Warthog catapulting with a Pelican

Posted August 8th 2019, updated later

Associated movies… BCM371, BCM372


When an evac Pelican departs from the cliffside survivor area, it passes quite low across the front of the bordering hilltop. Low enough that if you've got a Warthog up there and you boost it up with a plasma and frag at just the right time, it gets hit by the Pelican with potentially spectacular results, e.g. getting sent a huge distance or very high. It's something I realised while working on valley banshee spawning.

For extra entertainment you can have the hog manned with a couple of Marines, potentially resulting in bodies flying through the air. But if the gunner is suitably resilient he can actually survive the grenade boost and go for an airborne ride on the hog, which makes for arguably the best fun (seen extensively in BCM372).

Setting up

You can set things up very easily with a handy checkpoint, enabling you to do catapults repeatedly. The work is demonstrated at the start of BCM371 (using Easy) but I'll give more detail here. Any difficulty level can be used, but if you want to have fun with an airborne gunner as seen in BCM372 you should use Heroic or Legendary and make sure the gunner is armoured and in good health. You'll need to have a seated guy too. Have a pistol and sniper rifle for the later fun, as they're the best weapons for viewing and for shooting.

Parked in the departure path

Before visiting the cliffside area, I recommend clearing one of the other two survivor areas first, to trigger and eliminate the valley Banshees. Otherwise they'll get triggered during the core work and they may spot you and cause trouble. Dealing with the hillside survivor area is quickest and easiest, and you can also be sure to get Stacker on the chain-gun if you want him. He's always there (though it's random whether he's armoured) and he has great voicing).

In the cliffside area, link up with the survivors and get the evac call, then finish any remaining covies, causing the Pelican to finally arrive. Pay attention to your grenade supply along the way. For the catapulting you'll need at least one plasma and frag. In connection with the possibility of tagging, I suggest having four plasmas and only one frag.

Checkpoint, ready for action!

Promptly drive up to the hilltop and park your hog in the path of the Pelican. You might like to do an advance test to familiarize yourself with the path; or just see my movies.

When the Pelican touches down to pick up survivors, a checkpoint gets triggered (normally it would come about four seconds after touchdown). Keep it delayed by jumping, until sometime after the Pelican starts to rise. The Pelican rotates leftwards and I suggest that you stop delaying when it's getting sideways on. With that timing you should end up with a few seconds spare before needing to throw grenades, which will enable you to shift position beforehand, from play to play. If you prefer to have more time for shifting, get the checkpoint earlier.

Catapulting basics

At the right time, throw a plasma and a frag to boost the hog so it hopefully gets catapulted by the Pelican. Typically you'll be needing to throw the plasma around the time the Pelican begins to accelerate; namely when the engine pitch rises. You can potentially judge it either by sound or - if the Pelican is in view - by vision. If you're standing unusually far away from the hog though, you'd need to throw slightly sooner to allow for the travel time of the grenades.

2-grenade boost

Experiment with the timing and grenade placement to get different outcomes. You have considerable control in that regard, although significant variation in outcome can result from even very small differences in placements and/or timing.

The range of outcomes you can obtain will depend to some degree on where you parked and at what orientation. If the hog is pretty well centred on the Pelican's path, you should be able to get the hog catapulted to both the left and the right, such as seen in my movie. If it's significantly to one side though, you might find it hard or impossible to get the hog catapulted to the other side.

With your pistol and sniper rifle you can potentially have fun shooting the catapulted hog or Marines, or just zoom in and watch.

Couple of bonus blasts

Typically your frag will be going off slightly after the plasma, and therefore may detonate one or more dropped grenades from any passengers killed by the plasma. Such 'bonus blasts' are liable to upset the catapulting outcome you were trying for, if any, but sometimes you may get an interesting result. In particular, the hog might pick up a bit of speed and go further than usual.

Grenade dropping and detonation is pretty random. In the case of two passengers dying from the boost (which would typically be the case on Easy), you'll probably find that bonus blasts happen quite a bit.

Gunner fun

Under the right circumstances, the chain-gunner can actually survive the 2-grenade boost and, if he's not ejected, go for a ride on the catapulted hog. This is a source of great amusement, as seen in BCM372. You can watch him flying and see if he survives to the ground, and there are other things you can do too, such as trying to tag him so he bails in mid-air, or trying to snipe him (which is rather hard).

Stacker goes for a ride

If you want to have such 'gunner fun', it's best to use Heroic or Legendary. The gunner must be sufficiently resilient though, to survive the boost. Based on my testing, he needs to be armoured and also have at least 6 health bars. Also there needs to be a seated guy or it doesn't work (the gunner generally won't survive the boost).

