Bungie drops Shock-Trooper Halo 3 teaser

[UPDATE] Halo 3 developer posts brief trailer showing ODSTs raining down on a city in their signature capsules; Xbox Live bills project as a "new campaign experience."

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Monday night, Bungie Studios posted a teaser countdown clock on their official site, Bungie.net. As has been the case in the past, it reflected the studio's obsession with the number 7. As the clock counted down to 7:07 a.m. Pacific Daylight Time, it flashed a series of cryptic messages, including "Obey Posted Limits," "Pardon Our Dust," "Proceed with Caution," and "Expect Delays." When the hour was nigh, the site flashed an agonizingly long "rebooting" message, and then posted a brief teaser trailer for one of Bungie's "current projects."

The trailer doesn't divulge much to the untrained eye. After showing a futuristic urban landscape, the camera--apparently one of a metropolitan artificial intelligence's video feeds--switches to show a series of what appears to be small capsules re-entering the atmosphere. After cutting to several shots of abandoned streets with gunfire in the background, the camera switches to a low-angle shot of hundreds of the capsules streaking through the sky above the city--which is suddenly wracked by a massive shockwave.

After several seconds of a black screen, a brief screen flashes for what appears to be an emergency service transmission, urging the viewer to "Please remain calm." A reboot screen then warns of "Metropolitan disaster!" and cuts to scenes of the same streets, now strewn with smoldering wreckage. A brief "Halo 3" screen pops up, followed by a ground-level shot of one of one of the capsules hurtling at--and then shattering--the camera. The trailer ends with the words "Prepare to drop" and the Xbox 360 and Xbox Live logos.

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While of little significance to the casual observer, the word "drop" will have Halo fans' ears tingling. That's because the capsules belong to the Orbital Shock Drop Troopers (ODSTs, pictured top), better known as the feared futuristic paratroopers used by the United Nations Space Command (UNSC), the human alliance in the Halo franchise. The ODSTs also starred in a series of gritty live-action shorts directed by Neil Blomkamp, would-be director of the in-limbo Halo feature film.

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A side-by-side comparison of screenshots from the trailer and from prior Halo games (pictured second) clearly show the capsules have the angular silhouette and signature drag chute of the Human Entry Vehicles (HEVs) used by the ODSTs in prior Halo games. Further examination of a close-up of the capsules (third) and Halopedia's schematic of the HEVs (bottom) confirms it is indeed the so-called "Hell-jumpers" that are raining down on the city, most likely the spaceport of New Mombasa featured in Halo 2 and 3.

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Bungie reps declined to comment further on the trailer, responding to GameSpot inquires with a curt "neg[ative]." However, the project appears to be the same game that Microsoft senior vice president of interactive entertainment Don Mattrick previously stated was set to be revealed at Microsoft's E3 2008 press conference before being abruptly pulled. Described as "a game" by Mattrick, the project was accompanied by the exact same countdown teaser and exact same reveal time of 7:07 a.m.

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Though nothing is official yet, the title in question appears to be the "Halo Recon" project that has been rumored for months. A source told GameSpot in July the project will be "a cross between Ghost Recon and Gears of War." Instead of following the Halo franchise's usual protagonist--the SPARTAN super-soldier Master Chief--it will supposedly follow the exploits of a squad of colonial marines in a "less cartoony" and "more bloody, violent, and grim" tale of a battle between UNSC forces and the pan-racial religious empire known as the Covenant.

[UPDATE] An advertisement for the trailer on Xbox Live describes the cinematic thusly: "High action and deep mystery await players in this new Halo 3 campaign experience. Prepare to drop." Halopedia's editors believe the shockwave in the city is from the Prophet's ship going warp above New Mombasa in Halo 2, raising the possibility that the project could be a Crysis Warhead-style expansion that shows the game's campaign from a different perspective. However, nothing has been officially confirmed as of press time.

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