An Elite Zealot as seen in Halo 3.
Game series Halo series
First game Halo: Combat Evolved (2001)

Elites are a fictional alien race in the Halo series by Bungie Studios. Until a civil war in Halo 2, they serve as one of the two primary commanding species in the caste system of the Covenant, an alliance of alien races. The species, called Sangheili in the Covenant language, is portrayed as physically strong and capable of brilliant military strategy; they serve as one of the player's most dangerous enemies in both Halo: Combat Evolved and Halo 2. Learning that their leaders have betrayed them, the Elites ally with their one-time enemies, the humans, during Halo 3. Elites are depicted as having a proud warrior culture; members are promoted for their kills on the battlefield, and wear armor denoting their rank.

Elites were one of the first enemies to appear during development of Halo: Combat Evolved, and players experience almost half of Halo 2's campaign through the eyes of an Elite known as the Arbiter. In Halo 3, the third and fourth players in cooperative mode play as two new Elite characters, N'tho 'Sraom and Usze 'Taham. The creatures were originally more conventional-looking, with simple jaws and horns, before later concepts added personal energy shields and made the Elites less animalistic.

In addition to marketing, Elites have been featured in two different action figure series, produced by Joyride Studios, as well as a collectible figure in the Halo ActionClix game. The Elites have been favorably received as both enemies and allies.

Character design


An Elite, as it appeared during Halo's production in 1999.

The Elites were one of the first enemies to be developed during the production of Halo: Combat Evolved, and underwent numerous cosmetic changes during their development. Bungie artist Shi Kai Wang developed numerous concept sketches of the characters before settling on a final design; early Elites had more conventional jaws, arrow-shaped heads and horns.[1] A pre-release trailer video of Halo: Combat Evolved was presented to the public on E3 2000, included an early model of the Elite.[2] Minor changes were still made to the characters after E3, including the addition of a personal energy shield.[2] An early design for the Major Domo-class Elite is seen wielding an Energy Sword and carrying a triple-layered energy shield, which did not make it into the final game.[2]

In The Art of Halo, Bungie concept artist Shi Kai Wang noted that project lead Jason Jones had, at one point, been insistent on giving the Elites a tail.[3] While Wang thought it made the aliens look too animalistic, the idea was eventually dropped due to practical considerations, including where the tail would go when the Elites were driving vehicles.[4] "At one point, we considered just having the Elites tuck their tails forward, between their legs," Wang noted, "But [we] abandoned that... for obvious reasons."[4] According to Paul Russel, when Bungie was bought by Microsoft and Halo was turned into an Xbox launch title, Microsoft took issue with the design of the Elites, as they felt that the Elites had a resemblance to cats that might alienate Japanese consumers.[5]



Elites are the main fighters of the Covenant from Halo: Ghosts of Onyx, up until the events of Halo 2, serving also as the sole protectors of the Covenant Hierarchs.[6] The race has a strong warrior culture, fighting for the glory of combat and to uphold the 'Covenant Oath'.[7] Elites are promoted on the number of enemies they have killed and casualties inflicted on the opposing force.[8] All Elites wear armor, the color of which serves to indicate rank;[9] this armor contains a built-in, recharging energy shield, and occasionally an active camouflage system.

Tactically brilliant,[8] the Elites nonetheless value integrity and honor, even in their foes.[10] In the Conversations from the Universe booklet that comes with the Halo 2 Limited Edition, Elites openly admire the tenacity of the humans they fight, and wonder why the Prophets do not admit them into the Covenant; according to Halo: Contact Harvest, the Elites consider the best opponents to be worth taking as allies.[11]

According to Bungie's backstory of N'tho 'Sraom, Elites begin compulsory military service at the end of adolescence, and remain unmarried with no close ties outside their family. [10] The name of the Elite's homeworld is Sanghelios, first mentioned in Halo 3; it is intimated that in their tours of duty Elites rarely return home.[12] Society on Sanghelios seems similar to a feudal system, with a group of close family bloodlines ruling over land holdings. Rather than being one single family, an Elite noble household will include several bloodlines. The elders of each bloodline will elect one member of the household to the title and position of "kaidon" who is the sovereign of the house, upon the death of the previous holder of that title. A newly elected kaidon will occasionally be the subject of an assassination attempt upon the night after rising to the position, the assassins having been dispatched by one or more of the house elders. This is considered to be a right of "veto", since a kaidon who cannot defend himself from assassins cannot be considered the most fit for the position.[13]

