Cut Halo: Combat Evolved levels
From Halopedia, the Halo wiki
|This page discusses elements of deleted material and cut content. Some information on the page is sourced from game files and may not be verifiable through external sources. Where possible, such information should be clearly-marked and replaced with a proper external source as soon as one is available.
This article is part of a series on
Halo: Combat Evolved cut content
- Cut content
To check out cut content for other Halo games, see here!
- "[Crunch] happened on Halo 1 as well, of the 25 planned missions for Halo, we shipped 10. Part of the problem is that as team size grows, all the really informal, seat-of-your-pants stuff you've been doing just doesn't work."
- — Chris Butcher on Halo's cut levels.
During the development of Halo: Combat Evolved, the game took many forms including real-time strategy, third-person shooter and eventually, first-person shooter. As the game transitioned into an FPS and a release for the Xbox platform, work on the game's campaign still hadn't begun by September 2000. Mission brainstorming later began in earnest in December with the rest completed over the course of 2001. This page documents the levels known to be cut from release, predominantly those planned out for the game's final FPS release.
- "I vividly remember building, literally on 3x5 index cards, a number and letter system. A10, A20, A30 and so on for each one of the missions. B30 was “The Silent Cartographer”. I pinned them to a board and I just stared at it for hours. There must’ve been 40 of those cards of there, and I’m like: “There’s no way in hell we’re going to build all of this.”"
- — Marcus Lehto on Halo's cut levels.
When planning out Halo: Combat Evolved's campaign, Marcus Lehto originally planned things out on 3x5 index cards, with a number and letter system assigned. These names can be found in the final game map files, and are listed as such below;
- A10 - The Pillar of Autumn
- A30 - Halo
- A50 - The Truth and Reconciliation
- B30 - The Silent Cartographer
- B40 - Assault on the Control Room
- C10 - 343 Guilty Spark
- C20 - The Library
- C40 - Two Betrayals
- D20 - Keyes
- D40 - The Maw
As can be seen in the numbering, there are several missing gaps indicating where levels were to be included, before being cut. At some point in development, the 40 missions Lehto planned out were eventually reduced to a more manageable 25, though another 15 were later cut for final release.
B20 is a level developed very early in the production of Combat Evolved. Little is known of it, though its files still exist at 343 Industries. As part of the "Digsite" project, the level was explored for potential use as a Firefight map. Most of the surviving information about B20 comes in the form of missing tag references, as opposed to actual useable files. Much of the level's overall swamp themeing was similar to the final game 343 Guilty Spark, or the cut multiplayer map Swampthing.
In the original story cut of B20, the Master Chief was to have been tasked with assassinating a Covenant "Prophet". At this stage in Halo, the San'Shyuum species (more commonly known as "Prophets") did not exist yet and were to debut in Halo 2 - instead, the Prophet target of the level was to have been an Elite wearing a "striking hat" - something which likely went on to inspire the Elite Councilors in Halo 2 instead. Similarly, the objective of assassinating a Prophet was realised in Halo 2, with Master Chief's mission to assassinate the Prophet of Regret in the levels Delta Halo/Regret. The level would have featured a mysterious monster that lurked in the central portion of the map, forcing the player to take a wide path around that middle section to avoid being killed while they made their way to a tower in the distance.
The series of storyboards marked X40 depict a cutscene not featured in the final release of Combat Evolved, set after the end of the level The Truth and Reconciliation. The cutscenes depict the commandeered Spirit dropship (notably shown flying backwards to reflect Shi Kai Wang's original design intent for the ship) returning to Alpha Base, flanked by Longsword fighters. The Spirit lands on the base's landing pad to an audience of hundreds of assembled Marines, who cheer at the return of the Captain and the Master Chief. The crowd is hushed and Keyes gives a speech, before turning away from the crowd and addressing the Master Chief and Cortana directly.
