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Let's Play Halo SPV3 Stage 4
Posted By: Lion O CyborgDate: 3/23/20 5:45 a.m.

Stage 4: The Silent Cartographer

Search for the map room that will lead you to the secrets of Halo.

Hey guys, it’s LOC and welcome back to more Let’s Play Halo SPV3. I've had to cancel most of my outdoors plans due to the virus scare but it at least gives me time to work on Halo etc. In today’s stage, we learned from a terminal by the Prophet of Stewardship on the Truth and Reconciliation that he’s sent his honour guards to a site called “The Silent Cartographer” which Cortana confirms is a map room that will lead us to Halo’s Control Centre. The aliens want to find all sites of interest besides just that, but it’s the control room we are most interested in.

According to the book, Zamamee studied our raid and made projections about what we will do next so he’s laid a trap for us at one point. We won’t see Zamamee himself in-game of course, but he is meant to be there. Before the loadout screen, there’s also a brand new feature to SPV3: the option to pick a different sort of Classic vs Remastered:

In SPV3.1, we had a fully original remake of this level as an additional feature to the classic one with new stuff. While the terminals are the same, that means brand new level layout, a unique atmosphere and some ideas that canologically first appeared in Halo 2 & 3 show up as well. The Silent Cartographer Evolved is arguably harder than the Classic map too. Now, my memory of SPV3.1 is a bit hazy but I remember only playing this by manually selecting it in the level select menu. If this option wasn’t here before like I assume based on that, it is now. I will be playing the Classic map in this run, but I may cover the Evolved version of this level after the LP is done as a bonus episode. For now, imma’ take you back to the past to play the awesome game that’s a blast.

Act 1: The Silent Cartographer - Curiouser and Curiouser

Wow! It’s like a postcard! Dear Sarge, kicking ass in outer space. Wish you were here.

Cortana tells me that the Covenant believe the map room is somewhere under this island. There’s at least three major installations here including the titular giant GPS. The level starts with a bang: we have this cool flyby of the coastline before Echo 419 touches us down on a beach next to a metal buttress of some kind. The Prophet’s Collection & Sanctify Squadron is waiting for us on the beach and unlike vanilla they have at least 2 wraiths as an advantage…which are promptly toasted by our Pelican’s minigun “chin-gun” cannons, which aren’t seen being used in vanilla either as far as I know. The one on the left actually succeeds in shooting us head on, but the mortar passes right through my helmet and keeps going with barely a sun tan. That is incredibly lucky, though it may actually be deliberate programming so as to give the player a scare, but not kill them before they have a chance to gain control.

We hit the ground running and charge the grunts, brutes and elites entrenched in the dunes. I’m a marksman so after I use my assault rifle on the grunts and jackals, I swap it out for a plasma pistol. It’s likely some marines will die here but it’s possible to save them, even on Legendary. Anniversary has an achievement for just that, which I got by pure luck. Our beachhead is established under the buttress thing where there’s a medipack, some rockets and even a mini rocket ammo case intended for grenade launchers. Yes, red assault rifles and blue battle rifles unique to SPV3 take a page from Marathon’s book and restore the grenade launchers! Sadly I haven’t got a battle rifle and I didn’t see what type my MA5B was, so I can’t show it yet. I remember the buttress in SPV3.1 having a door and ground floor interior added to it but I don’t know if that was real or if it was just either a dream or false memory.

“Affirmative, Echo 419 inbound!”Captain Rawley merrily calls from the air. “Somebody order a Warthog?”

“Hey, I didn’t know you made house, calls Foehammer!” Sergeant Stacker replies. “Music to my ears, Foehammer!” answers someone else. Rawley chuckles, “You know our motto: we deliver!” She flies in and, like in Stage 2, drops both a warthog and a Gungoose quadbike on the beach for us. As a kid, I liked to go “Back it up! Back it up!” like characters in Recess or other shows did when guiding a dump truck or lorry containing supplies to a drop-off point, albeit this time without the air traffic control paddles like they had. This is also the second time we see ghosts early except this time they are unmanned. I ain’t passing up this chance so I’ll show both the ghost and gungoose off later. Before setting off, there’s a terminal in the sand besides the ghost.

