Arc of death

Posted September 29th 2005

The basic idea

In the area where you first meet up with Marines in level 2, there's a wonderfully explosive way of dispatching the covie troops from the final two dropships, along with any troops left over from the earlier four. It's so easily arranged and has to be some of the most wickedly enjoyable carnage going.

Hang around by the large rock that was just ahead by the right cliffside when you first jumped down into the area. Stand between this 'cover rock' and the cliff. The troops from the final two dropships will home in on you and take up positions along the arc around the clearing, but they seem to consider you just out of range, so you're unpressured.

You now start wreaking explosive havoc with vicious streams of needles, interspersed with grenades and anything else you care to add to the mix. You've collected a few needlers and maybe other weapons too, so you've got plenty to dish out. You've also made sure the arc is already littered with loose plasma grenades by killing previous troops here (they usually all come over to the arc), so you're in for some great chain reactions. In particular you can arrange for plenty of grenades over by the rock on the right where enemies often go, and this can give a bang so huge that enemies sometimes fly clear out of the area, over the cliffs.

After wiping out the enemy, you've got a few seconds to revert, to commence the fun all over again. The next checkpoint usually comes during the call "This is Pelican Echo 419", so revert within the first few words. If you've set things up nicely (there's some advice on this), the checkpoint you revert to will be for some time after all the troops had arrived at the arc, so you can get right back into the action without delay.

It may not be proper combat, but it's a great deal of fun so don't miss it! Read on for detail and discussion; I'll start with some advice on creating good saves, then concentrate on the carnage itself. Or better still, leave that for later and just go plug in your Xbox and head down to the ring to see what I'm talking about.

Creating good saves

Here are lots of tips on creating good saves for repeated playing.

Difficulty levels

Preferably use Legendary as this gives the most enemies and loose grenades. That said, Heroic is quite capable of giving huge chain reactions too. On Legendary your eventual save can feature up to 15 enemies (13 from the final dropships, plus 2 earlier troops), whilst on Heroic it's 13 (11 plus 2).

Bye-bye Marines

When you jump down into the area, I suggest heading straight over to your cover rock on the right and letting the Covenant wipe out the Marines and ship crewmen. You can even lend the enemy a helping hand to speed things along, and to minimize the likelihood of enemies getting killed away from the arc. I normally pepper friendlies with pistol rounds, particularly the guys up on the structure who are harder for the Covenant to get. Ok so I'm a bad cyborg.

Once the friendlies are wiped out, Cortana usually says "We couldn't save them. I recommend that we stay near the beacon and wait for extraction." To which you merrily reply, "Right on honeybunch, but first I'm gonna have me some fun!". To which she ought to reply "Yaay! Stick it to 'em good Chief!", but doesn't. Anyway, the enemy turns their attention to you, and you can start getting the arc littered with grenades.

Loose grenades and the rock on the right

To maximize the eventual carnage, you'll want the arc to get littered with plasma grenades from the earlier troops brought in by dropships 1 to 4. Usually everyone will come over to the arc (some land there of course), so your task is fairly easy; and because you can get enemies to move around the arc by influencing them with your exact positioning, you even have some control over where grenades drop. You could have them scattered all around the arc for multiple small chain reactions, or try to build up concentrations for bigger bangs.

In particular it's easy to build up a high grenade count over by the large rock on the right. Enemies often head over there, and you can encourage this by positioning yourself so that enemies over on the left have to move across to be able to see you. In one Legendary save I managed to get 17 grenades by the rock, along with plenty of bodies. When that all goes up, it's a sight to behold. The multitude of flying bodies really adds to the spectacle.

However, a frustration you have to contend with when trying to maximize the grenade count is that the game may cleanse the area at some point before those final troops arrive. Bodies, grenades and weapons may disappear when out of view. That's annoying of course, but at least it doesn't take long to have another attempt, especially if you saved a checkpoint sometime earlier when things were still on course, so that you can always get back to that state (potentially by ejecting the disc then reloading).

If you're really keen on pushing grenade counts and body counts to the limit, you could try to minimize the disappearance problem by keeping the relevant areas in sight at all times, once things are building up nicely; and I've made specific suggestions on that idea in a few places. But it'll be tricky, and I'm not sure how well it might pay off. Besides which, grenades are often hidden by bodies, so even if you manage to stop bodies disappearing by keeping an area in sight, maybe some of the unseen grenades would still be able to disappear.

Incidentally, you can count grenades (which are often hidden under bodies) by hoovering them up after killing everyone away from the scene.

