This is the longest level in Halo 2. There's a reason it's the last one to get a walkthrough posted: this level will take you a while. Parts of it are tedious, but it's quite worth it in the end.
A couple of prerequisites: You'll be taking on Brutes for the first time. They don't have shields, but they're quite tough. Brutes have far more health than Elites. Guys at Bungie call them "damage sponges". At least their damage is cumulative, unlike Elites whose shields recharge, so every shot you land sticks with that particular Brute, but they have their own cunning ways of killing you.
Besides just being hard to kill, they also have one trait you haven't seen before. The last Brute in a pack will often go berserk. He will charge at you and attempt to melee you to death. Since he's faster than you when he's going berserk, you usually can't just retreat. So you'll want to be ready to deal with a berserk Brute when you kill his pack mates, by attempting to stick him or shoot him down.
There are two primary ways to kill Brutes in this level. A magazine of needles will kill a Brute easily, and in fact at the start of the level a Needler is the only weapon you have. Be warned, they tend to duck behind cover when threatened with incoming needles, which just wastes your ammo because the needles will harmlessly impact on a wall.
If you have dual Needlers, you'll be able to unload a lethal dose much faster.
However, relying too heavily on Needlers to deal with Brutes is not recommended if you intend to go higher on the difficulty levels. The best weapon to deal with a Brute from medium distance (which is where you'll usually be) is a Covenant Carbine.
The problem is that the Carbine doesn't kill Brutes very efficiently if you just fire randomly at the Brute. That will require about a magazine and a half, and besides using up too much ammo, with a charging Brute you might not have enough time to get in that many shots. Instead, you need to head-shot him. once the helmet is off, all you need is a single headshot. One to three shots should take off his helmet. When you have a headshot lined up, a small dot will appear in the middle of the reticule. Don't take a lot of time lining up your shot, just fire as soon as you see the dot appear and the Brute should go down.
Sniper weapons kill Brutes too, but they take two head shots or several body shots to do it. Brute Shots, seen for the first time in this level, also work pretty well at short- to medium-range. You'll have to learn to aim them a bit high because the shot arcs.
The blade on the Brute Shot is not just for show; the Brute Shot is also one of the best melee weapons in the game as only the Energy Sword out damages it. But unless you can sneak up on a Brute from the back, you'll have to get in several melee hits to kill him, and he will be pummeling you at the same time.
Part 1: Inside Job
The level starts right as the Master Chief transports in and grabs a Needler dropped by a panicked Grunt.
As the gameplay begins, you are under assault by two Brute Honor Guards. If you can, pick up the other Needler dropped by the other Grunt in the cutscene—it's a bit behind you and to your right. (You can get by with one Needler, but it's harder.) Use the Needlers to fire on the Jiralhanae, as the explosions can kill them easily. As soon as you kill the first Brute, get ready to start backing up quickly, because the other one will go berserk, charge you, and attempt to melee you to death. Pump needles into him as he charges until he's dead.
Now get ready for a Minor Brute with a Minor and Major Grunt, who are about to enter from a door on the side of the chamber. The new Brute is not as tough as the guardsmen you fought a minute ago, but he's still difficult to take down, especially on Legendary. Use the time you have before they enter to grab a Brute Plasma Rifle as your backup weapon—the Honor Guards you just killed have left a couple behind. The general idea is to use the Plasma Rifle on Grunts and save your needles for the Brutes. An alternative is to dual wield the Brute Plasma Rifles (since there are two available) as your main weapon; I find that tedious because it takes a lot of plasma shots to kill a Brute, and you can't aim them that well from across the room. On the other hand, it still gets the job done well.
Use the areas in the corners close to the throne area for cover during the first group's assault, and come out to pick them off one by one. Later, move to the back of the room as more enemies appear. The cover in the back corners is even better than the cover in the front corners.
A Minor Brute will appear on the ledge overhead, armed with a Covenant Carbine. Kill him as soon as he appears, and use the Terminals to jump up to the spectator stand. Grab his rifle and return.
Two Minor Brutes (sometimes one Minor and a Major) will come up to the throne. Needle them if you have any needles left, or use the Carbine or Plasma Rifle if you don't. Then scavenge for weapons, go to the back of the room near one of the pedestals, and wait until Cortana finishes talking about Truth and opens the door for you.
The next room is a pattern you'll see several times. Inside the door is a wall that you go around to get to the rest of the room. Don't do that yet; instead, whip out your Brute Plasma Rifle. Several Minor Grunts, led by a Major, will come charging around the wall; it's easy to dispatch them one at a time. Additionally, they'll furnish you with some more needles, which may be helpful in the next fight.
On the other side of the wall, the room slopes upward to another similar wall, with a door behind it. At the top of the slope, a Grunt Heavy mans a stationary gun. There are also two Minor Brutes up there who will peek out and fire Carbine rounds at you. Use your Carbine to kill them quickly.
