Thursday, April 14, 2011

Chronological Halo, 3/52: Nightfall

Previously on Chronological Halo: Noble Team secured Sword Base, an important ONI research facility, from Covenant attack... but Dr. Halsey was not impressed. The mother of the Spartan-II program demanded that the data module Kat recovered from the Visegrad Relay research team be handed over to her. It could hold the key to what the Covenant are looking for on Reach.

Mission Title: Nightfall (Halo: Reach)
P.O.V. Character: Noble Six
Stage Number: 3/52
It's later in the night following the recovery of Sword Base, and we're creeping along a tiny ledge on the cliffside, following Jun, Noble Three. We both have Sniper Rifles, and we're here to recon the Covenant 'dark zone.' It seems the Covenant can block electronic surveillance, so our orders are to find out what they're hiding. Kat is running the operation from back at base, and warns us that direct action may necessary. Jun jokes that when Kat runs an op, "direct action is always necessary."

"Direct action."
We come to a small settlement being patrolled by the Covenant, but Kat tells us that it's too small a number; we're not in the dark zone yet. Beyond the settlement, Covenant forces are engaged with a number of indigenous creatures called Gúta. We leave them to it!
The Gúta are about as happy about the Covenant as we are.
There's a pump station beyond the canyons, where local militia are attempting to fight off the Covenant. During a break in the fighting, the militia tells Jun that they came back to recover a cache of UNSC weapons; they have hidden weapon caches all over the territory. Jun points out that the weapons are stolen, but when the militia leader dares Jun to arrest him, Jun just says he's going to steal them back.
Smuggled UNSC weapons? Yes, please!
Freshly-armed, the local militia shows us a smuggler's path down a dried-up riverbed to the hydro-electric plant. Once there, we find a large Covenant structure of some kind, and Kat tells us that that pylon is generating the 'dark zone.' We'll place a remote detonation charge on it, but we won't detonate it yet; Kat tells us 'Command's planning something big, they say that pylon dies at dawn.'
A Stealth Pylon, the source of the Covenant 'dark zone'
Once the detonation charge is placed and a pair of Hunters are dispatched, Noble Team leaves the hydro-electric plant behind and climbs a slope guarded by Covenant Shade turrets. At the top of the ridge we find what the Covenant have been hiding within their 'dark zone': not just a strike force, but an invading army. Jun says if we're going to win this thing we'll need to go in hard and fast, and Kat agrees, saying the sun will be up soon and it's going to be a busy day.

Every Halo game has a Sniper section, and this is Reach's; it features Noble Team's Sniper, Jun, and gives you a Sniper Rifle with greater than usual ammo capacity. If you like sniping, this is an entertaining mission, but story-wise it's just build-up. We already know the Covenant are on Reach, and Nightfall exists mainly to foreshadow the UNSC's counterattack, which will happen at dawn... in the mission after this one.

One neat thing about Nightfall is the way it shows several different groups on Reach reacting to the Covenant threat. Coming around the corner in the canyons and seeing the large Gúta creatures tossing debris around and going after Covenant grunts is a highlight, and Noble Team setting aside the normal rules of legality and teaming up with smugglers does a nice job of showing that all usual bets are off.

The atmosphere of Nightfall is fantastic: creeping through winding canyons beneath a rainy, moonlit sky. Unfortunately, that's really all the mission has going for it. There's not much new going on here. Drink in the pretty sights, and get ready for the UNSC counterattack.

Two Spartan helmets out of Five

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