Characters of Halo
Recurring characters of the Halo multimedia franchise are organized below by their respective affiliations within the series' fictional universe. The franchise's central story revolves around conflict between humanity under the auspices of the United Nations Space Command or UNSC, and an alien alliance known as the Covenant. The artifacts left behind by an ancient race known as the Forerunner play a central role—particularly the ringworlds known as Halos, built to contain the parasitic Flood by wiping out sentient life in the galaxy.
Bungie founder Jason Jones noted that bringing together the elements of a video game is unmistakably "art", but character designers and artists had to make a "living, breathing world" and populate it with interesting characters and places. The first Halo game's development brought numerous evolutions and revisions to the character's designs and personalities. Characters were also updated to take full advantage of new graphics technologies; for instance, the Master Chief's armor was redesigned in a lengthy conceptual process and the final model was bump mapped. Subsequent games offered opportunities to refine the character's appearances and design.
Halo's commercial and critical success has led to large amounts of merchandise featuring the franchise's characters to be produced. The Master Chief, the most visible symbol of the series, has been heavily marketed, with the character's visage appearing on soda bottles, T-shirts, and Xbox controllers. Other merchandise produced includes several sets of action figures. Halo's characters have received varying reception, with characters such as the Chief, Cortana, and the Arbiter being well received by critics.
- 1 Character design and creation
- 2 United Nations Space Command (UNSC)
- 3 Covenant
- 4 Forerunner
- 5 Flood
- 6 Merchandise
- 7 Notes
- 8 References
- 9 See also
Character design and creation
The Halo franchise originated with the 2001 video game Halo: Combat Evolved. The game's characters were continually refined through development, as developer Bungie was bought by Microsoft and the platform shifted from the Macintosh to the Xbox. Other Bungie developers would often add input to character development, even if they were not working on the game itself. An outside artist, Shi Kai Wang, developed the early concept sketches of what would eventually become the Master Chief. However upon developing a 3D model, the artists decided the Chief looked too slender, almost effeminate, and subsequently bulked up the character. Early Covenant Elites had a more natural jaw rather than the split mandibles they would later sport; at one point, Jason Jones was also insistent about having a tail on the Elites, but this idea was eventually dropped.
Originally, the game designers decided to hand-key character animations. The animators videotaped themselves to have reference footage for the movement of game characters; art director Marcus Lehto's wife recorded him "running around a field with a two-by-four" for the human marines. By Halo 3, Bungie staff had a special room designed for capturing reference material. Many of the subsequent human character's features were based on Bungie designers, while character animators looked to simian, ursine, insectoid, and reptilian features for the various races of the Covenant. The artificial intelligences of the characters was also deliberately limited to make sure they acted realistically to environmental changes and situations. Later games use motion capture to capture the movement and facial acting of the cast.
The Halo series features voice work by television and film actors including Ron Perlman, Orlando Jones, Michelle Rodriguez, Robert Davi, and Terence Stamp. Voice acting became more important as Halo: Combat Evolved's sequels were developed; Halo 2 had 2,000 lines of combat dialogue, while Halo 3 has in excess of 14,000 lines. Some actors voiced their lines in remote locations, while others traveled to a studio to record their lines. In interviews, Halo's voice actors stated that they had no idea that the games would become such a critical and commercial success. Steve Downes, the voice of the game's protagonist, stated that generally when a voice actor has finished their lines, their involvement with the game ends. As the characters in Combat Evolved were relatively undefined, the voice actors were given leeway to develop their own style and personality.
Aside from major character roles, members of the Halo community and Halo fans have had small roles in the games. The cast from the machinima Red vs. Blue won a lengthy charity auction for a voice role in Halo 3, and do a comedy routine which changes depending on the difficulty level the game is played on. Cast members of the defunct TV show Firefly—Alan Tudyk, Nathan Fillion, and Adam Baldwin—have roles as marines in Halo 3 as well as Halo 3: ODST and Halo 5: Guardians.
United Nations Space Command (UNSC)
Master Chief Petty Officer John-117, commonly referred to as simply the Master Chief, is the main protagonist and main playable character in many of the Halo games. The character is voiced by Steve Downes, a Chicago disc jockey. One of the last SPARTAN-II supersoldiers still in active service, the Master Chief inspires awe and fear in the alien Covenant, who refer to him as a "demon". Assisted by the artificial intelligence Cortana, he prevents the catastrophic firing of Installation 04 in Halo: Combat Evolved. Bungie staff member Joseph Staten noted that until the Master Chief was created, Bungie had not paid any attention to how to make people want to play in the world of Halo. "Master Chief is really what kicked off the creativity," he said, "in terms of how people react to him. He's a space marine in really cool green armor." The character has since become a gaming icon, the mascot of the Xbox, and was rated as one of the greatest videogame characters of all time by Electronic Gaming Monthly.
