Why 343 Guilty Spark is superb

Posted by lec** on Sunday, March 16 2008 @ 22:58:33 GMT        
Call me an idiot if you wish, but I will spend the rest of this article attempting to convince you of how the Halo games are spectacular, and in particular, how genius the level "343 Guilty Spark" from Halo: Combat Evolved is.

What makes Halo tick
There are many, many first person shooters out there. Some, like Far Cry, are based on stealth. Others are not, and are made for simply shooting away to your heart's content (Unreal Tournament comes to mind). Some are based on war scenes from the past, others are more futuristic. Bungie's Halo is a game I didn't think much about before I started playing it. And I didn't want to play it either - I simply had played Turok Evolution and Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball too many times and had to play something else. It was the end of the summer in which I had been bought a new Xbox and several games. Finally, I put the Halo disk in. From the start of the first level, I knew this game was something special. I knew people had praised it, but I really had to start playing in order to comprehend this.

As I made my way through the first couple of levels, it really captured me within the "seamless, hyper-real environments" (that's what it says on the box - it's a very true claim). Soon after the level "Truth and Reconciliation" I was completely overwhelmed by the storyline. It was beyond cool: I soon became obsessed with it, and I played the game as often as I could until I finished it. It's not just a FPS. It's not the purple, orange and green alien blood splattering over the walls as you wage your war against a race that wants to eliminate the human race. For me, it was the setting: an ancient ring-world, with weather and landscapes resembling Earth running along the inner side. Numerous installations and different environments: cliffs, seas, islands, swamps... and Bungie did a spectacular job at creating a complete and untainted atmosphere. From the first level, nothing whatsoever exists to interrupt your experience as you "race to uncover the mysteries of Halo". When the credits roll, you realise this is just a game. And multiplayer... fufufufufu! I never get tired of this game! Who hasn't played Halo doesn't know what he or she's missing.

Combat evolved
Though I've played both Halo 1 and 2 (not 3, I'm waiting for Xbox 360 prices to go down since I'm only buying one for Halo), the first game is simply a classic. The second one has enough improvements to make it a highly worthy competitor in the "which game's best" competition, but because of Halo 1's incredible, flawless "encapsulation" into 10 superb and very different levels, it just manages to secure first place. I doubt even Halo 3, regardless of it's might, will change this opinion of mine.

1
A dark, spooky swamp - this isn't a typical level
343 Guilty Spark?
This is the 6th level in the game, and despite every level being incredible (especially The Silent Cartographer , Halo and The Maw ) this one somehow manages to be my favourite level. If anyone's played this level, they're likely to say "how can he like that level?". The level is the complete opposite of "The Silent Cartographer", in which the Master Chief gets dispatched alongside a bunch of Marines to a beautiful island covered with trees, is dumped right into the middle of a battle on the beach at the start of the level, and then drives around the island, entering the two underground facilities in search of a map room, amid clear, blue skies and a wonderful sparkling sea.

343 Guilty Spark is as different as it can be. The chief is lowered into the middle of a rainy, creepy, dark swamp/jungle apparently in the middle of the night, to search for Captain Keyes, who was dropped off here 12 hours earlier. There are no Marines to aid him, he goes alone. And unlike in the prior levels, Cortana is not with you. Though the AI doesn't always talk, she was always a help and at least serves to remind you you aren't completely alone in the fight to save humanity. In this level, there is no such assistance. The uneasiness and creepiness of the level is tangible from the start, and if it's your first time playing you're definitely going to be at least a little jumpy. The Master Chief goes through the swamps, meeting only some small enemies that are defeated easily. There are some friendly blips on the radar, but nothing is there when you reach them, adding to the tension. Finally you reach an entrance to the facility where Keyes went, and you progress downwards with an elevator. The whole time there is no particular music like in the other levels to boost your combative spirits, only the rain, the elevator noise, some mysterious sounds and static from the radio of a fallen Pelican.

