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Video Game / Halo 3

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All spoilers for Halo: Combat Evolved and Halo 2 will be left unmarked. You Have Been Warned!

"They let me pick, did I ever tell you that? Choose whichever Spartan I wanted. You know me. I did my research. Watched as you became the soldier we needed you to be. Like the others, you were strong and swift and brave. A natural leader. But you had something they didn't. Something no one saw... but me. Can you guess? Luck. (Chief crashes planet-side) ...Was I wrong...?"

The final installment in the original trilogy of Halo games, released on September 25, 2007 in North America. Picking up directly from Halo 2, Master Chief returns to fight for Earth and discover the secrets of the Forerunners who built the Halos. The game was a smash, earning $170 million on its first day alone, breaking all previous records (including Halo 2's).

The campaign was no longer split into two perspectives like in Halo 2, instead having a single campaign revolving around the Master Chief and the Arbiter working side by side, with the latter only playable in co-op mode (which for the first time in the series could support four players, with players three and four taking on the role of two new Elites created specifically for co-op). The story wrapped up the original trilogy and shows the conclusion of the Human-Covenant war.

The gameplay was kept largely intact and identical to the previous games, only refining the changes made in Halo 2. The only real new features are the weapon types (a complete subset of Brute weapons and two additional grenade types to the standard frag and plasma, spike and incendiary), deployable equipment that change the battle dynamics (impenetrable "bubble shield," trip mine, radar jammer, etc.), and Forge Mode (a map editor which allows the player to create customized multiplayer maps and gametypes).

Though Interquel Halo 3: ODST (which, despite the title, takes place concurrently with Halo 2) and Prequel Halo: Reach were the next two Halo shooters to be released, Halo 4 is the next chronological game in the series, showing the aftermath of the war, the continued development of the UNSC and its Spartan program, and further revelations about the Forerunners.

The game was by far the most successful in the Halo franchise, with lifetime sales of more than 14.5 million. On October 16 2013 until October 31, Halo 3 was offered as a free-to-own download for Xbox Live Gold customers. 10 years after release, the original version was announced to be backwards compatible for Xbox One, followed by its first release on PC as part of the ported Master Chief Collection in July 2020.

Halo 3 provides examples of:

  • A God Am I:
    • Truth has fallen into this hard.
    "My feet tread the path... I shall become a God!"
    • The Gravemind apparently had delusions of godhood as well. Though in its case, they might not actually be delusions at all.
  • After the End: This game kicks off just as the Covenant have killed most of humanity, with the Flood getting ready to do the same.
  • Airborne Mook: In addition to the returning Drones (and very briefly, Sentinels), Brute Jumpers are a new class that take over the roles that the Elite Rangers held in the previous game. Unlike the Rangers, which had a fair amount of freedom to move around however they liked, the Jumpers use a Jump Jet Pack and are true to their name in having flight paths that are far more predictable.
  • Alien Sky: Once you get to the Ark, the sky features an entire galaxy (ours, in fact).
  • Alternate Universe: The "Mythic" update for The Master Chief Collection introduces a range of armor sets which are inspired by fantasy and mythology. It's hidden in the descriptions of these armor sets, but there is a surprising amount of detail in to what these alternate versions of the Halo are like:
    • Belos - Originating from the city-state of Lacedaemon (a historical name for Sparta), the Spartans of this universe are referred to as the "Chosen"; demi-gods who lead mortal armies. The equivalent of slipspace travel here are "chthonic slipgates", implying that space travel in this universe isn't a very pleasant experience.
    • Blackguard - The UNSC is a Feudal Overlord-themed organisation named the Solarian Core note , while Spartans (named the "Blackguard") are made up of outcasts lords and knights from the various kingdoms on the edge of society. The Covenant in this universe are The Horde.
    • Drengr - The Spartans of this universe are Warrior Poets named "Skalds". The Flood are the main adversary of this universe, and are named the "Shapeless Horrors".
  • Ammo-Using Melee Weapon: The Energy Sword and Gravity Hammer, which have limited charges but cannot be reloaded, as well as the multiplayer only Golf Club.
  • Anti-Frustration Features:
    • If, during the flying section of "The Covenant", you trap yourself on an island by destroying your aircraft, a replacement Hornet will fly in for you.
    • During the fight with 343 Guilty Spark in "Halo", the Spartan Laser you're given, which is the only way to defeat the boss, has infinite energy, even though the amount it starts with appears to be in the 60s, the energy amount will not decrease, meaning you can fire as many shots as you want until the fight is over.
  • Apocalyptic Log: The terminals on "The Ark", "The Covenant", and "Halo" levels provide a detailed account of the final stages of the Flood-Forerunner war. The fall of the Forerunner empire is hastened by the defection of the military AI Mendicant Bias to the Flood. Mendicant, having grown rampant over time, comes to the view that the Forerunners have imposed an artificial constraint on biological evolution via their belief in the "Mantle" and as such must be eliminated. The Forerunners commission a second AI, Offensive Bias, and charge it with stopping Mendicant and the Flood at any cost. The Flood launch a final and utterly massive assault against the Ark (defended by Offensive Bias and the remnants of the Forerunner navy) in an attempt to prevent the activation of the Halo arrays. They are unsuccessful and are defeated at the cost of all the unindexed sentient life in the galaxy, including most of the remaining Forerunners. Offensive Bias manages to salvage Mendicant's personality from the debris of the battle and imprisons it in the Ark's computer systems.
