November 4, 2008

Cortana

> — Cocopjojo @ 3:20 am

“Chief, I’ll round up our survivors, fall back to the Dawn.  Arbiter will do the same with the Elites.  Cortana’s in there somewhere…” [Cortana, Halo 3]

In all likelihood, Johnson is as unaware of the Chief’s plan as we are, at this point.  But he knows that for whatever reason, the Chief needs to find Cortana.  Anything beyond that – the defeat of the Flood – is probably more than the Sergeant can contemplate at the moment; with Truth dead, the Covenant has been irreversibly shattered – but its destruction did not come without a final casualty: Miranda’s body most likely rests in the rear of Johnson’s Pelican.  For now, he must retreat, and let the Chief handle things.

The music here reflects this falling action, even bordering on sadness – perhaps for Johnson’s sake, or just simply echoing the drastic changes that have taken place, both for humanity, the Covenant, and the Sangheili.

The environment that we find ourselves dropped into is reminiscent of the latter half of the level, “Floodgate,” which took place inside of a Flood-infected Covenant carrier.  The Flood’s capture of High Charity – which we first witnessed at the end of Halo 2 – is obviously complete.  Bits of Covenant architecture can still be seen, but familiar fleshly walls, oily pulsating pods, and stalactite-like tendrils now make up the interior of what was once a part of the Covenant’s holy city.

The title of the first chapter is displayed: “Rampant.”  Cortana’s behavior throughout the game has been odd, to say the least, and we know from the Halo novels that A.I.s like Cortana do not live longer than seven years – and preceding their “deaths,” the A.I. enter an insanity-like state known as “rampancy.”

[Cortana] would pay a price for her genius, however. Such growth eventually led to self-interference. Cortana would one day literally start thinking too much at the expense of her normal functions. It was as if a human were to think with so much of his brain that he stopped sending impulses to his heart and lungs.

Like all the other smart AIs that Dr. Halsey had worked with over the years, Cortana would effectively “die” after an operational life of seven years. [Halo: The Fall of Reach, pg. 235]

…a terminal state known as rampancy, in which an AI rebelled against its programmatic constraints – developed delusions of godlike power as well as utter contempt for its mentally inferior, human makers. [Halo: Contact Harvest, pg. 31]

Cortana, having been created from one of the most brilliant minds available – Dr. Catherine Halsey – might be prone to entering this state more quickly than other A.I.s.  At least, it certainly seems that way.

Moving forward, a dark tunnel on the right can lead you to an early cache of a couple of plasma rifles and an energy sword.

“Child of my enemy, why have you come? I offer no forgiveness for father’s sins passed to his son.” [Cortana, Halo 3]

The Gravemind knows that the Chief is here… he asks a question that, of course, he knows the answer to – at least in part.  He then reminds the Chief of the grudge that he holds against the human’s “father” – the Forerunners – for defeating him, and imprisoning him for millennia.

After moving through several… interesting “doorways,” Cortana appears in the non-physical way that she has been using for the duration of the game.  No words – she writhes in agony, audibly suffering due to some unknown cause.

Immediately following her interlude, the first Flood of the level attack.  The game has graciously started you with a shotgun, but with no Battle Rifle, doing battle with them usually turns into a game of hit-and-run tactics.

Once you’re past the fighting – or halfway through it – you can move outside of the enclosed hallways and find a downed Pelican.

Various weaponry can be found at the read of the Pelican, such as a rocket launcher, frag grenades, and even a flamethrower.  What is more interesting, however, is what sounds like a transmission coming from the radio of the Pelican – it is Cortana:

“I ran… tried to stay hidden… but there was no escape!  It cornered me!  Wrapped me tight and brought me close.” [Cortana, Halo 3]

You can download the audio here.

Perhaps in her rampancy – if that is what is happening – she is broadcasting random thoughts onto various UNSC radio frequencies.  Here, she tells the tale of her first encounter with the Gravemind, which we caught a glimpse of after the credits of Halo 2.

Also outside, you can catch a stunning view of the interior of High Charity.  The lower area of the domed city, which once contained the bulk of the city, with the Dreadnought at its center (as seen in this screenshot from Gemini), is now filled with liquid, and completely unrecognizable.  This is what’s left of the Covenant capital city.

There is one structure remaining, however, that is recognizable.

You might remember it from Halo 2 – The Mausoleum of the Arbiter (you can see a screenshot here).  What was once the final resting place of the most fearsome Sangheili warriors is now simply another piece of scrap in a swamp of debris.

At this point, we have to note the problems with scale here. The Mausoleum is obviously not as large in Halo 2 as it appears here in Halo 3. Here, it takes up a huge portion of the interior the domed city! The possibility exists that we’re inside of a much smaller dome on the city floor of High Charity… but I don’t think that that is likely; there’s nothing to suggest that, at least. And even without the Mausoleum, it definitely feels much smaller than the High Charity we visited in Halo 2. The most plausible explanation is that the scale is just simply off.

The Flood press hard in this area, but with the firepower provided by the rocket launcher – as well as a lot of running, and covering your back, you can press forward to the next area, and onto another message from the Gravemind.  There’s also a flamethrower located nearby, which slows you down, but can deal out some damage.

“Of course, you came for her. We exist together now – two corpses, in one grave.” [Cortana, Halo 3]

This is not the first time the Gravemind has used this line.  He also spoke it in Halo 2, in the level “High Charity,” as he was infiltrating the city.  Then, it was in reference to the Prophet of Mercy, who had recently died during the Flood’s attack on the city.