Cortana, voiced in the games by Jen Taylor, is the artificial intelligence (AI) who assists the Master Chief in the video games. She is one of many "smart" AIs, and is based on the brain of Dr. Halsey; the nature of her programming means that she will eventually "think" herself to death after a lifespan of about seven years. In Halo 4, Cortana begins to succumb to her age, and sacrifices herself to save Chief and Earth from the Forerunner Didact, but in Halo 5: Guardians, it is revealed that she had survived the ordeal. Having found access to the Domain, a Forerunner repository of knowledge, Cortana believes that AIs should serve as the galaxy's caretakers, putting her in conflict with her creators. Cortana was named the fifth best supporting character, and one of the "50 Greatest Female Characters" in a video game. Reviewers noted the character's determination and fearlessness meshed perfectly with the Master Chief, and that Cortana provides an anchor linking players to Halo's story.
Avery Johnson is a Marine sergeant who leads human forces against alien assaults throughout the Halo series. The character is voiced by David Scully. Johnson and a few other Marines survive the destruction of Installation 04 and are rescued by Cortana and the Master Chief during the novel Halo: First Strike. Johnson plays a much larger role in Halo 2, joining forces with the Arbiter to stop Tartarus from activating Installation 05. In Halo 2, he is awarded the Colonial Cross for his heroic actions at Installation 04, In Halo 3, the Forerunner construct 343 Guilty Spark kills him when Johnson tries to activate the incomplete Halo at the Ark. Johnson is featured in The Halo Graphic Novel story, "Breaking Quarantine," which details Johnson's escape from the Flood in Halo: Combat Evolved, and a main character in the 2007 novel Halo: Contact Harvest. Johnson later appears as a main character in Halo: Silent Storm where it's revealed that he's a Spartan-I, a precursor to the Spartan-II program that the Master Chief is a part of. Taking place about a year after Contact Harvest, Johnson is recruited to be a part of a strike force launching a counterattack behind enemy lines to buy humanity some time. Johnson is recruited both for his experience with the Covenant and his Spartan training and acts as a mentor and friend to the young Master Chief, becoming one of the few people the Spartans trust implicitly on the mission where insurrectionists are trying to destroy them and they can't be sure of who to trust.
In many ways similar to the stereotype of charismatic black Marines found in other science fiction (such as Sergeant Apone in Aliens whom Johnson was partially based on), some publications found Johnson, though enjoyable, somewhat of a flat character. In an interview for Halo: Contact Harvest, Joseph Staten of Bungie admitted that Johnson was a static character in Halo: Combat Evolved, and that despite the character's potential, "he sort of inherited those caricature aspects [from Halo]." Contact Harvest was a chance "to do right by Johnson, to give him the rich, fully fleshed out back-story he deserves, that we have never been able to give him in the game."
Captain Jacob Keyes (voiced by Pete Stacker) is a captain in the UNSC who appears in Halo: Reach, Halo: Combat Evolved, its novelization, Halo: The Flood, Halo: The Cole Protocol, and Halo: The Fall of Reach. His first chronological appearance is in The Fall of Reach, where, as a young Lieutenant, he accompanies Dr. Catherine Halsey on her mission to screen possible SPARTAN-II Project subjects. In 2534, Lieutenant Keyes plays a pivotal role in saving a million insurrectionists' lives from Covenant forces. By 2552, midway through The Fall of Reach Keyes is commander of the Iroquois, a UNSC destroyer. Keyes is promoted to Captain after he singlehandedly defeats four Covenant ships about to attack a human colony by performing a maneuver later named the "Keyes Loop." When the Iroquois is recalled to the human bastion Reach, a Covenant tracking device aboard the ship alerts the Covenant to the planet's existence, and they proceed to attack the colony. As the planet is glassed by the Covenant, Keyes follows Cole Protocol, which leads his new ship, the Pillar of Autumn to Halo. There, Keyes leads a guerrilla insurgency against the Covenant, until he is captured and assimilated by the parasitic Flood. After being found by the Master Chief in his assimilated state, the Master Chief sadly ends Keyes' suffering by punching into his skull to retrieve Keyes' neural implants in order to destroy the Pillar of Autumn. His daughter is Miranda Keyes.
Commander Miranda Keyes is the daughter of Jacob Keyes and Catherine Halsey, whom she lived with in her younger years. Halsey and Miranda had a falling out in which she changed her last name (then Halsey) to her father's name (Keyes). Miranda appears in Halo 2, Halo 3 and in the final chapter of Halo: The Cole Protocol. At the beginning of Halo 2, Keyes is present at an awards ceremony on board the Cairo defense platform above Earth to accept a medal posthumously for her father. Soon after, a Covenant fleet launches an attack on Earth, and Keyes takes control of the UNSC ship In Amber Clad and assists in the defense of New Mombasa, Kenya. When the Prophet of Regret retreats from Earth, Keyes orders In Amber Clad to follow; this results in the discovery of Installation 05, another Halo. Keyes, along with Johnson and a squad of Marines, head for Halo's library in order to retrieve the Activation Index and prevent the ring's activation while the Master Chief assassinates the Prophet of Regret; in the process, she and Johnson are captured by the Brute Chieftain Tartarus. As a "Reclaimer," only she or another human can insert the Index into Halo's control panel, and Tartarus attempts to make her do this. When the Arbiter tries to stop the firing, Tartarus forces Keyes to insert the Index, initiating Halo's firing sequence. After the Arbiter engages and kills Tartarus, Keyes successfully removes the Index and prevents Halo from activating, but inadvertently causes all the remaining Halo installations to enter standby mode, enabling the remote firing of these installations from The Ark. In Halo 3, Miranda Keyes returns to Earth and leads the pursuit of the Prophet of Truth through the portal he creates using the artifact buried under New Mombasa, which leads to the Ark. When Sergeant Johnson is captured by the Covenant to activate the installation, she attempts to rescue him, but is killed when Truth shoots her in the back with a Brute Spiker.
