Whether the level is visually stunning, absolutely challenging, or just downright fun to play, Halo has a certain knack for creating a memorable campaign experience. Let’s go back and revisit some of the best levels the Halo series offered.
Halo 3 – Cortana
Ever since Chief left Cortana on the Flood-infested Covenant ship known as High Charity, you knew the promise he made to rescue her was going to be a pain in your ass. The Gravemind is slowly driving Cortana to rampancy and it’s up to the Chief to save her from its wrenching grasp. What made this level so unique was its construction. The ship may be of Covenant origin, however, it has clearly been taken over by the Flood’s organic “matter.” Goopy, squishy, and downright repulsive, you move through the ship’s now warped vessel, fighting wave after wave of Flood. Chief has gone on a suicide mission to rescue a potentially rampant and damaged A.I. The Gravemind is there, hissing rhythmic warnings while growing increasingly irate with the Chief’s presence.
Cortana appears multiple times to Chief, demonstrating her painful descent into rampancy. After a fierce battle (and likely a lot of deaths), you enter a dimly lit room where a lone console sits, glowing with a soft blue hue. When you breach the stasis field, your screen goes black and moments pass before a breathless and simple, “You found me.” A moving cut scene follows with the Chief convincing Cortana that she is worth saving, taking time to lean down and rest on the console, eye level with her. It’s revealed that Cortana holds the index key necessary to fire the remaining Halo rings, annihilating the Flood from existence. After her rescue, you realize you’re still in the ship. Fighting more swarms of Flood, you must cut the reactors, destroying High Charity and making a quick escape to the Pelican. Be careful, however, there’s two of you in there now, remember?
Halo 2 – The Arbiter
Bungie added depth to the Halo experience by making a Covenant Elite a playable character. The Prophets were having difficulty keeping a hold on their reign over the Covenant masses, as a rebel group claimed the Prophets’ promises of a “Great Journey” were false. Once doomed for death because of the failure of the first Halo ring, the Elite known as Thel ‘Vadamee was pardoned and transformed into the Arbiter, made to do the Hierarch’s bidding.
The Arbiter was sent to squelch the voice of the heretics’ outspoken leader and restore power and trust in the Prophets. Getting to play as an alien wasn’t much of a change (since the Master Chief is pretty alien himself), but now the group of Covenant surrounding you was green in your crosshairs. You start with an energy sword and active camoflauge as you battle rounds of rebel Covenant, pushing through to get to the heretic leader. You even to have a Banshee dogfight in the middle of a dust storm atop the floating space installation while Incubus plays in the background. Wicked.
Halo 3: ODST – Coastal Highway
Fighting as an Orbital Drop Shock Trooper, not a Spartan, means you’re not protected by the fancy suit. Yet here you are, battling the same aliens that the Chief does. Not only does the level have a lot of movement to keep you from simply defending one spot as you fight the Covenant, it has an engaging story to keep you interested, even making references to Reach—when the game had yet to be released. Once you’ve linked up with Captain Dare, you secure an alien known as the Engineer. This particular Engineer has absorbed the Covenant’s secrets and could be the key to defeating them and saving humanity. All it needs is an escort out of the city. A lot of pressure on you, right?
You make your way from the sub level of the city, eventually commandeering a Warthog to drive down the highway. You push through Covenant forces as an enormous Covenant Corvette moves closer to the center of the city, beginning to glass the surface. You await extraction, as wave after wave of Covenant are dropped off to try and stop you from leaving with the Engineer. Finally the rest of your team arrives in a Covenant Phantom, extracting you and humanity’s last hope from the overrun city of New Mombasa. Post credits reveal the Covenant uncovering what they glassed the surface for, the portal to the Ark in Halo 3.
Halo: Combat Evolved – 343 Guilty Spark
Halo made fighting aliens fun. As you’re parading around the newly discovered Halo ring, chasing and obliterating Covenant forces, your mission is clear. When the Captain’s coms go dark, the Chief must brave Covenant held territory to rescue the missing team. You enter the structure and defeat rounds of Covenant without issue. The scene becomes curious, however, when you come across a soldier with a pistol, who is firing blindly and clearly disturbed.
Chief discovers the helmet cam recording of one Private Jenkins detailing a horrifying scene and revealing a new monster. This was your first encounter with the Flood. These creepy, crawling zombie-esque creatures were a new force to be reckoned with. From their grotesque appearance to their incessant gurgling, the enemies revealed here make this level one of the most memorable in the series.
Halo: Reach – Lone Wolf
If the title of the level isn’t enough to bring a tear to your eye, then you must have a heart of stone. The Spartan collective known as Noble Team has just spent an excruciating week defending the planet Reach from a crippling Covenant invasion. Civilians and team members have lost their lives in the struggle, but the remaining members of Noble Team just delivered what could be humanity’s last hope of survival against an impending Covenant armada. With the package safely in the hands of Captain Jacob Keyes, Noble Six, in true Spartan sacrifice, stays behind to charge the MAC gun and defend the escaping ship from a Covenant fleet.
Noble Six is the only remaining Spartan on Reach, left to fight wave after wave of Covenant force completely alone. Then you realize you’re playing as Noble Six. You’re unaided on the planet singlehandedly fighting the Covenant. Try your damndest and fight for as long as your ammo lasts. Alas, you do not have infinite ammo and, with an increasingly cracking helmet, the aliens overpower Noble Six. The scene is heart wrenching and powerful as the camera in Noble Six’s discarded helmet camera captures the Spartan taking out a last round of Elites, before he is regarded M.I.A., his helmet sitting in solitude while Reach is slowly destroyed.
Is there a level you thought should have made the list? Let us know in the comments below!