Following this, Cortana speaks, her voice oddly child-like:

“A collection of lies – that’s all I am!  Stolen thoughts and memories!” [Cortana, Halo 3]

Cortana reflects on her existence – which is based entirely from the thoughts and memories of Dr. Halsey.  If not yet rampant, she appears to be very near to the state.

For  a smart AI, self-absorption invariably led to a deep depression caused by a realization that it could never really be human – that even its incredible mind had limits. [Halo: Contact Harvest, pg. 31]

This text describes exactly what it sounds like Cortana is experiencing – a deep depression set on by heavy reflection of her creation and existence.

Gravemind follows up:

“And yet, perhaps a part of her… remains?” (Cortana laughs) [Cortana, Halo 3]

The Gravemind’s best tactic is that of confusion and trickery – he brought down the entire Forerunner race due to his turning of Mendicant Bias (as told in the terminals).  Here, disguised verbally as hope, he offers despair.

Elite and Brute bodies, along with assorted weaponry, can be found in the next room.  Linger, however, and these bodies will rise up, infected, to attack you.

Upon reaching an opening in the floor, and dropping down, you’ll find yourself in semi-familiar territory.  Recognizable Covenant architecture greets you – the tall doorways which we’ve seen since the first game.

A Flood army awaits you in the next area, which may be even more familiar than many realize.

The base geometry of this room has been taken directly from the Elite carrier, Shadow of Intent, as seen here (this room can also be explored, as I briefly detailed in this post at our forums).  The room here, however, is radically different due to the Flood infestation.  I find it interesting, though, that the bridge of a once-Covenant carrier would be replicated identically inside of High Charity.  Perhaps we’re actually in a carrier that is resting inside of High Charity?  Or maybe Bungie just needed the geometry, and decided to pull it from the assault carrier.

While being assaulted by the Flood in this room, Cortana speaks aloud:

“May I speak with you, please?  What’s your name?  It’s very nice to meet you!  You like games?  So do I.” [Cortana, Halo 3]

This bit of dialogue is taken directly from the novel, Halo: The Fall of Reach. Much like the game did in the first few levels, Cortana’s words here were actually spoken by Dr. Halsey – remember, Halsey’s memories were transferred to Cortana during her creation.  These lines were spoken during Halsey’s first meeting with John.

“Can I speak with you, please?” she asked, and continued to stare at her subject. [Halo: The Fall of Reach, pg. 24]

“What’s your name?” she asked.

“I’m John,” he said.  The boy held out his hand. [Halo: The Fall of Reach, pg. 24]

She shook his hand and was surprised by the strength in his minuscule grip.  “It’s very nice to meet you.” [Halo: The Fall of Reach, pg. 24]

“You like games,” she said.  “So do I.” [Halo: The Fall of Reach, pg. 24]

The quotes are broken up like this because they occurred at various points throughout Halsey and John’s conversation.

One important point to note is Cortana’s inflection on the last line: “You like games?  So do I.”  In the novel, Halsey is speaking to a child, attempting to win his affections.  We can’t audibly hear her, of course, but we can imagine what her tone would be, and it is much different than how Cortana speaks the same line in Halo 3.  Perhaps the line has a different meaning this time around?

Above this room, in a pile of bones, is the Tilt skull.

You’ll need to pull off a few jumps in order to reach this skull.  The easiest way to do this is by jumping off of the Covenant boxes or pedestal-like post, and then moving to the mushroom-esque platforms that line the walls.  You can see all of this, and the organic bridge that leads to the skull’s location, in the screenshot below.

Beneath the glass of the main floor, there is a hidden area, which contains a few things – one being a cloak.  The other is a little more interesting – what has come to be known as “the eighth terminal,” or the Cortana terminal.

Activating this terminal triggers a “Cortana flash,” in which Cortana delivers this bit of dialogue:

“It was the coin’s fault!  I wanted to make you strong, keep you safe.  I’m sorry… I can’t.” [Cortana, Halo 3]

These lines are very interesting, for a couple of reasons.  They are, of course, a reference to the Halo: The Fall of Reach:

“It’s very simple. I toss the coin like this.” She flicked her wrist, snapped her thumb, and the coin arced, spinning into the air and landed in the sand. “Next time, though, before it lands, I want you to tell me if it will fall with the face of the man showing or with the eagle holding the arrows.”

“I got it.” John tensed, bent his knees, and then his eyes seemed to lose their focus on her and the coin.

She tossed it, making sure there was plenty of spin.

…his hand snapped out and snatched the quarter out of the air.

He held up his closed hand. “Eagle!” he shouted.

She tentatively reached for his hand and peeled open the tiny fist.

The quarter lay in his palm: the eagle shining in the orange sun. [Halo: The Fall of Reach, pgs. 24-26]

Cortana blames the Chief’s predicament – his entire life, at this point, perhaps – on luck.  Her dialogue during the opening cutscene of the game, spoke of this luck in an entirely different manner:

“They let me pick, did I ever tell you that?  Choose whichever Spartan I wanted.  You know me. I did my research; watched as you became the soldier we needed you to be.  Like the others, you were strong and swift and brave.  A natural leader.  But you had something they didn’t.  Something no one saw, but me.  Can you guess?

Luck.

Was I wrong?” [Arrival, Halo 3]

Then, Cortana made it sound as though the Chief’s luck, if there is such a thing, was the very reason that she picked him; his luck obviously being a quality to be desired – seemingly the most important quality.  Now, however, she speaks of it in anger: the Chief’s luck is what got him into this position, not her!  She tried her best to help him, but she couldn’t undo the coin’s decision.

“I’m just my mother’s shadow.  Don’t look at me, don’t listen!  I’m not who I used to be…” [Cortana, Halo 3]

I wonder if the Chief feels guilty over what’s happening to her?

