Requiem, Halo 4
This is the entire point of Halo 4, teased in Halo 3 – Cortana, an AI declining into rampancy. In other words, she will think herself to death. The Master Chief, despite a plate of metal shielding his eyes, looks aghast, saddened and terrified of the loss of his faithful companion. Without Cortana, he is nothing. Just a hulk of augmented machinery with a little humanity left behind. He needs her as much as she needs him, and a future without her is an inconceivable thought. His mission from then on is simple: get Cortana off Requiem and back to her maker, Dr Halsey. This also sets the tone of the game as well. Halo 4 is a much darker story, a story that explores The Master Chief’s purpose, and who he is. And it’s all acted beautifully with the ‘Green and Blue’ soundtrack in the background, a prelude to heartbreak.
The Arbiter, Halo 2
Search the station, quell the heresy therein. That’s The Arbiter’s suicide mission, as ordered by the Prophet of Truth. Now, the parts before taking flight in a Banshee are pretty dreary, if I’m honest. Playing as The Arbiter isn’t as fun as The Master Chief, mainly because of the weapons you use. But, I freaking love the knowledge we learn from playing as the enemy, and this is Halo 2’s strongest achievement – getting to know your enemy. After slogging through endless waves of heretics, you come across a landing pad where the chief heretic has taken flight in his Banshee. You give chase and it starts. Not only are you chasing after a Banshee in a storm-blasted airspace with other Banshee’s after your hide and Grunts shooting cannons from the high-rises, but the amazing music plays ‘Follow in Flight’, a badass, shattering guitar riff that always kicks me in the face. This is best played in the Halo 2 Anniversary game on Xbox One. It’s bloody amazing.
Gravemind, Halo 2
The Master Chief has just killed the Prophet of Regret. The Covenant blasts the enormous lake in an effort to kill him, and he leaps into the water, sinking into the depths when a tentacle coils around his armour. ‘This is not your grave,’ the voice says. ‘But you are welcome in it.’ He is dragged through a labyrinth of levels before held prisoner by the gigantic, parasitic abomination that is the Gravemind. A Flood superintelligence. Like the Banshee Chase, this is best seen in the Anniversary edition, since his terrifying form is put on gross display. He tells the tale of the Forerunners intent with the Halo rings, and how he wants The Master Chief and The Arbiter to stop the Prophet of Truth from activating them. It’s a turning point in the story. Bound by the Gravemind, both The Chief and Arbiter must forge an alliance to stop a common enemy. The Prophet of Truth. Also, I love the Gravemind’s quotes, one of which might be the most ominous thing I’ve heard in the Halo universe. ‘I am the monument to all your sins.’
The Covenant, Halo 3
Destroying Scarab walkers should be second nature by the time this epic confrontation blasts down from space. Armed with either a Warthog jeep, a Scorpion tank or a Hornet helicopter, it’s up to you to bring down the last guardians of the Ark’s control room, and stop Truth. The battle leading up to this encounter is pretty awesome, too. Driving a tank through a convoy of Covenant vehicles, only to stop at a massive frozen clearing when two Scarabs free fall onto the battlefield. Hornets fly around the walkers, Warthogs weave in and out of the Scarabs’ legs, and you board the walkers and blow them up from inside. All of this, of course, happens with the beautiful musical score in the background. ‘One Final Effort’ is an amazing piece of music, a piece that captures the very essence of Halo in three minutes. This is Halo 3 at one of its best moments. The entire mission is my favourite of all Halo 3.
New Alexandria, Halo Reach
Sorrow and defeat pervade the campaign of Reach. If Halo 4 is the darkest of the games, then Reach is the saddest. If you know the lore, then you know planet Reach is doomed. It’s where it all started. The Covenant attacked, glassed the planet and pursued the rest of humanity with the ultimate goal of finding Earth. The battle of New Alexandria, the entire mission, is mostly played aboard a Falcon helicopter. The entire city is in flames. Buildings collapse, and Pelicans try to outfly their chasers with injured and civilians onboard. All is lost. At the mission’s end, you get a call from your higher-ups when a missile smashes into your skyscraper. You and your team run for the lifts when Kat, part of your squad, is shot in the head. Somber pianos play the outro as you and your team stand in a hole of the building, with Kat slung in your arms, as the city burns down. That’s when it hits home – we’ve lost.
The Pillar of Autumn, Halo Reach
Everyone in your squad is dead. You stand alone on a landing pad, just after Emile, your last friend, has been killed. Captain Keyes awaits in his Pelican. You hand over Cortana for passage aboard his ship, The Pillar of Autumn. You decline his offer of escape, knowing the debt you owe to your homeland – your life. Daring a suicide mission towards the MAC gun to ensure Keyes’ escape, you shoot through everything in your path, including Elite Zealots and Phantom dropships. The airspace is clear, and Keyes punches it. Now alone on a blackened, misty plain, it’s you and them. You fend off against waves of Covenant troops without backup, and no hope for rescue. Even when the Elites have you pinned down, you keep fighting. Even when they have energy swords impaled in your chest, you keep fighting. You keep fighting until you can’t fight anymore. The Pillar of Autumn blasts into space, and Reach is glassed.
