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This article is about the Halo 3 campaign level. For the human AI, see Cortana.


The Covenant



HTMCC H3 Achievement TheKey.jpg


Halo 3




December 11, 2552[1]


High Charity


Rescue Cortana and destroy High Charity.

Halopedia has a walkthrough guide to this level, Cortana (level). See Cortana (level)/Walkthrough.
Cleanse High Charity. Save Cortana.

Cortana is the ninth campaign level of Halo 3. It takes place in the Flood infested High Charity. The player's mission is to find Cortana in order to activate Installation 08.

Upon completing it on the Normal, Heroic, or Legendary difficulties, the player will earn "The Key" achievement and 40 Gamerscore. Earning over 15,000 points in the campaign meta-game on this level will give the player the Orpheus achievement, and 10 Gamerscore.


With the Prophet of Truth dead and the Covenant defeated at last, the Master Chief must now infiltrate the Flood-infested High Charity and rescue Cortana, who possesses the Activation Index needed to activate the new Halo. The Chief flies into High Charity in a Banshee and journeys into the depths of the city, searching for his lost AI companion. During this mission, not only does the Chief encounter stiff resistance from the Flood, he is constantly plagued by disturbing visions of Cortana being tortured, as well as taunts and threats from the Gravemind. Despite this, he finally locates and retrieves Cortana, finally fulfilling the promise he made to her before departing for Earth. The Chief then overloads High Charity's backup reactor to destroy the city. The Arbiter unexpectedly shows up and aids the Chief in his escape. The pair find a crashed Pelican and use it to escape High Charity just before the city is destroyed.



The Master Chief flies a Banshee to High Charity. He finds an opening into the hive. (In co-op, Thel 'Vadam will follow the Chief and land his Banshee next to the Spartan's Banshee)

The Chief drops down onto a wide platform from a hole above ('Vadam follows him in co-op)

  • Johnson (COM): "Arbiter will do the same with the Elites."

(Co-op Change) Johnson (COM): "The Shipmaster will do the same with the Elites."

The Chief shakes off some organic material sticking to his boot.

  • Johnson (COM): "Cortana's in there somewhere..."




The Chief begins his journey through the hive, killing any Flood in his path.

The Chief drops down a porta.

The Chief passes through the area where the High Council Chamber once was. Exploring further, the Chief goes to an outside area where he finds a crashed, but intact Pelican, possibly from the UNSC In Amber Clad.

  • Cortana (coming from a speaker within the crashed Pelican): "I ran, tried to stay hidden, but there was no escape! He cornered me, wrapped me tight... and brought me close."

As the Chief goes deeper into the hive.

  • Gravemind (Gravemind Moment): (intrigued) "And yet, perhaps a part of her...remains?" (maniacal laughter, fades into Cortana's voice)
  • Cortana: (deranged laughter)

In the large room where the Tilt skull is located, a Terminal can be activated, but does not count towards the Marathon Man achievement. If activated, it displays another Cortana Moment.

  • Cortana (Terminal): "It was the coin's fault! I wanted to make you strong, keep you safe...(drop in tone) I'm sorry, I can't..."

Cortana begins to show signs of rampancy.

  • Cortana: (casually and kindly, as though nothing is wrong and mimicking Dr. Catherine Halsey) "May I speak with you, please?... What's your name? It's very nice to meet you!... You like games? So do I."

The Chief fights through more narrow, Flood-contaminated tunnels.

  • Cortana: (upset and frightened) "I'm just my mother's shadow... don't look at me, don't listen! I'm not who I used to be..."

As the Chief nears a large room (with the route to the reactor room at the top):

  • Gravemind (Gravemind Moment): (angrily) "Time has taught me patience! But basking in new freedom, I will know all that I possess!"

The Chief continues to the reactor room.

  • Cortana (Cortana Moment): (panicking, her voice slightly distorted) "I have walked the edge of the abyss. I have seen your future, and I have learned!"

The image of Cortana suddenly turns a tinge of green. She clutches her head and writhes in pain.

  • Gravemind (Gravemind Moment): (angrily) "Submit! End her torment and my own!"

The Chief heads through a tunnel littered with bones and skulls, and enters the reactor room. He sees one of the four reactor pylons malfunction and overload. The Chief fights his way through the reactor room, and exits through a door on the other side. He enters yet another hallway.