I think he’s from First Strike too; he’s on the pelican with Johnson, a few others and Linda’s cryotube after the end of the game. He’s also right about the hunters: there’s a lot of them here. I drive around the beach to a small woodland where a phantom drops off a pair of ghosts. There’s skirmishers and brutes in the trees and jackal snipers on a rock to my left. On top of the rock is the first covenant terminal by…Tsek Vadum? That rings a bell, is he related to Thel Vadum/Vadumee? While his brother (?) is the leader of the Fleet of Particular Justice, Tsek serves on the Seeker of Truth as an Honour Guard for the collection squad.

The Fieldmasters seem to make up the meat of collection squads, almost always being zealot rank according to Catherine Halsey in Halo Reach. As you may know from Stage 1, Nosolee was one such fieldmaster but he was an oosoona instead of a Collection and Sanctify unit. I snipe a brute on the hill ahead with my DMR before I move on. 2 headshots is all it takes, no misses.

Around the corner up the hill is a big keep like tower in the cliff wall, where a phantom unloads troops onto the large landing pad. Cortana bets the Silent Cartographer is in there. It is. It’s then a simple matter of doing doughnuts all over the covenant on the landing pad before making a frontal charge down the middle of the building to squish the rest. A pack of blind wolves piles up in the entryway after I drive out again so I need to be careful to not let any be killed. Cortana suggests that the map room must be at the bottom floor: all the structures on this island extend deep underground. Unfortunately, an honour guard (zealot in vanilla & Anniversary) locks the doors once I descend most of the ramps, which surprises Cortana as she didn’t expect they knew how Halo’s electronics worked.

As I head back the warthog and decide to give the gungoose a try now, Cortana radios Captain Keyes, suggesting we search for a way to override the Cartographer’s security system. “Understood, we’re still en-route to the objective. I may be out of contact when we get there.” Keyes says through the COM. He got a tip-off from an Elite POW about a cache of covenant weapons we can steal for Alpha Base, and hopefully more charger columns to go with them. So he’s going on a jungle rendezvous with Johnson to go get it while we handle the main event.

A pair of banshees is circling outside when I emerge, but my gunner takes care of them just fine. Keyes tells us to use any means necessary as we have to get to the control centre BEFORE the Covenant and failure is not an option.

Echo 419 offers to be the lookout both for us and Stacker’s team on the beach. “Second squad, ready to roll soon as everybody’s topside!” Stacker practically sings into his mic, making the line more awesome. There are actually 2 more terminals I almost missed: another UNSC one under the landing pad and a Forerunner one to the left of the door the honour guard locks.

Again, it’s all those little insights into the Covenant species’ culture that I really enjoy about SPV3 besides the usual thrills; they’re the fine baklava after the main gameplay & cutscenes’ miso marinade steak & noodles. It’s also why I like to hunt every non-essential terminal barring copies that I can in Marathon and take every bad future special stage/bad future plank in both respectively Infinity & Eternal X. The best Halo books consist entirely of this, especially the Kilo 5 Trilogy, which I felt was the closest to a Marathon novel series in terms of plot and its sense of humour, especially any scene with the Durandal circa M2 expy, Black Box.

This was recorded before Spark spoke to Siri on the Truth and Reconciliation in the last level’s CEA terminal. He’s not the only one concerned about the intruders in this building. As I drive back to the gungoose, I take a moment to admire the ocean again at sea level. Halo’s sea is even more beautiful when you look at it up close.

Halo 1’s sea is a bit empty however so both Anniversary and SPV3 have added more islands and stacks in the water so as to make it look more like an ocean near land.

This is also the first time you see something I’ve never liked in videogames: The Master Chief can’t swim and he sinks to the bottom like Dr Eggman in a swimming pool. I don’t care if he’s wearing really heavy power armour; it looks silly and even Marcus Jones in Marathon could swim even in magma & glass, despite being effectively the $6,000,000 man in space. Willing suspension of disbelief is just as important as realism in games. More so perhaps, considering that the best games contain both but are happy to lean toward the former. The only time I excuse this dumb trope is in Sonic games as he actually can’t swim in the story, but other characters can e.g. Tails has his doggy paddle, Knuckles has breaststroke, Cream has a rubber life ring etc.

