Mad Banshees

Posted March 26th 2006

Associated movies… BCM208 (but see also 170)

The basic idea

When you trigger a pair of Banshees in the valley that links the three survivor areas in the final part of level 2, you'd normally blow them to bits without further ado. As detailed in Banshee battling you can actually have much more fun than that, as it's possible to arrange Banshee battles with a squad of Marines anywhere in the valley and even some places outside it. Well, here's another way of having fun with them, which I came across while developing that business.

By letting them chase after your Warthog, it's possible to lead them into areas they wouldn't otherwise go. You can lead them into all three survivor areas, the interior waterfall area, and also down the underground tunnel all the way to the light-bridge area. And in all these areas (except for the exit section of that tunnel), Banshees exhibit two weird behaviours, which makes for some pretty unique fun! I'll talk about that first, leaving details of triggering and leading for later.

Weird squashing behaviour

The first thing you'll notice is that a Banshee seems to change its attack behaviour. Instead of the usual diving and firing, it tends to stay low and try to squash you. If you're in the Warthog, that translates into pushing you around; presumably he's trying to get at you.

Dodging on foot

When you're on foot, a squash-crazy Banshee seems fairly easy to dodge. The Banshee tries to turn into you but can't quite do it tight enough, and you can keep clear with minimal movement. Sometimes it suffices to just stand still! More usually though, you'll want a bit of motion to be on the safe side.

One way is to keep turning so you're always looking at him. When you get the hang of this, he's almost stationary within your view (actually you can also do this in a Warthog). You could almost reach out and swap business cards. What would MC's be like, I wonder? Another way is to step back and forth doing a half turn each time, matador style (which reminds me of a style of Hunter dodging I sometimes use). You can keep this dodging up for ages. I've also had a Banshee chasing me around a tree for a while.

Fortunately, when both Banshees are trying to squash you at once, they generally circle together and you can still dodge them. It's quite a sight though. Quite often they go around in concentric circles, rather than following each other around. You'll see what I mean. See how long you can keep dodging them both.

Banshees on Warthog

When you're in the Warthog getting pushed around, it can hinder your driving. He might even manage to overturn you, or sandwich you into a corner from which the hog can't escape (all you can do is jump out and hope you can get clear without being squashed). The Banshee is often visible in the screen as you're getting pushed. Sometimes the camera is actually behind the Banshee, and you can see the Elite lying inside.

If you leap out and let the Banshees go after a sniper in the Warthog (it's interesting that they tend to focus on him and forget about you), they'll push it around together all over the place; it's really worth seeing. An excellent place for this is the wide open space in the rockslide area, off towards the tunnel entrance (called the 'far area' in my rockslide megabattle section). Once when I was doing that, ground troops were joining in, but tended to hit the Banshees quite a bit because they were pushing the hog around in circles. I don't think the pilots were too pleased; particularly when they went up with a bang. Another great place is deep into the tunnel leading to the underground bridge, as seen in BCM208.

The first time I saw Banshees going after the hog like this was in the stream near the interior waterfall. For a moment there I though they were trying to mate with it. What would that have produced, I wonder. A Banshog? My two favourite vehicles blended into one. Now that I'd like to see!

Squashed Covenant

When a Banshee is trying to squash Marines or yourself, it sometimes gets a friendly by mistake, then comically goes over to have a look, nose down. In fact, you can deliberately lead the Banshee towards enemies, and be amused watching them dive around frantically to avoid the thing as it circles around you. There's a knack to gradually leading them along on foot. You dodge, then run for a bit while it's busy circling around.

Weird grenade chasing behaviour

The second bit of weird behaviour is that the Banshee will chase after a grenade to investigate! It looks for all the world like a dog running after a stick. "Fetch!". Sometimes he gets there and hangs around for a look at it, nose down. Needless to say, this is a stick that bites back. BOOM! Other times he veers away from it sooner; he has a fairly short attention span. You can potentially lob your whole stock of grenades about the place and he'll dash around after them. You can practically hear him panting. Go try it out; it's hilarious. It's also a pretty good way of stopping him trying to squash you for a few seconds. All you need to do is make sure he sees it; wait for him to be facing the right way.

It doesn't have to be you that throws the grenade. If some nearby grunty fool lets loose, that'll do just as well if the pilot sees it. Likewise he'll go after frag grenades from Marines.

Chain reaction surprise

You can exploit this behaviour to the max by throwing your grenade into a pile of loose ones. I had a nice situation in the rockslide where a fallen Elite had left a trio of plasma grenades. Ideal! It gave a bang so big that the Banshee got boosted up quite a way.

Why do they do it, and where else?