Reluctant troops

Occasionally the troops from dropships 2 and 3 seem reluctant to come over to the arc, which is obviously no help in getting it littered with grenades. I know of no way to make sure they come over. Maybe there is no way; their behaviour might be something the game simply randomizes. If you see that they're not coming over, all I can suggest is that you return to an earlier checkpoint and have another go.

Weapon collection

During times when the area is free of enemy or at least offers minimal threat, you can run about picking up weapons for your collection. Move them back to your base position at the cover rock where they can easily be grabbed later on.

Preferably have at least three full needlers so you can afford to be generous with those needles. Yes I know you can take out that pathetic little Grunt with less than half a clip, but I say give him the whole thing, just to make your point clear. Because of all these needlers you want, it makes sense to be carrying one as you enter from the previous area. You'll surely also want to bring in a pistol and be loaded with grenades which you'll hold back for the later carnage. You can even bring in a third weapon (in the usual weapon-moving way), to get your collection off to a good start.

As well as your needlers, it's nice to have all the other weapons available so you can always pick up what you fancy. It makes the save suitable for any way you want to play things. There's enough time to build such a collection if you wish. In fact, here's a tip to make things no rush at all. Reduce the first group of enemy (present when you arrived) to a single Grunt; preferably one with only a needler. Without much bother, you should now be able to assemble most of what you want except for a full set of needlers (there aren't enough around yet). When that's done or almost done, kill the Grunt to trigger the arrival of dropship 2. Mind you, if you take too long to get around to killing the Grunt, the game will do it for you! One time I heard a sudden "Waaaa!" and turned around to find poor grunty smitten by an invisible hand. Guess he must've offended the Bungie gods.

In regard to your collection, a plasma pistol is desirable for taking down a Jackal shield before piling needles into his hide. Don't you love making them suddenly defenceless like that? Meanwhile, a pistol will be great for picking out enemies in a group and dropping Elites and Grunts for yet more loose plasma grenades. It's also desirable for its sniper view, which you can use to gleefully watch enemies blasted for miles by chain reactions. I usually get an extra pistol so I don't run out of ammo. Heh, those feeble crewmen were good for something after all!

Dropship 4

Dropship 4 drops its troops into the clearing, right in front of your cover rock. The Elites will aggressively come after you if you're in sight, so I suggest you retreat beforehand. I normally hide behind a rock by the 'step' from the previous area. Watch your motion tracker. The Elites will usually have a look around your vacated position, but after a few moments they'll back off to the arc and will no longer be a threat. You can now return and finish off your grenade littering efforts. Hopefully your weapon collection is already complete though.

If you're trying hard for a high grenade count, it may be worth your while trying instead to stay at the cover rock to keep things in sight, so the game won't make them disappear. However, this entails fending off some aggressive enemies at close quarters and potentially having to kill them if things get really nasty, which could be counter-productive. In any case, it usually seems that things are still there when you return after retreating, so it's not a tactic I've explored much. But just for the record, it is possible to fend off the attack on Legendary without killing them. You can repel an Elite by blasting through his shield with plasma weapons so he starts wanting to back off.

Game save checkpoint

The final two dropships (5 and 6) seem to get triggered when you reduce the number of enemies to two or less. You'll probably want to reduce the count to exactly two so that those enemies can add to the mass carnage coming up. The more the merrier, right? You can choose which two if you have a preference.

Once those dropships are triggered, you're due a checkpoint and this will be the starting point of your eventual save. However, by remaining under threat near your cover rock, or (if no enemies are around to threaten you) by jumping, you can keep the checkpoint delayed until you want it. Preferably delay it until all the troops from those final dropships have reached the arc. That way, each time you wipe everyone out and revert, you'll be right back into your explosive fun with minimal delay; you won't have to wait for everyone to arrive. When you finally want the checkpoint, just step back out of sight behind your rock for a moment (out of enemy threat) and you should get the checkpoint.

When you step behind your rock, it's possible that the game may make some grenades and bodies vanish while they're out of your sight. But I can't recall this happening to me much, if at all, so it's probably not worth worrying about. However, there are two ways you could at least avoid stuff disappearing on the right-hand side of the arc, if you're willing to get the checkpoint shortly before the troops from dropship 5 arrive. If the surviving enemies are over on the left of the arc (and bear in mind that you can always tempt them over there), it'll be possible to step out of sight whilst keeping the right-hand side of the arc in view. If they're on the right, just kill them. Either way, nobody can see you for a while if you're also keeping out of sight of the incoming troops, so you should get the checkpoint.

Music or no music?

