Miss Part One? Read it here: http://pixelbedlam.co.uk/?p=1100
Halo 2 is the tortuous story that follows on from the destruction of the Halo ring in Combat Evolved. It’s the Attack of the Clones’ bureaucracy to A New Hope’s simplistic wonder. That’s not to say the game itself is bad (dual weapons wielding and a cloaking device spring to mind), but this is the one that is essential to understanding Halo 3. And it gets a little confusing.
So, we begin the middle of this saga on board the Covenant’s base of operations – the immense High Charity. A gigantic, interstellar mushroom, if you will. On board, an Elite (one of the various species of the Covenant – think Predator and E.T’s lovechild) is tried for heresy after failing to stop the Halo from being blown up by Master Chief. The judges of this decision are the Prophets – extreme rulers of the Covenant (this time picture the unfortunate lovechild of Admiral Ackbar and a phallus). The Elite is then dragged away and tortured by yet another species of the Covenant, a Brute named Tartarus (Labyrinth’s Ludo getting it on with John Landis’ American Werewolf).
The game then cuts to Master Chief’s story (and yes, this narrative flits between characters like an oven salesman with OCD). He is on board a UNSC vessel orbiting Earth. It doesn’t take long for a Covenant fleet to appear out of nowhere, heading for a city in Africa (oddly enough). On board one of their vessels is a Prophet (penis Ackbar), and after Master Chief kills off most of the fleet, the Prophet is forced to escape. Escaping – in this case – means tearing a hole in space and time, and catapulting through, destroying most of the city in its wake. Luckily for our hero, not to mention some key UNSC figures, they follow its trail.
Directly after this, the events of Halo 3: ODST take place. All that needs to be known at this point – aside from the fact that ODST is awesome – is that a group of UNSC super troopers enter the ruined African city of New Mombasa, and discover another alien (this one is basically a floating snail). This creature – or Engineer – has key intelligence on why the Covenant attacked Earth… but let’s leave that for the story that follows.
Back to the Elite again (Predator/E.T.), who is given a second chance by the Prophets, and bestowed the title of Arbiter – a warrior destined to die in martyrdom. Think Richard Reid the shoe bomber, but with cool armour. The Arbiter is sent on a mission to prevent another Elite from spreading heresy. The heresy, in this case, is the realisation that the Halo rings (and yes, there’s more than one) are not gateways for spiritual ascendance – as the prophets would have them believe – but in fact mega weapons that will wipe out all life in the galaxy. And where does this heretic obtain that information? At this point we are reintroduced to the floating sphere, 343 Guilty Spark.
Master Chief and his friends, meanwhile, are flung to the other side of the galaxy, only to discover another Halo ring. They follow the Prophet down onto the facility, learning that a key (the Index) is required to prime the Halo and blow all life to cosmic confetti. Two of the UNSC command, Johnson and Keyes, search the Halo for the Index, while Master Chief goes after the Prophet. With me so far? Good.
The Covenant, signalled by the escapee Prophet, send their entire fleet towards the Halo. After killing said Prophet, Master Chief is blasted by Covenant ships, and knocked into a body of water… only to be pulled down by mysterious tentacles…
Aboard the High Charity (mushroom super station), it appears the Brutes (Jim Henson werewolves) have replaced the Elites as protectors of the last two remaining Prophets. Which is reasonable – considering a Halo ring and Prophet were destroyed under their guard. The Arbiter and Tartarus (the Brute) are then sent to the Halo to retrieve the Index. Once discovered, Tartarus reveals his new orders: to kill the Elites. He pushes the Arbiter into a chasm, and kidnaps the UNSC commander, Keyes.
At this point the stories merge (thankfully), though not for long. Both Master Chief and the Arbiter are pulled into the lair of the creature, Gravemind. This foreboding entity, whilst sharing similarities with the Steve Martin chomping Audrey II, is in fact the god – if you will – of the Flood (space AIDS). Gravemind’s revelation in this scene is a key point in the narrative, and best of all it’s not complicated. It confirms the true nature of the Halo to the Arbiter, and wishes for both Master Chief and the Elite to stop the cataclysm from occurring…
And back we go – this time with unexplained teleportation, to boot. Master Chief arrives on the High Charity, which is shortly overrun by the Flood (you can’t trust parasites, it seems). The last remaining Prophet – after Prophet no. 2 is attacked by the space AIDS – escapes onto a huge ship, not unlike the Eiffel Tower in its appearance. It is a Forerunner ship; the very same Forerunners who created the Halo rings.
Master Chief boards this ship, upon realising its destination: Earth. Cortana decides to stay on High Charity, primed to destroy it if necessary, to wipe out the Halo (ala the Pillar of Autumn in Halo 1).
The Spartan promises he’ll return. ‘Don’t make a girl a promise… if you know you can’t keep it,’ Cortana says. It’s almost poignant, if the rest of the story weren’t so perplexing.
The game ends shortly after this – Tartarus needs a human to activate the Index, forcing Keyes to switch on the Halo’s weapon system. The newly allied Johnson and Arbiter (unlikely, but hey it’s fiction) stop Tartarus and pull the plug on the weapon. But here’s a bummer: the deactivation reverts the weapon to a fail-safe mode (as 343 Guilty Spark cheerfully points out) arming all other stations. And the trigger for this fail-safe? Let’s just say it might be on a planet you and I know very well…
And thus ends part two; not the best of endings, I admit. But neither was The Empire Strikes Back, if you think about it.