC side of things, now, AI-controlled Spartan-IV NPCs make occasional appearances, and are basically Marines that are a little smarter and, thanks to regenerating energy shielding, a fair bit tougher; their shields are, in fact, exactly as tough as those of the player.
Expecting Someone Taller: Commander Palmer says as much about John-117 upon meeting him for the first time. And this is when he's almost half a foot taller than her. Although Palmer's height tends to fluctuate, In one scene John is massively taller than she is. In others he's taller by a couple of inches if that (see Your Size May Vary below).
Famed in Story: Oh my, the Master Chief. Walk into a room with troops under fire and you can hear and see the relief that he's arrived. His reputation is so huge that Captain Del Rio is fired by High Command for not listening to to the Chief and leaving him behind on Requiem.
Fantastic Racism: The Didact dismisses the Elites bowing to him on his awakening as "beasts" and "primitives", and comes to the conclusion that humans are not worthy of the Mantle yet simply because we haven't enslaved them yet.
Fighter Launching Sequence: The mission Shutdown begins in one of the UNSC Infinity's launch bays. A Pelican Drop Ship is loaded for combat and put at the Chief's disposal. He gets in the cockpit, Cortana runs through the pre-flight checklist and keys the engines, the craft is lowered into a launch tube, the Chief throttles up the engine and a catapult launches it out the ship. Notable in that this is the first time in the series (barring Easter Eggs and Game Mods) that a Pelican has been pilotable.
Final First Hug: In a variation, the first time that Cortana manages to physically touch John-117 (by making a Hard Light body for herself following the detonation of the Havok nuke) is what is assumed to be the final time they see each other ever again.
Foreshadowing: The short piano riff from the beginning of "This is the Hour" on the Halo 3 soundtrack (AKA the theme from the first Halo 3 trailer) returns at the end of Halo 4's main theme missing half of it's notes, foreshadowing the death of Cortana.
In the Prologue, Halsey tells her interrogator that her Spartans are humanity's "next step as a species." When Chief meets the Librarian she "accelerates his evolutionary journey", literally turning him into humanity's next step.
Freeze-Frame Bonus: Pause on the Spartan trainee shown in the first cutscene. On his shirt, one can make out the name "John".
Game Within a Game: War Games is basically a very elaborate holodeck game for Spartan IVs to train (or play Grifball).
Goal-Oriented Evolution: In the opening cutscene Halsey strongly hints that this is her ultimate endgame in creating the SPARTAN program, with the whole Covenant war being simply a minor setback rather than the main event. Essentially she's setting humanity down the same path as the Forerunners, with John-117 as her Messianic Archetype.
The memories of Librarian reveals she planted gei in humans that would eventually lead to them creating Spartans, MJOLNIR armor, and AI. Halsey could simply be the embodied activation of these seeds.
Hand Cannon: While the pistols of Halo are well known for being more effective than the Assault Rifles, the Reclaimer trilogy features the "M363 Remote Projectile Detonator", also known as the Sticky Detonator. This muzzle-loaded handgun fires a surprisingly powerful explosive charge that can be remotely detonated by the wielder, with the the proximity of friendlies and hostiles to the bomb helpfully indicated by way of a built-in motion tracker. While sticking and blowing up enemies directly is one way to use it, it also facilitates clever traps, and packs enough punch to be a threat to heavy targets like Hunters or vehicles. In many ways, it is less of a traditional handgun and more of a compact Grenade Launcher.
Additionally, there's the Forerunners' standard-issue sidearm, the Boltshot. While its normal fire mode acts as a fast, headshot-capable but otherwise not very powerful semi-auto pistol, it's also capable of a Charged Attack wherein one can hold down the trigger to charge up and fire off a powerful short-range blast that, while not quite as strong as a full Shotgun, has a slightly longer effective range. Hence it is very commonly used as a secondary close-combat weapon in multiplayer, where it is capable of one-hit-kills. And finally, the ol' UNSC Magnum is once again quite powerful, usable at any range, but with a trade-off between rate of fire and precision due to its reticule bloom.
Happy Ending Override: The end of Halo 3 had the Covenant Separatists and the UNSC go separate ways, bitter over their war crimes but grateful for their help in the end. Master Chief and Cortana may not have gotten a very happy ending but they still survived and were finally allowed to rest, rather than being unneeded in a time of peace. The Expanded Universe noted some continued fighting and the "Legendary planet" is known as being operational. The onset of Halo 4 shows that there is still fighting against parts of the Covenant and that remnants of the Forerunners themselves are returning and have an old score to settle with humanity.
Hard Light: Forerunner technology is taking this much further this time around. While such technology as hard light bridges existed on the Halos, and elevators were similar, Requiem apparently has all of the Forerunner weapons using hard light as ammunition, as well as multiple other applications. Cortana later traps the Didact with hard light chains, then builds herself a body out of hard light for her to touch John at last.
Hearing Voices: After the Librarian activates her "gift" in the Master Chief, he begins to hear the Didact's voice in his head. He asks Cortana where this is coming from, but she has no idea what he is talking about.
Heroic Mime: Finally fully averted. John-117 speaks freely in and out of cutscene, though he does have a professional attitude about him.
Played straight, however, in Spartan Ops, where none of the members of player-controlled Fireteam Crimson has any dialogue.
Heroic Sacrifice: Cortana, who appears by all accounts to have been Killed Off for Real. Chief also tries to do this (by manually setting off a nuke on board the Didact's ship with no way, or intention, of escaping the ship himself), but Cortana uses her last bit of energy to protect him in a hard light shell.
Hidden Agenda Villain: In a way. The Didact makes his motives very clear: enslave humanity as punishment for their war with the Forerunners hundreds of millennia ago. However, certain comments and his speech in the epilogue hint at a deeper motivation: a fear that humanity will rise to take the Forerunners' former place and abuse the galaxy. Those who have read The Forerunner Saga might discern an even subtler reason for enslaving humans in the present rather than killing them, considering he had done so formerly to defeat the Flood: if the Primordium is to be believed, the Flood will return.
Hope Spot: A variant. Cortana and John mention several times about bringing her to Halsey as a way to cure her of her rampancy, or at least postpone it. However, Halsey never shows up in the game, still in ONI custody following the events of Halo: Glasslands until Episode 3 of Spartan Ops, making the entire plan just a grasp at an impossible hope. That, and there's Cortana's line after Mission 7, where she says that a "new Cortana model" wouldn't be her, meaning they probably abandoned that idea.
