Mombasa Streets: ‘Kizingo Boulevard’ – ‘Oni Alpha Site’ Interim
The Rookie finishes inspecting the destroyed Gauss turret and gives it a good pat. Time for this weapon of war to rest for good.
No sooner does the ODST set off when a Phantom flies low over the building and lands in the courtyard to drop off Brutes with jetpacks and some Jackals with sniper rifles.
If only that Gauss turret still worked.
If you stay where you are the Brutes will come to you. This new obstacle provides for the perfect opportunity to make use of the weapons cache behind the building. It has rockets to use against the Brutes, and you get plenty of pistol ammo for the Jackals.
Once the threat is disposed of it’s a good time to reorient yourself. Out of all the flashback missions, these two are the closest to each other.
The city is much as you left it before “Kizingo Boulevard,” but with the context of the previous mission, the aftermath of the day’s battle is all too apparent. You make your way past several wreckages: tanks, Wraiths, and Banshees. You saw all these vehicles in action only a few moments ago. One Banshee came to its end on a rooftop.
As the landscape is all too familiar, you don’t even need to pay attention to your HUD. Before you know it, you unlock the gate to the rally point of the previous mission. A group of Covenant with an Engineer is waiting for you on the other side. Dispatch those aliens with great dispatch (or ignore them), and you’ll have clear access to the gate at the back of the rally point.
The gate is connected to a tunnel occupied by a small group of Covenant. Compared to the last two encounters they’re easy enough to deal with. Farther inside, brick walls flank you with the symbol for the Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI) on each brick. At the end of the tunnel is another gate with ONI’s symbol on full display.
The player is seeing this symbol everywhere. What does it mean? What exactly is ONI?
ONI is the intelligence branch of the UNSC headed by, as of this writing, Admiral Parangosky – a woman described by many as the last person you would want to cross. ONI is divided into three public sections and one secret, internal investigation division (Section 0).
Section I is the most known out of any of the ONI sections. Its duties include issuing evacuation orders and tracking Covenant force deployments. Section II is the propaganda arm of the UNSC. They no doubt helped prop up and maintain Vice Admiral Cole’s legendary figure until his disappearance in 2543, and they were responsible for going public, and maintaing the invincibility myth of, the Spartan IIs.
Section III is the most known to fans and has been the most consequential out of any of ONI’s divisions. Its projects include the MJOLNIR armor and the Spartan II and Spartan III programs.
“We don’t do pointless vengeance in ONI, B,” Parangosky said gently. “We do vengeance with a pragmatic outcome in mind. Revenge might give you a warm feeling, but unless it delivers some lasting results you might as well have a nice cup of mocha instead.”
Chapter 2, Glasslands
“Never settle a score until it’s tactically useful and you’re certain you can finish the job. Then make sure they know you did it”
(Longtime Bungie fans will note that “ONI” is also the name of a Bungie game that came out in 2001.)
The gate unlocks and you’re treated to a somber sight.
Mist encompasses you as a Phantom flies overhead toward the burning remains of a building at the other end of an artificial lake. This structure seems to loom large in your view despite the towering remains of the space elevator to the structure’s right. The Phantom joins another in circling the building. Whatever it was, the Covenant are taking an unusual interest in it, and the means you should too.
By now you’ve certainly noticed that your HUD has lit up blue: There’s a flashback item nearby. Specifically, it’s the near the edge of a destroyed bridge. It’s the remains of a remote-charge detonator.
The Rookie picks up and gives it a spin, and looks out over the lake…
ONI Alpha Site
It’s a dusty, gold-brown sunny day in New Mombasa, but the large amounts of smoke from the destroyed space elevator, and the mortar fire from the Wraiths, ensure it’s anything but pleasant.
Dutch: “Hurry up!”
Mickey “Look, if you wanna do this, be my guest, but this ain’t a job you wanna rush.”
Mickey finishes arming the detonator.
Dutch: “That do it?”
NMPD Officer: “Signal’s good! Arm the other detonators and fall back to me!”
Mickey: “Come on, tough guy, we gotta blow this bridge.”
For the second time the player assumes control of Corporal Taylor H. Miles, but the environment is not the (relatively) serene beach where the player was introduced to the character. Spiker and plasma fire heat the air overhead while Wraiths make noise from a distance. The Covenant are here en masse. Their numbers and weapons fire tell you one thing: Get the hell out of there.
