The Grunt's B-day skull is pretty easy to get. First you beat the game on any diffuculty level, but easy.Then go to the second level on normal or higher. Go through the level normally till you get to where the drones are passing back and forth throught the pipes(right before you jump down to meet the Arbitor).Stop right where you're supposed to jump down to the Arbitor and look down. Right below you , you will see a green arrow pointing backwards. Jump on the arrow and turn around. You will see a hidden room with the skull in the middle.
The skull's effect is when you hit a grunt with a headshot it will burst into confetti and children will scream YAY in excitement.
(Note: Since this skull is a silver one you will not unlock an achievement)
ADMIN EDIT: Assigned the spoiler (h3) tag. Please assign the proper spoiler tag when posting spoilers-- as a category when posting a forum topic or a blog/story entry, or the bbocode spoiler tag when posting a comment. Thanks!
Ahh, the Halo rumor mill. When the tabloids fail to satisfy or even titillate, Halo rumors always ride to the rescue.
A Microsoft blogger in Belgium apparently reposted verbatim an electronic mail message sent from a "bigwig" at Microsoft about a video due to hit Xbox Marketplace on December 20th. The email alleged the 7 plus minute video would focus on the Brute race-- which would be playable in Halo 3-- and feature two and a half minutes of gameplay footage.
HBO followed the breadcrumbs on this one, with forumgoers pointing out that a new documentary video was consistent with statements Bungie made last month, but Frankie was quick to quash the "playable Brutes" part in several community forums.
Of course, that didn't stop the discussion there, as many fans debated back and forth about whether Brutes, as a playable race in campaign, would have been a good idea or not, which only brought out all the Arbiter fans and detractors again over whether or not his inclusion in Halo 2 was a good idea.
We already know Bungie isn't doing it... but if they had, would it have made sense? And would fans (at least some of them) have liked it?
Click "read more" from the front page to see the entire article.
Well, I'm moving this week. A whole lot of things remain...uh...unresolved. I'll likley be away from this place for a couple of weeks I guess. My last blog post before leaving.
It is another speculative post, and I hope Narcogen refrains from thoroughly bashing each and every aspect over and over again before I return to reply.
I'm looking at 343 Guilty Spark's log book, from Conversations From The Universe. There are big fat spoilers here, if you don't want to be spoiled, read no further.
It has been extracted/transmitted/volunteered from Spark, which means that he probably handed it over to ONI or to the Prophets interrogating him. If it were handed over to meddlers like the Prophets, would he tell them everything?
Ho hum. Eons of inactivity and perfect stability. Then everything happens all at once.
A primitive, hegemonizing swarm calling itself The Covenant has landed on installation 4. Apparently seeking something specific. Exploring! Meddling! I've seen it all before. They'll record what they see and they'll leave.
Of course, this must be Spark referring to ONI agents coming over to Halo 04 before the covenant did. Why else would all that meddling seem familiar?
In any case, if it were the Covenant Prophets interrogating him like they do at the start of Sacred Icon, he wouldn't bother to reveal everything he knew about their race, because it would essentially be valueless.
Detail species NA Covenant/collective religious sect/tech level 4 spacefaring/tech familiar
I don't understand if he's merely making notes or detailing each aspect of the covenant. It seems more like the latter, though. And if it were meant for the covenant, he'd have no problem in volunteering all this data.
Oh dear. Containment protocols appear to have been violated.
The interlopers appear to have accidentally released the Flood infection forms. This situation is rapidly deteriorating. Most of these interlopers appear to contain ample calcium stores. And they've brought plentiful means for the Flood to escape containment and spread. How impossibly thoughtless. I suppose I'll have to activate the facility.
"How impossibly thoughtless?" Does he expect the Covenant meddlers to know about the Flood? How could they possibly know about the flood, unless he told them? It's clear now that the covenant knew nothing about the flood until they blundered upon them.
But, if he were being interrogated by Truth and Mercy, who almost certainly knew more than what they let on, is he subtly poking at them for their stupidity in not letting anyone know about the flood?
Thank goodness. A Reclaimer is here. And what perfect timing. I am sure he will assist me cleaning up this irritating mess.
There was more than one reclaimer according to Halo: The Flood, and Judging from what we've seen in Halo 2, not all humans are reclaimers...or are they? In any case, the reclaimer in question is most probably the Chief, none other.
The Reclaimer has proven to be less than helpful. Obstinate, in fact. And of course, there is no precedent for this situation. Ho-hum. As usual I shall have to rely on my own better judgement. Perhaps the Reclaimer simply requires persuasion.
Detail visitor Reclaimer/AI companion/Obtuse purpose/mission
Here is where it gets interesting. "Less than helpful", "Obstinate". "Perhaps he simply requires persuasion". And he's detailed the Reclaimer(MC) and the Reclaimer's AI companion, and mentions an Obtuse purpose or mission. Even though he is noting his events briefly, he doesn't seem to be making mention of the worst part of it all-that there was a construct in the Core, the construct stole the Index, the Reclaimer practically rebelling in Spark's face, having to fight him with sentinels, conking out the pulse generators...yadda yadda yadda! To say, "there is no precedent for this situation" is simply an understatement- there was never a reclaimer who didn't understand the purpose of activation and refused to do so, and it would be interpreted as such.
He's entered something in detail, but given that whatever he has written in short gives the impression that the reclaimer was simply obstinate, and refused to help Guilty Spark in the middle of that outbreak. Would whatever he entered in detail match the log entry-in depicting that the reclaimer was simply obstinate, and with some obscure purpose that could not be understood? Or would it reveal what the reclaimer and his AI really did-steal the index and damage the pulse generators, and that Spark tried to stop him with his Sentinels? I lean towards the former.
Compare it with his detail entry on the Covenant. He details a lot more on the covenant than he does about the reclaimers, or what he really did on Halo 04. It seems more and more like he didn't want whoever was reading the log to know about what really happened, because he would give on too much.
Well, my judgement seems to have failed me for once. The Reclaimer has initiated a reaction in the engine system of a very dirty spacecraft. Data suggests it will destroy installation 4 utterly. I believe discretion might be the better part of valor. I have attempted to fulfill my responsibilities to the best of my ability.
