Exploring the entry chamber

Posted March 18th 2017, updated later

Associated movies… BCM223, 224, 225, 226, 227, 228, 229, 230, 231, 232, 233, 239

Bit of a squeeze!

When you get hold of a Banshee, fly it back to the start of the first bridge, then squeeze it through to the vast chamber in which the Pelican dropped you off. You'll need to briefly dismount at doors to make them open; be careful not to get squashed in the confined areas. It's a tight squeeze to get along passages, but once you get the knack of angling appropriately, and especially the knack of entering the short sections (which may hold you up to begin with), you can get through in about a minute.

Once at the chamber you can fly around and explore, and play. It's a remarkable place and there's a load of fun you can have. I'll talk about that in a moment, but first here are a few words on preparing.

Setting up with a checkpoint

The earliest Banshee available is the one which attacks at the first bridge, if you're using Heroic or Legendary (it's absent on Normal and Easy). You can grab that one. Alternatively you could descend from the bridge and fetch the twin bridges Banshee. Or you could play through the game in standard fashion (no bridge descent needed) and steal the platform Banshee.

Handy checkpoint for recreation

Regardless of which Banshee you bring to the chamber, it's highly advisable to get a delayed checkpoint there afterwards to serve as a starting point for playing around, which can be a hazardous business. If you grabbed the bridge Banshee you can use a checkpoint triggered on the bridge, as seen in BCM223. Very convenient. The same goes for the case where you descent from the bridge to get the twin bridges Banshee.

In the case of stealing the platform Banshee in standard play however, the bridge checkpoint won't be available anymore, so you'll have to use some other checkpoint. The tunnel checkpoint can always be used. If using that one, it's nice if you've got a second Banshee, to enable you to fly back to the bridge after triggering the checkpoint (which you'd delay with Banshee fire). In particular this will save you having to pass through rooms and passages to reach the bridge. The concern there is with low ceilings (in places), which make checkpoint delaying by jumping problematic because the delay can easily get inadvertently ended, because your jumps were stunted. If you do need to get past a low ceiling, it seems safer to temporarily switch to another delaying method, such as throwing a plasma.

Preferably be fully stocked with grenades when you get your checkpoint, because you can have fun with them. Also it's good to have full health, and flashlight fully charged. Prior to getting your checkpoint - and possibly prior even to getting the Banshee - you may like to assemble a stash of alternative weapons so you'll be able to choose what to play about with. Covie weapons can be obtained from the covies at the landing zone or in the first room. If you want a rocket launcher and sniper rifle, those are available later in the level of course.

Peeking through the glass ceiling

The dome and breaking glass

Among the things to explore are the translucent surfaces of the huge dome up above. There's the ceiling which is flat, plus enormous panels all around. And the great things is, if you skim the Banshee along, you'll find that you cause a whole lot of breaking glass! If you make the right motions with the Banshee, you can get a good view of glass falling before it fades out - which it does quite quickly.

You can also get a view of what lies beyond the dome's surfaces. Namely, jazzy moving background patterns which exhibit different shades. I assume those are there to give things a shimmering appearance when seen in normal play. In particular there's some quite strong green, but in places you can see more of a bluish tone, and there's also some purple. The colouring varies around the ten panels, and in two places there's weird striated patterning at the bottom.

Skimming down a panel

In further regard to glass breaking, you can vary your style depending on how you angle the Banshee. For example BCM223 shows an activity I call 'nosing'. That's when you've got the Banshee angled steeply upwards with the nose causing breaking glass as you move slowly forward, with the camera giving a nice view of the Banshee. It's a touchy business requiring fine control. If the Banshee isn't angled up enough you lose the camera view, but if it's angled up too far, forward motion stops and you also run the risk of falling out. Takes practice, but my movie includes a snippet in which the Banshee is moving steadily (I had the balance just right).

The movie also shows some light skimming, in which the Banshee is angled less aggressively than usual and doesn't break through the surface. There's also some aggressive plasma firing shown. But when using the fuel rod cannon when skimming along, you need to be angled right to avoid damage.

Welcome to the ceiling room!

Getting above the dome

When fooling around I discovered a way of getting through the glass to end up standing on the flat ring-shaped ceiling, in an interesting room. This may be a first for single-player. In the vicinity of the ceiling are various protuberances: the big dark 'collar' around the column, and the 'runners' separating the ten glass panels around the side of the dome. If you fly up vertically and hit a protuberance in order to get jolted out near the glass, you can end up going though. Bumped through by the Banshee I think. Sometimes you end up with considerable speed, sending you into blackness above the shimmer layer - in which case the fall can kill you!