Miranda Keyes was voiced by Julie Benz in Halo 2, but Bungie recast the role for Halo 3, ostensibly because they wanted someone with an accent. Despite not being a part of Halo 3, Benz said that she loved voiceover work and that it was pure chance she had become the voice of Keyes in the first place. When IGN asked Benz what she thought of her character, she admitted she hadn't played Halo 2, even though Bungie had sent her copies of the game. The character is voiced by Justis Bolding in Halo 3.
Dr. Catherine Elizabeth Halsey is a civilian scientist in the United Nations Space Command. A flash clone of her brain is the basis for the construction of Cortana. As the creator of the SPARTAN-II Project, she is responsible for 75 of the 150 Spartan children, along with their training and the subsequent death of 30 due to the dangerous augmentation process. She is viewed by the SPARTAN-IIs as a "mother" figure, preferring to address each of them by their name rather than numerical designation, and knows each Spartan well enough that she can identify them individually by their mannerisms when they are fully suited in their armor, and otherwise indistinguishable from one-other. Halsey justifies her actions through her belief that the suffering of a few is acceptable for the benefit of many. Sergeant Johnson, however, unknowingly causes Halsey to rethink her position, and she decides to "save each and every member of humanity beginning with herself" during Halo: First Strike. She hijacks a shuttle for her own private mission to the planet Onyx; there, she assists in deciphering the surrounding Forerunner glyphs on the planet and leads the surviving Spartan-IIs and Spartan-IIIs to a Dyson Sphere at the heart of Onyx. She and the Spartans are later freed from Onyx, but Halsey is arrested for "committing acts likely to aid the enemy" by kidnapping Kelly-087 and telling Lord Hood to send more Spartans to Onyx. She is later branded a war criminal. She is later revealed to be the mother of Miranda Keyes. She is voiced by Jen Taylor in Halo: Reach, Halo 4, and Halo 5: Guardians. Taylor also provides motion-capture performance for Halsey in Halo 4 and Halo 5. The character is voiced by Shelly Calene-Black in Halo Legends. Natascha McElhone will portray the character in the upcoming Showtime series.
Colonel James Ackerson is a high-ranking UNSC Army officer, who acts as a connection between the army and Office of Naval Intelligence. He has seen many years of service and has survived several battles with the Covenant. Such is his influence that he dominates the Security Committee and can talk down most higher-ranking officers without fear of reprisal. Due to the competition between Ackerson and other departments, most notably Section Three and the SPARTAN-II project, Ackerson harbors a strong resentment toward his opponents and toward the Spartans in particular. He does eventually convince the top members of ONI to approve his SPARTAN-III Program. In Halo: The Fall of Reach, he attempts to sabotage the MJOLNIR Mark V testing process by using ordnance far above the established guidelines, including Lotus anti-tank mines, a full squad of ODSTs ordered to shoot to kill, automated gun turrets, and an airstrike. However, Cortana retaliates by forging a letter requesting a reassignment to the front lines as well as planting evidence of illicit activities in his bank records. In Halo: First Strike, it is revealed that Ackerson manages to weasel his way out of Cortana's mess, In the limited comic series Halo: Uprising Ackerson falls into the hands of Covenant orbiting Mars and is slated to die before Ackerson tells his interrogator about a "key" to Earth. The "key" is in fact a fabrication by Ackerson to save a relative living in Cleveland, Ohio. After the Brutes holding Ackerson prisoner are informed that no such key exists, Ackerson is beheaded.
Senior Chief Petty Officer Franklin Mendez is the SPARTAN-II's trainer on Reach during the early events of Halo: The Fall of Reach. He provides his trainees with excellent weapons and physical lessons, as well as tactical and mental training. He is not very talkative, but possesses a brilliant mind for warfare, and this is reflected in the Master Chief's abilities. He is described as neither tall nor muscular, with close-cut hair that has a dash of gray at the temples. He leaves the Spartans after the discovery of the Covenant to train the next batch of Spartans, and is recruited by Colonel Ackerson to assist Lieutenant Commander Kurt Ambrose (Spartan-II Kurt-051) with training the SPARTAN-III supersoldiers at the secret world of Onyx after a few years of combat duty (receiving two Purple Hearts in the process). During Ghosts of Onyx he is sealed inside the Forerunner Dyson Sphere at the heart of the planet with the remaining Spartan survivors.
