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"I'm Benjamin Giraud, and this is Hunt the Truth."
Benjamin Giraud

Hunt the Truth (sometimes stylized #HUNTtheTRUTH) is a 2015 Alternate Reality Game that served as advertising for Halo 5: Guardians. It can be found on Tumblr here, and is published through a series of photo blogs and audio journals.

In 2558, six years after the end of the Human-Covenant War and one year after the events of Halo 4, former propaganda journalist Benjamin Giraud (Keegan-Michael Key) is hired by the Office of Naval Intelligence to write a biographical article on legendary Super-Soldier John-117, the Master Chief himself. Giraud enthusiastically signs up for the job, and is being paid well to interview exclusive witnesses who claim to have known John since his childhood. But as Giraud does his own investigating on the side, he finds that the stories he's hearing don't match up with the evidence. Soon Giraud finds himself doubting everything ONI's been telling about the Master Chief, and sets out to discover the truth, even if it's not the heroic story he wants to believe.

A second season ran from September 22 to October 26 of 2015, ending just before the release of Halo 5: Guardians. It follows the story of FERO, the recurring Insurrectionist Leader from Season One.

Hunt the Truth provides examples of:

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    Season One 
  • Adaptational Villainy:
    • ONI has never been shown to be a particularly nice organization, but in general they were shown in the games and novels to be a group of well intentioned, if not amoral operatives working to protect humanity from alien threats like the Covenant and the Flood. In the ARG, however, they are the main antagonists and are shown to be an incredibly ruthless organization that will crush anyone who threatens to expose their dirty secrets to the public. They even try to frame the Master Chief for a terrorist attack when he appears to go rogue from the UNSC.
    • In-universe, ONI tries to do this to the Insurrectionists on Eridanus II, making them out to be an armed mob that took over the colony and committed war crimes against the civilian population, including the murder of John's parents and many others in Elysium City by death squads. However, one of the interview subjects, a former resident of the colony and childhood friend of John's confirms that the Insurrectionists were just political agitators, there was little if any violence, and John's parents were alive for years after they were supposedly "executed".
  • Arc Words: "Glassed Planets Have Bad Records", a common journalistic phrase as to how difficult it is to find accurate information in the wrecks left of planets scoured by the Covenant. It ends up taking a more devious turn when Ben suspects ONI's reminding him of this only to divert his attention from their coverups. Then it takes a darker turn when Ben finds a treasure trove of data about ONI in the glassed ruins of Bliss, only to find it was all bait for ONI to discredit immediately the moment he tried to use it.
  • Awful Truth: Giraud's opinion of what he finds. Of course, most of the truth he initially finds is seen in the main games and/or well-known by fans who've also read the books and other EU works, but it's completely hidden from civilians, so that they can see the Chief as a heroic Captain America-type. That said, some things are completely new, particularly in the later episodes.
  • The Bad Guy Wins: In the final episode, ONI manages to convince Giraud's sources to turn on him, and release the second video that exonerates the Chief. Because of this, Giraud is publicly humiliated and taken away. In addition, the chances of ONI facing consequences for the SPARTAN II Program become practically nil, with the crimes behind it relegated to nothing more than a discredited conspiracy theory.
  • Beauty Is Never Tarnished: The second photo entry of Giraud's blog was a picture of the cover of Halo 2, which turned out to be an edited photo that he took. He put up the unedited version for comparison. Among other things, ONI had the scoring and damage to Chief's armor removed.
  • Big Bad: On the whole, ONI is set up as this for the entire ARG, in particular Michael Sullivan. Other agencies and people prove antagonistic, but the main crux of the plot is breaking the SPARTAN masquerade.
  • Big Brother Is Watching You: ONI is pretty much watching everyone in the galaxy, and can do whatever they can to shut you up for good. Left your house? They'll condemn the entire building and wreck your apartment. Fled underground? They'll find you. They can even disable the Internet for whole planets or cut off your bank account or destroy your feed at the press of a button, and they are willing to track whoever has talked to you and make them disappear. And so far, as Ben so painfully finds out, you cannot bring them down. They've also started seizing various Twitter accounts, most prominently Sapien Sunrise's.
  • Big Damn Heroes:
    • Just as ONI finally finds Ben, FERO saves his ass by storming in and shooting up the agents.
    • Chief's real actions during the Biko Incident count too.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Ben's name is publicly ruined, ONI manages to pin the faked footage and records on him, and he's "black-bagged" by the Feds to space-Gitmo. On the other hand, Petra is more than motivated enough to take up his banner, since she delivered the bait that screwed over Ben, and she says that unlike Ben, she's not making it about respect. She's making it about fear. Goes into Downer Ending territory when Season 2 reveals that she was captured by ONI after a few months.