Getting through may take a bunch of tries, especially if you're new at it, so for maximum convenience get a delayed checkpoint up high, ready to make a vertical approach. Then you'll be able to do retries fast. That said, it can become pretty easy when you've honed your technique. Using the collar I've been able to get a 70% success rate measured over 50 tries from a convenient high checkpoint. Basically you scrape the nose of the Banshee against the collar (you don't even have to be going at top speed). You'll see the specific technique highlighted in BCM225, my movie about the whole business.

This jolt technique can be used also to get on top of a panel, though in that case you'd only use a runner, not the collar. Moreover you should use the side of a runner, along the topmost section of the panel, as demonstrated in BCM227. Hitting the end of a runner can get you onto a panel, but it's not the best choice.

On top of a panel

Note: If you fly up vertically and get jolted out by the ceiling itself, that won't get you through. Or at any rate, it never worked for me despite many tries. I also tried dismounting just before reaching the ceiling. No good.

Once you're standing on the ceiling, you can explore the room you're in. It has transparent walls all around the 20-sided periphery, and plasma fire is useful for briefly revealing them. The column has a break in it, and the two cross-sections feature strange patterning. The lower one can support you, yet grenades and fired ordnance pass through (the lower sides likewise exhibit pass-through). Looking up, you can see where the shimmering intersects the column.

As for what things are like when you're on a panel, again you're hemmed in by transparent walls. The topmost wall angles back quite sharply though, making it also a ceiling. Only the topmost section of the panel gives you traction. Once you venture onto the next section, you'll slide down and die while falling, before settling on mysterious invisible surfacing in darkness.

Update: I've now also got a 'soft hit' method for going through glass: see BCM226. I'll write about it here later, but for now you can read about it in the movie's written commentary. Further update: I also need to write more about getting onto the panels, now I've released BCM227.

That's going high

Plasma tennis in the ceiling room

Plasma grenades bounce very well on the ceiling room's glass floor and transparent walls, and this makes for some excellent sport with a rocket launcher. 'Plasma tennis' I call it - which you can see demonstrated in BCM228 and BCM229. The basic idea is to rocket a plasma grenade around the place, potentially keeping it fizzing away until you've run out of rockets. There are multiple specific activities or challenges to enjoy, but for starters see if you can successfully use all ten rockets, i.e. causing ten boosts. For extra challenge, see if you can do it without moving. The difficulty will vary according to the spot you choose.

Bear in mind, if the grenade ever gets too close to being settled, it'll go off a few seconds later, regardless of whether you send it airborne again. So you always need to apply the next boost in good time, and not get caught reloading. Also, the metallic inner flooring pretty much kills the bounce (and grenades can even pass through it close to the pillar), so you want to avoid it. If the grenade is ever heading for that area, be ready to boost it pronto, to try and save the situation.

Plenty of time to reload

For maximum convenience in doing plasma tennis, get a delayed checkpoint in the room - armed with a fully loaded launcher of course. It may take multiple tries of course, but once you've created such a save, it'll save you having to get through the ceiling each time you want to do a play. Definitely a good investment of time if you want to get serious with your tennis. See my section on specialized checkpoints for a tip on the checkpoint delaying.

In regard to activities and challenges beyond just getting through all ten rockets, the most obvious is what I call 'long fuse', the goal of which is to maximize the fuse delay (measured from the main 'click' of grenade release, to the time it finally explodes, and rounded to the nearest second). In BCM228 I managed a 100-second fuse, but I expect to beat that sometime. Five more activities are shown in BCM229, and I'm still not done yet!

Note: Actually you can do frag tennis too, but it's considerably harder for two reasons. The main one is, frags don't bounce off the glass floor as well as plasmas, so there's a smaller window of opportunity for boosting. But also, a frag is harder to spot in the air.

Massive annular plain

There's a huge annular plain you can get out and walk on (or even drive on in a Warthog or Ghost if you bring one along - which is on my list of things to do). It's partly transparent and you can see flooring underneath.

Should have some fun here

Playing with the spinning rings

There are three magically suspended broken rings that spin around the central column, and these provide excellent recreation as seen in my dedicated movie BCM224. Aside from the fun of blasting them with Banshee fire, it's possible to dismount onto a ring. Just rest the Banshee on the ring, aligned with it, and dismount before a gap gets close. I call it a 'resting' dismount. Easy and routine. Of course, you could also try stunt dismounts for fun.

Once on the ring, the surfaces slides underneath you and you can stay on by jumping as each gap comes up. Or alternatively you can do a crouch to get past a gap (it brings your feet up for extra clearance), though it needs better timing than a jump and you need to do it relatively late. Incidentally, crouching is good for situations where a gap is practically upon you or is already underneath you (perhaps you dismounted at a bad time or lost concentration for a moment). It can save you from falling.