Fleet Admiral Lord Terrence Hood (voiced by Ron Perlman) first appears in the novel Halo: First Strike. He is a member of the UNSC Security Committee and is the Chief of Naval Operations. He greatly respects the Spartans, not only because of their record, but because they have saved his life on two occasions. When Halo 2 begins, Admiral Hood presents the Master Chief, Sergeant Johnson, and Miranda Keyes with medals aboard the Cairo Station. In Halo: Ghosts of Onyx, Hood receives an urgent message by Dr. Halsey requesting for him to send Spartans to assist her, and obliges by ordering Fred-104, Will-043, and Linda-058 to Onyx. In Halo 3, Hood is in overall command of Earth's defense following the death of Fleet Admiral Harper and shares command with Commander Miranda Keyes, who reports directly to him. He accepts the need for humanity to ally with the Elites, but is not entirely happy about it. He leads the remaining human naval forces in an attack on the Prophet of Truth's dreadnought, but the attack fails when the Forerunner artifact under New Mombasa activates, creating a portal to the Ark. When the Master Chief, Keyes, and several Elite and human forces choose to follow the Prophet of Truth through the portal, he decides to stay behind to make a final stand on Earth. At the end of the game, he commemorates a small monument to the war and the sacrifices it involved.
Private First Class Wallace A. Jenkins is one of the UNSC forces that survives the initial Covenant attack in Halo: Combat Evolved. Halo: Contact Harvest reveals that the Marine was a member of the colony Harvest's defense militia, where his family is killed. In Halo: The Flood, Jenkins assists in defending the human stronghold under the command of Major Antonio Silva. He is also part of an assault team led by Sergeant Avery Johnson and Captain Jacob Keyes, sent to recover a Covenant arms cache during Halo: Combat Evolved. The team is overwhelmed by the Flood, leaving the entire squad except Sergeant Johnson infected and resulting in the eventual death of Captain Keyes. In the video game, the Master Chief recovers Jenkins' helmet, and reviews the recording of the mission that it contained, introducing the Flood to the player through the Marine's eyes. In Halo: Combat Evolved, the fate of the Marine is left unknown.
Halo: The Flood reveals the fate of Jenkins; the Private is transformed into a Flood Combat Form along with the rest of his squad, but he is able to exercise a certain degree of control over the infection, due to the mind of the parasite being weakened by its long hibernation. He uses this limited control in an attempt to end his own life, charging at UNSC Marines in the hope that they would shoot him. Instead, he is captured as a live specimen for study. He is brought aboard the Covenant cruiser Truth and Reconciliation as part of a mission under Orbital Drop Shock Trooper Major Silva to capture a Covenant vessel and return it to Earth intact. Jenkins successfully convinces Lieutenant Melissa McKay, that such a mission would spread the Flood to Earth, and Jenkins dies with the other human troops on the vessel as it crashed into Halo.
Sergeant John Forge is a Marine attached to the UNSC Spirit of Fire appearing in Halo Wars and voiced by Nolan North. Forge is often assigned to guard Professor Ellen Anders on missions to his exasperation and leads various missions against the Covenant. When Anders is kidnapped by the Arbiter, Forge attempts to stop the Elite warrior, but is defeated and only spared by Anders offering to go with the Arbiter in exchange for Forge's life. When the Spirit of Fire tracks Anders to a Forerunner planet in uncharted space, Forge leads the effort to rescue her. After Anders manages to use a teleporter to escape her captors, Forge saves her from three Flood infection forms and sends Anders back to the ship where she reveals the Covenant's plan to unleash a massive Forerunner fleet upon humanity. When a plan is formed to destroy the planet by using the Spirit of Fire's Slipspace reactor to cause the internal sun to go supernova, Forge leads the mission and comes up against the Arbiter again. Though greatly outmatched, Forge manages to trick the Arbiter and severely wound him with Forge's combat knife before Forge kills the Arbiter with one of the Arbiter's own energy swords. As the reactor has been damaged in the fight, Forge volunteers for the suicide mission of manually detonating the reactor in the sun. Once he receives confirmation that the Spirit of Fire is escaping, Forge detonates the reactor, triggering the supernova and destroying the planet and the Forerunner fleet.
In the novels Halo: Smoke and Shadow and Halo: Renegades, Forge is revealed to have a daughter, Lucy "Rion" Forge who works as a salvager. Rion is driven to find her father and the long-missing Spirit of Fire and receives footage of Forge on the shield world from Little Bit, a fragment of the planet's AI. 343 Guilty Spark later reveals to Rion that her father is dead and the circumstances behind his sacrifice. Spark provides Rion with a message Forge recorded for her before sacrificing himself.
Captain Thomas Lasky is the current captain of the UNSC Infinity. He made his debut in his origin web series Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn portrayed by Tom Green as a young military cadet saved by the Master Chief. In Halo 4, Lasky serves as Infinity's first officer but was later promoted to Captain after his superior had ignored Chief's warnings and abandoned him on Requiem. He returns in Halo 5: Guardians. Lasky is currently voiced by Darren O'Hare.
