Level: Composer

Level: Composer

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Experience the Level

The left column features videos and descriptions of the major events for each section.

Development and Analysis

The right column focuses on the planning, decisions, and iterations for the section.

This side also includes analysis of the section's successes and failures.

Sealing the Opening

The Master Chief encounters a few of the ONI scientists and soldiers bunkered down in the center of the "horseshoe."  They have a plan to cut off the invasion in this section—the docking bay has a defensive shield—but reaching the controls would require traversing a gauntlet of multiple-dropships-worth of Covenant.

The Chief resupplies and takes the fight to the Covenant aliens.  Though surrounded, the catwalks, abundant weaponry, and a machine gun turret emplacement give him the firepower he needs to push forward toward the shield controls in between waves of reinforcements.

Gameplay Video

As one last dropship is coming in, the Chief reaches the controls and slams the activation button.  The shield comes on too late for the dropship to turn and it smashes against the barrier, instantly destroyed.  Though the docking bay is still not completely clear of enemies, the tide has turned—there will be no more reinforcements through this opening!


As the biggest "portion" of the Horseshoe fights, this middle section has a lot to unpack.  I'll touch on just a few of the highlights.

The "bunker" area where the humans are has two floors connected by a stairway, each with a couple of exits for players to emerge from or retreat into.  The upper floor leads out onto a balcony with two advantages: on the left, there's a semi-protected "foward" position occupied by a Jackal sniper.  His unique weapon type and glowing eyepiece draw the player up to what may be an advantageous "high ground" spot.  Jumping off to the right, on the other hand, lands the player at the machine gun turret—prime real estate (until a Grunt or Elite tosses a grenade there to force the player to retreat)!

For players who like to get up close to their foes, just beneath the Jackal's perch is a convenient nook to pop out from, surprising enemies with the numerous shotguns stored inside.  On the other hand, many of the weapons in the bunker itself are longer-range;  good for a sniper approach until a kamikaze Grunt or Energy Sword Elite decides to force the player's hand.

The waves of reinforcements were iterated repeatedly to find the right balance of pressure and "lulls," during which a bold player might attempt to run to the shield control button at the far end of the docking platform.  It's a long run with little protection, though, so best attempted in co-op play where a buddy or two can provide covering fire.

The waves also build, each successive one providing new and greater challenges.  It's important that a player have an engaging experience regardless of his approach:  whether sniper, "let them come to me," or the bold (or foolhardy) "rush in immediately."

Finishing the Fight

The rest of the docking bay is just mop-up, but the Covenant aren't giving up without a fight!  They've brought turret emplacements of their own.  The Elites are armed with high-powered weaponry and are backed up by Jackal snipers.  Grunts frequently go kamikaze when the fight isn't going their way.

Gameplay Video

As the Master Chief makes his way up to the room's exit, a scan-wave from the Didact's ship passes through the station.  Cortana understands the importance of this and explains it to the Chief:  though the Didact knows the Composer is aboard, he doesn't know where it's located yet and is running scans to pinpoint its location.


Where do I go now?  After this run down the center of the room, it's a little tough to re-focus the player's direction on continuing the loop through the Horseshoe (because it requires a short backtrack).  Halo has "waypoint markers" for this purpose, but we wanted that to be there in support of the somewhat more elegant approach of having enemies appear, unlock exit of the "gated fight," and use their presence as a signpost for the player's next direction.

Through the next door, we wanted to show that the situation was still dire-but-salvageable, so a few more ONI soldiers have stuck it out this long but are pinned down by a Covenant turret (to mirror the Human turret experience the player just had).

The narrow space condenses the fight, allowing fewer enemies to be more of a threat, though the purpose of this fight isn't to be overly challenging but to get the player prepared for the next battle since they may have just spent some "downtime" resupplying themselves in and around the center fight.

On the way up to the rooftop fight, the Didact's scan (an element repeated from previous levels) passes through.  This was a suggestion by the Narrative Team to keep the Didact "feeling present" though he himself appears nowhere in this level...  these scans, which originate from his massive ship (glimpsed in a few key places throughout), represent him during the mission.

One tidbit:  there are a few spots after the final "Horseshoe" battle that are worth giving a second look.  There's a sniper perch just down the far-side stairs with some goodies, and the dividing wall between sections of the space can be walked on to a spot with a few more.

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