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"Men, we led those dumb bugs out to the middle of nowhere to keep them from getting their filthy claws on Earth. But, we stumbled onto something they're so hot for that they're scrambling over each other to get it! Well, I don't care if it's God's own anti-sonavabitch machine or a giant hula hoop! We're not gonna let 'em have it! What we will let 'em have is a belly full of lead and a pool of their own blood to drown in!... AM I RIGHT MARINES?!"

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"Sir, yes Sir!"

"Mmmhmm! Damn right, I am. Now move it out, double-time! All you greenhorns who wanted to see Covenant up close, this is gonna be your lucky day!"
Staff Sergeant Avery Junior Johnson, addressing marines prior to the Battle of Installation 04

Halo: Combat Evolvednote  (released on November 15, 2001note ) introduced the Halo series from relatively Humble Beginnings. Humanity has been losing a war against the Covenant for the last 27 years, with the game taking place right after humanity has just suffered a devastating defeat at their most important colony, Reach. The story begins In Medias Res as the human warship the Pillar of Autumn, which had just escaped Reach, comes under attack by Covenant pursuers and is forced to make a crash landing on a mysterious ring-shaped mega-structure worshipped by the Covenant, known as Halo.

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The player controls the Master Chief, one of the last of a group of specially raised and trained cyborg Super Soldiers: the Spartan-IIs. He is taken out of stasis during the attack on the ship, and his mission is to protect the survivors, find out what Halo is and what the Covenant want with it. Master Chief is the quiet type, but the AI program "Cortana" linked into his battle suit does most of the talking and provides plenty of tech support. Together they eventually uncover an ancient threat aboard the Halo which makes the Covenant look like a church picnic. The Halo itself has a much more malevolent purpose...

This First-Person Shooter developed by Bungie was the big title used to launch the Xbox console. Its superior graphics, interesting story and engaging gameplay made it a hit with critics and gamers alike, and it was hugely influential in bringing the concept of LAN parties, which was later expanded upon with Halo 2 being the Killer App for online gaming for the Xbox. The seamless integration of vehicles, the very expansive missions and the constant rotation of weapon types gave it a unique experience.

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A port to Windows and Mac OS was released two years later courtesy of Gearbox Software, which added native online multiplayer without tunnelling utilities, the Fuel Rod Gun (strangely treated as an energy weapon) and Flamethrower weapons for multiplayer, as well as the Banshee and a new Warthog with a rocket turret as multiplayer vehicles, along with the usual computer gaming features (enhanced graphics, mods, and so forth). The original release was not particularly designed for modification, however, and so they released a separate Halo: Custom Edition with some engine optimizations, exclusively used for multiplayer. It has its own separate download and installer, but requires a CD key from the retail version as well as having a CD check.

After many rumours of a Remaster for its tenth anniversary, Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary was released by 343 Industries on November 15, 2011. The intended goal of the remaster was to update the graphics, but otherwise, replicate the gameplay and story exactly: the campaign mode uses the Gearbox PC port as a basis for the HD re-release, with a feature to toggle between the re-imagined graphics and the older style. Terminals, first introduced as a form Forerunner log entries in Halo 3 return as fully visualized lore pieces to the game, providing extra story links to the Expanded Universe and the sequels (particularly some foreshadowing of the plot for the then-unreleased Halo 4). The multiplayer portion of the remaster is run out of Halo: Reach, using a set of playlists that have been balanced to replicate the feel of Combat Evolved. The disc also comes with access to the Anniversary Map Pack, a new set of Reach maps that includes fan favourites from Halo 2 and Halo PC in addition to most of the maps from Combat Evolved. There is also a fan-made mod for the Custom Edition that overhauls graphics and level layout, and adds in the weapons and enemies of the more modern Halo games; it has its own page here.

Three years later, the Anniversary version would see a rerelease on the Xbox One as part of Halo: The Master Chief Collection. The single-player version is the same as the Xbox 360 version from 2011 (complete with the switchable graphics), but the original game's multiplayer mode has also been restored, meaning the original game's multiplayer is playable on Xbox LIVE for the first time.

Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary was ported to the PC in March 2020, as part of the long-awaited PC port of The Master Chief Collection. It has the Anniversary updated graphics and features, though it does lack some of the PC-specific features of the original 2003 PC port of Combat Evolved and is incompatible with the Custom Edition mod release.

This game is also the only entry in the series to have an official novelization, Halo: The Flood. Halo: The Fall of Reach is a prequel to the events of the story, in fact setting up many core facets of the game's backstory and the franchises' Expanded Universe. Meanwhile, Halo: First Strike is an immediate sequel to this game, bridging the gap between Combat Evolved and 2.


Halo: Combat Evolved contains examples of:

  • Abandon Ship: The first level, featuring the crew doing a staged evacuation of the Pillar of Autumn while holding back Covenant boarders. Of course, after evacuating the only location to land on is the Halo ring itself, setting the stage for the rest of the game.
  • Affably Evil: 343 Guilty Spark, who remains oh-so-polite even after he turns on you.
  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: Averted by Cortana, who remains on your side. 343 Guilty Spark, on the other hand...
  • Alien Sky: Anytime you have a decent view of the sky, you will see the gas giant planet Threshold. Also, the ring itself curves up and away in opposite directions. Oddly enough, if you look closely at the ring in the distance, you will see an obvious lighting error.
  • All There in the Manual: The events of Reach and many other elements of the war with the Covenant were explained in the Expanded Universe novels, most notably Halo: The Fall of Reach. There's also Halo: Reach (not to be confused with the book), which is a direct prequel to this game.
  • Alternate Reality Game: The "Cortana Letters", while not a true ARG, served as a foreshadowing of things to come in the promotion of subsequent instalments. These were a series of e-mails sent from Bungie-controlled addresses (and a couple of hidden messages on the discs of other Bungie games) to notable Marathon fandom people, authored by an AI entity named Cortana, intent on warning humanity about an impending alien invasion. Over the course of the letters, she shared details about "the humourless war machine" she has to share processing space with, and the religious zealots "whose main form of worship takes place at the altar of orbital bombardment", as well as the "unbroken ring" whose creators have simply vanished. While many of the details revealed in this way back in 1998-1999 have since changed significantly (particularly in terms of Cortana's own characterization), the Letters nonetheless gave away quite a good chunk of the game's plot.
  • Ancient Keeper: 343 Guilty Spark, the Monitor of Installation 04.
  • Apocalyptic Log: The Flood gets introduced through a video recording from the helmet cam of a (deceased) Marine named Jenkins. If you read the novelization, though, you find out that Jenkins wasn't dead at all — while he'd been turned into a combat form, had somehow retained his consciousness, turning it into an And I Must Scream scenario.
  • Artificial Brilliance: The unit A.I. in Halo: Combat Evolved was quite a step up from its contemporaries, and was praised by critics as one of its best technical points. Much of the player base likewise found the challenge of "smart" enemies to be a huge appeal of the game's combat.
  • Artistic License – Nuclear Physics: Nuclear reactors are not bombs.
  • Bash Brothers: Hunters are always encountered in pairs. If you kill one, expect the other to charge at you more often.
  • Better to Die than Be Killed: Basically what the Halo rings were designed to do; specifically, they kill all sentient life in the galaxy in order to starve the Flood.
  • BFG: The Fuel Rod Gun, especially when wielded by tiny Grunts. The weapon is unusable by the player in the Xbox version. On the PC version. it's still only usable in multiplayer.
  • Bleak Level: 343 Guilty Spark, which features few enemies and lots of wrecked equipment to drive home the creepiness factor. Most of the mission is designed to confuse the hell out of players, playing initially more like a Horror game with guns than an FPS.
  • Body Horror: All victims of the Flood suffer this, especially Captain Keyes.
  • Book-Ends:
    • The game begins and ends on the Pillar of Autumn.
    • In a more general example, the last three missions of the game consist of locations from the first half, but revisited in the opposite order of when you first came through them.
  • Boring, but Practical: As you may learn from Jackals on Legendary, the Plasma Pistol is extremely useful when paired with a fast trigger finger. Semi-auto fire + very short overheat + good against health AND shields = murder machine. The only gun that can compete with it for sheer damage output is the shotgun at close range. Plus you don't have to worry about chewing through batteries because it's the most common gun in the game!
  • Boss in Mook Clothing:
    • The Gold-armoured Elite Zealots, extremely agile foes whose shields are twice as strong as that of an Elite Major's and are armed with either Plasma Rifles or, more commonly, Energy Swords. Zealots also receive slight behavioural changes depending on their equipped weapon:
    • Zealots equipped with the Plasma Rifle have the highest accuracy of any Elite rank and fire in much longer bursts, all the while dodging and taking cover from any return fire thrown their way.
    • Zealots wielding the Energy Sword (one of the game's few One-Hit Kill weapons note ) are much more aggressive, relentlessly chasing down foes in order to perform a wide, blindingly-fast swing that practically decimates everything in front of it. If it's reassuring enough, only a single Zealot will spawn in any given combat encounter.
  • Big Bad: Unlike subsequent games, Halo 1 is notable for not having any; 343 Guilty Spark is the most personal enemy in the game, but he only controls the Sentinels.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The threat of the Flood is halted by the destruction of the ring. As a result, everyone still on the ring was killed, with Master Chief and Cortana seemingly the only two UNSC survivorsnote . Not only that, but humanity is still losing its war against the Covenant.
  • Cannon Fodder: The Grunts.
  • The Captain: Captain Keyes is running the show.
  • Car Fu: "Roadkill!" In fact, this is almost to Exaggerated levels, given that even the slightest nudge from a vehicle is instant death. This was a result of the limited physics engine at the time which had difficulty translating collision momentum into damage, hence any hit was made lethal.
  • Casual Danger Dialogue: Behold, the following:
    Cortana: This thing is falling apart!
    Master Chief: It'll hold.
    Cortana: We're not gonna make it!
    Master Chief: We'll make it.
    Cortana: Pull up! Pull up!
    [Crash!]
    Cortana: ... You did that on purpose.
  • Character Customisation: Extremely basic compared to later Halo games, but for multiplayer, this game allows you to choose the color of your armor for non-team modes. The Master Chief Collection version adds more options, such as visor colors, as well as both vehicle and weapon skins, unlockable via the seasonal progression system. For players who prefer Combat Evolved to look as classic as possible, there is an option to turn these extras off.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • Captain Keyes mentions his "neural lace" in the very first conversation the Chief has with him. The Chief is later forced to retrieve these implants to allow Cortana to trigger the Pillar of Autumn's reactor meltdown.