  • Arc Words: "Were it so easy", which the Arbiter says at both the beginning and end of the game. In the beginning following his attempted murder at the hands of the Chief, at the end following his (assumed) death, indicating his newfound respect.
  • The Atoner:
    • A hundred millennia after its defeat at the hands of Offensive Bias, Mendicant Bias (via the terminals on the Ark) contacts the Master Chief and expresses a desire to atone for its role in the genocide of the Forerunners. It's implied he keeps the incomplete ring semi-intact long enough for the Chief and the Arbiter to escape.
    • The Arbiter is heavily implied to regret his actions against the humans during the war.
  • Back-to-Back Badasses: Master Chief and Arbiter pull this near the end of the game.
  • Badass Boast:
    • By Shipmaster Rtas 'Vadum:
      Elite: Brute ships, staggered line! Ship Master! They outnumber us three-to-one!
      Rtas 'Vadum: Then it is an even fight.
    • A number of them by the Gravemind:
      Gravemind: DID YOU THINK ME DEFEATED!?
      Gravemind: I... have beaten fleets of THOUSANDS! Consumed a galaxy of FLESH AND MIND AND BONE!
  • Badass Bystander: During the final assault on the Covenant Anti-Air around Voi, a number of civilian construction workers take up arms and join the Marines.
  • Bash Brothers: The Chief and Arbiter are paired off with one another in much of single-player and for the entirety of co-op.
  • Big Bad Ensemble: For at least two-thirds of the game, the Prophet of Truth. After his death, the Gravemind assumes the role for the rest of the game.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Twice. First, the Elite fleet comes to Earth's aid during the Flood invasion, and later Johnson comes to the aid of Chief in the finale against Guilty Spark.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Truth is killed, the Covenant falls, the Flood are destroyed at the Ark, and the war is over with the humans and Elites forging a peace, but Master Chief and Cortana are lost in space in the back half of the Forward Unto Dawn with no way to get home, and the Chief is forced to go into cryogenic stasis to stay alive. Also, Johnson, Miranda Keyes, and many more are dead.
  • Book Ends:
    • "Were it so easy." The first time, before the first level begins, it's said by the Arbiter as a response to Sergeant Johnson telling him and the Master Chief not to kill each other. The second time, at the end of the game, it's said by the Arbiter again, as a response to Lord Hood's statement: "It's hard to believe [the Master Chief] is dead."
    • When Johnson found an unconscious Chief during the prologue, Johnson calls for extraction as he's not leaving the Chief behind only for the latter to regain consciousness and says "You're not". They have a similar exchange in the final mission after Johnson is mortally wounded though sadly, Chief has to leave his friend's body behind.
    • Halo: Combat Evolved opened with Master Chief being thawed from cryo-sleep. Halo 3 ends with him going back into cryo-sleep.
    • Near the start of Combat Evolved, during the first real bit of combat shortly after acquiring Cortana's chip, Cortana will complain "keep your head down! There are two of us in here now, remember?". In Halo 3, once you reunite, she says "Remember to keep your head down..."
    • Both the first and third games end with Chief riding a Warthog to escape an exploding Halo. The same Halo in fact.
    • The end of Halo: Combat Evolved had Cortana saying "It's finished", with Master Chief saying, no, it's not. The ending of 3 has Cortana saying, "It's finished". Master Chief agrees, "It's finished."
  • Boss Battle: Scarabs, of the Hobbling the Giant variety. They're bosses in this game (and ODST) only, since they were more of a scripted event in 2 (and an indestructible hazard in Halo: Reach). There's also 343 Guilty Spark, though the fight against him is intentionally anti-climactic.
  • Boss in Mook's Clothing: Brute Chieftains serve this role, similar to the Elite Zealots from the first game and Elite Ultras from the second game. With 4 times the health of a Brute Minor and slightly stronger shields, it takes several dozen assault rifle bullets to kill one. They generally carry gravity hammers, plasma turrets, or fuel rod guns, and their armor resists Needler and plasma grenade sticks and takes multiple hits to knock the helmet off and leave them open to a headshot.
  • Call-Back: The game starts piling up references to Combat Evolved once you reach the Ark:
    • The architecture in some areas of the Ark deliberately references rooms from Combat Evolved, especially the rooms leading up to the Cartographer referencing similar rooms from "The Silent Cartographer".
    • The start of the final level is literally a recreation of the entrance area to Halo's control room, and other rooms from the same level reference other rooms from "Assault on the Control Room" and "Two Betrayals".
    • Escaping an exploding station in a Warthog, just like the ending of Combat Evolved. The final chase sequence even includes a sneaky and subtle reference to "The Silent Cartographer" - the final stretch is literally an unfinished recreation of the island from that specific level, though it's only recognizable by the mountainous terrain you're driving around.
  • The Cameo:
  • Canon Immigrant: The Master Chief Collection version of the game does this with Halo Online. After the game's cancellation, it had essentially been treated as Broad Strokes with the occasional nod to its premise but nothing more than that. With updates to Halo 3, ANVIL Station and its creations are more solidly placed into the Halo canon.