Conceived by Halsey, the SPARTAN-II program was secretly commissioned to create an elite corps of supersoldiers who could stem rebellion in the UNSC colonies; these soldiers became the best weapon against the alien Covenant when war broke out. While John-117, also known as the Master Chief, is the hero of the trilogy, other soldiers play a significant role in the novels, Halo Legends, and the prequel games Halo Wars and Halo: Reach. To raise morale as the war continued to sour for humanity, the existence of the SPARTAN-II Program is disclosed to the general public. The Spartans become heroes and veritable legends; in order to maintain public confidence that the war is going well, Spartans are never listed as killed, only as Missing in Action or Wounded in Action. The SPARTANS were kidnapped as children, who were replaced by flash clones, which died of natural causes afterwards. The physical augmentation they undergo to turn them into super soldiers is lengthy, expensive, and strenuous, with not all of them surviving the process. Both male and female SPARTANS average 7 feet (2.1 m) tall. After being recruited into the UNSC, the Spartans' last name are disposed of; their callsign is simply their first name, and a corresponding 3-digit figure (for example, Alice-130, Douglas-042 etc).
The SPARTAN-III Project was started by Colonel James Ackerson to serve as cheaper, disposable supersoldiers. Some of these Spartans were main protagonists in the game Halo: Reach, including the player character SPARTAN-B312, aka "Noble Six". Later, the UNSC creates the SPARTAN-IV project. Unlike the SPARTAN-II and -III projects—which kidnapped and conscripted children or used war orphans, respectively—the Spartan-IVs are adult volunteers drawn from all branches of the UNSC. These Spartans participate in war games on the starship Infinity, which forms the fictional basis for Halo 4's multiplayer.
The most distinctive element of the Spartans is their special MJOLNIR powered assault armor. The Mark V armor from Halo: Combat Evolved was ranked third of Casualty Gamer's "Top 10 Bodysuits," with the author commenting "It's one of the most recognizable symbols from any game, and is literally the image of the franchise's legendary hero, Master Chief." The "Recon" armor of Halo 3's multiplayer was also rated tenth of Machinima.com's "Top 10 Video Game Armor," as well as Maxim's.
Inspired by the Halo video game series, Troy Hurtubise, known for his anti-bear suits, developed a real counterpart to the MJOLNIR powered assault armor, named the Trojan. The suit is functional and its capabilities were inspired by those present in the video games versions of the armor. The armor's features include a system that purifies air, powered by solar panels located in the helmet, equipment for weapon transportation, a recording system, emergency illumination, and a transponder that can be activated if the wearer is in serious jeopardy. The armor offers protection against attacks with knives, blunt objects, and small explosions and is bulletproof. Hurtubise expressed that he is able to improve this design for use in the military for a price of 2,000 dollars per piece. Non-functional replicas of the MJOLNIR powered assault armor have also been created by hobbyists; a Spike TV pre-Halo 3 special profiled some of these dedicated fans.
Commander Sarah Palmer (Jennifer Hale) is a Spartan-IV stationed on UNSC Infinity and the leader of the Spartan IVs. She appears in Halo 4, Halo 5: Guardians,Halo: Spartan Assault, and the Halo Escalation comic series.
Gunnery Sergeant Edward Buck (Nathan Fillion) is a longtime human soldier. In Halo 3: ODST he is the leader of a squad of Orbital Drop Shock Troopers (ODSTs). He is subsequently inducted into the SPARTAN-IV program, and is a playable member of Fireteam Osiris in the video game Halo 5. He makes a brief appearance in Halo: Reach and is the main character of the novels Halo: New Blood and Halo: Bad Blood.
Jameson Locke is a Spartan IV who first appeared in Halo 2 Anniversary's both opening and ending with the task of hunting down the Master Chief in Halo 5: Guardians. Mike Colter portrays Locke in both Anniversary and the Nightfall origin movie, and only provided the motion-capture performance for the character in Guardians. Due to scheduling conflicts with Jessica Jones and Luke Cage, Locke's voice acting is replaced by Ike Amadi. He is the current squad leader of Fireteam Osiris, tasked with hunting down Master Chief and Blue Team.
High Prophets, or Hierarchs, are the supreme leaders of the theocratic Covenant. Upon assuming office, each Hierarch picks a new regnal name from a list of names of former Hierarchs, similar to the practice of some Orthodox Patriarchs. In Halo 2, there are shown to be only three; the Prophets of Truth, Mercy, and Regret (voiced by Michael Wincott, Hamilton Camp and Robin Atkin Downes in Halo 2, respectively; in Halo 3, Truth is voiced by Terence Stamp). The novel Halo: Contact Harvest reveals that these three Prophets, originally known as the Minister of Fortitude, the Vice-Minister of Tranquility, and the Philologist, plotted to usurp the throne of the Hierarchs; in the process, they hide the truth that humanity is descended from the Covenant gods, the Forerunners, believing that the revelation could shatter the Covenant. During the course of Halo 2, Regret attacks Earth, and then retreats to Delta Halo. There, he calls for reinforcements, but is killed by the Master Chief. Later, Mercy is attacked by the Flood on High Charity; Truth could have saved him, but left him to die so he could have full control over the Covenant. In Halo 3: ODST, Truth is seen inspecting some Engineers around the Forerunner construct near New Mombasa. In Halo 3, Truth also meets his demise at the hands of the Arbiter when the Prophet attempts to activate all the Halo rings from the Ark. His death become the culmination of the Covenant's downfall.