It’s more of a problem as even the marines can breathe and talk underwater no problem, while vehicles keep on driving with no consequences like in an early episode of The Raccoons, namely Life in the Fast Lane where Bert gets stuck on a dirt bike with missing brakes and a sticking throttle, that some arsehole puts to the metal soon after he gets on.

You can go out quite far, to the point where the fog may make it hard to find the island again (in vanilla Xbox/Refined) before hitting an invisible wall. This is marked in SPV3 by the stacks, and more subtly by the sand turning greyer and rockier at the bottom of the slope.

While this mistake is still pretty fun as it’s one of the few times in Halo you can go underwater without dying to a disguised bottomless pit, SPV3 has one of its own as for some reason, they didn’t anticipate someone would drive behind the rock stacks in the water or try to climb them: there’s no collision.

https://youtu.be/SrMiCYi7I00?t=9

That’s enough faffing around, time to continue on. The Gungoose first appeared in Halo 2 Anniversary’s Remastered multiplayer mode, being a mongoose quadbike with twin machineguns. The SPV3 version is effectively the same, but the machineguns look like someone duct-taped a pair of assault rifles to the handlebars.

Gungooses also have very relentless twin missiles, identical to the Hornet’s rocket launchers but without the lock-on feature. The brute behind that skirmisher has power armour. As was covered in the primer and mentioned in a previous terminal, brute power armour shields stay down once broken, just like Halo 3.

There’s a terminal among some debris and an overturned rocket warthog, which is a vehicle taken directly from Halo PC’s multiplayer and having made a canon comeback in Reach.

Unlike Halo 2 where Honour Guards are just really, really tough and are more likely to carry swords than zealots or ultras, SPV3 Honour guard shields are immune to bullets entirely, meaning you MUST use plasma or explosives. This is on top of being just as tough as Halo 2, effectively making them worse.

Fighting my way up the path here, I stick a major grunt with a plasma grenade which rends it into raw meat and also wipes out the remaining jackals. I then stick a black hole grenade to the grunt’s mouth to catch the other two grunts standing by it. Not sure why but I find this very calming. Probably because the other bodies mixed in with the grunts turns the grenade vortex into a fountain.

A brute with a shredder appears at the top of the hill but the same 2 headshots are enough to remove his metal shower cap and finish him off. At the top is a large plug shaped structure in the dead centre of the island. There’s hunters here patrolling the plug, both with Assault Beam Cannons. The DMR and a nearby Battle rifle come in handy I also saved a focus rifle from the sniper by the first covenant terminal. There’s a pair of overshields and a jackal riot shield by some space crates (the purple box things) and a Forerunner terminal on the side of the plug.

Hang on, there’s more data in this terminal.

Spark’s eye turning red when he comes out of hibernation becomes very important much later, but not in this game. Presumably the reason communication was stopped completely was because Delta Halo’s Flood facilities were breached and they couldn’t risk logic plague infection, even though as we see in the games, it doesn’t seem to affect monitors. We get to visit Delta Halo in Halo 2. Next to some brutes and jackals ahead is another covenant terminal by some rocks.

Tsek must be the honour guard that locked us out. It also appears that the Prophets have twisted “Reclaimer” to refer to the Covenant, probably to avoid potential trouble if anyone stumbles on references to humans in Forerunner sites. This also seems to be referencing Halo Wars. I should watch an LP of Halo Wars sometime to see what I’d missed, as I doubt I’ll be able to go back to it. Down the path is the security station, hanging over the cliff edge. The overhang bit looks like the starship Enterprise. Also, it’s entirely possible to come here first and get different dialog from Cortana but the enemies outside the cartographer building will still be there on top of the reinforcements. If you decide to do this on higher difficulties, clear the outside of the Cartographer building first but don’t actually go inside yet.

