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Shield and Sword - The Howling Dark *Long, IMGs*
Posted By: Leviathan <>Date: 3/9/12 6:31 p.m.

Previous Post: The Menus of Halo 4

Part Two: The Campaign

Another Introduction

"Halo: Shield and Sword" is a title that I’ve given to my Halo 4 “What If?” project. For every coming Halo game, I’ve always imagined what the game could be like: the story, the characters, the environments, the set pieces – heck, even the musical themes, and written and sketched for months or years in the sidelines of my notebooks.

I thought I'd put a little more effort into it this time around, because, well... it's fun, and I've gotten the feeling you guys would like to see my doodles. [Excerpt from the last post]

This is nowhere near the ambition of A Fistful of Arrows, nor is it even a comic book, this is a sort of... design document-brainstorm. This is not what Halo 4 should be in reality, or some sort of political act to make 343i do something or another. This is just a record of daydreams, for fun.

Last time I imagined what the menus might be like. Now it’s time to think about the campaign, the real heart of this Shield and Sword project.

I was thinking that possibly Easy and Normal modes of difficulty would begin the game differently than Heroic and Legendary by showing a video of some sort recounting what had happened in the original trilogy’s story. It might be neat to see some sort of animation that synthesizes the visuals of all the different games into one singular narrative for new players.

But for Heroic and Legendary, there’s no time to waste! Let’s begin…

Mission One: The Howling Dark

(Click image for a 1920x1080 shot)


As the frost melts and Cortana appears clearly in view (just as you left her at the end of Halo 3), the player will realize he has direct control of the Master Chief. Although there will be a few cinematics to come, the game begins in first person with you in control.

Master Chief: “Cortana.”

The cryo pod’s hatch opens and you’re allowed to move forth into the small room, getting used to the movement controls and taking in your surroundings. It’s a small cryo bay, much smaller than say the Pillar of Autumn’s (where you began the last trilogy):

And since we’ve seen a version from the Halo 4 announcement trailer… odds are it will probably look something like this below. Clever deduction, I know. :)

Everything looks similar… but metal casings and panels have been scavenged and computer consoles lobotomized. As you start to wonder about it yourself, the Master Chief begins to question Cortana (which is something new for this game – the Chief can talk while you’re still playing, but only when it’s needed for the plot, not as a traditional Firefight voice).

Master Chief: “How long has it been?”

Cortana: “Three years since I last woke you for a check up, six years since the Ark.”

Master Chief: “Why now?”

Cortana: “Because something’s coming John. But you need to be ready first. I’ve got some adjustments to make to your armor if you’ll follow me.”

Cortana’s hologram disappears from the central console and overhead lights shift blue, leading you out of the hold.

(Note: These are just some quick thoughts on the dialogue of the game, to make sense of all these designs and sketches – the final game would have much more polished and abundant dialogue.)

(Click image for 1920x1080)

The ship is in disarray. As Cortana tells you, she’s been doing everything she can to keep this ship together and powered all this time.

“I made robotics from the garage my hands, and rebuilt this ship from the inside to keep it running, slow as we may be without an operable slipspace drive.”

You enter a main corridor, running along the spine of the ship. If you head right, towards the bow of the ship, you’ll run into a wall that’s been grafted together with various metal panels.

(Click image for 1920x1080)

“It’s where the Portal tore us in two. You and me with the engines, the Arbiter with the bridge and MAC gun. I’ve had to scavenge pieces from all over the ship to seal off the gaps and maintain cabin pressure. You may not believe it, but this is actually one of the prettier parts of the ship.”

Here’s a sort of cross-section / color study of a typical corridor onboard the ship:

(Click image for 1920x1080)

Following the blue lights I mentioned before will lead you to a familiar set up…

“The Armory. Now, if you’ll follow me to the back, those robots I spoke of are waiting for you.”

Three or four mechanical arms surround a small makeshift podium on the floor. Cortana’s hologram is displayed from a computer nearby.

“Please stand in the middle, John.”

And the first cinematic begins...

(Click image for 1920x1080)

The camera slowly spins around the Master Chief as the robots pull off, weld on, and rewire his armor. His helmet is removed too, but the lighting does not allow you to see the details of his face, though his fair hair is revealed.

Cortana: “I’ve had a lot of time on my hands while you were napping, and I’ve made quite a few pet projects with these little toys.”

Master Chief: “What have you got me?”

Cortana: “What were just prototypes when we were last in contact with the UNSC: MJOLNIR thruster pack, enhanced armor lock harness, shield amplifiers…”

Here’s a stab of what I might make the armor look like if I were designing Halo 4. It would be beat up and scarred. It would be the classic Mark VI, held together by nuts and bolts.