  • Cortana (Cortana Moment): (panicking, voice slightly distorted) "There will be no more sadness, no more anger, no more envy!" (a reference to the three main stages of rampancy.)
  • Gravemind (Gravemind Moment): (enraged) "You will show me what she hides...or I shall feast upon your bones!"

The Chief begins to reach the end of the hallway.

  • Cortana (Cortana Moment): (speaking in a calm, distorted, monotone voice as though brainwashed. Her image is green.) "This is UNSC AI Serial Number CTN 0452-9. I am a monument to all your sins."
The shielded podium in which Cortana is trapped.

The Chief rushes to the end of the hallway and enters the former Sanctum of the Hierarchs. There he finds Cortana lying prone in a stasis field in a center podium. He bashes the shield until it finally fails. Cut to black.


  • Cortana: (weakly) "You found me."

The Master Chief leans closer towards the panel Cortana's on. The AI lies pitifully on the podium, pain and shame on her face. The animated code that usually flows across her skin is absent.

  • Cortana: (weakly) "But so much of me is wrong… out of place. You might be too late…"

The Chief kneels right next to Cortana.

Cortana looks up at the Chief. She starts to glow.

  • Cortana: "You… keep it. (she raises her head, and sounds amused) I do know how to pick 'em."
H3-Index and Cortana.jpg
  • John-117: "Lucky me. Do you still have it?"

Cortana slowly gets up. As she does, she begins to glow more brightly and the lines of code and equations begin to fall over her surface again. She opens her palm and a hologram of the Index appears above it.

The Chief gets back on his feet.

  • John-117: "Thought I'd try shooting my way out - mix things up a little."

The Chief takes Cortana's old data chip out of his helmet and holds it in front of her. Cortana touches its core and uploads herself into the chip. The Chief inserts Cortana back, at long last, into his armor.


Nor Hell A Fury…[edit]

Shoot your way out.

  • Cortana: (weakly) "Chief, get me out of this place. I… I don't want to stay."

The Chief heads back out the hallway.

  • Gravemind (Gravemind Moment): (roars) "Now, at last, I see! Her secret is revealed!"

The Master Chief returns to the reactor room. Flood forces, now aware that Cortana is in possession of the Index, start attacking. The Chief stands his ground and defeats them.

  • Cortana: (weakly) "We need to buy some time. This reactor... start a chain reaction. Destroy High Charity."

The Chief heads to the center of the reactor room and accesses the main controls, exposing the three remaining reactor pylons. A new wave of Flood swarms the reactor room, attempting to stop the Chief. However, he successfully destroys all three reactor pylons.

  • Gravemind: (roars in pain)

Alarms blare. Explosions erupt throughout the reactor room.

  • Cortana: "You hurt it, Chief. But not for long. We need to get to Halo - destroy the Flood once and for all."

The Chief leaves the reactor room and races through High Charity, which is now rapidly falling apart.

If the Chief takes too long:

  • Cortana: "An explosion just made us an exit! I'll mark it on your HUD, Chief, go!"

When the Chief reaches the halfway point to escaping High Charity:

  • Cortana: "Analyzing the route ahead… I have it mostly figured out. Just keep going. I'll update your HUD as quickly as I can."

The Chief reaches a blocked hallway.

  • Cortana: "Corridors ahead have all collapsed. I'll find another way, Chief; be careful."


  • Cortana: "Corridors beyond this point have collapsed. I'm looking for an alternate. Careful."

If the Chief still can't find his way out:

  • Cortana: "There, Chief, into the maintenance tunnel."

The Chief finds his way back when…

  • Cortana: "I've got a friendly contact! Who would be crazy enough to come in here?"

The Chief and Cortana find the Arbiter battling Flood with a flamethrower (occasionally, Thel will use his energy sword instead).

  • Cortana: (amused) "Wait, you two made nice? What else did you do while I was gone…?"
High Charity is destroyed.

The Chief and 'Vadam clear the immediate area of remaining Flood, then head outside.


The Chief and the Arbiter board the Pelican the Chief discovered earlier. The Chief uploads Cortana into the Pelican's holotank and starts up the engines. One of the Gravemind's tentacles reaches for the dropship, but the heat from the thrusters forces it to retreat. The Pelican takes off, smoke pouring lightly from the left engine. The tentacle comes back and tries to ensnare the dropship, but the Pelican pulls free of its grip. The Pelican barely escapes as High Charity's reactor goes critical, consuming the planetoid in a massive explosion. The Pelican makes its way to the new Halo ring.