  • Broken Masquerade: In Episode 8, Ben leaks all of his information on the SPARTAN programs and other ONI secrets, followed shortly after by leaking them again, along with testimonies he had found, on live television. The fallout from this is disastrous, in more ways than one.
  • The Bus Came Back: In Episode 10, Andrew Del Rio, former Captain of the UNSC Infinity, thought gone after Halo 4 comes back, now a Senator who whips up an anti-Master Chief campaign in wake of the Biko massacre.
  • The Chessmaster: ONI turns out to be a terrifyingly good one.
  • Conspiracy Theorist: Ben slowly turns into one. This is also Mshak's day job.
  • Conspiracy Thriller: Very much so.
  • Continuity Porn: Whoever's running this show loves their Halo mythos. We've got Benjamin Giraud, our protagonist, straight from The Halo Graphic Novel, Michael Sullivan from Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn, references to the Halo 3: ODST comic Halo: Helljumper, and of course Master Chief's origin story from the books weaved into the plot, and many more besides. Episode 8 also showed that Mshak knew about the two Spartan-II escapees that killed themselves once they met their clones.
  • Dead All Along:
    • In the first episode, Giraud finds an old population record claiming John-117 died when he was six, throwing everything he's heard about the Chief into doubt.
    • Deon Govender, one of the people ONI set Giraud up to interview, was revealed to have died seven years prior; the man that Giraud interviewed was apparently once a homeless drunk. Then Episode 11 reveals that the man was actually an actor known as Simon Kensington, hired by ONI.
  • Death World: Bliss, a former human colony glassed during the Covenant War. The whole planet is basically a dry wasteland of sand and glass plains and melted cities. At one point, Ben nearly dies from a massive wind storm of razor-sharp shards.
  • Didn't Think This Through: During episode 9, ONI has every bank freeze Ben's assets after he leaks the truth of the Spartan Program to the UNSC senate. Ben immediately laments not withdrawing every credit to his name before trying to actively take on possibly the most powerful agency in human history. Granted, walking into a bank would likely immediately alert ONI to his location, and he is technically on the run.
  • Dream Reality Check: Ben makes FERO show him the time on her datapad twice so that he can know he's not dreaming. When he learns of FERO's identity, he begs her to show the datapad again as she's walking away so he confirm or deny that it's reality.
  • Entry Point: Since it's part of a Viral Marketing campaign, the entry points are ads on Halo official social media that lead to the Tumblr blog that hosts the ARG.
  • Everything Is an iPod in the Future: Giraud describes ONI headquarters as being designed this way (mirroring what players have seen in Halo 3: ODST and Halo: Reach.) Everything is black and white, seamless, no decorations on the walls, chairs are too low to the ground, doors only open the second before you walk into them...
  • Fantastic Racism:
    • Senator Del Rio thinks SPARTAN-IIs are outdated pieces of junk that should be all shot on sight, while SPARTAN-IVs are amazing, top-of-the-line super soldiers that don't attack peace conferences.
    • Sapien Sunrise is an human-supremacist group that advocates revenge against the former Covenant species.
  • Foreshadowing: Sully tells Ben several times that "glassed planets have bad records" by way of explaining away inconsistencies. Ben finds his "silver bullet" on a supposedly abandoned ONI facility on a glassed planet. Not only are the files he finds bait, but the "property records" also indicate that the land is actually owned by terrorists.
  • From Bad to Worse: As the ARG goes along, Ben gets threatened and hurt several times by ONI, then drugged on a flight, then Chief turns the peace conference to a gunfight, and by Episode 9, FERO and Mshak disappear while severe and violent rioting breaks out in the outer colonies. By Episode 10, he discovers that the UNSC is covering up the mitigating circumstances of Chief's attack for reasons of their own, and returns home to find out that his entire apartment building has been condemned, with everything in it, his emergency funds included, all gone.
  • Gone Horribly Right:
    • Giraud was hired to write an account of the Master Chief, and so decided to go above and beyond and do his own investigating rather than just rely on the sources that ONI gave him, leading to him uncovering some nasty secrets.
    • Trying to get rid of him, Sully is very insistent that Ben get on the next shuttle leaving Earth, giving him a ticket with only the minimum amount of time to get home. Moradi sabotages its passenger list so Jakob Walker, an interviewee who was supposedly permanently stationed on Castellaneta, is aboard the same flight as Ben.
  • Hate Sink: Ex-Captain Del Rio returns in Episode 10, now a Senator demanding the Master Chief's arrest. He was already a piece of work back in Halo 4 for being the biggest Jerkass in the franchise, but now he somehow manages to be even worse.
