Halo: Combat Evolved

Halo: Combat Evolved

Developer(s) Bungie[1]
Publisher(s) Microsoft Game Studios[2]
Producer(s) Hamilton Chu
Designer(s) John Howard
Artist(s) Marcus Lehto
Series Halo
Release date(s)
Genre(s) First-person shooter

Halo: Combat Evolved is a 2001 military science fiction first-person shooter video game developed by Bungie and published by Microsoft Game Studios. The first game of the Halo franchise, it was released on November 15, 2001, as a launch title for the Xbox gaming system,[1] and is considered the platform's "killer app".[7] More than five million copies were sold worldwide by November 2005.[8] Microsoft released versions of the game for Microsoft Windows and Mac OS X in 2003, and the surrounding storyline was adapted and elaborated into a series of novels, comic books, and live-action web series. The game was later released as a downloadable Xbox Original for the Xbox 360. A high-definition remake, Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary, was released for Xbox 360 on the 10th anniversary of the original game's launch, and was rereleased as part of Halo: The Master Chief Collection on November 11, 2014, for the Xbox One.[9]

Halo is set in the twenty-sixth century, with the player assuming the role of the Master Chief, a cybernetically enhanced supersoldier. The player is accompanied by Cortana, an artificial intelligence who occupies the Master Chief's neural interface. Players battle various aliens as they attempt to uncover the secrets of the eponymous Halo, a ring-shaped artificial world. The game has been commended for elements such as its story, the variety of strategies players can employ, and its multiplayer mode;[10][11][12] however, the repetitive nature of its level design was criticized by some reviewers.[10][13]

Halo has been praised as one of the best and most important video games of all time,[14][15] and was ranked by IGN as the fourth-best first-person shooter ever made.[16] The game's popularity has led to labels such as "Halo clone" and "Halo killer", applied respectively to games either similar to or anticipated to be better than it.[17][18][19] In addition, the game inspired and was used in the fan-created Red vs. Blue video series, which is credited as the "first big success" of machinima (the technique of using real-time 3D engines, often from video games, to create animated films).[20]


  • Gameplay 1
    • Combatants 1.1
    • Multiplayer 1.2
    • Halo: Custom Edition 1.3
  • Synopsis 2
    • Setting 2.1
    • Characters 2.2
    • Plot 2.3
    • Voice cast 2.4
  • Development 3
    • Audio 3.1
  • Reception 4
    • Critical reception 4.1
    • Legacy 4.2
  • Adaptations 5
    • Remake 5.1
  • Notes 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8


The Master Chief fires his MA5B Assault Rifle at a pack of Grunts on the level "Halo." Ammunition, health, and motion sensor displays are visible in the corners of the screen.

As a first-person shooter, the gameplay of Halo: Combat Evolved is fundamentally similar to that of its peers, focusing on combat in a 3D environment that is viewed almost entirely from a character's eye view. The player can move around and look up, down, left, or right.[21] The game features vehicles, ranging from armored jeeps and tanks to alien hovercraft and aircraft, many of which can be controlled by the player. The game switches to a third-person perspective during vehicle use for pilots and mounted gun operators; passengers maintain a first-person view.[11] The game's heads-up display includes a "motion tracker" that registers moving allies, moving or firing enemies, and vehicles, in a certain radius of the player.[22]

The player character is equipped with an energy shield which nullifies damage from weapons fire and forceful impacts. The shield's charge appears as a blue bar in the corner of the game's heads-up display, and it automatically recharges if no damage is sustained for a brief period.[22] When the shield is fully depleted, the player is highly vulnerable, and further damage reduces the hit points of a secondary health meter.[10] When this health meter reaches zero, the character dies and the game reloads from a saved checkpoint. Health can be replenished through the collection of health packs scattered around the game's levels,[22] but the game's introduction of a regenerating shield mechanic represented a departure from FPS games of the time.