But where are you? Due to the circumstances, it’s hard for the player to take in his or her surroundings. You’re in the same area where you left the Rookie, but you’re in the middle of it all. You’re on the bridge the Rookie was too late to see. At one end lies a small armada of Covenant wanting to tear you to pieces. On the other is a very ominous-looking and isolated building being defended by Marines and police officers. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out which way you wanna go.
Mickey: “Dutch! Arm the other charges!”
Mickey has placed charges on several of the support beams of the bridge. Do as he says and fall back to the human forces, specifically the watchtower near the building.
Dutch: “What about those Wraiths?”
Mickey: “Forget about ‘em! We got explosives to set.”
It’s not impossible to fight through all the Covenant advancing toward the building (see Voc’s “Holding the Line” video here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xlxn5nMSCoM&hd=1), but it’s much easier and satisfying – as everything is telling you – to blow up the bridge. Make your way past the numerous wreckages of Warthogs and tanks, and arm the last detonator. Along the way, two Banshees will join the fight. If you need any more pressure to get off that bridge and blow it up, I don’t know what it is.
Mickey: “That’s the last one, Dutch! Everyone, behind those barriers – bridge is set to blow!”
Make your way past one last wreckage of a tank and climb the ladder of the watchtower.
Mickey: “Watchtower, Dutch! Get up there and pull the trigger!”
NMPD Officer: “Come on, Super, unlock the keypad!”
Superintendent: “Keep it clean. Respect public property.”
NMPD Officer: “If you don’t let us trigger those charges, in about five minutes, your data center’s going to be crawling with Covenant!”
Now you’ve been given some story context and narrative motivation for the level. That AI, the Superintendent, that’s been helping you make your way around the city at night? The building behind you sits on top of his data center. It’s where he lives essentially. If the Covenant take that, they’ll have a much easier time taking the city.
(A sniper rifle lies next to the keyboard for you to make use of later on in the level.)
The Superintendent gives in to the officer’s demands with a ping.
NMPD Officer: “About damn time! Do it, trooper!”
Dutch pushes the button.
Superintendent: “Bridge toll accepted. Have a pleasant trip.”
Enjoy the view. The Covenant advancing toward your position are engulfed in a satisfying mixture of smoke and fire.
Mickey: “Woo-hoo! Yeah! That’s the way.”
You don’t get much time to relish in this small victory as you might have to deal with one or two Brutes that made it across the bridge in time. The Wraiths on the other side of the lake will continue to shell your position, but the Banshees will break off. Not only that:
Mickey: “Aw man, Covenant landing on the other side of the wall!”
You’ll notice the ONI symbol for the umpteenth time above where Mickey and the other Marines have gathered. Cresting the top of a small flight of stairs, you will see a sprawling uphill battle in front of the entrance to the building. It’s slightly reminiscent of the last battle of “Assault on the Control Room”: A long, grueling uphill fight with a major gameplay difference. This time you’re doing the defending. Barricades and various other UNSC fortifications cover most of the landscape. The patios are most noticeable – perfect for stationary turrets and as places to hold up and defend the facility against the Covenant from relatively safe positions.
A group of Covenant is already engaged with the Marines on the other side of the wall.
Mickey: “Go, Dutch! We gotta keep the Covenant away from that building.”
The major obstacle in this group of Covenant is the pair of Hunters. Luckily, Dutch never packs lightly, and this is the perfect time to make good use of your Spartan Laser. The Brutes and the Grunts comprising the rest of the group are distracted: They have to be focused on you and the Marines stationed farther up the hill. As a result the group is easier to handle than it otherwise would be.
Once you’re through with them and farther up the hill, two Phantoms enter the fray and drop off more troops. Both of them have a Wraith.
Female Marine: “All teams, hold the ridge. Don’t let them near the ONI building!”
Brute Captain: “We do the Prophet’s bidding. Show no fear!”
The Covenant want this building badly, and they have the force to prove it. The two Phantoms combined drop off more than two dozen Covenant (Brutes and Grunts mostly). All of them advance toward your position at the same time. In the face of the Covenant’s numbers you’re forced to retreat after a few selective engagements.
Female Marine: “Fall back! I repeat, fall back to the top of the ridge!”
Brute Captain: “Courage, warriors! Take this hill or die upon it!”
Watch your back as you make your way to the top of the hill. Once there you should use however many shots left in your Spartan Laser to take out those Wraiths if you haven’t already. Nothing to fear about missing a couple of shots because there is a fully loaded Spartan Laser in the middle patio.