Quite what the explanation for the weird behaviour is, I don't know. I find the grenade chasing business especially baffling. What on earth is there in the game programming that makes them so interested in grenades in these areas, yet not in the valley? Is it actually some sort of 'Easter egg' somebody sneaked in? Seems doubtful; I'm guessing it's some unintended consequence of the Banshee being in an environment that wasn't planned for. If anyone reading this can shed some light on these behaviours or has a theory, I'd be happy to hear about it!

(Stop press: narcogen offers some thoughts in Why do Banshees chase grenades?, at rampancy.net)

Also in level 5

I've also seen this weird behaviour in level 5. The 'platform Banshee' which attacks you in the two-Wraith area can be quite easily led it down the tunnel and into the cavern, and in these areas it'll do squashing and grenade chasing. See Mad Banshee in the cavern.

Also in level 10

Several years later, here's an update! After snatching a Banshee on the Maw, you can potentially enjoy some mad Banshee behaviour from the other Banshee if you draw it up above the ship's roof or out beyond the sides. See BCM170 for some example play, including the enjoyable activity of mutual circling.

Further fun

I've already mentioned some of the fun you can have, in the two sections on weird Banshee behaviour. Here are some more ideas. For having fun with mad Banshees I particularly recommend the rockslide area as it has some big open spaces. The raised ground on the right hand side of the interior waterfall area is also nice.

Dog chasing its tail

When a Banshee is trying to squash you or a colleague, you get some good opportunities for tagging it close up. If you can get it on its underside or perhaps the rear fins, it often drives the pilot wild, amusingly jerking the controls around as if trying to get to it, like a dog chasing its tail. Come to think of it, maybe this is just him doing his weird grenade chasing behaviour.

Chicken

Another bit of fun is to stay in the hog and continually try to ram into the Banshee, sort of like a game of chicken in which neither side is backing out. I'd been hoping I could jolt a pilot out of his seat, but sadly that doesn't seem to happen. Still quite satisfying though.

Round and round

How about getting into the passenger seat and taken for a ride, pushed around by a Banshee? In the light-bridge area, a Banshee will happily push the Warthog off the edge, so watch out. Oh, and don't forget that the bridge is down. Arrgh! Who turned that off?

Double-tasking

When you get to somewhere with enemies around, jump out and have fun Banshee dodging while fending off the foot soldiers. Double-tasking like this makes a nice challenge. Maybe there'll even be some human survivors to help.

I had an amusing time seeing how long I could keep dodging a Banshee plus needles from a Grunt. Poor little fella spent half his time diving clear of the Banshee though, which helped.

Rockslide Banshee survival challenge

Here's a challenge that takes double-tasking to an extreme. Starting from when you emerge into the valley from the underground tunnel, here's what to do. Leave any passengers behind. Go to the rockslide area, kill the Marines, and retreat to near an exit while a rockslide megabattle starts forming (four dropships are due in). At some point of your choosing (the later you leave it, the more pressure you'll face), go out and lead a Banshee into the area. I suggest leading it to the wide open 'far area' that the left entrance leads into, but you could lead it wherever you like, including the Marine plateau or the adjacent island plateau. Dismount and see if you can dodge the Banshee while also fending off the mass of enemy troops that will potentially descend on you. If it proves too aggravating, allow yourself to thin out the enemy a bit before bringing in the Banshee; e.g. maybe eliminate some of the Elites.

For a bit of fun, you could pick up the sniper rather than killing him. That way, when you eventually lead in the Banshee and leap out of the Warthog, you can enjoy watching it being pushed around, and watch how the ground troops handle things. I sense a mass squashing coming on! The reason you're using the sniper rather than a normal Marine is that he won't damage the Banshee and cut the fun short.

Banshee in a fix

In places in the rockslide area, a Banshee close behind you may get held up by a narrow gap. Time for a bit of payback! Step out of your Banshee and have fun casually insulting him as the pilot grows angrier by the minute. "So, Mr Squid-Face, were you always this ugly?". When you've had enough of that, decorate his aerial steed with a few plasma grenades and wave him off with a smile. "Bye!".

Guided tour

In leading a Banshee about in the Warthog, or dodging it on foot, you don't have to stay out in the open. Banshees will try to chase you even through tricky terrain such as the rockslide, though they sometimes have trouble. In the rockslide you can easily get them over to the Marine plateau or the adjacent island plateau for example, if you pick the right route. See if you can get them to the island plateau and then dodge around on it.

Pelican departure

If you lead a Banshee into a survivor area where a Pelican is waiting to pick up survivors, you can potentially watch it go for the survivors as they try to evacuate. When the Pelican departs, the Banshee may chase it.

Cliffside fun

Once when I had a Banshee in the cliffside survivor area, some survivors were still around, which added to the fun. They were over at the cliffside entrance to the underground area, and the Banshee seemed to quite enjoy pushing them off the cliff. There are some large rocks just outside that entrance, and I had some fun trying to keep them between me and Banshee. There was quite a bit of opportunity for sneaking around behind it and tagging it on the rear.

