Mob battle in the first snowfield

Posted July 28th 2006

The basic idea

This article gives a way of transforming the otherwise slightly sedate first ground battle of level 5 into an absolute blast of concentrated action. Using a special 'mob save' which starts off with the enemy collected in a big chasing mob beneath your hovering Banshee, you can quickly get into all sorts of intense situations, such as defending against the mob as it charges across the battlefield towards you and a squad of maybe six Marines. There are lots of ways of playing it. With around 17 enemies it's not quite a 'megabattle', but it's similar in spirit. If you like hot action, don't miss this!

Background

This is something I came up with while investigating the business of getting extra Marines. So thanks again to Boris for getting me started on all that!

Creating a mob save

Here's the basic plan for creating a 'mob save', with Marines as healthy as possible for what they'll face later.

Eliminate the Banshee

At the first bridge, shoot down any enemy Banshee before it gets a chance to damage any Marines. A pistol should make short work of it.

Descend and make advance arrangements

Now for a spot of rearranging. Do a descent trick off the bridge and bring back the 'twin bridges Banshee' from the much later area with twin bridges overhead. Use it to blast the Shade over so the gunner won't be able to man it. He'll still materialize nearby though. If you're going to have extra Marines, preferably also blast the Shade up towards the distant end of the battlefield so the Grunt won't get hurt by the Marines who'll come through the door later.

If you fancy having a few extra Marines, and maybe an extra hog for dual chain-gun fun, do the appropriate arrangement as described in Two or three extra Marines and a hog.

Put the Banshee right by the door so you'll be able to get into it quick when you come through later. Point it towards the ice patch.

Resume normal play and trigger the battle

Go inside to the lift. Bring it down and ride up, then go through the room and get a checkpoint in the passage beyond. Now resume normal play, coming back down and triggering the battle as you head out into the snow.

As a safety precaution I suggest you save a checkpoint before you head out into battle. If your remaining work doesn't go well enough and you happen to get a subsequent checkpoint, you'll still be able to get back to that passage checkpoint by ejecting the disc and reloading, for another attempt.

Draw the enemy away from the Marines

Board the Banshee you left by the door and head for the Wraith low down, giving it a quick first salvo to grab its attention. Veer off to the right and fly a bit further towards the back of the area while staying below treetop height or thereabouts, then climb to relative safety, around the height of the first ledge.

By advancing deep enough into enemy territory while being sufficiently low down, you've triggered most enemies into new behaviour, namely to chase you. It's the crucial thing that makes this whole business work. The ones that were attacking the Marines will have started backing off, to come after you instead. There may be an over-enthusiastic Ghost pilot pestering the Marines; but if so, you can either go and get his attention to draw him away, or revert to try your battle entrance again. Don't get too near the Marines though; you don't want to link up with them yet. You may also need to get the attention of the plateau Shade, to stop it firing on the Marines.

But keep the midway checkpoint delayed

When you triggered the enemy into new behaviour, you also triggered the 'midway checkpoint' that you normally would've got when advancing up the battlefield on foot. But as long as you haven't flown much higher than the first ledge, it will have been delayed because of the threat level (the game delays checkpoints while it considers you under threat). Keep it delayed.

Finalize your mob

Assuming that you don't care much for oversized plasma balls raining down on your head in battle, eliminate the Wraith by destroying it or, much better, by flipping it over with your Banshee so the pilot is ejected and joins the mob.

Push the Shade off the plateau so the gunner pops out (you hope) and joins the mob. Yes I know it's only one Grunt, but every little helps.

If there's an Elite in a Ghost, you can eject him intact by blasting it over with a Banshee bolt to one side. I'd recommend doing it quick before he runs anyone over. If he does kill anyone though, you can always revert and try again, assuming you want every last enemy in your mob.

Save a delayed checkpoint

Get the mob gathered below you somewhere well away from the Marines; perhaps in the approximate centre of the battlefield, or maybe further back. Climb up high enough to finally get a delayed checkpoint, and save.

Further set-up tips

Here are a few extra tips on creating your save.

Spare weapons

For a deluxe save, take the time to arrange spare weapons for your later battling. It's pretty easy. Once you've brought back a Banshee, fly back up to the bridge and throw spares off, then fly down and move them to favourite defence spots to give yourself more options there.

The weapons can be any that were dropped by the enemies on the bridge or earlier in the level. Get needlers full on ammo before throwing them off. Plasma pistols on 100% charge can be obtained from Grunts on Shades, and you may also be able to find a plasma rifle on 100% from a Banshee pilot.

Good to go

Before you come out and trigger the battle, make sure to be loaded with grenades and armed with your preferred combo. Me, I'm going for a pistol and a plasma rifle, but I've also got needlers and plasma pistols lying around in the battlefield. My pistol is full, and my plasma rifle is on 100% charge, being one I picked up from the Banshee pilot earlier and then carefully avoided using before battle.

