Often stated to be the best out of all the Halo games, Halo 3 has some fantastic levels, continuing the tradition of maintaining open spaces for most encounters and keeping the consistency of on-foot and vehicle sections (for the most part…)
Whilst Halo 3 does not have as many levels as its predecessor, they are all jam-packed with detail and variety, so it can be hard to actually rank them when it gets to comparing the best levels. As for the worst, well, there really is only one option:
10 – Cortana, Mission 9
Realistically, nobody likes Flood levels. Especially when the only type of enemy in the entire level is Flood, and the level is one long continuous monotonous maze of samey corridors and passageways. Basically, Cortana is the reason why The Library is not the worst Halo level of all time. Make of that what you will.
9 – Arrival, Mission 1
Again, like Halo 2 with its opening missions The Heretic and The Armory, Arrival is basically just the opening cutscene with a very minute amount of gameplay, basically a recreation of the ‘look up and down at the lights’ segment from Halo: Combat Evolved and Halo 2. There is a pretty cool cutscene where Chief and the Arbiter meet as allies for the first time, and Sergeant Johnson’s quote changes based on what difficulty you are on or what skulls you have enabled.
8 – Crow’s Nest, Mission 3
Crow’s Nest suffers from the same problem that Pillar of Autumn had in Halo: Combat Evolved, in that it is all set indoors. One of the greatest strengths of all Halo games is the ability to seamlessly transition between on-foot gameplay and vehicle segments, and levels that lack this ability seem lesser as a result. Nevertheless, Crow’s Nest does offer some interesting encounters, particularly the section in the barracks and the battle with the Brute Chieftain.
7 – Sierra 117, Mission 2
The opening gameplay mission for Halo 3 broke a few rules, in that it introduced Jackals in the opening level, something that Halo: Combat Evolved and Halo 2 refrained from doing to establish a form of difficulty curve. Sierra 117 throws us right into a lush and dense jungle to battle against Brutes, Jackal Snipers and even Phantoms. Thankfully, we get the Arbiter helping us, which is always a good thing, although this level does start the unfortunate trope of Sergeant Johnson being kidnapped whenever he goes to do anything.
6 – Floodgate, Mission 6
Floodgate is an exhilarating horror experience, and it does the job of demonstrating the virile and insidious nature of the Flood as it quickly overtakes a graveyard of corpses that you had previously created, quickly overrunning the local town and even the contingent of Elites sent to aid you (for the first of only two instances in the entire game, I might add) to great effect. The music enhances this atmosphere and there are some fantastic details that heighten the shock factor of this level, such as the insane suicidal Marine or the horrific instances in which you fail to save a Marine and he or she is infected and transformed into a combat form before your very eyes.
5 – Tsavo Highway, Mission 4
This is the first proper vehicle level in the game, and as a result it seems Bungie enhanced the openness factor a bit to make up for the lack of vehicles in the previous two levels. Tsavo Highway pits the player and a band of ragged Marine survivors against a Covenant army, with only a handful of Warthogs to transport your ragtag rabble across the charred Savannah. The imagery of the space elevator’s shattered support rings scattered all over the Savannah shows how the Human-Covenant War is creating such devastation that the very foundation of Human society is beginning to crumble, to the extent that the natural world is now at risk.
4 – The Storm, Mission 5
When the Scarab was first introduced in this mission the first time I played it, I was in awe. The buildup to the boss fight is to intense, and the best thing about this level is that after you defeat the Scarab, it isn’t even over. This level truly represents a desperate battle to save Earth from the Covenant, as for the first time in the series civilians take up arms to aid the player and the Marines against the invaders. Also, this level first introduced us to the devastating combo that is the Mongoose and a Rocket Launcher Marine, a tool of total destruction that no Covenant vehicle can ever outmanoeuvre.
3 – Halo, Mission 10
Odd that it is that Bungie decided to call the last level of Halo 3 the same thing as they called the second level of Halo: Combat Evolved, this level lives up to its name. It is, essentially, an essential Halo experience wrapped into one level. The lead up to the boss fight harkens back to the classic large-scale battle layouts of previous Halos, and it is great to finally reunite Chief, Cortana, Arbiter, Johnson and Guilty Spark all in one place for one final effort to save the universe. Needless to say, the final Warthog run is awesome. And trust me, I completed the Vidmaster Challenge: Annual.
2 – The Ark, Mission 7
Halo 3 does a great job of invoking nostalgia, but not least in its level design. The Ark is loads of other levels wrapped into one, starting out as a sniper section like in Truth and Reconciliation before shifting to a vehicle section like in Delta Halo and then turning into Metropolis for the tank section and finally morphing into The Silent Cartographer as you delve into the Ark’s map room and challenge a Chieftain to honourable combat. The music in this level is particularly spectacular, the entire Farthest Outpost suite is fantastic and the Small Victory section that plays when the Phantom attacks the map room is one of my favourite Halo soundtracks.
1 – The Covenant, Mission 8
Of course, which other mission could it be? This one has it all – Hornet section, Elite allies, Tank fight, Two Scarabs at once, the Anti-Air Wraith glitch, the list goes on. Not to mention that you have a huge army in this level – dozens of Marines help you fight the Flood, until you actually get the Flood as allies. Truly, no level can even come close to claiming the mantle of Best Halo 3 Level than The Covenant.
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