Well, Guily Spark has undoubtedly spoken short this time. He stopped the countdown, disabled command access, rummanged through Cortana's data arrays, and had his sentinels fight the flood as well as the rogue Reclaimer in the Autumn's Engine Room, and he and his sentinels did have an opportunity to stop the Chief from blowing off each of the Autumn's reactors manually. None of that is mentioned.
The Autumn is referred to as a "Very Dirty Spacecraft" instead of being correctly identified as a Warship(He called Cortana a Warship's AI in the Maw, he knows what the Autumn is). And what about the stuff he discovered inside those data arrays? He seriously is giving misleading or incomplete data in that log.
Well, everything is in a terrible state. The installation is ruined. I am stuck here in the middle of nowhere with only impulse propulsion, and the only good news is that the Flood breach has been halted, albeit inelegantly.
Detail Installation 4 destroyed/nuclear reaction/Flood containment achieved by Reclaimer
This time, what he says is relevant, and there is nothing lacking between the details and the text. He has nothing to hide here- except that he had that Gas Giant Facility of his nearby.
Excellent! I believe I see assistance approaching...
This last line makes you wonder. The assistance approaching was probably the Heretics, and he must have hitched a ride with them. "Hitchhikers may be escaping convicts"-anyone remember? This hitchhiker couldn't have so convieniently hitched a ride with the meddling covenant morons (In any case, sentinels on both halos are hostile to the covenant), he probably did send his sentinels against them whenever they threatened to worsen the crisis on the ring. Either there was an ONI prowler in the Halo 04 system-and Spark would have seen ONI at work on the ring- or it was a heretic transport he called from the Gas Giant facility, the Heretics already being established there at that time. It's hard to say.
Narc is bound to blast the idea that the Heretics were formed from forces on Alpha Halo-although it is perfectly possible. In any case, I don't have time to explain. Auf Wiedersehen, Rampancy!
With some time to kill recently, I browsed through my movies folder and looked for a few small things to watch. I came across the Halo 2 announcement trailer and the Halo 2 Realtime Demo.
Having watched the latter, I was especially struck by some of the themes I explored when comparing Halo 2 and Half-Life 2, as well as some of the contrasts between Halo 2 and Halo 1 with regard to the use of cutscenes versus interactive portions of gameplay for the purposes of relating story.
Much was made of the fact that the realtime demo was just that: a portion of a level played out by Bungie staffers doing a live demonstration, bookended with two cutscenes. The opening cutscene shows a Pelican carrying Sergeant Johnson and the Master Chief down to New Mombasa and landing; in the analogous sequence in the game, that Pelican crashes. The cutscene ends when the Pelican lands and the Master Chief disembarks; the change in the screen's aspect ratio signals this change.
However, the non-combat interactivity doesn't stop there. The Master Chief passes medics assisting injured marines and overhears their comments, and observes as Cortana, through the Chief, interacts with a corporal presiding over the death of the lieutenant at the scene, who then directs the chief to the new officer in command, Sergeant Banks. Sergeant Banks greets you, and then we see him call in an airstrike on a nearby Covenant artillery piece that has Banks' men pinned down. As we watch, three Longswords swoop in overhead and take out the artillery.
All this occurs during normal gameplay. As with nearly all such sequences in Half-Life 2, the player could have wandered away and missed part or even all of it. Valve seemed unafraid of this possibility, as they included virtually no cutscenes in Half-Life 2 at all.
I'm so thoroughly convinced now that Halo 3 is actually being made that I've had the Halo 3 logo tattooed on my own baby-soft flesh, an experience I can assure you is not entirely unlike enduring plasma weapons fire.
While jarring the memory of a long-time source within Bungie, Rampancy came across definitive proof that despite evidence to the contrary, graphical and otherwise, the studio is, in fact, hard at work on developing Halo 3 for the Xbox 360, with a simultaneous release planned for March 2007, along with the Halo movie currently being shot in New Zealand.
However, the most intriguing bits aren't just about the film (which everyone already knows about) or the game (which nobody has said much about) but about how the two are going to interact with each other.
In selected theaters, ushers will be choosing 16 members of the audience (based on Bungie swag quotients) to be seated in the front row, where each will receive a wireless Xbox 360 controller. Throughout the film, there will be opportunities for these players to impact the direction the story takes by answering multiple choice questions using their controllers. Despite consistent rumors that Cortana might betray the Master Chief and humanity to Gravemind and the Flood, in fact it is the Chief who will be forced to choose whether to rescue or abandon her, with the fate of humanity and the entire galaxy hanging in the balance. The Halo feature film will include seven different endings; which one the audience sees will depend on the choices these 16 people make, much in the way the old Dragon's Lair and Space Ace laserdisc games were played.
But that's not all. The film's action-packed climax won't be on a film reel at all. At that point, each of the sixteen players will take up their controllers and assume the role of one of sixteen Spartan warriors, and the ultimate battle sequence will play out as a sixteen-player split-screen cooperative campaign level, generated in real-time in high definition using the Halo 3 engine on an array of Xbox 360s. For this reason, only the largest theaters with digital projection systems will be used. In theaters without such capabilities, and ending will be selected at random and prerendered battle sequences fought by Bungie employees during playtesting will be substituted.
While the actual story of the new Halo game and film are still closely-guarded secrets, we can be sure it will visit delights on the world without equal in history or myth.
WARNING: This article contains spoilers not only for the Halo games but also the Half-Life games, so beware!
I'm not writing about Halo 3 this week.
Really, I'm not. Instead, I'm taking a side-by-side look at two of the biggest FPS games today: Halo and Half-Life.
Before anyone had ever heard of Halo, I was already cursing the luck that put all the games I wanted to play onto hardware I didn't own: namely, the PC of a good friend, where I got to see the original Half-Life and play a bit of it. I was immediately reminded of the first Unreal game as well as Marathon. It seemed to be a game that, while it was a first-person shooter, was unlike most of the games in that genre that were popular at the time: twitch games where character and story took a back seat to action and colored lighting.
N1NJ4 is writing an Insane Walkthrough of Stubbs the Zombie in his Rampancy.net blog. Naturally, it contains spoilers, so if you haven't played the game yet but intend to, be wary. The first level, Welcome to Punchbowl, is up now.