Normally you'd be having your explosive fun to the rousing music that kicks in with the arrival of the final troops. But it's also possible to get a save in which you're fighting without the music. Maybe you want to hear the voices better, or maybe you just like hearing the birds chirping in the background. Well, the music lasts about six minutes, at which point the Pelican comes in with the Warthog, even though you've not wiped out the enemy yet. So all you need to do is delay the save checkpoint (in the manner just described) until the Warthog is down and the intercom chatter has stopped.

There's a drawback though. Once the Warthog has arrived, the game is prone to making live enemies simply vanish when they're out of view. I take this to be some sort of time-out cleansing, which I've also seen elsewhere in the level. From your usual firing position enemies are generally in view so this glitch shouldn't spoil your fun much, if at all. However, if an enemy takes cover, that may be the last you see of him. Likewise, an enemy may vanish if you momentarily look away, even while he's busy shooting at you! If you want to experience the glitch out of curiosity, keep turning your back on the enemy. Each time you look back at them again, you may notice that a few have disappeared. Eventually they'll probably all be gone. Cowards!

Ok, that concludes the general advice on creating game saves. Now let's talk more about the carnage itself.

Needles and grenades

When it comes to the needler, I recommend thrust-firing for maximum spite, though you may come in for a bit of return fire as you briefly run forwards spitting needles. Send long and vicious streams flying into alien hide to take them out with multiple bangs; maybe trying to pick them off one at a time (which can be an enjoyable test of skill when enemies are clustering together), or maybe going for spectacular chain reactions.

Stream plus grenade

Optionally send in a grenade before or after the stream. You can get a different dynamic in each case. If you send it in before, it's liable to cause the targeted enemy to dive, and before he's fully recovered from that, he's got a stream of needles piling into him. This can be a nice way of getting an Elite who might otherwise dodge your needles. Hah! Dodge that, squid-face! On the other hand, if you send it in afterwards and the needles are busy piling in, the grenade should help launch him skywards, hopefully giving an artistic mid-air pink explosion.

Needle conservation

If you want to avoid waste with needler ammo, note this tip. When you've emptied a needler, don't just walk over another to pick up fresh needles. If you do that, you don't get the needles in its current clip. They disappear with the needler, which is potentially a loss of 20 needles. Instead, first discard your empty needler by swapping for another type of weapon, and then swap that weapon for a new needler. Of course, if you've got enough needlers that you don't mind a bit of waste, you can ignore this time-consuming nicety.

Double-clip delight

I've already suggested that as a caring cyborg, you should be generous with your needles. Well actually, if you're feeling really generous it's possible to bury two entire clips into an enemy. Send in the first clip without thrust-firing, so it doesn't travel too fast. By the time the first needles are reaching the enemy, you should be reloaded and charging forwards, thrust-firing the second clip.

Admittedly the enemy is likely to be dead by the time the second clip arrives, but hey, you'll still enjoy those extra bangs huh? If you're lucky, enough of the secondary needles will enter to give mid-air explosions of pink after he's been launched by a chain reaction. Which is always a pleasing sight I think.

Multi-directional blitz

You can be as leisurely as you like about taking out the enemy. It can be fun slowly picking them off one at a time, but let me put in a word for the other extreme, in which you blitz them with a multi-directional non-stop succession of needler bursts and grenades (and maybe the occasional plasma ball for taking down Jackal shields). This can get pretty funny. Sometimes it's as if the whole arc is erupting with explosions. Like that Marine says, "I almost feel sorry for 'em!". For best effect you ideally want loose grenades scattered all around the arc, for plenty of chain reactions.

High bombardment for openers

To get a blitz off to a roaring start, try this. Perhaps starting from behind your cover rock if you want to be sneaky, send a spread of grenades high up into the sky so they'll land along the arc. Maybe throw a few more with a lower trajectory, then let loose with your needler. It'll practically be raining grenades over the next few seconds as your needles fly in. And that's got to be good, right?

Linear chain reactions

If you put a bit of work into your grenade distribution so they run along a section of the arc quite close together, you can end up with a 'linear' chain reaction that runs like a fuse. You set things off at one end of your grenade line, and the explosion travels along to the other end. A great spectacle, if the line continues a good way. You may've occasionally witnessed such an effect in normal gameplay just by freakish chance, but here at the arc the potential is unique.

All the way around

The holy grail of this business would be to see a chain reaction that goes all the way from one end of the arc to the other. Actually I'm not sure you could manage a high enough grenade count for that, but if you're dedicated there's nothing to stop you trying! So far I've at least managed a chain reaction that went about halfway around, but I did have to kill some of the final troops first to add to the grenades already prepared. Life would be so much easier if you could pick up grenades and drop them where you want them!