If you have no Carbine, or even if you do and the Brutes won't stand still enough to shoot from a distance, you'll have to charge in. Take advantage of the cover along the sides, and take out the Jiralhanae with grenades.
Now to deal with the Unggoy. Use the Carbine if you have one to eradicate the Grunt on the turret, and then use it to kill any stragglers. Reload, have your Carbine ready, and advance towards the door until it opens.
Outside the door is a platform with a Grav Lift at the other end that you'll eventually need to get to. If you watched the cutscene where the Arbiter was tortured, the platform should look familiar. Another Jiralhanae Honor Guardsman will be outside the door a bit to the left; take him out quickly with Carbine headshots—you'll probably need four shots. After killing him, if you need ammo, this is a good time to dash to a weapons locker outside the door and to the left. It has a couple of Carbines to resupply the one you're carrying.
Use your cunning and superior firepower to eliminate the two Kig-Yar and another Jiralhanae. Keep your distance from the lift as Minor, Major, and Heavy Unggoy float up through the lift. Dispatch them before they can inflict too much damage. After that, a Brute Captain will appear from the lift. Kill him with the Carbine.
After dealing with them all, reload your Carbine—there's another Carbine locker at the end of the platform on the right. Pick up the Brute Shot from the late Captain. It doesn't have much ammo, but for the next mini-battle you don't need much, and in fact you can just melee your way through it with the Brute Shot if you prefer. But first you have to get to it.
Go to the end of the platform. Cortana will appear and tell you to step into the Grav Lift. (If you dawdle, she will tease you a bit with a few remarks.) Go behind the Grav Lift and enter it from that side, so you'll be facing the right direction when you land.
Step in, and as you descend, you'll see Minor Grunts and a Jackal Sniper on the platform you're landing on. Take out your Brute Shot and fire a couple rounds, and then take out the rest by meleeing them. You probably want to kill the sniper early—he's the biggest threat, and you're going to want to use his rifle soon. Pick it up as you exit the platform, replacing your almost-empty Brute Shot.
The next room is a copy of the previous, with the two walls at each end close to the doors. It's empty, though, so just charge right through. Open the next door, then run behind the wall, waiting for the Kig-Yar to pass. Stealth is the key to victory in the next rooms, so get ready.
Don't get in a hurry to charge in there. The room is a long passage that curves to the right, so you can't see all of it from the door. It contains a couple of Jackals, several Grunts, and three Brutes. Proceed in until you see enemies and dispatch them one by one. The Carbine works well against the Brutes, as before, but you can use the Beam Rifle if you prefer. Watch for charging Brutes.
When you take down the first Brute, you can either go straight ahead to deal with the rest, or you can jump up on the ledge/hallway on the left. If you want to switch back to Needlers, there's a weapons locker with a couple up there at the beginning of the hall, often with a Jackal hanging around it. If he's there, melee him. The hall will also have at least one more Jackal and a few Grunts, so take care of them. Don't forget the Brutes down at the end. If you take too long, one may sneak up on you. They're probably firing Carbine rounds at you, which at least gives away their positions, so take them out with the weapon of your choice: Needler, Beam Rifle, Carbine, or even grenades if you throw well. You should have picked up a few grenades by now, and there are plenty more coming. Don't worry much about running out of needles either—they're all over the place for the next few rooms.
After you've dispatched the enemies here, rearm and get ready for the next room. It's similar, except that it curves to the left instead of the right.
Don't charge right in, though. When you open the door to the room, two Jackals will come in from the red door on your right and try to flank you. I usually trip the door into the room, and then back up to deal with the Jackals. Then go on into the next room and pick off the Grunts and Brutes in the order in which they stick their heads up, using the Carbine.
At this point, Cortana will tell you there's a lift in the next room. What she doesn't tell is that there are a slew of Brutes in there too, plus a couple of Jackals. When you open the door, if you stand still the Jackals will often walk right in front of you to be slaughtered. Then you can concentrate on the Brutes.
They will appear in three places: directly ahead at the top of the lift, and in the back of the room on the left and right. Be patient and take them all down. Then go behind the central pillar with the lift to get the last Brute, who usually hides back there on the lower level. Since he's hiding, you can sometimes sneak up and melee him, but otherwise, you'll need to go around on the ledge until you can spot him, and then snipe him with the Carbine (or hose him down with the Needler).
Now it's time to load up on weapons before getting on the lift. You're about to embark on one of the more tactical fights of the whole level. You'll want to have a fully loaded Carbine and a Brute Shot. You should find a Brute Shot lying around one of the Brutes you just dispatched; it doesn't have to be fully loaded, as there is ammo available in the next area.
Go to the bottom level of the room, and follow Cortana's advice and get in the Grav Lift. Look down as you move, especially when you get close to landing; You're looking for a Brute with his back turned. He's the reason for the Brute Shot. If you don't waste time, you can take him down with one whack of the Brute Shot, and if you're lucky no other Covenant forces will wake up. That allows you to take your time.