The Hilton Head IslandPacket has a nice review of Stubbs the Zombie up that has two major negative points: one, it spoils part of the plot of the game in its second paragraph, and two, it suggests that because the game is too short, it's a better rental than a purchase. (This is what happens when you play Halo engine games on "Easy"--Ed.)
The Pillar of Autumn
Halo's story begins with Captain Jacob Keyes, commander of the UNSC ship Pillar of Autumn, on the bridge of his ship as it is emerging from a faster-than-light jump through slipspace. The ship has just fled the Covenant invasion of the colony known as Reach, and following the Cole Protocol procedure that requires making randomized jumps to conceal the location of Earth, has arrived at a large ringworld structure situated at a LaGrange point between a large gas giant and its moon.
Keyes inquires with the onboard AI, named Cortana, who appears as a foot-high purple hologram of a young woman, about whether or not they have shaken their Covenant pursuers: it appears they have not. Keyes orders the crew to prepare for combat.
Crewmen elsewhere on the ship reviving John 117, the Master Chief, a SPARTAN II soldier wearing Mjolnir Mark V power armor, from a cryo chamber. After that, Covenant Elites break into the cryo control room, killing the crewmen, and you are instructed to go to the Bridge to meet with Captain Keyes. The crewman accompanying you is killed by an explosion, but between now and when you reach the Bridge for a second cutscene, you are largely safe from harm. You are weaponless, and while you walk past and through several battles between Grunts, Elites, and UNSC Marines, getting killed is hard if not impossible, and invisible walls separate you from most hostile units, so you can't get in much trouble.
When you arrive on the Bridge, Keyes gives you your first orders: you are to take the onboard AI, Cortana, with you and escape to the surface of the ringworld to prevent her from being destroyed or captured by the enemy. Keyes gives you an empty pistol.
You spend the rest of the level assisting Marines in repelling the Covenant boarders, that have attached their boarding craft to the docking points for the Pillar's escape capsules. After a brief detour through parts of the ship's maintenance accessways, you reach the last available escape capsule with a handful of Marines, and the pod launches towards the surface of the ringworld. On the way down, Cortana notes that Keyes is still onboard the Pillar of Autumn, and piloting the ship down on manual control.
Editor's Note: There is a lot of background material about Reach, the genesis of the SPARTAN program and its creator, Dr. Halsey, as well as the other SPARTANs and the special mission for which the Master Chief, Captain Keyes, Cortana and the Pillar of Autumn were originally chosen in the novelization The Fall of Reach by Eric Nylund. While informative, it is not, strictly speaking, essential to understanding the plot of the game although it does lead to a greater appreciation for the detail that Bungie has put into the story. However, those events and details are outside the scope of this summary.
The second is the game's titular level, even though none of the characters in the game have even mentioned the word "Halo", which we find out later is the name the Covenant use for the ringworld structure.
The escape capsule's air brakes fail and it crashlands, hard, on a grassy knoll near a waterfall. You awake to find the pilot and other Marines aboard the capsule dead, and a convenient pile of weapons, ammunition, and grenades just outside. As you begin to explore the area around the capsule, a Covenant dropship will arrive and drop off troops apparently looking for you. Later, two Banshee flyers will attack.
Your mission on this level, broadly speaking, is to link up with other Marine survivors. On the other side of a bridge and on the other side of a rise away from the waterfall area where your pod crashed is a structure where a group of Marines are attempting to hold off waves of Covenant units (Elites, Grunts, and Jackals) brought in by dropships. When all are defeated (whether or not you save any Marines) a Pelican dropship piloted by Foe Hammer will arrive, drop off a Warthog jeep, and take away any excess survivors. It will be useful to try and keep at least one or two Marines with you in the Warthog, especially on the LAAG cannon mounted on the back. Marines cannot drive the Warthog, as they do in Halo 2 (and some might say that is a good thing). The level is divided in half by a subterranean system of tunnels bifurcated by a chasm that you can cross by activating a light bridge guarded by other Covenant units. On the other side of the bridge, you emerge from the tunnels in another area with hills, rockslides, a river and a waterfall. Here you must link up with Marines from three crashed escape pods; after each of the three encounters are finished, Foe Hammer will arrive again to take survivors aboard, and after the last one, you will go with her as Cortana has revealed that Captain Keyes has been captured by the Covenant.
Editor's Note: This is one of the few non-linear levels in Halo, as each of the three escape pod locations is accessible, and can be played in any order. Some players have manipulated the circumstances of these scripted encounters to create "megabattles" by concentrating reinforcements in one location. It is also possible to collect multiple Warthog jeeps on this level, as if you leave the one you took to get to an encounter in the central "hub" area, Foe Hammer will bring another one to you when she airlifts Marine survivors.
Truth and Reconciliation
The Covenant cruiser Truth & Reconciliation was disabled by Cortana before the Pillar of Autumn crashed. Captain Keyes, as well as other Marines, are now being held on board, and your mission is to find a way into the cruiser, rescue the Captain, and then escape.
The approach to the cruiser happens on a cliffside after nightfall, and most of the action is based around stealth and sniping. At the entrance to the cruiser itself, a device called a gravity lift, we see Hunters for the first time in the game: massive, tall, blue armor-plated beasts with FRGs (fuel rod guns) molded into their right arms and huge metallic shields on their left.
From then on it is a corridor crawl inside the Covenant ship. You'll pass through several large areas, including a hangar deck and a control room, before reaching the second of two brigs where Captain Keyes and his men are held prisoner.
Normally in Halo you don't need to worry about saving Marines; but in order to complete the level you have to safely escort Keyes back to the hangar bay to escape in a dropship. As Keyes often leaps ahead of you armed with a Needler, this is sometimes difficult.
In the brig scene, Keyes lets you in on a few things: that the Covenant call the ringworld "Halo", that it is supposedly some kind of superweapon that will give whomever controls it the ability to control the fate of the universe, and that they are seeking its Control Room.
You accompany a group of Marines in two dropships to an island where Cortana tells you there is an installation known as the silent cartographer, which is a map room that should tell her the location of the Control Room. You need to clear the beach, clear out one minor installation of Covenant to deactivate a security lockout so you can infiltrate the second installation, a deep shaft at the bottom of which is the map room. When you activate the map, Cortana tells you that it shows her where the Control Room is, and that the structure appears to be a "shrine or temple" of some sort, which she finds odd. Foe Hammer arrives and takes you off, whereupon Cortana opens a huge hatch on the top of the island and directs the Pelican to carry them into it, towards their next destination, the Control Room.