Preliminary designs for the Prophets, including the Hierarchs, were done by artist Shi Kai Wang. According to The Art of Halo, the Prophets were designed to look feeble, yet sinister. Originally, the Prophets appeared to be fused to the special hovering thrones they use for transport; even in the final designs, the Prophets are made to be dependent on their technology. Special headdresses, stylized differently for each of the Hierarchs, adds personality to the aliens and a regal presence.
The Arbiter is a rank given to special Covenant Elite soldiers who undertake suicidal missions on behalf of the Hierarchs to gain honor upon their death. They are revered amongst the Covenant for their bravery and skills. In Halo 2, the rank of Arbiter is given to Thel 'Vadamee, the disgraced former Supreme Commander of the Fleet of Particular Justice, which was responsible for destroying Reach. It was under his watch that Installation 04 was destroyed in Halo: Combat Evolved and the Ascendant Justice was captured by the Master Chief in Halo: First Strike. Rather than killing him, the Prophets allow the Commander to become the Arbiter, and to carry on his missions as the "Blade of the Prophets." Eventually, the Arbiter rebels against the Prophets during the Great Schism by dropping the "-ee" suffix from his surname as a symbol of his resignation from the Covenant, and joins his fellow Elites in siding with humanity and stopping the Halo array from firing. Some of his backstory is featured in Halo: The Cole Protocol set about fifteen years before Combat Evolved where the Arbiter, then Shipmaster Thel 'Vadamee, comes into conflict with UNSC forces led by then-Lieutenant Jacob Keyes. The events sow the seeds of doubt in the future Arbiter's mind about the Prophets and their plans. This particular Arbiter is voiced by Keith David.
Originally to be named "Dervish," the Arbiter was a playable character intended to be a major plot twist by Bungie. Reception to the character was lukewarm, with critics alternatively praising the added dimension brought by the Arbiter as well as complaining about having to play as the alien.
In Halo Wars, set 20 years before Halo: Combat Evolved, a second Arbiter is shown, possibly as the last to wear the armor before the more recognized character. He is described as a "mean guy," lead designer David Pottinger comparing him to Darth Vader. The second Arbiter is the main antagonist of Halo Wars. Working directly under the Prophet of Regret, he is assigned to lead the destruction of humanity and investigates a structure on the planet Harvest where his attempt to destroy it is foiled by forces led by Sergeant John Forge. He is later ordered by the Prophet of Regret to kidnap Professor Ellen Anders to activate a massive Forerunner fleet on a shield world. He comes into direct conflict with Forge twice, once when the Arbiter kidnaps Anders and a second time when Forge and a team of Spartans attempt to destroy the Forerunner planet and the fleet. After a brutal fight, the Arbiter nearly kills Forge who tricks the warrior before seriously wounding him with Forge's combat knife. Forge kills the Arbiter with one of his own energy swords and a Spartan rolls the Arbiter's body off of a cliff. Like the more well-known Arbiter, his history is somewhat explored in the expanded canon which reveals him to be a disgraced warrior named Ripa 'Moramee who was spared from execution by the Prophet of Regret and made into an Arbiter due to his ruthlessness and likelihood not to question his mission. This particular Arbiter is voiced by David Sobolov.
Making his debut in Halo 2, Special Ops Commander Rtas 'Vadum is never named in the game itself, leading to the unofficial nickname of "Half-Jaw" by fans, due to the missing mandibles on the left side of his face. With the release of The Halo Graphic Novel, however, the character was finally named in the story Last Voyage of the Infinite Succor as Rtas 'Vadumee. The character is voiced by Robert Davi.
'Vadum, originally 'Vadumee before the Covenant Civil War, is a veteran Covenant Elite and the second most prominent Elite character in the series after the Arbiter. He carries the Covenant rank of Shipmaster. The Last Voyage of the Infinite Succor explains how he loses his left mandibles; he is injured after fighting one of his friends, who was infected by the Flood. During the early events of Halo 2, 'Vadumee serves as a messenger between the Hierarchs and the Elite Council, as he is seen relaying messages between the two parties in the Prophets' chamber; when the Elites split from the Covenant, 'Vadumee joins his brethren in fighting the Brutes, dropping the "-ee" suffix from his surname to symbolize his resignation from the Covenant. In Halo 3, 'Vadum is Shipmaster of the flagship Shadow of Intent, and supports Cortana's plan to follow Truth to the Ark. Along with the Arbiter, 'Vadum leaves Earth to return to the Elite's homeworld with the end of the war. Rtas 'Vadum is known for being a quick, smart, and ingenious tactician and an unparalleled fighter, especially with an Energy Sword and is an excellent leader. He expresses great care for his soldiers, even the Unggoy. He is eager to exact revenge on the Brutes after the Great Schism.