Sanghelios is a planet with multiple suns and moons, and as a result it is subject to terrible tidal forces. This makes sailing on Sanghelios very difficult, but also meant that the sailing profession in ancient Elite society was well respected for the courage such a task required.[14] Perhaps due to the wind generated by such fierce tides, the traditional non-combat garb of Elites is a heavy cloak, pulled tightly about oneself.[15][16]

Blood is of great importance to Elites. To have one's blood spilled carelessly is to lose honor, and to be wounded to the point of requiring medical attention is considered shameful. For that same reason, surgeons have very low social status in Elite society as they are responsible for spilling others blood in a dishonorable manner.[17] Further, genes and lineage are of prime concern to Elites. An Elite of higher social status achieved through demonstrated martial prowes can be expected to breed many offspring.[18] Each Elite great house has a Saga scribed into its walls, and each generation has its own stanza, and with every new generation the Saga is extended. To have an impressive stanza added about one's life immortalized in the Saga of their bloodline is a strong motivation for an Elite to perform well in life; conversely to have one's bloodline removed from further additions to the Saga is considered a severe punishment to which death is preferable.[19] However, in keeping with the Elite's notions of meritocracy, all Elites born into a household begin their lives living in the house's common rooms, and through merit they ascend to positions of influence in the household and earn the privelage of breeding.[20]

It is not the way of the Elites to let a child know its father, as they take sires based on their fighting ability. Traditionally, Elites are only allowed to know their mother's brothers, thus most Elites know only their uncles by blood relation.[21] Considering the importance they place on family lines, this indicates they must use a system of matrilineal descent. Despite this, the exact nature of Elite reproduction is still vague. It is implied that "wives" are treated as chattle, brought into a house for the sole purpose of breeding with the males there.[22] This implies that Elites use a two-sex reproductive system like humans, but no female Elites have ever been described. However, in Halo 3, a player may have an elite with a feminine voice using the gender option in the Appearance option.


The average Elite stands at eight feet, six inches (2.6 m).[23] They have a quadruple-hinged jaw, with an upper jaw and four mandibles lined with sharp, pointed teeth. Elites have hands with only four digits; two middle fingers and two opposing thumbs on the outside for grasping. Their legs are digitigrade, allowing them to run very quickly and jump large distances. It is stated in Halo: Contact Harvest that their knees bend in the opposite direction to that of humans. Finally, they are extremely strong,[8] able to match the strength of a Spartan-II equipped with the powered exoskeleton present in the MJOLNIR battle armor. Little is known of their internal anatomy, although it is mentioned in the books Ghosts of Onyx and The Cole Protocol that Elites have two hearts and purple blood.[24][25]


Halo series

See also: Halo: Combat Evolved, Halo 2, and Halo 3

The Elites are introduced as one of the primary enemies in 2001's Halo: Combat Evolved. They are imposing, both to enemies and allies; if their Elite commander is killed, Covenant Grunts and Jackals will panic and flee from the player.[26] In the 2003 literary adaptation of the game, Halo: The Flood, it is revealed that Elites serve not only as commanders of infantry and ships, but also as liaisons to Covenant Prophets (although Ship Masters view these Elites with contempt.)[27]

Elites return in Halo 2, occasionally allies when the player assumes control of the Arbiter. During the game, the Prophets replace the old Elite guards with the Elite's rivals, the Brutes. Covertly, the Prophets give the Brutes carte blanche to massacre the Elites,[28] sparking a civil war in the Covenant; the Elites ultimately join forces with the humans on the ringworld Delta Halo in order to stop the Brute Tartarus from activating the ring. Eric Nylund's book Ghosts of Onyx elaborates on the schism; after the events of Halo 2, Brute and Elite ships clash over Delta Halo, attacking not only each other but any Flood attempting to escape the ring.

In Halo 3, the Elites journey to Earth after the loss of the Covenant city, High Charity, to the Flood's leader Gravemind. There, they glass the City of Voi in a costly but ultimately successful bid to prevent a Flood infestation of Earth.[29] The Elite fleet, along with allied humans, then travel through a Slipspace portal to the Ark; there, they fight both Flood and the High Prophet of Truth's forces. In the resulting conflict, Truth is killed and the Flood are destroyed; the war with humanity ends. The Elites under the Arbiter's command pay their respects to the fallen on Earth, then proceed to head for their homeworld.[12]

Appearances in other media

The addition of an Elite model in Halo 2 multiplayer has led to its use in machinima productions; for example, This Spartan Life features an Elite named "DJ Octobit" who spins tunes,[30] as well as the "Solid Gold Elite Dancers".[31] The series Red vs. Blue: The Blood Gulch Chronicles includes an alien race, portrayed by Elite character models. An alien child, Junior, is the messiah of this race, and becomes embroiled in a plot to control the alien's religion.[32]

Cultural impact


Ranger elite figure

One of the Halo 2 series Elites.