Assault on the Control Room
Easily one of the game's largest levels, Assault on the Control Room features a broad mix of indoor and snowdrifted exterior environments, as well as a mix of play using vehicles, including a Warthog jeep, the human Scorpion tank, and Covenant Ghosts, Banshee flyers and Wraith tanks. Unlike in Halo 2, some vehicles, such as the Wraith, cannot be driven, even if empty; and killing Covenant pilots nearly always destroys the vehicle, whereas human vehicles like the Warthog are utterly indestructible. The objective is fairly simple: you follow arrows on the floor towards the Control Room at the end of the game; a large pyramid structure, inside of which is a huge chamber showing a holographic map both of the planetary system and the surface of Halo itself.
Once you get there, you connect Cortana to the system. She discovers that Halo was built by something called a Forerunner; they called it a Fortress world. She also finds that Captain Keyes, who thinks he is looking for a hidden weapons cache elsewhere on the ring, is about to make a potentially fatal mistake; she indicates that the Covenant themselves do not seem to be aware of the potential danger. She orders you to find Keyes and stop him.
343 Guilty Spark
Foe Hammer drops you off in a swamp exterior near Keyes' crashed dropship. You proceed through the jungle, past minor Covenant resistance (Grunts and Jackals only, no Elites on this level at all) into an underground structure, where everywhere there is evidence of chaos among the Covenant ranks.
On the way you'll find a marine that will explain a bit of what happened-- that something came and took the other Marines, and that he escaped by playing dead. He calls them only "monsters", and if you stand in front of you too long he'll fire his pistol at you.
In the middle of the level you'll reach a room with only one exit and entrance and a cutscene will play; you see the recording of a Private Jenkins, as he, Sargeant Johnson and Captain Keyes and his men land, proceed into the installation, find a set of doors locked by the Covenant, and find themselves attacked by Flood infection forms; sporelike parasites that infect Human and Covenant units and transform them into gurgling Flood combat forms.
After the recording you'll be attacked yourself and you'll be forced to flee back to the jungle surface, pursued by Flood and occasionally watching battles between either Marines and Flood or Covenant and Flood. When you finally make your way to the surface, another party of Marines is waiting there, and Foe Hammer contacts you by radio to instruct you and the troops to head for a nearby tower structure for pickup. Along the way the Flood harass you from all sides.
When you reach the tower, the final cutscene plays, where the spherical, blue, humming, Marathon-symbol-wearing 343 Guilty Spark, the Monitor of Installation 04, appears before you and explains that the outbreak of the Flood must be stopped, and teleports you to the Library to retrieve the Index and activate Halo to "contain the Flood".
Editor's Note: This level is a real gem; a fine balance of story, environment, and gameplay. It doesn't feature a lot of combat, aside from the second half with the Flood. You get to fight Flood with Marines at the end; sadly, this is the last time you'll see a living Marine in the game. There aren't many Covenant units at all. But the atmosphere of the level, the ambient music and sounds, the jungle rain and fog, are all just perfect.
Abandon all hope, ye who enter here... but at least pay attention. In this level you must ascend to the top of this massive, dark structure and retrieve the green glowing artifact called The Index. With the help of 343 Guilty Spark and his floating Sentinels, armed with beam weapons, you fight off the Flood that are infesting the structure. The Library is one of the most reviled levels; all the corridors are dark and each of the "levels" you proceed through look the same. You only fight Flood infection, combat and carrier forms here: no Marines or Covenant to break the monotony and no vehicles, or outdoor areas: not even a window.
The level is worth playing to hear all the things 343 Guilty Spark says, if you can hear them over the Flood gurgles and the explosions of grenades and rockets. Apparently, Halo was designed and built to contain and study the Flood. He calls you "reclaimer", leading to rampant speculation that either humanity themselves are the forerunners, or that the Master Chief goes back in time later in the Halo series. He chides you for your choice of weak weapons, urges you to get a better suit, and indicates that soon the Flood will begin to alter the ring's atmosphere.
When you finally reach the Index, Guilty Spark takes it from you, saying that your biological nature makes you vulnerable to the Flood, which requires him to keep the Index safe for transport. Then both of you teleport to the Control Room.
While returning to the Control Room with 343 Guilty Spark, the monitor is mentioning that factors in being susceptible Flood infection are biomass and intelligence.
The monitor gives the Index back to you to insert into the Control Room's panels, and the system appears to start powering up; at that point, a red-eyed "rampant Cortana" appears to stop the process. She reveals that activating Halo doesn't kill the Flood, but rather all sentient life, and 343 Guilty Spark confirms it. Cortana takes possession of the Index; and when the Master Chief refuses Spark's order to return it and evacuate Cortana from the Core, the monitor summons sentinels who float up from the shaft underneath the holographic map.
Despite advanced Forerunner technology, the Sentinels aren't nearly as difficult opponents as what you'll face further along, and the game has helpfully started you out with a plasma pistol and it's tracking alt-fire bursts, perfect for downing Sentinels in a single shot. Hit them when they are near to one another and the explosion can damage other nearby targets, making it even easier. The transparent walls around the control room's center ring make handy cover.
When the Sentinels are dealt with, Cortana reveals your new ultimate mission: to destroy Halo to prevent its activation. Ultimately, to do so you'll use the fusion engines of the Pillar of Autumn. Before that, however, she'll ask you to find and disable three pulse generators located in the canyons around the Control Room. Coincidentally, these are located in the same canyons you passed through on your way to the control room in the first place; nearly all the level geometry from Assault on the Control Room is reused here, and the pulse generator rooms are actually present in that previous level, just behind locked doors. You won't go as far as the initial indoor areas and the landing spot in AotCR, although it is possible to get there by using some vehicle tricks to push yourself through locked doors.
Along your route you'll fight Flood as well as Covenant units, while the two groups are themselves locked in combat. Where Banshees were an unexpected bonus in AotCR if you played a few tricks to get them, here they are essential, as each of the entrances to the pulse generators are above ground and accessible only by air.