I grab one of the three overshields by the entrance and follow the ramp down. This is where Zamamee laid his trap according to the book: 2 more hunters (plain this time) come out from behind a wall at the far end of this dark room. Normally the best thing is to hide behind the purple space crates in one of the alcoves and snipe one with the pistol when its back is turned. (Or try aiming for its “stomach” or face if you’re really good) The second one can be safely fought in the open. Since I have no pistol, I use a black hole grenade to soften the first one up and turn its own assault cannon on the other.

The security controls sort of resemble the map room itself but with a hologram of what is either the cartographer building or this one. It could be that they are simply 2 entrances to the same building, connected via the large shaft on the balcony behind the map, this being the topmost section of that shaft. You can even see it through the glass floor.

If playing Anniversary, there’s the Bandanna skull on top of the enclosed walkway leading in here which can only be reached by grenade jumping from the left edge of the balcony in this shaft when facing the walkway. It was my first grenade jump as well, but I can honestly say that Marathon’s ones are easier to get used to, minus attempting to grenade climb outside M1 & Redux. I think it’s because Halo uses hand grenades more often than it does grenade launchers, and you must use frags because plasma grenades are not only more powerful, but they have longer fuses (and thus, more time to make an error) and if you accidentally stick one to your foot, it’s an instant kill. Don’t bother with rocket jumps in this game either as it will end very badly.

Act 2: It’s quiet…

Too quiet. Where is everyone? Outside fighting marines it seems: Dropship Bravo 22 radios a distress call as they get shot down. As I rush to the rescue, invisible elites ambush me as I go through the hunter room. Don’t save your fuel rods, use em’ all on the elites, picking up the other one if necessary. Bravo 22 was bringing us some heavy weapons including a rocket launcher; Cortana thought I could use them for the hunters. Unlike in vanilla, the marines survive the crash and I find them fighting jackals and grunts on and around a small mesa. I snipe them all with my focus rifle from the support under the Enterprise shaped overhang. I can climb down via the trees to the right of the Enterprise but before I do, there’s one more Spark terminal.

As the author of the Odyssey once said a long time ago: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OCmuATH2yzo

In the vanilla game, it was unclear if it was actually the Covenant who released the Flood, or Captain Keyes and his squad when they hack open a locked door. Spark seems to think it was the Covenant later (at least in vanilla), but it doesn’t make sense as they seem to have already known about the Flood according to the opening of Halo 2. On top of that, the Covenant indeed did encounter it before, according to both Halo Wars and the SPV3 terminals. Turns out when I disabled security for the cartographer building, I actually ended up disabling security systems for the whole ring. Effectively we, the player are directly responsible for what was a major plot twist back in the day. Ooops.

I take a fresh overshield and climb down the trees to the marines. Pro tip: crouch as soon as you touch the ground to negate all falling damage (within reason), allowing you to avoid dying or at least getting hurt from some drops. The timing has to be spot on or else it won’t work. Sometimes it may partially work if you screw up in that you only lose some of your shields, but no health. The next terminal is atop the mesa where the grunts were. Before going up, I swap out my assault cannon for a rocket launcher. The terminal is actually Covenant terminal 2 and the last one was 3; apparently the mod devs assumed people would circle to the security complex this way first.

Look familiar? ;)

Driving back to the Cartographer building, I decide to take the rocket hog for a brief test drive and check out the secret tunnel.

As a kid, I once had a dream that this tunnel went much deeper, was much longer, and led to some kind of lava filled factory of conveyor belts, sharp blades and other machinery that I had to navigate, going ever deeper underground as the belt tunnels past the magma chambers continued. I think I remember seeing experiment capsules or glass pipes at one point later on in the dream. It was like a cross between the Cave of Wonders and Residue Processing from Half Life on steroids. Sadly the tunnel here isn’t as imaginative, as it’s just a way to sneak up on yet another hunter pair. I then drive back to at the start to get the ghost. There’s also a spare by the cartographer building. In Halo 1, the engine sounds a lot like a vacuum cleaner but SPV3 uses the nicer droning sounds from Halo 2 onward.