The zap phenomenon

When you set off a massive chain reaction at the rock on the right, you're in with a chance of seeing a remarkable phenomenon. I vividly remember the first time I saw it. Among the enemies sent skyward was a dead Elite. He sailed up over the central structure and got hit by one of those giant plasma emissions that periodically shoot up from within. ZAP! Clouds of misty purple blood exploded from him as he was violently deflected into another trajectory, sending him way back over the hills behind my shoulder. Truly spectacular.

Creating a good save to see it

It turned out that the save I was using was particularly good for this, allowing me to see zapping occur quite often, maybe once every minute or so. In this save there are only the Grunts and a Jackal left. All Elites have already been killed at the rock (i.e. before I got my save checkpoint), boosting the grenade count nicely. Each time I revert, all I have to do is pop out from behind my cover rock, send in a frag grenade to approximately the right place, and BLAM! A huge chain reaction sends up multiple bodies, including many heading over towards the structure. And as luck would have it, an emission is due any moment! That bit was pure chance; I just happened to prompt the save checkpoint at the right time.

You shouldn't have much trouble creating a similar save, with deliberate timing to arrange your delayed checkpoint. On PAL Xbox there's an emission every 18 seconds, so here's my advice. Standing at your cover rock, wait for an emission. Now count about 5 seconds before ducking behind your rock, getting the checkpoint a few seconds later. In your save, the first emission will be due in about 10 seconds; just right for almost immediately sending in a grenade or stream of needles to set off the chain reaction. Of course, you'll want a lot of grenades and bodies concentrated by the rock, and that's where some effort may be required. My own save had 15 grenades and 19 bodies there (9 Elites, 10 Grunts).

Watching zapped enemies

Have a pistol ready so you can use the sniper view to watch zapped enemies. If you anticipate a potential zap coming up as a body sails across, you can even catch the impact itself in the sniper view. I normally jump up onto the cover rock to observe.

It can also be viable to run in towards the target rock as you send in a grenade or needles, so that you end up being able to see any zapping from a better angle and closer up. The viability of this depends on how much fire you're likely to be under from any surviving enemies, who get awfully touchy about you impinging into their territory. I can just about manage it with my save, as most of the enemy either go up in the bang or get taken out by me on my way in.

Purple blood streak

Sometimes a good zap leaves a long streak of purple Elite blood on the structure. Other times the blood just forms a long cloud in the air. When an Elite is in contact with the plasma a long time, deflecting to a steep angle, the blood streak tends to be really long, sometimes spreading across the sky for many tens of metres.

Grunty gets a zapping

Grunts get zapped too of course; and wow, they can go for miles! One Grunt got deflected almost straight up and went so high that I almost lost him in the pistol's sniper view. At his peak he looked pretty much like the nearby stars; just a dull pinprick of light. Some Grunts shoot off so fast that I lose them. On a few occasions I've seen multiple bodies zapped at once, including a triplet of Grunts that comically flew off in different directions.


You'll also see weapons get zapped. And if you care to commit cyborg suicide by running into that pile of grenades, you might even manage to get zapped yourself!


When you've got a load of loose grenades over by the rock on the right, try sending in a stream of plasma grenades. With any luck, one will get blasted way up high by the chain reaction just as it's coming in. Still fizzing, it's like a meteor streaking across the sky, and you may even need your pistol's sniper view to track it as it shoots into the distance. Some shoot off so fast and high that they're simply never seen again.

Meteor engineering

Actually you can be a lot more methodical about this. From your cover rock send in a first plasma grenade. A moment after it lands, send in a second. If you've timed it just right (which is learnable of course), the chain reaction set off by the first will blast the second into the skies just as it's coming in. Moreover, you can encourage your meteor to head off a certain way, by slightly altering your throwing trajectory compared to that of the first grenade. The meteor's direction will largely depend on where the incoming grenade was in relation to the chain reaction, at the time it got deflected.

More pyrotechnics

Another bit of pyrotechnics to look out for or try to create, is a live or dead enemy getting blown into the air with a plasma grenade still fizzing on him, eventually giving a nice mid-air explosion which can shoot him up even faster. You may also spot a plasma grenade that had simply been lying on the ground, which explodes on its own in mid-air with a shower of earth (a shower that doesn't really make sense let's face it, unless you care to believe that the grenade picked up an awful lot of dirt).