Although the geometry is the same, the mood is entirely different; the darkened sky, the falling snow, the music and the complete lack of any live human marines all create a sense of foreboding. For sheer atmosphere, this is one of the best levels. Watching Flood and Covenant at each other's throats in the dim light, you really feel like you are completely lost and alone.
The first outdoor area from AotCR is as far as you'll have to go; that's where you'll pick up the last Banshee you need and head back, towards the last pulse generator.
Bungie's played a nice little trick here; at the second pulse generator, there's heavy Flood presence. Why is a bit of a mystery-- not to mention how they got up there! Given that you're there trying to deactivate Halo, something you'd assume would be in the Flood's best interests, it's mysterious that they seem to be trying to stop you. Then again, perhaps their much-vaunted intelligence doesn't really count for much.
Once you've taken out the pulse generator by stepping into it, Flood leap from the side tunnels and enter through the door behind you. On legendary, getting out of this room alive takes a bit of doing, as the Flood entering the room are armed with rockets.
The last generator, though, is undefended, and the eerie quiet in the room once you've entered is clearly designed to make you wonder what's going to happen when you disable it.
All that does happen is that Cortana says she's found a way to access the ring's teleportation grid and power it with your suit, something she says she's only willing to try once, and whisks you into the next level. To destroy the ship, she says, you need either Captain Keyes or his neural implants; so the next task is to find him.
Given that you've just both betrayed and been betrayed by the floating, glowing Monitor of Installation 04, determined yourself to destroy the fantastical floating ring in space called Halo that just happens to be a life-killing superweapon, and in the process eliminating not only the Covenant, most of your surviving fellow humans, and the Flood now loose on the ring, and are about to embark on a mission that ends with you ripping the goo-covered neural implants from the skull cavity of your now grossly overweight and Flood-infected former captain, it's not out of place that Bungie should try to lighten the mood with a bit of comic relief. Which is exactly what they do as Cortana teleports you into a damaged Covenant cruiser upside-down and then apologizes for it.
Frustratingly, you've been teleported to a hallway just next to your eventual destination. You can peer through the perforated wall into the Chamber where the Keyes blob is, but without some precision trickery involving a sunroof and a Covenant shield generator, you're not going to get there except by going around the long way.
The captain knows you're there as well, and is still human enough to warn you against attempting a rescue... again. Bungie's not fooling anybody here, though. From the agonizing sound of the captain's voice, he's not making it out of here alive.
Not as much story is revealed through the gameplay of this level than in preceeding levels. We've already seen Flood and Covenant fighting, and you'll get a lot of this. At most points, unless you really feel like jumping in like Rambo without a jock strap, it's best to let the sides even up on each other before taking out the stragglers.
Early on you'll be forced to leave the ship and reenter it through a gravlift, so you'll certainly get some more deja vu, as you did in the previous level.
This level is also home to one of the nastier tricks, where large number of Flood will spawn in a cavity above an open ceiling panel and jump down behind and in front of you. The effect is rather like every monster closet in the Doom series; you've got to wonder what the Flood are doing up there and why, in discrete groups, they descend upon you exactly as you pass through a very specific point on the floor. Of course, most scripted encounters are in principle very similar; the tight quarters just emphasizes the mechanics of what is happening.
One location you'll recognize on your way through to the captain is the hangar bay. This may, or may not, be the same ship you were on earlier in the game, the Truth and Reconciliation. The game doesn't tell you, although author of Halo: The Flood, William C. Deitz, says that it is. No matter; all the polygons are the same, only the cast and lighting have changed. Mark the spot well; just as in that earlier level you have to return here to escape, this time in a stolen Banshee instead of a dropship. You've also seen your last dropship, as Halo 2's phantoms take over that role in the next game.
In the cruiser's control room you find what's become of the captain: a bloated flood-filled bag of pus growing tentacles (one of which is smoking the captain's pipe) and with a barely-recognizable face. Which you then punch to retrieve the neural implants before fighting your way back to the hangar.
Once there, getting out of the level while avoiding a fight (should you choose to) is about as easy as it was in Truth and Reconciliation; as the Banshees enter the hangar, you can drop down on top of one without dying. Enter the vehicle quickly and make your way out the open bay door and you're home free.
Of course, you might be home free, but you can never go home. That's what your return to the Pillar of Autumn seems to prove. Although this level does include areas you've seen before, like the bridge, and the cryo chamber; of all the reused levels less of this architecture is actually reused. A large portion of the level is taken up by the engineering room and the warthog racetrack that leads to the longsword in the hangar bay.
But before all that you've got to get to the bridge. Flood have taken over the ship, as 343 Guilty Spark warned you back in The Library, but the Covenant haven't given up without a fight, as they are also trying to use the PoA to escape from Halo. A few sentinels will harass you from outside the ship, but that's really just for window dressing, unless you plan on using one of them to surf down to the bottom of the level.
Once you make your way to the Covenant-held bridge, Cortana will set the ship for self destruct, only to be stymied by 343 Guilty Spark, who is catching up on human history, what he calls "all of our lost time" from Engineering. The Master Chief's answer to this conundrum is to detonate the engines manually, with a rocket or grenade to each of the six engine casings.
After that, it's a quick elevator trip to pick up a ride and head to the launch bay, where the Master Chief, Cortana onboard, get on a Longsword fighter and escape from the Autumn, which then self-destructs, destroying itself and Halo in the process.
Echo 419's pilot, Foe Hammer, was supposed to meet you at an external access junction along the way, but was shot down by Banshees in the attempt.
On board the Longsword, Cortana says she detects nothing but
Dustin Echoes dust and echoes, implying that no one else has survived the cataclysmic destruction of Halo, but that the elimination of the Covenant fleet and the prevention of the escape of the Flood from Halo justifies this.
After the final credits roll, we see that at least one other did survive, as 343 Guilty Sparks streaks by the screen through empty space.
IGN has a four-page wrapup on how well Halo 2 lived up to its hype, how some expectations were so high they were bound to lead to disappointment, and how the game does, in fact, fall short in some areas. A nicely rounded description-- it almost sounds like it's from a Bungie fan and not an Xbox game reviewer. Thanks Louis Wu.
UPDATE: IGN has added some fan responses to their Epilogue article.
Rampancy has added an annotated summary of Halo 2's plot, called the Halo 2 Story Summary to our Halo 2 Guide; comments, questions, arguments are most welcome! However, beware-- while this is certainly not a walkthrough and does not go into specific details about how to defeat enemies within the game, it will spoil the story for you if you haven't played the game yet.
