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Let's Play Halo SPV3 Stage 9
Posted By: Lion O CyborgDate: 6/8/20 6:09 a.m.

Stage 9: Keyes

Stage a one-cyborg assault on a Covenant ship and bring back the Captain

Keyes. Jacob. Captain. Service Number 01928-19912-JK. He clung to the tether of his CNI carrier wave and “heard” familiar voices. An iron-hard, rasping male voice. A tart, warm female voice. He knew them.

Was this another memory? He was struggling to drudge up new pieces of his past to delay the numbing advance of the alien presence in his mind. It was harder to maintain a grasp on who he was, as the various pieces of his life-the things that made him who he was-were stripped away, one at a time. Keyes. Jacob. Captain. Service Number 01928-19912-JK. The voices. They were talking about him. The Master Chief, the AI Cortana.

He felt a sense of mounting panic. They shouldn’t be here. The Other grew stronger, and pressed forward, eager to learn more about these creatures that were so important to the struggling prisoner who clung so stubbornly to identity. Keyes. Jacob. Captain. Service Number 01928-19912-JK. Chief, Cortana. You shouldn’t have come. Don’t be a fool. Leave me. Get out of here. Run.

The presence descended, and he could feel its anticipation of victory. It wouldn’t be long now.

Act 1: Under New Management – Cosmic Fall

It’s been a while since Stage 8 and now we’re all on lockdown, but now it’s time for the next part of SPV3. Last time, Cortana prevented us from firing the Halo ring, as its 25000 lightyear pulse would kill every living thing with a good enough nervous system and sufficient biomass to be useful to the Flood. Spark turned on us after I agreed with Cortana not to fire the ring so we went and disabled some of the neutrino pulse cannon’s pulse generators to buy some time in case he found a way to trigger it without the Index.

It was a complete waste of time in the long run as activation requires both the index and specifically a reclaimer i.e. human has to do it or else it won’t work. However, Cortana found the Pillar of Autumn, whose fusion reactors we plan to put into nova as a makeshift bomb to destroy the ring. Bad news is she can’t do it without Captain Keyes’ say so or at least his neural implants where the code is stored. She’s tracked the Captain to the Truth and Reconciliation again, this time damaged and resting lower down the mountain on top of a maze of ice canyons. She fills us in on what’s happened here as the camera pans down icy crevasses filled with pools of green coolant leaking from the ship above. This is during the middle of teleportation I might add.

“The Covenant network is in absolute chaos.” She says as the chapter screen comes up. “From what I’ve been able to piece together, their leadership ordered all ships to abandon Halo when they found the Flood, but they were too late.” Elites & grunts struggle against Flood as she speaks, usually winning on higher difficulties but forever stuck in battle on lower ones. “The Flood overwhelmed this cruiser and disabled it. The Covenant are terrified the Flood will repair the ship and use it to escape from Halo. They sent in a strike team to neutralise the Flood and repair the ship for immediate departure.” We get a pan over one of the larger coolant pools, arcing around a thick waterfall of green slime oozing onto the rocky slope and slipping down it where it bubbles away while entering the pool. “I’ve got a good lock on Captain Keyes’ CNI transponder signal. He’s alive! And the implants are intact! There’s some interference from the cruisers’ damaged reactor. I’ll bring us in as close as I can.”

The leadership is called Ascendant Justice. I use it to escape this system post game with Cortana, Johnson and the rest during the events of First Strike. The teleportation I took at the end of the last stage deposits me in a hallway on the Truth and Reconciliation right outside the bridge. Sparks fall from the ceiling to show it’s damaged…except it’s the floor. Cortana beamed me into the ship upside down and I promptly fall off. “Oh, I see! The coordinate data needs to be at…” I slap the side of my helmet where her memory crystal chip is to shut her up.

