Blue beam zapping a Warthog

Posted December 4th 2018

Associated movies… BCM323

The basic idea

In my article Blue beam zapping I covered the activity of getting covie bodies zapped by the 'blue beam' at the first tower (the plasma emission, that is), but you can also get the Warthog zapped, after getting it parked over a similar pile of bodies and plasmas, suitably checkpointed and ready to be launched.


It can take a while to find a suitable way of launching it (you have to get the timing right too of course, just as when zapping bodies), but there are usually suitable places to put a frag or plasma to get it sent the right way and with enough height. It's fun seeing what you can do, and seeing the hog go spinning away after a good zap. You can also have fun tagging the hog before it launches, to provide a mid-air shunt (which can potentially be used to divert it into the beam). Preferably tag late or it tends not to produce a bang (the game is strained, handling all the audio from the chain reaction). You'll see examples in BCM323, including an overhead tag trick. Another option is to tag the chain-gunner, if you've left him aboard. Yeah, I'm mean like that.

How many plasmas do you need for enough boom? I think you generally want at least 10, but it partly depends how concentrated they are. I've had some set-ups with 9 but they were never satisfactory. I've had a perfectly good set-up with 11 though.

On to the detail then. Here's how you can set things up - as demonstrated at the start of BCM323.

Setting up

The initial set-up work is basically the same as for zapping covie bodies; and as such, you can either start from scratch or adapt a standard arc of death save if you have one. But make sure to save a checkpoint before the killing is all over (e.g. the dropship 5 checkpoint), because you might need retries for what follows.

Pausing the hog drop

Once you kill the covies, the Pelican is triggered (assuming you didn't take so long finishing them that it turned up earlier, which is no good). You can potentially do a quick bit of tidying at this point. Ideally you want the plasma grenades to be fairly compact, so let any stray ones get removed. Bodies are completely superfluous, so you can freely let as many of those get removed as you can, though you'll still have a lot left. If you're not satisfied with the tidying, you can revert to try again. There's an efficiency option in that regard. Namely, delay the Pelican arrival checkpoint until at the pile ready to try some tidying.

Quickly move to the drop zone and get under the hog to pause the drop (apparently Bungie took precautions to avoid a situation in which the hog gets dropped on you). This is to control a timing aspect. Position yourself under the driving seat or thereabouts and look towards the tower.

Speedy driving required

With PAL Xbox, here's what to do next. When a beam fires, promptly allow the drop, board, and drive into position over the pile fast, dismounting before the sign-off checkpoint, which is normally due about 2.5 seconds after the click which follows "Foe Hammer out". You can potentially delay it with a few jumps as you then get into position near the hog, but it's only briefly delayable. I suggest using 2 or 3 jumps, for PAL Xbox at least. That should give you a comfortable amount of time for hog launching, without too much delay. Incidentally, there's potentially time to get the gunner dismounted if you want - but not much.

…and good parking

For NTSC/PC you may need to tweak the timing control, because the beam fires approximately every 15 seconds instead of PAL's 18. I suggest trying things the same as for PAL except that when you dismount from the hog, use only 1 delaying jump or none at all. That might work out okay but you'll have to find out yourself.

Note: Your drive needs to be efficient (as well as the boarding), and BCM323 shows what I think is the best route. If it goes badly and you realise you're not going to reach the pile in time, or if when parking you realise that you've made a poor job of it, you can immediately revert to retry things.

Unsatisfactory result?

In order to be able to get the hog zapped reasonably well, it needs to've been parked in a suitably good position over the grenades (something quite easily messed up), and there need to be enough plasmas to do the job (which can be partly down to luck, insofar as the game may've removed some after you quit trying to prevent removals). If you find things unsatisfactory, you'll have to retry the set-up work. This is why I emphasized having a saved checkpoint from which to start that work.

Fewer bodies and more plasmas

Fewer bodies, less blockage

With the basic set-up, you typically end up with a lot of bodies in the pile. And the trouble with bodies is, they limit your grenade placement, which can hinder your ability to launch the hog suitably. They might even block you from getting a grenade under the hog at all. That doesn't completely eliminate any possibility of good launching (e.g. you still might be able to launch by putting a grenade in the driving compartment, as seen in BCM323), but it sure doesn't help. So it can be good to have fewer bodies in the pile.

How can you do that? In my plan there was the opportunity for doing some 'tidying'. As part of that, you can potentially blast some bodies clear of the pile, if you're careful. But if you're going to try this, you should maximize the amount of time you've got, as follows. When a final covie moves to the rock, move in and kill him, so you get the Pelican arrival checkpoint close to the pile, ready to start tidying. That gives you an extra few seconds compared to if you'd casually got the checkpoint when still quite far away.

BOOM! - 27 plasmas in action

If you initially do a poor job of body clearing (e.g. accidentally detonating the pile), you can keep reverting and trying until satisfied. You'll probably need to retry a good few times, to learn where best to put a grenade or two for optimal body clearing (and doing it quickly enough that you can still reach the drop zone in time to pause the drop).

More plasmas

When you successfully blast bodies clear, you can look away from them (while keeping the pile in sight) to give the game chance to remove them. There may be a benefit to this. If enough bodies get removed, your pile may become secure without any plasmas having been removed. As such, I think body clearing provides a way of maximizing grenade count. By using this method I was able to get a set-up with 27 plasmas for example. That was actually the set-up I used to get myself onto the tower.

Alternative checkpointing

Brief stop for another grenade

Thus far I've focused on using the sign-off checkpoint for the launch checkpoint, but another option is to use the Pelican arrival checkpoint, in a manner similar to what I've now demonstrated in BCM325 for a tower ascent set-up. It involves some slightly fiddly checkpoint delaying but gives you more time to position the hog and also to tidy the pile - and you can eliminate the music if you want.

The work goes pretty much the same as described in my article on tower ascent, except that you needn't ditch the gunner (if you want to leave him on the hog for fun), and the final checkpoint timing goes as follows.

On PAL Xbox wait for the beam to fire, then do 4 auto-jumps and stop. For NTSC/PC perhaps make that 2 auto-jumps. This should give you a conveniently timed checkpoint for the next beam. But if you prefer to have more time or less time to launch the hog, reduce or increase that final delay accordingly.

After discovering hog zapping for myself, I found that hogs had been zapped long before, by other folk and other means. Check out Dark Helmet's co-op video Warthog Deflection from April 2002 (his first ever video), which uses the same tower. There's also a zap at the start of his single-player video 'The Three Towers 2005', listed on the same page. I expect there are more hog zaps to be found in other movies relating to the towers, because when a hog is launched towards a tower to try and get it on top, there's a chance it might get zapped.