Up on the rock

For a bit of variation, climb up on your cover rock and wreak havoc from there instead. Nice view! However, you probably won't want any Elites over on the left, as they're liable to open up with those nasty plasma rifles. That said, it's possible to stand slightly back from the top of the rock so it gives you some cover.

Of course, what you've basically got with this arc situation is a shooting gallery; and a very picturesque one at that. I've put the emphasis on explosive fun with the needler and grenades, but there's nothing to stop you playing it with other weaponry. You might also have fun seeing how fast you can wipe everyone out with some particular weapon combo, or just a single weapon; especially the pistol. You could maybe compete with a friend; see who can get the best time.

Invited guests only

Bear in mind that because you can delay the save checkpoint until you want it, it's possible to create a save in which you've already killed some of the final enemies, leaving just the ones you want to play with. You can get creative with this if you're interested in arranging special situations.

Grunts and Jackals only

For example, I've got a nice save in which I've already killed all the Elites, which hopefully boosted the count of loose grenades a fair bit, leaving just the Grunts and Jackals. Moreover, I managed to persuade almost everyone to be over near the rock on the right where all the loose grenades were. So, each time I start my save, hey presto I've got a whole bunch of soft victims standing in a sea of grenades. All I need to do is send in a vicious stream of needles and BOOM! Very nice. A save such as this is ideal if you're interested in setting off huge chain reactions again and again, with minimum work between blasts.


The arc is also good for provoking plenty of amusing Grunt lines like "Aiieee!" and "Ooh! Hot hot hot!" by sending in single shots. Lots of fun for Grunt fans. You may like to kill the Elites first, so you can get a bit closer without getting pestered by plasma.

Hot hot hot!

Incidentally, have you noticed that you only seem to get "Hot hot hot!" and suchlike when you use plasma weapons? So, it seems that some Grunt lines are weapon-dependent. The little guys really feel the heat of that plasma.

Needle complaints

On much the same theme, here's something to try with a needler. Rapidly fire single needles at Grunts and Elites all around the arc. You don't even have to aim well; most needles are likely to home in on a target. You'll get an amusing non-stop succession of complaints from around the arc as the needles hit. "Ooh!", "Ahh!", "Eee!" and so on.

Cyborg suicide

Remember that rock on the right with all the loose grenades around it? That's your ticket to the skies, if you care to make the trip! If no enemies are around, just nip over, drop a grenade, and see where the chain reaction takes you. Go high enough and you'll see that the trees up on the hills are just two-dimensional sheets.

Airborne company

If there are a few enemies at the rock, rush in and take them with you. If there are too many enemies for that (i.e. because you'd be dead before you got there), try this. First tempt most enemies over to the left of the arc, by backing off around your cover rock and going over there. Then go back around and run over to your target. By the time you get there, you'll have a mass of enemies closing in fast. Try to hold out long enough for plenty of them to reach you, so you can take them up in the explosion.

Other places

Although nothing matches the arc, there are other places where you can see off the final dropship troops in a similarly explosive fashion. All you need is an area you can attract them into, where you can then lay into them without taking too much fire; and preferably where you can attract earlier troops into, to build up loose grenades.

Near dropship 5

The best other place I found was as follows. When dropship 5 comes in, be standing up on the hill directly off the ship's right side. The enemy tends to collect between a tree and a large rock, ahead of the ship's hovering position. Halo rises into the sky practically dead ahead as you eye your foe. The curve of the hill gives you some cover but the enemy does tend to open fire on you more readily than at the arc, which is the main drawback. That said, I've obtained some excellent carnage here, with large chain reactions just to the left of the rock.

How it came about

Finally, here's how this 'arc of death' business came about, if you're interested. There's a lesson to it as well.

I suspect that a lot of players do much the same as me when coming over the 'step' from the previous area. Possibly taking out some of the nearby Grunts as I go, I like to head around the cover rock I've been talking about (by the right cliff) and take out the Elites with streams of needles. They're usually so preoccupied with the Marines that the needles go piling into their backs, and BOOM! Bye-bye Elites.

That's just the sort of thing you do in the arc of death of course, so I probably ought to kick myself for not developing the idea sooner. What actually happened was that one day I was playing an unusual way for a change. This time I kept clear of the structure and stayed out near that cover rock. Not a plan the Marines thought much of, but never mind! By the time the last two dropships came in, the arc was littered with plasma grenades from earlier slaughter, resulting in some massive chain reactions when needling those final troops. Obviously I was on to a good thing here! Needless to say, the Covenant have been having a pretty rough time of things ever since.

Being perverse

And the lesson is… try playing perversely once in a while; maybe something interesting will happen!