The area you are in consists of the central lift and a U-shaped ledge that runs around the edge. The walkways from the lift extend to the ends of the U. There are three levels, and you're on the top one. The ledge contains a mixed group of Jackals and Grunts scattered all over it. You need to kill them all before proceeding.
If you've been quiet, you can sneak around and whack some of them before they wake up. Some players have managed to whack as many as four of five before the alarm was raised. Start at one end of the U and work your way around it. The left side seems to have fewer Covenant forces, but either end of the U will work as a starting point.
Once you've finished that, you're ready to rescue some Marines. There's one group on each of the two levels below you. Cortana can get you into the holding cells, but each one is protected by a two layer defense. There are one or two Brutes and a Jackal or two on the outside of the holding cell, and a Brute or two with a couple of Jackals or Grunts on the inside of the cell.
It's random as to which level Cortana directs you to first. Whichever one it is, move around on the top level until you can sight in on the troops guarding the outside of the holding cell, and fire at them from above. Any weapon will do. Needlers work pretty well against the Jackals if you fire a full magazine, because their shield gets bounced aside and the last few needles hit the Jackal directly. Needlers, Brute Shots, or Carbines will work well on the Brutes. When there are two Brutes, the second one will berserk around a while, but since he's on a different level, he can't go near you. Wait until he settles down and hose him down with homing needles, or practice shooting a moving target.
Once the Covenant guards are down, you're ready to free the first batch of Marines. Collect more ammo for your Brute-killing weapons, and go to the area of the U that contains some lifts—they're the round things with a purple glow coming up from them. The ones on the left go down, and the ones on the right go up. (On the top level, the ones on the right are not glowing because you can't go up any further.) Take the one that goes down. If the Marines are on the bottom level, go down one more level.
A Marine holding cell will have the usual assortment of Covenant. A good strategy is to Brute Shot most of them and use a Carbine to finish off the few remaining Grunts, but Needlers work pretty well too. When you've killed all the Covenant forces, the Marines will be released.
When you come back out, some Grunts and Jackals will probably attack from the direction of the lift. Deal with them before doing anything else.
Then find Cortana on the level below (if you have freed the Marines on the middle level), or the level above (if you have freed the Marines on the bottom level). Kill the guards, take the lift to that level, and repeat the holding cell action to free another batch of Marines. If you take too long, some of those outside guards may come up or down on the lift to meet you.
Rearm, kill a few more Grunts and Jackals that show up, and get ready for the last fight before leaving that area. Cortana will warn you that reinforcements are coming down the lift—she means the main Grav Lift that you entered the area with, not the lifts that move between levels. Go to the tip of the U and take out the usual mixed bag of Covenant troops—watch for grenade-throwing Brutes and Grunts during this battle. Alternatively, you can—if you are fast enough—run to the bottom of the lift (directly under the enemies) and punch them with the Brute Shot as they come down; be sure to time the punches correctly. Also, load your weapons first, if possible, or get off before Cortana reverses the lift.
Now, you and any surviving Marines are ready to go on to the next area. Grab a Carbine and a Brute Shot, both fully loaded, to deal with the fight to come. When you're ready, get on the main Grav Lift and it will take you back up to the general area you came from earlier.
You'll see three doors. The one that doesn't show red is the one you'll need to go through. When you approach it, however, three Elites will come charging out. As soon as the door starts to open, toss in a grenade, and then fire the Brute Shot into that group. That will typically kill at least two of them, and your Marines will probably pin down the third, damaged one. Reload the Brute Shot and get ready for some Drones that spew out of the door.
The Drones are somewhat difficult; they're hard to shoot, and they just chip away at your shield until it's gone. However, the Brute Shot works wonders when they fly in formation. Just aim at the middle of the swarm and fire a magazine-worth of rounds. The shots will hit some of them and explode, and the resulting splash damage will usually kill a few more of them. Switch to the Carbine to pick off the survivors.
When you go through the door, two or three more Drones will show up, so be ready for them. There's also an Energy Sword lying there, if you're into slashing Brutes to death.
But the real story here is that you get to see your first internecine battle. The Covenant Civil War is in full procession, and in this particular fight, two Brutes are up against two Honor Guard Elites, with a few Drones added to the mix to spice things up.
You're going to see several similar scenarios. The Elites have an advantage in these fights because of their shields and Energy Swords; they can wage a war of attrition against the Brutes and win if they can occasionally retreat to recharge the shields.
The best strategy would probably be to take down one Honor Guard, and then let the rest fight it out for the honor of being killed by you. However, your impatient Marines will usually charge in and screw that up. They also like to shout "We're gonna lose 'em!", as if that's a bad thing—it'd be a lot easier if you could ignore the fights.
The charging Marines often cause one of the Brutes or Elites to retaliate and charge you or your Marines. Things vary from there, so improvise until you get that room cleared.
As you exit the room, another swarm of Drones will buzz you. Since you just triggered the door, you might be a bit close for the Brute Shot, so aim at the middle of the swarm and empty a magazine of Carbine ammo. With some luck, you'll be able to take down the entire swarm that way. If any survivors get through, you and your Marines will make short work of them.