Gap coming up!

You can run around the ring in either direction. Running with the spin ('downstream' rather than 'upstream') is harder of course, as you can't see gaps coming - unless running backwards that is. You can learn the right timing though; e.g. count how many footsteps to run for before doing a jump or crouch. An obvious challenge is to see if you can make a complete circuit.

When running upstream, on PAL Xbox you still need a jump or crouch at each gap, but on NTSC/PC you don't. The reason for the difference? MC runs faster and also the ring spins faster, so a gap is underneath you for less time than on PAL - and it's not enough time for you to fall into it too far. At the end of Dark Helmet's 'Fun in AOTCR' video (see link later), you can see him running across gaps. The ring rotation period looks to be about 6.7 seconds in that video, but on PAL it's 8 seconds.

Wonky settled Banshee

When you dismount onto a ring the Banshee typically falls off, but I found that you can get it to 'settle', remaining in place even when a gap goes underneath. An amusing sight - and you can clamber onto the Banshee too. To get it settled, it helps if you've got it resting really centrally along the ring; otherwise it's more likely to fall off. Sometimes a Banshee settles at quite an angle, coming to a stop just before toppling off.

Dismounting onto a ring isn't the only way to get onto it. Around the edges are five ledges sticking out, which you can easily land on and dismount onto. From a ledge you can jump onto the ring. It's only just within range though; not an easy jump - and a mistake is likely to be fatal of course! Initially I thought I couldn't make it, but then I saw it done at the start of Dark Helmet's 'More Fun in AOTCR' movie, so I tried again and managed it. You can likewise jump the other way.

Something else to try: throw a plasma grenade onto the ring. Some plasma effects are swept around on the ring for a short distance, but the grenade potentially settles and the ring proceeds to slide underneath. Like a settled Banshee, a settled grenade will stay in place even when a gap passes underneath.

Embedding the Banshee in a ring

While playing around I hit on something which may be new, which provides some really weird sights - and for me it's the best ring fun of all (certainly the most interesting). Namely, you can get your Banshee embedded in a ring so it's supported (no flight input required), plus you can fly within a ring. In BCM224 I showed principally two types of stable embedding, though a third configuration is also briefly seen,

Vertical embedding

The first type - vertical embedding - is where the Banshee ends up steeply nose-down, almost vertical, facing either upstream or downstream. Start by resting the Banshee on the ring in normal fashion (as centrally as you can), then angle the nose down and seek to fly downwards. In short, push downwards. When a gap comes along the Banshee will fly down a bit, and the embedding begins. Keep pushing, and when the next gap comes, get further down. Hopefully that will complete the embedding and you'll find that the Banshee is supported. If so, you can release the controls and it'll just jiggle around in the ring, getting buffeted by the ring surfaces. Moreover you can dismount and watch it. And subsequently reboard and exit the ring! Sometimes the Banshee may work free, popping up out of the ring. Depends how well you got it embedded I think. If you got things just right, it can seem completely stable.

Upstream flying - or maybe that should be 'swimming'?

The second type - horizontal or aligned embedding - is where the Banshee ends up horizontal, aligned with the ring so the fuselage is more or less subsumed. It can be pointing in either direction, but achieving upstream embedding is easiest. The usual process is similar to achieving vertical embedding insofar as you angle down and make successive headway into the ring during gap phases. But instead of pushing down steeply the whole way, you need to ease things off to a shallower angle (you could start shallower too), and ultimately level out. Achieving downstream horizontal embedding is a bit harder, but it's a similar sort of process.

Cruising in for a fast entry

For upstream it's also possible to do a 'fast entry' in roughly horizontal attitude, by intercepting a ring-end appropriately. I showed two examples in BCM224, though the main one to aim for would be the first (seen in a picture here), where I'm approaching quite close along the ring. It's not easy though. The second, where I drop in steeply from above, is far harder and more like a freaky 'trick' entry rather than anything practical. It requires extremely fine timing to fall into the gap.

Once you're aligned in the ring, bear in mind that stability is quite sensitive to your angle. Ideally you want the top of the Banshee's canopy to be breaking the surface, either continuously or at least regularly. If the Banshee gets completely below the surface it becomes in danger of sinking through the bottom of the ring, ultimately falling out. So if you see that happening, angle up slightly to get back up.

With horizontal embedding you can't dismount to survey the situation (you'll fall), but on the plus side you can have the fun of flying the Banshee through the ring, maintaining the embedding. That's fun - and it's hard not to feel like a fish! You'll find that your firing goes a bit screwy; shots tend to fly off in unexpected directions. You can leave the ring when you want; it just takes a little struggling.

