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The Halo franchise is, unquestionably, one of the most successful in modern gaming. In 2001, Combat Evolved set the standard for modern console shooters. Halo 2 introduced millions of players to the potential of online play through Xbox Live. Halo 3 still hadone million players logging onto Xbox Live every day two years after its release.
Considered by many fans to be the "primary" story arc, Halo 1, 2, and 3 follow Spartan Master Chief John 117 and his AI counterpart Cortana. Called by Frank O'Connor (former Community Manager of Bungie and current Franchise Development Director at 343 Industries) an "epic space opera," the Master Chief saga focuses on the end of the Human-Covenant War in the year 2552. During this period, Master Chief discovers a massive ring-shaped structure in the far reaches in space (Halo), battles the Flood and the Covenant for control of the ring, returns to Earth, stops a Covenant invasion, finds a new Halo, battles the Flood and Covenant again, loses Cortana, returns to Earth, battles more Covenant invaders, portals to the edge of the galaxy and a new Halo structure, reunites with Cortana, defeats the Covenant/Flood, and ends up drifting through space towards a mysterious alien planet.
Anyone that has played the Halo trilogy campaign knows this story.
Halo: ODST, Halo Wars, and the more recent Halo: Reach have helped to take the franchise in new directions and shed more light on the history of the Human-Covenant War. However, to an uninformed but interested player, they create more questions than answers. What was first contact with the Covenant like? Exactly who were the Forerunners? Who is Dr. Halsey? Why are these Spartans smaller than the Master Chief? Where is the Master Chief during this time? Epic space opera games can only tell so much of the story. Other mediums are necessary to fully bring the consumer into the narrative universe.
In addition to the six videogames, Halo's stewards have released six (with two more announced) novels, five comic book series, a graphic novel, two art books, an encyclopedia, numerous live action shorts, and an anime compilation. All of these media take the consumer deep into the Halo universe and tell stories that the games could never hope to tell by themselves.
In some respects, the novels, not the games, are the real vanguard of Halo lore. Starting in 2001 with the release of The Fall of Reach, these books offer a detailed account of the various events that take place before, during, and after the games' story. Some explain the history of Master Chief and the Spartan II program. Others tell the story of the Human-Covenant war from a civilian perspective or from that of members of the Covenant itself. Penned by some of science fiction's most promising current authors, these novels create a grounded narrative framework on which the greater story of Halo's extended universe is founded.