Keeping the Wraith

You may like to leave the Wraith manned so you can look forward to rocketing it time after time. Besides which, the Wraith isn't actually as much grief during battle as I thought it might be, and you sometimes see enemies amusingly taken out in a friendly blast. However, in order to finally get a delayed checkpoint to complete your save, you'll probably need to either fly up extremely high (up in the mist above the second ledge) or briefly go around the corner into the next area (not too low, else you'll trigger the battle there). Otherwise the game tends to continue the checkpoint delay, due to the perceived threat.

Overturning Ghosts

In regard to the two Ghosts that were originally near the Shade plateau, you can blast them over before completing your save if you want to avoid Elites or (even worse) Marines clambering into them. Personally though, I quite like to leave them available so I've got the opportunity for rocketing enemy Ghosts later, or for taking them out some other way (plasma grenades or intense fire). It makes for some nice variation in the battling.

Lone Elite at the back

All enemies on foot will chase you freely, with one exception. There's a 'lone Elite' based in the corner depression near the ramp-like plateau, who won't stray far from that area on foot. However, if he happens to get hold of a Ghost, he'll join in the attack. Here's what you can do to arrange this.

Let an Elite bring his Ghost over near the depression, then blast it over to eject him. Lead the mob away so the lone Elite is nearest the Ghost, then blast it back over. Wait for him to get in (which may require you approaching in a threatening manner), then get your save checkpoint. An alternative way of finishing off is to leave the Ghost overturned. That way, each time you start your save you'll have the option of whether to blast it back over so the lone Elite will get aboard and come after you, or leave it alone so he doesn't.

Even more Marines

You could easily modify the plan so you get seven extra Marines rather than three. However, you can expect at least two of the Pelican Marines to remain inactive during battle, just standing around motionless as bullets and plasma fly about the place. That brings the number of active extras down to just four or five, whilst the inactive guys spoil the realism somewhat, which is why I preferred to focus on just getting two or three extras. But if you don't mind, go ahead. You could always lead the active Marines away from base, so the inactive guys aren't such a distraction.

Extra toys

You could arrange extra toys to use when battling later; Ghosts, extra Banshees, the Scorpion, whatever you like. See New toys in the first snow battle for tips on bringing back vehicles.

You can potentially use items to form blockades to create novel battle situations. For example you could plan a situation in which the enemy gets held back by a line of Ghosts, which you can then enjoy rocketing. Blockades are something more usually associated with the spiral path megabattle; check out the Blockade tips page in that section, for tips and ideas that might adapt to the current situation.

Enemy numbers

Here's a bit about the enemy numbers you can expect in your save, including the Wraith pilot.

Expressed as 'Elites + Jackals + Grunts', the breakdown for a given difficulty level depends on whether the Marines are initially being attacked by 2 Jackals or 3 Grunts (which seems to vary randomly each time you trigger the battle). On Heroic, which is my preferred level for the battle, you respectively get 4 + 7 + 5 = 16 or 4 + 5 + 8 = 17. On Legendary it's 4 + 8 + 5 = 17 or 4 + 6 + 8 = 18. On Normal or Easy it's 4 + 6 + 6 = 16 or 4 + 4 + 9 = 17.

Incidentally, these numbers are a few less than what you'd get when playing through the area normally, killing enemies as you go. Played normally, you'd encounter an extra two pairs of Jackals near the end of the area. Collecting a mob though, you don't get them, presumably because the game is trying to keep a lid on how much it has to cope with at any one time.

Battle plans

Here are some fun-filled battle plans to use with your save.

Fixed defence

Lead the mob to some starting point, then land somewhere and defend against the charging mob. There are all sorts of excellent little fights you can arrange like this, depending on where you defend and where the mob is coming from. Explore.

Of course, the most obvious place to defend from is back with your Marines, for added firepower and atmosphere. Actually, you've potentially got time to move the squad before the enemy reaches you, so consider moving away from base for a battle with a different feel. You may also have time to fly yourself up to the top of a large rock (there are a few behind the Marines), or even a ledge above the Marines, perhaps with a spot of sniping or rocketing in mind (or, perhaps on a low difficulty level, just watching how the Marines fare).

Talking of sniping, that's plenty of fun just in itself. You can have a great time wiping out the whole charging mob with the sniper rifle before they even get a sniff of you. Ok there's not much challenge there, but it's hard to resist that rifle.

When the enemy are coming from afar, you'll soon notice that they tend to arrive in three waves, due to their different speeds. First come the Elites, then the Grunts, then the Jackals. For the most intense battles, start the mob off from relatively close to your chosen defence spot so the waves don't get a chance to become so pronounced.

There are a couple of places where the enemy finds it relatively hard to get at you, and these can be great places to try to hold out at. For example try defending the narrow gap between the Shade plateau and the cliff. You can get the enemy to approach from either side. There's also a good rock nearby, handy for defence. You can also do a bit of hit-and-run around the base of the plateau; go around one side and briefly attack, then retreat and go around the other side for another attack, and so on.