Halo's arsenal consists of weapons from science fiction. The game has been praised for giving each weapon a unique purpose, thus making each useful in different scenarios.[23] For example, plasma weapons need time to cool if fired too rapidly, but cannot be reloaded and must be discarded upon depletion of their batteries, whereas conventional firearms cannot overheat, but require reloading and ammunition. In contrast to the large weapon inventories of contemporary FPS games, Halo players may carry only two weapons at once, calling for strategy when managing firearms.[12]

Halo departs from traditional FPS conventions by not forcing the player character to holster its firearm before deploying grenades or melee-range blunt instruments; instead, both attacks can be utilized while a gun is still equipped, supplanting or supplementing small-arms fire.[22] All weapons may be used to bludgeon enemies,[22] which allows Master Chief to silently kill opponents without alerting other nearby enemies.[24] The Chief can also carry up to eight grenades at a time: up to four fragmentation and four plasma grenades each.[25] Like the game's other weapons, the two types of grenades differ; the fragmentation grenade bounces and detonates quickly,[26] whereas the plasma grenade adheres to targets before exploding, sometimes with blackly comic results.[27]


The game's main enemy force is the Covenant, a group of alien species allied by belief in a common religion. Their forces include Elites, fierce warriors protected by recharging energy shields much like the player's own; Grunts, which are short, comically cowardly creatures who are usually led by Elites in battle, and often flee in terror instead of fighting in the absence of a leading Elite; Jackals, originally space pirates, they wear a highly durable energy shield on one arm and a form of handgun on the other; and Hunters, large, powerful creatures with thick armor plates that cover the majority of their bodies and a large cannon that fires explosive rounds of plasma.[28]

A secondary enemy is the Flood, a parasitic alien life form that appears in three main variants.[29] Infection Forms, the true form of the Flood, are fragile beings and do little damage individually, but often travel in swarms of several dozen in order to infect their prey. Combat Forms result from humans and Covenant Elites who have succumbed to the Infection Forms, and have hideously deformed bodies as a result. Bloated Carrier Forms are the result of an aged or unused Combat Form and serve as incubators for new Infection Forms; when wounded or near a potential victim, they explode to damage other nearby life-forms and to release their spores, thus perpetuating the Flood life cycle.

Battling the Flood, Covenant, and human forces are the Sentinels: robotic drones designed by an extinct race called the Forerunners to protect their structures and prevent Flood outbreaks. Sentinels are able to hover around in enclosed spaces and produce an energy shield when under attack. They lack durability, but use powerful laser beam weapons and are immune to infection by the Flood.[29]

The artificial intelligence in Halo has been favorably received.[30] Enemies take cover and use suppressive fire and grenades.[23] Some enemies retreat when their superiors are killed.[31] The player is often aided by United Nations Space Command (UNSC) Marines, who offer ground support, such as manning gun turrets or riding shotgun while the player is driving a vehicle.[23]


A split screen mode allows two players to co-operatively play through Halo‍ '​s campaign.[21] The game also includes five customizable competitive multiplayer modes for between two and 16 players; up to four players may play split-screen on one Xbox, and further players can join using a "System Link" feature that allows up to four Xbox consoles to be connected together into a local area network.[21] Halo lacks artificially intelligent game bots, and was released before the launch of the Xbox Live online multiplayer service; therefore LAN parties are needed to reach the game's 16-player limit,[32] a setup that was a first for a console game, but was often deemed impractical by critics.[23][24] Aside from this limitation, Halo's multiplayer components were generally well received by critics, and it is widely considered one of the best multiplayer games of all time.[11][12][33]

Although the Xbox version of Halo lacks official support for online multiplayer play, third-party packet tunnelling software provide unofficial ways around this limitation.[34] The Windows and Macintosh ports of Halo support online matches involving up to 16 players and include multiplayer maps not in the original Xbox release.[35] However, co-operative play was removed from the ports because it would have required large amounts of recoding to implement.[36] In April 2014, it was announced that GameSpy's servers and matchmaking, on which Halo PC relied, would be shut down by May 31 of the same year.[37] A team of fans and Bungie employees announced they would produce a patch for the game to keep its multiplayer servers online.[38] The patch was released on May 16, 2014.[39]

Halo: Custom Edition

On March 15, 2004, Gearbox Software released Halo: Custom Edition for Windows, which enabled players to use custom-made maps and game modifications via the Halo Editing Kit developed by Bungie.[40] Halo: Custom Edition is multiplayer-only, and requires an original copy of Halo for PC to install.[40]



Halo: Combat Evolved takes place in a science fiction universe created by Bungie Studios. According to the story, the realization of [22]