(Click image for large size)

I’ll likely try out more designs in later levels. But back to the cutscene…

Master Chief (hesitantly): “Cortana, all this time… I thought smart A.I.s only lived-“

Cortana: “Heh, you think I’m just an average smart A.I., John? I’ve seen through the eyes of the Forerunner and Flood. I’m not average.”

Master Chief (his helmet now on, we see him looking directly at Cortana): “No, you’re not.”

Cortana (her head cocked to the side, with a smile): “It’s good to see you again, John. But I’m afraid we don’t have much time to chat. We’re almost there.”

Spartan 117 picks up a modified assault rifle from a nearby rack and nods at the hologram before she powers down and transfers herself to a data chip.

Master Chief: “I’ve got what I need.”

/End Cinematic.

Cortana (now inside your head): I’ve also spent my time customizing the weapons onboard, fine-tuning them and discovering new ways to make them more efficient and more effective.

You can now pick up the weapons in the armory. Pistols, battle rifles, and SMGs are at your disposal, if you want to switch from the AR.

Cortana: “When you’re ready, head to the Captain’s Quarters, across the hall, through the maintenance corridor.”

Through the claustrophobic maintenance corridor, full of hanging cables and pipes winding this way and that, you find yourself in another larger corridor. The Captain’s Quarters is nearby with signage and blue lights pointing it out.

An automated “Welcome, Commander Keyes” plays from a speaker upon entering. A poignant reminder of the past…

And now the future: a wall slides open on the far side of the room, revealing a porthole.

(Click image for 1920x1080)

Cortana: “A Forerunner Shield World. The Halos were just one part of the plan. The Forerunners also created places like these, bomb shelters if you will, for the species of the galaxies to flee to, to withstand the firing of the rings.”

Master Chief: “Why would the portal lead us here?”

Cortana: “A good question... I can only surmise that the portals were part of a network, and with the right keyship like Truth had, you could open one route of this network. When the Ark was destroyed, the slipspace transition was destabilized, and we were shunted to the nearest exit on this network.

“Of course, not too close. We drifted for six years remember? I brought us the rest of the way, navigating us to the nearest signals of life.

“Speaking of which… we need to get ready for the welcoming party. They’re almost here”

Master Chief: “I am - or humans are… Reclaimers. We won’t be getting a warm welcome?”

Cortana: “Yes, the last Forerunner construct we knew was always so friendly, wasn’t he? I could be wrong, but there seems to be far too many signals coming our way, small, large… and massive, for a simple ‘hello’.

“If it comes to it, the best place to defend ourselves is from Forward Unto Dawn’s main hangar, at the lowest level of the ship. I’ve got some heavy firepower ready for you there.”

Master Chief: “Lead on.”

Cortana’s blue lights lead out of the Captain’s Quarters and back into the corridor, towards the bow of the ship…

(Click image for a 1920x1080 shot)

“Quarantine Skies”

Cortana: "On second thought, let’s not go that way."

A door closes between you and the ‘dissection’, before all cabin pressure is lost.

And that other way down the corridor? Our good old friends, the Forerunner Sentinels. But these guys are bit more swift than our old hovering wrenches. They glide with more precision, and halt far less than before. They’re always on the move, and their weapons swivel to attack as they fly by.

Cortana: “I’ll reroute you through the lower decks, to the cargo elevator that leads to the hangar.”

Making your way aft, past the Sentinels’ wreckage, there’s a maintenance stairwell off the main corridor that will lead you to a lower deck of the ship. Here you’ll pass through a HEV room as seen in Halo 2, and possibly through a mess hall and other common staples of a ship of this size.

Sentinels are invading the ship, inspecting and cleansing it of any possible infection. Perhaps they seem a little overzealous? Also, maybe we’ll see some variations of the Sentinels, or Sentinels that can transform and combine together, as seen in the novel Ghosts of Onyx. I might sketch out these ideas in later levels.

Warming up your skills battling all these Sentinels along the way, you’ll eventually reach the cargo elevator that ferries vehicles and equipment between the forward hangars found on the port and starboard sides of the hull and the main hangar located at the base of the ship. Upon activating a panel, the elevator slides diagonally downward towards that main hangar, a place you might remember landing a Warthog in during the climax of Halo 3.

Sorry, it’s really hard to get a shot of this area without lots of things flying in to and out of it…

Besides a few customized Warthogs and Scorpions on either side, the hangar is empty. The aft doors remain open as they were in Halo 3, bathing the hangar in a bright light reaching out from the Shield World, giving you another great look at the mess you’re getting into.

(Click image for 1920x1080 - This image may seem similar to you, this was my original intent with a piece I posted here on the forums months ago, “In The Wake.”)