The Heretic / Armory / Cairo Station
The opening cutscene shows the two major plot threads that will progress through Halo 2: the fate of Master Chief, Sergeant Johnson, and the rest of the human forces, which includes Commander Miranda Keyes, the daughter of the late Captain Jacob Keyes, and Lord Hood, apparently a ranking official in UNSC; and the fate of an unnamed gold Covenant Elite we come to know as The Arbiter, who was in command of the Covenant forces at Halo installation 04 and is consequently disgraced, accused of heresy, and then secretly sent on a special mission by the three Prophet Hierarchs of the Covenant: Truth, Mercy, and Regret.
The Arbiter is blamed for allowing the Pillar of Autumn to escape from Reach to Halo, as well as for the Master Chief's destruction of that ring. The Arbiter blames this on the Flood parasite and his inability to predict the Chief's actions. He is stripped of his rank and armor, and tortured by the white-mohawked Brute, Tartarus. These scenes also reintroduce us to the massive, hairy, apelike Brute race, first seen in the E3 2003 realtime demo. A more recent addition to the Covenant, they seem less sophisticated and less honorable than the Elites, although no less brutal and fearsome.
The Master Chief and Sergeant Johnson are decorated for their service on board the orbital defense station Cairo, but the ceremony is interrupted by a relatively small Covenant fleet led by the Prophet of Regret. The Cairo, as well as other orbital defense stations, such as the Malta, are boarded by Covenant forces. Lord Hood orders Commander Keyes to get aboard her ship, In Amber Clad and orders the Master Chief to repel the station's boarders.
While battling the Covenant boarders, Cortana reveals to you that the Covenant have placed a bomb on board, apparently planning to destroy the orbital stations and their deadly MAC guns to make it safe for the approach of a larger fleet. Master Chief locates this bomb, takes it with him to a hangar bay, and free falls through space with it, guiding it into a Covenant ship before safely hard-landing on the hull of In Amber Clad. In this level you'll encounter the first of several new units, the insect-like Drones that can fly.
Editor's Note: Longtime fans will, of course, recognize the final cutscene of this level from Halo 2's announcement trailer revealed in early 2002; the addition of the sea urchin-like Covenant bomb makes perfect sense, plot-wise, but detracts somewhat from the romance of the scene; in the original trailer half of the impact comes from wondering exactly what the Chief hopes to achieve by hurling himself out a hangar window, a question that conjures images of him improvising a one-man boarding party on a Covenant cruiser.
Outskirts / Metropolis
Johnson and the Chief head down to Mombassa, Africa in a Pelican and are shot down by a large four-legged Covenant land vehicle called a Scarab. They progress through the streets of Old Mombassa, across a suspension bridge into New Mombassa, and eventually find and destroy the Scarab. On the way you encounter the new-look Hunters with upgraded weaponry; they are no longer vulnerable to single shot kills. You'll also see Jackals without their tell-tale shields, which means they are toting Beam Rifles, the Covenant sniper weapon.
After the destruction of the Scarab, the cruiser belonging to the Prophet of Regret prepares to make a slipspace jump from just above the surface of the Earth. The Master Chief and Sergeant Johnson get aboard In Amber Clad just in time for the ship to propel itself into the slipspace wake of Regret's ship, following it. The ship's jump lays waste to New Mombassa.
Editor's Note: As many fans have already pointed out, Cortana notes in First Strike that she is able to use the slipspace engines and plasma weapons more accurately and efficiently than the Covenant themselves do, an indication of their continual misunderstandings of Forerunner legacies, whether technological or otherwise. That Regret's ship is able to execute this slipspace jump indicates that her knowledge has been assimilated by the Covenant, perhaps by the AI on the Ascendant Justice.
The Arbiter / The Oracle
The disgraced Elite is brought before two of the Hierarchs, Truth and Mercy (the third, Regret, appears as a hologram, as he does many times throughout the game) and told that he will not be executed outright, but will serve in a special position as The Arbiter; a role that is always suicidal and has been pivotal in many parts of Covenant history. To this end he receives new armor that will distinguish him from the rest of the Covenant.
The story here makes its first perspective switch, and players finally see that they are actually going to guide the actions of The Arbiter during gameplay. The first mission is to pursue an Elite called the Heretic, who the Hierarchs say is telling lies to the Covenant. He is hiding on a Forerunner station in the atmosphere of Threshold, the gas giant near the remains of Halo installation 04. The Heretic has supporters among various Covenant castes, including Elites and Grunts, which are distinguished from your own forces by differences in costume and coloration.
Throughout the level the Heretic taunts you with the statement that the Prophets are lying about the Great Journey. You pursue him throughout the station, including an interlude where he flees on a Banshee and you must give chase with the support of a Phantom and its three powerful plasma guns. Finally he ensconces himself behind a plasma shield as a powerful storm threatens to destroy the station.
In the second half we become aware of the fact that the Flood are loose on the station, and were possibly stored there or escaped there from Halo 04.
Editor's Note: Joe Staten on the LE DVD notes that this station apparently predates the Halo structures and was where Forerunners first "encountered" the Flood.
In an act of desperation, the Spec Ops Elite leader accompanying you gives his plasma sword to the Arbiter so you to cut the three cables that hold the station in place.
When you finally catch up with the Heretic in a hangar, he at first seems to try and persuade you to his cause, revealing that 343 Guilty Spark is with him, and again accusing the Hierarchs of lying without saying precisely what they have lied about. Then the Heretic fires on you and releases several holograms of himself. When you defeat him, Guilty Spark expresses regret because the Heretic's education had given him satisfaction. The Brute, Tartarus, arrives, takes 343 Guilty Spark prisoner, and the three of you leave the station before the storm destroys it.
Editor's Note: That the Heretic's efforts to convince you to believe him are half-hearted make the entire encounter seem a bit symbolic; as many players no doubt already suspect that he is, in fact, right about the Prophets, which is seemingly confirmed by 343 Guilty Spark, you may find yourself wishing that you had the option to instead join with him and turn on Tartarus; the kind of option offered players of games like Deus Ex. The fight against the Heretic and his holographic cronies is the first of Halo 2's three "boss battles" which feature enemies that must be fought with different tactics than other units.