Leaning on the Fourth Wall: Kinda. When the Chief first awakes in his cryotube, you're given the instruction to "Hold X to activate emergency release." The emergency release level is marked with a rather large X right behind it.
Leitmotif: The Didact and his Prometheans have a noticeable leitmotif, "Revival", built around ominous but wordless chanting and an alarming central riff. The UNSC Infinity also has a recurring theme, "To Galaxy", a sweeping heroic piece seen in the introduction to the game's multiplayer mode (which takes place on board it) and in the menu background music, as well as the trailer for Spartan Ops.
And then there's the track in the Halo 4 OST entitled "117".
Master Chief: She said that to me, once. About being a machine.
Luckily My Shield Will Protect Me: A new armor ability is the Hardlight Shield, a large square sheet of hard light that you can pull up to protect your front, granting immunity to all weapons save for vehicular splattering, at the expense of speed and the ability to shoot. The idea of the player getting to use this (though, with a Jackal shield) has been toyed with since Halo 2.
Promethean Watchers can also project them to shield other Forerunner constructs, particularly Promethean Knights when their regular shields fall. Your Hardlight Shields of course have to be powered by your own armor, so your normal shields cannot recharge while the Hardlight is up.
Meaningful Name: Knight Lancers, distinguishable from other Knights by the large white fins on their carapace. When they've taken enough damage from ranged weaponry, they'll quit the LightRifle fire, do a quick preparatory animation and... lance at you at tremendous speed with their blade-arms, leaving a Motion Blur behind them and, depending on the difficulty, either taking out your shields or killing you outright if the attack connects. After that there is a short period where they are vulnerable to Counter Attack, before they teleport out and recharge their shields.
Also, the first and last campaign missions: "Dawn", and "Midnight" respectively. While the first is ostensibly named for the ship Forward Unto Dawn on which the campaign starts, the campaign can also be seen as a single day in the life of the Master Chief.
Mecha-Mooks: This is the first game to feature openly hostile non-Monitor Forerunner enemies, and they're still machines such as the Promethean Watchers, Promethean Knights, and Promethean Crawlers.
Mêlée à Trois: Covenant and Prometheans can be found fighting each other early in the game, but this is much less pronounced than the original demo indicated, as the two forces both fall under the Didact's command after only a single level.
Mile-Long Ship: The UNSC Infinity is three and a half miles long. It has four full-size MACs, as well as 1100 missile pods and serves as the launching point for multiple Pelicans, Falcons, and the Mammoth.
The UNSC M739 Light Machine Gun, or "SAW" (Squad Automatic Weapon) as it is colloquially known in-verse, is a new vastly enhanced power-weapon version of the Assault Rifle, firing the same bullets, but much faster, more accurately, and with a much larger clip (72 rounds as opposed to 32 for the standard AR). While it shreds targets at close ranges, it's capable of lethal effectiveness even at mid-range when fired in bursts, allowing accuracy rivalling that of an unscoped Battle Rifle or Covenant Carbine. Being automatic though, it can't achieve headshots, but it does not really need to given how quickly it can inflict the body-shot damage needed to bring down most opponents.
The Pathfinder specialization for SPARTAN-IVs gives you the Gunner armor mod, which allows mounted automatic weapon turrets on vehicles and fixed platforms to fire for longer before overheating, generating an easily noticeable advantage when using the UNSC heavy machine guns and autocannons mounted on most of their vehicles (most Covenant heavy weapons fire slower and don't overheat). But perhaps the most notable advantage is that it completely nullifies the movement speed penalty for carrying ripped-off machine gun and plasma cannon turrets, making them a much more viable primary weapon, which again act as super-heavy and more effective tactical equivalents to the standard automatic weapons.
Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: For most of mission 3 in the campaign, Master Chief is trying to disable a satellite that is preventing him from contacting the UNSC Infinity. When he finally accesses the satellite, it turns out that it was actually a prison for an ancient alien with advanced technology, a small army, and a grudge against humanity. And Master Chief just released him.
Nightmare Face: The true face◊ of the Promethean Knight. We are not responsible for any nightmares looking at it causes.
Further punctuated by the fact that the Promethean Knights you're fighting were once human, digitized and spit out by the Composer.
Ninja Pirate Zombie Robot: The Prometheans Knights are essentially ancient undead human cyborg warriors created via Unwilling Roboticisation. As the Terminals reveal, the original batch were actual Forerunner Prometheans who volunteered to be Composed into Knights but lacked sufficient numbers, and as Spartan Ops reveals... some of the Knights fighting presently on Requiem were harvested only 6 months ago from modern humans, during the Didact's attack on New Phoenix.
Offscreen Moment of Awesome: The Chief battling through and defeating the crew of a Covenant Lich approaching Ivanoff Station. The screen cuts from him on the Lich's outer hull, to the final Elite hitting the floor as the Chief steps over his body.
Old Master: While not that old, the Master Chief is this in relation to the younger, higher-tech but less intensively trained Spartan IVs, especially given the things he's achieved. It appears that the new Spartans do indeed look up to him as such.
Cortana: Let's show these Spartans how it's done.
OOC Is Serious Business: Cortana's behavior in this game is irregular enough for John-117 to notice it almost immediately and call her out on it, resulting in him learning about her oncoming rampancy.
Precursors: The Forerunners are up front and center in this game.
Abusive Precursors: The Didact, one of the Forerunner's highest military leaders, is the game's villain. In ancient times, he defeated humanity's fleet, viewing them as a invasive race. To keep them down, he forcibly devolved their species, and later harvested their bodies to build mechanical Prometheans. Soon after being awakened, he resumed these plans upon finding humans are once again a space-faring race.
Benevolent Precursors: The Didact's wife, the Librarian, however, viewed humans as worthy to take the Forerunners' place once they were gone. In constrast to her husband, she planted gei to direct their evolution, and has some saved for later with many hidden functions.
Previews Pulse: At the beginning of the game, strange orange scans travel through the Forward Unto Dawn that create an ominous rumble.
Cortana: I will not...allow you to leave...THISPLANET!
Shortly after, Del Rio has his own when the Chief refuses to surrender Cortana.
Del Rio: Give. Me. That. Chip.
Ragnarok-Proofing: Given that the Forward Unto Dawn has been floating through space, cut in half, for close to five years, it's impressive that any of its systems work, or that there's still power to run them. Granted, it's probable that Cortana turned most of the functions not-essential to her or cryo-pod off until the Chief awakened, as Artificial Gravity returns not long after he wakes up and the presence of frost on every surface suggests that life support systems and other heat-generating devices were disabled for the duration. Other than that, there is not much to corrode the ship in space.