    • A Longsword fighter-bomber is visible in the Autumn's hangar bay while the marines are tooling up in the opening cutscene, the same fighter Master Chief uses to escape the ship at the end of the game.
  • Co-Op Multiplayer: One of the most popular features of the game, allowing for two identical Chiefs to fight through the campaign at the same time. Sadly, it was not available on the PC port, presumably for compatibility reasons (co-op was split-screen-only, but no split-screen mode was present in the PC version at all. Do the math). On a side note, if Master Chief is the lone protagonist hero of the game, who is the carbon copy Player 2 is running around as? The novels implied that co-op mode takes place in an alternate reality where Master Chief's fellow Blue Team member Linda, who was fatally injured but placed into stasis aboard the Autumn, was still in fighting shape. This was confirmed in the Anniversary remaster. Remember how in the original game, there is a terminal in the Pillar of Autumn's cryo bay that shows the vital signs of the Master Chief in his cryotube? In Anniversary's co-op mode, there are now two terminals, with the second identifying Linda as the inhabitant of the cryotube that the second player emerged from.
  • Color-Coded for Your Convenience: Continuing the tradition set by its predecessor, Marathon, Combat Evolved signifies a Covenant soldier's rank through their armour colour. While later games often paired this colour-coding system with unique armour designs for each rank (up until Halo 4, which largely dropped the system altogether), visual variants of Combat Evolved's Covenant armour (Grunt backpack shape, Elite helmet design, etc.) were almost exclusively cosmetic, meaning that colour (and in some cases, weapon choice and battle strategy) was the only way to determine an enemy's rank at a glance.
    • Grunt ranks include Minors (Orange), Majors (Red) and Spec-Ops (Black).
    • Elite ranks include Minors (Blue), Majors (Maroon), Stealth (Cyan + Grey trim), Spec-Ops (Black) and Zealots (Gold).
    • Jackal ranks are determined by the colour of their shields, with Minors being equipped with blue shields and Majors with orange. This also determines their shield strength, with the latter being predictably stronger than the former.
  • Copy-and-Paste Environments: The game is based on a pseudo-sandbox-style level design, with you having to traverse many locations that are basically identical in appearance. While other Halo games are guilty of this, it is most noticeable here, since this game takes place entirely on Halo; you not only travel through several identical areas, but some levels are literally prior levels done backwards.
  • Creator Cameo:
    • Writer Matt Soell voices the sole line of a character affectionately dubbed "Crewman 1" by the developers ("They're right behind us!"). Artist David Dunn also voices another crewman ("Help me, help you!").
    • Chris Carney, a multiplayer artist, has a brief scene as Corporal Lovik, the Marine who sends a distress message to Johnson and Keyes in "343 Guilty Spark".
  • Darkest Hour: As Halo: Reach indicated, this game begins with one. Reach has fallen, most of the UNSC is glassed by the Covenant, and the Master Chief and Cortana arrive in the Pillar of Autumn for a desperate mission with a research information that might turn the war on humanity's favor.
  • Deflector Shields: Master Chief, the Elites, and the Sentinels are protected by these.
  • Developers' Foresight: In "The Silent Cartographer", the encouraged route is to try to enter the map room complex, get locked out, then find the security room to reopen the map room. If you decide to go to the security room first, not only does the game let you skip going through the 'getting locked out' moment, but the dialogue is changed to reflect the fact that you haven't been shut out.
    Cortana: [normal dialogue] Use the holo-panel to shut down the security system.
    Cortana: [alternate dialogue] This isn't the map room. Analyzing... This is a security override station for the main facility, located somewhere else on this island. Shut the system down so the Covenant won't be able to lock us out.
  • Disc-One Final Dungeon: The Control Room.
  • Disney Death: Sergeant Johnson's apparent death got retconned into being this in Halo: First Strike and Halo 2. Even though, despite his fairly low screen time, Bungie did everything but show his actual death. The Legendary ending does show him to be on the ring when it explodes, but this was obviously non-canon; Bungie later jokingly stated that it was his twin brother instead.
  • The Dog Bites Back: Marines do not tolerate treason - kill more than a couple of them and the rest will mutiny. And they're pretty formidable opponents, so keep them on your side.
  • Early Installment Weirdness: Several.
    • The first one that Halo 2 explicitly calls out is that your health bar is completely separate from your energy shield, requiring you to track down medkits to heal yourself if you take hits while your shield is out. Later mainline games, while technically still having a separate health bar, simply have it instantly refill once your shields start to recharge. Also shared with Halo 2, the motion tracker and shield bar are paired together in the corner while Halo 3 placed the shield bar much wider at the top of the HUD, which became standard.
    • There are no Brutes or Drones; it was originally intended that First Strike was humanity's first encounter with either race, which fell through when other works set before this game featured them both anyway (Brutes went from being newly-introduced in First Strike to the second Covenant species humanity ever encountered). There are also far fewer Covenant sub-variants in general, and many ranks that are staples of the future games are absent here, including Grunt Heavies, Grunt and Elite Ultras, Elite Rangers, and Jackal Snipers.
    • Vehicles can't be hijacked and human vehicles can't even be destroyed (Covenant ones can, but only when they're occupied). There's also a small number of them and, beyond both having some variety of dropship, there are no attempts to give both sides equivalent vehicles (humans get the only playable vehicles that can take passengers, the Covenant gets the only playable flying vehicles).
    • The weapon selection is more limited; you have the MA5B Assault Rifle and the M6D Pistol for standard automatic and precision weapons, and the specialty weapons are a rocket launcher, shotgun and sniper. Among the Covenant they do have the Energy Sword and Fuel Rod Gun but in contrast to all other infantry weapons are unusable, disappearing after the enemy is defeated (the latter only shows up in multiplayer of the PC port). The iconic battle rifle didn't show up until Halo 2.