  • Catastrophic Countdown: After starting up the Halo ring, it needs several minutes to charge and literally shakes itself apart. The last section of the game is a mad dash to find a way off. While there's no explicit timer the structural plates fall off at a constant rate.
  • Color-Coded for Your Convenience: As with the other Covenant races, Brute armor color differs based on their rank. It's a bit more obtuse than that of Grunts or Elites though; the lowest-ranking Brutes have blue armor, while the highest-ranking Brutes have armor in a different shade of blue. In fact, the majority of Brute variants have armor colored in some variant of blue.
  • Colossus Climb: One way to destroy a Scarab is to take out its legs first, then board it and destroy the power core at the back.
  • Continuity Nod:
    • Nearly everything Cortana says in her cryptic remarks during the game is near exact quotes of lines in Halo: The Fall of Reach, which was the jumping point for the entire Expanded Universe.
    • When Truth activates the Halo rings, the fourth of the seven rings (representing the Halos) does not light up. Installation 04 was the one blown up in the first game.
    • Much of the final level, "Halo", resembles the level "Assault on the Control Room" from the first game, since the level takes place near the control room on a replica of the first Halo.
  • Co-Op Multiplayer: Not only was Halo 3 one of the first console games to include online co-op, but it also had a campaign mode where players could earn points from killing enemies and compete against each other to earn the most. Basically, Competitive Cooperative Multiplayer.
    • Unlike most Halo games, all four co-op characters are different. 1st player is the Chief, 2nd player is the Arbiter (in single-player, he's a friendly NPC who is present in most levels), and the 3rd and 4th players are two unique Elites with absolutely no plot relevance or even lines (that said, they actually do have canon personalities, though not anything elaborated on in-game; one is a hardened veteran, and the other is a young rookie with a lot of respect for humans). Halo: Hunters in the Dark confirms that the last two did canonically fight alongside the Chief and Arbiter, though not for the entirety of the game.
  • Charged Attack:
    • The Spartan Laser takes about 3 seconds to fire, but destroys everything that it touches and has sniper-grade range. Careful though, it'll go through your units, too (although a tank and scenery can stop it).
    • The Plasma Pistol, which can now stun vehicles.
  • Cyber Cyclops: Brute Stalkers, the Replacement Mooks for the Stealth Elites from the first two games, have this look going on with their helmets. Though you probably wouldn't notice, due to the fact that (a) they're invisible most of the time you fight them, and (b) they only appear in two places throughout the entire campaign. Bonus points though for the eye itself being red.
  • Damn You, Muscle Memory!: Many people in this game's beta ended blowing themselves up with a mine after attempting to reload their weapons, after being used for so long with pressing X. In more hilarious cases, they deployed mines below Warthogs.
  • Darker and Edgier: The first two games largely avoided the implications of just how many had died/were dying in the Covenant War, but this game has Earth After the End and takes an Anyone Can Die approach to the main characters.
  • David Versus Goliath: Your first encounter with a Scarab is when you're driving around on a Mongoose i.e. an unarmed quad-bike. You do have a Marine hanging on the back, and he's got a rocket launcher that never seems to run dry, but it's still difficult to avoid the Scarab's Wave-Motion Gun without getting knocked around unless you keep yourself directly beneath the Scarab's body.
  • Dead Character Walking: If you're very careful, follow a set of specific actions, have a lot of patience, and a good dose of luck, it's possible to save Sergeant Johnson.
  • Degraded Boss: The Brute Chieftains are essentially weaker versions of Tartarus, the Final Boss of Halo 2. Both use Gravity Hammers, and both have a shield that grants them invincibility (Tartarus must be baited into either yours or Sergeant Johnson's Beam Rifle to down his shields, while the Brute Chieftains often carry Invincibility equipment which can temporarily protect them).
  • Developer's Foresight: The Auto-Turret equipment is Forerunner in origin, and is essentially a deployable Sentinel. So what happens if you deploy one, or encounter one you placed earlier, at the very end of the game after 343 Guilty Spark turns against you and the Sentinels become hostile? It turns out that the Auto-Turret will as well!
  • Difficult, but Awesome: The Spike grenades appear to be weaker versions of the plasma grenades until you learn that their explosive pattern is conical from the place of impact. They're meant to be stuck on walls and around corners, you can fill a hallway with deadly spikes that can kill from upwards of 40 feet away.
  • Disc-One Final Boss: Truth (and by extension the Covenant itself) is defeated with two missions left, leaving Gravemind (and to a lesser extent Guilty Spark) the final villain of the game.
    Arbiter: (almost exasperated) We trade one villain for another.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: When the Chief finally rescues Cortana, the Gravemind's Mind Rape has left her lying on the "floor" of the holo-projector looking ashamed and broken. Just like a stereotypical rape victim. The rape analogy is even less subtle if the player at the start of the level goes to the abandoned Pelican and listens closely to the following recorded message from Cortana coming from it's speaker:
    Cortana: I ran, tried to stay hidden, but there was no escape! He cornered me, wrapped me tight... and brought me close.
  • Dual Boss: The two Scarabs in "The Covenant".
