Mombasa Streets: ‘Oni Alpha Site’ – ‘NMPD HQ’ Interim
The gentle sounds of Marty’s music fades in as the player returns to the aftermath of the day’s events. The Rookie throws the remains of the remote-charge detonator into the lake. It skips on the surface a few times before sinking into the dark water.
A Phantom still circles the burning remains of the ONI building, paying no attention to the Rookie. The bridge is destroyed, so you have reached the edge of your exploration in the area. It’s time to backtrack the way you came.
Under the cover of the tumultuous weather—though the lightning and thunder has died down—walk through the thin mist to the gate and follow the short tunnel to the other side. There’s a small group of Covenant inside the tunnel, but they’re easy enough to take care of.
At the other entrance to the tunnel you quickly discover you’re not out of the woods yet. A Phantom takes off from the bottom of the area, leaving behind a small group of Jackals with snipers and Brutes with jetpacks. Take care of them and you’re free to move on.
The quickest way to the next flashback is to walk through the remains of Kizingo Boulevard. There’s a bigger group of Covenant in that roundabout in front of the building with the Gauss turret, but like the group before they’re not much trouble. On your way through, stock up on ammo at the nearby weapons cache (rockets, silenced SMGs, pistols and ammo, and grenades).
There’s a lone Hunter on the other side of the closest gate. You can see the dead remains of his companion in the center of the roundabout. Hunters or Mgalekgolo are always deployed in sets of two, and each “being” has a close relationship with the other—in fact, they were once a single colony of Lekgolo worms that grew so large it split in two. This Hunter isn’t battle ready. It’s standing upright, perhaps mourning its comrade.
“Word had come down from an Elite named Zuka ‘Zamamee that a lone human had killed two of Igido Nosa Hurru’s brothers a few hours earlier, and was about to attack his newly reinforced position, as well. This was something the spined warrior hoped would happen so that he, and his bond brother Ogada Nosa Fasu, could have the honor of killing the alien.
When Hurru heard the whine of the surface vehicle’s engine, and saw it round the headland, both he and his bond brother were ready. Having received the other Hunter’s characteristic nod, Hurrur took up a position directly outside the entrance to the complex.[…]
The Hunter reached full speed and couldn’t dodge in time. […] The 102mm shaped charge exploded against the very center of the Hunter’s chest armor, blew through his torso, and severed his spine.
The Master Chief took a moment to reload the launcher then slogged back up onto the beach. A distant howl of anguish issued from the other alien’s throat. Serves you right, he thought. You only lost one brother. I lost all of mine.
Hurrur heard the firing, knew he was being flanked, and welcomed it. Rage, sorrow, and self-pity all churned around inside him causing him to fire his fuel rod cannon again and again, as if to obliterate the human by the weight of his barrage.
Hurrur felt warm relief.
He was about to join his bond brother.”
—[The Flood, S03C06]
It’s possible to sneak by this mammoth of an alien, but if you’re not careful, it will spot you. Those rockets you picked up beforehand will make the fight much quicker.
The next area offers the largest group of Covenant you’ve faced during this quick journey. Two Grunts in stationary turrets accompany at least two Brute captains, a group of Grunts, an Engineer, and a Brute in a Ghost. The Ghost is your biggest threat because you’re not in a vehicle, and its twin plasma guns can cut you to ribbons in seconds. The easiest way to take it out is to stun it with one of the plasma pistols from a dead Grunt, then finish it off with grenades.
After this group is taken care of, you’ll noticed this area is different from when you rolled through it as Mickey. The garage is open, and there’s more debris around—abandoned trucks and building parts litter the ground.
From here it’s a short journey to another roundabout where the next flashback item is. A beautiful fountain marks the center. Several wires stream from one building to another. Among those wires hangs your next flashback item—a sniper rifle, twisted by some enormous force.
The Rookie grabs a long metal object and knocks the weapon down from the wires. He catches it as it falls, and tries to bend it into its original condition.
Giving up, he looks up past the wires, to the rooftops of the city’s spectacular buildings…
3 hours after drop
The cutscene begins as Romeo and Buck make it to the top of the building that houses the city police department.
The duo relaxes at the sight of no Covenant in the immediate vicinity. They make their way toward a landing pad.
On the landing pad, the two await a police Pelican carrying Mickey and Dutch.
The almost-reunion is cut short when two Banshees fly in behind the Pelican and open fire. The Covenant are making a good fight for the skies of the city.
The Banshees fire their fuel-rod cannons at the Pelican. They make two or three direct hits, and the Pelican begins to tumble, almost crushing Buck and Romeo against the pad.
Mickey screams something incomprehensible, and the Pelican is soon out of sight behind the building.
Buck depolarizes his visor and grabs Romeo. The cutscene switches to first person, and here, as the camera shakes with the urgency of Buck’s words, the player feels better woven into Romeo and the world.