Numerous turrets are scattered over the area and are excellent to help you hold back the Covenant horde. Should you choose to ignore the Wraiths, the barricades provide some decent cover as you focus on the ground troops.
Mickey: “More Phantoms, look sharp!”
No sooner you finish off, or at the very least beat back, the Covenant troops from the last two Phantoms, at least one more arrives to drop off more troops. This one, in addition to the more troops, carries a Brute Chieftain and another Wraith. Too much muscle for the UNSC troops on the ground. Once again you’re forced to retreat.
Female Marine: “We can’t hold ‘em! Everyone, fall back inside the building!”
Mickey: “Dutch, inside the building! NOW!”
Even if you can hold off the Covenant forces in front of the building, they still have another route through the landing pads in the back. Get inside. After the doors lock behind you, make your way past the broken monitors into the “pit” where all the police officers are. There, the mission comes across a snag:
Pete Stacker: “Hurry up, men, check those charges!”
Mickey: “Wait, what? More explosives?”
Dutch: “Yeah, what gives? I thought we were supposed to protect this building.”
Pete Stacker: “I have orders to deny enemy access to all classified data housed in this facility. If you don’t like it, you jump your butts back into orbit.”
Mickey: “The only thing I don’t like is that our butts are currently inside the facility.”
So this is where Pete Stacker (man of the same name who provides the voice talent for Captain Keyes) makes his appearance. Sergeant Stacker has been in every Halo game as an Easter egg (at least that’s what he’s become). The character is, as far as we can tell, not canonical as Stacker is supposed to be on Installation 05 during the events of ODST.
The pit contains some weapons, ammo (bullets for the sniper if you lugged it this far), and a turret.
It seems all but inevitable that the Covenant will take the building. The defense has been beaten down to two ODSTs and a handful of police officers. Blowing the building up will make it that much harder for the Covenant to get to the Superintendent’s data center. If the Covenant want it that badly they’ll have to dig through the rubble to get to it.
Meanwhile, the Covenant’s persistence is something to admire.
NMPD Officer: “They’re cuttin’ through the door!”
Pete Stacker: “Settle down, people. Find some cover. Someone man that turret.”
The Covenant successfully break through the doors and advance in waves. The police officers and Mickey will yell out the direction from which they’re coming to help you concentrate your fire. As Pete said, use the turret to help hold your ground. At first only left and only right, with Jackals and suicide Grunts, then finally the Covenant comes from both directions at the same time led by Brutes.
When you’ve successfully stopped the Covenant from advancing through the front of the building, you’re given a brief respite – the first of which since the level began. Having some time to think about it, “ONI Alpha Site” is unlike many other Halo levels in the urgency it conveys. There’s never a dull moment. Most Halo levels have you fighting an entrenched enemy, or defending a certain location, whereas “ONI” sees you doing the opposite: falling back. You’re fighting against a seemingly endless force.
There isn’t enough time to explore the surrounding area before more trouble arrives:
Pete Stacker: “Phantom dropping reinforcements! Cover your rear, trooper!”
A sole Phantom will use the landing pads at the back of the building to drop off more Grunts, Jackals, and Brutes. If you’re low on ammunition there’s always the Covenant weapons available from the previous engagement.
A word to the wise: The Covenant will not follow you into the pit. They’ll hang back and make you come to them. Barring some fancy footwork on your part, you’re going to have to fight your way around the support beams of the lobby. Engage selectively, and fall back to the pit whenever you need to regain health, and you’ll get through them.
There’s finally a lull in the combat; long enough to take in your surroundings. An excursion to one of the landing pads will reveal how close this building is to the space elevator. Miraculously no debris hit the ONI building, and the sense of scale the player gets from being so close to the elevator – and so much of its smoke obscuring a large portion of the sky – it’s hard not to feel small.
This outer area of the building seems to be some sort of grand lobby – or maybe a memorial, maybe both. The visual style is similar to Halo 2’s “Cairo Station,” sporting more metal than other interiors you’ve seen in the game. The building is very vertical with its support beams, elevators, and the dedications. There’s a wall between the two landing pads from which three dedications hang. Two of them, the far left and the far right, list the names of ONI officers who “gallantly gave their lives in the defense of the human race.” The one in the middle is the most interesting for fiction fans: Dedications to Preston J. Cole, Michael Stanforth, Catherine Halsey, and their accomplishments throughout their careers.