Tartarus (voiced by Kevin Michael Richardson) is the Chieftain of the Brutes, easily recognized by his white hair, distinctive mohawk, and massive gravity hammer known as the "Fist of Rukt." Rough, arrogant, and disdainful of the Elites, Tartarus is completely dedicated to the Prophets' salvific "Great Journey." Halo: Contact Harvest reveals that Tartarus became Chieftain after killing the former Chieftain, his uncle Maccabeus, and seizing the Chieftain's weapon. In Contact Harvest, Tartarus acts as one of the main antagonists, working to destroy the human colony of Harvest and coming into conflict with Sergeant Johnson. During the final battle of the novel, Johnson's life is inadvertently saved when one of Tartarus' own soldiers turns against him, damaging Tartarus' armor and forcing him to retreat. Tartarus makes his first appearance in the novel Halo: First Strike, as one of the first Brutes allowed into the chamber of the High Prophet of Truth. In Halo 2, Tartarus acts as an agent of the Prophets, branding the Arbiter for his failures. The Chieftain later appears when the Arbiter tries to retrieve the Activation Index of Delta Halo. On the Prophets' orders, Tartarus takes the Index and pushes the Arbiter to what was intended to be his death in a deep chasm. Tartarus heads to the control room of Halo with the Index in order to activate Halo, but is confronted by the Arbiter. Blind to the Prophets' deception about the Great Journey, Tartarus activates the ring; the Brute is ultimately killed by the coordinated efforts of the Arbiter with the help of Sergeant Major Johnson, successfully preventing the firing of Delta Halo.
Designs for Tartarus began after the basic shape and design of the common Brutes was complete. Artist Shi Kai Wang added small but distinctive changes to Tartarus' armor and mane in order to distinguish the Chieftain from the other Brutes. The visual design of the Chieftains was later modified for Halo 3, with the seasoned warriors sporting more elaborate headdresses and shoulder pads. In a review of the character, UGO Networks noted that whereas the Elites "are a precision scalpel," Tartarus was a "baseball bat" that smashes everything in its path, a reference to their ceremonial weapons, the Energy Sword and Gravity Hammer, respectively.
Atriox (voiced by John DiMaggio) is a Brute warlord and the leader of the Banished who made a debut in Halo Wars 2, revealing he was the first to defy the Covenant before the Elite-Brute betrayal in Halo 2.
343 Guilty Spark
343 Guilty Spark (or Guilty Spark or just Spark) (voiced by Tim Dadabo) is a robot character who appears in the original Halo trilogy. 343 Guilty Spark was originally a human named Chakas who was digitized by the Forerunners at the expense of his biological form. Guilty Spark served as the caretaker of the Halo ring Installation 04, where he was an occasional ally and enemy to the Master Chief. He is ultimately severely damaged when he tries to stop Master Chief from activating Installation 08 to stop the threat of the Flood. A fragment of Spark was recovered by the UNSC, and the AI ended up commandeering the ship. In the novel Halo: Renegades, Spark is rescued by a human salvage crew, and ultimately chooses to remain with them as a crew member.
Bungie originally wanted Guilty Spark to sound similar to the robot C-3PO. Dadabo noted in an interview that reactions to his character have been hostile, finding Spark highly annoying. He described Spark's character as a "bastard" who strings others along in order to accomplish his ends. An annual Halloween pumpkin carving contest named 343 Guilt O'Lantern is organized by Halo.Bungie.Org; both the contest's title and logo use the character's design and name as inspiration. Gaming site GameDaily listed Guilty Spark as one of the top "evil masterminds" of video games, stating "If HAL-9000 had any distant relatives, [Guilty Spark would] be closest of kin."
05-032 Mendicant Bias
05-032 Mendicant Bias ("Beggar after Knowledge" as revealed in Halo: Cryptum) was the Contender-class Forerunner A.I. charged with organizing Forerunner defense against the Flood. It was later defected by Gravemind turning it rampant and against the Forerunners, but was eventually defeated after the firing of the Halo array and broken into sections, one of which was taken to the Ark, while another was left on the Forerunner ship that would eventually be incorporated into the Covenant city of High Charity. It is this section of Mendicant Bias that informs the Covenant Hierarchs of the human's descendance from the Forerunners in Halo: Contact Harvest, prompting the Hierarchs to usurp the Covenant leadership and instigate the Human-Covenant War.
Mendicant Bias is first encountered in Halo 3 on the Ark, as it attempted to communicate with the Master Chief through Terminals, claiming it sought atonement for its defection to the Flood by helping the Spartan, and was presumably destroyed along with the Ark when the Chief activated the incomplete Halo that the Ark was constructing.