Something you'll notice here is that when the Banshee is below the cliff edge, it has a bit of trouble getting back up. A couple of times I've seen the pilot fall out in the attempt, knocking against the cliff when trying to ascend at a steep angle (after letting himself fall a long way down, as if preparing for a big effort).

Here's a plan for duplicating this excellent situation, starting from when you emerge into the valley. Go and kill quite a few surface enemies in the cliffside area (e.g. with the sniper rifle), so there won't be too many around when you return later. Don't go underground yet. Now go and deal with the hillside survivor area. Leave with no passengers (or at least no chain-gunner), and lead a Banshee or two through the left entrance of the cliffside area. Head underground and bring the survivors back up for Banshee fun. If you find a Banshee blocking the doorway, you can move him by throwing a grenade past him so he chases it. You get a checkpoint when underground, so you'll be able to conveniently revert later to start the fun all over again. There's lots to play about with, so enjoy trying different things (including leading the survivors out of the other entrance).

One thing I noticed when following that plan was that a Banshee is able to sense the survivors when they're still underground. When I emerged at the cliffside entrance, the Banshee was several metres off to the right, nose to the ground, above where some of the survivors were. Looks like he wanted to start digging!

Triggering and leading

Ok, now the promised details on triggering and leading the Banshees.

Triggering the Banshees

The Banshees seem to be triggered once you've dealt with one of the three survivor areas, i.e. reached the point where the game decides you've succeeded or failed there. You'll see "Search for additional survivors" on the screen, which seems to be the moment the Banshees materialize, something you can potentially see happen. The quickest way to deal with an area is to just charge in and kill all the survivors of course. Not that this will make you terribly popular!

Avoiding the 'Banshee disappearance glitch'

Although you can potentially lead the Banshees into any of the survivor areas, there's something you need to be aware of. As you lead a Banshee through an entrance to a survivor area (or even near it in the case of the right entrance to the hillside area), the Banshees are liable to suddenly both disappear unless you obtained an entry checkpoint for that area sometime prior to triggering the Banshees. Or so my investigations suggest. For example, suppose that on emerging into the valley you go straight to the hillside survivor area and deal with it. Well, you'd be able to lead Banshees into that area ok, but not the other two; they'd disappear.

There's an easy solution of course. Having decided which survivor area to deal with to trigger the Banshees, first briefly get an entry checkpoint for each of the other two areas. Later, you should have no problem with disappearance.

The glitch is perhaps to do with how the game is programmed to remove certain enemies it considers done with, based on an expected pattern of play. But if so, it's done quite clumsily here. Not only do you hear the disappearance (engines cut off abruptly), you can sometimes even see it.

Leading them through

To lead a Banshee through an entrance, you need to let it come in on an attacking run, then drive through while trying to remain an inviting target just ahead. Try to match your speed to his as he approaches (you'll have a sense of where he is by sound), and let him keep peppering you with plasma fire. If he's got a bead on you like that, he's less likely to veer off.

Leading both Banshees into an area together is partly a matter of luck, as they'd need to be attacking at about the same time. However, if you want both Banshees in an area you can potentially lead them in one at a time of course, as long as the first doesn't follow you out when you go back to get the second. Some areas are helpful in this regard; e.g. in the rockslide area it's easy to make the first Banshee get into a spot of trouble among the rocks whilst you speed off to get the second.

Now here's some specific advice on leading into various areas.

Rockslide survivor area

For the rockslide area, the left entrance seems easiest, except that it's the long way around. They should follow you without trouble once through the wide tunnel towards the interior waterfall. The right entrance has a sharp corner the pilots don't like the look of much, so your leading technique needs to be fairly good there.

Hillside survivor area

For the hillside area, maybe the right entrance is slightly easier. Once they're through the wide tunnel heading for the interior waterfall area, they'll follow you with no trouble.

Cliffside survivor area

For the cliffside area, the left entrance is easiest. Aside from the entrances, it's also possible to lead a Banshee into this area by being up on the cliffside hilltop and leading it down the hill as it attacks, as found by UrsusArctos when having a spot of cliffside hilltop fun one day. That's quite hard though as they tend to veer off. Still, if you happen to be up there, you can give it a go.

Interior waterfall area

To lead them through to the interior waterfall area, wait for them to attack you near the exit of the wide tunnel, then start driving through. Easy. Note that in order to avoid the Banshee disappearance glitch, it's best to've got an entry checkpoint for the hillside survivor area before triggering the Banshees. They can otherwise disappear if you take them anywhere near the high entrance, even if you're still right down by the stream.

Underground tunnel and beyond

There's no trouble leading them into the underground tunnel; and once they're after you, they'll usually follow all the way to the light-bridge area, though occasionally they get caught up at a turn or something.