Also, basically all of the Forerunners' tech. This was, however, unlike the Dawn, deliberately Ragnarok-proofed and maintained by a variety of machines and automated foundries.
Reasonable Authority Figure: Commander Thomas Lasky sees first-hand how much of an incompetentJerkass Captain Del Rio is, to the point of allowing Master Chief to escape arrest, and even giving him a fully-loaded Pelican to carry on his mission. He's later rewarded when Del Rio is relieved of his command by FLEETCOM, taking over Infinity himself.
Retcon: Despite 343's assurances to the contrary, Chief's new armor is looking to be this. Cortana only ever mentions updating the suit's firmware/OS at the beginning of the game, and the prologue depicts a bunch of SPARTAN-IIs in the exact same armor in a battle from earlier in the war.
The Essential Visual Guide brings it back full-circle by stating that it's actually based off an old Mark IV variant (presumably the armor we see in the prologue).
The Forward Unto Dawnin Halo 4◊ looks nothinglike it did in Halo 3◊. It's MUCH bigger, and the entire Halo 3 incarnation could probably fit inside the missile launch area. And while Halo 3 frigates were the smallest ships in the sky, just half of Halo 4's Dawn absolutely dwarfs the nearby Covenant cruisers! In fairness, this could just be so that the historically tiny ship is able to be an entire level without much backtracking.
The Reveal: The "Scanned" trailer revealed an awful lot about John - including just what he looked like as a boy, his kidnapping, and his SPARTAN training and Bio-Augmentation. This was all spelled out in various manuals and EU material but this is the first time in any of the games to actually show Chief's backstory.
While the Forerunners were known to be non-human, we see them now to be very large bipeds with slits for nostrils, quills for hair, and growths on their heads (similar to the Prophets'). Although the only ones seen in the flesh have been a Lifeworker and Warrior-Servant.
Robot War: The main Forerunner enemies are advanced machines, developed with the purpose of fighting the Flood and being mechanical was largely immune to their infectious nature.
Sanity Slippage: Cortana's rampant state degrades her function as time goes on. Early on, she only offers occasional off-color commentary and uncharacteristic irritation, but the further the story goes on, the worse her symptoms get. She slips in and out of lucidity, and her unstable episodes get progressively worse and at more unfortunately critical times. She is aware of this, and seriously doubts her own reliability, though the Chief never loses faith in her.
Scenery Porn: The intended direction behind the game is to recover the sense of mystery and wonder about a Forerunner planet that made the original Halo: Combat Evolved so memorable.
A scene early in the second level where the player emerges from a tunnel into the light on a cliff edge overlooking kilometers of Star Scraper buildings hanging from the sky is a notable example of this on full display used as an Establishing Shot for the inside of Requiem.
Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right!: The entire crew of the UNSC Infinity does this against Del Rio's orders, helping John-117 and Cortana to stop the Didact against their captain's orders to just go home and implicitly to leave them behind on Requiem.
Becomes hilarious when Del Rio orders the Chief's arrest, but Lasky provides him with a fully equipped Pelican to go off save the day. The heavily armed people who are supposedly trying to arrest the Chief stand at attention and salute as he strolls past them in the landing bay.
Secondary Fire: Some weapons of the Forerunners, such as the LightRifle and the Boltshot, have two firing modes depending on how they are fired. In the case of the former, non-scope shooting is akin to a battle rifle, while scoped shooting is akin to a DMR. In the case of the latter, not holding down the firing button results in a regular pistol shot, while holding it down results in something similar to a Brute Mauler or slightly weaker shotgun blast.
Interrogator: Dr. Halsey, you're bending history in your favor and you know it. You developed the Spartans to crush human rebellion, not to fight the Covenant.
Sequel Hook: The meeting with the Librarian is full of subtle sequel hooks; namely, the "plan" (presumably for the Precursor's test). Also, whatever the mutation did to Chief, besides giving him immunity to the Composer.
The Didact's speech in the epilogue, which indicates that he may have survived his defeat, and is now attempting to convince a surviving population of Forerunners living beyond the confines of the galaxy to prevent humanity from becoming strong enough to take possession of the Mantle. If nothing else, Silentium confirms that a number of Forerunners did survive the activation of the Halos.
Jennifer Hale's character, Commander Sarah Palmer, is probably a shout-out to Ground Control's Major Sarah Parker, one of Hale's earliest voice roles.
The way that the Forerunner Vision activates when Cortana turns it on in the gameplay trailer to see invisible Forerunner troopers is very similar to the multi-vision modes from Predator in look and the visual of activation.
The Broadsword sequence is clearly inspired by the trench run on the Death Star in Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope. Like Luke Skywalker, John-117 must pilot a one-man fighter through a system of narrow chasms, (dodging point-defense fire along the way), to destroy a superweapon. He cannot travel above the surface of the trench because the Broadsword cannot survive in slipspace, much as Luke must stay below the minimum angle of the Death Star's surface guns. Both protagonists receive timely assistance from allied ships, clearing a path to their objectives, which allows them to destroy their respective targets. Both John and Skywalker are greeted by honor guards after rendezvousing with their peers.
The scene in which the Composer is fired on New Phoenix resembles the Narada's attacks on Vulcan and Starfleet Academy in the Star Trek. The camera angle in this sequence is nearly identical to the establishing shot of Narada's drill platform over San Francisco, albeit mirrored. The continous orange beams fired by the Composer and the Narada also look very similar.
The scene in which the Didact falls into the slipspace portal is reminiscent of the death of Emperor Palpatine in Star Wars Episode Six Return of the Jedi
Cortana's death scene is a probable reference to Madoka's death/ascension to Godhood, as both Homura and Master Chief meet in an area of light, both Cortana and Madoka try to comfort their interests via physical contact (Naked Lesbian Space Hug/ Cortana touching the Master Chief), but in vain makes things worse, Both Chief/Homura beg Cortana/Madoka not to leave, but Cortana/Madoka disappear into light, both notably die smiling, and the area collapse around Master Chief/Homura. The ending has Master chief's helmet forming two detailed teardrops, similar to Madoka's ribbon on Homura. Bonus for being details on the face.
Unfortunately, the two "targets" on each Watcher are just there for show. The real damage is done by hitting the irregularly shaped floaty thingy between the targets.