This place is a mess. Unlike vanilla, it’s dark and Flood spores fill the air. There’s also Flood growth pods blocking the way like Duke Nukem Forever just ahead, as well as a Flamethrower on the floor in front of me for good reason: an honour guard combat form bursts out of a pod on the ceiling with an energy sword! I quickly replace my battle rifle with the TOZT and hose it in napalm.

No sooner have I passed by the grating leaking steam or green gas on the right than I hear Captain Keyes attempt to contact me for the first time since The Silent Cartographer.

"Chief…Don’t be a fool (static)…leave me.” “Captain?” Cortana inquires. “Captain?! I’ve lost him!” Keyes’ voice comes again with a brand new line to SPV3, taken from something we’ll see soon. “The Covenant captured me, didn’t they? I can’t…I can’t remember.”

Flood can be heard all nearby. Jackal carrier forms are the scariest in SPV3.1 as they have high, loud screams. It reminds me of the Flood’s new roars in Halo 2. Sadly, those screams were cut in SPV3.2 as some players found them annoying instead of scary. There’s something strange through the fog and steam on the bridge, past the grating. Cortana can read the CNI transponder: Keyes is on the bridge…but she’s not reading any human lifesigns.

Cortana also adds that the crash has made it impossible to make it to the bridge from here: all the doors and locked and in SPV3, it’s arguably worse, as we’re foiled by the doors next to the grate being broken and John can’t squeeze past!

Flugs burst out of more pods in the hallway. Ahead, a grunt gets chased by an elite combat form with no arms. In SPV3, that combat form is now a fully “armed” brute one. More grunts and jackals or skirmishers struggle against the Flood around the corners before getting quickly infected into carrier forms. Behind some biomass next to a collapsed ceiling is the first terminal and this is a creepy one.

We all know he’s been infected by the Flood. You may think that it’s a case like Jenkins as mentioned in the last stage, where he’s able to keep his mind but is unable to use his body most of the time, fighting with the Flood constantly for control. Oh no: his fate is much, much worse than that. Around the next 2 corners is the shuttle bay as before, except there’s a couple of things wrong with it: We come out on level 1 instead of level 3 like the actual Truth and Reconciliation level.

Quite a lot of the rest of the ship is all wrong too architecture wise: Every hallway is either completely different or mirrored to before and while you do seem to enter the bridge from the portside shuttle bay instead of starboard, this is the starboard one here yet the door opens onto the wrong floor.

The other thing is that there’s a big fuck-off hole in the floor just outside the door, torn through multiple decks to the mountain crevasses below.

The extra geometry, pipes and cables showing more layers aren’t there in vanilla or are at least downplayed. Cortana explains that it was caused by some kind of explosion. A very powerful one if it tore through the ship’s hull. All she detects below is pools of coolant. You can see it too, glowing far below in the darkness:

In Anniversary, the coolant is practically one story below us, which is lame. You do see it falling out of some pipes up here though. In the original, the hole is a lot deeper and the bottom is shrouded in fog. Even though the ship is resting directly on top of the canyons instead of floating, I like the classic hole better as it gives the impression of there being multiple decks, plus it looks cooler. SPV3 tries to simulate Anniversary, but it’s hard to tell what you’re looking at.

Wow! You can even see the whole route we take to get back in! Well, half of it anyway. What do I mean by that? We’re just about to find out.

The Flood ambush me through a hole where the one of the junction’s pillars used to be. They keep coming no matter what and you’ll never have enough health and ammo to survive for very long. Cortana changes her tune about searching somewhere other than the hole quickly: “That jump into the coolant is looking better all the time, Chief! Trust me, it’s deep enough to cushion our fall!” Don’t jump down on Legendary without the active camo powerup: it’s behind the door where the brute combat form came from by 3 plasma grenades. This is Heroic however, so I’ll try winging it.

CANNONBALL!

Act 1b: Ain’t Got Time Pfhor This – Sorry Don’t Make It So

I actually used to have dreams of using the hull breach above as a diving board. It was surprisingly easy to climb back up the cliffs and ship’s hull to reach it again after swimming out of the coolant pool.

