And it is good. Bullets striking the scattering Covenant cause the aliens to jerk as splats of blood mark the impact. I won't know for sure until I've checked again, but I'd swear old style Covenant soldiers make an appearance here, possibly in the role of pilots by the way they rush to their vehicles while the others return fire.
As one BOB shouts for his partner to pull back, we are treated to two things. First, the violent death of the slow BOB, who is suddenly prickled with arrow-like objects. Crumpling, the darts still sticking from him where they impacted, he goes down, and the darts seem to disintegrate explosively, leaving only a corpse. No silly GI Joe shoot 'em ups here--these guys are dying. Of course, the second thing is the Covenant heavy tank coming into play. Turning towards the remaining BOB, it responds to his ineffective assault rifle fire (which is deflected harmlessly by the vehicle's glacius armor) with a tremendous Covenant style energy blast. The tank was referred to by Joe as a mortar tank, and the description fits, for the energy bolt seems to arc downward like a physical object as the BOB evades and retreats over the hill.
Here's where the teamwork really comes into play. Pursuing the BOB, the tank crests the hill and suddenly finds itself looking down the barrel of the jeep's mounted missile launcher. After two solid hits, it goes up in grand style, spewing dirty black smoke into the air in a dense column. The effect is just awesome--it has to be seen to be believed. While this is occuring, the BOBs on foot arrive and catch the remaining Covenant in a cross fire. The result is terribly effective, and the aliens jerk and fall as bullets catch them from multiple sides.
At this point, a team of three BOBs head into the now secured building. Coincidentally, the thoughts Halflife, eat your heart out were running through my mind as the trio jogged through the dim corridors. The BOB corresponding to Bungie's Shikai Wang wonders aloud why the doors are unlocked and the corridors are empty. This is, of course, signing his own death warrant, but in the meantime we watch as the BOBs pass through smoothly animated (and exotic) doors and cast light over pitch black corridors with their flash lights. Deeper they travel into the structure, passing through the wide, vertical tunnel seen in the first green marine screenshot. Pausing at an intersection, the appear uncertain where to go next.
This, of course, is where one of the nasty looking new Covenant appears behind Wang's BOB and transfixes him with an energy blade. It's quite the scene, the BOB being lifted into the air by the longer than previously seen blade, and a cloud of steam following it out when the Covenant withdraws it and generates a large, diamond shaped energy shield from his left forearm to deflect the fire of the remaining BOBs. More hypothesis on that shield later, but as other, normal Covenant appeared in the corridor to open fire on the BOBs, I wondered if we weren't looking at two classes of Covenant, one that uses primarily the melee energy blade and shield, and another more standard class.
The retreat back up the cavernous vertical tunnel is a vicious firefight, and includes a scene in which one BOB is quite thoroughly killed and crumbles on the edge of a ledge, only to fall off of it instead of just becoming a static corpse, half on the ground, half over the void. The BOBs take a few hits each, suggesting that the damage model either isn't complete or simply doesn't consider injuries yet. It's still damned impressive, though.
From the radio transmissions, we discern that the BOBs outside are also under attack. One, running in to help the remaining BOB running from the Covenant inside, learns an important lesson that appears to be the moral of this story: don't turn your back on a live Covenant! Suffice it to say that he dies in short order and with a thoroughly believable death sequence. Great stuff.
Outside, a wounded BOB greets his comrade as he emerges from the structure. Urging him to go on while he covers his escape, he sets his sights on the door while the other BOB hijacks a Ghost hovercycle and speeds off. The first Covenant to exit, a curiously red one, takes a few hits but ignores the BOB, setting of in pursuit of the fleeing BOB. The other Covenant then emerge and finish off the remaining BOBs.
Well, almost. Brandishing what appears to be an explosive reminiscent of a Star Wars thermal detonator, the last BOB (who shares the face, name, and beard of Bungie's Robt McLees) makes his intentions to the Covenant clear. We're treated with a gaping jawed look of surprise from the closest Covenant (and it turns out their lower jaws open down and then out, almost like an insect's mandibles) before the device is triggered, and the remaining Covenant and vehicles go up in an even more impressive explosion than the tank's death, complete with secondary explosions and burning debris. Again, the smoke effects are superb--if the billowing plumes are actually done with particles, it's very hard to see them.
Further away, the chase for the remaining BOB has been joined by the two flyers seen earlier, who rake the ground with fast firing lasers similar to those mounted on the Ghosts. The BOB takes a few hits, and bails as his vehicle explodes. Laying on the ground as the red Covenant flies up and dismounts the hovercycle (which floats to the ground and skids to a stop), he tries his rifle but only gets the click of an empty clip (gotta love it).
Looking down at the BOB, the Covenant surprises us with throaty, gurgling english. The line, if my memory serves me correctly, is right out of the zealot's handbook: It is God's will that you be exterminated. We are His intruments. The BOB, whom I believe shares faces with Bungie's Jason Jones, counters with one from the bad ass handbook: go to Hell!
And in true dramatic fashion, just as the Covenant is about to execute the BOB (and strangely, you don't feel elated by this as you might in Marathon), there are explosions in the distance. The urge to cheer is definitely there when the marine, brandishing a Covenant energy blade, appears at the top of the hill and looks down on the scene for a moment. He charges, the Covenant fires, and what is apparently a shield can be seen around the marine as he takes the hits and barrels forward (apparently, those little lights on the armor are in fact parts of this shield system that Marathon fans will immediately recognize). One wonders if the Covenant energy shield isn't an analogue for this defensive mechanism. Either way, the marine isn't stopped, the Covenant is soon skewered, and the day is saved.
An unstoppable marine with Marathon-esque shields would have been enough. But no, Bungie had to push it over the top. As the dropship appears to extract the two, the BOB can be heard saying something like the following: Cortana said there was one of you on board, but we never believed her. The coup de grace. The marine, who apparently elects not to depart on the dropship, explains that his fight is just beginning. We're not sure if it's a suit issue, but his voice seemed rather monotone and synthetic, leaving you to wonder exactly what is behind that visor.
Though, I imagine it's much more fun not knowing.
Originally posted May 12, 2000