This mission lines up with a cut level recalled by Joseph Staten during the Halo: Combat Evolved developer commentary included in the Halo 3 Legendary Edition, in which he mentions that a level was intended to take place between The Truth and Reconciliation and the following mission The Silent Cartographer, which would have explained the purpose of Installation 04 and its purpose as a weapon. This mission was ultimately cut and the information relegated to the cutscene on The Truth and Reconciliation in which Keyes is saved from the brig; a decision later mocked by the developers who referred to the Captain as "Captain Exposition". It is likely that the cutscene shown here would have served the purpose mentioned by Staten. 
These storyboards also give a look at what Bungie intended for Alpha Base, later featured heavily in 2003's Halo: The Flood as the UNSC base of operations on the ring. Part of the original pitch of Halo: Combat Evolved would have seen the player waging a larger guerilla war against the Covenant on the ring, though by the final release almost all mentions of a UNSC home base on the ring were removed for time. The base in these storyboards resembles a Beacon tower like those featured elsewhere in the game, though the base as visualised in 2018's Halo: Fireteam Raven has a drastically different appearance.
- X40 1
- X40 2
- X40 3
- X40 4
Level after The Silent Cartographer
In early drafts of Combat Evolved, a level was intended to take place inbetween The Silent Cartographer and Assault on the Control Room. This level was ultimately cut for time, and the cinematic depicting Echo 419's descent inside the bowels of Installation 04 was included instead to justify the travel to a completely new region in the next level. A lack of resources at the time meant no matte paintings were available to depict the dropship flying above-ground.
Despite this level being cut, The Silent Cartographer and Assault on the Control Room retain subsequent ordering of B30 and B40 in the files, respectively - indicating that one of these missions may have been renamed in the course of development, or started development after this level was cut.
One level discussed for development around December 2000 involved "volcanos and heavy machinery". Little is known aside from this.
|Imagine the smell. 4-8 players.
Indoor is a map developed by Gearbox Software for the Halo PC port, though never shipped with the game. The map was the most complete of the Gearbox cut Combat Evolved maps, with already near-finished visuals and a close-quarters, small-team layout - unlike the other Halo PC maps which were all designed for Big Team Battle.
In the Digsite restoration project, Indoor was taken by contributor Ludus and taken to a state of completion in a new map called Underground. Underground was created by Ludus with a goal to fix up Indoor's messy spawns and layout using feedback written by Bungie for Gearbox back in Halo PC's development alongside a suite of textures created by Gearbox but never used in-game. The textures (and map theme in general) are human in nature - with Combat Evolved having few human-themed environments, this provided an opportunity to increase some visual variety in the Combat Evolved multiplayer experience. The map's soundscape was updated to include blaring sirens inspired by those of the film Alien.
|Watch your step. 2-4 players.
Dusk was a map created by Gearbox Software for the Halo PC port. Unlike Indoor, Dusk was not close to content-complete, and had a considerably less refined layout, with an inconsistent scale and a muddied centre layout resembling the map Rust from the Call of Duty franchise. As such, Digsite contributor Ludus used that as inspiration for his recreation of Dusk for the game's multiplayer, now-termed Abyss.
Abyss reuses an unused texture originally developed for Indoor, and the skybox from the E3 2000 build of Combat Evolved. The tags for both Dusk and Abyss are available for modders to use as part of the Digsite release in the Halo Editing Kit.
"Mofocross" was a map created by Max Hoberman created back at the old Bungie offices in Chicago in c.1999. It consisted of an island with a racetrack running throughout it that would allow players to race Warthogs and Ghosts around the island.
|Something in the mist...
Swampthing was developed by Gearbox Software for Halo PC as a map with a similar theming to the level 343 Guilty Spark or the earlier level B20. The map has a look and layout broadly similar to Halo 2's Backwash, taking place inside the swamps of Installation 04. A map named "swamp" has also been referenced by Digsite, though whether swamp is related to swampthing is unclear.
