Halo 4 hits Tuesday and there’s still three Shield and Sword missions left off that list. Time to tie up all the loose ends! Since we’re short on time, much of these last few missions will be swift summaries and outlines, focusing mostly on the story and some of the big action set pieces. Some of the more integral scenes are fleshed out with illustrations and dialogue that I have finished. Perhaps in the future I’ll go back and expand further on some of the ideas I glance over here.
But before launching into the deep end, let’s go back and summarize where we’ve come from:
-The Master Chief and Cortana have floated in the void for years, with no idea if their distress call has reached the UNSC. During this time, John has slept while Cortana has improved upon his armor, his weapons, and his vehicles.
-Cortana awakes the Master Chief as Forward Unto Dawn reaches a mysterious Forerunner planet. A gaping port opens in the planet’s surface and the ship is drawn towards it as Sentinels and Enforcers begin to tear the Dawn apart as part of a ‘quarantine’. Master Chief leaps into space with his new thrusters and finds another way into the machine planet’s interior.
-The planet is revealed to be a Shield World, and the first one built at that. Its interior, inverted surfaces sweeps around a central slipspace portal that captures the light from a distant star. As Master Chief explores this planet, a massive Forerunner army of various robotic sentries continue to hunt him down. During his explorations, Master Chief sees signs and murals of someone called “The Begotten.”
-Eventually, John and Cortana establish a base at Hub Station 42 where Cortana can hide their presence from the Forerunner army and the presence that is leading them. Cortana sends the Master Chief to the Resonance Cascade to shut down the Shield World’s block on outgoing communications.
-Master Chief makes contact with the Sangheili, who are now on their way, but is ambushed by the peak of Forerunner robotics: the Proto-warrior. Master Chief cuts a swath through these humanoid adversaries as he races back to Cortana before they find her. The Sangheili, led by Shipmaster Rtas, enter the Shield World secretly with a new cloaked corvette and unite with the Spartan to push back these Proto-warriors.
-The Sangheili did not arrive alone though. The Reconciled, reformed remnants of the Covenant, tracked the Elites to gain control of the Shield World in the continuing post-war arms race of Forerunner weapons. They were also somehow able to enter the planet without contest and are mysteriously at peace with the Forerunner guardians.
-The Chief and Shipmaster lead an attack on the Reconciled’s foothold before the UNSC fleet arrives. In the battle, John discovers that the Reconciled had brought with them a Forerunner War Sphinx named Recondite Clairvoyant. This massive sentient machine was using the Reconciled that discovered him to reach this Shield World and was able to protect them from the Forerunner army. But now that he has a Reclaimer in his hands…
-With the Reconciled now pushed back and hunted by the Sentinels as well, the War Sphinx leads a small group consisting of Master Chief, Shipmaster, and a few Elites into the Monitor of the Shield World, a massive complex housing the data core of the A.I. in control of the Forerunner Army. Shutting him down will at last pacify this planet and allow the UNSC to arrive in something other than a hornet’s nest.
-Inside, John finds that the Proto-warriors have been learning from the Master Chief and improving. But why all this hostility from the Foreunners? It is revealed that the Didact, who shepherded the Shield installations placed the Monitor here to study the Flood and discover new ways to defeat them. A 100,000 years later, and the Monitor is as obsessive as ever, believing he is fighting a new form of Flood with Cortana as its Gravemind and her soldiers as her combat forms. Cortana shuts down the Monitor’s core and gains control of the Forerunner army as the UNSC finally arrive.
A grey storm is drawing close. A massive UNSC cruiser hovers above a vast, empty ocean. Four frigates are moving in formation alongside her. New iterations of Longswords, sleeker and more maneuverable, patrol the air. As the camera zooms in on this mustering, radio chatter starts to fade in.
"I'm reading four destroyers, five cruisers."
"They're amassing thirty kilometers east of here."
"Deciphering any of their communications?"
"Only this, sir..."
