Cortana is a much loved character by long time Halo fans, but for new fans and those who haven’t played Halo Infinite, things may be somewhat confusing. We break down her history and what it means for her future in the franchise.

Halo Infinite is a welcome addition for long time Halo fans and a great starting place for new fans. Halo Infinite introduces many brand new characters to the series, which ultimately results in a lot of well known characters being removed or replaced too. But what of Cortana? Is she in Halo Infinite?

Cortana was originally introduced in the very first Halo game, Halo Combat Evolved, over 20 years ago.
Halo fans will be delighted to know Cortana does appear in Halo Infinite, but not in a way players expected. To understand why she appears in such a strange way, we must first look to her past in the franchise.

Cortana's Past

"Cortana, all I need to know is did we lose them?"

This is the first line in Halo Combat Evolved. Cortana was the first character in Halo to be introduced, and the 2nd character to speak in Halo Combat Evolved. It's no secret to long time fans that Cortana is one of the most important characters to grace the franchise, and has been loved by fans ever since her first appearance in 2001.

List of appearances in the Halo franchise:

  • Halo Combat Evolved
  • Halo 2
  • Halo 3
  • Halo Legends (Animated series)
  • Halo 4
  • Halo 5
  • Halo Infinite
  • Halo TV Series (upcoming)

Halo Combat Evolved

In Halo Combat Evolved, Cortana's role was an assistant to the Master Chief, and as such, the player. She was a way of explaining to the player what was going on, since Master Chief was more of the strong, silent type.

Halo Combat Evolved - Cortana In Game
Halo Combat Evolved - Cortana In Game

Halo 2

Moving into Halo 2, the focus was put more on Master Chief and the Covenant, so Cortana took more of a back seat in terms of importance. That being said, the ending of Halo 2 was one of the most important memorable moments for Cortana's character, in which she chooses to stay behind and sacrifice herself for the good of Humanity.

Cortana in Halo 2 Anniversary edition
Cortana in Halo 2 Anniversary edition

Halo 3

Halo 3 is really where Cortana took the spotlight. From the famous marketing campaigns to the cover art, Cortana was front and center. It was this game that really focused on the relationship between Master Chief and Cortana, and showed us that there was more to their relationship than simply a soldier and A.I. They were partners, not in a romantic sense, but it was clear they meant a lot to each other.

Fighting through many levels to save Cortana, the Master Chief is finally able to be reunited with her. Halo 3 ends with Cortana and Master Chief being left adrift in the Forward Unto Dawn, a UNSC ship that sustained heavy damage.

Halo 3 Concepts - Image Source - <a href="">ArtStation - Halo 3 Manual cover 2</a>
Halo 3 Concepts - Image Source - ArtStation - Halo 3 Manual cover 2

Cortana Halo Legends

The animated series 'Halo Legends' really helps fill in the gaps for how Cortana's situation deteriorated between Halo 3 and Halo 4. Smart A.Is in the Halo universe deteriorate after 7 years of service and go through a self destructive stage called rampancy, in which they essentially think themselves to death. Halo Legends allowed fans to see this very process in action.

Halo 4 Cortana

As we move into Halo 4, it's clear that Cortana's rampancy has started to get the better of her. She's unable to focus on small tasks, and lashes out to the Master Chief on multiple occasions. By the end of the game, she ends up splitting herself into multiple fragments to defeat Halo 4's main foe, the Didact. After this, it was thought that Cortana was dead, at least, that was until Halo 5.

Halo 4 Rampant Cortana - Image Source - <a href="">ArtStation - Halo 4 - Cortana</a>
Halo 4 Rampant Cortana - Image Source - ArtStation - Halo 4 - Cortana

Halo 5

Halo 5 introduced Cortana back into the series, but she was very different than the version fans had come to love. Her rampancy was cured by The Domain, an ancient digital storage of knowledge. This seemingly infinite amount of knowledge changed Cortana's view on the galaxy and view on life. She took on the Mantle of Responsibility, a belief system in which one species or being is in control of the galaxy. This combined with the powers of Forerunner technology made her one of the main enemies of Halo 5's campaign.

Cortana in Halo Infinite

Halo 5 ended with Cortana being successful and taking control of a large portion of the galaxy, however you wouldn't know any of this going into Halo Infinite. Halo Infinite seemingly ignores most of previous Halo lore in favor of telling its own story. Initially tasked with destroying Cortana, the Master Chief and his new A.I, the Weapon, are tasked with finding out what exactly happened to Cortana.

Throughout Halo Infinite, we learn through flashbacks (or residual data) that Cortana sacrificed herself. She was led to believe that she was responsible for Master Chief's death, and finally came to terms with the mistakes she made. So yes, Cortana does appear in Halo Infinite, but only as flashbacks, as she is now in fact deleted.

Halo Infinite Cortana 'Flashbacks' - Image Source - <a href="">ArtStation - HALO INFINITE : Weapon / Cortana</a>
Halo Infinite Cortana 'Flashbacks' - Image Source - ArtStation - HALO INFINITE : Weapon / Cortana

So, what's next?

There is another major A.I character in Halo Infinite, 'The Weapon'. Designed the same way as Cortana (flash clones of Dr Halsey's brain), The Weapon has very similar characteristics to Cortana, albeit a bit more naive. At the very end of Halo Infinite, it's mentioned that The Weapon should choose a name that suits her, and the viewer not being told, it's heavily implied that she chose the name Cortana.

Could "The Weapon" be Cortana 2.0?

The Weapon, or Cortana 2.0 as some of the community has dubbed her, has received mixed feedback from the community. Many long term fans feel like Cortana's character was somewhat destroyed by Halo 5 and Halo Infinite, whilst other long term fans feel The Weapon is a welcome replacement. Brand new fans however seem to enjoy The Weapon as a new character.

Halo Infinite The Weapon - Image Source - <a href="">ArtStation - HALO INFINITE : Weapon</a>
Halo Infinite The Weapon - Image Source - ArtStation - HALO INFINITE : Weapon

That concludes a brief overview of Cortana's role throughout the games and her appearances in Halo Infinite. We haven't gone into too much detail, as we encourage folks to play through all the games themselves and make their own conclusions.

In recent news, Cortana is also set to appear in the new Halo TV Series.

You can get Halo: The Master Chief Collection and Halo Infinite on Xbox Gamespass Ultimate, or find both games for relatively cheap. There's also the option to watch all the cutscenes online, if playing through all the games isn't something you'd like to do.