    • The tone is fairly light and often comical, especially before the Flood shows up. Chief and Cortana share some witty banter and a few sight gags, complete with a farcical ending scene with Johnson and an Elite in the Legendary ending. The story was told predominantly from just Chief and Cortana's perspective, with them coming upon events or being told of complications rather than cutting away to show what happened before they were there (you first learn of the flood by reviewing footage found on a dead marine), there is no secondary group to fill up the plot. A lot of elements such as the design of the UNSC Marines' armour and equipment are also cribbed directly from films such as Aliens and Predator; later influences would not be quite so blatant.
    • Sergeant Johnson is treated as a Recurring Extra who exists simply to fill the role of a generic Marine sergeant in this game, rather than as a major defined character as in the rest of the trilogy. As an example of his unimportance, he appears in the level "Assault on the Control Room" as the leader of Fireteam Zulu, even though canonically he should instead be accompanying Keyes on the mission to recover the supposed weapon cache.
    • Early parts of the franchise would place a heavy emphasis on the Master Chief being the last living SPARTAN-II, an idea that would start to be downplayed in First Strike and then dropped altogether later on, especially with the later introduction of third- and then fourth-generation SPARTANs. Notably, the continuity of the main games continued this until Halo 5: Guardians (14 years later) finally reunites him with the surviving members of the Spartan II's Blue Team, which caused some Continuity Lock-Out.
    • The Chief is referred to as a "Cyborg" several times, including by Grunts, plus the in-game description of the level "Keyes". The Chief, plus Spartans in general, are never referred to as such again.
    • Cortana is inexplicably written as if she had a British accent, most notably when she tells 343 Guilty Spark to "sod off" at the beginning of "Two Betrayals". This quirk was understandably dropped, though the idea of your main AI companion having a British accent was revisited for Serina in Halo Wars. Speaking of Cortana, she has a very different look in this game, being purple in colour and possessing much shorter hair. Anniversary updates her to the look she had in Halo 3.
    • This game includes a few ladders on its maps, especially in multiplayer. Future games almost always go with gravity lifts instead for two main reasons: First, gravity lifts are far more intuitive to use. Second, the animators absolutely hated how there was no ladder climbing animation. A good way of showing how this aspect of level design was abandoned is to compare the multiplayer maps "Battle Creek" and "Wizard", two maps that both use ladders, with their Halo 2 remakes "Beaver Creek" (which replaces the ladders with ramps) and "Warlock" (which replaces them with gravity lifts).
    • According to Cortana, the Covenant already knows that Halo is a superweapon, though the ringworld is still significant to their religion in an unspecified way. Keyes notes that they even have a saying, "Whoever controls Halo, controls the fate of the universe." From the second game onwards, it would become a major plot point that the Covenant at large doesn't know Halo's true purpose, and instead believes the Halo rings are a way to Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence.
    • Combat Evolved features the only level in the series with an Exact Time to Failure. The very few other times a Halo game puts you under time pressure, it always uses a Collapsing Lair to force the player to keep moving forward.
  • Earth-Shattering Kaboom: Granted, Halo is an artificial world, but the last few levels have you trying to engineer one.
  • Elite Mooks:
    • The aptly-named Elites — the backbone of the Covenant military.
    • The final portion of Keyes introduces you to the Special Operations Covenant; tougher, black-armoured Grunts and Elites capable of actions their regular brethren cannot, such as wielding Fuel Rod Cannons and throwing grenades respectively. The Spec-Ops Elites are particularly tough, being much more accurate with their grenades than Grunts, and having twice as durable shields and slightly more health as a regular Elite. Come The Maw, all standard Covenant troops (besides Hunters, who only have a single rank) have been supplanted by the Spec-Ops Covenant.
  • Elites Are More Glamorous: The Elites come in more varieties than any other enemy. Also, the Master Chief himself is a highly elite Supersoldier.
  • Enemy Chatter: The Grunts always have something to say: "Wake up, bad guys!" "He's here!" "Look out!" "Run a-way!" "Shoot you!" "Die Devil!" "HE'S UNSTOPPABLE!" "LEADER DEAD! RUN AWAY!" "GET IT OFF! GET IT OFF!" "OOH, AAH, GET IT OFF OF ME!!" "NO-HO-HOOOOOO!!!"
  • Enemy-Detecting Radar: Foes appear as red dots on your motion tracker, and friendlies appear as yellow dots.
  • The Enemy Weapons Are Better: Zig-zagged.
    • Covenant Plasma weaponry vastly outperform the UNSC's ballistic firearms at melting energy shielding, balanced out by the latter being much more capable at shredding health than the former. In addition, Covenant weapons are generally far easier to find since you can loot them from the hands of your dead foes.
    • Played straight when comparing the MA5B Assault Rifle (Chief's starting weapon for most missions) to its Covenant counterpart, the Plasma Rifle; the former is strictly limited to close range due to its egregious bullet spread, while the latter is viable at close, medium, or even medium-long range as, in spite of their increased travel time, the projectiles will always be fired with pinpoint accuracy.
    • Averted when comparing the M6D Pistol (Chief's other starting weapon for most missions) and the Plasma Pistol; while the latter's overcharge shot and sheer abundance make it an effective disposable shield-stripper, the former wins out thanks to its impressive damage (enough to punch through the shields of most lower-ranked Elites) and being one of only two headshot-capable weapons in the game.
  • Energy Weapon: Most of the Covenant weapons. Also, the Sentinels' beams.
  • Escort Mission: The final portion of The Truth and Reconciliation has you escort Captain Keyes to the hangar of a Covenant battleship so you can escape via one of the enemy dropships.
