Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Chronological Halo, 7/52: New Alexandria

Previously on Chronological Halo: After the destruction of the Long Night of Solace, we found ourselves on the outskirts of the city of New Alexandria. We aided evacuation efforts in the city, and were eventually contacted by Kat. She sent a Falcon to pick us up.

Mission Title: New Alexandria (Halo: Reach)
P.O.V. Character: Noble Six
Stage Number: 7/52

It's a rainy night in New Alexandria, and the ride in the back of the Falcon is a lonely one. Eventually it lands on a rooftop and we're reconnected with Noble Team. We apologize for coming alone, without Jorge, and Carter tells us to make him proud.

The Covenant have installed jammers throughout the city, and we've lost contact with Holland. Noble Team needs to destroy the jammers, and Noble Six is charged with flying the Falcon to each location.

The three jammers we need to take out over the course of the mission are located in differing locales, but each one consists of similar gameplay: we fly to a location, land, enter a building and fight through Covenant defenders, deactivate the jammer, and get out. Then it's on to the next jammer, with maybe a secondary objective en route.

The second jammer we need to deal with is in a nightclub, Club Errera, where four Hunters are keeping UNSC forces at bay. Funnily enough, with a Jetpack it's possible to run straight up the middle of the club, fly up to the second floor, deactivate the jammer, and then run back to the entrance without engaging the Hunters... at least on Normal difficulty.

The third jammer is in the Sinoviet Industries building, the lobby for which is identical to the layout of the 'Ivory Tower' multiplayer map from Halo 2! Once we deactivate the jammer there we're surprised by a small army of Drones, but again it's a relatively simple matter to escape back to the elevators and exit the building.

Once the jammers are gone, we can finally get through to Holland, and we receive a message sent to all teams that there will be evacuations at the ONI headquarters, but long-range Shade turrets are keeping the evac birds on the ground.

After we deal with the turrets, we rendevous with Noble Team and get a few great lines. First, referring to Jorge's sacrifice:

Carter: He gave his life thinking he'd just saved the planet. We should all be so lucky.

And this great exchange between Carter and Kat while she works to patch up the connection with Holland:

Carter: You want to know if we're losing?
Kat: I know we're losing. I want to know if we've lost.

Carter doesn't have an adequate answer for that. Once the connection is up with Holland, we pick up a desperate call from him, imploring us to respond and ignore security protocols. As Carter does, and starts listening to the message, there's suddenly an enormous radiation spike: the Covenant are glassing the city! Low-range bombardment of plasma beams blasts the surface of the planet, turning everything to glass. Carter says he's lost Holland, but he heard enough of the message first: Noble Team is being redeployed to Sword Base for a torch-and-burn op. We're to destroy whatever remains of Dr. Halsey's research so it doesn't fall into Covenant hands.

As Noble Team runs to reach a fallout bunker to escape the devastation, Kat suddenly takes a needle rifle bolt to the back of the head. Carter lifts up her body and brings her to the shelter, but by the time it's safe to emerge again, she is dead. Noble Team has lost another member.

This mission is noteworthy for a couple reasons. First of all, you spend a great deal of it flying a Falcon, or conversely, if you're playing in co-op, manning one of the Falcon's turrets while a buddy flies. That by itself makes it a great change-of-pace level. Second of all, this level is unique in that the mission objectives are randomized. The three main jammer destinations (the Hospital, Club Errera, and Sinoviet Industries) can appear in any order, and there are numerous secondary objectives that can appear in between each of those main objectives.

If you're a Halo fan and familiar with the other games in the series, one of these secondary objectives is clearly superior to the others: escorting Gunnery Sergeant Buck on a secret mission. If you're unfamiliar with the other games, and are experiencing Chronological Halo for the first time, his mission won't stand out at all; but this can be our first encounter with a character who becomes important later on.

The structure of this mission is unique enough that I forgive the relatively interchangeable nature of the objectives, but I do think Buck's secondary objective should have been unmissable. Also, flying the Falcon through the rainy night-time sky of New Alexandria as Covenant Corvettes begin glassing the planet is atmospheric and a needed change of pace. Noble Two's death at the end of the mission is sudden and shocking, a capstone on a memorable level.

Four Spartan helmets out of five.

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