Seven extra Marines and a hog

Posted July 21st 2006, updated later

Associated movies… BCM8, 25, 41, 174, 241

The basic idea

That's a lot of bozos

While exploring my three extras trick, I was amazed to find a quite different and comically simple method that gives you seven extra Marines, plus an extra Warthog if you want it. Woo-hoo!

Four of the extra Marines are the ones that come in on the Pelican. They're normally destined to be dead by the time you enter the battle, but you trick the game into leaving them alive. They're potentially inactive at the start of the battle, but even if so, they can be activated later - though they'll be strangely invisible to the enemy and won't get fired on. If you do the trick fast enough though, it's possible to have all ten Marines active right away, which is great fun and a distinct improvement over the measly three you normally get for the battle.

Just one Elite left men!

The Pelican Marines will include either a Sergeant Johnson or a Sergeant Stacker, something which gets randomly determined at the loading point just before you reach the bridge. If you get Johnson, you'll potentially be able to hear his hidden all-clear speech later!

Having got ten Marines in the first area, you can have thirteen when you link up with the next group, and eighteen with the final group. Quite a sight! You can enjoy fighting through the level with your massively boosted squad, except that you'd be well advised to ditch the snipers to avoid them shooting everyone else in the back. Actually, the best use for a large squad is to get it into a cavern megabattle or twin bridges megabattle, where you'll be in for a lot of fun.

Getting seven extra Marines also enables you to get extra frags with which to launch stuff. After I posted the original version of this article, BigGruntyThirst did a video in which he exploited things to get two Johnsons and a hog to the end of the level. Nifty!

Three versions of the trick

Here's my basic version of the trick, followed by two Banshee versions which make it easier to keep the Marines healthy for later (e.g. maybe you want them for a megabattle). If you want to end up with ten active Marines in the ground battle, you'll need to use either the basic version with a fast descent, or the Banshee grab version.

Rattle that chain-gun!

Basic version

If there's an enemy Banshee (you get one on Heroic and Legendary), destroy it before it attacks the Marines, unless you specifically want to have it around in the later ground battle. Go across the bridge and into the exit passage, far enough to trigger enemies in the second room. You just need to get across the start of the final black stripe in the long middle section. Come back out and descend off the bridge, however you like. You can potentially help yourself there by delaying the exit passage checkpoint.

Now you're down, trigger the battle by going through the door. If you're not interested in an extra hog, just step through. But if you want an extra hog or want to be driving a hog into battle, board the current hog and optionally pick up passengers, get to the door and briefly dismount to make it open, then drive through (preferably backwards so you'll be facing the right way for coming out), triggering the battle. You don't need to get the whole hog through; you just need to get your body across the threshold. Meanwhile the door will be closing again - or about to close - so dismount to stop it, then drive out into battle. Job done! You can see the working demonstrated in BCM174, though the actual focus of that movie is Johnson's hidden all-clear speech, which is why I used Easy.

Geez, wake up won't you Stacker?

The four Pelican Marines were intended to run from the Pelican and then become inactive, just standing around motionless as seen in BCM25. In that case some of them may activate as you approach, while others will activate only when you trigger the battle in the crashed Pelican area. But they'll all be strangely invisible to the enemy throughout the level.

However, if you trigger the battle before they end their runs, you'll stop them going inactive, which is great. They'll be just like normal Marines, visible to the enemy, and in particular they'll all play an active part in the immediate battle. To get down quickly enough though, you'll need to cross the bridge fast and subsequently descend fast, which means that your descent method has to be one you can do at the far end of the bridge. Unfortunately that's either problematic or impossible for NTSC and PC, so this is only a practical option for PAL users like myself. You can see me doing the basic version of the trick fast in BCM8, getting an extra hog for good measure.

This'll come in handy

Banshee fetch version

This version (originally just called the 'Banshee version' before I came up with another one) is demoed in BCM41. Destroy any enemy Banshee before it attacks the Marines, and descend off the bridge however you like (except, don't go into the exit passage yet). You can do those things in either order.

Head off to fetch a Banshee, but note these two details. Firstly, if you got off the bridge very fast, don't run off too soon or the Pelican Marines may not get enough time to run to the defence area, and in that case the game seems liable to remove them before you return. Based on my testing, you should make sure the music has played for at least ten seconds before you draw level with the ice patch. Secondly, if you're going to want an extra hog, don't drive off in the hog.