Besides the Sonic Adventure 1+2 Dreamcast comparisons like the water, it resembles the radioactive green jelly in Marathon 1, doesn’t it? It just isn’t harmful, let alone radioactive. The subtitle for this extra non-game chapter is no accident: this whole level theme wise is a repeat of Sorry Don’t Make It So in Marathon 2: we return to an alien ship visiting areas we saw the first time we were there only now crashed and damaged, Errors/inconsistencies with the original level screw with continuity, brand new areas appear and there’s mandatory coolant swimming.

Except unlike Halo, the coolant in Sorry Don’t Make It So is still harmful, though it’s the non-radioactive pink, liquid thundrillium crystals that appears to be used in Marathon 2 engine games for everything between actual coolant, fuel and even representing plasma in weapons like the Trix Xeem (See the cut Marathon Eternal map, Forever my Greatest and Only Love that’s made a partial comeback in Eternal X Omega 1.2).Sounds a lot like the crystals themselves in solid form actually, which are useful in fusion engines, but are not native to Earth. Maybe they got here the same way as the radioactive & mutagenic Markium Crystal in Antarctica.

Anyway, down the crevasse past those first 2 pools is the one we saw in the opening cutscene flyby. Combat forms drop from both more hull breaches in the ship and snowy ledges above into the pool. I’d make an MST3K “Into the Hot Tub?” joke, except that only works if the liquid is not so cold, that I actually felt it through my armour after my high dive earlier. It’s also thick, making not swimming in this a tad more believable than with water. The lack of real swimming in Halo is still bullshit though.

Unlike vanilla, I also get the not so pleasant addition of sentinels who attack soon after getting here. In vanilla and Anniversary, sentinels don’t appear again until the final level.

When I first saw my dad and brother get this far when they played co-op on Classic Xbox back in the day, I thought the coolant, splash when landing in it, falls and bubbles looked a little different, with only the ones not hitting another slope like that one just ahead having bubbles. That’s false memories for you as I found out faster than normal.

Cortana marks a Nav point down the canyon I spied from the Halo Refined screenshot of the hole earlier. It leads to where the ship’s gravity elevator is now. Gasbags slide down the walls and explode soon after so jump around and try to avoid getting surrounded. If you can find a shotgun and/or more ammo for it, get it! The flamethrower here can also help. Thankfully, the gasbags have mostly been replaced in this remake with jackal and brute forms.

“The crash did more damage than I suspected.” Cortana informs me. “Analysing. Coolant leakage rate is significant. The ship’s reactor should already have gone critical.” Another incorrect use of going critical for fission and fusion reactors. Also, this line confused me. I wasn’t sure if she meant the Autumn or Truth and Reconciliation but she must mean the latter, as there are so many deep pools down here, the reactor would overheat and melt down if it wasn’t turned off right now. Those gasbags and other types of carrier form will keep spawning in the coolant and wading up to shore until you drop down. Snipe the tough guys ahead first.

In the original, this focus rifle was a normal sniper rifle, since Covenant sniping weapons didn’t exist yet.

Looks a little eerie. There’s a medipack by a small, shallow coolant pool and around the corner is an elite manning a shade. Snipe him and take his place before hosing the Flood that come down the hill around the corner. This is the only other time on Legendary that it’s safe to use a shade.

A Sentinel Enforcer shows up and Cortana explains (SPV3 exclusive as far as I know) what monster infighting is. The combat forms and carrier forms keep coming until you climb the slope so go when you think it’s safe and jump down the cleft in the rock and ice up top, but watch for combat forms jumping up to meet you. More of them battle with grunts in this final little grotto, with combat forms sniping on the ice ledge above the larger coolant pool. Once everyone else is dealt with, use plasma grenades, black hole grenades, other explosives or needler/shredder rounds to get rid of them.

Good. This is already miles better than the Truth and Reconciliation’s skybox in SPV3 as we actually have a skybox. The gravity lift is right around the corner.

