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Although they aren't, technically speaking, Halo story canon, the thematic and verbal similarities between the recent Halo 3 trailer and the Cortana Letters from 1999 have resparked interest in the latter; TraxusIV has embarked on an ongoing series of analytical articles that look at those themes and put the Letters into the greater context of the Bungieverse, past and present. The newest article looks at the second letter.

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Tuncer Deniz at Inside Mac Games has put up Part 1 of a series on his experiences at Bungie. Above all, he talks about how Bungie was always trying to do things differently:

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IGN has a nice five-page piece about the interplay between science fiction and fantasy literature and video games. Halo gets a couple of mentions, not surprisingly, most of which fall on page five:

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Bronzite created a 4-page PDF document speculating on the positions of the various Halo installations and how the system might be laid out. Very slick, very professional, and certainly worth a download and a read. Bronzite says:

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[image:10167 left hspace=5 vspace=5 border=0] In the spirit of leaving no trailer unexamined, I've put together an annotated description of the images and events of the Halo 3 Announcement Trailer, as well as adding a half-dozen or so new screencaptures from the trailer to illustrate particular points. As usual this is added to our Halo 3 Articles section.

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Below is a detailed description of the images, dialogue, soundtrack and events of the Halo 3 Announcement Trailer, shown first at E3 in May 2006.

00:00 Black screen.

00:01 White screen. A piano chord is struck that slowly fades.

00:05 From right to left, a scene "washes in" of an arid African plain. We hear wind and the sound of slowly beating bass drums.

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In addition to the annotated version of Bungie.net's own Halo 3 FAQ, posted at the same time as the announcement release and the trailer, we've now started a separate Rampancy.net Halo 3 FAQ. If you have a question to suggest, please add a comment! Both FAQs are on the Halo 3 Articles page.

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Rampancy.net Halo 3 FAQ

Q: What is Halo 3?

A: Bungie.net's About Halo 3 page says this:

Halo 3 is the third game in the Halo Trilogy and will provide the thrilling conclusion to the events begun in Halo: Combat Evolved. Halo 3 was first revealed at the Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles on May 6th, 2006. Halo 3 will be available for Xbox 360 in 2007.

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After I completed my last Banshee piece (the narrated video), I felt that I was done with this series. I’d said most of what I had to say, and moreover, it was coming up to the point that I was ready to quit Halo PC in general. I had never wanted to “overstay my welcome” and linger past my prime, growing steadily less effective as a wave of new players continually reminded me of what I no longer could do.

I did in fact make an official “retirement” from the game. However, more than a year later, I found myself still picking the game up from time to time, and recently I’ve been playing regularly again. No matter how poor this game may be, I cannot help but love the Banshee. So here I am, with one final article, on a few last points regarding what I have always called the most critical skills of the capable Banshee pilot: positioning, angles, and fundamentals.

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The Escapist has the third part in a series by Warren Spector of Deus Ex fame, currently heading up Junction Point Studios. It's not about any specific title, but about trends in the gaming industry; specifically increasing costs. Near the end, there's a bit about Wideload Games:

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Rockslider has put up another piece on Halo 1; this one covers how to lure Banshees into areas they don't normally belong, and the strange behavior they exhibit once they get there. This piece covers level 2, "Halo".

Quite what the explanation for the weird behaviour is, I don't know. I find the grenade chasing business especially baffling. What on earth is there in the game programming that makes them so interested in grenades in these areas, yet not in the valley? Is it actually some sort of 'Easter egg' somebody sneaked in? Seems doubtful; I'm guessing it's some unintended consequence of the Banshee being in an environment that wasn't planned for. If anyone reading this can shed some light on these behaviours or has a theory, I'd be happy to hear about it!

Having just played the first few levels of the original game this weekend, I also noticed some of the same Banshee behavior, as well as some other, related non-Banshee behavior.

I have a feeling that the scripting for Banshee pilots (or perhaps any AI unit using a vehicle like a Banshee, Wraith, or Shade turret) is "overlaid" on top of that unit's basic AI routines. So the normal Banshee behaviors we're used to seeing, such as the dive-bombing and so on, only exists in environmental areas where Bungie expected Banshees to be, and often times wrote specific scripts for specific areas.

Click 'read more' from the front page for the entire article.

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WARNING: This article contains spoilers not only for the Halo games but also the Half-Life games, so beware!