To prepare for a mission to discover the location of the Covenant's homeworld, SPARTAN-II soldiers are recalled to Reach. Two days before the mission was to begin, Covenant forces attack Reach and destroy the colony.[22] A starship, the Pillar of Autumn, survives the onslaught with the SPARTAN-II Master Chief on board. The ship initiates a jump to slipspace (similar to hyperspace),[41] hoping to lead the enemy away from Earth.[42] The game starts with the Pillar of Autumn encountering Halo.[22]

The titular Halo is an enormous, ring-shaped artificial space station/planet, which (according to Bungie Studios) has a diameter of ten thousand kilometers.[43] Halo sits at a Lagrange point between a planet and its moon. Centrifugal force created by the rotation of the station provides the ring's gravity.[44]


The player character is Master Chief Petty Officer John-117,[45] one of the few (see Halo: The Fall of Reach and its sequels for more information) surviving supersoldiers of the SPARTAN-II project, and the main character of the story. Accompanying Master Chief is the Pillar of Autumn's feminine artificial intelligence construct, Cortana, who resides in a neural implant connected to his battle armor, codenamed MJOLNIR Mark V. The Pillar of Autumn's captain, Jacob Keyes, is also a major character, with Staff Sergeant Avery Junior Johnson as a supporting character. Playing a mainly antagonistic role in the game's events is 343 Guilty Spark, an eccentric artificial intelligence responsible for monitoring and maintaining Halo's systems.


The game opens as the Pillar of Autumn exits slipspace near a mysterious ring-shaped space station, called "Halo" by the enemy in the game, the Covenant.[46] A Covenant fleet attacks and heavily damages the Pillar of Autumn. Captain Keyes initiates "The Cole Protocol,"[47] a procedure which destroys all navigation data and is designed to prevent the Covenant from learning the location of Earth. Master Chief and Cortana fight their way to an escape pod, where they eject from the ship along with a group of Marines. As they fly away they can see Keyes attempting to crash land Pillar on Halo.

Master Chief and Cortana are the only survivors of their pod's crash landing, but they soon contact other survivors and help collect them into a fighting force. The survivors tell them that Keyes survived the Pillar of Autumn‍ '​s crash landing, but has been captured by the Covenant and is being held aboard the Covenant ship Truth and Reconciliation.[48] Master Chief and a force of Marines board the ship and rescue Keyes, who orders Master Chief to beat the Covenant to Halo's control center and to discover Halo's purpose.[49] Master Chief and Cortana travel to a map room called the Silent Cartographer, which leads them to the control room.[50] There, Cortana enters the systems and, discovering something urgent, suddenly sends Master Chief to find Captain Keyes while she stays behind.[51] Keyes was searching for what he believed was a cache of powerful weapons, but when he reaches his position Master Chief finds only signs of a battle and a recording revealing they have accidentally released the Flood, a parasitic alien race capable of spreading itself by infesting other sentient life-forms.

The release of the Flood prompts Halo's AI monitor, 343 Guilty Spark, to recruit Master Chief in retrieving the Index, a device that will activate Halo and prevent the Flood from spreading beyond the facility. After Master Chief retrieves and prepares to use the Index, Cortana re-appears and warns him against the activation. She has discovered that Halo's defense system is a weapon designed to kill all sentient life in the galaxy, which will deny the host bodies the Flood requires to spread,[52] a revelation which Guilty Spark confirms.[53]

Faced with this information, Master Chief and Cortana decide to destroy Halo to prevent its activation. While fighting the Flood, the Covenant, and Guilty Spark's Sentinels, Cortana discovers that the best way to accomplish this is to cause the crashed Pillar of Autumn to self-destruct.[54] However, Captain Keyes' authorization is required to destroy the Autumn,[55] forcing the Chief and Cortana to return to the now-Flood-infested Truth and Reconciliation to search for him. By the time they reach Keyes, however, he has been infected beyond the point of no return by the Flood. Master Chief retrieves Keyes' neural implants directly from his brain and retreats to the Autumn, where Cortana activates the ship's self-destruct sequence. However, 343 Guilty Spark reappears and deactivates the countdown, discovering the record of human history in the process.[56] Master Chief manually destabilizes the Pillar of Autumn's fusion reactors, and he and Cortana narrowly escape the destruction of the ring via a fighter. Cortana scans nearby space and finds that they are apparently the only survivors. Cortana justifies the sacrifices of the other humans on Halo, stating that they had no choice due to the threat posed by Halo, the Covenant and the Flood. Cortana believes its over but the Master Chief tells her that they're just getting started.