After passing a dead Hunter, you'll enter another similar room that curves the other way. This next room is the same basic setup, with the addition of a few Jackals. Staying close to the door will usually keep your Marines from jumping in and getting themselves killed. Pick off the Jackals when their backs turned, so you don't have to worry about their shields when they are facing you later.
Now you need to rearm for a battle with a pair of Hunters. Use Brute Shot, if it has any ammo left, and a fully loaded Carbine. Keep in mind that needles and swords are almost useless against Hunters. The Hunters will be in one of those rooms with a wall inside the door at each end, and in this case the room will slope upward.
Get ready to say goodbye to most of your Marines. They don't have the brains that you have, so nearly all of them will foolishly try to rush at the Hunters, getting themselves killed. You can sometimes use them as decoys and shoot a Hunter in the back when it goes after them. If you have a Beam Rifle, you're in luck: one or two shots to the back will kill them.
Otherwise, you've got to deal with the Hunters yourself, and you have no Rocket Launchers or Fuel Rod Guns to help out. You'll have to do it the hard way—or rather, one of the hard ways, as there are multiple ways to go about it.
Some like to melee the Hunters, and the Brute Shot is a good weapon for the task. You'll need good timing for this. When the Hunter raises his arm to strike, pivot around him and melee. Repeating this technique a few times will take him down.
However, there are better ways to kill him. If you can find a spot just barely around the edge of the wall, the Hunters may just stand there idly and stare at you. That gives you an opportunity to concentrate on one of them, aiming for his vulnerable orange skin and sniping him a few times. It's a tedious task, but if you keep it up, you'll take him out. He'll sometimes lower his shield arm to mask his weak point, in which case you have to wait for him to relax; you'll also need to stay alert and be ready to move if he green-lights you with an incipient blast.
A particularly effective method involves a combination of grenades and one of the two weapons you're carrying. If you stick a Hunter with a grenade, its explosion will almost always spin him around, so his back is to you; the basic process, then, is to stick him and then aim for his vulnerable midsection. When the explosion happens, open fire before the smoke clears. Sometimes, just one usage of this method will slay him; if not, the second try almost surely will.
Valley of Tears A/Hanging Gardens A
When you exit that room, you'll enter an outdoor area that is the stage for another battle in the Covenant Civil War. Usually an Honor Guard and a Brute are fighting in front of the door, so be ready to kill the survivor. There's also usually an Elite somewhere off to the right, and a couple of snipers to worry about.
One of the snipers is in a platform to the right. A Carbine can make short work of him—sniper Jackals have no shields.
You don't really want to get involved in this battle. You don't even need to go to the area at the bottom where most of the action is taking place; your path is along the rocks on the right. So hang back, pick off stragglers until things look safe, and rearm for the next section. Take a Beam Rifle and a Carbine—both can be found in the weapons lockers.
Your destination is the door that you see up on the wall across from the door you entered through. Bungie wanted you to think the door is your destination, and they've made it a bit of a puzzle to figure out how to get to it. It turns out that the rocks on the right can be leaped upon, and you can maneuver around on them to get to an area where you can drop down and enter the door.
If you do that, a Brute will come out of the door and you'll need to take him down before proceeding. But you can easily avoid by somewhat glitch bypassing the door. Here's how.
While you're scrambling on the rocks, instead of dropping down, keep going higher. It might look too steep, but you can climb it. When you go over the peak, you'll see that the rocks meld into a wall, and the top of the wall is accessible to you. Walk or leap onto it, and begin walking to your left. Take the first right, which becomes a wall for the chamber you need to be in (you know, the one the door leads into, but you've avoided the door). Jump down into the chamber. The Brute won't appear. If you've taken really good care of your Marines and have managed to keep any alive, they'll follow you in through the door, but they won't trigger than extra Brute either.
The chamber you're in is empty, save for some Carbines and a few Plasma Grenades lying around. So go to the end, and exit. You're roughly half-way through the level—and that means you've got plenty more Covenant forces to kill before you're done.
As you exit the empty room, you'll see a kind of plasma slide-walk thing; you'll be seeing several of these from this point forward. It is a one-way transport to the other end of the room.
At the other end of the slide-walk, a lone Jackal Sniper will be hanging around, but he is quickly joined by a battling group of Elites, Grunts, and Brutes. Pick off the sniper as soon as you can, and then avoid the battle until the ranks are thinned down a bit. Hang around the entrance if you want to protect your Marines, because they'll show up behind you and spill right into the middle of the battle, making it a confusing, three-way affair.
When you've finished off the surviving Covenant, you can go either way on the sidewalk around the next structure. Rearm first, of course, and then go around and spend a bit of time watching a battle between an even number of Elites and Brutes. If you don't interfere, the Elites will usually win, though sometimes the Brutes eke out a victory by pushing the Elites over the edge. Melee an Elite or two to speed things up. If a Brute is the last survivor, he'll probably go berserk and charge at you. In that case, be ready, because if you're not careful while avoiding him, you'll fall off the edge and die.