Buck reloads his assault rifle, preparing to move on. It’s clear that his men are important to him—even Romeo’s. And Buck doesn’t want to leave anyone behind.
The screen fades to white, and the player finds themselves on the landing pad in Romeo’s shoes—the first and only time during ODST’s campaign. Romeo’s given name is Kojo Agu, and he was born on the colony world of Madrigal in 2524. Judging from interactions with him earlier in the game, the man doesn’t get along well with others, and judging from his remarks about the battle with Regret’s fleet, he has no love for Earth—unsurprising, given Madrigal’s remote, outer colony status, and the fact that it was one of the first colonies after Harvest to be glassed by the Covenant. How Romeo escaped his home’s destruction is never made clear. The man, however, is here and fighting alongside everyone else.
Romeo always carries a sniper rifle, so naturally you start the level with it. First thing you should do is reload the weapon—in a nice bit of continuity the player is short the three rounds Romeo fired at the Banshees in the previous cutscene.
The landing pad you’re on offers a great view of the city from high above.
You’re up high enough to not be able to discern clearly what’s going on below. Given the sun’s position in the sky—partially obscured by clouds and smoke—it’s late afternoon or early evening. In the distance the player can make out several Banshees patrolling the skies. The Covenant, at this point, seem to have won the aerial fight. The fact that no police are found in the entire headquarters suggests that Mombasa has truly been defeated—everyone who could leave, has.
Even at this elevation there are still other buildings that tower over you. Some complete, others under construction. If you look towards the east, over part of the building you’re on, you can make out the top of the destroyed orbital space elevator.
Walking off the landing pad and into the building, you’ll see the logo for the New Mombasa Police Department over the entrance. The logo is a bird with outstretched wings; the unique wings and tail suggest that it may be a species of kite or a Bateleur (Terathopius ecaudatus), an eagle common to Sub-Saharan Africa.
There’s a sign below the logo that designates the room you’re about to enter as East Lobby 1. Through the doors is a short hallway with the words “Utumizi Na Kuhifathi” on your left. The words are Swahili for “serve and protect.”
The lobby seems basic at first glance, but there’s more to it if you’re willing to take the time. There’s trash in the lobby and among that the easter egg ID cards with pictures of Bungie employees. Throughout the offices are broken television or computer monitors.
The monitors are the most interesting bit of fiction within the lobby. They’re not flashing too fast so you can’t register what they’re displaying. Three screens are very simple: one shows the outline of the Superintendent, one shows the logo for the NMPD, and the third is a basic layout of the East Wing of the police department.
An additional screen shows a map of the world noting “Great Rift” seismic activity along the east coast of Africa. The map is too general to pinpoint the location, but it appears that one area of seismic activity seems to be the place where the portal to the Ark rests beneath the surface.
The name “Endesha” (referring to Dr. Endesha, the person responsible for the Superintendent and a major character in Sadie’s Story) appears in the bottom right-hand corner. The last screen is a bit hard to make out—it seems to be displaying a broken transmission or voice pattern—but the words “Dare” in the upper left-hand corner are unmistakable.
It’s too bad Buck doesn’t seem to notice the hint; it’s evidence Dare might still be alive and contacted the police department after being separated from Buck and the rest of the ODSTs.
It’s easy to miss the large window, through which you can see a big crane, above the stairs as you make your way to the second floor. There isn’t much to look at—small, closed off glass rooms.
A door on the second floor leads to what can be best described as a courtyard. You enter the area on the higher end where several “Global Water Campaign” barrels are; the vessels are a nod to an old Earth organization whose waterworks feature in the Halo 3 mission “Sierra 17” and the multiplayer map “Ghost Town”. The opposite, lower side of the courtyard is occupied with one of the Covenant’s larger stationary turrets, a squad of Grunts and two or three Brute captains.
You can choose to take out the Grunts, but a better option is one of the Brutes or the turret operator.
(If you don’t shoot the turret operator with your first shot, during the battle Buck will tell you he’ll distract it while you kill its operator).
The Covenant in this section are divided into two groups: one is near the back where the turret is, and the other is in the center next to some fountains. The group in the back is easier to handle because they’re at a longer range (easy pickings for the sniper rifle). The inverse is true for the group closer to you, but you can still use your sniper rifle, or switch to your automag.
Taking out one of the groups will trigger reinforcements to arrive.
You can’t see them from the high end of the courtyard, but there are more landing pads on the other side, with tunnels that lead to your position. Quickly take care of the remaining Covenant before dealing with the light reinforcements that are dropped off. Before you know it you’ll have cleared the first area. More Covenant are on the other side of the door to your east. You may want to hold off engaging them initially; another Phantom will stop by to drop off two Jackals on the far pad. From the edge of the courtyard you’ve cleared you can see a Grunt operating a detachable turret. Shoot the operator, and any subsequent Grunts that attempt to man it. You can clear out many of the enemies from afar with little chance of retaliation.