  • Hero with Bad Publicity: As it seems to have turned out, nine members of an anti-alien terrorist organisation were attempting to attack the conference, and Chief was actually trying to save everyone else, including Sekibo. It worked. Almost. Too bad the UNSC, for whatever reason, is apparently trying to cover up the involvement of said terrorists, despite the protests of both Sekibo's people and the aliens.
  • Hope Spot:
    • FERO and Ben hijack a UEG meeting with evidence of the SPARTAN Program's crimes. It's ignored.
    • After finding a relay on Bliss that gives Ben all the evidence he possibly needs to torch ONI to the ground. The files there were bait for Ben to proven untrustworthy in front of the public and made to appear like he fabricated them.
  • Internal Reveal: Anyone familiar with the Halo mythos knows the origin of the Spartan-II recruits. But for Ben Giraud and the rest of humanity, it's treated as an incredibly shocking leak, on par with the Pentagon Papers, even inciting massive riots across the outer colonies.
  • Intrepid Reporter: Ben, and Petra to a lesser degree.
  • In-Universe Factoid Failure:
    • Part of ONI's cover up of John's history was having Deon Govender saying how a 12-year old John participated in high school boxing and easily defeated the other boys. The only problem was that not only was boxing illegal on Eridanus II, the colonists there had never even heard of the sport until after they got off world.
    • Another point in ONI's cover up story was how Insurrectionists were abducting civilians in Elysium City, among which where John and his parents, the latter having died during the experience. Questioning John's childhood friend, Ellie, reveals that the Insurrection's presence on Eridanus II was purely political and relatively peaceful, and that there were no abductions; while Ray pulls up files that proved Katrina's (another of John's friends) claims that John's parents were still alive and employed up to 2528, four years after their supposed deaths.
  • Marked Bullet: A Hunt the Truth trailer showed a bullet marked TRAITOR shattering the Chief's helmet.
  • Meaningful Name: Mshak was an Armenian language newspaper that espoused liberal democratic ideals during the final decades of the Russian Empire. After the Russian Revolution, it was shuttered in 1921 with other anti-Bolshevik media.
  • Military Science Fiction: The plot details a journalist's attempt to unearth a disturbing military conspiracy in the far future.
  • Mood Whiplash: The whole series in general, so far. It reveals that, even though Chief is Halo's Captain America, he was the only soldier left alive in the Battle of Mombasa. That ONI can cut off the whole internet in a second, ruin your life, try to kill you and let police fire on royally-pissed off colonists while sieging them at the same time. And if you ever speak out of turn, you're really, really, fucked.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: There are "anomalies in deep space" that a Conspiracy Theorist has been tracking with his friend. Nothing is known about them in-universe, and they're getting stronger.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business:
    • In Episode 8, the Master Chief attacks a peace conference and kidnaps an important UNSC diplomat for seemingly no reason, starting a firefight which ends with nineteen humans dead, while escorting the aliens to safety (said diplomat ends up being found dead in a nearby field). This, naturally, shocks the galaxy. As it turns out in Episode 10, the Chief was apparently trying to save the diplomat (and the aliens) from human-supremacist terrorists who had infiltrated the conference, with the nine humans he actually killed being said terrorists.
    • In Episode 9, Mshak shows some uncharacteristic worry and tells Ben he has to tell him something important in person. Ben claims he never heard from him again.
  • Old Soldier: As it turns out in Episode 7, Petrosky is a homeless ex-ODST veteran, living on the streets with a titanium arm after seeing action for 14 years.
  • Oh, Crap!: Giraud has a nasty one when he realizes that he conducted a conversation that revealed a possible government coverup over Waypoint (basically future-Skype), meaning that anyone could be listening.
  • Only One Name: The pre-Master Chief is just John, with his last name unsaid and actually blacked out when written down.
  • Outrun the Fireball: Ben outruns a gigantic storm of howling glass in Episode 11.
  • Paranoia Fuel: In-universe one: ONI has enough power to target anyone you've spoken to and make them disappear. They can drug you on flights, withdraw your money, cut off the Internet because you spoke out of line...and even completely destroy the apartment you live in, and condemn the whole building.
  • Plot Archaeology:
    • The Hunt the Truth advertising campaign features Benjamin Giraud, the previously unnamed ONI photojournalist from The Halo Graphic Novel story "Second Sunrise Over New Mombasa". After nearly nine years, that's quite a dig through continuity.
    • Following episodes also included the once-little girl from "Starry Night" (a trailer for Halo 3 released in 2007), but as an adult.
