Cut Halo 2 levels
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During the development of Halo 2, several levels were cut during development.
Cut campaign levels
A cut campaign level on the September 2003 build of Halo 2. This level seems to have the same story goal as the level The Oracle from the final game, involving the Arbiter securing 343 Guilty Spark for the Covenant. Unlike The Oracle, this level would be set in a heretic camp on Threshold's moon, Basis - the setting of the multiplayer map Burial Mounds.
This level was to take place immediately following Cairo Station. The level would have seen the player, as John-117, board a Covenant CAS-class assault carrier with a team of ODSTs, serving as the main introduction for Miranda Keyes. After opening the airlock of the Cairo Station's docking bay, the player would be blasted toward the Covenant ship and board it instead of destroying it with the bomb as seen in the final game. This level would have involved infiltrating the Covenant ship, taking on and killing its crew and eventually stealing a Wraith and end up destroying the ship by bombarding its power core with the Wraith's mortar.
As mentioned by Joseph Staten, Miranda Keyes and her ODSTs would have also been onboard the ship in order to help you and may have played a big role in the eventual outcome. This level however was cut due to time constraints and replaced by a cinematic that created "just as much work" for Bungie Employees.
Not to be confused with a cut Halo: Combat Evolved vehicle of the same name, the level named forerunnertank was only revealed on the Halo 2 cutscene commentary contained in the Halo 3 Legendary Edition's Halo 2 cinematics commentary. The purpose of the level was to tie in plot between the end of the level Regret and the cutscene after the end of the level Quarantine Zone. The level was said to be placed after the cutscene in Quarantine Zone where the Arbiter is pushed down the index chamber by Tartarus and before the cutscene where the Arbiter meets the Master Chief and talks to the Gravemind. This level was supposed to be the Gravemind's introduction; in the level, the Gravemind's tentacles were going to slam down all around the player, and move behind doors like racing freight trains.
The level would have described the Master Chief's adventure through the bowels of Delta Halo before his eventual capture by the Gravemind; the "Forerunner Tank" providing the namesake of the level was only described as something "... awesome, that blows things up, glows a lot from little windows and moves real fast." When asked why he wanted the Forerunner Tank in the game, Jason Jones' response was, "Awesomeness would ensue". The level's replacement was the short cutscene at the end of Regret; the level's removal resulted in the long series of different cutscenes between Quarantine Zone and Gravemind.
In-house name for the level High Charity, this level was to have Halo 2's Warthog run but was ultimately cut for time. The level geometry remains mostly intact in the final Halo 2 game, and through modding can be rendered playable again.
Earth Ark was the name given to the final three missions of Halo 2, including the game's original ending. This last act was ultimately completely cut for time constraints, though would later go on to be used for inspiration in Halo 3.
Early campaign levels
The campaign levels here are all work-in-progress versions of the levels found in the final Halo 2 release, seen in a build of the game from September of 2003. As such, they are mostly early editions of the final missions with various changes such as missing geometry, textures and lack of optimisation. The "mission pairs" seen in Halo 2 were originally developed as one mission each, then split into two - as a result, levels share the same internal names (IE Outskirts and Metropolis sharing the
An early build of the levels The Arbiter and The Oracle, present on the September 2003 build of Halo 2. Upon spawning in, the player is in a dark room with several Special Operations Sangheili. The SpecOps Elites have no weapons and simply walk forward. Falling out of the level can reveal the gas mine geometry. The level has an extremely low frame rate.
An early version of the final level The Great Journey present in the September 2003 build. This level is unlit and untextured, spawning the player by the "Scarab dock" structure from the final level. On spawning, a Banshee, a Phantom and a Wraith attack the player. The vehicles cannot be boarded.
An early version of the levels Delta Halo/ Regret in the September 2003 build. The player spawns with an SMG and a sniper rifle, but no enemies populate the space. The art in this level was likely created by Paul Russel. When playing, the level has a low framerate. This version of the level seems to match up with early storyboards for an early draft of this mission, and unused scripts found in the Halo 2 Mod Tools.