The hillside survivor area is a good place to get an armoured guy in full health, but I especially recommend getting Stacker because of his voicing. Stacker isn't always armoured though; it's random. If you want an armoured Stacker, save a checkpoint prior to entering the area (e.g. save the checkpoint you get at the lifeboat, wehre you can pick up a sniper rifle). Then if you find that Stacker isn't armoured, just eject the disc and reload to try again.

Tagged gunner bails, goes boom

Easy isn't very suitable for gunner fun, because normally both passengers die from the boost. However, this can be avoided if you tag the hog with your plasma, rather than having it settle on the ground. Thanks to the presence of the seated guy who seems to act as a damage sponge, the gunner will survive the plasma blast with no health loss. If the subsequent frag blast occurs sufficiently far from him, he can thus survive the boost (the 'tag-boost' as I'll call it) and go for a ride. In specific regard to the tag, try tagging a back wheel low down. That can give an appropriate shunt for the boost, though it's pretty random and often fails. This randomness is also part of the reason why Easy isn't very suitable. You're limited to tag-boosting, which doesn't give you much control, often fails, and only has the potential for a smallish range of outcomes.

How about using Normal? Standard boosting can result in gunner survival (like for Heroic and Legendary), but it seems rather fickle. I did some testing, and with one fully healthy armoured guy he was surviving ok, but with another guy he wasn't (the plasma blast killed him every time). It depends on resilience. Bear in mind, there's variation in resilience even between two guys who are both armoured and with 8 health bars.

Let's add some fizz


After throwing your two boosting grenades, you can potentially tag the hog for fun. It's pretty easy to tag it just as it's colliding with the Pelican, as seen in my movies. You can soon get the hang of aiming your throw in the right place. Another possibility is to tag the hog when it's sailing through the air after it's been catapulted, but that's harder (not least because of how fast it's going). Indeed, it's a real challenge.

There's also the possibility of tagging the gunner, if he's still aboard. He makes a tricky target, but you can get a decent success rate if you do the 2-grenade boost in a consistent manner and then hone the aim and timing needed for the tag throw.

If tagged, he'll bail. Sometimes when he does that, he gets quite far away from the hog before the bang. There's also something very rare that can happen. When he bails, it's possible that he immediately gets killed by contact with the hog. In that case he might drop some frags, and the plasma bang might detonate them. There's an example of this near the end of BCM372.

Tip: if you're planning to do tagging, I suggest having only have one frag in your set-up. That way, after you've thrown it as part of the boosting duo, you'll automatically be switched to plasmas. It saves you having to switch manually (not that it's any trouble, but it's simpler). Also, have four plasmas. One for boosting, one for a first tag throw, and two for possible extra throws.

Second bounce!

Getting a second bounce

If the hog gets catapulted sufficiently high and at the right angle, it can end up coming back down and bouncing off the Pelican a second time. Sometimes it might be just a glancing blow, which isn't very interesting, but other times it can be a good meaty bounce, such as seen at the end of BCM371 (see pic). It makes a nice challenge to specifically achieve this. It's pretty difficult though. You can expect to need a lot of tries before getting lucky. Actually there's even a possibility of a third bounce, if the second bounce sends the hog on a nice arc ahead of the Pelican. I wasn't far off getting that in the aforementioned case.

Protest calls

If you're playing on Easy or Normal and thus expecting any passengers to usually be killed by your 2-grenade boost, you can expect to be getting freqquently reprimanded by guys aboard the Pelican. In this connection, it's probably best if plenty of guys made it aboard, so you potentially get a good range of calls.

But depending on your set-up, or your location after doing a boost, you might find that you hear from some guys more than others. In a worst case scenario that could get monotonous. If you're going to have Warthog company but want to eliminate protest calls in advance, make sure none of the survivors fly out. I think the best way to do that is to first get all but one of them killed underground during combat. Then when the Pelican arrives, kill the last guy. The Pelican will still touch down.

Close call

Blue beam possibilities

Not long after I discovered this catapulting, a thought came to mind. Perhaps the hog could be catapulted into the blue beam? That would be quite a trick! In order for this to happen, obviously the beam needs to be firing at an appropriate time relative to the catapulting. When I created the set-up seen in BCM371, by chance the beam was due to fire at around about the right time. Normally I couldn't get the hog catapulted close enough, but on one occasion the hog got extra speed from some dropped frags going off, and hit the tower quite high up. So it looks like a blue beam zap is possible, with the aid of bonus blasts. You'll need freakish good luck though!

One other possibility, though of lesser interest, is that the body of a hog passenger could get zapped. I haven't actually had that happen yet either, but I've seen some close calls courtesy of bonus blasts.