  • Exact Time to Failure: The last Warthog run through the Pillar of Autumn takes place whilst a number of nuclear reactors are in the process of undergoing a massive meltdown, followed by a huge explosion. Cortana helpfully places a very exact timer onto your HUD to show when the meltdown will occur. Interestingly, the time can actually halt and change throughout the section as the situation changes. This tends to suggest that the time displayed is actually Cortana's prediction of how much longer they have to be able to Outrun the Fireball in time, rather than when the final detonation will actually occur.
  • Failsafe Failure: The last level has you deliberately engineering one.
  • Failure Is the Only Option: The mission Keyes. You'll never reach the captain in time to save him no matter how quickly you clear the level. Made all the worse due to an Insurmountable Waist-Height Fence.
  • Fan Remake: Halo: Custom Edition for PC allows a number of mods to be made to the single-player campaign. One of the more prolific examples of these modded campaigns is SPV3, which incorporates content from the entire franchise including new/reworked weapons, vehicles, enemies and mechanics alongside modern-quality graphics.
  • First-Person Ghost: The one game in the series where this is played straight.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • There's one for the entire trilogy. In the Control Room, you can see a hologram of the ring that you're on (Installation 04 aka Alpha Halo), but you can also clearly see holograms of six other rings.
    • Sgt. Johnson's pre-battle speech on the Pillar of Autumn on Legendary difficulty yields this:
      Sgt. Johnson: Well, I don't care if it's God's own anti-son-of-a-bitch-machine or a giant hula hoop; we're not going to let them have it!
  • Genre Shift: The game starts as a Military Science Fiction FPS where you're fighting against intelligent enemy aliens, but midway, it turns into Survival Horror once the Flood arrives.
  • Godzilla Threshold: Since the Flood is so dangerous, Halo is meant to wipe out absolutely all life in the galaxy in order to starve them out.
  • The Goomba: Basic Grunts. Slow, stupid, only carry Plasma Pistols and Plasma Grenades, die in three shots from the weakest gun, and almost as likely to run away at the sight of the player character as to actually attempt to fight - unless there's an Elite nearby, in which case you kill the Elite and then they run away.
  • Hand Cannon: The M6D Pistol, chambered for .50 calibre high-explosive armour-piercing bullets.
  • Hanging Separately: The UNSC and the Covenant, despite both being attacked by both the Flood and Sentinels, are unwilling to help each other. In fact, Covenant enemies will prioritize Master Chief even when being attacked at that moment by the Flood. Justified in that the Covenant are waging a holy war against humanity, and the Chief is seen as their version of the Anti-Christ; neither these new aliens nor the robot servants of the gods they worship are going to stop them from killing some more humans.
  • Harder Than Hard: The Legendary difficulty setting. As it says in-game: "This is suicide." Enemies do almost double damage and have about 40% more health and shields; more importantly, they have better reflexes and laser-accurate, much higher rate of fire.
  • Heavily Armored Mook: Hunters are nearly invincible unless you can shoot them in their orange weak spots, you hit them with enough grenades, or happen to have a rocket launcher. Or a tank.
  • Homage: The Halo worlds are a direct homage to Larry Niven's Ringworld books.
  • Insurmountable Waist-Height Fence: Two in "Keyes".
    • You start literally in the hallway right next to the endpoint, but it's inaccessible due to locked doors. You can actually see into the room through a metal grating.
    • Just down the hall is a hole in the ship which you must jump down to continue through the mission, but should be easily small enough a gap for someone like the Master Chief to make.
  • Invisible Monsters:
  • Justified Tutorial: You're taught how to control your character under the pretext of a post-cryosleep examination. This is skipped entirely in co-op or on higher difficulties.
  • Laser Blade: Most gold-armoured Elite Zealots and some Stealth Elites have Energy Swords which can waste you with one hit on any difficulty higher than Easy (where you can tank a couple of hits before dying).
  • Law of Chromatic Superiority: Higher ranks of each enemy type are distinguished by the colour of their armour. For example, red Grunts are better than orange grunts.
  • Left the Background Music On: In one of the cutscenes, some Marines are heading into battle while generic Heavy Metal plays. One of them asks "Why do we always have to listen to the old stuff?" and Sergeant Johnson replies that it is part of Earth's culture. Word of God is that Bungie originally planned to license Steppenwolf's "Magic Carpet Ride" or Rolling Stones' "Paint It Black" for this scene, but was vetoed, resulting in the generic electric guitar.
  • Level in Reverse: Half of the game is you moving into areas to fight the Covenant. The last third is you pulling back to escape the Flood.
  • Limited Loadout: Trope Codifier for the modern First-Person Shooter. Master Chief can wield any two of the game's eight weapons and four of each of the two types of grenades at once. Melee attacks with whatever's currently in your hands are always an option, too. Interestingly, compared to most later games which copied this trope from Halo, this game also had it go hand-in-hand with Throw-Away Guns: no one weapon was useful for every situation (the most general split being that Covenant plasma weapons cut through shields quickly but barely damaged health, while human kinetic weapons bounced off of shields but tore up health), and you would have to learn how to think ahead and know when to drop a weapon you like and/or are good at using in favour of something with more plentiful ammo or which dealt with the current situation better.
  • Marathon Level: Assault on the Control Room. The Library can also feel like this.
  • Mecha-Mooks: The Sentinels, floating Forerunner drones that shoot lasers.
  • Mêlée à Trois: The later missions feature a four-way conflict between the UNSC, the Covenant, Halo's Sentinels, and the Flood.
  • Missing Mission Control: At the end of Assault on the Control Room, Master Chief leaves Cortana behind to go and rescue Keyes, only returning two missions later. This is done so that the Chief's constant companion is missing for your first encounter with the Flood.
  • Mooks but No Bosses: Not counting the Reactor Boss mentioned below, this trope is played straight.
  • Morale Mechanic: If a squad leader (usually an Elite) dies, nearby Grunts and Jackals will often break rank and panic, making them easy targets. This makes targeting the Elite first a valid tactic, and this feature would become standard for every Halo FPS.
  • No Name Given: John-117 is never referred to by name in this game, only by his rank.