Keyes righted his chair and offered it to the Admiral. He sat down and leaned forward. “I wanted to congratulate you personally on the miracle you performed here, Keyes.”
“Sir, I don’t–” Stanforth held up a finger. “Don’t interrupt me, son. That was a helluva piece of astrogation you pulled off. People noticed. Not to mention the morale boost it’s given to the entire fleet.” He took another sip of the liquor and exhaled. “Now that’s the reason we’re all here. We need a victory. It’s been too damn long – us getting whittled to pieces by those alien bastards. So this has got to be a win. No matter what it takes.”
– Vice Admiral Michael Stanforth, The Fall of Reach
*Quotes from Halsey and Stanforth*
“They told me to fight, and that’s what I’ve done. Let historians sort through the wreckage, bodies, and broken lives to figure out the rest.”
– Admiral Preston J. Cole, “The Impossible Life and the Possible Death of Preston J. Cole”
Of course, Catherine Halsey is only officially dead…
Mickey: “That’s the last of ‘em, Dutch. Come to my position.”
Meet up with Mickey in the center of the facility, and by that time an elevator should have arrived with an officer. If you didn’t use it during the last fight, detach the turret and lug it inside the elevator with you.
NMPD Officer: “Everyone in the elevator. I put enough charges in this shaft to blow the building twice.”
Mickey: “All right, that’s it. Transfer the detonation codes to my COM. If anyone’s takin’ this place out, it’s gonna be me.”
Press the button to start the elevator.
NMPD Officer: “Evac bird’s gonna meet us on the roof.”
About a quarter of the way up you’ll hear a familiar buzzing sound. Not too long after you’ll be pestered by Drones.
Dutch: “Where the heck did these buggers come from?”
NMPD Officer: “Underground tunnels are filled with the damn things!”
Mickey: “Finally, a good reason to blow this building up!”
The turret dispenses this small swarm with ease. The buggers are fast, though, and their aim is nothing to sneeze at. They’ll get a couple of shots on you before you’re through with them, but there are two health packs in the elevator to make sure you survive. And surviving is all you need to do here, as the Drones will be forced to retreat because the elevator shaft closes up to only fit the elevator. Playing the game for the first time, the player won’t realize this brief elevator fight is foreshadowing a much larger fight with Drones later in the game, and how you’re actions in this level will wake the hive and cause more trouble for Dare.
Regrettably the landing pad at the top will not be a quick getaway. The Covenant is going to make one last attempt to thwart your escape. Brutes with jetpacks, Grunts, and Jackals will be there to meet you. There are two ways out onto the landing pad, but you can’t get a good glimpse of what you’re up against where the elevator is. It’s best to move the battle out to the landing pad and only retreat back to the elevator to let your stamina recharge.
Once you’re through with most of the Covenant, your evac Pelican will arrive to help clean up the stragglers. When all the Covenant are dead:
Mickey: “There’s our ride! Go, go, go!”
As it is near the end of the level, it’s easy to miss the view from the top of the ONI building. If you work your way towards the edge, you’ll be treated by quite the sight. Beyond the barrier that separate’s the lake, the ocean is littered with the destroyed rings of the space elevator.
Mickey and Dutch board the Pelican.
NMPD Officer: “Hey, you fellas know a Gunnery Sergeant Buck?”
Mickey: “Sure do!”
NMPD Officer: “Patching him through.”
Nearly three hours after the drop, the veteran ODSTs have finally made contact.
Buck: “Glad you boys are safe and sound.”
Dutch: “Likewise, Gunny. You need a pickup?”
Buck: “Long as you’re offerin’. We’re in the Police HQ.”
Dutch (to the officer): “Can you take us there?”
NMPD Officer: “Affirmative.”
Buck: “All right. Meet you up top.”
Mickey nudges Dutch in the side.
Mickey ticks off the seconds with his fingers. At zero, the ONI building explodes.
Mickey: “Haha. This day ain’t turnin’ out so bad after all.”
“ONI Alpha Site” was all but inevitable in one way. Dare, whom you got to know well enough in “Tayari Plaza,” is what soldiers in the UNSC like to call an “ONI spook” – an ONI officer in other words. It makes sense that a part of the game would involve ONI in some major way.
Dare hasn’t been seen in a while, and the story will return to her eventually, but the next level sees the veteran ODSTs finally reunite.