  • Propaganda Machine: Initially, and probably deliberately averted. Giraud was excited to write about the Chief, but he wasn't a puppet for the government, so people would actually trust him. However, it's clear that ONI, with its supplied sources, want him to be the vessel of this. ONI wants Giraud to tell a story that would, in his words, give people "Patriotic goosebumps-" a child with charisma and essential heroism from birth, who enlisted at 16. It makes the UNSC as a whole look good, it smears the Insurrectionists! But, unfortunately, Giraud was a bit too curious for his own good.
  • "Ray of Hope" Ending: At the end of the last episode, ONI finally lays their hands on Ben. But Petra picks up on where he left off, just as determined to bring ONI down.
  • Retcon:
    • The first episode reveals that the girl from the Halo 3 Starry Night trailer is Ellie Bloom, a childhood friend of John aka Master Chief back on Eridanus II. When the commercial was first released, the kids were claimed to be merely symbolic, and the trailer as a whole was assumed to be non-canon.
    • Halo: Glasslands claimed ONI was declassifying the SPARTAN Project (albeit while blaming everything on Dr. Halsey), and we saw that the Spartan-IVs in Spartan Ops had some vague knowledge of the Spartan-IIs' true origins. However, Hunt the Truth claims that the S-IIs' origins are still classified to the general public and ONI has been releasing a false narrative.
  • The Reveal: In Episode 11, Ben finds out that several of his "interviewees" were bribed to do so, or outright acting. Oh, and in Episode 13, his sources too.
  • Revealing Cover Up: ONI's attempts to feed Ben a false backstory for the Master Chief ends up exposing a much larger conspiracy about the true origins of the Spartan-IIs.
  • Rogue Protagonist:
    • Ben eventually whistleblows on ONI's atrocities, and Chief seems to have become one by escorting alien diplomats to safety after opening fire on a peace conference and kidnapping human diplomat Richard Sekibo.
    • By the final episode, Ben turns into this.
  • Sarcastic Confession: ONI deliberately leaks tons of their own data to Ben in Episode 11, revealing the truth about the Spartan Program and the actors they've hired, but hide numerous flaws in it to make it easy to discredit. As such, when Ben tries to tell everyone the truth, nobody believes any of it and mistakes it for fabricated data.
  • Serial Escalation: Ben simply investigates and gets more and more puzzling clues to the origin of Chief. Eventually, his investigation leads to galaxy-wide grumbling, the revelation of Chief seemingly attacking the Biko peace conference (and subsequent revelations about the real circumstances of that event), and by Episode 9, severe rioting in the outer colonies.
  • This Is Unforgivable!: Ben is willing to go along with ONI, get paid, and publish a story he knows is lies, until he finds a recording of them drugging him a minute after he meets Walker then shoving his unconscious body on another flight. Giraud is so infuriated at how they treated him that he cancels the story and leaks everything he's recorded to the public.
  • Took a Level in Jerkass: Michael Sullivan, once a jokester recruit as a kid in Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn, is now met again as an adult working for ONI. While still friendly, it's in a Stepford Smiler way, and he treats Ben like a special-needs child, frequently acting fake-excited and using catchphrases while not paying him much attention and doing covert stuff on his compad behind his back. And he cuts off Ben's bank accounts, and the whole of Waypoint.
  • Un-person: ONI's specialty, as it turns out, is this. And Ben painfully finds this out in Episode 10, as they completely destroy his apartment and make sure the whole building is about to get demolished.
  • The War of Earthly Aggression: The outer colonies go berserk and begin severe rioting once they find out what happened to their children.
  • Wham Episode:
    • Episode 8. The galaxy goes crazy over the leak FERO and Ben started, people are beginning to riot in the outer colonies, the anomalies in deep space are increasing and worst of all, the Chief, The Hero of the Halo universe and beloved by many players, attacks Biko's peace conference for seemingly no reason, killing several human bodyguards and kidnapping the head diplomat (who's later found dead), all the while escorting the alien delegation to safety.
    • Episode 13: Ben's whole work and world comes crashing down on him and he's dragged off by ONI to be either imprisoned or killed. BUT, Petra decides to take up his sword in revenge against ONI.
  • Wham Line: In the preview for the Hunt the Truth campaign, a bullet bearing words describing the Master Chief is fired before hitting the Chief's helmet. The last word is quite a wham:
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Petra gets very upset with Ben after he recorded a conversation of them without her permission and uploaded it to his public audio journal. A conversation where she averted ONI surveillance and they discussed things considered treasonous. She compares it to pointing a gun at someone's face... and points her own gun at his face to make her point.