Prophet: "The Great Demon has subverted our own living gospel and deceived our Gods. But we know the way. We walk the path. And those that would halt or turn us deserve the greatest punishment..."
A pelican starts a descent towards the top of the massive cruiser . Towards the center of the spine lies an open deck like that of the Spirit of the Fire. As the bird lands, a receiving party stands at attention nearby.
"Master Chief, on behalf of the UNSC and all of humanity, I'd like to welcome you back from the dark. We missed you." The admiral reaches out a hand to shake John's.
"The name's Moreau. Admiral Moreau."
Master Chief: "Thank you, Sir. Awaiting your orders, Sir."
Admiral: "Orders? Hah, I think you've deserved a very long-overdue shore leave. Captain, show him to his quarters--"
Master Chief (unmoving): "The Reconciled are here. You need me on the line."
Admiral: "No disrespect, Chief, but we came prepared." He moves slightly out of the way and behind him two Spartan IVs walk forward, their advanced MJOLNIR armor gleaming in the sunlight.
"It's an honor and a privilege to meet the greatest of the Spartans," says one of the S-IV's as she extends a hand. She's actually slightly taller than John.
Master Chief (a little taken a back): "Not the greatest. Just the last."
Cortana (through John's helmet speakers): "But his line lives on, doesn't it? You (towards the Admiral) just had to keep playing with people's minds and bodies didn't you?"
Admiral: "Ah... Cortana (slightly condescendingly). It's also an honor to have you back, of course. But I'm afraid you've been out of the loop for too long. All of our Spartans today are volunteers and experience only small and safe procedures. The new MJOLNIRs do the rest. By the time I retire, I think every one of our soldiers will be a Spartan."
Cortana: "There's more to it than just shiny armor and fancy toys."
Admiral (ignoring the last comment): "I'm afraid we'll need to take a look at
Cortana, Chief. She's been gone a long time and seen things the UNSC has never been able to confirm."
Two technicians approach from behind the Chief, who uneasily takes a step away from them.
Cortana: "It's okay John."
Master Chief: "Cortana - she's past seven years... Can you help her?" He takes Cortana's data core from the back of his helmet, looking at it before handing it over.
Admiral: "We'll do our best."
An elevator lowers through spinning red lights to a lower hold. The Chief and two Marines exit as the player resumes control.
You take control of the Chief with no weapons. This first part is all about re-immersing yourself with the UNSC and getting up to date on all their advancements in technology and what's happened to your old comrades.
This ship you're exploring is the UNSC Keyes. The Marine escort will describe to you the breakthroughs in Slipspace travel, the miniaturization of MAC technology, and the advancements of point-defense lasers.
You'll also pass by hangars full of troops preparing for battle and overhear some familiar voices like Sgt. Stacker and That Australian Marine. Eventually you'll be left in a ready room with a handful of ODSTs. One notices the Spartan and approaches. He wears short brown hair and a trimmed beard. And he's voiced by Nathan Fillion.
Master Sergeant Buck: "The Master Chief. I... I can't tell you how much of an honor it is." The Master Chief just stares. This whole experience has been more surreal than exploring a small Dyson Sphere for him.
Buck: "I... uh... well. Whatever you need Chief, you've got it. A lot has changed since the war, and I have to admit, I'm still not used to most of it. So I can imagine what you're feeling right now. Well... I'll let you be." He begins to walk off.
Master Chief: "Admiral Hood. Did he...?"
Buck: "He survived. And he led us all out of the dark after you left for the Ark. But the times changed and Hood was a leader of war, not peace. And folks like Moreau here forced him into retirement once things were settled with the split-chins."
Master Chief: "Why are you still fighting?"
Buck: "Could have settled down I guess. I got a wife, but we're both still married to the UNSC. I guess once you experience thirty years of non-stop blood and glass, you never get to believe in 'peace'. It's just a breather."
A TAC device on Buck's wrist sounds an alert.
