The Halo franchise has many great strengths. It perfected FPS controls on consoles, bringing the genre into the mainstream like never before. It introduced depth to combat with its sandbox of unique weapons, fun vehicles, and all-important grenades. Perhaps most importantly, it featured enemies that were fun to fight thanks to their intelligent AI and standout designs. There were no simple undead quadrupeds or xenomorph ripoffs on the Halo rings. Each species has its own preferred weapons and strategies, and mashing them together makes for battlefield scenarios that are fun over and over.
For someone brand-new to the Halo series, or someone starting with a later sequel, the entire dance can be somewhat lost. These games build on perceived experience, so not playing through each game as the released can leave a player at a disadvantage when a pair of Hunters burst through a door and expect a good rumble. Whether diving into the Master Chief Collection or waiting for Halo Infinite, most of these foes will be waiting.
Treat the following information as a UNSC combat guide, going over everything from the most common Grunts of the Covenant army to the brutish behemoths Master Chief encounters in later entries. Part of Halo‘s appeal is in the depth of its worldbuilding buried just beneath its FPS surface. It’s time to take an Energy Sword to that top layer and start digging.
The Unggoy, known to the human forces and many other species as Grunts, are the Covenant’s rank and file soldiers. Commonly deployed in groups due to their tendency to taste defeat, players will run into Grunts in nearly every stage throughout Halo‘s many campaigns, often accompanied by a higher-ranked Covenant soldier.
Grunts first appeared in Halo: Combat Evolved, where they were more straightforward in their combat strategies. Later games solidified them as Covenant cannon fodder, including kamikaze units that run at players with activated plasma grenades. Their armor always features an explosive methane pack on their back, but the Unggoy need it to breathe. Needless to say, it makes for a great target if a Spartan tires of easy headshots.
One step above the Grunts on the Covenant totem pole is the Kig-Yar, also known as the Jackals. This is partially due to their arrangement with the Covenant army, choosing to merely accept payment for their service rather than fully accept the teachings of the Prophets. This makes them similar to human mercenaries, and they do their best work as scouts or snipers surrounding strategic Covenant holdings.
When met on the battlefield, ground troops will almost always carry their signature wrist-mounted energy shield. Kig-Yar will duck out from behind their own cover to take potshots, but often have little recourse to a Spartan rushing in and attacking. More troublesome are the Jackal Snipers, particularly in human cities with vertical perches everywhere. On higher difficulties in certain Halo games, it’s often up to mere chance whether a Spartan can evade their deadly fire.
The proud Sangheili were the original race to collaborate with the Prophets in the formation of the Covenant, and their defection during the series would lead to the ultimate collapse of the universe-spanning religious hegemony. Known by humans as Elites thanks to their leading role in Covenant military operations, their alliance with the humans continues into the modern games following the fall of the Prophets and their supporters. Particularly, Spartan Locke and his team find themselves side by side with Sangheili warriors in Halo 5: Guardians.
Elites are the one Covenant foe that matches the Spartan in both size and prowess, with higher-ranked Elites able to take out a player single-handedly. Equipping a wide range of weapons and utilizing battlefield cover whenever possible, they are a challenge alone or in groups and should be taken seriously whenever they strike.
The Jiralhanae, also known as Brutes, are the final species to enlist in the Covenant and the species that replaced the Elites in the hierarchy. A savage race, the Jiralhanae prefer their own weaponry to the standard plasma rifles and pistols used by the Elites, leading to many new weapons and vehicles emerging towards the end of Bungie’s Halo trilogy.
Master Chief first ran into Brutes in Halo 2, but the full force of their arsenal didn’t appear until their takeover was complete in Halo 3. They utilize bladed guns that double as melee weapons and often go into a primal berserker state if shot several times. Brutes will serve as the main antagonistic force of the upcoming Halo Infinite, led by Halo Wars 2 antagonist Atriox and his Banished forces.
Originally conscripted as simple laborers, the Yanme’e’s ability to reproduce at a quick pace earned them a spot high above the Covenant infantry. Insectoid by nature, the creatures known as Drones always swarm their prey in large numbers, peppering them with fire while swooping in for the kill. The species would eventually return to their home system following the dissolution of the Covenant, with small pockets remaining loyal to the Brutes.
Only seen in action by Master Chief in Halo 2 and Halo 3, the Drones almost never attack with other groups of enemies. Swarms erupt when players least expect them, but each unit’s frail body makes them easy to take down in most situations.
One of the most interesting of the Covenant’s military forces, the Hunter is not a single creature but a hive of Lekgolo. These worm-like creatures also power the Covenant Scarab and several other constructs, but the Hunter armor is the most common.
Seen since the days of Halo: Combat Evolved, players have to aim at any exposed orange bits of the walking tank in order to deal damage. In early games, the Hunters are extremely vulnerable to weak spots on their back, but later games give them the strength to match their impressive stature.
The Huragok are a noncombative race of the Covenant that have direct ties to the Forerunners that the Prophets worship. Designed by the ancient race to maintain their facilities, the floating beings are single-minded in their tasks, rarely communicating with other species.
As the Brutes took over Covenant military operations, the creatures humans called Engineers were strapped with bombs and sent into combat on the streets of Earth. This is the only place players can see the species in-game, during the conflicts depicted in Halo 3: ODST. Following the war, many Huragok were brought in by UNSC forces to improve human technology and decrypt alien artifacts.