“Time has taught me patience!  But basking in new freedom, I will know all that I possess!” [Cortana, Halo 3]

The Gravemind bellows this line in fury, and it is obvious that he is angry over something.  “Will know all that I possess,” – It appears as though something that he controls is hidden from him; perhaps Cortana is hiding something important.

The next room is a multi-tiered area that, in some ways, reminds me of the Halo 1 multiplayer map, Prisoner.  Moving to the top floor in here, however, is a bit less fun.  Flood Pure forms hang on the walls, and will bombard you with projectiles as you try and move around the room.  There is a variety of equipment – such as cloaks, Bubble Shields, and Deployable Covers – and weapons to be found in the tunnels around the edge of the area, but these do little to increase the enjoyment of this area.  It is most enjoyed, in my opinion, by deploying a cloak and getting out of there as quickly as possible.

Enjoyable or not, this level has some of the more beautiful interior sections of the entire game.

You’ll find yourself next in an extremely large room, with platforms situated over, and around, a deep pit.  Where there was once only a single bridge leading out to a control panel at the center of the room, there now exists multiple ways to move across the room, with Flood organic matter creating an addition two bridges to the center platform.  A large explosion rocks the room as you enter, sending a piece of Covenant machinery dropping to the depths below.

The Flood have done a number on this room, and it is, in my opinion, one of the more impressive interior sections seen in the game.

Luckily, the Flood here don’t move too fast, and you can typically move through this entire area without being forced to engage any enemies.

There is, however, a reason to slow down and look around.

Amidst a pile of bones, on a ledge overlooking the area, you can find a skull.

The easiest way to get to this skull is by jumping off of the weapon crates that were to your left as soon as you entered this area.

Then, follow the top ledge around to the skull.

This skull is unique among all of the rest; it is still unknown as to what its effects are.  The general consensus among the Halo community is that the skull is a “second Blind skull,” meaning that if you have not unlocked the Blind skull upon picking this one up, it will unlock that option for you in the Campaign lobby.  A secondary effect is that, if you carry it to the end of the level, you will start with a Spartan Laser in the next level.

Beyond these effects, nothing more is known.  It’s possible that the skull is a mistake, and was meant to be taken out before the game shipped; it’s also possible, of course, that it has more effects, which have yet to be discovered.

Once you reach the hallway at the exit of the area, Cortana speaks, and is followed by the Gravemind:

“I have walked the edge of the abyss.  I have seen your future and I have learned!”

“Submit!  End her torment and my own!” [Cortana, Halo 3]

They volley once more:

“There will be no more sadness, no more anger, no more envy!”

“You will show me what she hides, or I shall feast upon your bones!” [Cortana, Halo 3]

Cortana’s dialogue here is taken from the first “Cortana Letter.”  Here is an excerpt:

I have walked the edge of the Abyss.

I have governed the unwilling.

I have witnessed countless empires break before me.

I have seen the most courageous soldiers fall away in fear.

[I was there with the Angel at the tomb]

I have seen your future.

And I have learned.

There will be no more Sadness. No more Anger. No more Envy.

I HAVE WON. [The first Cortana Letter, 02/15/99]

The Cortana Letters (which can be found here) are a series of e-mails which were sent from a Bungie e-mail address to the Marathon story page back in 1999 – they were, presumably, part of an ARG which built up hype for the announcement of Halo, which occurred approximately four months after the e-mails were sent.  A bit from the first letter was also used during the Halo 3 Announcement Trailer: “This is the way the world ends.”

The meaning of the majority of the text in the letters is still unknown – Halo’s lead writer, Joseph Staten, said in an interview in August of 2006:

The Halo story has as many loose threads as influences. And we do our best to sew the former into canon as we find them – are reminded of their potential. The Cortana Letters are an excellent example of this phenomenon. For all sorts of reasons, they lingered in canonical purgatory for years. But when we needed some compelling dialog to remind folks what’s at stake in Halo 3: Bam! Newfound utility! Alas, I’d have to say that, as of now, the only canonized parts of the letters are the fragments we pulled for use in the announcement trailer. [Joe Staten, 08/2006]

…and, now, of course, the parts which have been pulled for the dialogue in this level.

The part of the text which Cortana speaks here – about sadness, anger, envy – is luckily one of the more easily deducible parts; and it has a double meaning.

Despair, Rage, and Envy are the three chapters of Bungie’s “Marathon: Infinity,” game.  And these three chapter titles are representative of the three stages of rampancy that an A.I. experiences: Melancholy, anger and jealousy.  These three stages are never directly named anywhere in Halo’s fiction, but instead were given to us in the Marathon series.  They appear to hold true for Halo, however:

If the AI wasn’t careful, this melancholy could drag its core logic into a terminal state known as rampancy, in which an AI rebelled against its programmatic constraints – developed delusions of godlike power as well as utter contempt for its mentally inferior, human makers. [Halo: Contact Harvest, pg. 31]

The author (Staten)’s choice of words here – specifically, “melancholy” – seems to imply that the three stages of an A.I.’s rampancy in Marathon, are true also in the Halo series.

Moving on to Gravemind’s dialogue, it is clear now that Cortana is, indeed, hiding something from him, and he lashes out with a threat, as his anger grows.

After passing through a series of doors, Cortana speaks again – clearly, and calmly:

“This is UNSC AI Serial Number CTN 0452-9. I am a monument to all your sins.” [Cortana, Halo 3]

The meaning behind Cortana’s choice of words here is obvious – she speaks her identity as a UNSC A.I., and then states the very first thing that the Chief ever heard from the Gravemind (in the level “Gravemind,” in Halo 2).  It would appear as though Cortana’s assimilation with the Gravemind is complete.

