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What You Didn't Know About Halo's Elites

When it comes to crafting a memorable extraterrestrial species, you can't just staple elf ears onto an actor and call them an alien. You need to create a language, society, and other world-building details. The richer the detail and design, the more invested audiences will become. Bungie took this approach for all the alien races of Halo, but none received as much attention as the Elites.

Better known as the Sangheili, Elites have served as Halo's de-facto alien adversaries throughout the franchise's timeline. While they have been replaced by the more brutish, um, Brutes (aka Jiralhanae), Elites are usually the first race that comes to mind when gamers think of the franchise's aliens. But, there's more to these therapod-esque aliens than their two-thumbed hands and four-mandibled faces.

The Elites hide many secrets that aren't immediately obvious to audiences who stick to the games. Halo's expanded universe and concept documents feature numerous tidbits that paint a detailed picture of the Elites, from their combat tactics to their rationales behind important plot-based decisions. If we went over every single detail, we would be here until the next "Great Journey," so here are just a few facts to whet your appetite.

Wort wort wort

While many actors have filled out the Elites' vocal ranks throughout the years, the number of voice actors in Elite roles usually correlated with their importance to the narrative. Originally, Elites were just faceless elite alien soldiers — hence their name — essentially the reverse of Master Chief, and that's fittingly why they sound the way they do in the first Halo game.

When you listen to original Elite sound clips, they are indecipherable gibberish full of battle cries and screams in an alien language, except not really. The sound engineers saved time and money when they created the Elites' lexicon by reversing and pitch-shifting existing voice lines, specifically those of David Scully in his role of Sergeant Major Avery Junior Johnson.

If you reverse Sergeant Johnson's line, "Go go go!" it sounds very similar to the Elite's "Wort wort wort." Not exactly the same, but if you reversed that Elite line and shifted its pitch, then it sounds identical to Johnson's line. If you did the same for other Elite quotes, you would probably find a good chunk of Scully's recycled voicework.

The original K/D ratio fanatics

When you build an army, it's a good idea to let higher-ranked officers take command. After all, they have more battlefield experience, so they know more tactics and are more likely to bring their soldiers back alive. At least, that's how the human military works. For Elites, the one criterion is how many scalps they can carry home.

The Elites have their own rank structure within the Covenant Empire, which determines the weapons they are allowed (or expected) to wield. Higher-ranked Elites are usually tougher than lower-ranked ones, but that tends to be the only tangible difference since Elites can only climb the military by killing enemies. The more bodies an Elite leaves in its wake, the higher its rank.

Because of this military practice, Elites zealously pursue kills above anything else. Even if they rush the objective and get their fellow soldiers killed, they will be honored with a new rank if they bring home a few scalps. It's not uncommon for individuals unfit for command to move up the Elite military chain simply because they're better at killing than everyone else.

Without Elites, there would be no Covenant

When Elites learned that Brutes, their rivals within the Covenant Empire, would replace them – and then exterminate them — they were understandably incensed, doubly so when it became clear that the decision came from the leaders of the Covenant, the Prophets (San'Shyuum). Granted, the citizens of any empire would be outraged that their leaders issued a genocide order against their race, but for the Elites, the insult goes way deeper since they're one of the two founding species. The Prophets are the other.

Long ago, the Prophets visited the Elites' planet of Sanghelios. Back then, Elites were much less advanced (though still spacefaring). The Prophets wanted to study and use the Forerunner artifacts on the planet, but since Elites viewed them as holy relics, this led to a near-century-long war that only ended out of fear of mutually assured destruction.

After the war ended, the Prophets and Elites signed a peace treaty that effectively started the Covenant Empire. The Prophets would serve as its religious leaders, and Elites would fill out the military roles. All subsequent joining species were given lower stations because of the importance of the Prophets and Elites.