  • Duel to the Death: Brute society relishes in the chances to defend their honor in duels to the death. In the level "The Ark", a Brute Chieftain challenges the Master Chief to have one with him, with even the formality of having all his Mooks standing in a semi-circle to watch you two fight. Guess who wins.
  • Dying as Yourself: Inverted. The Arbiter is quite insistent that he kill Truth as Truth, not as a Flood form; and upon finding him infected effectively tells the Gravemind to back off for a few seconds.
    Arbiter: I will have my revenge. On a Prophet, not a plague!
  • Easter Egg: If you go a little out of the way on the level "Crow's Nest", you can come across a marine trying to get past a locked door by banging on it and asking it to open up, to which someone on the other side asks for the password, leading to a long conversation about the marine and the Chief needing to get past the door. The voice actors for the marines are from Rooster Teeth's Red vs. Blue series, and the pairings change depending on what difficulty level you are on.
    • On Easy and Normal, it's Tucker outside and Doc inside.
    • On Heroic, it's Simmons outside and Grif inside.
    • On Legendary, it's Church outside with Caboose inside.
  • Easy Level Trick: You can essentially skip the first Scarab battle by taking advantage of the anti-air turret emplacement situated on the catwalk to the left-hand-side of the arena. This allows you to bombard the Covenant superweapon's rear weak spot with homing missiles while it's distracted by friendly AI. This is especially useful on Legendary, given that the default strategy involves skirting around the behemoth in a Mongoose.
  • Enemy Chatter: Both the Brutes and Grunts will talk your ears off in oft-hilarious ways.
    Grunt: You big bully!
  • Enemy Mine: The humans and Elites (and temporarily the Flood) against the Covenant. In the end, the humans and Elites are not allies, but they are also not at war, as both need time to recover from their losses.
  • Evil Redeemed in a Can: The Forerunners lost their war with the Flood because the artificial intelligence they built to combat it, Mendicant Bias, was persuaded to join the Flood?s side. The Forerunners only just managed to delay the traitorous AI long enough to pull a Mutual Kill on the Flood, with the survivors capturing Bias and imprisoning him in the Ark. After 100,000 years, Bias awakens and reveals himself to the Master Chief, admitting his wrongdoing and now committed to helping humanity as penance to the Forerunners. Though in an ironic twist, Halo: Contact Harvest reveals Bias?s first attempt to help humanity ended up making things worse by accidentally inciting a war between them and the Covenant.
  • Expy: The Brutes. Gameplay-wise, fighting the Brutes is just like fighting the Elites, but replace shields with identically-functioning power armor. The only difference is, the Brutes' power armor does not come back after it is destroyed.
  • Evil Laugh: The Gravemind gives a pretty epic one after the Chief stops the rings from firing.
    • He gets another one in the following mission, which then turns into Cortana laughing manically.
  • Eviler than Thou: The game revolved around trying to stop Truth from destroying the galaxy, and stopping the Gravemind from consuming the galaxy:
    Truth: I shall become a God!
    Gravemind: You will be food, nothing more.
  • Fire-Forged Friends: The Chief and the Arbiter throughout the game.
  • Five-Second Foreshadowing: If you listen in on the radio in the triage room in "The Storm", you can actually hear Miranda Keyes report that a single Covenant ship has just emerged near Earth and is heading to Voi. This ship, as you find out at the end of the level, is Flood-infected.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • There are multiple hints towards the rebuilt Alpha Halo, including Guilty Spark's curious "Oh my!" when first accessing the Ark's computer systems and the control room showing Ring 4 as incomplete (but not utterly destroyed, as it was after Halo: CE).
    • When Chief arrives at Installation 00/The Ark's Cartographer and a schematic of the Ark itself is pulled up by Guilty Spark, a ring-shaped object with a pulsating purple hue can be seen in the installations center sitting underneath the hologram, almost blending in and avoiding scrutiny. This is Installation 04B/the rebuilt Alpha Halo being constructed in the Ark's central foundry.
    • Guilty Spark zapping a marine who tries to tamper with a door during the level "The Ark" foreshadows him killing Johnson for trying to destroy the new Halo.
  • Get A Hold Of Yourself Man: In the triage room in "The Storm", bumping into a crying factory worker will cause them to recover and pull out a Pistol, before following you through the remainder of the level.
  • Gimmick Level: On the multiplayer side...
    • "Last Resort" retains the controllable gate to the power station that its Halo 2 predecessor had, making things a bit more interesting for asymmetrical objective games.
    • "Snowbound" features bases with energy shields as doorways; you can see but not shoot through them.
    • "Sandtrap" is the sole map in the game to feature the Elephant, letting you drive around your flag spawn and capture point.
    • "Orbital" is a very loose reimagining of "Longest" and "Elongation" from previous Halo games, featuring tight corridors with long sightlines, this time throwing light vehicles into the mix.
  • Godzilla Threshold: Once Truth activates the Halo rings, things are so desperate that even the Flood become your allies.
  • Green Hill Zone: The level "Sierra 117" is set in a green jungle in Africa, complete with waterfalls. Minus the Covenant trying to kill you, it's appropriately serene.
  • Guns Are Worthless: On Easy at least, hitting enemies with your gun often seems to do more damage than shooting them.