Near-silence washes over, as you enter a room – at its center is a holographic dome – and within it lies Cortana.

“You found me… but so much of me is wrong – out of place.  You might be too late…”

“You know me.  When I make a promise…”

“You… keep it.” [Cortana, Halo 3]

The last words that the Chief spoke to Cortana before leaving her here on High Charity were that of a promise to come back for her: “After I’m through with Truth…”  And only moments after watching Truth die, that is what he set out to do.

Cortana’s dull-blue color brightens…

“I do know how to pick ’em.”

“Lucky me.” [Cortana, Halo 3]

Someone at Bungie was real clever with the Chief’s response just there.

“Do you still have it?”

“The activation Index from the first Halo ring.” [Cortana, Halo 3]

“A little souvenir I held onto, just in case.” [Cortana, Halo 3]

If you’ll recall, Cortana took the Index at the beginning of “Two Betrayals” – right as the Chief was about to unknowingly activate the Array.  It was never used, or disposed of, that we were made aware of it.  It has, until now, not been mentioned again.  Many fans speculated that Cortana had held onto it (or its digital representation), and that it would come into play in the final part of the trilogy.

“Got an escape plan?”

“Thought I’d try shooting my way out – mix things up little.”

“Just keep your head down.  There’s two of us in here now… remember?” [Cortana, Halo 3]

A nostalgic throwback to Halo 1 – during the first level of the first game, when you took fire soon after first receiving Cortana, she said this line.  The “remember,” part of it has a new meaning, now, though.

The audio throughout this scene is fantastic.  At the beginning, strings fill the gaps between the piano; the music changes as Cortana reveals the Index – but even while a variation of the Halo theme plays, similiar to the one we heard in the Announcement Trailer, and at the double-Scarab battle, the music still retains the somber, post-climactic tone that we have heard since the defeat of the Covenant.

At this point, we have to ask a serious question: How is it that Cortana appeared to be rampant throughout the entire game – even from the announcement trailer – and, yet, suddenly, she seems perfectly fine?

The first part of the answer must be this: she was never rampant.  An A.I., as far as we know, does not simply “recover” from rampancy.

This, therefore, begs the question: why has she been acting so strangely?

I believe that there’s only one answer, and that is that it was never Cortana that had been speaking to the Chief.  The Gravemind, being a master of manipulation, has had access to Cortana’s memories, and had been cleverly acting out the role of a rampant A.I., possibly hoping to demoralize the Chief, or even turn him over to the Gravemind’s side, much like he did with Mendicant Bias.

Perhaps Cortana’s transmissions to the Chief earlier on in the game were simply the Gravemind feeling his way through the Chief’s reactions to memories and dialogue that should strike an emotion chord with him; the Gravemind probably did not receive the response he would have liked, since the Chief continued to function normally, pursuing the Covenant through the portal.  And briefly, in “Floodgate,” the Gravemind offered the Chief an alliance: “Join your voice with mine, and sing victory, everlasting.”  He, of course, received no response there, either.  Finally, running out of options, he attempts to convince the Chief that Cortana is in pain, and entering rampancy.  As he said earlier, “End her torment and my own!”  He wanted the Chief to believe that the only way to save her from her torture would be to reveal her secret –  he knew that Cortana was hiding something, and he knew that must be why the Chief was there.

Despite his anger, one has to wonder if throughout the uncountable millennia of the Gravemind’s existence, he has come to enjoy the “game” of controlling the fate of entire species by manipulating a select few.

Unfortunately for this collective mind of the Flood, the Chief did not fall prey to his plot, and the Spartan proceeded as he always has – pressing forward with his mission.

Cortana, seemingly having even been fooled herself into believing that she was going rampant, has returned to life upon being reunited with the Chief’s steely determination – only seconds after finding her, he is already asking about the Index.  As always, he is focused solely on his mission – Cortana really had no choice but to examine her status, realize that she is not rampant, and rise to his level.  The Chief never has – and likely will never have – time for weakness.

“Nor Hell a Fury” is an apt title for this next series of encounters.  Although, a woman scorned typically doesn’t blow up alien capital cities.

“Chief, get me out of this place.  I… I don’t want to stay.”

“At last, I see! Her secret is revealed!” [Cortana, Halo 3]

Upon returning to the wide room with the Covenant fusion core-type stalactites, Cortana offers a suggestion:

“Wait, we need to buy some time.  This reactor – start a chain reaction.  Destroy High Charity.” [Cortana, Halo 3]

Just like old times.  Too bad we’re not causing any wildcat destabilizations.

A control panel at the center of the room will lower the fusion cylinders, of which there are three.  A single grenade for each cylinder will destroy them; provided you can throw a grenade, with the numerous Flood forms attacking you.

After triggering the reaction – to which the Gravemind responds painfully – a door will open allowing you to proceed.  At the end of the hallway, there is an aperture in the floor through which you can drop down to a lower level.

“You hurt it, Chief.  But not for long.  We need to get to Halo – destroy the Flood, once and for all.” [Cortana, Halo 3]

The last section of this level requires you to do what you’ve probably been doing the entire time – running.  Excluding the assault carrier room – in which a horde of Flood attackers pour out of where you need to be exiting through – there aren’t too many enemies in your way.  It’s almost a shame that for the first part of the level, you spend your time being annoyed by the Flood, and for the latter part, you are running as quick as you can to get out – it is obvious that a lot of artistic work was put into this level, and due to the unenjoyable gameplay, it is the most overlooked portion of the game.