Delta Halo / Regret
Switching back to the Master Chief, In Amber Clad exits slipspace behind Regret's cruiser to find they've arrived at another Halo installation. Sergeant Johnson is ordered to take his troops to the surface in Pelican dropships, while the Master Chief and a group of Helljumper ODSTs perform a hard-drop in pods. You link up with other marine forces and push your way through Covenant resistance, fighting among ancient-looking, vine-ridden ruins, eventually passing over a lake using two gondolas and under it through two underwater elevators, and arrive at a structure where the Prophet of Regret is delivering his sermon. Arriving at the structure, you look overhead to see an enormous Covenant fleet arrive from slipspace, including the massive Covenant capital, High Charity. After defeating the Prophet of Regret, the fleet turns its weapons on the installation, vaporizing it. You escape into the water and are captured by the tentacles of the giant plant-like character, Gravemind.
Editor's Note: Regret has been apologizing for his premature attack on Earth; I myself think it likely that he was targeted for elimination by the other Hierarchs anyway, and that even if the Master Chief had not killed Regret, Mercy and Truth would have ordered the fleet to vaporize him anyway. The fight with Regret is one of Halo's three "boss battles" in which you encounter enemies that must be fought in a particular way.
Sacred Icon / Quarantine Zone
On High Charity, the death of the Prophet of Regret at the hands of the Master Chief is used as justification for replacing the Honor Guard of Elites that protect the Prophets with Brutes. Both the Arbiter and the Spec Ops leader object to no avail, but the Elites are seriously disgruntled (no pun intended) and the first hints of the Covenant breaking apart along racial lines can be seen.
Tartarus drops the Arbiter off at a structure on Installation 05 called the Wall, a barrier guarding the Library. A protective shield prevents entry to the area; your first task is to deactivate this shield. The area is full of piston-like structures, some of which must be activated to gain access to other levels. The Wall is defended by Sentinels similar to those found on Halo 04, although some have more powerful beam weapons, and Enforcers, much larger foes that have shields and fire two weapons; one similar to the Needler and the other similar to the rocket launcher. In behavior and appearance they resemble the armored Pfhor vehicles called Juggernaughts from the Marathon series.
When you finally arrive inside Halo 05's Library, you find that Sergeant Johnson and Miranda Keyes have arrived ahead of you. Tartarus seizes them and the Index and throws you off a precipice.
Editor's Note: This pair of levels essentially replace The Library from the first game, and feature a much wider selection of environments, weapons, and vehicles in your encounters with the Flood. While much prettier to look at, though, it is still basically fighting zombies in the dark.
You awaken in the grip of Gravemind, who now has both the Arbiter and the Master Chief in his tentacles. Gravemind appears like nothing so much as the plant from outer space, Audrey II, in Little Shop of Horrors. He makes some cursory character judgments of the two, to which the Arbiter objects. There with Gravemind (or rather a part of him, depending) are the Prophet of Regret and 2401 Penitent Tangent, the Monitor of Installation 05. Regret and PT trade barbs, as Regret wants to finish his sermon. He claims that the Great Journey cannot take place until he does. PT disagrees, saying that Installation 05 has a service record that includes many simulated-- and one actual-- firing, and is ready to be operated. Regret accuses PT of having no knowledge of the Great Journey, and PT accuses Regret of ignoring basic protocols for the containment of the Flood. Gravemind interjects that the Great Journey and containment (the firing of the Halo) are the same, and teleports the Arbiter and the Master Chief to two places he thinks the Index might be in order to prevent the installation from being activated.
Editor's Note: Cortana's input is, remarkably, almost entirely missing from this exchange, as the only words she utters are "what is that?" Within the context of the game it is not made clear what the relationship is between the Flood infection, carrier and combat forms and Gravemind, if any. His name, as well as his absorption of Regret, seems to indicate that his nature is somehow related to preserving the mind and memories of dead individuals or perhaps even species, and in that sense, his ability to animate otherwise dead tissue might form some kind of connection to the Flood. Whether he directs the actions of individual Flood combat forms is unclear. That both the Chief and the Arbiter accept orders from their new companion is also quite strange, especially given that the Arbiter in particular seems suspicious of him.
The Master Chief is teleported into a room aboard High Charity where the prophets of Truth and Mercy are broadcasting the triumphant recovery of the Index and the impending Great Journey to the Covenant; with limited weapons, no way out of the room, and several waves of incoming Brutes and Grunts, the scenario is more than slightly reminiscent of the gravity lift room in the "Into the Belly of the Beast" chapter of Truth & Reconciliation in Halo 1. Throughout this level, Covenant discipline is breaking down; the Elites and Grunts are on one side, and Brutes, Jackals and Drones are on the other. However, this helps you very little, as all sides will attack the Chief if they get a chance.
Cortana asks to be dropped off into High Charity's systems, and for the rest of the game she assists you at various intervals, appearing on hologram generators throughout the city.
Pursuing the two Prophets with the Index throughout the city, when you arrive Truth and Tartarus has escaped on a Phantom with the Index, and Mercy has been attacked by a Flood infection form and left for dead, while Pelican dropships piloted by Flood begin raining down all over High Charity.
Editor's Note: The timing here is interesting, in that just at the moment where it is clear that the Chief has failed to secure the Index, Flood attack the city. It is possible that Gravemind is in control of Flood forces, and having deemed the MC's mission to be a failure, sees no reason to restrain his minions from attacking him. Or it could simply be coincidence.
The Arbiter is teleported to the surface of Halo 05, in a forest environment similar to the Delta Halo / Regret level pair. Your task is, supposedly, to look for the Index, but this isn't mentioned in the objective texts at all, that instruct you to take revenge on the "Brute traitors"; a pejorative that seems unfair as the Brutes are following the Prophets' orders (however misguided) and it is, in fact, the Elites that are rebelling.
In what is easily the most frustrating twist of the whole game, after arriving on the platform to find Mercy being sucked on by an infection form and hearing that Truth is headed "to Earth, to finish what we started" (presumably the Great Journey) In Amber Clad, apparently piloted by Flood, crashes into High Charity, and all over the city Pelicans carrying Flood start to appear.