  • Non-Combatant Immunity: Until you get a weapon in "The Pillar of Autumn," you never directly engage Covenant soldiers. That said, you can still take damage from stray shots.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: You fight virtually no enemies during the beginning of 343 Guilty Spark beyond a few panicked Grunts and Jackals, in order to build suspense.
  • One-Word Title: Bungie intended for the game's title to be just "Halo" alone, but as explained below, a Publisher Chosen Subtitle was added.
  • Our Zombies Are Different: The Flood are Parasite Zombies; if one of their small, popcorn-like Infection Forms is able to latch on to an unshielded victim, said victim turns into a Combat Form armed with Combat Tentacles. These Combat Forms aren't just fast; they're also smart enough to use guns. And smart enough to hijack spaceships.
  • Outrun the Fireball: Master Chief has to race through the Pillar of Autumn while it's exploding.
  • Overheating: Covenant plasma weapons will overheat if fired continuously.
  • Paper Tiger: Presumably the Energy Sword-armed elites and zealots are meant to be a fearsome foe. Turns out they are one of the easiest enemies in the game. Unlike their rifle-armed comrades, who will bob, weave and dive for cover like no one's business, sword-armed zealots tend to charge straight at you, making them incredibly vulnerable to sticky grenades and head-shots.
  • Plot Coupon: The Index, which is needed to activate Halo.
  • Powered Armor: Master Chief's MJOLNIR Mark V suit.
  • Precursor Killers: The Flood. More accurately, the Forerunners were forced to kill themselves and almost all other life in the galaxy in order to stop the Flood.
  • "Psycho" Strings: Typically used in music associated with the Flood, such as Shadows (Between Beams), Suite Autumn (Suite Fall), What Once was Lost (Unfortunate Discovery), Lament for Pvt. Jenkins (Private Service), Trace Amounts (Bad Dream), Library Suite (Dewey Decimate), Devils... Monsters... (Demons and Heretics) and Alien Corridors (Xenoarcheology). The Anniversary remastered tracks especially turn up the horror factor.
  • Punch-Packing Pistol: The M6D Pistol may be a Hand Cannon, but the Plasma Pistol is no slouch either. It actually does more damage per shot than the Plasma Rifle, can strip Elite shields very quickly, and does a fairly decent job at killing Grunts and Jackals (especially when shooting their exposed hand to stagger them). It only seems weak when wielded by those two races because it receives a massive damage debuff against the player's own shields.
  • Reactor Boss: Cortana sets a counter to detonate the Pillar of Autumn's engines... and 343 Guilty Spark stops it. Master Chief then has to do the job with rockets and grenades.
  • Recurring Extra: This game introduces Sergeant Major Avery Johnson, Private First Class Chips Dubbo, and Gunnery Sergeant Pete Stacker, all of whom can die at any moment in gameplay and return in the next level with no consequence. Sergeant Johnson, already given more focus than the other two, would become an Ascended Extra thanks to his popularity, while Dubbo and Stacker would both continue to show up as expendable Marines in the games going forward.
  • Redshirt: The UNSC crewmen, which only appear in the first couple of missions The Pillar of Autumn and Halo. They have less health than even a Grunt and are only armed with M6D Pistols (if at all). Some of them even wear red uniforms!
  • Redshirt Army: The UNSC Marines. Useless for almost everything except manning your Warthog's gun. Unless they have Sniper Rifles.
  • Regenerating Shield, Static Health: The only game in the series to play this 100% straight; later games went for full-on Regenerating Health or had the "shields" be replaced with something else noticeably weaker.
  • The Reveal: We have two regarding Halo's purpose. The first is that it's a containment facility designed to contain the Flood for study and research. The second is that, should the Flood be released into the galaxy, Halo itself also functions as a weapon that can kill all sentient life within 25,000 light-years - and already has done so once before.
  • Salt the Earth: Taken Up to Eleven by the Halo arrays. They work by wiping out all sentient life within their range so as to deny the Flood any viable hosts.
  • Sealed Evil in a Can: One of the many facilities on Halo is a containment facility (and likely one of many) imprisoning a galaxy-ending parasitic alien race called the Flood.
  • Scary Dogmatic Aliens: The Covenant are the religious fundamentalist type.
  • Sci-Fi Writers Have No Sense of Scale: In the final mission, Cortana states that the Pillar of Autumn's self-destruction will produce an explosion with a temperature of almost 100 million degrees (presumably Fahrenheit); this would be nearly 4 times as hot as the core of the sun. If this measurement is in Celsius, then 100 million degrees would be just enough to cause hydrogen to undergo nuclear fusion, which would create an explosion equal to a standard nuclear bomb that is nowhere near the explosion that destroys Halo.
  • Sealed Cast in a Multipack: If you play co-op, this is how both players begin the game. Otherwise, it is simply Sealed Badass in a Can.
  • Sequel Hook: Master Chief muses at the end that this is only the beginning of something bigger. After the credits, you can see Guilty Spark humming to himself, flying through space.
  • Sequence Breaking: In "Assault on the Control Room", when you reach the bridge overlooking the pyramid where the control room lies, if you're quick and accurate with a sniper rifle, then it's possible to kill the Elite scripted to get in the empty Banshee, take it for yourself, and use it to fly to the top of the pyramid, bypassing the entire final quarter of the level. Anniversary added an achievement for getting in a Banshee during the level.
  • Shield-Bearing Mook: Jackals, who carry energy shields vulnerable to plasma, and Hunters, who carry shields impervious to everything except heavy weapons.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Many to Bungie's older First-Person Shooter series Marathon, to which Halo is a Spiritual Successor. As Matt Seoll (who ran Bungie PR from the Marathon era up through the first Halo title) said, "Anyone will be able to enjoy Halo, but the ones who will enjoy it the most will be the old-school fans."
    • The "Bandanna" skull in the Anniversary release is a shout out to Metal Gear Solid, where Snake can get a bandanna that gives infinite ammo.
    • A notice at the back of the Pillar of Autumn's bridge mentions a missing cat named "Jonesy".
    • The opening scene is very reminiscent of Aliens.
    • In the original version of the game, the crewmen aboard the Pillar of Autumn wear red, yellow, and blue coloured uniforms.