I'm not writing about Halo 3 this week.

Really, I'm not. Instead, I'm taking a side-by-side look at two of the biggest FPS games today: Halo and Half-Life.

Before anyone had ever heard of Halo, I was already cursing the luck that put all the games I wanted to play onto hardware I didn't own: namely, the PC of a good friend, where I got to see the original Half-Life and play a bit of it. I was immediately reminded of the first Unreal game as well as Marathon. It seemed to be a game that, while it was a first-person shooter, was unlike most of the games in that genre that were popular at the time: twitch games where character and story took a back seat to action and colored lighting.

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They say every journey begins with a single step. That's true of the journey that Bungie began when it started the development of Halo; likewise the process of creating Halo 2 and... whatever game they're working on now. Assuming it's a game. Which may be a lot to assume, under the present circumstances.

It's just as true for the player and the Arbiter as they begin the last level of Halo 2, The Great Journey.

It's also an important step in Halo 2's narrative. The Arbiter, as a player-controlled character, is distinct from the Master Chief in one very important way: his knowledge and beliefs are not necessarily in sync with the player's.

In Halo 1, information was revealed to the player and to the Master Chief character more or less simultaneously; hence one of the reasons for keeping the existence of the Flood a secret prior to the game's release. In most cases, even if you were given a choice, the player would probably choose the same course of action that the Chief does, given the same information.

That isn't true of the Arbiter. Since his confrontation with the Heretic, he's heard things about the Great Journey that directly conflict with his most deeply-held beliefs, and those of his culture. We don't know what he actually believes at that point. We do know that the player already knows what Halo was designed to do, and once it's revealed that the Prophets are trying to activate the Halo rings, there's a strong suspicion that the Covenant don't know what they're in for. Still, there's no choice; you can't leave the Heretic alive and join forces with him, because he's only going to try and kill you, even though I would have liked to have tried that and see where the game went from there.

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Same Flood-time, same Flood-channel, Flood-fans.

Oh, you aren't a Flood fan?

Oh.

If you're not really into the idea of dark, smoky environments where you can't see where you're going or what's attacking you, if the idea of shambling, moaning, drooling Flood zombies doesn't really do it for you, if the flashlight isn't your favorite button, then arguably this level isn't going to be among your favorites.

Sadly, despite significant changes, Halo 2's Flood aren't that much more fun to fight against than they were in Halo 1. Unlike Arbiter and Oracle, which were fairly well-lit until the very end, High Charity is dark-- darker even than the darker portions of Quarantine Zone, another area where I was tempted to change my monitor settings to gain an advantage.

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I've always thought that someone or someones at Bungie had a serious penchant for parallel constructions. Where many other reviewers looked at the reuse of level geometry in Halo 1, I saw narrative purpose. The idea of a journey out from the Pillar of Autumn and then returning there was reinforced by the territories that were crossed twice. Each of the repeated levels undergoes major changes in its repetition.

The spic-and-span Truth & Reconciliation environment in the Covenant cruiser finds its mirror opposite in the leaking, burning, Flood-infested wreckage from which you retrieve Captain Keyes' neural implants. The bright and brisk snowscapes of Assault on the Control Room over which you glide in Warthogs, Scorpions and Banshees along with your marine support troops as you mow down everything the Covenant can throw at you is mirrored perfectly by the dark and bitter cold of Two Betrayals, as you slog through pitched battles between Flood, Covenant and Sentinels without any of your compatriots for assistance. If you thought that the Pillar of Autumn was a bit beat-up when the Covenant blew it out of the sky over Halo, that's nothing compared to what happened when Guilty Spark made it the site of his last effort to stop you from preventing the installation from being activated, while the Flood try to repair the ship to use it to escape and the Covenant try and stop them.

So it is no surprise to me that I see similar patterns at work in Halo 2. Once the Arbiter is introduced, he and the Master Chief alternate starring in levels, first two by two and then one by one. Some of the environments also follow a pattern. The Chief defends a space station, the Arbiter attacks one. Some of the Arbiter levels hark back to levels in Halo 1 that had no parallel there. Quarantine Zone is a good dark parallel for Two Betrayals or Assault on the Control Room, as an outdoor snow level with vehicular combat near an important installation-- in this case, Delta Halo's library. Sacred Icon itself is an improved Library, as a better-lit labyrinth, arranged vertically instead of horizontally.

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