Doctor Who – Ranking the Masters

Over the years the role of the Doctor’s arch-nemesis has been played by a diverse range of actors and although some have had far more time in the part than others, all have made unique contributions to defining the role of the villainous character. But after nearly ten incarnations of the beloved villain, how to they rank against each other?

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9 – Peter Pratt

Having only played the Master in one televised story, The Deadly Assassin, Peter Pratt is perhaps the least-known of the Master actors, particularly since his face was obscured by the gruesome mask that depicts this incarnation’s decayed appearance. His role in the episode in which he appears is brief, but significant – by engineering a conspiracy on Gallifrey, the Master attempts to steal the Sash of Rassilon and restore his damaged body. During this scheme he encounters the Fourth Doctor several times, and there are some great scenes between Petetr Pratt and Tom Baker. Unfortunately, due to the restrictive nature of the costume, Pratt doesn’t really get a chance to make the role his own – particularly since half the time it is difficult to understand what he is saying. In the end this incarnation resorts to ranting and raving, and whilst that is not unusual for the Master, Pratt never really gets the chance to portray any of the nuance of the character.

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8 – Eric Roberts

Unlike Paul McGann, who returned to Doctor Who following his part in the 1996 TV Movie in the form of Big Finish Audios the same decade, Eric Roberts left it a little longer before returning to reprise his role in the Audios – a pity really, since he did actually show promise during the TV Movie. Whilst there were undoubtedly issues with the direction of the Movie, and certain aspects of the film from the script to the costume design were questionable, Roberts does play a great villain, and it was clear despite his inexperience with the role of the Master that he at least knew how to play a deranged scheming megalomaniac. It would have been nice to see his version of the Master develop in Eighth Doctor Audios, but that role later went to Alex Macqueen. Still, Roberts is finally returning to the role in a new series of the Diary of River Song, of all things, so there is still hope for his incarnation. Speaking of Macqueen, though…

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7 – Alex Macqueen

Technically Eric Roberts’ successor in terms of the Master’s chronological timeline (probably…) Alex Macqueen’s incarnation takes on a far more delighted and almost child-like direction – he seems to always see the funny side to being pure evil, and although he has appeared exclusively in audios so far his version of the Master is clearly distinctive from the classic incarnations of the Master. Clearly inspired by the Simm incarnation, Macqueen does bridge the gap between the Classic and New Series Masters effectively, and he is a great foil for the Eighth Doctor. Interestingly, although this incarnation is best known for his appearances against the Eighth Doctor, this incarnation actually debuted  against the Seventh Doctor, and Alex Macqueen also voiced the decayed incarnation possessing his incarnation’s body against the Sixth Doctor. Both the Macqueen and Beevers incarnations regain their own minds to face off against the Seventh Doctor in The Two Masters, which incidentally is the first multi-Master story in performed Doctor Who, which is a testament to both actor’s skill as they do great impressions of each other’s specific Master personalities.

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6 – John Simm

Being the first Master incarnation to be depicted on screen post-regeneration, Simm’s incarnation initially came off as a bit too wacky and mad to really be the same Master that fans remember from the Classic Series. Whilst the gaps have since been filled by various Audios, fans at the time did concede that this was the Master immediately following the horrors he experienced in the Time War, and it was very possible that he had simply gone totally insane.Whilst Simm does have some character moments with  David Tennant’s Doctor and does a fantastic job of playing a crazed lunatic, unfortunately throughout his two appearances in the Russell T. Davies era his incarnation is never given a chance to slow down, and even when there are moments between the Doctor and this incarnation of the Master, they are always overshadowed by this incarnation’s instability – either through the ‘drumming’ arc or the fact that he is hungry for human flesh. Thankfully, Moffat gave this incarnation a bit more nuance in Series 10, and Simm shows his true talents as he effortlessly carries the role of a more Classic-themed Master perfectly.