The early storyboards depict an early version of deltatemple in which the In Amber Clad exits slipspace above the ring and engages in a space battle with two Covenant cruisers, before proceeding to drop Master Chief alone onto the ring. The Chief exits his drop pod armed with a pistol, though once he's sure the area is clear he switches to a sniper rifle. Cut scripts indicate that this early revision of deltatemple was to have stealth mechanics such as a work-shift change for Covenant patrols and dialogue with Cortana informing the Chief that if he's not quick, the Covenant patrols may find the dead bodies of guards he has killed. Additional dialogue for if the player did choose to go loud is also present.
Curiously, when entering the multiplayer lobby of this build, deltatemple is available for play as a multiplayer map. In the menu, the level's preview images are those of early builds of the final level Ascension.
An early version of the levels Outskirts/ Metropolis in the September 2003 build, bearing heavy visual resemblance to the Halo 2 E3 demo. A large section of the city is modelled, with Wraiths attacking the player.
A level present on the September 2003 build of Halo 2. The level was not launched in the Halo 2 E3 demo stream, leaving information about the level minimal aside from its name and description. Presumably, this level was an early version of the levels Sacred Icon/ Quarantine Zone.
Around 4-5 multiplayer maps were cut during the development of Halo 2. Most were described by Max Hoberman as cut "for the right reasons" fairly early on in their respective block-out stages, with Hoberman calling this "the right call".
A multiplayer level tested during development. Anchor Point was to be a predominantly 2v2 map, designed for aerial Banshee dogfights. The map was revealed by Vic DeLeon on Twitter, and was scrapped as it purportedly "played like crap". The level files still exist at 343 Industries, with Jeff Easterling having played it as recently as November 2019.
Untitled Blastacular map
The Blastacular Pack was originally conceived to release with three multiplayer maps; two remakes and one original map. The two remakes - Desolation and Tombstone - were able to make the cut but the original map had to be cut, as the map pack's original release date would have clashed with the timing of the Halo 3 Beta. As such, the map was cut for "the wrong reasons" to allow the map pack to release earlier in 2007. Unlike other cut maps, this map was described by Max Hoberman as coming along fairly well and having potential.
This map was to be an asymmetric level similar to Zanzibar, and feature many dynamic elements. A focal dynamic element on the map was intended to be a light bridge which could be turned on or off by the players. As of 2014, Hoberman has yet to resurrect this level, though still wants to.
Halo 2 for Windows Vista map editor examples
With the release of Halo 2 Vista in 2007 came a new Halo Editing Kit toolset used to create mods and custom content. On the disc was included one sample map - Example - used to show players how to work with the toolset. However, three additional maps were planned for inclusion on this disc, but were ultimately cut. One of developers from Hired Gun, the studio which ported Halo 2, later finished the maps and uploaded them to halomaps.org under the username NiTrOuSoXiDe2k as free downloads on Halomaps.org.
Earth City (human_sample)
"Earth City", known by the filename
Earth City can be downloaded for the Windows Vista edition of Halo 2 from here.
Beach Battle (forerunner_sample)
"Beach Battle" serves as the Forerunner counterpart to Earth City, under the filename
Beach Battle can be downloaded for the Windows Vista edition of Halo 2 from here.
A third counterpart to the two prior maps was intended, focusing on a Covenant theme similar to existing maps such as Midship and Gemini. However, it was never released by NiTr0uSoXiDe2k, so no further information is available.
Development and testing levels
These levels were created for the testing of various game features, and were never intended for release.
AI_test is a testing environment on the September 2003 build of Halo 2. In the build played by Brian Jarrard and Frank O'Connor, this level simply loaded with two Hunters and a non-flyable Banshee in a small room. The room has some corridors around the outside, and some textures more closely resembling those of the final game - though some objects simply display UV checker textures.
The audio playground is a sandbox used by Bungie to experiment with sound effects during the development of Halo 2. It consists of a large enclosed space of varied terrain in which the player can test hitting objects and gunfire against the floor and walls, which represent particular surfaces. The surfaces' names are frequently written in the texture pattern. Audio playgrounds have been shown to come in variants for "solid steel", "dirt", "room", ice, water, and reportedly can feature virtually every substance in the game.
Meat Grinder was another level used for testing during the development of Halo 2.