February 5, 2009

October 20, 2552 (Part II)

> — Cocopjojo @ 11:08 pm

THE GOLDEN HOUR(S)

“Hey, Rookie, you out there?” says the squad commander into his radio as he walks along the sun-drenched rooftops of New Mombasa with Romeo.

“Even if he ain’t dead, he’s lost in that stuff,” Romeo says. “Our comms can’t cut through that.”

“So give up, huh? What if it was you down there?”

“Just sayin’. I ain’t dead.”

“You’re a piece of work, Romeo.” [Game Informer, December, 2008]

The team’s drop pods don’t land in the same street, or, as it seems, not even on the same block. They’re likely scattered about the city, and the resulting fallout from Regret’s slipspace jump is wreaking havok with their radios. Romeo, and the squad’s unnamed commanding officer, have emerged from their pods and linked up, and are presumably working on gathering the rest of the team. While sixteen pods appeared to have veered off course in the ODST announcement trailer, we can only confirm (at this point) six of them as being part of the elite team that the ONI officer has assembled – Mickey, Dutch, Romeo, Buck, the Rookie and their squad leader.

Romeo’s tone in the preceding passage matches up to the description given to him by Joe Staten in a 2009 issue of GamePro; Staten describes Romeo as a sniper who’s “kind of a dick.”

A UNSC transport ship pulls up next to the ODSTs. “Welcome aboard, ladies,” the pilot radios. “First stop, anywhere but here.”

A couple of purple forms creep up out of nowhere and approach the transport. “Banshees on your six,” the squad commander warns. “Hit the decks!” The Covenant ships blast apart the unsuspecting UNSC vessel and the two ODSTs jump away from a fiery explosion. Romeo… hustles along the rooftops wielding [a] sniper rifle. [Game Informer, December 2008]

Things quickly go sour for the ODST pair as they’re assaulted by two Covenant Banshees. We won’t hear from Romeo again until later that day when the Rookie discovers the sniper’s rifle hanging from a telephone line, and the story is pieced together.

Over the next six hours, each team member experiences a similiar dramatic turn of events that ultimately results in a piece of evidence being left behind by each – evidence which the Rookie will find. He’ll use the items he finds, as well as the context of the environment around him, to figure out what’s befallen his missing comrades.

This image is based on a timeline found in a 2008 issue of Game Informer. Click for a larger version.

Unforunately, it will be several hours before the Rookie – knocked unconscious by his pod’s impact – awakens and is able to begin hunting for these clues.

The sun has long set and New Mombasa is now draped in the cover of night. The rookie’s been out for a while and his squad is nowhere to be found. He jumps out of his drop pod… The streets are strangely calm, barely lit by a few glowing signs and filled with tropical palm trees and ferns. A space tether burns in the background (a massive tower that extends outside of the Earth’s atmosphere). It appears that the shock from the Covenant’s slipspace escape has snapped off the top half of the tether, causing several large chunks to crash down on top of nearby buildings.

For some sense of direction, he pulls out a PDA to see a top-down, 3D wireframe map of the city. A squadmate’s beacon flashes a few blocks away and he sets it as a target. The marker appears on the on-screen HUD as he crosses a plaza. The rookie hears audible commotion up ahead so he turns on a filter called Visual Mode. While the look remains dark, unlike the green hue of night-vision, everything appears outlined in glowing neon lights. [Game Informer, December 2008]

A pack of Brutes outlined in red are holding position against a few glowing green ODST allies.

He presses on towards the beacon signal. Once he’s within a couple dozen meters, a circular perimeter indicates he’s getting close. After searching around in Visual Mode, the rookie locates an object highlighted in yellow hanging from a telephone wire overhead… [It’s] a sniper rifle with a pronounced bend in the barrel. It’s obviously Romeo’s. [Game Informer, December 2008]

Referring back to the timeline you can see above, the Rookie will continue his search over the next six hours, reaching one-by-one the last known locations of his squad members. And as we stated, he’ll locate a piece of evidence at each site that he’ll use as a clue in piecing together the events that took place while he was unconscious in his pod. It is unknown, at this point, what “???” on the timeline denotes – but it’s very likely that the event it represents will be key in unraveling the mystery behind the ODSTs’ objective in the city.