  • Ham-to-Ham Combat: A three-way between Truth, Gravemind, and the Arbiter.
  • Hero of Another Story: During the memorial service for fallen heroes at the end of the game, there's a picture of an unnamed Marine with a Medal of Honour pinned next to it, implying that he had a huge role in the battle for The Ark, as the other deceased Medal of Honour recipients shown next to his picture were Sgt Johnson and Commander Keyes.
  • Hidden Depths: When Cortana asks Master Chief what his plan to get out of High Charity is, he deadpans "I thought I'd shoot my way out. You know, mix things up a little." Showing that even the famously stoic Spartan-II does have a sense of humor.
  • Hobbling the Giant: As in 2, Scarabs can only be destroyed by boarding them to destroy the power core, but this time there's no scripted event to take you there. You have to bring the things low yourself by hitting their legs, and they can get back up if you take too long.
  • Infernal Retaliation: When a Brute Chieftain's charging at you, roaring, and brandishing a gravity hammer, you might think of hitting them with a firebomb, as it does a lot of damage. Unfortunately, Chieftains have equipment that renders them temporarily invincible, so when they activate it, they're now charging at you, roaring, brandishing a gravity hammer, on fire, and invulnerable.
  • Internal Reveal: An Elite Major Spear Carrier in "Floodgate" quickly informs the Arbiter that the Covenant capital of High Charity was overtaken by the Flood some time ago — An event the Arbiter missed in Halo 2, as he was fighting to capture Delta Halo's control room at the time.
  • In the Back: How the Prophet of Truth kills Miranda Keyes, by shooting several Spiker rounds into her. And how the Arbiter kills Truth, by impaling him with an energy sword.
  • Irony: In Halo: Combat Evolved, you had to prevent the activation of Halo as it would destroy all sentient life in a 25,000 light-year radius. At the end of this game, you have to activate a Halo to starve the Flood, but this is justified this time in that it's at the Ark, which is 2^18 (262144) light-years outside of the Milky Way galaxy.
  • It Has Been an Honor:
    Cortana: If we don't make it...
    Master Chief: We'll make it.
    Cortana: It's been an honor serving with you, John.
    • Which itself is a Call-Back to the first game when returning to the Pillar of Autumn in a captured, damaged Banshee.
    • It is also worth pointing out that this is the first time in the games proper that anyone uses the Chief's given name.
  • Justified Tutorial: The game's "looking around" tutorial takes the form of the Chief's armor being in lockdown after falling from low orbit, and needing to recalibrate it with the help of a Marine.
  • Large Ham: Even more rampant than in Halo 2, with Sgt. Johnson, the Shipmaster, Gravemind and a hammy Prophet of Truth. The latter two even engage in Ham-to-Ham Combat during the first climax.
  • Last Stand: The level "The Covenant" is the Covenant's Last Stand against humanity and the Elites. As such, both sides throw everything they have at each other, and it is the longest level of the original trilogy.
  • Lethal Joke Character: The grunts are usually pathetic cannon fodder enemies with weak weapons, and are basically the Butt Monkeys of the Covenant. Yet, for the first time in the series, they are capable of doing serious damage, as now they have a "suicide bomb" attack where they charge the player with two armed plasma grenades in hand.
  • Level Editor: Forge mode allows you to add and remove props, weapons and vehicles in every multiplayer map in the game, which when combined with the ability to create custom gamemodes gives you a huge range of experiences you can create with it. There are also two maps primarily designed to be a blank slate for Forge creations. "Foundry" can have all of its scenery deleted to give you an empty rectangular warehouse, while "Sandbox" has three different areas to play around in: A wide-open outdoor space for traditional maps, an underground crypt the same size as "Foundry", and an area in the sky perfect for creating maps with a Bottomless Pit.
  • Level in Reverse: "Floodgate" and "The Storm" are reverses of each other.
  • Live-Action Cutscene: Halo 3 had an extensive ad campaign titled "Believe" which included several live-action shorts that take place years after the end of the Human-Covenant War, and revolve around Master Chief's legacy.
  • Matte Shot: The game uses a handful of these as backgrounds, most noticeably in the intros to "Cortana" and "Halo".
  • Mythology Gag:
    • Truth's speech in the second level ends with a quote from the first game's E3 2000 trailer, albeit altered to relate to Truth instead of the entire Covenant.
    "Your destruction is the will of the gods! And I? I am their instrument!"
  • Nerf:
    • The Beam Rifle's fire rate was decreased; you could no longer double-tap the trigger to fire two quick shots like in Halo 2. It was also more prone to overheating.
    • Jackal Snipers have also been nerfed to take them down from the all-seeing insta-kill turrets that they were in Halo 2. Their Beam Rifles are no longer one-hit kills on Legendary (though they're still 2-hit kills on Heroic), and they now wear headgear with a glowing purple dot, making them easier to spot and counter-snipe. Jackal Snipers will now also often carry Covenant Carbines instead, which do less damage and are fairer to fight in groups or at a more intermediate range.
    • The Magnum's fire rate was decreased, its magazine size was reduced from 12 to 8, and the scope was removed.
    • The Plasma Pistol damage was decreased. Its battery was set to slowly drain when overcharged.