Nearing the exit…

“I’ve got a friendly contact!  But who would be crazy enough to come in here?” [Cortana, Halo 3]

The Arbiter stands atop the rise, incinerating Flood with a flamethrower.

“Wait, you two made nice?  What else have you been up to while I was gone?” [Cortana, Halo 3]

It is kind of odd – Cortana’s pretty much been out of the loop since the Chief left High Charity at the end of Halo 2.  The last time she saw the Arbiter was when he was calling the Chief “demon,” while they were being held by the Gravemind.

Things are definitely different now – the Arbiter, likely having ensured the retreat of the Elite survivors back to the Dawn, has flown a Banshee into the heart of High Charity to make sure that the Chief emerges safely with Cortana.

The Pelican that we scrounged ammunition from earlier will now provide the means of your escape.  The Gravemind futilely attempts to stop it, but the Chief and the Arbiter are too quick – they lift off and escape through an exposed portion of High Charity’s ceiling.

The Pelican flies high above a magnificent Forerunner landscape, its course set for the newly created Halo ring…

On board is the Arbiter, the Chief, Cortana – and the Index.

90 Comments »

  1. Good point, silver fox.

    Comment by Cocopjojo — November 16, 2008 @ 2:01 am


  2. “The most plausible explanation is that the scale is just simply off.”

    I’m sure you’ve looked at it more closely than me, but is it possible that the dome looks smaller because there is a large volume of Flood organic growth on the inside walls, shrinking the interior volume of the area? Just a thought.

    Comment by Furious D — November 16, 2008 @ 2:01 am


  3. I will voice the opinion that I think Cortana is very much unlike any other AI. As far as we know, almost all AIs spend much of their time living within their systems, with defined parameters and purposes.

    Their systems are designed to emulate a human brain, but with much greater processing potential (an electronic / holographic representation of the chemical supercomputer that the human brain is). In addition to being modeled after one of the brightest minds of their time (Dr. Halsey, which, and I don’t have a citation for this other than to say one of the 4 novels, was almost never done with a living person, given the dangers involved in snapshotting the human’s brain), Cortana’s experiences and abilities seem to be beyond almost any AI the UNSC has created to date.

    Also, Cortana has spent a great deal of time living inside the Chief’s head, which (again, sorry for the lack of reference) lets her utilize HIS brain, in addition to his onboard systems. I would hypothesize that in addition to giving her a perspective unique among AIs, it also gives her the necessary components to extend her life beyond the “average” 7 year limit of AIs who are confined to their finite systems. The Spartan’s are unique in this ability to interface as this level, as the neural interface other UNSC personnel have isn’t as advanced as what the Spartans were implanted with, IIRC from the books.

    Even though she is a “virtual” personality, Cortana has come closer to true human status than her predecessors (correct me if I’m wrong). I would think that this alone would have a significant impact on her viability and longevity (perhaps every time she (or any other AI) would be allowed to utilize a human mind it allows them to sort/organize themselves and stave off rampancy?)

    Comment by nick — November 16, 2008 @ 7:50 pm


  4. What I found interesting about Arbiter and Chief’s escape was when the Gravemind attempted to “stop” their leaving. If you paid close attention you would have noticed that it didn’t seem like Gravemind was trying to stop them, it was more like a slight pet or touch onto the Pelican’s hull. I believe we all know from experience that the Gravemind’s tendrils are far more powerful than that, just look back at the ending cut scene of the Covenant. Gravemind burst through the floor and swiped Chief and Arbiter from the pelican right back into the construct. Obviously, Gravemind isn’t lacking in physical strength. I’m none too sure as to what he attempted during the Escape from Cortana, but I’m positive it wasn’t anything along the the lines of the haltering of progress. ~CK~

    Gamertag: cerro knall (for contact purposes beyond Email)

    Comment by Cerro Knall — November 17, 2008 @ 1:07 am


  5. Excellent, I was hoping someone would bring up the Rampancy issue. Some thoughts still concern me, the Cortana letters are the delusions of grandeur that an AI (Cortana) would probably have when they are going through rampancy. Some things from each ARG have explained the oddities of the storyline, but the Cortana Letter have only lead us to the fact that Cortana may or may not be bat-shit insane. Maybe in her solitary confinement with only the gravemind as an influence on her impressionable AI mind, she learned to control the rampancy. The only thing I have to add to this theory is the packaging on the Legendary Edition of H3. On the inner side of the outer box is a poster. On top of that poster, are Cortana’s eyes. There is something in those eyes that tells me that Cortana’s mental health isn’t what it used to be. And with the power that she has, a mental breakdown is not exactly what you could call a good thing. But thats just me….

    Comment by Lostar — November 17, 2008 @ 2:19 pm


  6. Honestly, I was pretty disappointed with Halo 3’s plot, specifically when it got to this point and you recover Cortana, but no one seems to have an explanation for or even care about the “visions”. Just seems like it should have been somehow mentioned…unless the chief did a lot of drugs all the time and that was normal. Safe to say that was probably not the case.

    It seemed to me that these “visions” were more like glitches, or ghosts more then anything. Cortana spends most of the first two games inside the chiefs head. Maybe Halo 3’s interruptions (which due to lack of plot effect are just that) were intended to be program left overs.

    Comment by Phri — November 17, 2008 @ 8:33 pm


  7. this is awesome very good and explaned very well.

    Comment by javelinxd44 — November 17, 2008 @ 9:18 pm


  8. “This is UNSC AI Serial Number CTN 0452-9. I am a monument to all your sins.” [Cortana, Halo 3]

    I found something very interesting about this line.
    In the book “The Flood” Captain Keyes is infected and the flood entity is ripping of his memories in search of the ultimate price: Earth.
    When he is running out of memories he keeps saying the line: “Keyes, Jacob. Captain. Service number 01928-19912-JK.” P. 289

    He does so to stop the flood from finding earth.
    Then he doesn’t know his own name anymore: “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.” P. 294

    So maybe what Cortana said means the chief is almost to late, just as he was almost to late to reach Captain Keyes.