Simple Yet Awesome: The DMR. A regular black semi-automatic rifle with a 3x zoom scope, it looks nothing spectacular and is not at all flashy, but can be unlocked very early into your Spartan IV career (in War Games and Spartan Ops) and is incredibly effective - to the point that it is easily the most heavily used weapon in Big Team multiplayer, and is very commonly seen in other modes as well. Using it is merely a matter of pointing it at the enemy and firing a bullet when you press the trigger. It, like all precision weapons, can headshot unshielded infantry for instant kills, and has the second highest damage and second fastest kill time of any of them when facing shielded targets (the first being the scoped mode of the Forerunner LightRifle). In addition, it has a large clip size, and has the longest aim-assistance activation range of any non-sniper weapon by a large margin, while still being useful at close to medium ranges. Indeed, its all-around versatility and statistical superiority to other standard-issue loadout weapons has caused it to be considered as overpowered by many, or denounced as a 'noob weapon' by virtue of its simplicity and very noticeable aim assistance. Finally, as a standard issue UNSC firearm, ammunition for the DMR (and the BR, AR, and Magnum) is unlimited in many Spartan Ops missions, which feature UNSC infinite-ammo crates.
There's also the aforementioned new Forerunner LightRifle. Belonging to the same family as the DMR, Battle Rifle (BR), and Covenant Carbine, it's the Forerunner equivalent to the human DMR - a semi-automatic rifle with a 3x zoom scope. It has a fairly large clip size, is very accurate, and has two firing modes - a 3-round burst of miniature Hard Light bullets when firing unscoped, or a single three-in-one hardlight bolt when scoped in. It packs a solid punch, with its bursts being weaker but denser than the BR's bursts, and its single-shots being stronger but slower to fire than DMR or Carbine shots. It retains its versatility and usefulness even on Legendary in the campaign and in Forerunner-focused Spartan Ops missions, where ammo for it is plentiful thanks to it being the standard weapon of Promethean Knights and widely available at Forerunner ammo caches. In multiplayer, the weaker aim assistance, close-range inferiority, and higher visibility of the LightRifle as compared to the DMR make it relatively uncommon despite its superior long-range damage.
In multiplayer especially, the classic fully-automatic Assault Rifle (AR) is now much more powerful than it was in previous installments. Not only did 343i up its damage, but they also increased its accuracy by quite a bit. At close range it now greatly outperforms the DMR and BR, and even at mid range it's easier to score kills with it than before, by virtue of its fast damage output and controllable bloom. A sufficiently skilled player could use nothing but a standard AR/Magnum combo given to you at the very start of both the campaign and of your multiplayer career and easily come out on top. Both of these basic weapons are capable of very fast kill times that can be traded off for mid-ranged precision, and in the hands of a player with fast reflexes and situational awareness, they can be used to deadly effect.
Standard Establishing Spaceship Shot: The Infinity gets several. At the end of Forward Unto Dawn, it's seen going to warp with a large fleet of UNSC frigates and cruisers, in the multiplayer mode intro, it's seen flying over Earth with a fleet of escort cruisers and a small cloud of Pelicans, and in the intro to the first episode of Spartan Ops, it goes to warp from Earth, and upon arriving at Requiem, exits slipspace with shields already raised, rams straight through an Covenant CCS-class battlecruiser, and proceeds to immediately deploy ground and space forces to engage the rest of the Covenant forces in the area. Made even cooler by the fact that it's hot launching warships like they were one man fighters.
In a bit of Fridge Logic, it should be remembered that those CCS cruisers were once the bane of the UNSC, requiring a small fleet of frigates to defeat just one. And the Infinity punched through it like paper. It goes to show just how advanced and powerful the Infinity is compared to other UNSC ships.
Suddenly Shouting: Due to her rampancy, Cortana occasionally dips into this. However, she's aware of it, and apologizes when she does so.
Cortana: No, it's not alright. Nothing about it is alright.
Captain Del Rio also has his moments.
Del Rio: I... am ordering you... ''to SURRENDER THAT AI!!!!
Master Chief: No, sir.
Del Rio (to Palmer): Lieutenant, arrest that man!
'Del Rio: ARREST HIM!!
Sufficiently Advanced Alien: The Didact can seem as though he has seemingly magical abilities, such as levitation, telepathy, and telekinesis, as well as having his armor float by him when he's not wearing it. Only with a careful read through the expanded universe does it reveal itself to be Magic from Technology.
Super Drowning Skills: If the Chief goes into water that goes above his head, he dies instantly. This is rather jarring, as earlier in the game he's shown perfectly fine breathing in space.
Super Soldier: In addition to SPARTAN-II John-117, SPARTAN-IVs are present in the single player campaign and are the stars of both the multiplayer and a side-story co-op campaign taking place after the single player called "Spartan Ops."
The developers have gone on record claiming that they want to make the player feel more like a genetically-augmented cyborg soldier in a high tech suit of powered armor than previous games in the series had.
The Didact is a Super Soldier by Forerunner standards, being from a caste dedicated to the role.
Sprint Shoes: The "Sprint" armor ability can be used without taking up an armor ability slot now, unlike in Halo: Reach.
Taking You with Me: In a very short, scripted moment early on in the campaign mission Infinity, a Marine can be seen impaled through the heart by a Promethean Knight's hardlight blade and being held up in the air by the Knight. In his last breath, the Marine primes a frag, and shoves it into the Knight's face, blowing them both up, just as the Chief arrives. This Knight, incidentally, is the first one ever seen to drop a usable Promethean Vision module, and given the chronology of the event, probably enables the first ever human use of the technology (initially reverse-engineered by Cortana for use by the Chief, it's later co-opted by the Spartan-IV program as a loadout option).
Also, on a larger scale, this is basically the plan Chief and Cortana had to take out the Didact, using a HAVOK nuke. Neither of them expected to survive and escape the Didact's ship after their fighter crashed, and while the Didact was killed, supposedly, by falling off the hardlight bridge, the nuke was the only way to stop the Composer from continuing its destruction of population centers on Earth, which it would have kept doing regardless of whether the Didact was alive or dead.
Trilogy Creep: Since Bungie never intended to go past a third game themselves. According to 343 Industries, this will be the start of a whole new trilogy, which means we can expect the series to go up to Halo 6, which means there will be at least nine games in the official canon.