You can just see the opening of a circular maw, the place that your ship is being escorted to. Escorted by whom or what? You can see out in the void large, angled shapes… Are these massive machines what have been dissecting your ship, making it ready for ‘quarantine’?

You won’t have much time to enjoy the view and ponder these questions though, as the Sentinels are stepping up the procedures the closer you get to the planet.

And that means more of those red beams that have been tearing apart the Forward Unto Dawn breach the hangar behind you, causing massive damage to the ceiling, letting you see up through multiple decks and into the void above.

Cortana: “Don’t worry, I’ve magnetized the floor. Though we’re losing cabin pressure, we still have some ground to fight on.”

(Click image for 1920x1080)

Forerunner Enforcers (last seen in Halo 2) float down through the rift in the hull. You can fight this old friend a number of ways: sheer firepower, getting close and boarding, or hopping onto one of the turrets of the Scorpions or Warthogs bolted down to the floor and blowing it out the sky.

After defeating the last enemy, a loud rumble is heard and the screen goes white as a cinematic loads…

The ship is literally being torn asunder now. Those massive machines you saw outside - Forerunner Inspectors- are splitting what remains of the ship down the spine.

They’re also coming close enough for you to really understand their epic size. But it’s not too big that it can’t eventually become a playable element of the game, filling the space of a Scarab for example.

Here are some early designs of the Inspectors:

(Click image for a larger size)

And here’s a more final design I was pretty happy with:

(Click image for a larger size)

Through the chaos you are thrown into the vacuum, towards the great white light coming from the maw that empties into the depths of the Shield World.

Cortana: “I’m not sure if these thruster packs are ready for this, but we need to get out of here, now!”

Enter your first taste of zero-g gameplay:

(Click image for 1920x1080)

With the thruster packs activated in zero-g, you get to experience a semblance of Sabre-like gameplay, except without a fancy ship and in first-person.

Flotsam and Jetsam from the Forward Unto Dawn populate this three-dimensional playspace, a long with a host of hostile Sentinels and Enforcers.

Below you lay the docking tunnel that is used to enter the Shield World. But there are quarantine protocols that keep unwanted guests from coming in. If you get too low, you’ll run into an energy field that will kill you (maybe it’s the same type of energy that the Halo Array uses when activated).

Up above, you get another natural barrier: Forerunner Inspectors are still dissecting what’s left of your ship. Get too close to them and they’ll burn you out of the sky…er… space.

As Cortana will inform you, there’s a corridor that runs along the side of the docking tunnel, used to receive disembarking passengers feeling into the Shield World. It might be easier for her to ‘hack’ her way into that, instead of trying to get past the energy barriers below you.

Breaking through the ranks of the Sentinels and reaching this waypoint will trigger another cutscene, which allows the next large area to load. In this cinematic, perhaps Master Chief reaches a docking umbilical and lets Cortana enter the Forerunner network to unlock the way in.

(Click image for 1920x1080)

”Through the Wardrobe”

You regain control in what seems like an infinite hallway. It’s a sterile, metallic corridor, built like it was carved out of stone. It should be a dramatic change from the cramped, cluttered spaces of the human frigate, and hearken back to the surreal styles found in the original Halo: Combat Evolved.

To your left, windows allow you view out into the docking tunnel. Inspectors are continuing to escort the pieces of your cleansed ship into the interior of the Shield World.

But in front you, down the hallway is something curious. A humanoid shape, silhouetted in bright light. But as you draw closer, the father it seems to get, and at the end of the hallway, there’s no one to be found…

Cortana: “They’ve locked down most of the reception area. I’m not sure I can get through before more hostiles show up. But there’s always another way…”

Taking a detour, Cortana will lead you through tunnels used by the Sentinels to navigate the area. It should remind you of the creepy tunnels you fall and slide through in the level Sacred Icon from Halo 2. I always loved those designs…

You’ll start to encounter enemies now, but through these out-of-the-way tunnels, you’ll reach a very large room. So large in fact, it feels like you’re outside.

(Click image for 1920x1080)

It’s a reception area, an entrance for those on foot heading into the Shield World for safety. It’s also a place of artistic design, meant to calm those that are afraid and hysterical. Nature and machine are one here, with both reaching their fingers towards each other.

Of course, you’re the Master Chief, and you don’t seem to get that kind of welcome very often. You’ll have to face another Enforcer now, and they are much more powerful and intelligent than the foes you remember from Halo 2. You also don’t have any vehicles to aid you in firepower, but you do have an open area with a number of trees to act as cover.

This Enforcer acts as sort of a ‘boss’ for this level. Upon defeating him, Cortana is able to unlock the main door leading into the Shield World’s interior.