In a brief post-credit scene, 343 Guilty Spark is seen fleeing Halo's destruction and into the unknown of deep space.

Voice cast


On July 21, 1999, during the Macworld Conference & Expo, Steve Jobs announced that Halo would be released for Mac OS and Windows simultaneously.[57] Before this public announcement, game industry journalists under a non-disclosure agreement had previewed the game in a private showing during E3 1999,[58] and were reportedly amazed.[57][58] Bungie Studios later stated an even earlier development build of the game centered on real-time strategy and was "basically Myth in a sci-fi universe."[59]

The first official screenshot of Halo.

At E3 [61] At this point, Halo was a third-person action game, in which a transport starship crashlands on a mysterious ring world that orbits a star. Early versions of Covenant aliens appear in great numbers and loot what they can, and war erupts between them and the humans. Unable to match the technologically advanced alien race, the humans on the ring world resort to guerrilla warfare.[62] This version of the game featured Halo-specific fauna, which were later dropped because of design difficulties and the creatures' "detract[ion] from the surprise, drama and impact of the Flood."[63]

As rumors had predicted,[64] Microsoft announced on June 19, 2000, that it had acquired Bungie Studios.[65] Halo became an exclusive game for Microsoft's Xbox video game console, and Bungie Studios rewrote the game's engine, heavily altering its presentation and turning it into a first-person shooter.[66] Originally a key element, the game's online multiplayer component was dropped because Xbox Live would be unfinished at the time of Halo‍ '​s release. While a playable demonstration of the game at Gamestock 2001 was well-received,[67] critics had mixed reactions to its exhibition at E3 2001.[68][69][70] The game was released in North America simultaneously with the Xbox, on November 15, 2001;[1] the "Combat Evolved" subtitle was an addition by marketers at Microsoft, who felt that Halo alone was not a descriptive enough title to compete with other military-themed games.[71]

On July 12, 2002, a Halo port for Windows was announced to be under development by Gearbox Software.[72] Its showing at E3 2003 was positively received by some critics,[73][74] with skepticism by others.[75] It was released on September 30, 2003,[3] and included support for online multiplayer play and featured sharper graphics, but had compatibility issues that caused poor performance.[35][76] Halo was later released for Mac OS X on December 11, 2003.[5] On December 4, 2007, the game became available for the Xbox 360 via download from the Xbox Live Marketplace.[77]


Halo's soundtrack was created by Bungie's audio director, Martin O'Donnell, and received enthusiastic praise from many critics.[10][11][23][78] O'Donnell has stated that his goal was to provide "a feeling of importance, weight, and sense of the 'ancient'."[79] He designed the music so that it "could be dissembled and remixed in such a way that would give [him] multiple, interchangeable loops that could be randomly recombined in order to keep the piece interesting as well as a variable length." Development involved the creation of "alternative middle sections that could be transitioned to if the game called for such a change (i.e. less or more intense)."[80]

O'Donnell has remarked that he "sat with the level designers and 'spotted' the level as though it was a movie, with the knowledge that the music would have to be malleable rather than static.... [T]he level designer would tell me what he hoped a player would feel at certain points or after accomplishing certain tasks." Based on this information, O'Donnell would "go back and develop appropriate music cues, then have the designer script the cues into the level, and then we'd play through it to see if it worked as desired."[80] He explained that the use of music in Halo is sparse because he believes that "[music] is best used in a game to quicken the emotional state of the player and it works best when used least," and that "[if] music is constantly playing it tends to become sonic wallpaper and loses its impact when it is needed to truly enhance some dramatic component of game play."[81]


Critical reception

Aggregate scores
Aggregator Score
GameRankings (Xbox) 96%[82]
(PC) 86%[83]
Metacritic (Xbox) 97/100[1]
(PC) 83/100[3]
Review scores
Publication Score
Edge 10/10[12]
Eurogamer 8/10[13]
Game Informer 9.5/10[84]
GameSpot 9.7/10[23]
GameSpy 80/100[10]
IGN 9.7/10[11]
Publication Award
2002 Game Developers Choice Awards: Excellence in Audio
5th Annual Interactive Achievement Awards: Console and Overall Game of the Year,
Console Action / Adventure, Visual Engineering
2000 Game Critics Awards: Best Action Game