Took a Level in Badass: The UNSC. Despite their best efforts, they were always outclassed by the Covenant in space in the original trilogy. After four years of peacetime to study and put to use all of the Forerunner technology they'd run into and Reclaimed throughout the war, this is no longer the case. This is demonstrated by the opening for Spartan Ops, which shows the Infinity smashing through a Covenant cruiser, taking no visible damage in the process; frigates and even fighters now possess shields. This is partly due to the fact that the UNSC have no qualms against adopting and improving upon Forerunner and Covenant tech, as opposed to the still-imitative and superstitious Covenant remnant who still don't really understand the technology that they use. Additionally, the UNSC have improved upon their own signature kinetic weaponry instead of mimicking the energy weapons of other races, and the resultsnote which include ship-based MACs capable of damaging Forerunner vessels, vehicular Gauss guns that can destroy pretty much any ground target, and even handheld railguns capable of efficiently slaying heavily-shielded infantry have not been short of impressive.
Infinity Intro: For too many years, humanity was on the backfoot. Reacting to threats, rather than preventing them. Rest of the galaxy was bigger than us. Stronger than us. We were mice, hiding in the shadows, hoping the giants would not see us. No more. Humanity is no longer on the defense. We are the giants now.
Master Chief himself, having his apparent superhuman attributes being finally displayed in all of its glory outside of the expanded universe.
Took a Third Option: A development example. A good number of fans were disappointed when the DMR replaced the Battle Rifle in Reach, but it had its fans; on the other hand, the Battle Rifle has been praised as the "signature" weapon of Halo. Instead of choosing one over the other, 343's solution was to add both in the next game (The DMR for more precise distance shooting while the Battle Rifle is for mid range.) Even this Third Option has a Third Option of its own in the form of the Forerunner LightRifle, which functions like the Battle Rifle when fired from the hip and like the DMR when fired while looking through the scope.
One will notice that the Forward unto Dawn only stocks Battle Rifles, as the DMR wasn't available in Halo 3. Once you get to the dead soldiers in the level Infinity, the DMR makes more appearances.
Uncertain Doom: Given the campaign epilogue, this is pretty much the situation of the Ur-Didact.
Unflinching Walk: Averted; the cutscene of Requiem's gravity well being destroyed has Chief watching it blow up, then walking away when it's crumbled.
Unnecessarily Large Vessel: Mantle's Approach, the Ur-Didact's flagship, is larger than any other space ship in the series except for High Charity, and is flown by a grand total of one Promethean Warrior-Servant. Justified back in the time of the Forerunners as it seems to have been outfitted as both a command vessel/carrier, but in Halo 4 it's just needlessly large. Justified in that the Ur-Didact was active for a grand total of perhaps eighteen hours at maximum, so he didn't have time to adjust his flagship to scale for the far less technologically advanced twenty-sixth century human and Covenant standards.
The Unreveal: As per tradition, in the end Master Chief gets his armor removed, and just as his helmet is taken off the scene goes black. Halfway averted in the Legendary ending, where the area around his eyes is shown.
Unwilling Roboticisation: The Prometheans turn out to have been made from prehistoric humans. Then we witness this for ourselves when the Composer disintegrates everyone in Ivanoff Station.
Vocal Evolution: Steve Downes still voices Master Chief and his voice has noticeably aged. The game itself is meant to portray a more complex and dynamic Chief and thus the evolution makes sense.
Voodoo Shark: Word of God is that John's Mark VI suit looks different because Cortana upgraded the suit with nanomachines at some point. Yet despite completely remodeling the armor, the chest still has a gash on it from Halo 3, meaning she never actually repaired it despite the upgrades.
According to the Essential Visual Guide, Cortana did upgrade the armor; since the Chief's rebuilt armor isn't shown in full until the first cutscene of the second level (just after he survives a rather nasty crash), it presumably got damaged AGAIN in the interim.
The justification for why there are anachronisms in the first cutscene is that Halsey is imagining them. However, she depicts all the Spartans to be wearing John's customized armor, which she's never even seen. Also, in the past she's shown distaste for modified armor.
Again, the Essential Visual Guide explains it off as Cortana basing her redesign off yet another variant of Mark IV (presumably the armor we see in the prologue).
Was Once a Man: The Prometheans, made from the bodies of harvested humans using the Composer.
We Have Reserves: Though Prometheans attack the player by the hundreds in-game, in-story they're implied to be dwindling in numbers. As such, Knights are one of the less common enemies in the game, outnumbered heavily by the throwaway Crawler bots and various Covenant units, and Watchers prioritize the protection of Knights via Hardlight shields or resurrection whenever they can, making the already-very-powerful units harder to keep down and leading to inevitable cases of Shoot the Medic First. The reason why is explained in the Terminals.
Wham Line: "Time was your ally, Human. But now it has abandoned you. The Forerunners have returned."
While the Librarian is explaining the Didact's interest in the Composer. "A device that will allow him to finally contain the greatest enemy ever faced by Forerunners... You". Specifically if you haven't read the novels.
FLEETCOM does this to Del Rio off-screen when he returns to Earth without John-117, stripping him of his command of the Infinity.
You Can't Thwart Stage One: You fail to stop the Didact from leaving Requiem, then fail to destroy the Composer before he can take it, and by the time you reach a place you can stop him, he comments on your failure and fires the Composer at Earth.
You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Halsey calls out her interrogator on this in the prologue, regarding berating her for the Spartan II program after it's saved humanity. She also deduces that this is why he's questioning John's emotional capacity: so that he can justify the Spartan-IV program as "better" with the assumption that "the Master Chief is dead".
Your Size May Vary: Depending on the cutscene, the Chief's size relative to other characters varies. In most cutscenes, he's a quite a fair bit taller than any other human, but in the intro and ending, he's gigantic compared to the SPARTAN-IVs and especially the ordinary humans (compare the technicians surrounding him in the intro to Del Rio when he and the Chief are arguing).
Palmer also displays this: in the ending the Chief is towering over her and she doesn't look much larger than ordinary humans, but in the first cutscene set on the bridge of the Infinity she's far closer to the Chief's height and obviously a lot bigger than Del Rio and Lasky.
Chief also looks quite a bit smaller without his armor than would be expected. The current version of the armor appears to be a lot thicker than previous incarnations, but even considering that, the armor itself doesn't appear to actually take up any more space with John inside it than older versions.
Spartan Ops/ War Games
Aliens Speaking English: Averted, and for the first time it depicts a real language barrier between humans and the various Covenant aliens. Jul 'Mdama is shown speaking in Sangheli with subtitles and switching to broken English so that a human captive can understand him. Previously when Covenant aliens (including elites such as the Arbiter and Half-Jaw) spoke English, and not Black Speech, they were fluent and even eloquent; whereas even when speaking English, 'Mdama has an animalistic sound to his voice and said only one word (as opposed to when addressing his troops in their language, where he is rather eloquent).