The first conveniently available Banshee is the 'twin bridges Banshee' from the much later area with twin bridges overhead, so I suggest you get that one. When you get back, land on the bridge and go far enough into the exit passage to trigger enemies in the second room. Come back out and fly down, and trigger the battle just as in the basic version by going through the door (in the hog if you want an extra one). Optionally you can delay the exit passage checkpoint to get a convenient battle start checkpoint.

Back with my new toy!

This version is essentially the same trick as it uses the same core mechanism. Namely, you trigger the enemies in the second room (essential for being able to trigger the battle), come back out and trigger the battle by entering the doorway on the ground - in the hog if you want an extra one. The only difference really is that you also fetch a Banshee to make use of it.

The Banshee will be very useful for preserving the ten Marines for later and also helping the next three, if that's important to you. Actually it can also save you a bit of combat, because if you did your descent trick without going far along the bridge, you can subsequently land at the far end without any more bridge enemies spawning.

Banshee grab version

This version (added much later) is demoed in BCM241. To start with, grab the bridge Banshee and fly to the far end of the bridge, landing there. Preferably avoid triggering further bridge covies along the way, or they'll get in your face at the far end. You can do that by avoiding flying low down over the bridge in the central area, where there's a trigger zone. Fly to the side instead.

Down with time to spare. Ten active Marines coming right up!

Go far enough into the exit passage to trigger enemies in the second room. Come back out and fly down, and trigger the battle just as in the basic version by going through the door (in the hog if you want an extra one). Optionally you can delay the exit passage checkpoint to get a convenient battle start checkpoint.

If you trigger the battle before the Pelican Marines end their runs, they'll remain active and you'll thus have ten active Marines in the battle. There's plenty of time for triggering things this early. If you're not bothering with an extra hog, you can be ready to trigger the battle even before the Pelican has touched down. As long as you're ok with doing a Banshee grab, this is the easiest version to use if you want ten active Marines in the battle.

Note: To have your Banshee in tiptop condition for the ground battle, quickly kill any nearby covies before boarding it (at the grab location), so it takes little or no fire as you fly off. You can't dawdle long though, if you want to keep the Pelican guys active.

Marine-retaining hog

In all cases, if you trigger the battle in the hog, that hog will have the useful property of being Marine-retaining, meaning that passengers will stay aboard even if you dismount. That enables you to get continued chain-gun support when you want it, or position a seated sniper where you like. The usual hog isn't like that, so this is a major bonus, particularly for megabattles.

Delaying the exit passage checkpoint

When heading along the exit passage to trigger enemies in the second room, a checkpoint is triggered part way along the second short section, i.e. just after you turn right. Delaying it can be useful in either of two ways, as follows.

At the door, ready for action!

Delaying to get a convenient battle start checkpoint

If you're interested in playing the ground battle repeatedly, delay the checkpoint until ready to trigger the battle, so it forms a convenient battle start checkpoint to revert to. I recommend also saving the checkpoint, in case you later get another within the battle (there's one triggered near the far end of the battlefield, though enemy threat often causes it to get delayed for quite a while).

Initially you can delay the checkpoint by jumping as you run along. In the basic version of the trick you can continue the delay during your descent by throwing a grenade beforehand - ideally with a high trajectory so it takes longer to go off. In the Banshee versions you can do likewise for your flight to the ground, but there's also the option of using Banshee firing. Once on the ground, you can use jumping again if needed.

If you want to be triggering the battle in a hog, in the basic version you can use grenade throwing to continue the checkpoint delay while picking up any passengers and reaching the door. An active grenade will keep the delay going for several seconds while you're in the hog. It'll probably take a few throws, so be prepared to get out to lob another grenade. Lob high to give yourself as long as possible. With the Banshee versions however, you can position the hog at the door before triggering the passage checkpoint, so it's already in place.

Warning: In the basic version, if you deliberately left the enemy Banshee intact to add to the fun of the ground battle, its presence would likely to keep the checkpoint delayed, which is obviously no good. But you might get the checkpoint, if the Banshee gets relatively distant and nobody is firing.