As we saw in the trailer, it’s likely that this lone ODST will be aided by the city’s “urban infrastructure A.I.” Staten himself said:

“…he’s not in the best of shape, but he’s certainly capable of watching you at least. Keeping it clean. That’s his job.” [Game Informer, December 2008]

OH, THE PLACES YOU’LL GO

The Eastern African megalopolis of New Mombasa is of course based on a real geographic location. However, this vision of the city as it might appear in 2552 is a far cry from the palm-fringed, hotel-strewn beaches of today’s Kenyan coast. In 2552, the location’s proximity to the equator makes it an ideal location for a freight- and trade-carrying space “tether,” a colossal elevator structure designed to efficiently get manpower and matériel into orbit.

The economic and strategic importance of New Mombasa is reflected in the scale and scope of the city… Clearly industrial and practical, the city is still strewn with parks, gardens and other more bucolic and attractive structures. Far from the distopian visions seen in movies like Blade Runner and The Fifth Element, New Mombasa incorporates attractive, practical architecture with a clean, expressive aesthetic. [The Art of Halo, pg. 88]

We know that Mombasa will be available for the Rookie to explore in a way that’s unique to the Halo series; touted as a “hub” being “open-world,” the city can be traversed freely, reminiscent perhaps of the final half of Halo:CE’s second level, Halo. Five beacons are strewn across the city, and, after the first is located, they can be retrieved in any order.

Small snippets of information has been released regarding specific locales that the Rookie will visit in his tour of Mombasa, and, while we of course don’t have the whole picture, we can briefly take a look at the sites we do know about.

There’s a highway around Mombasa and Dan has made it something you can play on. [BWU 11-07-08]

Seeing as how Mombasa is “open-world,” the idea highway that encircles the city makes sense; perhaps similiar to the one found in Microsoft’s 2007 game Crackdown. Once reached, travel around the outer edge of the city via this highway will likely be less stressful than moving on foot through the rubble-strewn streets.

Travis Brady has been working on making the Space Tether a reality. [BWU 10-31-08]

As we can see the from the Space Tether’s concept art, the location is extremely detailed, and – being a high-profile location in the city – it’s entirely possible that the Tether will be visited at some point by the Rookie. In Nylund’s Ghosts of Onyx a Spartan strike force known as Blue Team (who are actually on Earth at the same time as the Rookie’s current escapades) launches an attack against a similiar space tether located in Cuba. Perhaps we’ll get to follow in their footsteps here in Mombasa?

While Dan’s working on the streets, Lars is working beneath them. [BWU 11-07-08]

It sounds as though the city may not be experienced in the same fashion as it was in Halo 2. The text here could be referencing sewers, basements or some sort of mass transit tunnels; whatever the case may be, it sounds like a welcome change.

Dutch, “a big guy”… carries heavy weapons to take on vehicles. [Staten, CVG article, 2008]

The Rookie will find the location seen above silent and littered with debris. Dutch’s Spartan Laser lies on the ground, and the carcass of a Wraith rests on the street up ahead. This site may be abandoned now, but Dutch found it very different when he arrived earlier…

A crew of at least ten Orbital Drop Shock Troopers were engaged in battle here at some point during the day. The ODSTs are armed with a variety of weapons, including a Laser, rocket launcher and sniper rifle; and this battle will likely play out much differently that it would have had the Chief been here.

AT THE END OF THE DAY (IT’S WHAT YOU DO, NOT WHAT YOU SAY)

By the time the clock rolls from October 20th to October 21st, we will have been given the opportunity to experience the day’s events from the point of view of no less than a half dozen persons. And while we know a great deal about this infamous day in the history of Earth – the day the Covenant invaded – there is still a great deal, as we’ve just covered here, that we are in the dark about. An ONI-employed photographer, a Spartan super-soldier, and soon-to-be a team of elite Orbital Drop Shock Troopers – all of these characters play key roles during the opening act of the Covenant’s strike on humanity’s homeworld; and I have no doubts that last chapter of the day will be the most interesting of them all.

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