Descent from the ship

Posted May 7th 2020

Associated movies

  • BCM425 - Heroic; Descent from the ship (8:22)

Right at the start of the level, you can peer down from the ship to inspect the rocky ground below. It's quite a distance and you could be forgiven for assuming that it's out of reach - an assumption which may well have been backed up by repeatedly dying if you did try to jump down. But it actually is possible to descend, to do a spot of exploration and playing around. Or at least, it's certainly possible on PAL Xbox; I currently don't know about NTSC/PC.

Edging off and about to drift

To make it down you need to get cushioned on a bit of sloping surface somewhere. There are various possibilities, but when I came to covering the topic in BCM425 I found an easy and highly reliable way as follows.

Easy method

At the start, you're in an opening. Facing outwards, move to the right hand side of it. Rotate a quarter turn to face that side - or rotate a bit more if you like - and edge off so you start falling almost vertically. Then drift towards the inner corner of the ship, which is in shadow. That should take you down onto a large bit of slope which cushions you very well (you don't need to crouch-land), deflecting you down into a path-like channel which leads to the main expanse.

Looking back at the ship - or what there is of it!

Typically I don't even take any shield damage when using this method. But if you don't quite do things well enough (not drifting onto the nicest bit of slope), you might take some damage.

Using the talk-end checkpoint

Just ahead from the position you started in, there's a circular opening containing a trigger for Cortana to do some talking. That lasts about 11 seconds, at the end of which there's a prompt saying "Make your way to the bridge". About 5 seconds later (or about 2 after the prompt disappears) there's a checkpoint due, though it's fully delayable.

Initially I suggest you use this 'talk-end checkpoint' for making descent attempts. You can get yourself positioned and facing how you want, so it's more convenient than the level-start checkpoint which you got when the cutscene ended (though it wasn't indicated onscreen). However, once you know how to descend reliably, you can restart and instead get the checkpoint after getting down. Moreover, it can be delayed by jumping, so you can get it wherever you like. That'll be ideal for playing around outside.

Heading down to the corner - and a carefully aimed plasma!

The lay of the land

The main part of the negotiable outside area is basically a big slope made of multiple surfaces (polygons). Beyond it are slopes too steep to grip, and on which you'll slide down and die. Typically your body ends up a corner (see pic) where two invisible walls meet: the bottom wall and the side wall down the right (the right as you stand with your back to the ship).

Talking of the ship, there only seems to be a portion of it present, so it doesn't look at all ship-like. It has more the appearance of a fortress-like building. The side wall joins with the ship as if slicing off the portion, and on the left you're hemmed in by a stretch of unclimbable slope.

Things to do

Besides admiring the views of the scenery and the ship (or rather, the portion of the ship which is present), there are various activities you can enjoy outside, as featured in BCM425. One simple bit of fun is making rubble by shooting the ground with your plasma rifle, or with a plasma pistol fetched from Flood (see later). This might not appeal to everyone, but personally I find the visuals and audio very engaging and I could play around with this for ages. In the brighter ground the rubble is brown, but in darker places it can appear black, which can look more dramatic.

Shells cascading off the apex

My other favourite recreation is watching and listening to AR shells sliding down the slope. Bear in mind however, sliding shells get removed by the game when sufficiently far from you - which isn't very far at all. So to keep them in play, you always have to stay fairly close. See how big a mass of sliding shells you can get, by firing off more than one clip.

The best area for shell sliding is the long 'groove' which stretches down to the apex, at which point the shells will shoot over like a waterfall. You can subsequently slide down past them, and hear the change of tone as you do so. Doppler effect! Better be quick though, before they get too far from you and vanish.

If you start your shells near the top of the groove, they'll have the longest way to slide. They'll gradually form a narrow stream. The formation is slow though, as the groove is not very pronounced.

I do like a bit of rubble

Among other activities, you might enjoy shooting the ship with various weapons. An AR raises plenty of sparks, and needles will bounce off if they hit at a sufficiently shallow angle (needles can also bounce of the sloped ground).