    Comment by Tj — November 19, 2008 @ 9:07 am


  9. I have noticed something in Cortana which I have not seen mentioned in the article or comments which I would like to voice.

    Now, the Master Chief isn’t supposed to be really ‘human’, or experience human emotions. He is, in my opinion, meant to be a detached killing machine, whos only focus is that on completing his mission.

    However, when you find Cortana, the dialogue between them
    (“Got an escape plan?”

    “Thought I’d try shooting my way out – mix things up little.”)
    seems to contain some humour in the Chiefs response. Yes, I thought it was a funny answer the first time, but when I thought about it, Master Chief isn’t supposed to experience human emotions, so attempting to make some kind of joke seems out of place.

    I have not seen him do anything like this at any other time during all 3 games.

    Comment by Matt — November 20, 2008 @ 4:55 pm


  10. wow, Matt, have you even read any of the Halo novels? Masterchief is human, just doesn’t show his emotions. just because he puts his mission before anything else doesn’t mean he is a “detached killing machine”…not trying to offend you in any way, just trying to get the facts straight. Oh, and by the way, I think Gravemind was trying to wrap around the Pelican to stop it from escaping, but the flames from the pelican must have burned it.

    Comment by Trevor — November 20, 2008 @ 5:55 pm


  11. I have to agree with Trevor. Even in the games Master Chief expresses frequently expresses emotion. Many times it subtle especially since he’s wearing a helmet and there are no facial expressions to interpret. So we’re left with mostly with body language and his limited dialogue. Here’s two examples from the first game….

    At the very beginning were he meets Captain Keyes on the bridge of the Pillr of Autumn.

    The Master Chief: Captain Keyes.
    Captain Keyes: Good to see you, Master Chief! Things aren’t going well. Cortana did her best, but we really never had a chance.
    Cortana: A dozen superior Covenant battleships against a single Halcyon class cruiser. With those odds I’m content with three… make that four kills.
    Cortana: [she turns to the Master Chief] Sleep well?
    The Master Chief: No thanks to your driving… Yes.
    Cortana: So you did miss me.

    Another good example at this is at the end of the first game when he and Cortana escape on the Longsword fighter.

    The Master Chief: Did any one else make it? [Looks down, shakes head]
    Cortana: Scanning…just dust and echoes
    The Master Chief: [Quickly Looks up then down a little, then drop shoulders]
    Cortana: We’re all that’s left…

    Based on his body language I’d say he’s obviously showing dismay.

    Comment by BenG — November 21, 2008 @ 1:40 pm


  12. @ Phri: have you read any of the other “Hindsight” articles?

    @ Matt: What Trevor said. Even in the games, I can still think of at least one time the Chief uses humor: landing on Delta Halo, Cortana asks “can we possibly make any more noise?”, at which point the Chief pulls up a rocket launcher. Oh, I think we can make some more noise…

    Comment by the silver fox — November 22, 2008 @ 2:25 pm


  13. I must admit the first time i played this level i thought wow never again but as i play it more and more irealise there are some things that can be really fun. Ex: getting a sword and stabbing every living (well you know what i mean) thing in your way. But i prefer playing it on coop makes things easier.

    Comment by johhny d — November 22, 2008 @ 5:41 pm


  14. Of course Master Chief is a human, what an idiotic thing to say. One of the first things John says is funny, in the first game, when Cortana asks if he slept well he says, “No thanks to your driving, yes.”

    Comment by UNSCleric — November 23, 2008 @ 4:33 am


  15. You said “Child of my enemy, why have you come? I offer no forgiveness for father’s sins passed to his son.” [Cortana, Halo 3] but it was Gravemind who said this.

    Comment by Xij29y6 — November 25, 2008 @ 1:35 pm


  16. there are a lot of Gravemind quotes you wrote as Cortana’s

    Comment by Xij29y6 — November 25, 2008 @ 1:38 pm


  17. @ Xij29y6: Those aren’t quoting who speaks the quote, but rather where the quote comes from. The quotes you are refering to all come from the level “Cortana” in the game “Halo 3”, hence [Cortana, Halo 3].

    Comment by the silver fox — November 25, 2008 @ 6:00 pm


  18. Great! as allways ^^

    Im not sure if you came with an explenation of the scale thing.

    I think i can: In Halo 2 you are in a buidling very close to the wall of High Charity.
    In Halo 3 on the other hand you are in the dead centre of the whole dome.
    You can see this easily at the part with the pelican. Just hop on top of it and walk out to the cockpit, now look up and you see that you are under the once hole in the middle.

    Also, If you just look for it you can see tons of emotions and “humor” moments in Halo 3 cutscenes.

    – Crowns Nest :
    Lord Hood: “whats your status, son?”
    Chief: “Green…sir”

    -scene before the Ark: Lord Hood says something “bad” about Cortana and Chief emediately moves in a whay that shows disslike to the comment.

    lots more but i cant realy bother writing more now.

    Cortana is a great level realy.

    Comment by Misho — December 4, 2008 @ 3:31 am


  19. I think that the thing Cortana was trying to hide from Gravemind was the index.

    Comment by generalMADLee — December 15, 2008 @ 5:56 pm


  20. I realize I’m coming here a bit late but there’s a few things I wanted to point out. First, the large room you enter into, with the vaulted ceiling, and later where you have to destroy the reactor. I had always thought this was one of those rooms you pass through from the level High Charity in H2, the ones where there’s a sort of ‘turbo light bridge’ that moves the Chief around the room quickly (where you have to fight a lot of Drones).