Another excellent place to defend from is beneath the end of the long ramp-like plateau at the far end of the battlefield. Enemies have to come around one side or another to get at you, but you'll probably have the most fun when they're all down in the corner depression trying to get up at you. That's pretty special. It's a great situation for grenading and pistol work, and it's one of my favourite ways of fighting the battle.

Here's another idea. If you land on the high end of the ramp-like plateau after leading the mob into the corner depression below, they'll mostly stay down there and you can have fun picking them off one by one, or raining explosive destruction down, whichever takes your fancy. Nice.

Dual chain-gun fun

If you got an extra Warthog, you can have great fun defending with dual chain-guns (a special case of a 'fixed defence'). There are various ways of setting it up, but here's the simplest.

Assuming you came through the door in a manned hog, leave it there to immediately switch to your Banshee and complete your save. The passengers won't get out while you're gone, which is handy (this hog seems strangely and usefully different from the new one in that regard; it retains its passengers). Hopefully the gunner won't kill anyone yet; enemies are initially all quite distant, and you should make sure they stay distant while preparing your save. The mob should be started off near the far end of the area, so you'll have plenty of time to set up your defence.

Once you've got your save, you can fly back to base, pick up a gunner in the second hog, then link up with the original. Or, fly to the manned hog, drive it back to base, then set up a gunner in the second hog. Either way, you've got your two hogs waiting. The enemy will close in and take the full force of dual chain-guns, hopefully in a nasty cross-fire. Glorious! If the hogs are close together, try standing between them to get the full earth-shaking experience!

You'll be able to get out of the second hog once the enemy are approaching. The gunner seems to stay aboard while the situation is threatening (though in other parts of the level, he may dismount even when in a firefight).

Roaming defence

Lead the mob to some starting point, fly to your Marines to link up with them, then start roaming around the battlefield. Your Marines follow and the enemy closes in. Keep on the move, perhaps circling around. Pretty soon the Covenant and Marines should be all mixed up in a big trigger-happy stew. A fine recipe for chaos. Circling the enemy in a Ghost is great fun as you can continually strafe the enemy caught within, creating a scene of utter devastation. You should see the mess it leaves! Circling in a manned Warthog is pretty good fun too.

Land and retreat

Lead the mob to some starting point, land somewhere not too distant from them, and retreat (to begin with at least), wiping them out as you back off. Excellent fun, especially for pistol fans. Don't forget to use a few grenades too!

Covenant sandwich

Lead the mob to some starting point, fly to your Marines to link up with them, then zip off to some distant defence position such as the high end of the long ramp-like plateau, or the depression down below in the corner (where there's a handy rock for cover). As the enemy head your way, they'll tend to have a bunch of Marines coming up behind, and they'll end up getting grief from both sides. Amusing. I love it when the covies don't know which way to turn!

Actually, this sort of battle comes in two flavours, depending on how you time things. If the enemy don't get close to the Marines to begin with, they'll tend to focus on you, and it's not until later that the Marines arrive and give the enemy a shock. On the other hand, if the enemy got close to the Marines as you whizzed off, that may provide the brunt of the fighting, and your role becomes more one of supportive distant fire as the enemy slowly backs your way while fighting off the Marines. This latter situation is great for the rocket launcher. Send some unsuspecting covies sky high!

When you head off to your defence position, you don't have to still be in the Banshee. You could maybe switch to the hog and pick up a gunner to help you out.

Sticky situation

Drop yourself slap bang in the middle of the mob. All hell breaks loose. See if you can survive. Actually, even on Heroic it's quite possible. You'll probably want to have a plasma weapon ready. Go for the Elites first, while keeping on the move so a lot of enemy fire hits their own guys.

Stationary mob

Lead the mob to some starting point, then briefly fly low over the step that leads to the next area, to trigger the battle there. Enemies lose their chasing behaviour and initially stop where they are, though they may subsequently group closer together for solidarity. They make a great target to attack.

A close-knit group makes a glorious target for a rocket launcher. From up on a ledge you can send the enemy scattering in all directions. It's good to lob grenades down too; I quite like switching to a sniper scope to watch the comical enemy reactions as they see it come in and nestle among them. You can also enjoy some excellent plasma pistol sniping from the ground or a ledge, or simply go and attack them on foot. On foot, I like to explode enemies with needle streams, using a plasma pistol for wiping Jackal shields.

There's fun to be had with Marines too. When you triggered the next battle, four of your Marines (if you've got that many) will have suddenly started running towards it, with the aim of jumping down into the next area. If the enemy lies in their path (which is easy enough to arrange), you can join the Marines on the ground and enjoy battling through; or perhaps take up a separate supporting position (e.g. on the high end of the long ramp-like plateau).