Your next foes are fairly dangerous - a couple of flying Ranger Elites. If you don't have any Marines to distract them with, they can take you down pretty fast, especially on Normal or Heroic difficulties. If you're good at sniping erratically moving targets, then you can use a Beam Rifle on them. The easiest way, though, is to hose them with needles, so head back the way you came and pick up and dual-wield the Needlers dropped by dead Grunts. Then head back to the arches, and fill up the Needlers by walking up to a Needler weapons locker at the far end on the left of the arches. Not only do you get some extra needles, but you also trigger the Ranger Elites.
It's your choice of cover, and watch around the edge of the structure for the Elites to fly in. When they get close enough, open fire. A magazine of dual-wielded Needlers is more than enough.
Now exchange the Needlers for a fresh Beam Rifle from the weapons locker on the right side of the arches. Go around the next structure and you'll see a group of Elites and Grunts who will be joined by a Brute or two. If you hang around, the Elites will come after you, so snipe them and get ready for the Brutes. When you've cleaned the area out, reload and get ready for the next slide-walk.
Check the other end with a zoom scope before you go. Occasionally, one of the Brutes stays over there instead of coming across for the previous battle. If he's there, snipe him before heading across.
At the end of the slide-walk is a door, and when you open it, two Drones will fly by. They won't attack you even if you provoke them, because they're heading for a bigger battle. The hallway they enter ends in another two-level room, and inside, another big Covenant Civil War battle is underway. Hang around the doorway and watch Ranger Elites, Regular Elites, Brutes, Jackals, and Drones fight it out. This battle will take a while, even if you help out. When it's finished, rearm, go through the door opposite the one you came in, and enter another hallway that ends at a slide-walk.
Hanging Gardens B
Take the slide-walk. At the end of this slide-walk is a scene that will look familiar, except that some shields are scattered around. Proceed around the structure as before and watch the weirdest battle in the Halo series. Two berserk Brutes are chasing a bunch of Grunts around. The Grunts are in Panic Mode, and they won't fire at you even if you fire at them. You need to take out the Brutes; it's tedious because they move around so much, but you can just run past them.
When you're done, rearm, and head past the arches and around the structure for another slide-walk. If you're getting tired of them, you can take solace in the fact that this is the last one. When you go in the door at the end of the slide-walk, you'll see a mirror image room to the empty one back that you entered before by climbing the wall. As you enter, three Brutes will come in from the door. Use your favorite Brute-killing technique to take them out, and go to the end of the room for another battle in an exterior setting.
Valley of Tears B
As you exit the door, an Elite and a Brute will be fighting on the left, with a Jackal standing by making occasional sniping comments; you know what to do. Then freelance until all the enemies in the pit below you are dead. There are plenty of weapons around, and don't forget about the Brute Shots dropped inside the room you just left. Watch out for a Fuel-Rod-wielding Grunt across the way; snipe him if you can, and take note of where he drops the Fuel Rod Gun.
When all is quiet, go down towards the right, rearm as necessary, and cross into a pathway that leads out of the pit area. Watch for hidden Brutes—occasionally the last one is injured and hiding along the path you'll be taking.
As you go up the path, you'll be challenged by two Energy-Sword-wielding cloaked Elites and a small contingent of Grunts. Brute Shot the swordsmen if you feel like it—there are numerous other effective ways to take care of them. After you're done, wind around to the right and start up a path towards another door. There will probably be a lonely Grunt hanging around guarding it.
At this point, gather up a few weapons to leave outside that door. The Fuel Rod Gun, plus a loaded Brute Shot, a loaded Carbine, or a couple of Needlers. There is a very large battle coming up a couple of rooms ahead, plus another couple of major battles after that, and if you don't grab those weapons now and drop them, they'll disappear (even the ones in the weapons lockers) when you go further ahead.
Have your Brute shot out, and enter the next room. An Elite will have his back to you. Whack him for his foolishness, and get ready for three or four silver Grunts that will come around the wall at the end of the room. They seem twitchy; even odds whether they'll fire at you or just run around. At least they stand still to be mowed down.
There are some more weapons you might want to stockpile if you didn't get enough on the porch - some Needlers and a Carbine in a weapons locker. As with the others, they'll disappear if you don't grab them and stow them somewhere.
In the next room, a cloaked Elite is hanging around toward the end. Dispose of him, and watch for a Grunt who'll sometimes retreats there from the previous room. This room also has some useful weapons for the big fights coming up; weapons lockers with Brute Shots and Carbines, and a Fuel Rod Gun laying on the ground.
That Fuel Rod Gun is going to come in handy because you've got four—yes, four—Hunters coming up before you finish the level. Pick it up and trot back to the porch to add the ammo from the earlier Fuel Rod Gun, and then take it back and drop it where you found it. You won't need it right away, but trust me, you'll be coming back for it in a little while. (If the Fuel Rod Gun is not in that room, it might be in the next room, but you'll have to clear the room out before looking.)