An Arm and a Leg: Halsey's left arm is amputated by the Covenant remnant, due to complications from her bullet wound.
Arc Villain: Episode 3 of Spartan Ops centers around tracking down an Elite named Parg Vol; a close associate of the Covenant Remnant's leader, Jul 'Mdama.
Audience Surrogate: Gabriel Thorne isn't a playable character but in the cinematic episodes he is clearly meant to be the more sympathetic individual learning the magnitude of what they are getting involved with. This is in contrast to DeMarco's jerkass tendencies and huge ego and Palmer's Seen It All demeanor.
Badass in Distress: Fireteam Crimson in Episode 6, with only marginal help they manage to free themselves.
Bash Brothers: All Spartan Ops missions are intended to be played with multiple people, as the typical enemy composition is significantly higher than the campaign. Episode cinematics also show glimpses of the same thing with Fireteam Majestic. In regular War Games it is also in your best interest to work with the rest of your team instead of trying to solo the enemy. In general, Halo 4's game mechanics somewhat reduce the criticality of individual shooting skills and places heavier value on tactical awareness and coordination, as compared to previous Halo games.
Big Damn Heroes: At least half of the missions involve Fireteam Crimson rescuing Marines caught up in heavy fighting against the Covenant or Prometheans.
Episode 5, Chapter 3 features Crimson on the receiving end of this, with Shadow Team, another group of Spartans, disabling a Covenant Cruiser in the vicinity of Crimson.
In Episode 8, just as Spartan Thorne and Glassman are going to be killed by Gek, Majestic Team shoots and kills the Elite from behind.
Bolivian Army Ending: Episode 5 ends with Crimson being hugely outnumbered, with little hope of rescue and no cover. The Achievement for completing the first five episodes is "Dedicated to Crimson", which has a dual meaning; the player is dedicated to Crimson, or the achievement is dedicated to (the memory of) Crimson.
Turns out, they were simply captured, and escape first thing next chapter.
Book Ends: The first and last episodes of Spartan Ops Season 1 are called "Departure" and "Exodus."
Captain Obvious: Jared Miller has a severe habit of pointing out new enemy threats the player(s) couldn't possibly have missed, often after the shooting has already started. This gets so bad it's lampshaded twice, once by Palmer, who tells him to cut it out (he doesn't), and later by Roland, who throws in a sarcastic parody (and he still doesn't stop).
Cerebus Syndrome: Chapter Five sees a massive Difficulty Spike, Palmer nowhere to be seen (Leading to less humor and complimenting of the player), Halsey being arrested, Thorne getting teleported to Requiem while unarmed, the Covenant Remnant making serious progress to finding the Librarian, less weapon drops and power weapons found, the possibility of failing objectives (Including failing to protect the lives of several civilian scientists, which you're called out for), and a massive cliffhanger where Crimson is surrounded by the Covenant,. It's subtly implied that Palmer being Mission Control is what kept every mission from being like Chapter Five (Miller instead takes Palmer's place, and Roland takes Miller's).
The Chains of Commanding: Lasky continually tries to weigh the responsibility of being CO of all UNSC operations on the Infinity and Requiem against a moral code more pragmatic than most officers.
In regards to the conclusion of season 1: Lasky first tries to order Palmer to stand down, but as she was given the kill order by someone even higher up, it's a wash. Palmer could stand down and later claim she was Just Following Orders of her direct superior, but she wants to see Halsey pay for her lies and betrayal.
However, if she did follow Lasky's order to stand down, he'd be the one on the chopping block for going against a superior order. And Palmer won't let that happen.
The Chessmaster: Jul 'Mdama has been letting Forerunner artifacts be captured, manipulating Dr. Halsey, and planning a covert invasion of Infinity all for his plan to release the Librarian.
Halsey herself; she has an override on Roland, figures out 'Mdama was the one feeding her information, and apparently has some plan for him as well.
Cliffhanger: Episode 5 ends with Spartan Thorne surrounded by sword-wielding Elites, Glassman activating the Librarian's "shrine", and Crimson Squad surrounded by Covenant with a cruiser hovering just above them.
Episode 10: Requiem is destroyed, but half of the Janus Key and Halsey is in Jul 'Mdama's hands, and the now one-armed Halsey is not so forgiving toward the UNSC for trying to assassinate her.
Competitive Balance: The Loadouts mechanism helps mitigate the advantage of map-experienced players who rush to pick up weapons on popular maps, to an extent, but remain balanced by being limited to a set of all-purpose general weapons: an automatic primary rifle, a precision primary rifle, a sidearm, and a grenade from each faction being the choices, along with a set of armor abilities and armor modifications. Any heavier equipment still needs to be found on-map or called down via ordnance drops, which also give the player some choice, and require them to earn their power-ups, albeit in a different way.
Cosmetic Award: Similar to Reach, but much more expanded. They don't have the same helmet variations (such as adding a visor or breathing apparatus) but there are dozens of new and old armor pieces and helmets, many new visor colors (and variations, such as matte or reflective), and lastly armor and weapon skins. All of which are unlocked either by straight Spartan Rank or by special achievement like Mastering the Assistant Commendation (1500+ assist medals).
Cutscene Power to the Max / Cutscene Incompetence: Weapons appear to be stronger in Spartan Ops' cutscenes and shields appear to be nonexistent. Standout examples in Episode 6's opening cutscene where two Elites fall from a single shot each from a Storm Rifle or Promethean Knights in Episode 7 dying from a single headshot.
The Day The Music Lied: Episode 5 Chapter 5. Fireteam Crimson has just defeated hordes of Covenant and is finally getting evac. To Galaxy starts playing and it looks like the end of another successful mission. Then the evac Pelican is shot down out of nowhere. The music cuts out, and looming out of the sky, comes a Covenant battlecruiser, several Phantoms and flights of Banshees. What happens next... is not shown, and you obtain a completion achievement by the name of "Dedicated To Crimson".
The Dragon: The Covenant Remnant apparently consider Jul 'Mdama to be this to the Didact; addressing him as the Didact's Hand in Spartan Ops. Considering the Didact's apparent demise, his actions in Spartan Ops may be an example of Dragon Their Feet. As he's more or less the BigBad of Spartan Ops, he's also an example of Dragon-in-Chief.
Easter Egg: In several chapters you can trigger audio snippets from Red vs. Blue that vaguely match the story instead of the more appropriate audio actually written for the story. Thus it is quite funny to hear about Caboose apparently being on fire after touching the Big Red Button (the related audio being scientists admitting they have no clue what they are working with) and Palmer dryly commenting on how that doesn't sound good.