    • Dual-wielding was disabled for the Needler, and its magazine size was decreased. The needles were also changed to do all of their damage right when they hit someone (rather than doing most of it when they shattered), travel faster, and require one less hit for a supercombine.
    • Dual-wielding itself was also nerfed; weapons will individually deal less damage when they're being dual-wielded. This is especially apparent with the Magnum; dual-wielded Magnums take almost twice as many shots to kill as one on its own.
  • Nostalgia Level:
    • The second level "Crows Nest" though set in a hidden UNSC mountain fortress on Earth, has similarities to the first level of Combat Evolved where The Pillar of Autumn was boarded by the Covenant and it's crew had to abandon ship. Miranda much like her dad in the first game, gives the order to evacuate upon learning that their location has been compromised, and sends Master Chief to rescue trapped and isolated Marines and ensure they're extracted via Pelicans, similarly to how Master Chief in the first game had to help the Marines of The Pillar of Autumn make their way to the escape pods. Crow's Nest has a part set in the base's barracks which plays the same song that was played towards the end of the "The Pillar of Autumn" level. The Ops-Center at the start of "Crow's Nest" has non infantry personnel who wear similar uniforms to the UNSC Navy crewmen from Combat Evolved.
    • The Cartographer building in the final part of "The Ark" features several rooms which are recreations of rooms in the Combat Evolved level "The Silent Cartographer".
    • The final mission, "Halo", is centred around a replica of the control room, also from Combat Evolved.
    • On the multiplayer side, "Last Resort" is a remake of "Zanzibar" from Halo 2. Later content would include "Blackout" and "Heretic" as remakes of "Lockout" and "Midship" from 2, plus "Cold Storage" as a remake of "Chill Out" from Combat Evolved. In The Master Chief Collection, "Icebox" joins this list as a remake of "Turf" from 2.
  • Never Found the Body: Master Chief. The rest of the UNSC assumes he's dead.
  • Offscreen Teleportation: In the final level on single-player, as soon as Master Chief takes the Warthog, Arbiter will turn out to be in the turret, even if the player progressed while he was still fighting Flood in the previous area.
  • The Only One Allowed to Defeat You: Arbiter to Truth. He is quite incensed when it looks like the Flood might do it instead, telling The Gravemind to back off on infecting the Prophet.
    Arbiter: I will have my revenge on a Prophet, not a Plague!
  • Outrun the Fireball: Blowing up Halo. Escaping Halo. Again.
  • Parrying Bullets: From this game onward, it is possible to deflect rockets, either with precise (read: lucky) explosions from grenades or other rockets or with precise swings from the gravity hammer.
  • Pocket Protector: Hornet pilots have an extra metal plate on the front of their armor vest that is completely bulletproof and perfectly deflects human bullets. Why this little plate isn't on Marine infantry armor is anyone's guess.
  • Praetorian Guard: Brute Chieftains and War Chieftains are almost always accompanied by a pack of Bodyguards. They are relatively weak by themselves, but also carry equipment they can use to protect the Chieftain.
  • Pre-Mortem One-Liner: During Truth's death:
    The Prophet of Truth: I AM TRUTH! The voice of the COVENANT!
    Arbiter: And so, you must be silenced.
  • Red Eyes, Take Warning: 343 Guilty Spark, oh so much.
  • Red Herring: An in-universe and outside example. The Ark was believed to be the Forerunner artifact that is unearthed by Truth. However, midway through, it's revealed to be a portal that leads to the actual Ark, which is revealed to be a Forerunner installation located outside the galaxy.
  • Remaster: The Master Chief Collection makes some subtle improvements to resolution, but one of the biggest changes it made in anticipation for the PC version in 2020 was touching up the Matte Shots used as backdrops in a few scenes, as the compressed textures that may have looked fine on a 4:3 television in 2007 suddenly looks sub-par when you try to view it on a modern 4K monitor. In the process, it was discovered that one of the matte paintings used in the intro to the level "Cortana" was actually an incomplete one, and nobody noticed for almost 13 years. The intended painting was thus rediscovered and included in the update.
  • Replacement Mooks: The Brutes in this game now function far more like Elites than their Halo 2 versions did (specifically, the tougher Elites of Combat Evolved and Reach, rather than the squishier ones of Halo 2 and Halo 3). On a more specific note, the Brute Jumpers and Brute Stalkers serve as replacements for Elite Rangers and Stealth Elites respectively.
  • Reverse Escort Mission: In the final assault on Truth's sanctum, Master Chief is being escorted by waves of Flood. Unfortunately for you, they will attack you after Truth dies. In addition, they are numerous.
  • Rocketless Reentry: Chief has to make an impromptu evacuation from Truth's ship. He leaps out and falls from low orbit, using a door as a drag/heat shield, and lands stunned for some hours, but still alive. Johnson finds him and lampshades Chief's tendency to keep doing this.
    Johnson: Crazy fool, why do you always jump? One of these days you're gonna land on something as stubborn as you are!
  • Scenery Porn: Have a look around some of the outdoor levels, if you aren't too busy staying alive.