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5 – Anthony Ainley

The official ‘replacement’ for Roger Delgado in the 1980s, The only real criticism that can be set against Ainley’s version of the Master is that he is in fact too good at emulating his predecessor. Even so, Ainley does make his own mark on the character, and develops the role over his long tenure that spans the last three Doctors of the televised Classic Series, and he is the definitive version of the Master for many Doctor Who fans. Known for his flamboyant personality, Ainley’s Master seemed to hate the Doctor a fair deal more than Delgado’s incarnation did, and his plans often revolve around achieving his ultimate goal to kill the Doctor. Still, like Delgado’s incarnation, he was not above siding with the Doctor if he felt it necessary – often leading to moments in which his true allegiances are a mystery, as in one of the most memorable scenes of The Five Doctors.

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4 – Derek Jacobi

Despite only playing the Master briefly in Utopia, Derek Jacobi’s performance immediately sold him to audiences as the genuine article, perhaps even more so than John Simm’s incarnation did in the same episode, and it stands as a testament to his incredible ability as an actor that Jacobi could effectively snap from being a lovable, innocent old man to a violent and psychotic killer. Needless to say fans were eager to see this more of this Master, and having been given his own Big Finish series as well as appearing in the U.N.I.T. spinoff series, the Jacobi incarnation definitely deserves a return in the TV show itself.

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3 – Geoffrey Beevers

Initially appearing in just one episode of the Classic Series, The Keeper of Traken, Beevers would later reprise his role as the Master in the Big Finish Audios, and it is in these audios that he truly excels. This particular incarnation of the Master is interesting as he has more on his mind than simply conquest or domination – most of his plans revolve around survival or somehow acquiring more regenerations in order to prolong his life. That being said, his multiple appearances in various Big Finish Audios have allowed for some great character moments between his incarnation and various Doctors, with a particular highlight being the Seventh Doctor audio Master. Beever’s greatest asset to the role is his distinctive voice, which makes his audios all the better, as his line delivery is always spot on.

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2 – Michelle Gomez

The first female incarnation of the Master proved the perfect foil to the Twelfth Doctor thanks to both Michelle Gomez’s dynamic portrayal fueled by her interesting personality and the fascinating direction that Steven Moffat took the character, particularly during his final series as showrunner. Known as Missy, Gomez’s interpretation of the Master pays homage to many previous incarnations, particularly Delgado, and shocked fans after appearing regularly as a mystery plot arc throughout Series 8 only to drop the bombshell that she was actually the Master as the plot twist cliffhanger to the penultimate episode of the series. Following her brief return in the opener of Series 9, Missy went on to be one of the most fascinating elements of the incredible Series 10, and her redemption arc was perhaps one of the best executed in the New Series.

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1 – Roger Delgado

The original, you might say. Although the role Delgado played has been adapted by many talented individuals since his death, there is no doubt that Delgado had a true understanding of the character and his relationship with the Doctor and none since have been able to truly recapture the entirety of that complex understanding. Truly the perfect ploy for the Third Doctor, Roger Delgado’s Master filled the role of mustache-twirling supervillain to counter the Doctor’s role as the dashing secret agent/detective hero, and would often ally himself with various invading alien races in an attempt to conquer the Earth. Charming, manipulative, cunning and pure evil, Delgado’s Master is the archetype of the character and would inspire the character of each and every incarnation to come.

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Top Ten Sci-Fi Spaceships

The Science-Fiction genre is replete with examples of iconic spaceships, often used as transports and even mobile homes for the characters in science fiction. As such, the ship almost becomes a character in itself, developing its own quirks and technicalities that give it its personality. But the question remains – which ship is the best? For this list we will be judging based on how useful the ship would be, and the extent of its powers. To begin:

10 – Red Dwarf – Red Dwarf

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Despite being a slow, unwieldy, ancient mining ship that is peppered with meteorite impacts, Red Dwarf always pulls though and provides a home for its disparate band of occupants. Also, it comes packaged with Holly, the transgender eighth generation ‘hologrammic’ computer with an IQ that supposedly exceeds 6,000. Depending on the day, Holly might be sane or totally senile, and the ship seems to attract trouble on a near-daily basis. Don’t look forward to speedy travel with the Dwarf, however, since it trundles along at a snail’s pace. You do, however, get Starbug, but its up to you whether or not that’s a good thing.

