[As Read on GIO.]
Any Definitive Gamer Should Play at Least One of These
The following blog contains spoilers and some important plot-related information about the Halo series. If you have not played any or even some of the Halo games, but plan on on doing so in the future, and do not want the experience to be ruined- then do not read this! However, if you have played the games- appreciated them or not, and feel up to it- read on to see why I think these missions are the best that the series has to offer so far. Whether it be plot/story progression in the levels, simply amazing combat, or some other reasons- each level is here for a specific reason: it is awesome in some way, shape, or fashion. Now, if you’re tired of me blabbering on without actually getting much done in the way of talking about ten awesome missions in the Halo campaigns, then by all means get ready for some reading…
10 | The Covenant – Halo 3
So, I’ll bet you felt pretty unstoppable and epic when you took down your first Scarab midway through Halo 3’s campaign, right? Well, you know what’s even better than taking down one scarab? Try taking down two in one level. Yeah, I bet you can’t really top that. Sure, on the whole, Halo 3’s The Covenant is one of the weaker levels in the series, but it still ranks up there above the grinding required for nearly every level involving The Flood from Halo CE alone, mainly due to the fact that you go head to head against two scarabs and win. I mean, literally seeing the thing come apart from the procedural damage you’re doing to it, and then driving your warthog up onto it and blowing up the core/drive of the platform whilst fighting off enraged elites and jackals and grunts is just purely thrilling. Not to mention the fact that once you take down one, you still have to hop off and get that other one down as well- all while you’re be assaulted by a constant stream of hunters, jackals, and grunts. Talk about epic.
09 | Gravemind – Halo 2
Just in time for Master Chief and the Arbiter to meet up again, the Flood construct known as Gravemind breaks up the reunion in a big way, and asserts his mind-probing authority for the first major time. This isn’t the last you’ll see of Gravemind, and it’s not even his most threatening, and it’s not even that great of a level (even for one of the weaker games in the series), but meeting Gravemind face to…tentacles…for the first time is thrilling and brilliantly terrifying. I mean, now the Flood finally have a face of evil, and if you thought the hive construct that was originally Keyes in Halo CE was terrifying, then you’re in for something else once you encounter this guy… I mean, while the level is pretty average by any other standards, the overall atmosphere and impression I had after coming face to tentacular face with Gravemind, with Chief and Arbiter back together, was just pretty well done, I thought.
08 | Keyes – Halo CE
Captain Keyes of the ill-fated UNSC Pillar of Autumn was a courageous and fair man, and a father of another special Keyes that would later make an appearance in the series as well. I say was, because not only did Keyes go down with his ship, but he survived intensive Covenant interrogations, broke out of a heavily guarded Covenant flagship- The Truth and Reconciliation, with the aid of the Master Chief, and was later assimilated into a Flood hive-mind as well, finally succumbing to his wounds and dying. Captain Keyes not only serves as a paragon of classic humanity in the scheme of things, but also has a pretty great, atmospheric level named in his honor in the final few missions of Halo CE as well. Keyes tasks the Chief with heading back into the now downed Truth and Reconciliation- battling both the Covenant forces fleeing and the Flood combat forms as well, whilst trying to race to the Captain’s aid. Needless to say, it is inevitably too late to save the man who has been absorbed into a gushy and decaying Flood cluster a la Alien and uses his final breath to warn you away. Keyes may be a failure of an objective essentially, but it is overall a successful and dark level, with a great environment and some great challenges on higher difficulties.
07 | Uplift Reserve – Halo 3: ODST
Uplift Reserve is by far my favorite level in Halo 3: ODST, even if it is a little on the short side, simply because it is one of the more action-packed episodes- with less sleuthing, and more explosions as would be expected of somebody with Dutch’s personality. Uplift Reserve tasks the ground troops with punching a hole through Covenant artillery and defenses around the city of New Mombasa, and takes place nearer to the initial ODST drop than any of the other levels in the game’s out of chronological order missions. ODSTs must battle their way through hordes of cannon fodder grunts and jackals, as well as the occasional elites, and also the ten or more wraiths and twenty plus banshees in the area. There are plenty of explosions to be caused, plenty of carnage from the wide array of available machinery and firepower, and plenty of death and destruction. Not to mention, the level also has an excellent firefight map called Lost Platoon that is based off of one of the midway points.
06 | Reclaimer – Halo 4
Halo 4’s multiplayer might be new and slightly different and not as popular as Halo Reach’s and other previous titles, but one thing is for certain- it has one of the strongest and best looking campaigns in the series. Bungie might have nailed the thrills and multiplayer, but 343 sure knows how to handle a story- and that’s a fact. Reclaimer is essentially the midpoint of the Halo 4 campaign, and a strong showing at that. You fight across a barren portion of Requiem’s landscape and drive around on the aptly named giant UNSC machine known as the Mammoth- all the while shooting down ships, gunning down enemies, lowering shields, blowing up wraiths and banshees, and even going up the grav-lift of a hovering Covenant ship and blowing its core up a la Halo 3’s dual scarab attack sequence. Reclaimer seems to be a rollercoaster with no downward hills and only a steep climb to the top before coming to an explosive end. In a race against time to stop the Didact from leaving the planet, the UNSC forces of the Infinity and the Chief shoot down the anti-air turrets and manage to momentarily halt the gravity well in order to escape the planet ahead of the maniacal Forerunner.