Now get ready for a whole slew of Elites and their Grunt allies. When you open the door at the end of the room, one of the Elites will be on a ledge on the upper left, probably walking away from you. Try to stick him, or, if you suck at throwing grenades, have a couple of Needlers ready to fire at him. But watch out, because before you know it, you'll be getting hit from all directions.
The general strategy here is to poke through the door, take down an enemy or two, and retreat back through the door to recharge and reload. Use whatever weapon you like, but try to avoid wasting Fuel Rod Gun ammo here, unless you like fighting four Hunters with just ordinary weaponry.
The Elites in this battle are expert grenade throwers. On Normal, if you stand around with the door open you're sure to get stuck, so keep moving, and watch for that blue glow. As soon as you see it, start backing up.
When you clean out the Elites and Grunts, rearm and go up to the ledge on the second level. Creep around towards the door at the other end of the room; you'll trigger a Brute and some Jackals to stream through. Deal with them, and get ready for the biggest Covenant Civil War battle you've seen yet.
When you go through the next set of two doors, you'll come into a large straightaway that slopes down and then up again—it's also shown in one of the cutscenes early in the game. At your end, a group of several Brutes is shooting at a group of Elites in the middle of the straightaway. One of the Elites is on a shade, and there are some Drones and Jackals scattered around too. Everyone else is giving the Elites a hard time, and the Elites are actually out-numbered and outmatched in this battle. Take down the Brutes, before they turn around and take you out. Then let the battle proceed and clean up the survivors.
Rearm, with a Beam Rifle as one of your weapons—a dead Jackal Sniper close to the entrance door dropped one, and there are two in a weapons locker in the middle of the straightaway close to where the Shade is (or used to be, if it was blown up in the fight). Take note; these are the last Beam Rifles available to you, and you'll probably need all three before you're done, so don't waste them.
Approach the door at the other end. Don't get close, though—another set of cat-fighting Covenant are about to come through. As soon as it starts to open, hightail it back to your end of the straightaway, find some cover, and get ready to snipe the fighting Covenant at the other end. If anyone mans the Shade, snipe the bit that sticks up just over the Shade's shield. Watch out for Fuel-Rod-Gun-wielding Grunts.
If Drones are the last survivors, they'll fly down and give you some trouble, so be prepared—keep a Carbine ready.
Head back and get your Fuel Rod Gun. Approach the opposite door, and again retreat as soon as it starts to open. Find cover at your end. Pick off the Grunts first while avoiding any green blasts from the Hunters. Then, wait for a Hunter to stand fairly still, aim with the Fuel Rod Gun, and open fire. Unlike Halo 1, the Fuel Rod won't arc like a mortar - it's more like a giant Plasma-Pistol-overload laser beam.
It will usually takes two Fuel Rods per Hunter, though sometimes they'll stand close together, and the one that isn't hit directly will take splash damage. They also move around a bit, so you may waste a few blasts—that's why you gathered extra ammo when you had a chance.
When these guys are done, look for dropped Fuel Rod Guns to reload, and get ready for the final battle of the level. You'll want a Beam Rifle to go with your Fuel Rod Gun, but an Energy Sword is always good to have when its time to go against Elites and Brutes.
Mausoleum of the Arbiter
Another set of double doors leads into the Mausoleum of the Arbiter, which you saw in an early cutscene. Cortana gives you some good advice: "You might think about sitting this one out." Hang around the door and watch. Three or four Ultra Elites are on the ledge battling with a group of Brutes in the lower middle area of the room. One of them is holding a Fuel Rod Gun. To even up the odds, snipe the Elite that has a Fuel Rod Gun, and then let the rest of them just fight while the best music of the game plays; or run up and touch the Ultras so they will take out their Energy Swords and finish off the Brutes faster. After most of the combatants are dead, a pair of Hunters and some more Brutes will enter, and pump up the fight for a while. Look for an opportunity to snipe one of the Hunters in the back, which evens out the battle and ensures that you'll face no more than one Hunter when they're all done.
Eventually the survivors will realize that you are peeking through the door, and come after you. Fuel Rod anybody coming towards you.
When they're all dead, Cortana will appear on a pedestal close to the locker that held the Arbiter's armor back in that early cut-scene. Don't approach her until you have the freshest Beam Rifle you can get; then approach her. When she starts talking, go back towards your door, and go to the adjoining part of the ledge with a clear view of the other door. When Cortana finishes talking, a couple of cloaked Elites and the Honor Guard Councilor will come through. Snipe them if you can, or Fuel Rod them if they get too close. Don't worry about your ammo because these are the last enemies on the level.
When you're done with them, go through the opposite door. Cortana will start talking, and you can stand there or look around or whatever, because when she's finished talking the next cut-scene begins. You're done with the longest level in Halo 2!
