A group of Halo glitch hunters have figured out a way to save one of the doomed members of Halo: Reach’s Noble Team.
This piece originally ran on Kotaku Australia on July 1, 2021. It has been retimed as a weekend read.
In Halo: Reach, you are tasked with fighting off the Covenant as a part of the famed Noble Team. Throughout the events of Reach, members of Noble Team, either heroically or unluckily, die one-by-one until your character, Noble Six, is the last not-that-long-standing Spartan. Through an exhaustive process of breaking out of bounds, dodging cutscene triggers, and pushing a motionless NPC through the game, Termacious Trickocity — a team of Halo glitch stunters — figured out how to spare one of your comrades, Emile, from his grim fate…sorta.
“The idea spawned shortly after the game came out,” Aaron Sekela, a member of Trickocity, told Kotaku. “Since most of the cast of characters die, the community rallied around the idea of somehow saving them,” Sekela said in an email. Off and on for 10 years, the team experimented, applying tricks and techniques the Halo glitch hunting found toward their goal of saving Emile.
Halo: Reach is my favourite Halo story. There’s a well-worn copy of Eric Nylund’s The Fall of Reach sitting on my bookshelf taunting me with a re-read as soon as I’m done here. I love the idea that the motivation to save the members of Noble Team wasn’t solely motivated by a technical, “How can we break the game?” standpoint but from a position of, “We love these characters, how can we save them?”
I just wish it was anyone else but Emile. He’s one of the surlier, meaner members of Noble Team but Sekela explains there’s a good reason he was picked over Jorge or Kat.
“Over the years we came up with a few plans on how to possibly save any of Noble Team but ultimately, they are scripted to die in cutscenes. Even if we were to save, let’s say, Jorge, from blowing up on the Corvette during his cutscene. The game would proceed, delete Jorge from the map after the cutscene, then continue onto the next mission without him. ”
Emile, however, is the only Spartan who doesn’t die within the confines of a cutscene, and so Trickocity decided he’d be the best candidate for salvation.
Saving Emile is complicated but undergirded by a simple concept: Avoiding what the team calls a “clean up” trigger. Basically there are points within Reach where the game decides to delete anything it no longer requires, including cutscenes. Figuring out how to actually “save” Emile happened by accident. While tinkering with a glitch that allows you to play two cutscenes at the same time, the team discovered they could spawn Emile after his death scene.
Through an elaborate and bewildering process of launching vehicles and themselves out of bounds, the team was able to position themselves outside of the clean up trigger area for the cutscene that spawns Emile as a teammate. Once they’ve progressed through the game enough, they can go back to trigger the cutscene that spawns Emile. However, once they’ve spawned him, Emile can’t move on his own. Therefore, in order to end the game with him, Trickocity had to use every trick at their disposal to essentially carry Emile to the end of the game. You can watch the video to see exactly how. The level of detail involved to execute this trick is astounding.
During the “he ain’t heavy, he’s my brother” part of the trick, there was no room for error. Because of the bypassed clean up trigger, the checkpoint system was horribly broken such that there was no way to reload if a mistake happened — and there were a lot of opportunities for mistakes.
“We had to break barriers, launch Emile out of the map, launch ourselves on top of this mountain without dying and had to conserve our ammo supply all without messing up once,” Sekela said. “We really had to be on our game to get Emile to the end of the level.”
The funny part is, Emile still dies. There is no way to stop the Zealot from stabbing Emile to death in Reach’s final mission. However, because Trickocity was able to carry their Spartan brother’s lifeless model from his spawn point to the end, he’s there with them as Reach ends proving true the old Halo adage, “Spartans never die, they’re just Missing in Action.”
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