Production notes[edit]

The original idea for the level Cortana was entirely scratched.[2] Originally, the level had a proper High Charity geometry completely different from the geometry seen inside the Flood-infested cruiser in Floodgate. The player had to follow Cortana's footprints to know where to go. As to why Cortana would be able to leave such footprints, Bungie designer Dan Miller likened the situation to her mysterious appearance in the closing cutscene of The Covenant. Once Cortana was rescued, the player was to encounter a Scarab with damaged hind legs. The Chief would have to insert Cortana so she could take control of it. Then, the Gravemind would appear and a battle between him and Cortana's Scarab would ensue. The Chief would have to hold his position on the Scarab by fending off invading Flood forms and shooting off the Gravemind's tentacles that would try to latch on the Scarab. Eventually, the entire level —including its specific High Charity geometry— had to be cut from the game's development.

As a replacement for the deleted Cortana level, Floodgate was split into two distinct levels, the latter part of the mission becoming the new Cortana level.[3] Thus, the geometry in the released Cortana level is the same as the one of Floodgate, and there is no unique High Charity geometry in the final game. The second part of Floodgate —now the new and final Cortana level— was acknowledged by Bungie as being a bad mission, as it did not have its own level designer.[4]


Main article: Glitches
  • During the level, the player will find dead Elites wearing Assault Armor. One of them is glitching by doing their death position in mid-air though; it looks like his foot seems to be stuck in Flood biomass. The corpse will fall if the player melees or uses explosives against it.

Easter Eggs[edit]

Main article: Easter Eggs
  • The Tilt Skull can be found on this level.
  • After obtaining Cortana, there is a skull on a ledge-like structure (it's purple and is kind of bulbous at the end) overhead after the player exits the hallway that leads to Cortana. To get it, one needs to get the Deployable Cover, deploy it on the floor directly in front of the edge of the roof, jump on the deployed cover and crouch jump onto the roof. One may also partner jump or grenade jump with a plasma grenade. Once on top of the roof, locate the skull towards the apex of the angled roof and get the skull. Please note that this skull has no affiliation with the "13 required skulls" list and, if carried for the rest of the level, will start Master Chief with a Spartan laser on the next level. This may only work with certain skull combination's and/or other factors in gameplay.


  • This level is a reference to the Halo: Combat Evolved level, The Library, and the Halo 2 level, Sacred Icon, where the player has to retrieve Halo's Activation Index and that it is a pure-Flood level. The only difference is that there are no Sentinels.
  • The section of the level after saving Cortana is called 'Nor Hell A Fury...', referencing the poem by William Congreve 'The Mourning Bride'. The entire line is 'Heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned, Nor hell a fury like a woman scorned', possibly referencing Cortana, who, after months of torment, now has the ability to light the newly constructed Halo ring and destroy the Ark as well as the Flood.
  • Thematically, this level also has much in common with the levels Keyes and The Maw. It depicts the Chief venturing alone into a vessel to rescue a comrade or friend, from the Flood, most specifically for a data construct in their possession; and detonate the fusion reactor core. In this case the objective is the Index to fire Halo; in Keyes it was the Captain's neural implants to destroy the UNSC Pillar of Autumn.
  • One of Cortana's lines, "There will be no more sadness. No more anger. No more envy," appears to reference Marathon's stages of Rampancy; Melancholia, Anger and Jealousy, respectively.
  • The line "It's the coin's fault," is a reference to a factor that brought John-117 into the Spartan program. He identified the side of a 20th-century quarter owned by Dr. Halsey that was about to the hit the ground before it did in Halo: The Fall of Reach.
  • The Gravemind uses a line from Halo 2: "We exist together now. Two corpses in one grave." This line is referring to Cortana, and referred to the Prophet of Mercy in Halo 2. This line was said in the level High Charity.
  • The achievement for gaining over 15,000 points on this level, entitled Orpheus, is a reference to the ancient Greek mythology story in which the Greek hero Orpheus ventures into the depths of hell to retrieve the one he loves. This is easily compared to the Chief's mission: venture into hell, that is represented as High Charity, to rescue Cortana.
  • The line "Just keep your head down... There's two of us in here, remember." is a reference to the Halo: Combat Evolved level The Pillar of Autumn. When the player's shield is completely depleted, Cortana would say the exact line, albeit with a more urgent tone.