  • The Woobie: In-universe in Episode 7, Ben presents the flash clones as these, infants painfully stretched into newborns and plunged into another kid's world as soon as they're ready, with nobody to comfort them. Then, they're barely settling into their new home when they start rotting and suffering from a slow, incurable wasting disease, with only the terrified parents who they don't even know watching them rot away. All of this to cover up the disappearance of the actual kids who would be soon made into Super Soldiers.
  • Would Hurt a Child: This time, the abduction of children and agonising deaths of the flash clones are treated as this by the general public. It's also the spark that sets off rioting in the outer colonies.
    Season Two (Major Spoilers) 
  • Becoming the Mask: "After living as FERO for five years, I have no idea what Maya is supposed to think about any of this."
  • Bittersweet Ending: Maya Sankar AKA FERO dies at the hands of Bostwick, but thanks to Mshak her warning about the Guardians is spreading throughout the colonies, and she will be remembered as a heroic martyr. Bostwick has taken up her mantle as an Insurrectionist leader and advocate for colonial independence. And, for better or worse, Maya's brain has been saved by ONI, and she will be resurrected as a UNSC Smart AI.
  • Boom, Headshot!: Ilsa Zane killed Ari Rezneck by blowing out his brain with her pistol.
  • Black Site: ONI Midnight Facility is one of these. You don't go there for rehabilitation, you go there to disappear.
  • Canon Immigrant: Black-Box from the Kilo-Five novels is assigned as Maya's partner/handler. Ilsa Zane and her New Colonial Alliance rebels from the Halo: Initiation comics are also major antagonists, as are Dasc Gevadim and his Triad cult from the Halo: Evolutions anthology.
  • Dead Guy on Display: The Kig-Yar (Jackal) pirates keep a wall of dead alien and human body parts on their ship as a bizarre trophy/history display. Bostwick comes very close to joining the collection.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Black-Box.
  • Go Mad from the Isolation:
    • What usually happens at Midnight Facility. Poor Ben...
    • Mshak is suffering from this as well, locked in a safehouse in the middle of nowhere without internet access.
  • Gravity Screw: A side effect of the Guardians emerging.
  • Grey-and-Grey Morality: Neither the UNSC or the Insurrectionists really give a damn about the innocent victims of the colony attacks, they only want to understand and control the anomalies for their own benefit. Both sides claim they are working to protect human lives, but when the colony on Laika III is being destroyed the two factions are more interested in fighting each other than trying to evacuate the locals, which Maya notes with disgust.
  • Happy Ending Override: After the end of Season One, Petra promised to take up Ben's fight to expose ONI. She's been captured by ONI in between seasons.
  • Heroic BSoD: Finding out that FERO is actually an undercover ONI agent destroys what's left of Ben's sanity.
  • The Hero Dies: Maya, until ONI resurrects her as a smart AI.
  • Mistreatment-Induced Betrayal: By Episode 3 Maya gets fed up with ONI's treatment of her and their attacks on innocent civilians, and goes rogue with the Guardian data.
  • The Mole: FERO turns out to be Commander Maya Sankar, an ONI spy within the Insurrection.
  • Old Soldier: One berates FERO as she tries to delay the angry civilians from attacking ONI again.
  • Properly Paranoid: Anyone going up against ONI, including an ex-agent like Maya or an ex-Spartan like Ilsa.
  • Put on a Bus: Petra Janacek was captured by ONI shortly after Ben, and her whereabouts are unknown.
  • Self-Harm: Ben used to do this, but he's getting better! Until he learns of FERO's true identity, then he either starts to claw at himself or hit the window between him and FERO so hard his hands start to bleed.
  • Skewed Priorities: After Mshak Moradi regains Waypoint access after months of being forced to go without.
    Mshak: Wow, I have a lot of unread messages. Oh no...
    Maya: What?
    Mshak: The unthinkable has happened! I fell off the leaderboards at Unggoy Farmer.
    Maya: MSHAK!
    Mshak: One billion percent focused!
  • Wham Line:
    • From Episode 00:
      ODST: Whoa, calm down "FERO"!
      FERO: Hey, I outrank you Lance Corporal! You don't get to call me FERO! It's Commander Sankar to you, copy?!
    • In Episode 01, we learn that the "glassed planets" thing was in fact Sully's best attempt to warn Ben.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: The fates of Mshak, Ilsa Zane, and Dasc Gevadim after the events on Laika III are unknown.
  • "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: Black-Box's after-action report to CINCONI Admiral Osman.
  • Why Don't You Just Shoot Him?: Averted. When ONI learns that Ilsa Zane is on Conrad's Point, they order an immediate airstrike on her position. It doesn't work.