Speed Run Walkthrough
There are many places in the level that require you to kill all the enemies present before a door will open for you. That limits the amount of speed-running that you can do, and makes it pointless to write a detailed speed run for the entire level. However, after you rescue the Marines, there are several places where you can take short cuts that significantly reduce the time and effort needed to complete the level.
In the first outdoor area (Hanging Gardens A), the Normal Walkthrough advises you to wait out the battle and kill stragglers before proceeding. However, if you have no Marines left or you don't care if they follow you, then you can immediately scramble over the rocks on the right and proceed as the Walkthrough suggest up onto the wall and into the next chamber. The Covenant will usually be too busy fighting to bother you.
In the battle that features Brutes chasing panicked Grunts, you can skip the whole thing with some careful running and jumping. Just go flat out and try to jump any Brutes coming after you. If you make it onto the ramp that leads around to the next slidewalk, the Brutes will not follow you.
In the battle that takes place after the two Drones fly past you, again quick running and dodging will get you through. However, if you do that, you'll meet up with two brutes in the hallway on the other side, so you must be ready to take them down.
In the second outdoor area (Hanging Gardens B), the most significant shortcut of the level is available. When you go outside, you'll see a rock wall to the left. If you look to the right part of that wall, you'll see an area onto which you can jump. It takes practice to get the jump right, but you get a checkpoint just before this, so you can restart if you miss. Position yourself close to the edge of the cliff facing the rock wall and backed up against the structure. Run towards the rock wall and swerve a bit to the right. Jump as you reach the edge. If you do it right, you'll land on part of the rock wall, and you can jump to the top of it. That enables you to skip the entire battle at the bottom.
Proceed along the wall until a few meters from the end. Then jump down to the right and go up that last path to the next structure. You still need to watch for those sword-wielding cloaked Elites, but if you time it right they will jump down into the heat of the battle and you'll just need to take out a few Grunts before entering the structure.
In the battle with the grenade throwing Covenant (right after the room containing the Fuel Rod Cannon), if you engage the enemy aggressively and take out the two initial elites quickly, fewer additional Covenant seem to spawn. That can save you some time.
In the next battle after that, on the long platform, you can shorten the battle with the Hunters. Simply stand your ground with the Fuel Rod Cannon and fire directly into the doorway as they come out. The constricted space works in your favor and three or four Fuel Rod blasts will usually take out all the Covenant trying to get through.
Finally, at the very end of the level in the Mausoleum of the Arbiter, after Cortana opens that last door, you don't have to kill all of the last group of Elites that come out. If you can avoid them and get through the last door, the level still ends when you get outside.
By the way, there's one place where it's possible to skip the fight, but unfortunately the fight will follow you if you do that. In the room that contains the Brutes and the grav lift down the area with the Marines, you can dash to the lift and go down without killing the Brutes. But if you do, some or all of them will follow you down the grav lift, making the fight in the next area that much harder. That Brute at the bottom of the lift that normally has his back turned is apparently alerted by his buddies coming down the lift behind you, and he turns to fight.
Council Chamber Tower
Quickly back up, then take out the Brute Honor Guards. Kill the Needler Grunts, and then any Grunts with Plasma Pistols. But leave one Grunt alive to prevent the next wave from spawning. The enemies in this room can kill you very quickly, but it's possible to enter some of the corridors from which they spawn, specifically the ones on the ends. To do so, walk alongside the corridors, next to them, until you trigger the doors. Then you can enter the corridors. Carry all of the weapons (by dual-wielding) into your corridor of choice, then take out the remaining Grunt and quickly back into your corridor.
The next wave will spawn. Grab a Brute Plasma Rifle (and another if you would like) and step forward to trigger the doors to the Council Chamber. Fire a burst at any enemy you would like, then quickly back in. Wait for the Brutes and Grunts to stop bombarding the door, then repeat. When the Brute berserks, kill him with a Needler. As before, try to leave one Grunt alive to suppress the next wave as you gather all of the weapons that the enemies dropped.
The next wave will feature a Brute Captain with a Brute Shot. Make him your priority target and be sure to dodge his grenades. They can kill you in the small window of time in which you are exposed. Two Brutes with Covenant Carbines will spawn near the top of the seats. If they are both firing at you, they can kill you very quickly. Take them out. Leave one Grunt alive and gather all of the weapons.
After you collect the Brute Shot and the Carbine (as well as the duals), execute the Grunt. The last wave is comparatively easy, thanks to the Carbine and your new toy, the Brute Shot. Leave the room. Don't worry about your stockpile; just take a Carbine and a Needler. Even if you still have the Brute Shot, your Needler is more useful.
Two more Honor Guard Brutes will greet you with gunfire; greet them in kind. Do the same to all of the enemies that spawn on the platform below. There's a generous amount of Carbine ammo here. When Cortana prompts you to do so, drop down the Gravity Lift.
Deal with the three Jackals in the antechamber ahead (a single hit from a Brute Shot will take one out), then kill the Brutes and Grunts in the two curved corridors. Don't rush into the second corridor too quickly or you will be attacked from behind by Jackals.
