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PF Volunteers - Alpha
Posted By: Steve LevinsonDate: 6/24/04 8:40 a.m.

Just a warning - this is a Volunteers Series post. There are major spoilers here, so don't read this if you haven't played this level yet. If you wish to participate, please play the level first. As with RED, we'll be including a brief walk-through of each level, as there is no spoiler guide as of yet.

The first level in Phoenix Falling is very reminiscent of Arrival in Marathon. It shares much of the same feel - the rapid encounter with never-seen-before aliens, the sense of foreboding, the environment, the layout, the mazes and so on. I dare say, however, that the alien count in Alpha is much higher than in Arrival, but the lighting is much brighter, too. The player starts out inside the docking bay with their shuttle craft in plain sight. It is the same object as the one in the original Marathon. As soon as the player moves, they are beset by fighters. The colors are different than what we're used to - the ordinary fighters are light blue and the projectile fighters are grey, and they sport bright orange rather than blue crystals on their staffs. Because the docking bay is relatively open, it's fairly easy to take them out compared to the tight corridors in Arrival, but there's still enough of a challenge playing this on TC if you so choose. Leaving the docking bay, the player immediately comes to a terminal with garbled text - some binary, some Hex and some totally meaningless. Among this is the easily overlooked message:


$BEmergency System Broadcast$b
This is not a test, proceed t5 696E650DCf5000130..% jk6002923F34892W298ERT../
Com01010$BCIOHC011010127654..mark6510>> here

Accompanying this is a map of a place the player will encounter later. This is the only message the player will see until the end of the level - there are no helpful messages from a nice AI to tell you what's going on or to help you find your way.

Your next stop - the only place you can go at this point - is a corridor with a small room with a pattern buffer and a "greeter". Off this is a maze that contains a 1X shield recharger, some ammo and some "friends". Continuing, the player passes through a door to another fighter ambush. After killing everyone the player can proceed down this corridor and up a flight of stairs to the level where all the fighters were. There is a trick here - the player must physically jump across the corridor from which they came to proceed, just as they did in Marathon's Arrival. There is another ambush and some more stairs that will take the player to the ledges that overlook the docking bay and, ultimately, to a switch that opens a door back near the beginning of the level. This leads to a large open area with some fresh reinforcements and a platform that will let us jump to the place we were told to go in the first terminal. There is another terminal here that contains what would appear to be a lot of gibberish and some diagnostics. There is one very interesting line here, however, that could easily be missed:


Carbon-based organisms matching main computer records present. Continue to alert Artificial Intelligence 0721 and proceed with 010100111FK.

What, carbon-based organisms matching computer records? Is that referring to us - but we weren't exactly expected, were we? But who else could they be referring to except . . . and alert the AI? Do you have a sense of déjà vu?

A few additional comments. Although there is a sense of foreboding, Alpha doesn't have quite the feel of doom that permeates Arrival. Matt and Andrew have done a commendable job, but the level could be vastly improved with some simple variations of lighting, more use of differential shading and with some subtle flickering lights. When they do use flickering lights later in the scenario as we'll discuss when we go through those levels, it tends to be overdone. Bungie gut it just right - it would be worth it for the authors to replay M1 and apply some of those techniques here. Still, this is a very nice start to a great scenario. Another issue is that I failed to find any secrets here. In fact, I only found 3 true secrets in the entire scenario. I'm sure I probably missed quite a few, but I'm pretty good at finding them and it's secrets that make exploration so much fun. In all three games, Bungie included secrets in the very first level - fairly substantial ones. This is something the authors should also consider as they polish the scenario for a future final release.

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Replies:

PF Volunteers - AlphaSteve Levinson 6/24/04 8:40 a.m.
     Re: PF Volunteers - AlphaDr. John Sumner 6/24/04 10:49 a.m.
           Re: PF Volunteers - AlphaDr. John Sumner 6/24/04 11:46 a.m.
                 Re: PF Volunteers - AlphaSteve Levinson 6/24/04 12:43 p.m.
                       Re: PF Volunteers - AlphaDr. John Sumner 6/24/04 4:15 p.m.
                             Re: PF Volunteers - AlphaMista_B 6/24/04 6:31 p.m.
                                   Re: PF Volunteers - AlphaJason Harper 6/25/04 2:12 a.m.
                                         Re: PF Volunteers - Alphamattschenk 6/30/04 3:32 p.m.

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