Taken to ridiculous levels in Chapter 5, Season 5. Sarge berates Grif for dropping the sports equipment. Over the drop site, the ammo icon appears, but next to it is Sports Equipment. You get to the drop, and find ONLY Gravity Hammers.
Even more ridiculous is that the Gravity Hammers aren't nearly as effective in dealing with the Hunters and Wraiths as the Spartan Lasers that Infinity normally sends are. The mission is actually complicated by Grif screwing up.
Evil Is Petty: ONI toward Catherine Halsey, continuing their behaviour from the Kilo-Five books. They may have legitimate reasons for locking her up, but what really smacks of vindictiveness on their part? Deliberately concealing from Halsey that John-117 was alive.
Fighter Launching Sequence: The very first episode, following Infinity's Dynamic Entry arrival at Requiem, wherein it proceeds to scramble Pelicans carrying Spartan-IVs to the surface, Broadswords to provide cover against Covenant fighters, and even Charon-class frigates stored in internal bays, which proceed immediately to engage the Covenant fleet in orbit.
Fighting from the Inside: In Episode 7, Roland gets put under Halsey's control. However, the override doesn't last long before he starts to fight it, and eventually he manages to regain control.
First Name Basis: Even though he's her commanding officer, Lasky and Palmer are apparently this as shown in the Spartan Ops cinematics. It helps that six months ago (that is, during the campaign) they held the same rank.
For Science!: Dr. Halsey. She wants to know everything so she can solve everything, and hates having secrets kept from her. As she puts it:
Halsey: Life is too short. I will never learn all that exists in our own tiny galaxy, let alone the rest of the universe...and I so desperately want to know everything. But the UNSC acts like children at play in a sandbox; mistaking its edges for the limits of the world.
Gameplay and Story Integration: This is the first time in the Halo series that tries to justify the multiplayer component as taking place within the story continuity, both War Games and Spartan Ops.
Gravity Screw: In Episode 10, after deactivating the artifact Crimson must escape, but will find themselves being flung in the air or off to the side as Requiem's gravity fluctuates.
Gunship Rescue: Several, most notable in Episode 3, Chapter 4 where Infinity takes out a Covenant cruiser after you had to Hold the Line for a time, and the very next Chapter after that, where a flight of Broadswords eradicates a group of Phantoms closing on your position.
Helmets Are Hardly Heroic: The SPARTAN-IVs practically never wear their helmets while on board Infinity, although they do wear them during actual Ops on Requiem. That said, it took until episode 9 before Palmer's helmet was seen, and Thorne was certainly not helped by the fact that he didn't have his on (and wasn't carrying his weapon) when he got translocated through the artifact and landed up right in front of a group of Elites.
Hurl It into the Sun: In Episode 9 of Season 1, Jul 'Mdama, having obtained what he needed from Requiem, has his men set it on a collision course with the nearby star. This occurs in Episode 10, destroying the planet.
Hypocrite: Very subtly. Roland calls out Halsey for subterfuge, saying "what has keeping secrets ever done for you?", while keeping secret from her the news that John-117 is alive.
Palmer's "Orders are orders" line loses a lot of its meaning knowing that she completely ignored Captain Del Rio's orders six months earlier.
Let's Get Dangerous: Spartan Palmer up to this point hadn't been shown in much action besides some brief firefights on Infinity. Episode 9 shows her finally donning her helmet (revealing it as the Scout helmet) and going out into the field commando style.
Lock and Load Montage: The first episode, while the Infinity is in slipspace, there is a scene of the SPARTAN-IVs, and Thorne in particular, armoring up in their MJOLNIR GEN2 suits while Palmer gives a speech regarding the Covenant presence on Requiem.
Meaningful Background Event: While Halsey talks with Jul 'Mdama in the Episode 7 intro, Roland does the same splitting Cortana did in the last level of the campaign to regain control of himself.
Mid-Season Twist: For the first six episodes Spartan Ops the Infinity is using the SPARTAN-IVs to try and learn more about Requiem, and trying to keep a step ahead of the Covenant. Business as usual. But when Episode 7 rolls around, things aboard get shaken up. Prometheans teleport aboard, and the Covies board the ship as well. Additionally, tensions with Halsey further peak, as she reveals herself to have hidden backdoors in Infinity's systems.
Mission Control: Spartan Miller is the one directing all of Crimson's ops, followed by Palmer as Chief of Spartan operations and the ship AI Roland stepping in a few times.
Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Osman orders the assassination of Dr. Halsey for her supposed Face-Heel Turn. Palmer's attempt to carry it out caused her doctor to pull an actual Face-Heel Turn. The fact that this happened immediately after she passed the Janus Key to Thorne (the whole reason she had been conversing with Mdama was to obtain it for the UNSC [or possibly herself, it's unclear]), and her arm was later amputated by her Elite captors likely didn't help matters.
Alternatively, if Lasky hadn't sent Majestic to stop the assassination, Palmer may have been successful, preventing the Face-Heel Turn from being a problem.
Taking things further, if Lasky hadn't sent Majestic to rescue Dr. Halsey, Jul 'Mdama would have both halves of the Janus key and a treasure trove of Forerunner technology. Commander Palmer, who went alone, would have been overwhelmed by Jul's thrall of Promethean Knights and Sangheili. Halsey would have either stayed captive and eventually forced to aid the enemy or die, losing the world its leading expert on the Forerunners.
Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: Gek activates Glassman's explosive harness to keep him from escaping. At the moment, though, Glassman is being attacked by Elites and a well-timed toss of his harness lets them all be killed while he survives.
Out of Focus: Master Chief, who is basically never seen or heard from throughout Spartan Ops. Also the rest of the remaining SPARTAN-IIs and IIIs, as well as the Arbiter and his still human-aligned Sangheilli.
Percussive Maintenance: In Episode 2 the artifact that Crimson team recovered at the end of the first episode activates aboard the Infinity; draining the ship's power, turning off the artificial gravity, and causing it to be caught in Requiem's gravity. Commander Palmer kicks the artifact, deactivating it.
Playable Epilogue: Spartan Ops takes place six months after the singleplayer campaign. It is, however, not quite an epilogue per se, as it focuses on more characters and on a smaller scale without quite the same consequences as with Master Chief's story.
Portal Network: This is the big reveal of episode 4, as well as showing how Jul 'Mdama is using that network to stay just out of reach of the UNSC forces and gain the advantage in confrontations.