  • Sniper Pistol: The M6D Pistol, literally so, as it's one of only two scoped/headshot-capable weapons in the game. It's the single most practical weapon in the game, with much higher accuracy and stopping power than the so-called "Assault Rifle".
  • Sniping Mission: The first part of The Truth and Reconciliation, prior to boarding the ship.
  • Sole Survivor: At the end of the game, you are the only human who manages to escape Halo. This was later retconned in the novel Halo: First Strike.
  • Spiritual Successor: To the Marathon trilogy. Pretty much every single bit of human tech, signage or terminology (as well as the related gameplay mechanics), except for the appearance and gameplay functionality of the MJOLNIR armour, was lifted wholesale from Marathon and into Halo.
  • Standard FPS Enemies: Not much variety to be found here.
    • Zombies: Flood Combat Forms.
    • Grunts: Grunts and Jackals.
    • Elites: Elites.
    • Heavies: Hunters.
    • Ninjas: Elite SpecOps.
    • Tanks: Wraiths.
    • Gunships: Banshees.
  • Standard FPS Guns: This game features a fairly standard lineup: Pistol, Assault Rifle, Shotgun, Sniper Rifle, Rocket Launcher, grenades, energy gun,note  and Melee. The only odd one out is the Needler.
  • Stealthy Mook: Stealth Elites use Active Camouflage, and can be equipped with either Plasma Rifles or Energy Swords; the difficulty in tracking them is compensated for by the fact that they do not have energy shields, so a careful (or lucky) headshot will be a One-Hit Kill.
  • Sticky Bomb: Plasma grenades. Most enemies panic when stuck with one of these.
    Covenant Grunt: OOH, AAH, GET IT OFF OF ME!! [BOOM!] GET IT OFF!! GET IT OFF!! [BOOM!]
  • Stock Footage: Due to a coding error, another Sgt. Johnson drives a Warthog behind Sgt. Johnson in his introductory speech. Anniversary, built on the same code, kept itnote .
  • "Stop the Hero" Twist: Halfway through the game, the UNSC survivors led by Keyes think they've found a weapon to use against the Covenant, but Cortana accesses the files of Halo's Control Room and learns something which terrifies her. She immediately tells Chief that he has to stop Keyes before it's too late, but he fails and this results in the release of the Flood, the horrifying menace that Halo was created to contain and destroy in the first place, and a far greater threat than the Covenant ever was.
  • Tank Goodness: The Scorpion tank is an unstoppable force.
  • Theme-and-Variations Soundtrack: The main theme gets redone for many other tracks in the game. For instance, "Perilous Journey" gives it a slightly understated variation and a different time signature, while "Ambient Wonder" is, predictably, an ambient remix.
  • Theory of Narrative Causality: After concluding they need to self-destruct the Autumn to prevent Halo from being fired, Cortana states they need to retrieve the activation code from Captain Keyes' neural implant. Yet, when the self-destruct sequence is cancelled by Guilty Spark in The Maw, the Chief just asks if they could destroy the engine manually via grenades. Getting Keyes' neural implant was never necessary, to begin with, and the entire Keyes mission (along with the first half of The Maw) could've just been skipped if they decided to blow up the engines from the start. To be fair (and this is brought up in the novelization The Flood), from 343 Guilty Spark on, the player is operating completely outside his chain of command, answering only to Cortana. Going to find Keyes may have been a matter of reporting on the current state of affairs, as well as potentially warning any surviving Marines about the far greater threat the Flood pose.
  • Timed Mission: The Warthog Run, aka the final section of the final mission The Maw.
  • Tractor Beam: The Gravity Lift that allows passage in and out of the Truth and Reconciliation.
  • Turns Red: The Elites have a subtle one: killing enough of their subordinates, or dealing enough damage to them personally, will cause the Elite to play a short 'enraged' animation, after which the Elite will act more aggressive. This animation is just long enough for the player to finish the Elite off without retaliation if they focus on them, so it can work both ways.
  • The Unfought: Guilty Spark is never faced in direct combat.
  • Unique Enemy:
    • In 343 Guilty Spark, there is the Paranoid Marine, a Marine who has been driven crazy by the (then un-encountered) Flood and will slowly shoot at the player when approached.
    • There is only one group of Flood Combat Forms that use active camouflage in the game, encountered if you stay too long inside the armoury in The Maw.
  • Villain Decay: Starting with the events following The Reveal, the Covenant gets hit with this hard.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Guilty Spark, who only wants to fire Halo (and thus kill all sentient life in the galaxy) in order to stop the Flood.
  • Wham Episode: 343 Guilty Spark. The Flood appears, as an Outside-Context Problem.
  • What the Hell, Hero?:
    • Just as Chief is about to activate Halo, Cortana finally manages to free herself and angrily asks, "Do you have any idea what that bastard almost made you do?!" Activating Halo rids the galaxy of the Flood by wiping out all of its food. That is, all life.
    • A more literal example: should the Chief (or a fellow marine) kill one of his teammates, they will tolerate one death before turning on him, oftentimes yelling some version of this (i.e. "What the hell?!"). However, if the player kills Captain Keyes or any of the bridge crew during The Pillar of Autumn, Cortana will rather hilariously yell "What the hell are you doing?!" before calling in marine security teams to kill you.
  • Where It All Began: The first and last levels of the game both take place on the Pillar of Autumn.
  • You Just Had to Say It: After you first enter the titular Covenant ship in The Truth and Reconciliation, Cortana announces that there are no enemy forces detected on the vessel. This prompts this gem:
    UNSC Marine #1: What? There's no Covenant here? Think maybe nobody's home...
    (Covenant attack in large groups)
    UNSC Marine #2: Contacts!
    Lots'' of contacts!
    UNSC Marine #3: "No Covenant!" Ya had to open your mouth!
  • Your Size May Vary: The Pillar of Autumn is at least three times bigger in the final set-piece than it should be, with you explicitly driving at least 3 km along its 1.17km spine to reach the Longsword space fighter. This happened due to the fact that the interior layout of the missions which take place on the Autumn was completed before the exterior had been decided on and finalized. It's quite funny because, in every other aspect of the game, Bungie went to excruciating detail in creating the scale of the game accurately.