9 – High Charity – Halo

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The Covenant Holy City-ship of High Charity serves as the cultural, political and military headquarters of the alliance, and mobilises the Covenant assault force against Humanity.  The best thing about High Charity is its environments, which you explore during the Halo 2 levels Gravemind and High Charity. The curved purple interiors and modular architectural design demonstrate the alien nature of the Covenant, and in terms of power it boasts a slipspace drive for instant transportation and a vast array of destructive weapons, with docking structures that can contain and transport hundreds of capital ships. So whether you like strolling through botanical gardens or invading planets with huge fleets of warships, High Charity is for you.

8 – Thunderbird 3 – Thunderbirds

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The ultimate classic rocket design, Thunderbird 3 might not have weapons but it is extraordinarily fast – able to make it halfway around the world in a matter of minutes, in some cases. Overall, the red rocket tops any other rocket-type ship in sci-fi, and the best part about it is that you might even get Tracy Island thrown in, as well as the ability to travel to and dock with Thunderbird 5, an orbital space station. Designed to launch as an SSTO (single-stage-to-orbit) rocket, the ship can be re-used unlike contemporary rockets used by NASA, and it even runs on the same fuel,

7 – Ebon Hawk – Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic

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The spiritual predecessor to the Millenium Falcon, the Ebon Hawk serves as the home for the traveling circus cast of Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. This ship was constructed over 1,000 years before the Falcon, so it isn’t as fast but it does seem to be more heavily armoured. However, featuring dual engines, the Ebon Hawk was certainly fast for its era, and could certainly hold its own against more powerful ships like the Leviathan. After all, this was Darth Revan’s ship for a reason.

6 – Serenity Firefly

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Similar to the Ebon Hawk, Serenity is a freighter primarily, designed to haul cargo from planet to planet. Thanks to heavy modifications, however, she serves as the vessel of Mal Reynolds and his crew, a band of vagrants and smugglers who partake in various illegal activities. The ship was described by Firefly creator Joss Whedon as the ‘tenth character’ of the series, and she has character indeed – fans have likened Serenity to freighters like the Millenium Falcon. The biggest strength of Firefly-class ships is their durability and ease of repair, and Serenity is no exception.

5 – USS Enterprise-D – Star Trek: The Next Generation

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The USS Enterprise is a fantastic ship in its own right, but the USS Enterprise-D surpasses it in almost every conceivable way. For one, it is essentially just a more powerful version of the original Enterprise, and it also has much more advanced technology aboard like the Holodeck and the Saucer Separation. Not only that, but the ship is also more luxurious, with more space and better living conditions – the original Enterprise was built with practicality in mind, with dull grey bulkheads and no inch of space wasted, whereas the Enterprise-D has a warm beige interior design with the occasional appearance of wood paneling. With the addition of the crew, particularly Data, the Enterprise-D is equipped to deal with any obstacle, whilst also providing a comfortable environment.

4 – Millenium Falcon – Star Wars

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Allegedly the fastest piece of junk in the Galaxy, the Millenium Falcon is certainly a go-to starship if speed is a priority. Han Solo boasts in A New Hope that the Falcon ‘made the Kessel run in less than 12 parsecs’, which sounds like he made it up on the spot but will undoubtedly be extrapolated to the Nth degree in the upcoming Solo Movie, but the general jist of what he is saying stands – the Falcon is a fast ship. Able to outrun any Imperial starship, this unassuming-looking freighter has gone on to become one of the most famous ships in the Galaxy, and aided in the destruction of not one but two Death Stars. The only real downside of the Millenium Falcon is its amenities – it is essentially a grotty smuggling vessel, with very few forms of entertainment to pass the time during the long hyperspace jumps (unless you count a dodgy holographic chess set and a flying ball.) The ship would be handy in a pinch, but for long-distance travel the Falcon falls short of the best ‘conventional’ starship in Sci-Fi, which is:

3 – USS Voyager – Star Trek: Voyager

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The Intrepid-class starship won the top spot for Top 10 Federation Starship Classes, and the most famous ship of its class is at least half of the reason why. The exploits of the USS Voyager top any starship of this dimensional plane, and its already advanced and reliable design is augmented by many modifications that the crew picked up during the ship’s time in the Delta Quadrant, including some Borg technology and a massively improved warp drive. With the Voyager also comes the Delta Flyer, a greatly upgraded and improved redesign of the standard Federation Shuttlecraft for ship-to-surface transport or even ship-to-ship dogfights, an innovation that other Federation starships lack. Despite the greater focus on tactical systems and speed, the Voyager still features the entertainment systems available on the Enterprise like the Holodeck, and is sleeker, faster and comes with a holographic medic.

2 – Heart of Gold – Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

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The Heart of Gold is powered by the Infinite Improbability Drive, a wonderful new method of crossing interstellar distances in a mere nothingth of a second, without all that tedious mucking about in hyperspace. This incredible propulsion system temporarily launches the ship through every part of conceivable space simultaneously, and the only payoff is a temporary bout of extremely high improbability, which can cause hallucinations, out-of-body experiences, or a complete rewrite of the ships entire internal environment at a molecular level. Known effects have included the creation, and spontaneous upending, of a million-gallon vat of custard, marrying Michael Saunders, the transformation of a pair of guided nuclear missiles into a whale and a bowl of petunias, and transforming one of its crew into a penguin.

1 – The TARDIS – Doctor Who

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The TARDIS may not look like much of a spaceship, but its abilities exceed all of the other ships on this list combined. Capable of traveling anywhere in time and space, the TARDIS can quite literally take its crew anywhere in any time period, and even other dimensions under the right conditions. If that were not enough, the ship is dimensionally transcendental, meaning the interior exists in a separate dimension to the exterior, creating the illusion that it is bigger on the inside, and the interior of the TARDIS is so vast that after over 2,000 years of owning the ship the Doctor has still not managed to fully map the floor plan. The TARDIS is alive, in a sense, and can alter and reshape its interior to suit the needs of its occupants, as well as allowing for a huge amount of internal systems such as a karaoke bar, a cinema, a library and a swimming pool, all of which occasionally move, change, or in rare cases fuse (causing the swimming pool to sometimes appear in the library). The ship is shielded to the extent that Dalek missiles – of which less than 10 are needed to eradicate a planet – don’t even scratch the blue box. Undoubtedly, no other spaceship in Sci-Fi even comes close to beating the TARDIS.

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And that’s our list of the Top 10 Sci-Fi spaceships. If you enjoyed, be sure to leave a like, and you can follow us and like us on Facebook for more content like this. If you have your own list of Top 10 Sci-Fi spaceships, be sure to leave it down in the comments below!

 

Ranking the Levels – Halo 2

Welcome to the next instalment in the ‘Ranking the Levels’ series, in which we will be ranking all the levels of a Halo game. For this installment, we will be looking at all 15 levels of Halo 2, the longest game in the Halo series in terms of playable levels. Let’s start with everyone’s best guess as to the ‘automatic’ worst level in the game:

15 – The Heretic, Mission 1

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It doesn’t seem fair that the first mission of Halo 2 is ranked as the worst, but don’t be dismayed – the only reason why this level ranks so low is that it isn’t really a level at all. In fact, The Heretic is just one long cutscene. It’s a very good cutscene, the prologue establishes where we are in terms of continuity from Halo: Combat Evolved and also where exactly Halo 2 is based in the timeline, but as there is no gameplay this level cannot rank any higher than 15. In terms of fulfilling its purpose however, this level is an optimal example of a prologue. We know who the Arbiter is and we understand why the Master Chief is where he is (sort of, with help from the manual).