Unlike the wraith which steam rolls a foot off the ground when it hovers, the ghost seems to fly over the ground but it doesn’t seem to go that high, like a hovercraft crossed with a go-kart. It’s not very powerful, but you can use the A button for the airbrake i.e. to do a wheelie. It’s used for the sake of landing upright when taking large jumps, making it quite a fun choice. Unlike later games however, you can’t use the boost and getting it to run enemies over is quite difficult, even when you actually hit them. The plasma turrets are still good though.

Back at the main building, I give the hunters a SPNKing before jumping down. A major jackal thinks I suck at sniping unlike its mates (who I’d dealt with via my hog gunner at the start of the level), getting a cheap shot at me with a brute plasma pistol from its perch on the landing pad. I prove it wrong by climbing back up a fair distance away from it, then blasting a sustained burst through its beak. Unlike Halo Reach, the focus rifle has spread when zoomed in for some reason so while it’s all over the place, it quickly narrows to a biting point.

While we saw him in the cutscene after opening the door, it seems Tsek isn’t here. He’ll be back after I use the map room.

Act 3: Shafted - Tier Drops

A phrase I knew about when I was 7 thanks to Hey Arnold: The Movie, but I only got it just a couple of years ago. Turning right into the titular shaft, John kicks a rock off the catwalk into the depths. There’s no splash or metallic clang that I can hear.

Man, that’s deep. Next to me is another UNSC terminal:

Haverson is also from First Strike: I only remember him as he shoots an engineer after it repairs John’s suit or its shields, just in case the Covenant get it back and learn our shielding improvements from it. Engineers were meant to appear on this level originally, presumably to help the Prophet with accessing the machinery as the lore goes. I recently learned that the original point of the mission was to assassinate him, but prophets wouldn’t appear until Halo 2.

Speaking of Halo 2, Cortana uses her line from Regret to warn that there are honour guards everywhere. The first one is tending to one of the space crate shaped computer things so I whack it from behind.

Why is there a grav lift in the middle of the room? It can’t be a plasma beam, as If you grenade jump up to it, it doesn’t kill you. The next covie terminal is just on the floor to my right, and the next Forerunner one is under the walkway by a hole hidden in the corner…or there would be, but it’s missing due to a bug that makes it disappear if you use any terminal in this particular map of the level, including that terminal itself. A quick level restart puts it back, but you MUST read the buggy one first when this map loads to ensure you get to see it at all. https://youtu.be/0MDwKzH4ez8?t=1286

I dive down the hole to sneak past the jackals coming up the ramp at the other end of the room. There’s another honour guard/jackal squad down here backed up by 2 final hunters, this time with the portable shade cannons we saw a brute chieftain using in the Stage 3.

So long as you hit the worms and not their armour or shield board, hunters can barely take 1 hit from those. Yet another terminal is tucked away in the odd machine in the middle.

As I continue down a series of ramps and crypt like rooms, Foehammer calls in, warning that 2 spirits or phantoms are closing in fast. “Damn it! OK people, we got company coming. Let’s set the table; engage enemy forces on sight” Stacker says over the COM. Cortana suggests they try and take cover in here with us but Stacker warns they wouldn’t get there in time, urging us to complete our mission while they hold the line.

There’s smaller shafts in some of the ramp areas and more openings onto the big main shaft. Most of the little ones are deadly but you can jump off the ledge with supplies (near the hunters) by the big one or drop down the small shaft just after the hunters onto a small slope with a terminal behind it, skipping large sections of the level. They might as well have named this chapter “Tier Drops” instead of “Shafted”. The next Forerunner terminal that isn’t missing is sandwiched between some metal things at another crypt room with 2 doors leading down, one to a small shaft ramp with a glass platform on it and another to an active camo on a small ledge. The next brute terminal is here too.

There’s at least 3 more honour guards left before the Silent Cartographer itself so I don the invisibility and give them all wedgies. The second one seems to clearly say “where did he go?” in English, but I’m sure that’s just a mondegreen as all elite dialog in Halo 1 is Sergeant Johnson’s lines edited and played in reverse. Did I mention that all honour guards on this level have energy swords?

The crypt just above the map room has the bottom of the small shaft below the hunters in one corner so I check out the terminal there. The last covenant one is just outside the map room in the main shaft.

