Beastie sounds

Posted February 17th 2006, updated later

Associated movies… BCM317

In certain places along the cliff edge and elsewhere, you can hear the eerie cries of wild beasties down below. You've probably heard them if you've played through the level a lot, but just in case you've been too busy charging through and slaughtering the enemy, here's a guide - now backed by my movie BCM317. You can use any difficulty setting - so you might as well use Easy.

Listening at the tree

A good listening place

There's a good listening place at a tree, reached as follows. Fight through until you're approaching the 'dustbowl' area (with a rocky bridge). You approach it around a precarious cliff path. Up ahead you'll often see a Grunt in a Shade, and further on there's a patrolling Elite. There are also a few Jackals on the path. Do the appropriate slaying (easy with a sniper rifle), and go to the first tree past the entrance.

The sounds are relatively loud near the tree (quieter further away), and hopefully there's no music drowning things out as you didn't trigger a full-on attack yet. Any Marines should be hanging back. Background noises include the sound of the grav-lift and a sort of cricket sound that comes and goes. You've got the occasional bit of whistling wind, and it's all quite atmospheric as you look out into the gloom. This has been a favourite listening place for me.

See any beasties?

If you prefer to eliminate all nearby enemies, go ahead. Battle music will stop once you go far enough into the passage that leads to the grav-lift area. You just need to reach the ground light that projects brightly onto the left passage wall just after a low branch; this also triggers a checkpoint.

Fourteen sounds, three types

There are three types of sound. Firstly there's something like a wolf howl; that's the easiest to describe. It has no variations; there's only the one howl. Secondly there are four long deep wails that sound like they're coming from something pretty big, which is namely what ace reporter Suzie met up with in 'Mysterious beastie'. This type is fixed in my mind as being the first I ever heard, and it really got my attention. "What the heck was that?" I thought. A beastie down below! Thirdly there are nine high-pitched screeching sounds. Five are short and simple, one is long, one is like a double screech, and the other two are vaguely horse-like.

Elite hidey-hole area, where the grav-lift is relatively faint

The fourteen sounds are collected at the end of BCM317. You can also hear them with no background noise in an mp3 file by Captain Spark (using the PC version).

This all suggests that we're hearing from at least three types of creature. More than three if you think those screeches are sufficiently different from one another. Personally I assume there's a whole menagerie down there and we're just hearing the loudest guys!

Frequency

You can expect to hear about five sounds per minute, well spaced out (a sound approximately every 9 to 14 seconds, measured on PAL Xbox). In a ten-minute period I heard 4 howls, 15 wails and 31 screeches. Listen for three or four minutes and you probably will have heard all fourteen sounds.

Volume and direction

Listening areas are actually quite large, but the zone of high sound volume - where you want to stand - is only small. Move away from that and the volume quickly reduces. You'll need to experiment to see where it's loudest. As far as I can tell, most of the listening areas seems to have the same or very similar maximum volume. I don't think there's any best one for volume, but it's worth mentioning that at the 'Elite hidey-hole' area (see pic and BCM317), the sound of the grav-lift is relatively faint.

Listening near the grav-lift

Although you might think of the sounds as coming from beasties down below, they don't actually come from below. It's really just an illusion when that seems to be the case. In fact there's no true location assigned to a sound. Standing still, all the sounds will seem to come from a certain direction, but if you move a little the direction can radically change. This can be experienced even with a single long sound if you move as it plays. It might start off seeming to be ahead of you, but after a step or two towards it, it may seem to be behind you.

What's actually going on here? My impression is this. Within a listening area there's what I'll call a 'focus point', and the apparent sound direction will be the direction of the focus point relative to yourself. So as you move around the focus point, the sound direction will move around too. Perhaps this implementation was a workaround for what might otherwise have been problematic (i.e. to make each sound come from a temporary fixed beastie location). Or perhaps it was just the easiest way to arrange things, and the strangeness aspect didn't worry Bungie much.

Because of this implementation, sounds don't always come from the direction of the nearest cliff edge. It just depends where you're standing relative to the focus point. Also, the volume depends on your distance from the focus point.

Listening at the start - and checking out the ship!

Other listening areas

There are many other places to listen from, including near the cliff edge at the drop zone (preferably once any music has ended of course). BCM317 features six places but you can explore for more if you're keen. I know of thirteen - which might be all of them as I've explored quite a bit. Some of the listening areas are well away from the cliff edge, near inner cliff walls.

Most stretches of cliff edge give no beastie sounds at all; which doesn't really make sense, but perhaps Bungie limited the listening areas so the sounds didn't become too commonplace.

Having a sniper rifle and assault rifle

It's nice to have a sniper rifle so you can look about with a zoomed view - typically with light amplification switched on. You can scan the ground far below (not that you're going to see any beasties of course), and also look at other things as part of the recreation. The ring for example, the flickering stars, the bluish-white moon (directly off the cliff edge at the start), and the covie ship.

Maybe it's the moon bringing out all these wolves!

If you're purely interested in listening though, you may prefer to be holding an assault rifle, because it makes no noise from the periodic fiddling animation that you get when doing nothing. The animation is also visually unintrusive - very minimal. With other weapons the repeated animation gets a bit annoying when you're just standing around for ages.

Old mentions

Since the sounds are so readily heard in so many places, they're certainly not something I'm inclined to credit anyone for 'discovering', but certainly not everyone has noticed the sounds of their own accord. For one early mention in 2002 see here, which also links to a couple of forum threads. In that description there's talk about getting the sounds by carefully exiting a 'cave' (what I've been calling the Elite hidey-hole as it's hardly a cave), but that was somewhat bogus. As I've already described, you merely need to be standing in a suitable place. For another relevant thread see here. See also here, a news item where my article was advertised.