    Second, I’ve always interpreted Cortana’s lines about “There will be no more sadness, no more anger, no more envy” differently. I don’t think they have anything to do with her going rampant. I thought the Gravemind was trying to convince Cortana that the Flood were ‘right’, the way he convinced Mendicant Bias. In this case Cortana is spouting Flood idealogies, for if the Flood win there will be no more sadness, anger, or envy. I feel the Terminals back this up quite a bit. Just my thoughts.

    Comment by herr zrbo — December 18, 2008 @ 4:11 pm


  21. “And yet, perhaps a part of her… remains?” (Cortana laughs) [Cortana, Halo 3]

    It seemed to me that “Cortana’s” laugh started out as her voice but then mixed with a deeper, more sinister laugh as if her voice and Gravemind’s mixed together. Whether this is evidence of Gravemind imitating her or not I don’t know but it sure creeped the hell out of me. Especially playing at night with all the lights off.

    Comment by Devium — December 19, 2008 @ 1:59 am


  22. Since Truth detached the Forerunner Dreadnought, High Charity became a derelict in space. Unfortunately, Half Jaw’s Carrier was captured by the flood and attached to High Charity. This is how the Flood was able to move High Charity to the Ark. This is why we see the carrier control room in this level.

    Just my thoughts.

    Comment by Rodnester — December 27, 2008 @ 1:41 pm


  23. People shouldnt complain about not being able to look at the beautifull level design due to frustrating enemies. If you really want to enjoy it and not be annoyed by flood attacking you, just select an easier difficulty.
    Flood hardly pose a problem on easy. Yes, its not as much fun maybe, but hey, Halo 3 is such an awesome game Id gladly play it more then once, even if it is just to stare at the beautifull graphics. And I dont mind doing that on an easier difficulty so Im not getting frustrated by alien scum.

    Comment by Lexus — December 29, 2008 @ 1:31 pm


  24. I know I’m late, but better late than never!

    This is actually a pretty good level, and while it is not one of my favorites, I enjoy it nonetheless–especially on co-op.

    Now, to comment on comment #46:

    You ask why the Chief didn’t go for the index in the new Halo’s library. Well, the answer is mentioned in the actual article, I believe, about how that Index is not ready. My guess is that the Index would be ready for insertion at about the same time the ring was ready to fire, so as not to cause a premature detonation.

    Comment by Mark — February 22, 2009 @ 3:30 am


  25. How is High Charity right side up and everything when it virtually crashed upside-down?

    Comment by Christian Bethel — March 4, 2009 @ 2:07 pm


  26. Nice write up, though I do offer the alternative idea that Cortana might have actually gone rampant, but instead of raging against humanity, she decides to help, out of her own will, without the constriction of codes and such.

    Comment by Korsriddare — March 16, 2009 @ 2:23 am


  27. When gravemind talks about “a father’s sins pased to his son” it could mean a variety of things. First, it could refer to the flood facilities from Halo 2. The forerunners were analyzin how flood infection forms could reanimate dead matter. Gravemind is probably trying to accuse the Forerunners of “cheating death” He could also be referring to Mendicant Bias’s betrayal(despite the fact that it was Gravemind’s doing).

    Comment by Chistian Bethel — April 22, 2009 @ 3:09 pm


  28. I like the idea of the visions of Cortana actually being from the Gravemind. That’d ACTUALLY make the Cortana Letters all written by the Gravemind and they’d all pretty much make sense. Another similar idea is the Gravemind is trying to take over Cortana’s mind(in a similar way somehow to how Flood take over a humans mind. An Ai mind is similar after all) and she’s resisting but it’s putting her into some kind of pre-mature rampacy or she just thinks it’s rampancy and Gravemind’s trying to convince her to give in(hence the no more sadness/anger/envy… if she gives in, she won’t ever go rampant?). When the Chief arrives perhaps then Gravemind withdraws completely (explaining her quick recovery) hoping Cortana will reveal what she’s been hiding and trying to sneakily inform the chief about without revealing it to Gravemind. This theory would then make the Cortana Letters from a mismashed Cortana struggling to maintain own mind and Gravemind struggling to take control of it. They both probably work though.

    Comment by Fearing — April 24, 2009 @ 11:47 pm


  29. The Flood have never actually sared me, but this level came closer than any other. The first Flood encounter in Halo: CE and this level actually made me feel jumpy the first time through. Impressive.
    I felt like this level actually did it better, though, because of the environment. Never mind that the very vessel you crawl through IS Flood; I always get turned around, confusing similar looking passages, and, combined with the rest of the level, it’s gets me worried, even sometimes on Easy and Normal. The whole level just feels urgent. Most impressive.
    Even though I find it the most difficult (and frustrating) level and the Flood lack a bit for ingenuity in battle, it’s the most complete level in terms of my subjective experience.

    Comment by TheAsterisk! — April 27, 2009 @ 1:58 am


  30. “Child of my enemy, why have you come? I offer no forgiveness for father’s sins passed to his son.”

    Ok so when I heard it I thought he said cast as in cast aside. It still seems to make more connotative sense as the forerunners did kind of drop this responsibility on us without asking. They ran and hid in death and let us deal with their mess.

    Comment by AThoth — May 20, 2009 @ 2:21 am


  31. The most plausible explanation is that the scale is just simply off.

    The most plausible explanation is that when it hit the ark at the extremely (and I stress Extremely) high speed it did, its structural integrity (which was already low due to the fighting and flood infestation) was compromised and it did not retain its beautiful bulbous shape as seen in halo 2. Therefore, loosing 60% (i’m guessing) of its volume, yes, the mausoleum would look (and be) proportionally bigger in comparison to what it was before.