14 – The Armory, Mission 2

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Again, a boring choice – at least you actually get to have some facet of gameplay in this mission, but it isn’t much – there are no enemies, and all you really do is walk around the armory section of Cairo Station in a way reminiscent of the opening section of The Pillar of Autumn from Halo: Combat Evolved, but with better graphics. The highlight of this mission is taking a ride in a lift with Sergeant Johnson while he talks about his time in the corps. Actually, this level should be higher on the list…

13 – The Oracle, Mission 7

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The Oracle introduced players – already shocked at the development that you would be playing as the Arbiter in the previous level, The Arbiter – to another stunning revelation about this new Halo game, the introduction of boss fights. The Oracle does its boss fight fairly well, involving an airborne Elite with the shield strength of an Ultra that also duel wields Plasma Rifles, which is already a fairly tough enemy, given the ability to disappear into pipes when damaged in order to regenerate health. That sounds like the perfect Halo boss fight to me, but unfortunately this level falls behind on the list because of several design problems – the tedious laboratory section, the elevator descent into hell that involves the player standing still for minutes on end waiting for enemies to spawn, the premature introduction of the Flood, it all culminates in a fairly dull and tedious experience. At least the music is good, although it will become apparent that is a given in Halo 2.

12 – Sacred Icon, Mission 10

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Despite the fact that this blog is named after it, the mission Sacred Icon is ranked low on this list. Why? Well, for one, I haven’t really named this blog after the level specifically, although I already explained that in a previous article – and second, the level itself isn’t really that bad – it’s just that all of the levels in Halo 2 are good, and ranking them is only possible based on a scale of relative quality. Overall, Sacred Icon is definitely interesting – it includes the only instance of having Jackals as allies in the entire Halo campaigns, and it introduces the unique varieties of Sentinel that Halo 2 has to offer, the Sentinel Major and the Enforcer. It just involves a lot of tight corridors and Flood encounters, and so like The Oracle it ranks fairly low on this list.

11 – High Charity, Mission 14

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The penultimate level of Halo 2 should have been spectacular, and although High Charity is a fairly entertaining romp through the rapidly Flood-infested Covenant Holy City it suffers from tight corridor syndrome which limits gameplay options. It is the only level in which Flood can be seen using Brute Plasma Rifles, but other than that there’s not much that’s unique about it. There is a strange glitch involving a Brute Chieftain sometimes being seen lying dead in a doorway, although more often than not it is simply an Honour Guard. This glitch was even carried over to the Anniversary version.

10 – Outskirts, Mission 4

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The first level in any Halo game to be set on Earth, Outskirts sets the scene for Halo 2’s desperate struggle against an oncoming Covenant invasion. Some of the best parts of this level are in tight enclosed spaces, because the level uses its tight sections to its advantage with atmospheric music and plenty of cover against the onslaught of Jackal Snipers. Overall, this level has a great vehicle section but too much emphasis on defence against waves of enemies in the early segments.

9 – Cairo Station, Mission 3

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The first level of Halo 2 jumps players right in, fending off an invasion from a Covenant boarding party almost as soon as the level begins. The level allows players the choice of starting weapon, unlike Halo: Combat Evolved which forces players to pick up a Magnum and then an Assault Rifle when combat begins. This level also has a fantastic space segment, in which the player fights outside the station in low gravity. The music creates a fantastic atmosphere here, and the final battle with the Elites has music that is timed to the repeated firing of Cairo Station’s SuperMAC that creates excellent ambience when fighting the final squad of Elites. Like Outskirts, wave defence style gameplay lets this level down, other than that, it is very enjoyable.

8 – The Arbiter, Mission 6

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The Arbiter’s introductory level was controversial back in the day, and few people accepted the level for what it was – a chance to attempt a more stealth-orientated style of gameplay into Halo. In that sense, The Arbiter does a very good job of encouraging players to adopt to this new style of gameplay – rewarding stealth kills by having enemies that notice you spawn more enemies to help them, and by killing them stealthily you prevent them from doing so. The music in this level is fantastic, tracks like Flawed Legacy and Follow for the Banshee section create the perfect atmosphere for their respective sections.

