Mission Title: Outskirts (Halo 2)
P.O.V. Character: Master Chief
Stage Number: 23/52
Three Pelicans fly from the 'In Amber Clad' down to the surface, where they approach the East African city of New Mombasa. As they approach the city, Cortana picks up a message being broadcast from the Covenant carrier stationed over the city.
Cortana: The message just repeats. Regret. Regret. Regret.
Miranda Keyes: Catchy. Any idea what it means?
Sergeant Johnson: Dear humanity... we regret being alien bastards. We regret coming to Earth. And we most definitely regret that the Corps just blew up our raggedy-ass fleet!
Sadly, that's not it. Cortana explains that 'Regret' is a name, the name of a Covenant religious leader. He's on the carrier hovering over the city center, and it's up to the Master Chief to get onboard that carrier and find out from the Prophet why this is the one place on Earth the Covenant chose to land.
But it won't be easy: as the Pelicans approach, a giant Scarab tank moves from between buildings and fires! One of the Pelicans is engulfed in flames, and the one carrying Sergeant Johnson and the Master Chief veers away, smashes into a building, and crashes. As our vision clears, we get our first taste of some of the hilarious section names in Halo 2.
'They'll Regret That Too.' Ha!
Together with Johnson and the surviving marines, we make our way from the crash site to a courtyard. We're in the old town, Old Mombasa, across the river from the city center. We fight off Covenant forces in the courtyard, and just as the marines prepare to put a satchel charge on the gate we need to get through, a pair of Hunters burst through!
Johnson: Stand back, marines! Let the Chief show you how it's done!
After the Hunters are taken care of, with our customary ease, we make our way through the streets of the old city dealing with Jackals with beam rifles. A Pelican lands and picks up Sergeant Johnson while we get through an abandoned hotel with the power out. On the other side a Warthog drives up; we can use it to go through the tunnels up to the bridge that leads to the city center. In the tunnel, Cortana comes to a realization.
Cortana: I've been analyzing the Covenant tactical chatter. They're surprised, confused... I don't think they expected us to be here. Not you and me... all of us... humanity, on Earth. Odd, I know, but it does help explain why they came here in such small numbers.
That's... strange. As we come out of the tunnel and up to the bridge, the level comes to an end.
We're fighting in the streets of Earth, as promised by the promotional materials for Halo 2, but the worrisome signs continue. The long-awaited Covenant invasion of Earth is... an accident? The Covenant didn't know we were here? It does explain the small number of ships, but this is a long way from 'the goddamn apocalypse' the marketing for Halo 2 led us to expect. Honestly, we've seen what that would look like by now, in Halo: Reach (and it was amazing), but at the time that Halo 2 came out we didn't have any of that. It felt like a bait-and-switch.
Chronological Halo really shines when you're behind the wheel of a vehicle, and the long tunnel that ends this mission is no exception. It doesn't have the emotional impact of the escape at the end of 'The Maw,' but it does have similar gameplay, and is nice and long.
One last thing: we now know why the Prophet of Regret wasn't physically present at the trial of Thel 'Vadamee, and was instead participating via hologram: he was en route to Earth. But why? We don't know at the moment, and won't for awhile; but it certainly wasn't for the purpose of wiping out humanity. If it had been, this level and the one right before it would have been quite a bit different, and more like Reach.
This level gives us fighting in the streets and a fun stretch of driving, but the eyebrow-raising continues. The Covenant accidentally invading Earth is okay as a plot point, but the simple truth is that it's not what we were expecting.
Four Spartan helmets out of five.