  • Schizo Tech: With the Master Chief Collection and certain time-limited accessories, it's entirely possible for a multiplayer Spartan to be decked out in 26th-century armor and have a video game console from the dawn of the 21st century strapped to his back (complete with the power, AV, and ethernet cables connected) and MARK VI pauldrons bearing the "Duke" controller (an Xbox-themed backpack with two controllers was also available).
  • Sequel Escalation:
    • In the previous game, the only time you fight against a Scarab walker is in the "Outskirts" level, and the Scarab itself was basically a piece of 100% scripted walking scenery that was indestructible during gameplay, with the Chief blowing it up in a cutscene. Come 3, you fight against Scarabs far more frequently, and they've been modified to be actual enemies with actual AI that you'll need to take out during actual gameplay (options include using a Scorpion tank or being a one-man boarding party); at one point, you even fight two at once.
    • In general, Halo 3 takes advantage of the jump from 6th gen to 7th gen console hardware, with more open level design and larger The War Sequence fights between humans and Covenant.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Several to Marathon:
      • First look at this picture. Now, look at the security armor. See anything familiar?
      • Also, the Marathon Man Achievement.
      • Some achievements added in an update are referred as "Vidmaster" achievements, referencing the old Marathon community of "Vidmasters" who would record their play with an in-game system and share the "vid" to show what crazy stunt they pulled.
    • One of the bonus armor types was developed at a place called Lister, Aigburth on the colony of Ganymede (the very same one that's a moon of Jupiter).
    • Also, the Hayabusa armor, which was added as a tribute to Team Ninja putting a Spartan in Dead or Alive 4's roster.
    • On "Crows Nest", a Marine is seen getting picked up by a Drone similarly to how a Mobile Infantryman from Starship Troopers was picked up by a Flying Bug. After the fight another Marine may run up to and congratulate Master Chief for his part in taking down the Drones, referring to the Drones as "Bugs".
    • When High Charity is destroyed at the end of "The Covenant", the shot of the Pelican flying into space with the ground explosion behind it, is basically identical to the shot in Aliens depicting the similar Cheyenne Dropship flying into space after the Hadley's Hope colony self destructs.
  • Shown Their Work: Injured Marines now call for a Corpsman rather than a Medic.
  • Shut Up, Hannibal!:
    Prophet of Truth: I am Truth! The voice....of the Covenant!
    Arbiter: And so, you must be silenced.
  • The Real Heroes:
    • The memorial at the end of the game has photographs of ordinary military personnel (mostly Marines) who perished on the Ark, with Master Chief who was incorrectly presumed to be dead, being the only Spartan mentioned on the wall. Lord Hood's speech at the memorial paid tribute to these mostly predominantly non powered heroes:
    Lord Hood: For us, the storm has passed... the war is over. But let us never forget those who journeyed into the howling dark and did not return. For their decision required courage beyond measure; sacrifice, and unshakeable conviction that their fight... our fight, was elsewhere. As we start to rebuild, this hillside will remain barren, a memorial to heroes fallen. They ennobled all of us, and they shall not be forgotten.
    • During the level "The Storm", surviving civilians took up arms and teamed up with the Marines to help Master Chief destroy the Covenant's AA cannon to allow the UNSC's fleet to the destroy the recently uncovered artefact. As this was apparently the definitive battle for the fate of humanity (because the artefact was incorrectly presumed to be the Ark, which can fire all the Halo rings) the on screen acclaim for the valour of these civilians is magnified if any survive the end of the level as they (potentially along with any surviving Marines) would all shoot at the cannon's core in an attempt to help Master Chief destroy it, and if enough survive they can be seen briefly in the background of the subsequent cutscene which plays heroic music following the cannon's destruction.
  • This Cannot Be!: Guilty Spark upon learning you still intend to fire Halo even after learning that doing so will destroy it:
    343 Guilty Spark: UNACCEPTABLE! UNACCEPTABLE! ABSOLUTELY UNACCEPTABLE! Protocol dictates action! I see now that helping you was wrong! You are a child of my makers, inheritor of all they left behind. You are Forerunner, but this ring... is mine!
  • Trash Talk: The Flood actually talk in this game, with their dialogue appearing to be Gravemind trash-talking the Master Chief during combat.
    "Ahh... The Armored Casket."
  • Tyrannicide: Truth is summarily executed by the Arbiter towards the climax in order to cement the Covenant's defeat.
  • The Unfought: Truth and Gravemind.
  • Title Drop Chapter: The last level, "Halo".
  • Took a Level in Badass: The UNSC Marines in Halo 3 have finally learned how to drive properly, and actually do decently in the game's massive vehicle battles. They also have the same amount of health as they did in Halo 2, but are noticeably more resistant to human weaponry (being able to take about 50% more damage from human weapons compared to Halo 2), though they're also slightly more vulnerable to plasma weaponry. They also generally fight in much greater numbers compared to Halo 2, and now that the assault rifle is actually worth a damn at medium-long range they do much better in pitched battles than their Halo 1 counterparts did.
  • Unique Enemy: There are only 4 pairs of Hunters fought throughout the entire game, 1 of which is effortlessly taken out while you're driving a tank.
  • Updated Re-release: The patches released alongside the PC version of the Master Chief Collection brings the game out of being a simple port and more into this territory, in addition to the things mentioned under Remaster.