The Elites have been featured in several action figure series. One of these being a series based on Halo 2 and published by Joyride Studios. The default version of the figure was described as having good stability and complementing other figures in the series; this was the first of two designs produced, with the second being an Elite Major model.[33] Reviews of this model criticized it for having loose articulations and for lacking the ability to stand on its own, but praised its paint job.[34] A second series of Elite figures were released after the release of Halo 2.[35] The character was also included as a collectible figure in the Halo ActionClix board game, which was released as promotional material before the release of Halo 3.[36]

Critical reception

The Elites have been well-received as both villains and allies. The artificial intelligence of the Elites in Halo: Combat Evolved was positively noted upon the game's release;[37] different ranks of Elites would behave differently towards the player. The designer Shi Kai Wang said that the final design of Elites was the aspect of Halo he was most proud of.[38] The ability to experience the storyline of Halo 2 from the Covenant perspective was described as a "brilliant stroke of game design".[39] Allowing the player to assume the role of an Elite was described as providing an unexpected plot twist, and allowing the player to experience a "newfound complexity to the story".[40] In addition, some reviewers thought that this provided the series with a significant plot element- IGN referred to it as the "intriguing side story of the Arbiter and his Elites"- and its elimination in Halo 3 was pointed to as responsible for reducing the role of the Arbiter within the series plot.[41] In addition, Elites were often considered superior to human Marines as allies, as the alien characters have the ability to take large amounts of damage, having a personal shield and superior default weapons.[39] They were also described as reducing the amount where the player has to play without backup characters, and increasing the amount of tactical combat. With dependable allies, the human player has more time to react, based on the actions of their comrades.[39]