A map codenamed "ruinedpain" is referenced inside Combat Evolved's files, with files still existing at 343 Industries. The map was recalled by Hardy LeBel as possibly coinciding with a map that was cut from the game involved a huge human interior space and created by Paul Russel as a test for his human architectural styles. The map was later passed onto LeBel, though ultimately scrapped due to requiring too much time and energy to work into something useable. As of 2015, LeBel could not remember if this space was the fabled ruinedpain, or another map.
The map can be spotted in the 1749 Beta, where the image for the level Damnation features the map in an untextured blockout form, with the description "Colony remains on Reach". As part of the Digside Alpha initiative to uncover and restore cut content, this map is being further developed by Conscars under the name "Purgatory", combining the existing model with a modified layout and new scenery inspired by the Beta 1749 description.
The level as it appears in the 1749 Beta.
A number of maps were created by the developers at Gearbox Software during their production of Halo Custom Edition and the Halo Editing Kit, that were not included in the official release of these levels. Gearbox developer Marc Tardif noted the following in an interview with Gamespy:
- "The Halo team at Gearbox has created a few new maps since the game has released, but we're not releasing them at the same time that we release this new software. Our new maps do need a bit more attention before they can be released, and we also want to see how the community responds to all the great, new things that HaloCE and the HEK allow. We know that with the HEK, there will be huge amounts of new content coming from end users and we have an interest in seeing the best of this material join our own maps as official maps. In the future, I expect we'll have more official maps, and I think that not all of these maps will have been created solely by the folks at Gearbox."
The following map names are known to remain in the files internally at 343 Industries, though little is currently known of them;
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spasm is a map prominently shown throughout much of the development of Halo: Combat Evolved while it was still intended to be a third person game releasing on personal computers. Notably the Macworld 1999 and E3 2000 demos feature different iterations of Spasm. The Macworld 1999 iteration was released by Digsite in 2023 as part of the Halo: Combat Evolved Editing Kit.
Playground is a developer testing environment used by 343's Digsite project for showcasing and evaluating project content.
- Eurogamer, Better Than Halo: The Making of Halo 2: Page 4 (Retrieved on Feb 27, 2022) [archive]
- halo.bungie.org, Re: That reminds me...: "Have they moved into the single player portion of the game yet?
Nope. Although a lot of it is being discussed." - Matt Soell (Retrieved on Feb 27, 2022) [archive]
- Rampancy.net, 1/12/2000 Bungie Weekly Update (Retrieved on Feb 27, 2022) [archive]
- VICE, The Complete, Untold History of Halo (Retrieved on Feb 27, 2022) [archive]
- Halo Waypoint, Cutting Room Floor (Retrieved on Jul 7, 2022) [archive]
- Halo Waypoint, Digsite Deliveries (Retrieved on Jul 7, 2023) [archive]
- YouTube - Vikingo NO, Halo Combat Evolved: Developer Commentary Playthrough (2007)【55:12】
- Twitter, Max Hoberman (@MaxHoberman): "Seeing these old Halo multiplayer maps being resurrected makes me want someone to dredge up Mofocross. It was a Warthog v Ghost race map, with a road that looped around the perimeter of an island. I made it using the terrain editor, way back in Chicago ... I think in 1999." (Retrieved on Jul 31, 2023) [archive]
- YouTube - Hardy LeBel, Question Session - Level Design: (Local archive) "Hmm, well I don't know anything about a volcano mission for single player. And I'm not certain about this, but Ruined Pain sounds familiar. I can say that I had one other map in CE that I cut before we shipped. It was an absolutely HUGE interior "Human" space built by Paul Russell. I think he made it as a proof of concept for his Human geometry. He gave me the files for the space, but as I was looking it over it was so huge that it really would have needed lots of time and energy to make into a good MP map - time he simply didn't have since he was so busy with single-player stuff. So alas - the world never saw it. That might have been Ruined Pain. But we may never know..." - Hardy LeBel
- GameSpy, Gearbox Software Announces Halo CE (Retrieved on Nov 11, 2023) [archive]