Buck: "Speak of the devil." He turns around to face his ODSTs. "Time to drop boys. We got uglies prepping bases on the nearby peninsula. Let's make sure they don't get too comfy."
The troops begin to issue out a far door. Buck has to tap a sleeping ODST in a corner, and then they both head out, leaving Master Chief alone in the ready room.
Cortana: "They're coming, John. And they don't know what they're dealing with."
Master Chief looks around. It's either being broadcast to him... or a telepathic message.
Master Chief: "Cortana. Where are you?"
Cortana: "Here with you. Not far. They think they've given me over to the ship's AI, but really, they just handed me the keys. But they're facing a massive fleet of Reconciled. They may not like it, but they need you out there."
Master: "They can fight this battle without us.”
Cortana: “No they can’t. They have learned a few tricks, but they don’t have the experience. The Admiral is actually trying to negotiate with them--"
Thunder rocks the room.
(Over speakers) Admiral: "Red alert. Multiple explosions in deck eight and nine. Emergency crews, on the double!"
Cortana: “You need to get out of here and help while you still can. I’m downloading my core to a new datapad on a terminal nearby.”
Master Chief is hesitant to disobey, but another rocking of the ship and long, low groan moves him. This isn’t the same UNSC he left years ago.
A door opens in the room. Lights begin to blink on and off, showing you the way. Through a few hallways and an armory of weapons to stock up on, you begin to cross a catwalk above a hanger, but an explosion tears through the ship to your left. Through the fire, the War Sphinx steps into sight. You're on even ground with his eyes now. On the other side of the catwalk, two technicians approach, but halt, startled by the freed War Sphinx. The War Sphinx turns to observe.
War Sphinx: "They will not keep me from my duty."
Master Chief: "Calm down. They're Reclaimers, just like me."
War Sphinx: "They are humans. You are a Reclaimer."
The hangar bay doors to the right of the catwalk open to a grey sky.
The Master Chief hops off the catwalk to the hangar floor and walks to the edge. Kilometers away, a fleet of Reconciled cruisers and corvettes are assembled across from the UNSC ships. The War Sphinx steps up behind him.
Lights issue forth from the enemy, straight towards you. But they are absorbed by an energy shield around the UNSC ship before it breaks down once and for all. UNSC frigates pass into view and return fire, grabbing the oncoming enemy’s attention. One of them is destroyed as a number of the cruisers concentrate fire.
Cortana: “Do you believe me now? They need you.”
The Battle of Resplendent Seas
In the midst of the chaos, the War Sphinx becomes a vehicle for the Master Chief to wreck havoc upon the Reconciled in a massive aerial battle. Soon the Sangheili Stealth Corvette arrives to flank the enemy and Cortana brings in the Forerunner army to drive the Reconciled back.
This is the Ark or Covenant missions of Shield and Sword. Times ten. It is a massive aerial battle, with a huge number of both friendly and enemy AI as well as number of capital ships engaging one another. Imagine the second space battle of Long Night of Solace with its epic-ness increased.
Oh, and you’re piloting a War Sphinx. There will be a few big engagements in different areas of the open level, with smaller objectives innerspread randomly between, a la New Alexandria’s mission structure. You’ll even land on the hull of a few ships (like the levels in Halo Wars that take place on Spirit of Fire) to protect or attack them.
If you leave the War Sphinx and board a Banshee or take control of a new Hornet, he will continue to follow you and assist you.
You’ll also see a new kind of Reconciled vehicle: the Sentry ship “Eidolon”, which is about three times the size of a Phantom. It’s a heavily armed, moveable launch pad for Banshees and soldiers. It has a pulse canon like the top of the Halo 3 Scarab has.
But when the epic battle is almost over, and it feels like you’ve just about blown up the Death Star…
A massive hole ripped open in the side of the Shield World.
Seeing themselves nearing defeat, the Reconciled have unleashd their ultimate weapon: a captured Halo Ring. The next controlled burst cuts through the UNSC Keyes, cleaving it into two.