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Halo 4: the astonishing real-life prequel

OXM clambers into a foxhole with Master Chief

There's a secret prequel to Halo 4 and it can never be played again. It took place in Liechtenstein on the chilly evening of 30 October, when OXM and 71 other members of the Halo community and press were flown into Zurich, handed a UNSC science team briefing pack, and hustled aboard two coaches where we were greeted by UNSC Lieutenant Henderson and Sergeant Rooker.

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Almost two hours into the journey to the hotels a message from UNSC command crackled over the speaker system to say local bases and units were under attack from an unknown enemy and that the route ahead was unsafe. With that the coaches veered off into a muddy lay-by and a fireteam of soldiers armed with Assault Rifles boarded the vehicles. Satisfied we weren't smuggling any Grunts in under our jackets we were quickly ushered out into the cold and loaded into the back of a convoy of small trucks to be extracted to safer ground for the night to truly begin, last-minute toilet breaks be damned.

"We're always trying to think of things to do for launch and we have a little bit more leeway here (in Europe) to do more super-fun things," says General Manager of 343 Industries, Bonnie Ross, later that evening as we reflect on the night's activities. "The European team came to us and said, 'Hey we want to do a big experience, can you write something up?' And so Frank (O'Connor) and his team worked with them to write a script for the experience."

Back to 2557 to discover exactly what that experience entailed, and after a bumpy ten-minute ride in the dark during which Rooker listened pensively to comms radio noise we arrived at the basecamp and were told to grab a pack containing supplies. Inside: a hat, scarf, gloves, and poncho to brave the almost-freezing temperatures, a camo stick to blend in, and a torch to illuminate what was, by then, a very dark and treacherous portion of the world.

A basecamp briefing promptly beckoned, so the throng shuffled into a tent filled with maps and charts to discover our fate. Before long, Jennifer Taylor herself made a surprise appearance as Dr Halsey to tell us four Prometheans runes had recently been unearthed at a nearby dig site, and that we were part of the science team shipped in to help translate them. Make that recover and translate, given what sounded like a Promethean attack force's war cry in the distance. Speakers were everywhere, booming out almost every conceivable Halo sound bar the chanting monks.

We were divided into three teams - Alpha, Bravo, and Charlie - each with a different task set out for them. Alpha unit were to head into the woods where they discovered a dead marine hanging from the branches and managed to trace clues pinned to a truck to the location of the first Promethean stone.

Bravo unit's adventure necessitated a journey deep into Balzers Quarry, decked out with UNSC-flavoured lighting rigs. There they discovered a scientist freaking out about the attack on the dig site, and half way through a search amidst the rubble for the second Promethean relic they had a reason to freak out of their own: a complete loss of power. The (scripted) outage plunged the quarry into darkness until a few phosphorous flares were lit by a crew member to safely guide the team back outside.

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While all this was underway we were busy playing the part of Charlie Twelve in unit C. Our brief: rendezvous with Master Chief. Our experience had a rocky start, in truth. After a short drive we leaped out of the vehicles, gathered up and... were told to get back into the vehicles because it was 'unsafe'. Then came an even shorter drive that felt rather 'circle-ish' and we were back out into the cold for our mission.

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