  • Due to Flood form action in the reactor's room, one of the four reactors explodes when the player first enters the room. This led to the player's mission to only destroy three reactors instead of four.
  • The Mausoleum of the Arbiter can be seen in the distance when standing near the crashed Pelican. This and the Prophets' Inner Sanctum are essentially the only recognizable features of High Charity in Halo 2 that can be seen in Halo 3. One can see in the Bungie feature "Flood Autopsy", that they had originally planned to have the Flood reanimate all Arbiter corpses in the room, creating an Arbiter army for the player to fight.
  • The room where Cortana is located is a remake of the room from the level High Charity from Halo 2. This room is located before the final gravity lift where Cortana says "apparently these are the Prophet Hierarch's private quarters, their inner sanctum". In the "inner sanctum" there are three doors, two located opposite one another, with a third, opposite a large view screen. In the level High Charity, the Chief enters through the third door, and exits through the door on his right; in the level Cortana from Halo 3, he enters through the door that was locked in Halo 2 (opposite the door that leads to the final gravity lift). The graphic design of the room and the rest of High Charity's interior has been remodeled in Halo 3. It resembles the corridors of the CCS-class battlecruiser Truth and Reconciliation from Halo: Combat Evolved.
  • There is an area with a dead ODST (not the crashed Pelican). It is unknown how he made it so far from the Pelican or if he was from the Frigate UNSC In Amber Clad before the Flood attacked High Charity. There is also a Flamethrower in this area which hints to a final stand since he's in a pipe area with one opening.
  • On single-player campaign at the end of the level, a Banshee (probably the one the Arbiter used to land on High Charity) can be seen near the Pelican. While the player can reach it and destroy it, the player cannot enter it, and oddly, grenades will not stick to it.
  • Much of High Charity is flooded with water; the reason for this is that it crash-landed in a large body of water near the Ark's Citadel. This can be seen by going out to the crashed Pelican and looking towards the Mausoleum and looking downwards.
  • This level was originally split into two separate campaign missions, both considerably shorter than the current level.
  • According to a quote made by Bungie developer Jason Keith,[1][2] it is implied that the Flood hive of High Charity and the Gravemind were one and the same during Halo 3, thus making this level seem like a boss fight, in a sense.[3]
  • Jiralhanae and Sangheili skulls can be found among the skeletal remains laying around the level.
  • The entire Covenant cityscape once found on the lower levels of High Charity is believed to be completely engulfed in the ocean of unknown fluids seen throughout the level from a distance due to the fact that the cityscape's presence is completely absent.
  • The room with the pillars and circular platform outside the window is actually the former High Charity Council Chamber.
  • Numerous landmarks seen in High Charity in Halo 2 can be found throughout the level including the gravity lift to the Mid Tower, one of the High Charity corridors, and the Council Chamber.
  • This level has been infamous among the community for being overly difficult, repetitive, frustrating, and generally not very fun, along with Halo: Combat Evolved's The Library.[4][5] The entire level is covered with Flood 'sludge', which is thought to be flesh of dead bodies. This means that the layout is sometimes disorienting, when it's not possible to tell directions, or even walls from floors. Enemies easily blend into the scenery, thus making the level very difficult. A few players have commented that the level's layout is simply too confusing for those playing it the first time - this is because of the enormous amount of enemies and maze-like pathways. Some fans have even claimed it is one of the worst Halo campaign levels ever made and a few have even labeled it as the 'worst video game level ever designed'.[6] In contrast, other players enjoy the level for its challenge, and many praise Bungie for making this as realistic as possible.
  • In the bone scattered cove before entering the reactor chamber, there is a small yellowish puddle of ooze with a striking resemblance to Fuligo septica also known as, "dog vomit slime mold".
  • The stasis field can be broken with two attacks from the Energy Sword, or 4 melee attacks from a smaller weapon butt.
  • Any weaponry from the previous level is carried on to this level unless the player makes a fresh start, in which case the loadout will be an MA5C assault rifle and an M90 shotgun.
    • In the opening cutscene, the Master Chief is shown holding the shotgun no matter what weapons the player starts with. However, if the player starts with the default loadout, they are holding the assault rifle instead of the shotgun with the shotgun as their backup weapon.
  • As seen later, primarily in Halo Wars 2: Awakening the Nightmare, High Charity was not completely destroyed when the player detonates its reactor. This shell is eventually covered by a containment shield under the command of 000 Tragic Solitude.[7] This is later breached by Voridus and the Banished in Awakening the Nightmare, releasing Flood that had survived the destruction of High Charity and the firing of Installation 08.



Preceded by
The Covenant
Halo 3 Campaign Missions
Succeeded by