It’s shorter than before and it appears to have an extra beam inside or around it. I think it’s meant to represent it flickering and having interference from damage. Elites and grunts guard the hill that the grav lift is using as a makeshift landing pad while Flood storm from the huge coolant leaks in this area. Talk about King of the Hill! Cortana notices that the aliens have cleared a way for us inside.

I take the overshield by the big coolant pool and find the next terminal by a crashed banshee.

That explains how they got here. The fuel rod assault cannon I nicked off the hunters earlier by the pool before the turret helps me clear the way to the landing pad.

See, why couldn’t we have both the blizzard and this skybox in the last covenant ship level? Enforcers and more banshees show up. Defending myself from Flood for a few seconds later, I ride the grav elevator back into the ship.

As more aliens fighters scream overhead, Keyes voices comes over the radio in SPV3 only again. “It won’t work, you Covenant bastards! I’ll never lead you to Earth!”

MEANWHILE

Keyes? Keyes, Jacob. Yes, that was it, wasn’t it? He couldn’t remember-there was nothing left now but navigation protocols, defence plans. And a duty to keep them safe. A droning buzz filled his mind. He vaguely remembered hearing it before, but didn’t know what it is.

It pressed in, hungry.

Act 2: Upstairs, Downstairs – Black Comet/Floodaphobia

“We should be able to get into the ship’s control room from here.” Cortana says as I arrive in the loading bay.

AMBUSH! Whole sections of the ship are now Flood hives like this place and their pods burst quickly. There’s an overshield, Radar & VISR armour abilities and some weapons including a SPNKR & TOZT through the broken door to the portside muster bay, but the passageway past them is blocked by a locked exit door, an overturned wraith and a fire. The ship has less Lovecraftian sounding ship creaking noises than Infinity, interspersed with loud bangs.

As I stumble through the side passages as I did on the starboard side, now with blood, sparks, the floors of the upper passages fallen in and Flood spores everywhere, Cortana informs me that the ship isn’t the only thing that’s a mess: so is the Covenant battlenet. She can’t access the Truth and Reconciliation’s blueprints so she simply guesses where the port shuttle bay is and points the way.

“Look, in the corners!” Cortana warns between the fireworks as more Flood growth pods explode. “The Flood are gathering bodies here.” They need the calcium in the skeletons of those bodies to provide structure and energy for their great ruler, the W’rkncacnter Metali…wait, that’s not right. They’re gathering bodies in order to birth a form they need to pilot the ship.

Things get nasty fast. More and more Flood hatch and even seemingly locked doors go haywire and open too fast to see, jamming partway to reveal more pods or burning debris. The previously locked muster bay door opens and lets in even more Flood from the big passage I couldn’t take earlier. Normally they don’t do that until you go downstairs. “There’s so many I can’t keep track of them!” Cortana shouts, worriedly. I find the next terminal in an infested passage down, beside a caved in upper passageway where endless Flood drop down from. This part gave me absolute hell in my SPV3.1 Legendary run and I don’t stick around to find out if SPV3.2 trivialises this part too. As soon as I read the terminal, I run back upstairs and slide down the support pillar opposite the supply cache like a fireman’s pole.

As I flee down another tunnel, the Captains voice repeats the mantra he’s been using in the book passages.

“Keyes. Jacob. Captain. Service number 01928-19912-JK.” Another junction with a missing pillar is just down the first bend but the hole where the pillar went is in the floor this time. I chuck grenades down there to ambush the gasbags waiting for me before dropping down.

“Keyes. Jacob…AAAAAAAARRRGGGGHHH! IT HURTS!”

The spore choked passage winds down through jackals, brutes, grunts and elites, some of which get infected. An entire flood ambush awaits me just before the last two bends to the shuttle bay. The junction by the shuttle bay has a plasma fire in one of the holopanels, except that’s a misnomer as plasma is fire. These are much hotter blue flames however. In Anniversary, the blue flames look a lot smaller, probably to reflect that real roaring flames can be hard to see, but all it does is throw you off and stand too close at first unless you check where they actually are in Classic mode.

