Thursday, May 5, 2011

Chronological Halo, 16/52: 343 Guilty Spark

Previously on Chronological Halo: Foehammer dropped us off as close to Halo's control room as she could get us, and we proceeded to fight our way to it. Once there, Cortana accessed its data center and learned that the Covenant discovered something horrible buried inside the ring. Panicked, she sends us to stop Captain Keyes; the weapons cache he's looking for isn't what he thinks it is!

Mission Title: 343 Guilty Spark (Halo: Combat Evolved)
P.O.V. Character: Master Chief
Stage Number: 16/52

In her extreme panic at the end of the last mission, Cortana didn't tell us what to expect from the weapons cache Keyes went to find, just that it wasn't what he thought it was and we needed to stop him before he got there. You have to think the Master Chief might be better equipped to deal with whatever it is if she told us more information, but I suppose we'll know it when we see it. (We will).

We're dropped off at the site, a swampy marsh, and find a crashed UNSC Pelican transmitting a distress message that repeats over and over. The message is hard to make out through all the static, but it sounds like Captain Keyes has been captured by enemy forces and the remaining marines have taken shelter in a large structure in the swamp.

Inside the structure, we search for the lost marines but only find one, and he's clearly been driven out of his mind. He holds his pistol on us and shoots at us if we get to close, screaming things like 'Stay back, you're not turning me into one of those things!' and 'Find your own hiding place, the monsters are everywhere!'

Deeper inside the structure, we find a helmet belonging to a Private Wallace Jenkins, and activate its helmet cam. Its last recording is from Jenkins's point of view, and we watch as his squad lands in the swamp and begins to explore the Forerunner structure, finding a dead Elite with its insides 'scrambled,' teaming up with Captain Keyes, and eventually encountering a door the Covenant have gone to great pains to seal. The squad opens the door and, on the other side, encounters a mass of tiny new life forms, little bulbs that bounce through the air and explode into spores when shot. These are Flood Infection Forms. The recording ends as Jenkins is overwhelmed by the aliens, but the fate of the rest of his squad, and Captain Keyes, remains a mystery.

Our objective now is to escape the structure, dealing with both Flood Infection Forms and the infected versions of both humans and Covenant: Flood Combat Forms. After making it back to the surface, we're contacted by Foehammer; she says she lost our signal when we entered the structure, but if we make our way to a tower nearby in the swamp she can pick us up.

Instead, when we get to the tower a floating blue orb and a group of flying drones descend and begin destroying our enemies. And then the orb speaks.

343 Guilty Spark: Greetings. I am the Monitor of Installation 04. I am 343 Guilty Spark. Someone has released the Flood. My function is to prevent it from leaving this installation. But I require your assistance. Come this way.

A flash of golden light, and both of us disappear, leaving Foehammer shouting into the ether that she's lost our signal.

This is a controversial level, since it's the first time we encounter the Flood. Up to this point we've been fighting Covenant. They run for cover, they throw grenades, they try to flank us, if you kill the Elite leading a group of Grunts the Grunts will try to run away, things like that. Hunters fire their plasma cannons at us from a distance, and if we get close they try and slam us, keeping the weak point on their back pointed away from us. Jackals hide behind their energy shields, only lowering them to fire at us. Grunts and Elites can drive vehicles, firing weapons and trying to run us over.

The Flood run toward us, firing weapons. There are a lot of them, but really that's what they do. We've essentially replaced one enemy that's very fun to fight with a new zombie enemy that's less interesting. This level showcases the Shotgun, as it's the most effective weapon for dealing with the Flood.

We do learn that the Monitor calls this place Installation 04, but at this point in Chronological Halo it's not clear if he's talking about the Halo ring or the Forerunner structure in the swamp. I'll clear it up now, though: Installation 04 is the Halo ring. The implication is that there are at least three others out there, and maybe more.

The Flood aren't as annoying in this level as they'll get, and the story developments here are intriguing. We spend most of the time in Forerunner structures again, and while there aren't any Hex Rooms, the rooms here are still very samey. This is a level that's made by its cutscenes; the story of Private Jenkins is done very well, and serve as a creepy introduction to the Flood.

Three Spartan helmets out of five.

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