You know the big shaft in both the facilities on this island? Turns out that’s one of the vent shafts and the giant plug from before is the entrance. Not the first time parasitic aliens have used air vents to sneak up on prey, only this time it’s The Thing instead of those ones. I’d link to a youtube clip of Hey Arnold: The Movie’s secret tunnels scene here but I can’t find one for some reason.

Without further delay, I activate the map.

This scene is a big anti-climax. The Silent Cartographer is tiny (the map room, not the level), we see a wireframe map of the ring, but no actual details and Cortana just tells us where the control room is, rather than point it out so we can see it on the map for ourselves. The Halo 3 Cartographer on Installation 00 is WAY nicer than this one.

Thankfully this is something the Silent Cartographer Evolved fixes; by having the camera point out a big ornate symbol representing the control room on the map during the cutscene, among other things. We still don’t see anything other than that, but it’s at least something. Who knows, maybe they did add details to the map room in SPV3.2 as I’m going off both my memory and a video of SPV3.1.

It seems the Control Room is in some sort of temple or a shrine according to Cortana. As we see in the next level, it actually looks nothing like a shrine: the Control Room looks more like a pyramid, which is neither Aztec nor Mayan, if you see what I did there. I made the same joke when telling Viking Boy Billy about it when he got this far in his Halo 1 PC vanilla tour. The pyramid also has what looks like a large shuttle parked on top.

It turns out that the control room is indeed in the mountains, but it’s not the same one as where the Truth and Reconciliation was parked.

Cortana radios Captain Keyes to inform him but Foehammer says he’s dropped out of contact, either because his Pelican is out of range or having equipment problems. Keyes did say he might be out of contact when he found the weapons cache but considering this is after I disabled the ring’s security…none of us have realised it yet in-game but 2 guesses what’s happened to him.

Next is a mad dash back to the surface for extraction to the tune of rocking music, namely Rock Anthem for Saving the World. Covenant reinforcements have arrived and they are rushing to stop us. And now it’s too loud. I preferred it when it was quiet. Use the Brute plasma pistol for the little guys, shade cannon for elites and brutes. There’s even a white ultra among the elites in the squad by the first set of ramps, but both he and a jackal fall in the shaft via a grenade explosion and dodging out the way of another one respectively. Before any of this is the final human terminal on the walkway that leads to the small shaft with the glass platform.

That little detail is the result of the Forerunners finally giving humans the Mantle: what use could they do with the Forerunner tech they inherit if they don’t have the subliminal knowledge to use them? It’s the same process to how the Librarian gave 343 Guilty Spark’s original human form and his friend Morning Riser the instructions to help the Iso-Didact wake up the Ur-Didact in Halo Cryptum. It may also explain how we were able to upgrade Elite shields for MJOLNIR.

Who should I meet on the way out the previously locked door at the top of this shaft but Tsek Vadum? I know it’s him as in vanilla, the zealot with the sword you see finally decides to attack you here. Assuming that same zealot/honour guard even is the same one. If he turns up alive later or not I’ll know for certain.

I don’t end up needing to give him the shade treatment as a plasma grenade sun tan works just fine. Invisible elites stalk the entrance hall and a phantom waits outside, but it’s quickly chased off by Foehammer arriving.

Echo 419 is surprised by her coordinates from Cortana: The Covenant did a thorough seismic scan but when Cortana did one, she found the vent system that Spark mentioned all on her own. “I hope your analysis is on the money, Cortana.” Rawley says as the giant plug where the CEA terminal is grinds open just out of shot. “This pelican won’t turn on a dime.” On the bright side, the last thing the Covenant will expect is an aerial insertion…from underground.

There’s a loud, heavy clanking as the plug slides back into place after the screen fades to black.

Two massive armies clash! Time to really bring on the pain as I fight my way through treacherous mountain fjords and cavernous tunnels full of strange machines where an entire Covenant armada awaits our arrival! More hunters! More wraiths! More human vehicular action! More terminals and a tank of our own or two! Halo holds dark secrets within its control room atop the silver pyramid. You won’t believe the shocking…actually we already know. Next time on Halo SPV3: Stage 5: Assault on the Control Room. Now the adventure evolves.

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