About to hit the bouncy barrier

Bouncy invisible barrier

If you head down the shaft, you'll find that you can't fly below a certain depth. The Banshee eventually gets stopped by a bouncy invisible barrier, around the height where some greenish mist starts. The barrier will support the Banshee, which may encourage you to get out and walk around, but you'll get a nasty shock. If you dismount, you'll fall to your death. And actually the Banshee will fall too. It was only being held up because you were in it.

Is there any way to get below the barrier? Check out BCM230 for my adventure in pursuit of an idea to do so; and you'll learn something about the barrier force too!

I'm wondering why there's even a barrier at all, bearing in mind that you were presumably never expected to be flying around in the chamber. One theory is, when people were working on the chamber, the level design wasn't yet finalized, so they played safe by allowing for the possibility of having a Banshee there.

Force-launching

As I found out in my 'barrier adventure' of BCM230, the barrier appears to work by applying force to your Banshee whenever you're below the barrier height. Now, if you arrange suitable cushioning it's possible to drop to an alcove below the barrier. If you've also got a Banshee waiting for you there (it may even be your cushioning), and you then board it, suddenly the barrier force kicks in, pushing you up. If you don't clatter the alcove roof or anything, you and your Banshee can get launched up the shaft with considerable speed - and you're free of course to bail thereafter, to sail through the air in person and try to land somewhere (ring, platform, alcove, ledge), or whatever. I call this 'force-launching' and it's a lot of fun!

BCM231 shows how I modified an earlier situation to become ideal for this activity (it amounts to a tutorial for how to set things up), and BCM232 shows a lot of launching. I may go into some details about technique here later, but in the meanwhile see BCM232's written commentary if you're interested. Or, explore for yourself!

There's also a neat mid-air reboarding trick you can do when force-launching: see BCM233. Plus, there's the possibility of getting a deflection to launch across the shaft: see BCM239.

Column

The column running up the centre of the chamber is not without interest. If you skim the roof of the Banshee against it so the camera gets a view inside, you'll see some odd sights. In the lower part of the column there's a four-sided inner column. It's strange that it should be four-sided (the column being ten-sided), and also that it fails to extend the whole length of the column. It starts around the height of the highest ring. A further curiosity when looking into the column, is that for part of the length prior to the start of the inner column, you see just the topmost ring and nothing else. Just the ring against blackness.

Checkpoint ready to dismount

Specialized checkpoints

When I spoke about getting a checkpoint in the chamber, I showed a picture of getting one on the platform, standing near the Banshee and some gathered weapons. That's a generic sort of checkpoint, but there's nothing to stop you getting a specialized checkpoint oriented around a particular activity (and remember, checkpoint delay can be continued with Banshee fire). For example, one obtained near a ring (e.g. ready to dismount) would be ideal for doing ring play, because each time you revert or get reverted, you'll be right back on the scene.

Bear in mind, you can even get a checkpoint in the ceiling room or on a dome panel. For doing this, I recommend causing the final checkpoint delay with a fuel rod shot, fired downwards so it goes into slo-mo and eventually hits the annular plain. That gives you a good amount of time to make an attempt at getting through the dome.

If you initially saved a generic checkpoint, but then fancy a specialized session of play, you can head back out of the chamber and bring back a new delayed checkpoint to form a temporary specialized one. In the case where your generic checkpoint was the bridge checkpoint (as used in BCM223), the next one you could trigger is exit passage checkpoint after the bridge. Very convenient.

Landing zone with pipe structure

History and links

The earliest report of getting a Banshee to the chamber was apparently from Ohso in the HBO forum in December 2001, according to Samuel Huang who posted single-player screenshots two months later. Ohso mentioned glass breaking, some ring play, and the bouncy barrier.

Dark Helmet's 2002 video 'Fun in AOTCR' shows co-op fun in the chamber (including with a Warthog), and his June 2005 sequel 'More Fun in AOTCR' includes a bit of single-player fun on a ring. See here for both videos.

I think I saw at least one of those videos long ago, which led me to get a Banshee there myself and write a brief article in 2007 - now archived for reference. Revisiting the theme now ten years later however, I've explored lots more and hugely expanded my account, plus I've switched to using the term 'entry chamber' (better than referring to it as the 'landing zone' - which should really only reference the platform area). In the old article I'm surprised to see no mention of glass breaking. Apparently I never realized what fun the dome had to offer! I also never cottoned on to Banshee embedding.

In regard to folk getting above the dome (though not necessarily into the ceiling room), I know of Frogblast's 2002 co-op videos, two co-op 'outside of level' videos from Ms. Man, and also a 2012 co-op video from Halomen3000 advertising an apparently new method. I haven't seen any single-player sources.