Cortana orders you to head back through High Charity, now swarming with Flood as well as with Covenant civil war. Thankfully, the level is short. As it ends, Truth has arrived at the Forerunner spacecraft that forms the core and power source of the City, and is disengaging it to begin his journey to Earth. The Chief stows himself aboard, but Cortana stays behind on High Charity, saying that their failsafe plan-- the destruction of Halo 05 using the engines of In Amber Clad-- should not be executed remotely. Master Chief starts to promise to return for her once he has dealt with Truth, and Cortana urges him not to make promises he can't keep. The Master Chief then stows aboard the Forerunner craft.
Editor's Note: How Cortana intends to use In Amber Clad isn't entirely clear, as it had apparently crashed on the surface of High Charity, not Halo 05; perhaps they are close enough that the explosion would destroy Halo was well. In addition, that the center of the city is a Forerunner ship that powers it is not clear until the end; so at any moment before that they might have feared that High Charity would exit the area via slipspace, bringing In Amber Clad out of range of Halo 05 and making its destruction meaningless. Also, as she is not actually on board the ship, it seems that any detonation would, by definition, be "remote"; this has led some fans to speculate that she has another motive for remaining in the Covenant system, perhaps related to the "resistance" she vaguely mentions encountering during the level.
The Great Journey
As the Arbiter you arrive outside the Control Room structure of Halo 05 and greet the Spec Ops commander once again, this time at the controls of a Wraith tank. Tartarus and Commander Keyes are inside, and he intends to activate the ring. Using a combination of vehicles, including Wraiths and Banshees and (if you so choose, hijacked ghosts) you fight your way to a Scarab, which is then piloted by Sergeant Johnson, who rather inexplicably is open to helping you despite having apparently gotten no explanation of the current situation. He uses the Scarab to force an entry to the control room, where you land a Banshee and proceed inside to the final encounter with the Brute, Tartarus, which is Halo 2's third and final "boss battle" and the only one in which you get assistance from other units: in this case, Sergeant Johnson.
Tartarus is forcing Miranda Keyes to reunite the Index with the Core of Halo 05 to trigger the installation to fire. After you defeat Tartarus, she recovers the Index, and 343 Guilty Spark, brought there by Tartarus, explains that the interruption of installation 05's firing sequence has triggered a message to the remaining Halo installations, which will be put into a "standby" mode, in which they can be ordered to fire from a location referred to as The Ark.
Editor's Note: That Tartarus takes Keyes as well as the Index into the Control Room seems to indicate that the Covenant are now aware, if they perhaps were not earlier, of the essential role of humans, or Reclaimers, in the process of activating the Halo; something which is most likely offensive to them dogmatically, and perhaps the source of Mercy's cryptic remark upon his death that "this time, none of you will be left behind."
Truth arrives at Earth aboard the Forerunner ship, and just as Lord Hood is about to order it fired upon (there is still fighting going on between human and Covenant forces on Earth at this time) the Master Chief signals him. Hood inquires about what the Chief is doing aboard the ship, and he replies "Sir.. finishing this fight."
Editor's Note: Then the credits roll, a cliffhanger ending (of sorts) that put many fans into paroxysms of anger and disappointment, especially those who had expected a large part of the game's action to occur on Earth, countering a massive Covenant invasion and instead got a tourist's trip through the galaxy and a selection of encounters and environments that, while more detailed, were not fundamentally different from the those of Halo 1.
After the credits, a final cutscene plays in which Gravemind addresses a holographic image of Cortana, and he says to her, "Now I will ask, and you will answer." She responds "shoot" to indicate her willingness to listen to his questions, and the scene fades out.
Editor's Note: This final bit of cutscene falls far short of the "betrayal" of humanity by Cortana that some have made it out to be; I take it more as an indication that even so far, what has been revealed to the human and Covenant sides regarding Halo is not the complete story, and that Gravemind himself may not have at his command all the facts.
Not completely a review, not completely a walkthrough, and certainly to be full of spoilers, Rampancy.net's Halo 2 Impressions goes through the new game level by level, making comparisons to Halo 1: what's new, what's improved, what's missing, what works and what doesn't.
Although this is listed as a level, it's really just a cutscene. As the game itself does later, this switches between the story of John 117, the Master Chief, receiving a hero's welcome on Cairo Station with Sgt. Johnson, Cortana and Lord Hood, and the Covenant Elite in charge of chasing the Pillar of Autumn from Reach to Halo being punished for his failure to protect the ring or destroy the human craft.
Like many players, I'd heard rumblings in advance from those disappointed with the game: about the texture pop, about the inconsistent level of detail on many items, on the length of the levels, which while large, can be played in a relatively short amount of time on any difficulty other than Legendary. I was determined to keep an open mind, but the first time I saw a texture pop in a cutscene I had to wince. It was so noticeable, and so at odds with the high level of polish that was in the cutscenes of Halo 1, which while certainly not as detailed, had a kind of unassailable professionalism in their execution. I also couldn't get over the impression that, while the scenes were apparently done in-engine, there was something still quite different about the way everything looked between gameplay and the scenes.
In Halo 1, they were nearly indistinguishable; and when there were any differences, they nearly always provided just a little bit of extra detail in the cutscene that spilled over into your impression of the gameplay.
A revealing comparison to make comes between a shot from the Pillar of Autumn cutscene in Halo 1 where you meet Captain Keyes on the bridge; the camera pans behind the Master Chief and you can see the black pits in the green armor; slightly shiny, gritty and grimy looking. It was beautiful.
I felt compelled to compare that to the Master Chief's chest as he gets out of the shuttle with Sgt. Jonson in the Cairo Station cutscene; in comparison the texture looks shiny, cartoonish, garish almost-- and in addition, there is noticeable pop there-- as if the Chief had been wearing a rather Teutonic black diving suit and then all of a sudden put on a chest plate that looked like children's Halloween costume version of Nightmare Armor.
I've read what Bungie has said about the pop-- that it was a design tradeoff in order to get faster loading times. That makes sense, and I believe it. I'm not a conspiracy theorist. However, I think that the effect of this pop may have been vastly underestimated. For a company that built its reputation in paying closer attention to important details than anybody else, this is a detail that screams out against everything that fans love about Bungie-- a bit of "good enough" in what is supposed to be a crowning masterpiece.
At any rate, that's the last I hope to have to say about texture pop.