“Looks like another shuttle bay.”

Cortana says as I enter it. “We should be able to reach the control room from the third level.” I want to go to the passage to the first level before that however, as the next terminal is there.
“I gave you an order solider! Now pull out!”

“He’s delirious!” Cortana shouts in shock. “In pain! We have to find him!”

And now I’m disappointed again as they’ve reverted to the same boring black void as before. https://youtu.be/0MDwKzH4ez8?t=1167

Down the hall behind me is a hunter fighting the Flood with some grunts. The next terminal is here.

So Keyes has been chosen as the unwilling pilot of this ship and between his hiding of his knowledge, the Flood seem to be able to affect his thoughts as well. The Didact did prove that the logic plague or something similar to it can affect biological minds too. The next covenant terminal is guarded by brutes on the pier. They’ve just been backed up by the elites who came from this hallway. Those enforcers are no pushovers either unless you can bean them between the arms with 2 rockets. That said this whole area kills me a few times.

That explains the huge hole in the starboard shuttle bay and all the coolant leaks onto the mountain below. The real reason for the strike team Cortana mentioned as shown here is that can’t risk it going nova as they worry their ship will have the same event as we plan with the Autumn. Almost all of those strike team members are black Spec-Ops rank, like Admiral Tfear’s bodyguards in Infinity. Spec-Ops grunts commonly carry fuel rod cannons (moreso in vanilla than in this however) and in vanilla and Anniversary, unlike the lower ranks, even the elites can now throw plasma grenades. Both of those make the Spec-Ops a pain in the ass at the start of the last level where they are the only Covenant from here on out, SPV3 exclusive bonus levels notwithstanding.

Grunts, jackals and Flood teem in the ramp leading to the third level but they’re easy compared to the ambushes getting there. A phantom shows up once I get up top.

“The Control Room should be, this way.” Cortana says marking the way. At the far left end of the catwalk is the last terminal.

JUST A SHORT CORRDIOR AWAY

,,.pull out! I gave you an order, solider! The thought echoed in what was left of Keyes’ ravaged mind. The invading presence descended. It could tell this one was nearly expended-no more energy left to fight. It pushed in on the memories that the creature so jealously guarded, and recoiled at the sudden resistance, a defiance of terrible strength.

Act 3: The Captain – Begging for Mercy Makes Me Angry!

Oh god, you DON’T want Earth! You want EVERYTHING! Get out of my head! NRAAAAAHHHHH! Keyes clutched at the last of his vital memories, and-inside his mind, where there was no-one but he and the creature that attempted to absorb him-screamed NNNAAAAAAA!AAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHNOOOOOOOOO! Death, held in abeyance for so long, refused to rush in. Slowly, like the final drops of water from a recently closed faucet, his life force was absorbed.

AT THE EXACT SAME TIME

I enter the final hallway before the bridge, which connects to the original starting hallway via a collapsed and burning ceiling just as Captain Keyes’s voice comes through the radio, his shocked realisation and agonised screaming above, with one line coming up properly right now. “The Captain!” Cortana comes for the first time of a few in the series the closest she ever does to screaming herself. “His vitals are fading! Please Chief, HURRY!” Due to a bug in the original Xbox version and maybe other ones too, this line was delayed until after Keyes' death and I was on my way out the first time Wren, dad and I played back in 2002/2003. There’s one last corridor before the bridge and it is chock full of Spec-Ops Grunts, Spec-Ops Elites, Power armoured Brutes and Flood. This part along with the following escape are what are likely going to kill you the most just like now, but at this point nothing is allowed to get in our way.

I blanket the hallway with grenades and rockets, and save my TOZT for the Flood. It’s at this point that we hear Captain Keyes last words. “Miranda, is that you? No PLEASE! Don’t let me forget.”