Halo: Combat Evolved, Two Betrayals
The Flood has been unleashed – the greatest threat in the galaxy. Now, although this is my absolute least favourite mission in the games, the atmosphere, the terror and the hopelessness of your situation is perfectly made apparent. This is when you start retracing your steps, revisiting levels you’ve passed so you can finally escape the doomed Halo installation. The Flood chase the Covenant throughout the mission, and you’re very much a survivor caught in the middle of a three-way battle between enemies who all want to annihilate one another. The Covenant (who want to kill you and the Flood), the Sentinels (that want to eradicate the Flood), and the Flood (who want to eat everything). They’re all a threat to you, and there’s many a time when running away is a better option than killing. Near the end when you take a Banshee to the last generator, you can see the Flood horde swarming closer and closer to the end of a frozen canyon where a mishmash of Covenant troops make their last stand. Of course, they perish. Nothing can stop the Flood, except the ring you’re standing on.
Halo, Halo 3
Everything ends here. After the nightmares of High Charity, The Master Chief, The Arbiter and Cortana land on the newly constructed Halo ring – the ring you intent to light and destroy the Flood once and for all. This is a beautifully sad moment for a number of reasons. One, Halo 3 is going to end. Two, this is a recreation from the original ring you explored in the first game. Three, the music… my god the music. ‘Halo Reborn’ sets the perfect ambience for this mission. And the fourth reason, the purpose of the ring itself. To destroy all life in the galaxy, so the Flood can’t eat anymore. Around a corner from the starting point lies a terminal. Tap in, and you can read the last words of the Didact before he lights the ring. ‘It’s over. We’re activating the Halo Array, our shameful last resort.’ When reading this with the music, it’s so sad. And so beautiful.
Halo, Halo 3
After lighting the ring, The Master Chief and The Arbiter must run for the ship, Forward unto Dawn, before the ring explodes. It’s another one of those Halo Warthog-escape moments that they do so well, but here it’s a monumental highlight. You’re running away from a certain death, and not only are the Flood chasing you down, but the ring is pulling itself apart. Chunks of the landscape erupt from the floor, structures fall cutting off your escape and you have to think on the spot, trying your best to get to the waiting ship, your only ticket out of there. The ‘Halo’ theme music is played in the background as well, harking memories from Halo: Combat Evolved’s finale with a Warthog-escape from The Pillar of Autumn, with the Flood at your heels. And then it’s over. And you see the last few scenes of this amazing story, and what becomes of The Master Chief, Cortana, and The Arbiter. Quite simply, the best finale to all of the games.
Cairo Station, Halo 2
This is my absolute favourite. Not only is it just sheer badass by The Master Chief, but a phenomenal musical score, beautiful visuals that are oh-so incredible, but it’s a testament to Halo 2’s evolution from Halo: Combat Evolved. It’s bolder, better, and straight up badass. The Three B’s. The Master Chief finds a bomb aboard Cairo Station. After deactivating it, he muses over what to do with it. Hmm… there’s a Covenant cruiser some hundred feet away from us. Lord Hood grants permission to, as Chief puts it, ‘to give the Covenant back their bomb’, and Chief drags the spikey contraption to a blast door. Cortana asks, ‘Just one question: what if you miss?’ And Chief, with one hand on the handle, says, ‘I won’t.’ He yanks it down, the doors open and he and the bomb are sucked into the vacuum of space. Passing through space, he drifts by a UNSC ship that shatters into stardust, and then he sees the Covenant cruiser. Time slows. He crawls along the bomb, reactivates it and kicks off downward for the UNSC ship, In Amber Clad, waiting for his arrival. The bomb explodes, taking the cruiser with it. It’s single-handedly The Master Chief’s best moment, the reason why he is The Master Chief. However, none of this would be anywhere near as amazing without the soundtrack. Check out ‘A Spartan Rises’, and check out the scene in question. ‘Return to Sender’. Always amazing to watch. Always.
Songs of the Week:
- 'So Far Away' by CMA (ft. Wonder)
- 'The Next Storm' by Frank Turner
- 'Get Better' by Frank Turner
- 'Halo Reborn' by Halo 3 Soundtrack
- 'One Final Effort' by Halo 3 Soundtrack
- 'Follow in Flight' by Halo 2 Anniversary Soundtrack
- 'A Spartan Rises' by Halo 2 Anniversary Soundtrack
- 'Green and Blue' by Halo 4 Soundtrack