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"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. Was I wrong?"
Cortana
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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.

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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.

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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). Go ahead. Take a moment to stare at it.
  • 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.
  • 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 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.
  • 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.
  • 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!
    • By the Gravemind:
    Gravemind: Did you think me defeated?!
  • 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, 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."
    • 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 re-unite, she says to "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. 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: Escaping an exploding station in a Warthog, just like in Combat Evolved.
  • The Cameo: This game continues the trend set by Halo 2 of casting recognisable actors not usually known for voice work as generic Marines. The cast of Firefly get some love, with Nathan Fillion, Alan Tudyk and Adam Baldwin getting roles; all three would go on to get major parts in Halo 3: ODST. You can also hear Katee Sackhoff as a Marine too.
  • 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 are 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.
  • 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).
  • Developers' 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.
  • 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 real rape victim.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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. Viewed here.
    • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Fire-Forged Friends: The Chief and the Arbiter throughout the game.
  • 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).
    • Guilty Spark zapping one of the marines on the level "The Ark" could foreshadow him killing Johnson.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 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, and its magazine size was reduced from 12 to 8.
    • 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 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.
  • Never Found the Body: Master Chief. The rest of the UNSC assumes he's dead.
  • 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.
  • 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 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.
  • 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.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Several to Marathon:
    • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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, inheritors 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.
  • Tyrannicide: Truth is summarily executed by the Arbiter towards the climax in order to cement the Covenant's defeat.
  • The Unfought: Truth and Gravemind.
  • 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. For examples, Forge mode has been improved with new objects and vehicles, a higher object budget and the backporting of several features from Halo: Reach that makes it easier to build stuff. To coincide with the release of Halo 3: ODST, the ability to use the Silenced SMG, Silenced Pistol and Brute Plasma Rifle in multiplayer has also been provided, in addition to a range of new cosmetic options such as weapon skins and visor colors.
  • 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.
  • 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.

Master Chief: Wake me, when you need me.

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