  1. Bungie (2006-02-10). "One Million Years B.X.". Archived from the original on 2006-02-10.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Bungie Studios, 2005. Halo 2 Multiplayer Map Pack (Xbox Extras: "Halo E3 2000". (in English).
  3. Trautmann, Eric (2004). The Art of Halo. New York: Del Ray Publishing. p. 37. ISBN 0-345-47586-0. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 Trautmann, Eric (2004). The Art of Halo. New York: Del Ray Publishing. p. 38. ISBN 0-345-47586-0. 
  5. Jarrard, Brian; Smith, Luke, &c. (2008-08-21). Bungie Podcast: With Paul Russell and Jerome Simpson (MP3) [Podcast]. Kirkland, Washington: Bungie. Retrieved on 2008-08-27.
  6. Arbiter: We have always been your protectors. - Bungie Studios. Halo 2. (Microsoft). Xbox. Level/area: The Arbiter. (2004)
  7. Rtas 'Vadumee: On the blood of our fathers. On the blood of our sons-we swore to uphold the Covenant. Covenant Troop: Even to our dying breath. Rtas 'Vadumee: Those who would break this oath are heretics. Worthy of neither pity nor mercy. Even now they use our Lords' creation to broadcast their lies. - Bungie Studios. Halo 2. (Microsoft). Xbox. Level/area: The Arbiter. (2004)
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 Bungie, ed. (2001). 'Halo: Combat Evolved Instruction Manual: The Elites. Microsoft Game Studios. p. 19. 
  9. "The Covenant Primer". Bungie (2004-04-29). Retrieved on 2007-10-31.
  10. 10.0 10.1 Smith, Luke (2007-07-31). "The Tru7h About Co-Op in Halo 3". Retrieved on 2007-08-02.
  11. Staten, Joseph (2007). Halo: Contact Harvest. New York: Tor. p. 151. ISBN 0-7653-1569-6. 
  12. 12.0 12.1 Rtas 'Vadum: Things look different, without the Prophets' lies clouding my vision. I would like to see our own world. To know that it is safe. / Arbiter: Fear not. For we have made it so. - Bungie Studios. Halo 3. (Microsoft). Xbox 360. Level/area: Halo. (2007)
  13. Buckell, Tobias (2008). Halo: The Cole Protocol. New York: Tor. p. 89. ISBN 0-7653-1570-X. 
  14. Buckell, Tobias (2008). Halo: The Cole Protocol. New York: Tor. p. 90. ISBN 0-7653-1570-X. 
  15. Buckell, Tobias (2008). Halo: The Cole Protocol. New York: Tor. p. 91. ISBN 0-7653-1570-X. 
  16. Buckell, Tobias (2008). Halo: The Cole Protocol. New York: Tor. p. 159. ISBN 0-7653-1570-X. 
  17. Buckell, Tobias (2008). Halo: The Cole Protocol. New York: Tor. p. 143. ISBN 0-7653-1570-X. 
  18. Buckell, Tobias (2008). Halo: The Cole Protocol. New York: Tor. p. 147. ISBN 0-7653-1570-X. 
  19. Buckell, Tobias (2008). Halo: The Cole Protocol. New York: Tor. p. 92. ISBN 0-7653-1570-X. 
  20. Buckell, Tobias (2008). Halo: The Cole Protocol. New York: Tor. p. 92. ISBN 0-7653-1570-X. 
  21. Buckell, Tobias (2008). Halo: The Cole Protocol. New York: Tor. p. 91. ISBN 0-7653-1570-X. 
  22. Buckell, Tobias (2008). Halo: The Cole Protocol. New York: Tor. p. 147. ISBN 0-7653-1570-X. 
  23. "the Junkyard: Character Viewer Elites". Retrieved on 2007-10-31.
  24. Nylund, Erc (2006). Halo: Ghosts of Onyx. New York: Tom Doherty Associates. p. 372. ISBN 0-765-31568-. 
  25. Buckell, Tobias (2008). Halo: The Cole Protocol. New York: Tor. ISBN 0-7653-1570-X. 
  26. Bungie, ed. (2004). 'Halo 2 Instruction Manual. Microsoft Game Studios. p. 4. 
  27. Dietz, William (2003). Halo: The Flood. New York: Ballantine Books. p. 6. ISBN 0-345-45921-0. 
  28. Tartarus: Excellent work Arbiter. The Hierarchs will be pleased. Arbiter: The my responsibility. Tartarus: Was your responsibility. Now it is mine. A bloody fate awaits you and your incompetent race. And I, Tartarus, Chieftain of the Brutes, will send you to it. Arbiter: When the Prophets learn of this they will have your head. Tartarus: When they learn? Fool. They ordered me to do it. - Bungie Studios. Halo 2. (Microsoft). Xbox. Level/area: Quarantine Zone. (2004)
  29. Rtas 'Vadum (arrogantly): Did you not hear? Your world is doomed. A Flood army, a Gravemind, has you in its sights! You barely survived a small contamination. / Lord Hood: And you, Ship Master, just glassed half a continent! Maybe the Flood isn't all I should be worried about. - Bungie Studios. Halo 3. (Microsoft). Xbox 360. Level/area: Floodgate. (2007)
  30. Staff (2005-08-19). "A talk-show in a virtual war-zone". Retrieved on 2007-11-01.
  31. Staff (2006-10-22). "Put yourself in the director’s chair", Times Online. Retrieved on 23 August 2008. 
  32. Rooster Teeth Productions (2007-06-09). Red vs. Blue episode 99: "Repent, The End is Near".
  33. Staff (2004-01-17). "Action Figure Reviews: Elite (Halo)". The Armchair Empire. Retrieved on 2007-10-25.
  34. J' Tonallo (2004-12-07). "Action Figure Reviews: Elite, Red (Halo)". The Armchair Empire. Retrieved on 2007-10-25.
  35. Staff (2005-09-25). "Ranger Elite (Halo 2)". The Armchair Empire. Retrieved on 2007-11-01.
  36. McElroy, Justin (2007-06-05). "Halo ActionClix take shape, due in September". Joystiq. Retrieved on 2007-10-25.
  37. Fielder, Joe (2001-11-09). "Halo: Combat Evolved for Xbox". GameSpot. Retrieved on 2007-11-08.
  38. Leigh, Violet. "Shi Kai Wang, Bungie Artist". Microsoft. Retrieved on 2008-05-03.
  39. 39.0 39.1 39.2 McLain, Alex (2007). "The Big One". Microsoft Corporation. Retrieved on 2007-10-25.
  40. Kasavin, Greg (2004-11-07). "Halo 2 for Xbox Review". Gamespot. Retrieved on 2007-10-25.
  41. Goldstein, Hillary (2007-09-23). "Halo 3 Review". IGN. Retrieved on 2007-10-25.

External links