Follow Buck to the adjacent area through the doors below the sign that reads “East Lobby 2.” There’s a circular room between the two sets of doors with telephones that have screens blinking “Private Chatter: Restricted”—perhaps in cases of emergency, New Mombasa authorities shut down all non-essential communications. Through the second set of doors are a few Grunts and Jackals guarding the entrance. Kill them and enter the new area. If you hung back, the bottom area of the courtyard will be mostly clear, but new enemies appear from above and to the north. If you haven’t seen them yet, Buck notifies you of the threat.
Make your way up the stairs to the top of the platform where the detachable turrets rest, near the spotlights. From here you’ll have a good view of the Covenant Buck mentioned, and will be able to do a clean sweep of them with the pistol or the sniper. There’s also valuable sniper ammo here.
The coast is clear until you reach the second set of steps, triggering three or four Brutes and a small group of Grunts will emerge from the doors you’re heading towards. Thanks to the ammo you picked up from before, the group shouldn’t give you too much trouble.
Before moving on, you might want to take a trip out to the second landing pad, because the view is simply spectacular.
The skies are much busier than at the start of the level. Banshees are still making their patrols, but now Phantoms have joined them—perhaps foreshadowing the continued and increasing occupation of the city, and the final fight of the level. What gives the scene its sense of large scale is not any of the shorter buildings in the foreground, but the view of the destroyed space elevator and ONI building. From up here you can see everywhere you’ve fought as a player. They’re not just two random buildings.
Walking back from the landing pad you’ll pass a monitor, in the middle of the courtyard, with very peculiar atmospheric readings.
The monitor reads an atmosphere composed of 82.7% carbon dioxide, 7.5% nitrogen, 4.3% hydrogen, and 2.6% argon. This doesn’t make sense for Earth’s atmosphere; the monitor doesn’t display any traces of oxygen, and the composition should be something closer to 78% nitrogen, 21% oxygen, along with other trace gases. It describes planetary surface composed of carbon, silicon, sodium, titanium, nitrogen, zirconium, calcium, and “other trace elements.” The monitor also indicates some sort of structural element being intact, and the operational status is “online.” This data is accompanied by a picture of the layout of the NMPD headquarters. There are few clues as to what the readings correlate to. Given the overwhelming presence of carbon dioxide, perhaps it’s referring to a planet that has been glassed?
Move on from the lobby through the doors at the top. Dutch relays his position over the radio.
The next room looks like some sort of receptionist lounge. The room climbs several stories with no apparent access to the upper levels. “Chaotic” wouldn’t even begin to describe the state of the lounge: bodies—police officers and Grunts—everywhere, broken telephone stations and monitors, graffiti on the walls (“We’re next!”), overturned chairs, scattered medicks, trash on the floor, black marks from grenade explosions, holes in the walls, and plenty of ammo.
You have plenty of choices on what weapons to pack—silenced SMGs, Needlers, Plasma Pistols, Brute Shots, a sniper rifle, and grenades litter the floor. Make some choices and stock up; you’ll face some heavy resistance in the next few encounters.
When you exit the lobby, you should pay attention to Buck’s movements: notice he’s not leaping straight into battle.
Clean out the Jackals in the balconies and two more stationed on a bridge over this next courtyard. Once you’re finished with them, a Phantom will drop off Brutes in jetpacks at the other end.
Follow Buck’s advice and keep the high ground. If you don’t stray too far from the door from which you came, it won’t lock and you can return to the lobby for more ammo if you need it. There’s another large stationary turret in the bottom left that’s best destroyed—merely killing the Grunt occupant will leave it open to a Brute operating it instead. The Phantom will bail out halfway through the battle, and should you keep your distance and steady your aim, you’ll prevail.
Walk to the other end of the courtyard and you’ll pass another monitor showing the same, strange atmospheric readings. Even in this new courtyard, it’s worth it to take a look at the skybox. You’ve moved farther east, so the ONI building and space elevator have moved to the right side of the scene. If you have a keen eye you’ll notice a large volume of smoke rising from the ground in the distance to the north. My first instinct would be to say it’s the beginning of the Covenant’s excavation of the portal to the Ark, but the rest of Truth’s forces haven’t yet arrived.
Find the sign that reads “East Lobby 3” and make your way through another double set of doors to one final courtyard. Jackals (to your right, on the raised platform) and Grunts (to your left) guard the entrance. Dispose of them quickly, and you’ll realize, like once before, you’re in for another uphill battle.
The Covenant here pack a far heavier punch. A Grunt operates a detachable turret at the top of the stairs (better to destroy it here too), and there’s a Jackal with a sniper on the roof. After you kill them both, Brute reinforcements arrive—all captains with exception of the turret-wielding Chieftain.