05 | Long Night of Solace – Halo Reach
The Halo series has always prided it on its appropriately placed and thrilling vehicle-oriented levels, but none reaches the literal highs of Long Night of Solace in Halo Reach’s campaign. Step aside, The Maw– there’s a new sheriff in town. The level starts off like most any other in Reach’s campaign- with a midnight insertion deep into enemy territory, except this time with the majority of the Spartan Noble Team working together to clear the beaches around a UNSC launch pad aimed at the orbital station, Anchor 9 above. After finally clearing out wave upon wave of Covenant in and around the base, Jorge and Six hop into some UNSC Sabres and head for the hills, or rather, the skies above in this case. Once they arrive on scene at Anchor 9, they successfully repel several Covenant fighter attacks, take down a few capitol ships, and then later board one of the Covenant flagships in order to plant a bomb. The vehicle portion of the level plays like a charm, as the Sabres are capable fighting machines able to withstand and deal out heavy punishment and damage. Things just get better when you make it to the ship, which is also the setting for a popular firefight map as well. To make things brief, you successfully plant the bomb, but Jorge- ever the hero, stays back to ensure that you can make it out in one piece while he guards the bomb and fends off approaching Covenant forces. He literally pushes you out of an airlock, and you can only stare in wonder as you fall towards Reach and the ship explodes silently, while you grip Jorge’s dogtags in your hands. KIA confirmed. It’s too bad Jorge couldn’t make it out in one piece either, as his detached turret is one of the most helpful weapons in the game…
04 | Shutdown – Halo 4
As with the majority of the levels in Halo 4’s campaign, the final ones especially- Shutdown is a strong, long, and completely interesting level. It is not only one of the longest and most engrossing levels in the game, but one of the best looking, which visits several different locales thanks to the handy Pelican Lasky lends you at the beginning. Chief’s goal here is to prevent the Didact from leaving Requiem, which ultimately fails due to Cortana’s rampancy issues essentially, but still provides the Chief with the perfect way to follow the Didact- and to prove his badassery yet again by hopping from Covenant ship to Covenant ship up onto a sizable cruiser before it disappears into slipspace. Your main objectives are to redirect power from three major towers that are protecting the Didact’s ship, and to clear out the Promethean and Covenant forces inside as well. The Forerunner architecture is some of the most aesthetically astounding in the game, and the enemy encounters are all well placed and executed- even allowing for an epic moment with two hunters facing you down like a wild west legend, on a scarily thin bridge- where splash damage is not your friend at all. Shutdown has some of the best moments in the game- alternating between Cortana’s sense of failing the Chief, and the Chief’s ever persistent ‘go get ’em’ attitude. It’s an instant classic.
03 | Dawn – Halo 4
Dawn is actually one of my favorite levels of the Halo 4 campaign, and of the series, if you couldn’t tell by its high placement here. The reasons for this are quite simple really. Dawn serves as the “tutorial” and re-introduction to the Chief for Halo 4, and while it is by far the easiest level in the game, it has some of the most beautiful moments, and essentially shows the calm before the storm as Chief and Cortana begin to wonder just what they’ve gotten themselves into this time. From the first moment Chief opens his eyes and you see the beautiful graphics and physics, to the first time you blast some grunts and other Covies out the airlock or headshot them with your battle rifle and watch their weightless carcasses go floating- Dawn is a memorable and fun level for sure. It is one of the easiest to complete on Legendary, which is never a simple task, and also one of the most fun because it introduces the new weapons such as the storm rifle, it showcases new, more interactive environmental mechanics, and it gives you your first glimpse of Requiem- moments before you black out. All in all, it’s an excellent beginning to an excellent story continuation.
02 | Exodus – Halo Reach
Exodus begins with as much of a bang as Sergeant Johnson goes out with, which is a pretty big one all things considering. Having just survived an orbital fall- barely, Noble Six stumbles into a city under siege and begins his one-man assault against the Covenant forces on Reach, later encountering and protecting some civilians and UNSC troopers along the way. From the tensely atmospheric beginning, with Six at extremely low health and no health packs laying around for you to revive yourself more-so, and a plethora of plasma grenade kamakazi grunts coming after you- it’s safe to say that Exodus never pulls a punch. After you’ve settled into the groove of things and survived with only a meager pistol for the beginning, you manage to get access to some of the bigger guns and really take the fight to the enemy. You blast away at ships and hammer-wielding brutes alike with turrets and your average weaponry, you fend off brute and elite attack squads, and you escort civilians through enemy territory towards salvation in the form of waiting Pelican drop ships. All in all, Exodus covers all the bases, and is one heck of a ride as Six and the rest of Noble team near the end of the line. We knew Reach wouldn’t end well, but Exodus only serves as a foreshadowing for even worse to come, even if Six does kick some Covie butt in the process…
01 | Two Betrayals – Halo CE
This is it- the final thing, the level that I think deserves to be recognized as the best in the Halo series… I bet you thought I would pick The Library, didn’t you? :p I jest, I jest- gosh what an awful grind that level was… No, instead I picked the level that- true to its name, involves several betrayals, and also some gnarly snowing, banshee and ghost driving, and wraith dominating. Two Betrayals has some really awesome set piece locations, from a snowy canyon and higher alpine bridges to ancient Forerunner structures and a massive control room where you face off against Guilty Spark for the first major time. Two Betrayals is intense on Legendary to be sure, and pretty difficult even on lower difficulties as well. It offers one of the longest yet least tedious campaign missions in Halo CE, and also some of the most satisfying kills and thrills as well. It has globally been recognized as one of the most well-rounded and well-crafted levels of the Halo series, and hands down the best of Halo CE’s campaign missions. Needless to say it’s just epic, plain and simple.
Well, that’s it folks. That’s the end. I look forward to hearing your feedback, complaints, disagreements, agreements, a general consensus, and more in the comments below. Hasta pronto amigos.