As you enter the facility, you do not meet many foes. There are a small number of covenant Grunts and Jackals, and they appear scared out of their wits. As you progress through the various strangely empty rooms, with blood splattered on the floors and walls, the mysterious "blips" of music, or rather, sound - just static and some strange "tingling" noises do their part in jangling your nerves. Contrary to other games, such an effect is not ruined in this one. This is truly one intense level, and you will really feel that.

4
Inside - just blood and bulletholes
You come across nothing room after room, but a lone Marine, squatting against the wall in a room in which blood is splattered from ceiling to floor, who is not in his right mind, and shouts and fires at you, warning you to stay back. You can assume something isn't right in this level, and that you will inexorably discover something nasty within these halls, but nonetheless you should definitely be feeling tense. In the same room (the walls are covered in bullet holes - there was a big battle here), you jump onto a wrecked platform below which a fire burns, and continue onwards.

Finally, you reach a busted-up door, surrounded by some ominous symbols painted in red. Inside, you find a bloody sloping floor (red blood this time - human) and another door - upon which a cutscene triggers. The Chief opens the door and the dead body of a Marine (Mendosa, I think) falls into his arms. He has found the team of soldiers lead by Keyes, but none are alive. The next part was a genuinely brilliant idea by Bungie - the Chief removes a chip from Private Jenkins' helmet that recorded the events shortly before he met his demise here in this room with the rest of his unit. The clip start of mildly humorous, as Jenkins, and the others are riding a Pelican above the rainforest listening to some old rock music and complaining about it ("Why do we have to listen to this old stuff, Sarge?"). The music ends with the clip, as the Master Chief fast forwards. The ensuing silence is ruptured only by the mechanical "beep" as the recording is fast forwarded. The next clip shows the team as they discover the entrance to the compound, and secure it. Again, the clip is fast-forwarded. Now it shows a Covenant Elite lying on the ground, as the Marines comment on it. They say it appears to have been eaten up from the inside. The final clip is that of the group outside of the door the Chief had just entered, having taken the same path as him. Now they open the door with some difficulty (the Covenant went out of their way to lock it down well), and proceed into room. After positioning themselves inside, nothing seems to happen. One of them comments saying he has a bad feeling about this. Suddenly a dripping sound is heard, and a Private hushes Sergeant Johnson, who was saying "when do you have a good feeling about anything?". The sound is heard again, and a door busts open, releasing a large number of small, disgusting yellow tentacled aliens - actually the Flood, a parasitic form of life - that move rapidly towards the men. Though they fire at them, "they are everywhere" as one of them shouts, and they are soon overwhelmed. Private Jenkins falls to the floor, and the recording abruptly terminates.

5
The red symbols, and a destroyed door
The Master Chief removes the chip from his helmet, and picks up his assault rifle. The cutscene ends, and just as you could have guessed, you are also attacked by several swarms of these infection forms, from all sides of the room. Finally the entrance to the room also bursts open, and more infection forms come in followed by huge yellow Combat Forms, which are the godawful organisms (humans, Covenant) that the Flood has taken over (those little tentacled ones latch onto a living organism's spine and take over their body, finally entering the chest cavity - yuck!) that attack you with arms and weapons. You leave the room in a hurry, and your the situation becomes apparent as your current task updates to read simply "Escape!". You make your way back through the halls, battling the nasty Flood, and now and again coming across some Covenant minions engaged (unsuccessfully) in combat with the Flood. You pass through only one quiet room before accessing an elevator - but oh dear! It takes you further down, deeper into the facility. This is of course, intentional, but you definitely don't want to go down, and the atmosphere gets creepier as a loud scary note is heard (played by strings) and you find yourself in a room filled with Flood. Obviously, from Cortana's previous words, "the Covenant fools" made a mistake of some sort. This must have been it - in search of Halo's secrets, they accidentally released the Flood from their containment room, and they were massacred by them. The Flood released more of it's kind, and infected the bodies of the Covanent. The survivors unsuccessfully tried to lock down the facility.

