Exploring the entry chamber
Posted March 18th 2017, replacing a smaller old article
Associated movies… BCM223
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.
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 jump was 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.
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.
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.
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.
Playing with the spinning rings
There are three magically suspended broken rings that spin around the central column, and these provide excellent recreation. Aside from the fun of blasting them with Banshee fire, it's possible to dismount onto a ring and then stay on by jumping as each gap comes up. Or alternatively you can do a crouch to get past a gap, if you time it just right (needs better timing than a jump). The ring slides underneath you.
You can also run against or with the direction of spin. Running with the spin is harder of course, as you can't see gaps coming (unless running backwards). You can learn the right timing though; e.g. count how many footsteps to run for before doing a jump or crouch.
Note: At the end of Dark Helmet's 'Fun in AOTCR' video (see link later), he runs against the spin and isn't jumping, and it looks to me like he's also not crouching. So, just running? That doesn't work for me with my PAL Xbox (I'd fall), but on NTSC/PC, MC runs faster and I'm wondering if that extra speed makes enough difference that you can run across gaps. Maybe someone can confirm this for me?
As for the vacated Banshee, typically it would fall off when you dismount onto the ring, but I found that you can get it to remain in place, perfectly still. The ring will slide under, just like it slides under you. An amusing sight. So see if you can do that too.
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. 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 itself settles and the ring proceeds to slide underneath. Like a Banshee, the grenade will even stay where it is when a gap passes underneath!
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. 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.
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.
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.
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 wih 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.
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.
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 (promoting it to 'Highlights'), plus I 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!