On its release Halo broke sales records; by April 8, 2002, a little under five months after its release, one million units had been sold: this pace was faster than that of any previous sixth-generation console game.[85] During the two months following Halo's release, the game sold alongside more than fifty percent of Xbox consoles.[86] By July 14, 2003, the game had sold three million copies worldwide,[87] and by January 28, 2004, it had reached four million copies.[88] As of November 9, 2005, Halo has sold over five million copies worldwide.[8]

Halo was critically acclaimed; on Metacritic, it currently holds an aggregated score of 97 out of 100, based on reviews from 68 professional critics.[1] Ste Curran's review for Edge[89] praised the game as "the most important launch game for any console, ever" and commented, "GoldenEye was the standard for multiplayer console combat. It has been surpassed."[12] GameSpot claimed that "Halo's single-player game is worth picking up an Xbox for alone," concluding, "Not only is this easily the best of the Xbox launch games, but it's easily one of the best shooters ever, on any platform."[23] IGN remarked similarly, calling Halo a "can't miss, no-brainer, sure thing, five star, triple A game."[11] Among the specific aspects that reviewers praised were the balance of weapons, the role of drivable vehicles,[5][11] and the artificial intelligence of enemies.[5][12]

The game received numerous Game of the Year awards, including those of the Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences,[90] Electronic Gaming Monthly, Edge, and IGN.[91] The British Academy of Film and Television Arts awarded Halo "Best Console Game," and Rolling Stone presented it with their "Best Original Soundtrack" award. According to Xbox.com, the game received a total of 48 awards.[91]

Although Halo‍ '​s overall reception was largely positive, the game received criticism for its level design. GameSpy commented, "you'll trudge through countless hallways and control rooms that all look exactly the same, fighting identical-looking groups of enemies over and over and over...it is simply frustrating to see a game with such groundbreaking sequences too often degenerate [into] this kind of mindless, repetitive action."[10] Similarly, an article on Game Studies.org remarked, "In the latter part of the game, the scenarios rely on repetition and quantity rather than innovativeness and quality."[92] Eurogamer concluded, "Halo is very much a game of two halves. The first half is fast, exciting, beautifully designed and constantly full of surprises. The second half is festooned with gobsmacking plot twists and great cinematics but let down by repetitive paint by numbers level design."[13] Halo was released prior to the launch of Xbox Live, and the lack of both online multiplayer and bots to simulate human players was criticised by GameSpy;[10] in 2003 GameSpy included Halo in a list of "Top 25 Most Overrated Games of All Time."[34]

Halo's PC port garnered mixed reactions and received a score of 83% on Metacritic.[3] GameSpot stated that it was "still an incredible action game ... [and] a true classic," awarding it 9.0 out of 10.[76] It received a score of 8.2 out of 10 from IGN, who stated, "If you've played the game on the Xbox, there's not much for you here."[35] Eurogamer called the game "a missed opportunity," but stated that the online multiplayer component was "a massive draw ... for Halo veterans."[36]


According to GameSpot, Halo‍ '​s "numerous subtle innovations have been borrowed by countless other games since."[93] The game is often cited as the main reason for the Xbox's success,[94] and it began what is commonly regarded as the system's flagship franchise.[95] Game designer Vox Day credited the game with using science-fiction environments to follow Half-Life in eschewing static levels and a similarity to dungeon crawls, which the FPS genre inherited from Akalabeth. Day further wrote that Halo spurred a sustained trend of many other FPS console games.[96] In July 2006, Next-Gen.biz published an article estimating Halo as the second-highest revenue-generating 21st century console video game in the United States, behind Grand Theft Auto: Vice City.[97] The game's popularity sparked the usage of terms like "Halo clone"[98][99][100] and "Halo killer."[18] The Halo engine has been used for the game Stubbs the Zombie in Rebel Without a Pulse.[101]