Tropes relating specifically to the remaster, Halo: Combat Evolved: Anniversary:

  • Arc Number: Guilty Spark mentions offhand that the original plan was to build twelve Halo installations instead of seven...note 
  • Battle in the Center of the Mind: One terminal has Captain Keyes struggling to remember who he is and fighting off the Flood infection. By the end, the voice of the Gravemind can be heard.
  • Bottomless Magazines: The purpose of the Bandanna Skull. Remember all that time you kept running out of ammo during The Library? Now, you never lose ammo when that skull is on. And you can still get achievements with it.
  • Call-Forward:
    • The terminals in Anniversary are video logs kept by Guilty Spark. One, in particular, has him talking about how he hasn't heard from 2401 Penitent Tangent (the Monitor of Installation 05) for some time, and wondering if containment was breached.
    • Among the new multiplayer skins in The Master Chief Collection, the "Schism" skins for Covenant weapons and vehicles reference the green armor plating that the Separatist Phantoms had in Halo 3. The "Zealot" skin for the Fuel Rod Gun specifically also makes it strongly resemble the gold Fuel Rod Guns in future games.
  • Canon Welding: The terminals interconnect a lot of the other games and expanded universe together, as the series has evolved significantly since the original game. Guilty Spark narrates most of them, with references to the other Monitors and things that showed up in later games and novels.
  • Continuity Nod:
    • The terminal videos have several, including to the expanded universe. In particular, Guilty Spark references a number of things from The Forerunner Saga novel trilogy.
    • The Keyes terminal showing the eponymous captain and his mental struggle with the Proto-Gravemind is an expanded version of a scene that was in Halo: The Flood. A young Dr Halsey also appears in flashbacks from Keyes' memories, and her appearance is similar to what she looks like in the Halo Legends anime, with elements of her Halo: Reach design. Their daughter, a major figure in the next two games, also makes an appearance.
    • Linda-058 can be seen on the cryo bay status monitor next to the Chief, a nod to Halo: The Fall of Reach and Halo: First Strike.
  • Crucified Hero Shot: Keyes is shown in this as John finds him absorbed by the Flood.
  • Go Mad from the Isolation: The terminals show Guilty Spark going crazy over time. Can't blame the guy, though. I mean, if you had to stay alone on a giant space ring for over 100,000 years, wouldn't you go a bit... insane?
  • Mind Rape: Terminal 9 shows the excruciating ordeal Keyes goes through as he tries to prevent the Flood from sifting through his memories for valuable intel.
  • Shot-for-Shot Remake: Exaggerated, as it's not "remake", and was advertised to be "identical" in nearly every respects to the first game, despite it using the Gearbox PC port as the basis note . The original game engine is used with the Saber Engine overlapping it to facilitate the new high-definition graphics. That means the game plays almost exactly the same (complete with a feature to toggle between the old and new graphics on the fly), though the cutscenes are entirely re-animated for the character models. Because of that, it isn't quite up to par with then-contemporary next-generation graphics; instead, it's about on par with 2007's Halo 3
    • The only actual changes are the inclusion of terminals hidden within the original missions containing videos that tie the franchise more closely together as well as a hint towards the story of the then-upcoming Halo 4, and unlockable skulls that can be used to modify gameplay when replaying the missions.
  • Shout-Out: The Marine that Master Chief rescues at the end of "The Pillar of Autumn" now looks almost exactly like Marcus Fenix, the hero of Gears of War, the Xbox 360's other major exclusive shooter franchise (and he's noticeably missing if you examine the bodies at the crash site in the next mission).
  • Updated Re-release: Anniversary, of course. The Campaign actually ran on the PC port of Halo: Combat Evolved, but with updated graphics using some assets taken from Halo: Reach alongside updated sound effects (excluding dialogue), redone cutscenes, and a remixed soundtrack. The Multi-player mode, on the other hand, utilized Reach's engine, with 1:1 CE map remakes and the weapon sandbox is re-balanced to mimic the weapon sandbox of the original Combat Evolved. It was then upgraded further for Halo: The Master Chief Collection, including being able to finally play the original game MP on Xbox Live (but it's still the PC port of the game).

"Halo. It's finished."
"No, I think we're just getting started."

Alternative Title(s): Halo 1

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