Posted By Robert H. about 8 months, 2 weeks ago
The Halo series has always been a source of great divisiveness in the gaming community ever since its introduction in 2001. There are large amounts of people who swear by the games as being the best gaming has to offer and it seems as though there is an equal amount of those who see them as average FPS games that have been overhyped and overrated far beyond what they deserve. Personally, I find them to be merely okay with the original being the best for various reasons, one of which being the tight level structure. While the levels themselves could be rather hit or miss in terms of enjoyment, the progression made very good sense to the narrative and tied together nicely by making many of the last few areas be altered versions of previous missions without feeling like retreads. This design choice, along with how good the missions of Halo could be when they “worked,” is no more evident than in the final level itself, The Maw.
The Maw actually takes place in the same location the first mission took place: the human spaceship you came to Halo on, The Pillar of Autumn. However, it is literally a shell of its former self, with most of the interiors burned out due to the crash and no humans to be found inside. You come to this ghost ship in order to blow up the engines in a last-ditch effort to destroy Halo so it cannot be used as a weapon to destroy all life. Returning to The Pillar of Autumn with such a goal grants the level a true sense of finality, as it feels like you’ve come full circle after everything that has transpired.
Also adding to that sense is the dramatic mood shift that accompanies this last place. Whereas almost all other portions of the game aim for either a triumphant or unsettling tone depending on the presence of the Flood enemies, The Maw has a very somber mood throughout nearly the entire mission, as there are practically no humans left on Halo and your final option could be seen as destroying the last remnants of the crew’s presence. It’s a well done analog to main character Master Chief’s situation as he does what he has to.
While The Maw may be a repeat of sorts, that isn’t to say that it is an entire retread of The Pillar of Autumn level. Almost the entire second half of the mission takes place in rooms you haven’t been near before and the places you do go through again have changed enough to warrant a second run-through. As previously mentioned, a crash caused the interior of the ship to get severely burned and shifted quite a lot of the objects throughout into vastly different positions. As a result, despite the familiar backdrop and recognizable locations, the corridors and control rooms still feel alien as the bright walls and futuristic look have given way to scorched surroundings and broken machines. The corrupted nature of the place really gives a sense of just how much the situation has shifted over the course of the game and makes the level feel like a whole new experience, despite the location.
Of course, despite a lack of humans, there are still plenty of creatures roaming the halls of the destroyed vessel. As you would probably guess, by this point in the game, you have encountered all three of the major enemy factions in the game: the Covenant, the alien force that was your original foe, the Flood, a parasitic species that infects other creatures to spread the infection as far as possible, and the Sentinels, a group of machines designed to combat the Flood that were turned against you by their leader. These three factions each have a strong presence in The Maw and you encounter a good mix of these enemy types as you travel through, causing you to have to constantly shift your strategy to deal with whatever Master Chief encounters.
In addition, all three of these factions are opposed to each other as well as Master Chief so, when you come across any enemies, it’s very likely they are fighting one of the other two groups. This presents many different enemy situations that keep each encounter from feeling too similar to one another and test the player with previous challenges while still introducing some new problems, as a good final level should.
Although going through The Pillar of Autumn on an almost completely backwards route is just about as fun as most other parts of the game, the new areas of the ship are where this level really shines. After going through the burned-out sections, you get to the bridge and attempt to start the countdown for the engine explosion with initial success. However, the leader of the Sentinels, 343 Guilty Spark, hacks into the systems of the Autumn and stops the clock with no way to start it again. To ensure the ship still blows, you go to the engine room in order to destroy the engines manually, leading to an intense battle.