Just before the loading point

Delaying to ease the descent work in the basic version

If using the basic version and you're not interested in a convenient battle start checkpoint, you could instead use checkpoint delaying to delay the passage checkpoint until in position for your descent, so you'll be able to make repeat attempts quickly.

However, if you're using the tree and rock method, you'll be stuck with the current rock, which could be an unfriendly one. Instead I recommend doing the following, as seen in BCM8. Delay the checkpoint (e.g. by jumping) until just before the loading point on your way back out. It'll be on the last black stripe in the long middle section of passage as you go. Each time you fail a descent and revert, you'll get a newly randomized rock as you go through the loading point; and hopefully you'll get a nice one soon.

Why does it work?

Why does the trick work? After various experiments, I think I've now got a fair picture of what's going on.

Lift comes down, Marines outside get removed

Normal play

First, here's what I think happens in normal play, which is really all the game is planning for. When you trigger enemies in the third room (as the lift comes down to a stop), the game also removes the Marines outside. Just after the loading point in the passage leading outside, the game triggers the battle. It creates three new Marines - nice and healthy to try to give you a fair chance of keeping them alive (even though the originals may've been damaged or even killed in a Banshee attack). It scatters bodies around to simulate the loss of four Marines so far, and it also moves the hog into its overturned position (or more precisely, I suspect it removes the original and creates a new one for the overturned position; but it's meant to be the same one of course).

Trick play

Now let's consider what happens during your trick. When you move through the door on the ground, the game does what it normally does in the section of passage after the loading point. It says to itself "If enemies have been triggered in the second room, and the outdoor battle hasn't been triggered yet, trigger it." Well, enemies were triggered in the second room, so the game triggers the battle. That includes creating three healthy new Marines. The game doesn't remove the seven existing Marines, because it's expecting that this would've been done earlier at a certain place indoors. Crucially though, you never got that far indoors! As for the business of an extra hog, well, if you're driving it when the game wants to move it to its overturned position, that's apparently enough for the game to have a hands-off policy, so it's not removed. You do still get the overturned one though.

Getting down fast in the basic version

No I do not have time to sign an autograph!

As mentioned for the basic version, you can end up with ten active Marines in the battle if you trigger it before the Pelican Marines have ended their runs. That's good fun and you may also have a Banshee to contend with down there. You'll need to get across the bridge fast though, and also be able to descend on that far side (you wouldn't have time to return to the near side). It'll need to be a no-messin' case of "Cyborg coming though!", blitzing enemies on the move while retaining perfect health in the interest of surviving the descent. You can see me doing this in BCM8 using a pistol and plasma pistol, which I think is a good blitzing combo. Here's some specific advice.

You can simply bypass early enemies (dozing Grunts and a pacing Elite below); just run. If there's a Banshee it's likely to zero in on you. However, I find that momentarily stopping behind one of the stanchions often prevents an attack run - presumably because the pilot lost his target and decided to veer off.

And here's a frag for good measure!

When the far door opens, you can send a grenade or two sailing over to plop down in the vicinity of the door and passage, hopefully removing much of the threat there. Specifically, on Heroic I like to land a plasma in the passage, then a frag as I get closer, as seen in the movie. If you encounter the gold Elite in your way, which is often the case, a good tactic is to just tag him and jump over him or go past while he's busy growling.

When you come back out of the passage there may still be some enemies around, but they'll often either be panicking or heading off to watch the Pelican. Resist the temptation to open fire needlessly on such enemies. As long as they're not in your way, it's better if you can instead get to your descent spot without attracting enemy fire, though you can still survive descents if your shield is damaged. If you're using the method of bouncing off a ledge then a tree and a rock, the quickest way to the run-off spot is to drop through a glass panel hole, so it's good if you shattered the panel before you went indoors. You can see me doing that in the movie, though I fail to follow my own advice about not attracting attention needlessly when coming back out. Got a bit trigger-happy there!

Hit that pedal!

It's also possible to get an extra hog with your ten active Marines, but you'll want to get down fast enough to hop in as soon as the Pelican releases it (and incidentally, you'll hear the sergeant yell some encouragement to the Marines as they disembark). You can't afford to be more than about two seconds late. You'll then need to drive straight for the door and go through in the hog quick, after a neat dismount to get the door open. It's just possible to trigger the battle in time to stop the Pelican Marines going inactive.