You will be flanked by Jackals as you enter the next room; shoot them in the head. Take cover and pick off the numerous Brutes. Feel free to use your Beam Rifle because there are two more on the opposite side of the balcony. When the last one berserks, go to (or stay on) the second floor, but watch the Gravity Lift. Take the Brute out. On Cortana's prompting, drop down the long Gravity Lift.
Tap out the two Brute guards, then jump to the lower level and pick off enemies as they come down the small Gravity Lift. Rescue the Marines from the Brutes. Give one your Beam Rifle, simply so that there is someone to hold it for now. Give the other your Carbine and pick up the first Carbine you see.
Rescue the other Marines, but try to keep the ones you did rescue alive. Give Carbines to as many Marines as possible. Get on the other side of the small Lift and assassinate enemies as they engage the Marines. Go up to the middle level (if you are on the lower one) and do the same again.
Go up the Lift with your Marines. Take your Beam Rifle back in exchange for a Carbine. Take another Carbine of your own. Drop your Beam Rifle for the sword next to the dead Honor Guard Ultra. Go through the door ahead. If your Marines are KIA, back up and pick off the Yanme'e that come through the door. If they are still alive, openly engage the Drones. The swarm can kill your Marines very quickly, but not when it has six Carbines firing at it.
Enter the curved corridor. More Drones will ambush you; help your Marines make them regret doing so. Let the Brutes fight the Elites, then kill the survivors with your sword.
Drones will come out of the way to the next curved corridor, but this swarm is no better match for six Carbines than the first one was. If you don't have six, take cover and pick them off. Let the fight in the next corridor conclude, then finish off the victor.
Traveling to Mausoleum Tower
Open the door to Valley of Tears A. Let the fight between the Brute and Elite come to an end. The survivor will enter your room; take him out. Before you actually enter the Valley, you need to deal with the four snipers. One is on the platform directly across from you. Another is on a covered cliff to the left of the first. A third is on a Deployable Lookout Tower to the right of your position, and the fourth is next to a drop pod to your left. Grab a fresh Beam Rifle and snipe the two Ranger Elites. They will die to a single headshot. The way out of the valley is to the far right.
There is no resistance on the ramp or the next gravity bridge, only news about In Amber Clad. But a Jackal Sniper waits for you at the end, and Elites and Brutes will come out. In the central section of Hanging Gardens A is another battle between Elites and Brutes. Wait for it to finish, then continue around the other wall. Snipe the two Ranger Elites, then deal with the other enemies. Ride the gravity bridge.
Two Drones will appear in the doorway to the Mid Tower, but they will not engage you. Instead, they will join a much larger fight. Wait for it to finish (it takes some triggering), then finish off the survivors (usually Elites).
Continue into the next Hanging Gardens. Two Brutes will spawn from around the far wall; kill them. Don't worry about the Grunts because they will continue to flee after the Brutes are dead. Snipe the Brutes on the other side of the last gravity bridge. Unfortunately, your actions will not bring the Sangheili-led forces to your side, so take them out as well. Three Brute Shot-armed Brutes will greet you on the ramp; take them out.
Valley of Tears B contains another fight. Assassinate the Brute, then take out the Jackal Sniper on the platform. Sometimes, he will drop his Beam Rifle and try to kill you with his pistol, in which case the Beam Rifle will be fully charged when you pick it up. Your primary threat after this is the Heavy Grunt with a Fuel Rod Gun who will come on the platform opposite to you. Go to the far left. You will have to kill both the Stealth Elites and the Brutes because they will come from different directions. When they are dead, drop your Sword for the Fuel Rod Gun. If you can find a Carbine, walk it.
Kill the Stealth Elite in the sloped room, then take out the Grunts.
Use tactical approaches to stick the Elites in the next room. Headshot any Grunts who engage you. When you are down to one or two, trigger the Loyalists in the next door. Finish off the winner of the resulting fight.
Quickly assassinate the Jackal Sniper on the bridge, then back into the room in serpentine motion. Assassinate Brutes as they lose interest. Snipe the Elites and Drones.
Take a Beam Rifle from a pod on the center of the bridge. The next wave consists of some Elites, Grunts, and Drones (in the middle of a fight); get rid of the survivors.
The last wave contains three Grunts and two Hunters. Headshot the Grunts, then stick and no scope the Hunters. If they get onto the center of the bridge, you can flank them by the beams on either side. Be very careful on the beams; when you dodge the Assault Cannon, it is easy to fall an annoying death.
The Mausoleum itself is too hot for you to charge, so wait for the Covenant to fight. Kill the survivors (usually Elites). Now is the time to use your Fuel Rod Gun. Use a Carbine to kill the Stealth Elites on the far side. When the Honor Guard Councilor comes to slice you in half, fire two Fuel Rods to kill him. Deal with the last few Stealth Elites, then continue to the other bridge (behind the structure that holds the Arbiter's armor when not in use) to receive the news of your worst nightmare in the city and to complete the level.