Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Chronological Halo, 18/52: Two Betrayals

Previously on Chronological Halo: 343 Guilty Spark, the Monitor of Installation 04, escorted the Master Chief through the Library in search of the Activation Index. With the Index in hand, the Master Chief can activate the Halo ring, but an army of Flood stood in his way.

Mission Title: Two Betrayals (Halo: Combat Evolved)
P.O.V. Character: Master Chief
Stage Number: 18/52

Now that we have the Activation Index in hand, Guilty Spark teleports us from the Library to the Control Room. When we arrive, he tells us something of significance, which also explains why he did not acquire the Index in the previous level by himself.

343 Guilty Spark: Unfortunately, my usefulness to this particular endeavor has come to an end. Protocol does not allow units of my classification to... perform a task as important as the reunification of the Index with the Core. That final step is reserved for you, Reclaimer.

He has called us 'Reclaimer' a few times to this point, which seems to be a title reserved for humans and Forerunner, but not the Covenant, who Guilty Spark calls intruders. Only Reclaimers can activate the Halo ring, but when we insert the Index, the lights flicker and go out. Something didn't work, and that's because Cortana, who is still inside the Core, has learned what activating Halo actually does. We protest, saying that we need to activate Halo in order to destroy the Flood, and Cortana has this to say.

Cortana: You have no idea how this ring works, do you? Why the Forerunners built it? Halo doesn't kill Flood, it kills their food. Humans, Covenant, whatever... we're all equally edible. The only way to stop the Flood is to starve them to death. And that's exactly what Halo is designed to do: wipe the galaxy clean of all sentient life. You don't believe me? Ask him!

Cortana is *not* amused that you almost wiped out all life in the galaxy. Women, am I right, fellas?
Guilty Spark confirms that this is the case, saying that the Halo ring has an effective range of 25,000 light years, but interestingly, more of the galaxy will be covered when 'the others' are activated. Our hunch was correct: this is not the only Halo ring in the galaxy. Cortana now has the Index, and although Guilty Spark could find another Reclaimer, he needs the Index. He is now our enemy, and sends Sentinels against us.

Cortana has a plan: if we can find the crash site of the Pillar of Autumn, we can detonate its fusion core to cause an explosion large enough to destabilize Halo, or destroy it completely. While she searches for the crash site, she wants us to hinder the ring's ability to fire by taking out three phase pulse generators in the nearby canyons. The generators amplify Halo's signal, and by destroying them the ring won't be able to fire deep into space.

We hijack a Banshee and use it to fly through the snowy canyons to the three phase pulse generators. By interrupting the beam inside each generator with our body, we are able to destroy the generator, but it brings down our shields and leaves us vulnerable to attack. Cortana locates the crash site of the Pillar of Autumn, but before we can go there we need to rescue Captain Keyes. Only he can override the failsafes in the Autumn that prevent the fusion core from overloading.

Tons of story at the beginning of this mission! The explanation of how the Halo ring actually deals with the Flood is a fantastic old school science fiction gotcha, and gives us a third enemy type to deal with: Sentinel drones. They fly and fire lasers, but there's not much else to say about them.

The main problem with this level is that it's essentially 'Assault on the Control Room' in reverse, but now with Flood and Sentinels. This time we have access to Banshees, but that doesn't keep it from feeling like a retread, especially if you have trouble finding a working Banshee, as I sometimes have. It's very easy to get lost in all the snowy terrain of this area, especially since it all looks familiar from the last time we came through here, and the phase generator rooms are all high up out of reach. You know you need a Banshee, but it can take a long time to find one in working order if you're not careful with the earlier opportunities to snag one.

One thing I never noticed until this playthrough was Guilty Spark's mention of 'the others,' the other Halo rings in the galaxy that work together to combat the Flood. I think people generally felt like the addition of another Halo ring in Halo 2 was a cheap attempt at a sequel, but that's not the case. Bungie had already come up with the concept for multiple, linked Halo rings.

Redoing 'Assault on the Control Room' in reverse but with different enemies would earn this mission two Spartan helmets, but I'll bump it up to three for the excellent story developments concerning Guilty Spark and the Halo Array.

Three Spartan helmets out of five.

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