Have you ever played a level in a game that made you wonder if it was ever going to end? Have you ever been so frustrated from death after death that you just gave up and walked away? Even worse than that, did the developers mock you as you worked your way through that level because even they knew how awful the level truly was? Well, if you’ve played “The Library” mission in the Halo: Combat Evolved campaign, you know exactly what I’m talking about. The Library is the worst level I’ve ever played in any game, and even though I love the Halo series, I absolutely despise this level. Why do I hate this level so much? Read on to find out.
When I first played The Library, I played on Heroic difficulty, which is harder than Easy or Normal but is easier than Legendary. I started the mission with a bright outlook. The dark, spooky corridors seemed dreadful, and I was interested to see what lay before me. Over two hours later, I still hadn’t beat the level, I had died dozens of times, and my patience had long since worn out. Up until that point, I had never played a worse level than this one, and since then, I still haven’t encountered anything that bad.
Basically, The Library takes place after you meet 343 Guilty Spark for the first time. He sees you and says that he needs your help, more or less. He teleports you to this building called the Library and says to follow him; he’ll take you to the Index. As you walk along, Guilty Spark offers tidbits of information as to what this center does and why it’s here. He unlocks doors for you and guides you through the labyrinth so you don’t get lost. It doesn’t sound so bad, right? Just follow the flying orb until you reach the Index, grab it, and leave. Wrong.
First off, the level design is extremely monotonous. The Library is four levels tall, and a giant elevator takes you to each level. To get there, you must work through the floor you’re on, killing Flood forms along the way. You hop on the elevator after clearing the first floor to find that the second floor looks almost exactly the same as the first one. You work through this floor, doing almost the same thing as before, then make it to the second elevator. When it deposits you on the third floor, it’s nearly the exact same as the other two! Then, no big surprise, the fourth floor is nearly identical as well!
The problem is that each floor is boring and difficult, not to mention lengthy. Each level is just a series of hallways and corridors with no distinguishable features, for the most part. Each level is just yard after yard of gray wall. While you work your way through this dull environment, Flood forms attack you from every direction. Some leap from extreme distances away only to land in front of you and beat you to death. Others shoot at you. Large carrier forms blow up like a giant grenade, and they kill you if you’re close enough. You’ll unleash clip after clip just to find more and more Flood forms after every kill. Beware; sometimes, dead Flood can come back to life and try killing you again, which stinks if they pop up right as you’re walking past them.
As far as the length of the level is concerned, it’s the longest in the game. As I mentioned before, it took me over two hours when I played it a couple years ago. For the sake of this article, I replayed it to refresh my memory. It took one hour and 12 minutes this time around; 24 minutes for the first floor, 15 for the second, 18 for the third, and 15 minutes for the final floor. I was honestly amazed that I was able to complete it quicker this time, but it is almost purely due to experience. For example, I knew where enemies would come from this time, I knew the most effective way to dispatch them, I knew where health packets were, where to stand to cut off the flow of enemies to catch my breath, etc. But how was I to know these things on my first attempt? That’s part of what makes The Library so grueling; it provides an experience that is in stark contrast to the rest of the levels beforehand. Any player who plays The Library has to completely rethink any strategy they might have had and basically relearn how to play the game.
The thing is, if you think the level is bad at any point, it simply gets worse. For example, there was one spot where I was following Guilty Spark, then we come to a door. He tells me to wait there, so I do. He leaves, presumably to find the lock to the door. Then, immediately, an insane number of Flood forms fill the room. I’m talking dozens of aliens. So many attack me that I can’t kill them fast enough and the framerate drops to way lower than half what it usually does. Bungie literally tossed so many aliens at me that even my Xbox was freaked out and couldn’t handle it. That wasn’t a one time thing, either; I counted two segments in the level where the framerate dropped severely, and I counted another two spots where the framerate dropped mildly; all four times were due to having way too many enemies on the screen.
On top of this, there were two instances where a Flood form was carrying a rocket launcher! I’d simply come around the corner, and unbeknownst to me, there was a Flood form ready to blow me to shreds. Considering they have perfect aim due to the fact they’re AIs, I would die instantly whether I would jump, duck, or try anything else.
Another issue with the level is the fact that health packets are far too spread out. Halo: CE doesn’t feature regenerating health in the way we know it today. Rather, you have a segmented health bar which is divided into 6 or 8 sections. If your shields go down, the health bar starts to deteriorate. Your shields will recharge, but your overall health stays the same unless you find a health packet. The worst thing that commonly happens is that you get into a skirmish with some Flood that leaves your health bar at one segment. Once your shields go down in a future encounter, you’re literally one bullet away from death. This means that you might be going through half a floor treading extremely carefully because one slip-up can mean death and respawn followed by death and respawn…
Possibly the worst aspect of this level is that the developers at Bungie knew just how bad the level was when they released the game. It’s almost like they meant this level to be one giant, cruel joke. Honestly, I wonder what sadistic, evil person came up with the design for The Library. Basically, in the Halo games, each level is divided into a subsection or two; sometimes three if the level is long. The names of almost all of these subsections are comical and pretty funny, including the infamous “I Would Have Been Your Daddy…,” which was followed by “…But A Dog Beat Me Over The Fence!”
Anyway, the subsection titles for The Library basically slap you in the face with your own misfortune. When you step on the first elevator, the second subsection begins, which is titled, “Wait, It Gets Worse!” Yes, yes, it truly does get worse. By the time you get to the elevator for the next subsection, you probably won’t want to get on, so this subsection is aptly titled, “But I Don’t Want To Ride The Elevator!” Then, the final section is called “Fourth Floor: Tools, Guns, Keys To Super Weapons,” which is a nod to the fact that you retrieve the Index, which has the power to blow up all live as we know it. That would be bad.
In the end, this level just stinks. Everything about it is terrible, from the boring level design, insane length, abundance of enemies, and mocking messages. The thing is, because it was intentionally made to be so crappy, this level really can’t be labelled “bad,” when you think about it. It seems like it’s meant to parody bad levels, and I’d say it does a great job at doing just that. Even still, I hate this level with a passion that burns brighter than the sun.
What’s your least favorite level of all time? Comment below! Hit the like or follow buttons if you’ve enjoyed, and check out the LP channels in my “Links” tab, if you want.