Incidentally, if you trigger the battle even before the Pelican has touched down, you'll see its hog suddenly ripped away and moved to its overturned position. Yoink!

Some details and tips

Here are some additional details and tips.

Second room

To trigger enemies in the second room, it suffices to go just past the loading point at the start of third black stripe in the long middle section of the passage. You'll see red dots on your tracker if you hang around, but there's no need to. You can just run onto the stripe then head back out. These enemies seem to get removed by the game when you trigger the battle shortly. That said, it's ok to go into the room if you want; it won't stop the subsequent trick working. You could take advantage of the supplies if you wish.

Getting a particular sergeant

If you have a preference for which of Stacker or Johnson should arrive on the Pelican, it's simply a case of making repeated tries from a checkpoint prior to when the randomization occurs, which is namely at the loading point before reaching the bridge. In particular you might want Stacker so you don't end up with two Johnsons when you get to the crashed Pelican area, where there's a Johnson with a sniper rifle. Incidentally, this isn't the only campaign situation in which you can have two Johnsons together. In level 2, if you get one from the first group of Marines, you can drive him into the second part of the level and potentially meet up with another in the rockslide survivor area.

Moving Marines before battle

If you like, you can move the original three active Marines to other places before triggering the battle. For example you could drive some up to the Shade plateau to give the forthcoming grunty gunner a nasty surprise, or put them in the crashed Pelican area, or even beyond. They mustn't be in the hog though, else they'll vanish when the game moves the hog into its overturned position.

Hey guys, where've you been?

If you drop Marines in the battle area, they'll start running back to base unless prevented (e.g. by being on that Shade plateau). However, that makes a novelty in itself, to have Marines running across the battlefield at the start. How about dropping a couple right at the far end so they have to come through enemy territory? A bit mean perhaps, but the exercise will do them good, right? I just hope they don't stand around trying to bounce bullets off that Wraith!

Good shooting from up here eh lads?

One place I tried putting Marines is up on one of the two huge rocks behind the defence area, hoping they'd stay in place. Those rocks can be low enough to drive up in the hog if you're lucky (the rock geometry got randomized at your last loading point). I managed to get all three up there without much trouble, and after triggering the battle it was easy enough to drop myself there with a Banshee. It was a novel position and gave me some quite dramatic looking images to choose from for this article (see pic). However, the Marines do tend to run off down to the ground after a while, sometimes very early (perhaps after doing a roll). It's worth trying though.

Enemy materialization

When you trigger the battle, you can see the enemy materialize, which is quite a novelty. See what you can spot. The nearby Shade gunner may spawn a considerable way away from his Shade, in which case the game quickly moves him into position. It seems to depend on where you're looking. You can see an example of that around 3:01 in BCM241.

An explosion effect is visible near the Wraith, and you can see parts of something getting scattered; actually it looks like a Wraith explosion effect. It's presumably just to give a loud bang that Bungie was expecting you to hear as you come through the passage leading outdoors. What was supposed to've caused the bang though? I suppose you could imagine that a Marine got lucky with the rocket launcher; but when you get to the launcher it's full, so that doesn't quite fit. Maybe the Wraith pilot just didn't like the look of a Ghost, and fancied blowing something up? They do seem a bit tetchy these Covenant.

Replaying the battle

If you're interested in playing and replaying the battle, bear in mind that a checkpoint gets triggered midway up the battlefield if you're on the ground or sufficiently low down in a Banshee. However, it'll be delayed while the game considers you under threat, making it fairly easy to keep the checkpoint delayed automatically until you've wiped everyone out. After that, either revert quickly or manually delay the checkpoint further until ready to revert. If you do get the midway checkpoint, you'll annoyingly have to eject the disc and reload if you want to get back to the battle start checkpoint - assuming you had the good sense to save it of course.

Preserving Marines for later

Here's some advice on how best to preserve the Marines for later battling, such as if you want them for a megabattle you're going to set up.

That got his attention

Divert and destroy with a Banshee

If you've got a Banshee, which would certainly be an advantage, blast over the Shade in advance to prevent its grunty operator from using it, and have the Banshee near the door. As soon as you trigger the battle, board the Banshee and head for the Wraith, giving it a quick first salvo to grab its attention. With any luck it won't fire a single shot at the Marines. Staying several metres below the height of the first ledge (below treetop height would do), continue up the battlefield until past the middle of the ice patch, then climb to greater safety if desired.