And of course… it’s a really big, crazy door. Got to love the Forerunner’s style.

And that’s the end of the level, “The Howling Dark.”

Next time I’ll take a look at “Shield World” and start to introduce new enemies and weapons, and bring back some classic vehicles. As well, we start to unravel the mystery of why these Forerunner machines want the Master Chief ‘cleansed’. It’s not what you expect. :)

(Special thanks to Stephen Loftus for providing some excellent reference materials. Also, all the screenshots from Halo 1 and Halo 2 were taken originally from his articles. Screenshot from Halo 4 trailer was taken from PostMortem's blog.)


Message Index


Shield and Sword - The Howling Dark *Long, IMGs*Leviathan 3/9/12 6:31 p.m.
     *Jaw drops* *NM*Daedalos42 3/9/12 6:37 p.m.
           Let's not do thisJDQuackers 3/9/12 8:02 p.m.
     Leviathan, you genius! *NM*BWO Lone Wolf 3/9/12 6:41 p.m.
     Spectacular as usual, Levi. *NM*ElzarTheBam 3/9/12 6:45 p.m.
     Wonga. *NM*Louis Wu 3/9/12 6:51 p.m.
     I have to ask...Mid7night 3/9/12 7:00 p.m.
           Re: I have to ask...Leviathan 3/9/12 11:06 p.m.
     Cue Applause *NM*Phoenix_9286 3/9/12 7:06 p.m.
     halo4_leaked_concept_art.jpgkanbo 3/9/12 7:11 p.m.
           Re: halo4_leaked_concept_art.jpgLeviathan 3/9/12 11:14 p.m.
                 Key word being "try"The Lionheart 3/10/12 1:08 a.m.
           I called itGeneral Vagueness 3/16/12 12:40 a.m.
                 oh, and I really like this part of the projectGeneral Vagueness 3/16/12 12:45 a.m.
                 Not what I said...Mid7night 3/16/12 9:28 a.m.
                       Re: Not what I said...General Vagueness 3/16/12 7:52 p.m.
     Nice work, thanks *NM*RVideo 3/9/12 7:15 p.m.
     Re: Shield and Sword - The Howling Dark *Long, IMGKermit 3/9/12 7:30 p.m.
           Re: Shield and Sword - The Howling Dark *Long, IMGLeviathan 3/9/12 11:12 p.m.
                 Re: Shield and Sword - The Howling Dark *Long, IMGCaneCutter 3/10/12 9:41 a.m.
     343, hire this manmattroe 3/9/12 9:01 p.m.
           Agreed *NM*BWO Lone Wolf 3/10/12 1:25 p.m.
     Submitting this to CWF under the Win category *NM*The Lionheart 3/10/12 1:05 a.m.
           ... Canadian... Wildlife Federation? *NM*Leviathan 3/10/12 1:46 a.m.
                 CUTE! WIN! FAIL!The Lionheart 3/10/12 11:07 a.m.
     Re: Shield and Sword - The Howling Dark *Long, IMGSEspider 3/10/12 3:41 a.m.
     Re: Shield and Sword - The Howling Dark *Long, IMGBeckx 3/10/12 9:34 a.m.
           Re: Shield and Sword - The Howling Dark *Long, IMGLeviathan 3/10/12 11:47 a.m.
                 Re: Shield and Sword - The Howling Dark *Long, IMGKermit 3/10/12 12:02 p.m.
                 Re: Shield and Sword - The Howling Dark *Long, IMGPyroSporker16 3/11/12 1:18 p.m.
     Re: Shield and Sword - The Howling Dark *Long, IMGSonofMacPhisto 3/10/12 9:40 a.m.
     Wowie Wowsers.padraig08 3/11/12 3:43 a.m.
           Re: Wowie Wowsers.Leviathan 3/11/12 3:53 a.m.
                 Re: Wowie Wowsers.Kermit 3/11/12 10:13 a.m.
                       He got it.padraig08 3/11/12 4:08 p.m.
     Re: Shield and Sword - The Howling Dark *Long, IMGZeouterlimits 3/11/12 11:12 a.m.
     Re: Shield and Sword - The Howling Dark *Long, IMGNikko B201 3/17/12 6:16 p.m.
           Re: Shield and Sword - The Howling Dark *Long, IMGLeviathan 3/17/12 11:19 p.m.
                 Re: Shield and Sword - The Howling Dark *Long, IMGNikko B201 3/18/12 5:13 p.m.
                       Re: Shield and Sword - The Howling Dark *Long, IMGNikko B201 3/18/12 6:05 p.m.
                             *Edit*Nikko B201 3/20/12 6:13 a.m.

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