“KEYES. JAAACOB. CAPTAIN! SER…VICE…NUMBBER 019280-19912-JKAAAAAAHHHGGGH…!”

“CoMe Now. DOn’T bE AfrAId. NO MoRE, WhAT YoU WEre, MEmOrIeS, EMoTiOnS. aLL iS NoW OuRS! ThE DaRk PoWEr of ThE GRaVEMInD WiLL FORCE YoU To ShOW Us ThE LOcATiON of EaRth, AnD tHE ShIP tO FLy US tHerE”

I burn through the final Flood into the hive that the bridge has become. Now I can clearly see what was on the bridge at the start of this stage.

Under the command platform, in the pit to the right is a terminal containing Captain Keyes’ final moments, taken directly from the passages from the Halo 1 book, whose inclusion was foreshadowing for this moment all along.

I approach the giant pulsating mass of this brand new Flood form as I hear choking sounds coming from within it. Captain Keyes is now dead. “No human lifesigns detected.” Cortana observes cautiously. Then she gasps as we notice the last earthly remains of Jacob Keyes, his grotesquely warped and distorted face frozen in permanent rictus, trapped inside and now made of Flood biomass, now bulging from the side of the monster’s flesh. “The Captain! He’s one of them!”

You know the Gravemind mentioned in the Forerunner saga and the terminals in this game? The Gravemind as mentioned before is the leader…no, personality of the Flood. We meet it properly for the first time in Halo 2 and it is a giant horrific mass of tentacles and rotting flesh shaped vaguely like Audrey II in Little Shop of Horrors.

His Halo 2 Anniversary form is even worse as said rotting flesh now looks raw and barely alive, not to mention his MUTIPLE CONSECTIVE MOUTHS OF GIANT GNASHING TEETH! He’s the BIG Shop of Horrors now.

The thing that Captain Keyes has become or rather, is merely only one part of? THIS IS A BABY ONE! Count your lucky stars that the SPV3 version resembles the original only redder, as the Anniversary Proto Gravemind looks like this:

“We can’t let the Flood get off this ring!” Cortana says urgently. “You know what he’d expect…! What he’d want us to do.” I understand. Originally, the TOZT was going to have an expanded role in Halo where I’d use it to burn the Captain’s skull out of the Proto Gravemind and extract the CNI transponder implants directly. This was partly was the TOZT was cut as the whole process and the burned skull looked too good. Lo and behold, I have one now! >:)

This is still a mod for Halo 1 as it released however so I instead punch a big hole right through the Captain’s face, wriggle around in the half dissolved brain left after the Gravemind finished with him, and pull out the implants, shaking the sickly green pus off my hand onto floor. I then insert the implants into a slot in my helmet for Cortana to read. “It’s done.” She says solemnly. “I have the code. We should go.”

“We need to get back to the Pillar of Autumn. Let’s go back to the shuttle bay and find a ride.” No sooner has she said that then the Flood storm into the bridge. The Proto Gravemind isn’t pleased about the new bellybutton piercing I gave it.

Flamethrower and shotgun in hand, I burn a path through the Covenant and Flood to the shuttle bay, where a whole load of Spec-Ops Elites and Jackals awaits me. Spec-Ops Jackals have the exact same kind of Jackal riot shield that we can use. Sentinels and Sentinel Majors join the fun, as does another phantom escorted by 2 banshees. That gives me and Cortana an idea: Using the crouch to negate fall damage trick, I fall to the floor via the level 2 pier and steal the left banshee before soaring out into the night, just as dawn breaks.

I’M FREE!

The shit has hit the fan! Captain Keyes is dead, the Flood have spread throughout Halo so much that they’ve taken over the very landscape we walk on and now Alpha Base is under attack! Sgt Johnson, Polaski and the others are barely surviving. I make a deliberate detour from the returning to the Pillar of Autumn in order to save them all. The Lair must be evacuated! Next time on Halo SPV3: Special Stage 1: None Left Behind. Now the Adventure Evolves.

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