With a plasma pistol it can be fun to fire a volley of plasma pips at a distant part of the ship and see the delayed impacts. A plasma pistol is also good for applying graffiti to the ship. It's not easy though, and you may need to work fast because the marks left only stay for about 3 minutes 20 seconds before fading out. See what you can manage! A plasma rifle is viable for graffiti too, but it leaves smaller marks.

Let me also mention 'corner grenading'. From the apex, try to land a grenade in the corner so that when your body arrives, your dropped grenades get detonated and send you flying. A tricky throw needing a rather fine aim.

Getting other weapons

At the start of the level you have an AR and a plasma rifle to play with outside. but it's possible to get other weapons from early combat Flood encountered after going down a ladder, and then return to descend. All the basic weapons are available, though their allocation seems random, so a weapon you want might not always turn up. As well as new weapons you could acquire extra grenades, boosting the meagre supply you arrived with (two plasmas, two frags). Also you could get extra AR ammo.

Anyone here got a pistol?

You can even keep a checkpoint delayed while travelling, so you can checkpoint outside with your new supplies. In connection with that, bear in mind that there's a new checkpoint triggered as you approach the top of the ladder, and another at the open blast door just before the corner in which Sentinels cluster (see pic). And here's a tip. It's useful to keep some spores around, as the close presence of a spore will keep the checkpoint delay going. That can be especially useful for going back up the ladder and through the access way, where jumping is impossible or unreliable.

As for some of the uses of other weapons, a pistol can give you close-up views of sliding AR shells, a plasma pistol is good for making rubble, for firing long-range volleys at the ship, and for applying graffiti. With a needler you can bounce needles around the place (and incidentally, needles are able to leave marks on the side wall high up). With a shotgun you can get sliding shells of a different type, though for various reasons it's not as good as with AR shells.

Using another opening

Initially you're in one of three openings. Either of the other two openings could potentially be used for making descent attempts, but I've tried them both and couldn't find any advantage. In fact, the original opening seemed best. That said, let me note that if you edge off the left of the middle opening (the left as you face out) to drop almost vertically, you can get cushioned by good slope without needing any drifting. You tend to take some shield damage at the end (not always), but that doesn't matter of course.

Plasma grenade on the side wall

Further remarks

It seems impossible to descend onto the high ground. There's just not enough of a cushioning slope anywhere there - and I even tried using a freshly spawned Sentinel as a stepping stone (see the start of BCM427). Nor can you grenade-boost yourself up onto the high ground from down in the dark channel. So, recreation seems limited to the low ground.

In playing around outside, you have a choice of two bits of music. Either the initial murmuring music, or the more lively music which starts if you advance sufficiently far into the level before returning to descend. Both bits of music go on indefinitely. It seems impossible to set things up without music.

How far into the ship can you go before it becomes impossible to return to descend? A short way past the loading point, as you close in on the mess hall and new Flood spawn. A blast door gets silently shut behind you, sealing you off.

Oddly, if you skip the opening cutscene you don't get any fires burning outside. They look rather good, so I recommend not skipping it.

Bouncing down off a Sentinel


This article replaces a very brief one from much longer ago called 'Jumping off the ship', which did little more than saying you can "land way down on a surface that slopes enough to break your fall", and saying it'll probably take a few attempts. Now that I've revisited the topic, I've found way more to talk about, and also have an easy method.

I'm not sure how long ago people were first descending from the ship, but I see that there's a descent method mentioned in 'Halo Tricks, Secrets, and Glitches' version 1.4.4 by Kyle Barr (actually three people). The method is to bounce down off a Sentinel - and presumably this is okay on NTSC/PC, since PAL isn't mentioned as being required. I haven't seen any old footage, but I imagine it would look similar to one or more of the bounce descents I've now shown in BCM427. Specifically the ones at 1:12 (see pic) and 1:21.