After fighting through rooms filled with Flood, you finally reach a lift that takes you up. Foehammer contacts you, and you rise into a room to come face to face with Second Squad, a group of Marines also dispatched here on a rescue mission. Foehammer tells you that she can come pick you up if you rise above the fog and foliage canopy outside. Though it's good to have Marines assisting you once more, most will get slaughtered as fighting you dash towards a clearing. You reach a strange structure in the middle of the rainforest, and you encounter some floating robots and a blue orb-like floating entity, who also is an AI. He teleports you up onto the structure, and introduces himself as 343 Guilty Spark, the Monitor of Halo who was there trying to prevent the Flood from escaping and running loose once they had been released by the Covanent. He promptly teleports himself and the Master Chief away, so that all that is left is Foehammer shouting "Chief! Chief! Where'd you go?". That's the end of the level.

So why the heck do I like it?
I admit, I like nothing more than playing The Silent Cartographer or Delta Halo (Halo 2), preferably in cooperative play with a friend, and shooting round after round at the Covenant foes amid the excellent upbeat music and beautiful, clear, typical Halo scenery. However, I simply love this level because the atmosphere is atypical but perfect: the strange, unknown quality of events that instills uneasiness in the player's heart - finally culminating as an ancient parasitic lifeform is unleashed after having been trapped within the facility for thousands of years. The description of the level says: "Creep through a swamp to meet the only enemy the Covenant fear". Isn't that awesome?

6
Something isn't right... (just before the Flood room)
I guess I love this level because it's different. I did watch The Ring at 1 in the morning on a rainy Tuesday, so I might just like this level because it's the scariest. But then again, the level isn't about scaring you - it's just a heavy uneasiness. The next level, The Library is much disliked among Halo players, because it's dark, long, full of Flood and difficult. But unlike this level, it's repetitive and a little unimaginative. The only reason I like playing that level is because it's very difficult, in my opinion the most difficult in the whole game (definitely so on easy difficulty, but if you're playing legendary, the part in level #9 "Keyes" when you get attacked by a wall of Flood or a lot of the parts in "The Maw" may be more difficult). I also like this level because on the last floor, when you finally enter the room to the elevator, it's a really good fight (except on legendary, when I got slaughtered there repeatedly countless times - it was pretty much impossible for a half-baked player like me).

All in all, play this level! And look out for the minuscule things Bungie payed attention to while designing it - the music (sounds, that is) in particular and what effects they used to create this amount of tension, that never again happens in any level that follows in the rest of the game, or Halo 2.

Other pics: the entrance to the facilty, a particularly bloody corridor, structure at the end of the level.
Links: Halopedia article on the level.
j3.soon

j3.soon's avatar
Feb 27 2013 @ 14:20:59
I loved the 6th level too, but it's easy to get in, and hard to get out. I searched the whole place for about an hour and finally find the way out.

But this level surely is the most scary level in halo. XD
Kthar

Kthar's avatar
May 01 2008 @ 13:06:45
I don't like this game. One runs out of grenades too soon, which is not good for an expert with grenades, such as myself - the grandmaster of grenade throws.
lec**

lec's avatar
Apr 21 2008 @ 19:30:08
Haha, yeah - that light bridge was really funny. When I fell, I wondered why it was impossible to get back up again. Then I kept circling, looking for a way out. Took me at least 20 minutes of play to find that crate you're supposed to jump up on (*d'oh!*).

Thanks for your comment!
Shady

Shady's avatar
Apr 21 2008 @ 10:50:38
Nice read. ;D

I'm also one who likes the aesthetics of a level more-so than the shootings, anyway. xD

This level is definitely one of the harder ones, it took me a decent part of the day before I realised I couldn't run across the flickering light bridge to escape. xDD
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