The Didact, born Shadow-of-Sundered-Star, (voiced by Keith Szarabajka) is a Forerunner military leader and the Halo 4's main antagonist. The Didact developed a deep animosity towards humanity after fighting a costly war with them that cost him his children. The Didact disagrees with the plan to build the Halo Array to fight the Flood, instead proposing a system of "shield worlds" that is ultimately rejected. Going into exile in a kind of stasis within a device known as a Cryptum, he is later awoken by the Forerunner Bornstellar. The Didact imprints his consciousness on Bornstellar, who then becomes the Iso-Didact; when the Ur-Didact is presumed dead after being captured by the Master Builder, Bornstellar assumes the Didact's military role. Unknown to most, the Ur-Didact was actually abandoned in a Flood-infested system where he was captured and tortured by the Gravemind. Though he survived, the Ur-Didact was spurred to more drastic measures in an effort to stop the Flood, forcibly composing humans and turning them into soldiers. The Librarian incapacitated him and placed him in a Cryptum on his shield world Requiem, hoping meditation would amend his motives and heal his mind; however, the activation of the Halos severed the Didact from the Domain, and he spent millennia alone.
During the events of Halo 4, the Ur-Didact is accidentally released from his Cryptum by the Master Chief and Cortana. He immediately retakes control of the Prometheans and attempts to digitize the population of Earth, but is stopped by Cortana and Master Chief. The comic series Escalation reveals the Didact survived this encounter, but the Spartans of Blue Team stop his plans once again.
The Librarian is a highly ranked Forerunner who is married to the Didact. The Librarian spares humanity from extinction after their war with the Forerunners. She convinces the Forerunner council to use the Halos as preserves for fauna in addition to weapons. She ultimately incapacitates and imprisons the Ur-Didact to stop his plans. While she is presumed to have died when the Halo Array was fired, various copies of her personality appear in Halo 4, Spartan Ops, and Halo: Renegades to aid humanity in assuming the Forerunner's Mantle of Responsibility.
Gravemind (voiced by Dee Bradley Baker) is one of the primary antagonists in the Halo series. The Gravemind is a large, sentient creature of Flood origin, created by the parasite to serve as its central intelligence once a critical biomass has been achieved. It was introduced during the events of Halo 2, where the creature saves both the Master Chief and Arbiter from their deaths, bringing the two face to face in the bowels of Delta Halo. Gravemind reveals to the Arbiter that the "sacred rings" are actually weapons of last resort; a fact the Master Chief confirms. In order to stop Halo from being fired, Gravemind teleports the Master Chief and Arbiter to separate locations, but also uses them as a distraction; Gravemind infests the human ship In Amber Clad, and uses it to invade the Covenant city of High Charity. Capturing Cortana, Gravemind brings High Charity to the Ark in an effort to stop the High Prophet of Truth from activating the Halo network. Although the Master Chief destroys High Charity, Gravemind survives the blast and attempts to rebuild itself on the incomplete Halo. When Halo is activated, Gravemind accepts his fate, but insists that the activation of the ring will only slow, not stop, the Flood. In Halo Wars 2: Awakening the Nightmare, the Gravemind's warning is validated when the Banished inadvertently release a number of surviving Flood forms from High Charity's wreckage. It is also mentioned in the game's menu that while the Gravemind's "most recent physical avatar" was destroyed by the Master Chief, it is "only a matter of time before it rises again". Though the Flood released upon the Ark form a Proto-Gravemind and come close to forming a new Gravemind, the Proto-Gravemind is killed by the Banished and the Flood are once again contained by the Banished and the Ark's Sentinels.
Designed to be a massive, horrifying combination of tentacles and rotting matter, reception to the character was generally mixed. Mike Leonard of the AllXbox community said that the introduction of the "Little Shop of Horrors" reject "ruined the 'cool'" of the Halo franchise. Jeremy Parish of 1UP.com complained that the link between Gravemind and the Flood was never explicitly stated in either Halo 2 or Halo 3 and was hardly seen in the last game.
The Halo franchise has produced numerous merchandising partnerships, and the characters of Halo have likewise been featured in a variety of products. The Master Chief, being the symbol of the franchise, has appeared on everything from soda to T-shirts and mugs. At one point, marketers for Halo 3 were planning on producing Cortana-themed lingerie. There have also been several series of licensed action figures produced, with the Halo: Combat Evolved and Halo 2 collectibles being produced by Joyride Studios in several series. For Halo 3, the responsibility of designing the action figures was given to McFarlane Toys; a total of eight series have been announced, with ninth series devoted to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the franchise by re-issuing a few of the earlier figurines along with pieces to construct a buildable plaque of the Legendary icon used in the game for the hardest skill level. Kotobukiya produced high-end figurines. Besides general figures like Covenant Elites and Spartans, figurines produced include the Master Chief, Cortana, Arbiter, Prophet of Regret, Tartarus, and Sergeant Johnson.
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- And so here at the end of my life, I do once again betray a former master. The path ahead is fraught with peril. But I will do all I can to keep it stable – keep you safe. I'm not so foolish to think this will absolve me of my sins. One life hardly balances billions. But I would have my masters know that I have changed. And you shall be my example.—Mendicant Bias to John-117.
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