    • A "Thorage" updated improved Forge mode with new objects and vehicles, a higher object budget and the backporting of several features from Halo: Reach that make it easier to build stuff.
    • Season 3 - Recon: To coincide with the release of Halo 3: ODST, the Suppressed SMG, Automag and Brute Plasma Rifle were added to the multiplayer sandbox, with some tweaks to better distinguish them from the rest of Halo 3s arsenal note . In addition, the Season 3 Battle Pass introduced new cosmetic options such as weapon skins and visor colors, along with a Legacy toggle which hides off all new additions if you want to keep the classic look.
    • Season 4 - Reclaimer: A whole swathe of additional weapon skins and now vehicle skins were introduced, all of them having previously been available for Combat Evolved as of Season 2.
    • Season 5 - Anvil: This update chiefly introduced content from the cancelled Halo: Online, including twelve new Spartan armour permutations and a "Techsuit" customisation option, which allowed players to use Halo 3's original GEN1 techsuit (with the update slimming it down to fit the new armour pieces) and Halo: Online's GEN2 techsuit. A few more weapon skins were also introduced, notably including original skins alongside additional Season 2 ports.
    • Season 6 - Raven: Named after Fireteam Raven from the eponymous Arcade Game, this update introduced four original ODST armour permutations based on the Fireteam's four members, alongside appropriately-themed weapon and vehicle skins. Halo: Online content was also introduced in the update, including six more Spartan armour permutations and the multiplayer map "Waterfall" note . To allow equipping of Fireteam Raven's respective ODST packs, a new "Backpack" cosmetic option was also introduced alongside additional cosmetics, including vanilla Halo 3's Katana; it was divulged from the "Chest" category into this one, allowing it to be used alongside any chest armour permutation in the game. Also new was a series of animated visors.
      • Introduced alongside Season 6 was the Exchange, a weekly rotating cosmetics shop that offered premium cosmetics at a higher point cost. While primarily consisting of challenge-unlocked content that had been cycled out with new updates, the Exchange features new content such as the black-and-gold "Rhine" skin available for multiple weapons and vehicles.
    • Season 7 - Elite: This Sangheili-focussed update implemented seven Elite armour permutations and the map "Edge", both originally featured in Halo: Online. The update also introduced skins for the Energy Sword and GEN2 techsuit, distributed across both the season pass and the Exchange.
    • Season 8 - Mythic: Introducing the concept of "Fractures" to the series, this update included eighteen armour permutations based on three alternate, non-canonical Halo universes were included, alongside appropriately-themed Techsuits, Backpack accessories and weapon/vehicle skins. Also included in the update was a fresh batch of animated visors and the Halo: Online map "Icebox" (a snow-themed remake of Halo 2's "Turf").
      • To celebrate Halo's 20th anniversary, a series of Exchange-exclusive cosmetics for Halo 3 were released over several weeks from November 2021 to January 2022, including; the MIRAGE armour set (based on the fan-favourite Semi-Powered Infiltration (SPI) armour featured in extended media), "Duke" Shoulder armour (Mark VI shoulders with original Xbox "Duke" Gamepads strapped to them), five backpack accessories (3 rucksack variations, a Grunt plush and a whole original Xbox console) and "OGX" skins for most UNSC weapons.
  • Upgrade vs. Prototype Fight: The Terminals reveal that the Forerunners built an AI called Mendicant Bias to defeat the Flood, but he went rogue. To counter him, another AI was built called Offensive Bias, as his successor. Offensive wins, but only because he was stalling for the Forerunners to fire the Halos that thus destroyed every organic being in the galaxy, robbing Mendicant's fleet of its crew.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Truth, Gravemind, and Guilty Spark all end up with this. Spark's crackdown is the scariest one.
  • The War Sequence: The battle outside the array in the level "The Covenant". It is the final major land battle in the Human-Covenant war, and the Covenant throw everything they have left at you, with the crew of Forward Unto Dawn doing likewise. Appropriately, it has more total forces and more variety of vehicles than virtually any previous battle in the series. The music "One Final Effort" plays, the battle begins, and then the Covenant send two Scarabs against you.
  • Why Don't Ya Just Shoot Him?: When Miranda storms the Ark's control room, Truth's Brute bodyguards are seemingly too dumbfounded to just shoot her. Averted by Truth himself, who simply kills her with a Spiker.
  • Womb Level: "Cortana" is set in a Flood-overran Covenant city, meaning in most rooms just about every surface is covered by a fleshy, pulsating mass.
  • You Have Out Lived Your Usefulness: The Flood joins forces with the Chief and Arbiter to stop Truth from firing the Halo rings. Once they do so, the Gravemind naturally tries to kill them.
  • Your Princess Is in Another Castle!: At the end of the game, you drive a Warthog across an exploding landscape covered in enemies. Then your HUD shows 500 metres to go to a waypoint. Nearly made it! Then you make it to the waypoint, and another countdown starts...note 
  • Zerg Rush: According to the terminals, the Flood and Mendicant Bias assaulted the Ark and its Forerunner defenders with nearly five million assimilated spacecraft (comprised mostly of unarmed civilian vessels used as cannon fodder) in order to stop the Halo arrays from being fired.

"Wake me, when you need me."