Here they come…

By advancing deep enough into enemy territory while sufficiently low down, you've triggered enemies into new behaviour, namely to chase you. The ones that were attacking the Marines will have started backing off to come after you, except that if an Elite got into a Ghost, he may have gone for the Marines and failed to withdraw yet. If that's the case you could go and get his attention to draw him away, or just blast him directly. But hopefully he spotted you earlier and never bothered the Marines at all. You may've already caught the attention of the high Shade too, but if not, you can quickly blast it.

Now you've removed all immediate threats to the Marines, you can wipe out the enemy at leisure, either from a safe height or lower down. By the way, if you didn't overturn the Shade near the door in advance, the gunner often dismounts and comes your way regardless. Sometimes he changes his mind and goes back though; he's a confused little fella!

One Wraith nicely toasted

…or without a Banshee

If you don't have a Banshee, for starters you can still overturn the Shade in advance, with a grenade or by shunting it with the hog. Be alone in the hog as you trigger the battle. You can then head up the battlefield just like with the Banshee, to divert the enemy's attention away from the Marines. Aside from doing a bit of squashing, perhaps your best bet after that would be to switch to a Ghost to eliminate enemy vehicles and the Shade gunners. But if you did the fast version of the trick and didn't have time to destroy the Banshee (on Heroic or Legendary), it may continue attacking Marines; so that's potentially a problem. When doing the fast version, do try to destroy the Banshee before the battle is triggered.

Flying Ghost!

If you're not so keen on the idea of driving away from the Marines at the start, you could start by driving over to the Ghosts, as seen in BCM8. The Wraith will switch its attention to you, giving the Marines a reprieve. At this point you can dismount and use a pistol to take down the Grunts or Jackals attacking them. You'll also have a few covies to take care of nearby of course. A frag or two is handy for the minor enemies, and the Elite is easily tagged as he goes for his Ghost or boards it. If there's an enemy Banshee, bring it down with pistol fire. You could also use pistol fire on the Shades. After that I'd suggest going to tackle the Wraith with a Ghost or even on foot (plasma pistol fire is pretty good for destroying it), leaving the Marines completely safe. In BCM8 I did things a little differently though, partly for the sake of entertainment.

Jackal attack preferred

One last thing. When the battle is triggered, the enemy attack will be led by either a few Jackals or a few Grunts. Jackals are much preferable because they're slower to reach the Marines and they don't throw squad wrecking plasma grenades. When you trigger the battle, you can spot whether you've got Jackals or Grunts; and if it's the latter, you can revert to try again.

Marine management

Here's some advice about managing the Marines, particularly in regard to activating Pelican Marines and getting everyone into the crashed Pelican area.

Link-up area indicated

Marine behaviour and activation

If you didn't trigger the battle before the Pelican Marines ended their runs to the defence area, they'll be inactive to begin with. If you approach, one or two may activate, maybe acknowledging your arrival or saying something like "Whoa!" as if having a delayed reaction to spotting the enemy. If you link up with the Marines, which simply requires entering a certain area sufficiently low down (below treetop height), the active ones will follow you around, at least until you trigger the battle in the crashed Pelican area. When that happens, you generally find that four Marines run towards and over the step, and very often those four will include any Pelican Marines that had remained inactive. Any Marines that don't head over the step will just stop where they are but you can easily get them over later (see below). Once in the next area, all Marines seem to behave as normal.

If any inactive Pelican Marines fail to activate after you've triggered the battle in the next area, it's usually no problem because you can just revert to a checkpoint you probably got near the end of the first battle and try again. However, another plan is to instead avoid linking up with the Marines, so everyone remains back at base. In that case I find that when the next battle is triggered, the four Pelican Marines almost always activate and head for the step. The other Marines will remain at base, so it'll take longer to get them over the step, but that's no great hardship - just a bit more driving. This is the most reliable plan if you care to use it.