Previews Pulse: The recovered Forerunner artifact in Episode 5 gives ominous pulses as the crew approaches to study it.
Ramming Always Works: In Spartan Ops, we catch a glimpse of the Infinity coming out of Slipspace and smashing through a CCS-class battlecruiser. Justified because the Infinity's shields prevent any damage to itself.
Dynamic Entry: This collision takes place immediately upon leaving slipspace.
Sequel Escalation: Each episode in the second half of the first season aims to try and top the previous one in terms of story and threat level.
Shoot the Hostage: Jul 'Mdama holds Halsey as a human shield. Unfortunately, he doesn't know that Palmer is trying to kill Halsey. Luckily, Jul calls for his Knight bodyguards and Palmer only manages to wound Halsey.
Shout-Out: The SPARTAN-IVs getting their armor fitted on them is quite similar to how Tony Stark suits up as Iron Man.
Small Name, Big Ego: DeMarco of Fireteam Majestic is awfully cocky at the start of Spartan Ops, especially given that he and his squad has done nothing extraordinary. Subverted in later episodes where they prove to be a competent unit. The Requiem conflict doesn't seem to take place over a long period of time, however, which may not be enough to judge Majestic's overall performance.
Starter Villain: Parg Vol, being the first major Covenant Remnant leader faced by Crimson.
Statuesque Stunner: Sarah Palmer is the Spartan Commanding Officer, officially standing at 6'9 and is obviously catching the attention of her fellow soldiers.
Super Prototype: The SPARTAN-IIs are this compared to the SPARTAN-IVs featured in Spartan Ops. They may be several decades older in comparison to the more recent and more mass produced IV's, but it's fairly clear that the average S-IV is significantly less Badass when compared to the sheer skill and power of the Master Chief - and if Fireteam Majestic is anything to go by, a lot less disciplined. The creator of the original program, Dr. Halsey, has nothing but contempt for the newer inductees, seeing them as buffoons who aren't really Spartans:
Halsey: (to Majestic leader DeMarco, in reference to the SPARTAN-II children): First, we taught them to be silent. Then, we taught them to be Spartans.
That said, Fireteam Crimson, the player characters in Spartan Ops, are silent, stoic types reminiscent of the Master Chief from the previous games, and also known to be among the most competent of the IVs. Also, in a conversation with Thorne, Halsey expressed mild approval of his level-headed nature, even suggesting that some Spartan IV's are closer to her original vision than others.
The Reveal: Episode 5: Dr. Halsey's mysterious benefactor who's been sending her useful intel and offering help is Jul 'Mdama, manipulating her into unwittingly assisting him.
This Is Gonna Suck: Lasky's response to seeing the entirety of the remaining Covenant fleet escaping to slipspace. He's right, since moments later Requiem starts moving on a collision course to its sun, taking Infinity with it.
Took a Level in Badass: Fireteam Majestic eventually proves itself as being one of the better Spartan fireteams, although still not as efficient as Crimson.
Villain Ball: 'Mdama is so entranced by the activated Forerunner shrine that he fails to notice Dr. Glassman escaping behind him.
Villain Override: Halsey activates a hidden trapdoor phrase in Roland that puts him under her command, and of Infinity's systems.
Wham Episode: Episode 5, Memento Mori: Halsey is arrested for subterfuge. Jul 'Mdama is revealed to be The Chessmaster. The Promethean Knights on Requiem are revealed to have been made from the murdered of New Phoenix. Gabriel Thorne is teleported to enemy territory without any weapons. Dr. Glassman manages to partially activate the shrine of the Librarian.
Also, Episodes 7 to 10, finishing off the first season of Spartan Ops in dramatic procession.
Advanced Ancient Humans: We get our first look at the prehistoric spacefaring humanity, including seeing key figures like Forthencho, the Lord of Admirals. The weapons and armor of the ancient humans look oddly reminiscent of the modern Project GUNGNIR products (the GUNGNIR armor variant and Spartan Laser), with visorless helmets for their combat skins and shoulder-mounted energy weapons that project red targeting beams.
Ambiguously Evil: The Master Builder Faber, who shares the leadership of the Forerunners with the Didact and the Librarian. In the books, he's a more dangerous foe, but here he has a smaller role and thus is limited to just sounding evil and agreeing with everyone's decisions.
Conspicuous CGI: Inverted. The most believable images are the ones using actual 3D models, those being the Librarian, Jul 'Mdama, the Ur-Didact, and the Prometheans. The "conspicuous" images are the ones animated by Flash animation, which look flatter and have more limited movements compared to the models.
It might be an Inverted Trope; it's implied that the mutations the Didact performed on himself to try to discover Flood immunity might have been a partial cause for his Sanity Slippage.
Honor Before Reason: The Didact views upholding the Mantle as his greatest duty, and feels that firing the Halos would be abandoning it. As such, he turns to dozens of other experiments, including Flood cures, super-advanced AI, and the Promethean droid armies. All of them are unsuccessful.
Made of Iron: The Didact takes two shots to the chest from a binary rifle - a sniper rifle capable of killing a fully shielded Spartan in one hit - and is only stunned. He is even unarmored when he was shot! It might have been on some sort of stun mode, but it still took two shots to take him down.
Professor Guinea Pig: The Didact uses an experimental cure for the Flood on himself, but it doesn't work. It does result in him looking more animalistic, as well as immune to the Composer, and is implied to have contributed to his Sanity Slippage.
The Reveal: Humans are thought by the Foreunners to be Scary Dogmatic Aliens. The truth is that they were destroying planets not to colonize or for xenocide, but because the Flood had spread to those planets and was risking escape.
Unwilling Roboticisation: Subverted, at first, since the original Promethean Warrior-Servants willingly volunteer to become machines. But when their numbers begins to run low, this trope manifests as the Didact turns to creating more by harvesting humans.
Villain Override: Inverted in the final Terminal, where the Librarian is confronted with a horde of Prometheans but with a single touch renders them harmless.
Humans, scouring entire planets in attempt to stop the Flood from spreading.
The Didact himself, since his he feels his ultimate duty to uphold the Forerunner Mantle. However, said Mantle is an imperialist doctrine that places Forerunners as the galaxy's supreme "protectors" with all other species being "defended" by them. His zeal leads him to forcibly de-evolve humans to prevent them from being a threat again, testing Flood cures on himself that mutate him, and harvesting humans to turn them into drones for his army.Silentium implies that his new drive to wipe out or enslave all potential threats to the Forerunners was due to Gravemind administering a Mind Rape to put him into an identical mentality to the Precursors.