Monday, May 9, 2011

Chronological Halo, 17/52: The Library

Previously on Chronological Halo: Captain Keyes has been captured, but not before his squad discovered something the Covenant unwittingly released on Halo: a parasitic life form, the Flood. As the Master Chief tries to escape the Flood and return to his allies, he encounters an AI that calls itself 343 Guilty Spark.

Mission Title: The Library (Halo: Combat Evolved)
P.O.V. Character: Master Chief
Stage Number: 17/52

And so we come at last to the Library, the least popular level of Halo: Combat Evolved and of the entire stretch of Chronological Halo to this point. 343 Guilty Spark teleports us into a massive Forerunner structure, telling us that we need to find something inside: the Index. Once we get the Index, we'll be able to activate Installation 04, the Halo ring.

343 Guilty Spark: This installation was specifically built to study and contain the Flood. Their survival as a race was dependent upon it. I am grateful to see that some of them survived to reproduce!

Our new AI buddy floats ahead of us, guiding us through the long corridors and chambers of the structure. Every so often he disappears down a hole high up in a wall to fix something or to check on a system or to open one of the giant circular doors that block our passage, and while he does, we fight off waves of the Flood. There are no marines on this level, since Guilty Spark teleported us to the Library alone, but there are flying combat drones, called Sentinels, that help us deal with the Flood.

There's a new type of Flood form we haven't encountered before: the Carrier Form. This is a bulbous Flood form that can explode on its own or if it gets hit with weapons, throwing the tiny Flood spores everywhere. Combine these guys with all the usual Flood, wielding every sort of weapon, and that's a lot of enemies to run towards you while you wait for a door to open.

Carrier Forms like to get as close to you as they can before popping.
And once we get to the end of the floor and ride the elevator up to the next one, we get to do it again. And then another time. And then another time after that. The best thing about this is the area name that appears on one of these trips: 'But I Don't Want To Ride the Elevator!'

We finally reach the final elevator and take possession of the Index, but just as soon as we do Guilty Spark teleports it into a subspace pocket, explaining that our organic form is susceptible to infection and protocol dictates that he transport the Index. He then says he'll teleport all of us to the Control Room where we can use the Index to activate the Installation.

I don't hate the Library the way everybody else seems to, but it's still clear that this level is simply too long and too samey, and you really miss the variation provided by fighting Covenant alongside marines. The 'fight off a horde of zombies while Guilty Spark opens a door' thing is pulled a couple times too often, though I do really like his running commentary. It's like escorting a tiny floating C3PO that can't seem to decide whether it wants to destroy the parasitic alien or congratulate it for being so effective; or maybe it wants to do both. The voice acting and writing for Guilty Spark is top notch, especially if you misbehave.

343 Guilty Spark: Please, stop being human.

He also seems to enjoy pointing out how ill-prepared we are to deal with the Flood.

343 Guilty Spark: Puzzling. You brought such ineffective weapons to combat the Flood, despite the containment protocols... [The Flood are] insidious and elegant. As long as any hosts remain, the Flood is virulent.

But the level just goes on and on, suffering from the same copy/paste feeling the Forerunner structures in 'Assault on the Control Room' had, but this time without the helpful arrows on the floor to tell us which way to go.

The Library: very purple, and very full of Flood
I don't hate the Library as much as most of the Internets do, but it's clear that this is the least of all the levels in Halo: Combat Evolved. It serves an important purpose, story-wise, but since most of it is sitting in front of locked doors dealing with waves of Flood, the gameplay is less than inspiring. One Spartan helmet for the gameplay, and another one for Guilty Spark.

Two Spartan helmets out of five.

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