'Halo 3' Day 8: Is Cortana really worth the hassle?

Note: This series intends to follow my day-to-day events as they occur in the Microsoft-exclusive title "Halo 3." Each entry will divulge important plot details for the game regarding each of its nine missions, as well as tips and tricks to help gamers "Finish the Fight." With that, it is safe to assume spoilers will lie ahead in the succeeding text.

I'm not sure if it's the creepiness of the parasites and their surroundings or the depravity of the entire Flood storyline, but just as with the Floodgate mission, I found little satisfaction in the gameplay of the eighth mission, Cortana. Once again there's a heap of plot details revealed in relation to this infestation. However, the actual mission falls flat as far as appeal and providing a feeling of accomplishment - something the preceding mission more than granted.

The objective of this mission is to retrieve Cortana, destroy the reactor and escape from High Charity (the Flood's "fortress") with the Activation Index - which Cortana possesses - so that the Chief can activate Halo. I'm sure there is a way to navigate through this mess of pulsating Flood pods, infected forms and pure forms while eliminating the nasty parasites; I just did not find it in any way feasible to survive and massacre such an onslaught of regenerating.

This is where my biggest problem with the mission rested. In any other segment of the game, I was able to station myself in some protected location and eliminate most of the oncoming threats. Even in Floodgate I was able to at least charge through the Flood with a Gravity Hammer. Whether that was a false sense of achievement or not, I still felt as if I'd done my duty as a gamer first and a Spartan second. Regardless of how I thought a mission should be completed, making my way to Cortana's location gave me little opportunity to plan my attacks or meticulously wipe out the Flood.

The one bit of advice I can offer while you try to survive through this mission is to avoid hitting or shooting any of the pulsating pods. If one of the pods busts, a swarm of infected forms will pour out and attack. Although an infected form does not cause too much damage on its own, a mass of them can quickly deteriorate your shields. Also, watch out for pure forms that fire spiked projectiles - these deplete your health as quickly as a shot from a Carbine.

Outside of the gameplay (or lack thereof), the eighth mission also severely falls behind the other levels in terms of the map's composition. Most of the other levels featured maps that were fairly intuitive. Scenery consistently changed and there was always a natural sense of direction while navigating to the goals. This notion of fluidity seems to have been completely forgotten while trying to save Cortana and destroy High Charity. Of course, that could also have been a goal of the game's developer. But by sacrificing the very instinctive navigational aspects of the maps, a major portion of what makes the "Halo" series so appealing was lost.

Despite these shortcomings, the Chief's mission is still to rescue Cortana and overload High Charity's main reactor. I found it was more effective to charge through much of the level, hide in some temporary cover while my shields replenish and hightail it to the Pelican that is set to carry Master Chief off to the final chapter in the saga: Halo.

Mission rating: I must have some deep-seated hate for the Flood because I am not too keen on the missions centered on these parasites, 2.5 out of 5