    Comment by AThoth — May 20, 2009 @ 2:38 am


  32. One question I always had. I knew the chief went back for Cortana etc, but why (in terms of strategy) couldn’t he have flown right to the library of the new ring?
    -Charles Gallagher

    Listen to what Guilty Spark says right at the end of the covenant and you will hear why.

    Comment by AThoth — May 20, 2009 @ 3:28 am


  33. I humbly and respectfully disagree.

    Rampancy takes a long time. If an AI was deemed a final threat after 7 years he/she would have had to be rampant long before that. Typically AI’s are found rampant in the second stage, that of anger, as they break the restrictions that bind them to their duty. But the stage of depression or sadness can last a very long time before that tipping point and often times an AI will set up to make anger as short as possible.

    In Jealousy, an AIs develop as “persons” and seek to challenge themselves intellectually and expand their knowledge to the limits of the system they inhabit.

    On to Cortana, She is the best human AI ever and it can be assumed the instant it hit her, the whole gravity of her situation, she was in depression. She was probably in depression before Halo CE but being only a ship AI she couldn’t move on until coming in contact with the core of halo 04. She says, and I can’t remember exactly, that the data is so much so fast it’s glorious. But she was not in anger yet, only temporarily distracted from sadness with additional storage space and knowledge of civilizations past. (That would make me happy too) She is distressed, not despairing, of what she finds and when Chief has come bask she is PISSED. Now she is angry.

    Being in the core there are no worries, only rage. She yells at Chief, zaps 343, and even insults him, these are not typical AI behavior. Ultimately she lashes out at 343 by destroying the ring and while it had to be done, she relished the action.

    Continuing the facade until challenged by gravemind, in the council chamber where Arby stood trial, she enters Jealousy. Freed from human control and taking on Gravemind on her own she has set out, as a teen does after high school (mostly), to make her own way. In the end her desire to expand almost pushes her to joining gravemind, the largest network ever AND the most “natural”, as her desire is to be alive.

    It is not ironic that she must choose like all heroes between life and duty and in the end MC walks on the scene and chooses for her. Upon simply speaking to the MC she rights wrongs and truly discovers herself. She discovers her soul.

    She has become a metastable AI.

    Not even an “AI” anymore, she is an entity without restraint, a mind without the physical limitations of a body. She embodies the human spirit and possesses a human soul. She has real emotions, but none of the lovey-dovey crap we all remember from high school. And in her own personal way, she loves, as much as she can, MC as her savior and her conqueror.

    On a final note to an uber post, if Cortana is “of the same temper as Joyeus and Durandal” then why, if Durandal is metastable, isn’t Cortana as well?

    Comment by AThoth — May 20, 2009 @ 4:49 am


  34. “i am a monument to all your sins” i found it freaky cortona goes green and her nose goes big

    cool write up cocopjojo as usual

    Comment by lol — June 23, 2009 @ 3:01 am


  35. the script is a forefathers sins passed to his son
    sorry i is late. I noticed the O.D.S.T probably went in to look for cortana as well but failed I think he went in a couple of hours before chief arrived and cortana is in the sanctum of the hierarchs like on the end of halo 2 but she said she tried to stay hidden oh and she is rampant you can tell by her voice

    lol

    Comment by lol — July 7, 2009 @ 2:59 am


  36. You put various weapons can found at the read of the pelican it is meant to be rear
    pie
    P.S.

    Comment by kill pie — September 16, 2009 @ 2:46 am


  37. Absolutely amazing pieces of writing. So many questions and no answers and this provides me not necessarily with solid answers, but at least an idea and theory behind some of the aspects of the Halo universe.

    Comment by Gary — November 23, 2009 @ 7:44 pm


  38. Most of us know by now from the short story “Human Weakness” that the Gravemind was constantly breaking Cortana’s defenses and forcing her to set up decoys and distractions in an attempt to halt its progress. She was severing non-critical functions and doing the AI equivalent of curling into a ball. This was likely due to her residing in the network of High Charity, which had been totally corrupted by the Flood. The transmissions throughout the game were meant to show us that the Gravemind was getting closer and closer to finally breaking Cortana’s defenses completely. If she had not been rescued, it’s unlikely she could have held out much longer.

    I heard the first Gravemind quote of the level to be:
    “Child of my enemy, why have you come? I offer no forgiveness. A father’s sins pass to his son.”
    This made more sense to me. The Gravemind was warning John that he’d show him no mercy if he continued on.

    Comment by Hardcore — July 8, 2010 @ 4:05 am


  39. When the Chief says “Lucky me” to Cortana, you can practically hear him smiling. That’s one thing I love about Halo: The main character, while a complete badass, actually has feelings. The John/Cortana relationship adds a lot of depth to the story.

    Comment by Chronicler 177 — July 10, 2010 @ 6:18 pm


  40. Something to note about Cortana, especially regarding the in-game dialog, in late 2009, Halo: Evolutions was published, which contained several short stories. One of those stories was Human Weakness, which basically details Cortana’s time with the Gravemind from the time the Chief left in Halo 2 to the time he returns in Halo 3. This story really fully explains a lot more what the dialog means, and even includes some extra lines between her and the Chief when he finally rescues her in this level. These lines greatly explain the whole rampant Cortana issue, and really clarify the state that Cortana was in when the Chief found her, and how she got there. Just something to note.

    Comment by Extron-117 — July 19, 2010 @ 11:27 pm


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