Halo has been featured at both Major League Gaming and the World Cyber Games.[102][103] In machinima, the game was used as the basis for the popular web series Red vs. Blue. The game's sequel, Halo 2, made US$125 million with unit sales of 2.38 million on the first day of its release,[104] earning it the distinction of the fastest-selling United States media product in history.[105] Three years later, Halo 3 shattered that record with the biggest opening day in entertainment history, taking in US$170 million in its first 24 hours.[106]


The story surrounding Halo: Combat Evolved has been adapted into novels, the first of which was Halo: The Fall of Reach, a prequel. Published in October 2001, this novel was written by Eric Nylund, who reportedly completed it in seven weeks.[107] The novel became a Publishers Weekly bestseller with almost two hundred thousand copies sold.[108] The following novel, entitled Halo: The Flood, is a tie-in to Halo: Combat Evolved, describing not only the experiences of the Master Chief, but also those of other characters on Installation 04. Written by William C. Dietz, this novel appeared on the Publishers Weekly bestsellers list during May 2003.[109] Nylund returned to write the third novel, Halo: First Strike, which takes place between the events of Halo: Combat Evolved and those of Halo 2. Written in 16 weeks,[108] it was published in December 2003.[110] Later novels, Halo: Ghosts of Onyx (written by Nylund and released on October 31, 2006)[111] and Halo: Contact Harvest by Joseph Staten further extended the Halo storyline. More recently, a collection of new stories in Halo: Evolutions and Greg Bear's first book of his Forerunner series Halo: Cryptum was released continuing to flesh out the stories. Two additional books: Karen Traviss's Halo: Glasslands, the first in a new Post-Halo 3 series and Greg Bear's Book 2 of his Forerunner series entitled Halo: Primordium will be released in the near future.

Another adaptation is The Halo Graphic Novel, a collection of four short stories released by Marvel Comics in July 2006.[112] It was written and illustrated by Lee Hammock, Jay Faerber, Tsutomu Nihei, Brett Lewis, Simon Bisley, Ed Lee and Jean Giraud. Bungie regards Halo's adaptations as canon.[113] Marvel subsequently released the four-issue miniseries Halo: Uprising, which was written by Brian Michael Bendis and illustrated by Alex Maleev, which premiered in August 2007. Halo Wars: Genesis, a supplemental graphic novel featuring art by Graeme Devine and Eric Nylund, was included with Halo Wars: Limited Edition in March 2009. Marvel then published Halo: Helljumper, a five-issue miniseries written by Peter David and illustrated by Eric Nguyen, which premiered in July 2009. Additionally Halo: Blood Line and Halo: Fall of Reach were released, the latter being a comic retelling of the novel Halo: The Fall of Reach premiered in 2010 and 2011 respectively.


During the Microsoft press conference at the 2011 E3 Expo, it was revealed that Halo: Combat Evolved would be remade by 343 Industries with an in-house game engine and would include achievements, Terminals, and Skulls. It was released for the Xbox 360 on November 15, 2011. The release date marks the 10th anniversary of the original game's release.[114] The remastered version of the original game includes online multiplayer and cooperative play functionality.[115] The remake is also the first Halo game to include Kinect support.[116] The game is a mix of two game engines—the original Halo engine created by Bungie which provides gameplay and a new engine created by 343 and Saber which is responsible for improved graphics—and the player is able to switch between the improved and classic modes of the game at any time.[117] The game is also the first in the series to support 3D televisions; however, this is only available for the improved mode within the game.[118] The game's multiplayer component uses the Halo: Reach gameplay engine, tailored with a map playlist to mimic the original multiplayer, as opposed to including the original game's multiplayer mode.

The Anniversary version of the game is the version contained in The Master Chief Collection for Xbox One. The single-player game is identical to the Xbox 360 version, including the ability to swap between the updated "anniversary" graphics and the original game graphics. However, unlike the Xbox 360 release, the multiplayer component is the original multiplayer engine from Combat Evolved as opposed to Halo: Reach and is playable over Xbox Live, something not possible until The Master Chief Collection.


  1. ^ Additional work on the Windows and Mac OS X versions was done by Gearbox Software and Westlake Interactive respectively.
  2. ^ Published by MacSoft on Mac OS X.


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External links

  • .net at BungieHalo: Combat Evolved
  • at Halo WaypointHalo: Combat Evolved
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