The smart thing to do is occupy a position near the spotlights and take them down with a long range weapon. There’s also a fusion coil at the top that can deal serious explosive damage if you can lure the Brutes close enough to it before detonation.
Through the door at the top you’ll enter East Lobby 4. It’s similar to the office space you entered after walking off the first landing pad.
There are two Grunts at the bottom of the stairs blocking your way. From here on out, the level does a great job of increasing its sense of scale.
An icon for Mickey and Dutch will appear on your HUD as you walk toward the final landing pad. There are two Jackals with sniper rifles and a Grunt with a fuel rod there, but they aren’t much trouble.
To the left are long girders that the player can jump down to. If you’re feeling hesitant about this, you’re not the only one.
There’s one way to Mickey and Dutch and it’s this “bridge.” You have no choice, so hop down and move. You’re walking a long for a couple of seconds and everything seems to be all right, but then:
Two Banshee fly very close to the bridge, making it shake with each pass. The effect adds a level of tension and uncertainty—making the player feel the very real possibility of falling. Few moments in the campaign make you feel as vulnerable as this one.
The seemingly long walk on the bridge ends above a multitiered construction site. Mickey, Dutch, and a few police are already engaged in combat with the Covenant on the ground. Jump down and help kill the remaining forces, then rendezvous near the crashed Pelican. The player should notice the many heavy weapons lying around—turrets, missile pods, Spartan Lasers, rockets—along with ARs, silenced SMGs, and plenty of extra ammunition.
At long last the veteran ODSTs are fighting side by side.
What follows is the best last-stand/firefight/hold-your-ground encounter of any Halo game to date. It’s the fight that elevates the entirety of “NMPD HQ”; everything comes together wonderfully. The music picks up and maintains a great sense of urgency with its guitar-focused theme. The majority of the tools you have at your disposal are heavy weapons with more ammunition than you know what to do with. You’re on a construction site that’s a thousand feet in the air, within a sea of skyscrapers in a futuristic, war-torn city, fending off hostile ground troops and aircraft.
On a pure enjoyment scale, this is one of my favorite encounters of any Halo game.
You’ll have to deal with the dropped infantry—which can be composed of Grunts, any assortment of Brutes (except Chieftains), and Jackals—of any Phantom you don’t destroy in time, so taking out these troop ships first is a top priority. A couple of shots at their turbines with a rocket or a missile pod and those Covenant dropships are as good as falling debris.
The missile pods and Spartan Lasers are effective options against the Banshees, so be wise about removing a missile pod from its stand and limiting your ammo. Your ODST teammates, and the police officer, are not without their heavy weapons. They’ll mainly focus on the Banshees, though, leaving the Phantoms up to you.
The fight only lasts a few minutes. Before it ends a Phantom will drop of a squad of Brutes in jetpacks.
If you’ve still got some ammo for a heavy weapon, then the infantry will quickly fall. Once all the Brutes are killed, their leader arrives:
The game transitions to a cutscene. The chieftain drops down from the Phantom and kills the nearby police officer (a BR can be seen flying from the man’s corpse). The Brute recovers from his swing and decides to charge Romeo. The man gets off sniper rounds into the Brute’s shields, causing them to collapse. It’s not enough to slow down the massive Chieftan, however, and a blow from his hammer knocks Romeo off his feet. The chieftain switches to his hammer’s blade and swings for the kill. In an attempt to deflect some of the Brute’s momentum, Romeo puts up his sniper rifle, but the blade still imbeds itself deep within the man’s chest.
The Chieftain pries Romeo’s sniper rifle from the hammer’s blade and throws it off the side of the platform, where it tumbles into the clouds below.
Before the Chieftan can finish Romeo off, Buck jumps on his back and stabs a knife in the chieftain’s neck. The remaining ODSTs tackle the chieftain, and the alien falls to the ground dead. On top of Buck no less.
Mickey and Dutch help him out. Dutch gets his knife from the Brute’s neck and flicks off the alien blood. Romeo coughs in pain, and the others rush to his side.
Romeo moves his hand, and an arterial spurt of blood erupts from his chest.
The Covenant own the skies and destroyed their airlift.
Since Dare’s disappearance, Buck has been trying to gather his men and get out of the city. He has most of his men—at this point, the most he can hope for—but getting out of the city is going to be harder than he hoped.
Buck offers a hand to Romeo. Romeo obliges and Buck helps him on his feet.
The final battle of “NMPD HQ” is a fitting reunion for the squad, but it didn’t come without its consequences. With Dare missing and their mission scrubbed, the best thing the ODST squad can do is find a safe route out of the city, whatever route that may be.
Special thanks to HBO’s KoRnyMunKy for assistance with screenshot capture.