That's it buddy, hop on down

Getting active Marines over the step

As for any active Marines that don't run over the step, you can pick them up in a hog to drive them over or let gunners dismount over the edge so they fall down. When a gunner dismounts, there's a risk of some other bozo hopping aboard before you drive clear of the step (they can jump up onto the gun or the passenger seat), but you can help minimize that by taking a look below to avoid driving clear while there's anyone close. Also, try not to have the rear of the hog hanging over the edge. Another option is to drive four Marines over the step in the Scorpion, having brought it into the first battlefield in advance (you can get it up the step at the left; see here for details).

Strange invisibility to the enemy

Unless you were quick enough to trigger the ground battle before the Pelican Marines end their runs and go inactive, they'll be strangely invisible to the enemy throughout the level. The enemy won't target them, even when fired on. You'll be able to see the Marines running around firing off their assault rifles, and the enemy just takes it. A bit unfair on the Covenant, and distinctly unrealistic, but maybe you don't mind. Heck, maybe you'll enjoy watching!

If you want to get two of these guys aboard a Marine-retaining hog for later use (so it won't get targeted when you leave it), avoid linking up with Marines when you trigger the first ground battle. Wipe out the enemy then move the hog to or over the step, ideally without triggering the crashed Pelican area yet (e.g. you could blast it over the step from high up with a Banshee). After triggering the area and helping out, get two of the imminently arriving Pelican Marines aboard as soon as they come over the step (they won't board any earlier), before any other Marines close in. If you want the sergeant but he doesn't initially board, there's potentially time to get before the other Marines close in, or you could get him later.

Helping the next three Marines

The battle in the crashed Pelican area is normally triggered as you reach the step leading down to it, on foot or in a ground vehicle. But more generally it's triggered when you enter a certain area sufficiently low down. If you're keen to keep the three new Marines healthy to add to your oversized squad, here's my advice. But however you do it, I suggest that you avoid getting a checkpoint in this area until you've made things safe and got your previous Marines over the step. A checkpoint is triggered a little over halfway past the central snow mound.

Oooh, that looks messy

Banshee blitz

A Banshee comes in very handy. The simplest method is to fly low over the step and round the corner to blast the enemy a moment later (as seen in BCM41). That can devastate the main crowd, though they'll probably still need some finishing off. Another method is to fly high enough to avoid triggering the battle yet, go around the corner a short way - still a few metres back from the big tree - and let the Banshee sink vertically down. When you get low enough, the enemy materialize (if you weren't too far forward) and you can send a blast into their midst before they even know what day it is. You can even fire your shot before they spawn, if you care to anticipate their appearance.

Never knew what hit 'em

Scorpion surprise

Or how about using the tank? This is the most devastating method of all. Fly over the step high enough to avoid triggering the battle yet, then land and board the tank. Move it onto the stretch of snow on which the Marines will spawn, have it aimed at where the enemy mob will appear, then back it up past the tree. When you get back far enough, enemies appear and BOOM! - a single well-placed blast can take out the whole lot, leaving just a few enemies off to the left further away. It's far more powerful than a Banshee blast. The Marines will quickly board, and at that point it's worth making sure Johnson has a clear line of fire with his sniper rifle. Finishing off shouldn't be much trouble.

Note: To minimize the danger of your shell hitting one of the Marines, be left of centre as they spawn on the right. One other potential bit of trouble is that a shell might go well beyond the enemy mob, even if your aim looked good. To try and avoid that, keep your elevation fairly minimal.

Fizzing gift for the new arrivals

Getting sneaky on foot

You can also tackle things on foot after flying over the step high enough to avoid triggering the battle yet. Back up like I indicated with the tank, ready to slaughter the main mob when they appear. The weapons of choice for this are the sniper rifle, rocket launcher and pistol. I favour starting with the rifle, poised to bring down the Elite with 2x zoom. But an extra tactic you can use is to throw a grenade in advance, triggering the enemy just as it's about to go off. That should help things along rather nicely.

Doing without a Banshee

If you don't have a Banshee, I'd suggest running in with a sniper rifle or rocket launcher at the ready - my usual approach when playing through the level 'normally'. If you opt for the rifle, pick out the Elite quick to try and cause panic - but also quickly bring down any Grunt about to throw a plasma. Instead of running in, you could instead drive in with passengers on the original hog, then hop out. That way you'll have a chain-gunner to help out, and he won't dismount because that hog is Marine-retaining. But on the minus side he might be a bit overzealous and shoot friendlies in the back!