7 – Quarantine Zone – Mission 11

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This level is interesting in that it is the first and only instance of the Flood using vehicles, making them even more deadly. The addition of the Enforcers and their ability to crush vehicles with their huge arms create some unique encounters between them, the player and the Flood-controlled vehicles. This level also marks one of the few examples of Rtas ‘Vadum aiding the Arbiter for an extended period of time, allowing the player to exploit his invincibility for multiple encounters.

6 – Regret, Mission 9

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This level is all about atmosphere. From the initial section on the Forerunner ruins to the Gondola segment the music seems to be all about action and dramatic chorus,  when suddenly the player delves into an underwater complex and the tone shifts to be more sombre and delicate, until eventually returning to the surface onto an outdoor grassy section, only to board the final Gondola ride and take on the Prophet of Regret. Halo 2’s second boss fight is a little less intuitive than its first, but it is entertaining nonetheless – the Chief boards the Prophet of Regret’s Gravity Throne and beats him to death…

5 – Uprising, Mission 13

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This mission has no objective. Your only instinct is to destroy. After witnessing the betrayal of the Elites by the Brutes from the point of view of the Arbiter, Uprising gives the player a chance to blow off some steam and deal out sweet revenge. The level is made even better by the fact that you can build a small army of Elite supporters as the level progresses, and if you defend them (and help them out of situations in which they might get stuck) your allies will follow you for the entire level. If you’re lucky, some allied Grunts might even survive to the end, where you can give them a Rocket Launcher and watch as they blow themselves up.

4 – Metropolis, Mission 5

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The first chance you get to grab a tank is great in Halo 2 because for the first time in Halo history it was actually useful. As powerful as the Halo: Combat Evolved Scorpion was, it’s main cannon was so inaccurate and the machine gun so wide-spreading that it was sometimes frustrating to use. The Halo 2 Scorpion is much improved, although as we see in this mission it is no match for the Scarab. The Scarab section of this mission is hilariously fun, made even better by the fantastic music. The Elite Ultra serves as a simple mini-boss fight, and the level lives up to its name – combat among skyscrapers was a new concept to Halo when Halo 2 was released, but it would return to Halo soon enough…

3 – The Great Journey, Mission 15

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Although many were disappointed to discover that The Great Journey was Halo 2’s last level, that was only really because they so desperately wanted to play more of the game. But as it stands, The Great Journey is a pretty good last level. You team up with Hunters, Elite Councilors, Zealots and a Scarab to take down Tartarus, not to mention you ally with Humans as the Arbiter, marking the first time in the history of Halo that Humans and Elites work together. The final boss fight is fairly well executed although it would have been nice if your Elite allies were actually useful for something…

2 – Gravemind, Mission 12

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This level is damn-near perfect. Aside from the dodgy initial start. But it’s got everything – a grand tour of the inner workings of High Charity, the initial stages of the Covenant Civil War, the first time Master Chief encounters Brutes in the Halo games, and the introduction of the Brute Plasma Rifle and Brute Shot. What makes this level fun is the concept of sneaking around inside this behemoth Covenant space station trying to rescue Marines and track down the Prophet of Truth. You also get to witness Breaking Benjamin’s Blow Me Away in action during a huge battle between Elite Ultras and Brutes that takes place in the Mausoleum of the Arbiter. Awesome.

1 – Delta Halo, Mission 8

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This level has it all. For a start, the music is perfect. This is almost like a level of Halo 2 Soundtrack’s greatest hits – tense combat music like Peril, the fantastic Heretic, Hero, the remastered return of an old classic in In Amber Clad, and of course the fantastic Delta Halo Suite. But this level’s environments are simply stunning. This level set to top the introduction to the original Halo found in Halo: Combat Evolved and it succeeds. This level also features the debut of the ODSTs, who went on to become a vital staple of the Halo mythos.

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So that’s all for this week, be sure to check out last week’s ‘Ranking the Levels’ to read my thoughts on Halo: Combat Evolved’s levels, and next week I will of course be uploading my thoughts on Halo 3’s campaign.

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