Arc of death

Posted September 29th 2005, revised later

Associated movies

  • BCM318 - Legendary; Set-up and quick demos (6:17)
  • BCM319 - Legendary; Six plays (6:16)
  • BCM320 - Legendary; Eight plays without music (5:25)

The basic idea

Carnage coming up!

In the area where you first meet up with Marines, there's already one covie dropship on the scene, and five more are due later. The territorial limitations of the covies enables you to set up a situation where the troops from the final two dropships - and potentially two earlier covies as well - are holding back along an arc, and meanwhile you're at a safe distance near a rock. You can then wreak havoc in various ways, partly with the aid of a weapon collection you've assembled, and partly thanks to the arc being littered with dropped plasmas from earlier covies you killed. Grenades just waiting to be part of a chain reaction!

It's a wonderfully explosive situation and has to be some of the most wickedly enjoyable carnage going, with lots of possibilities. It also leads to the amazing phenomenon of blue beam zapping detailed on a separate page.

You could easily arrange the basic attack scenario in normal play, just by going to the rock once the last two ships are triggered, and getting a delayed checkpoint there so you can replay the fun. But my set-up plan coming up next is about making the most of things - chiefly by getting lots of loose plasmas lying around and also getting spare weapons. I'll talk about the actual fun later.

Setting up

This set-up plan can be seen demonstrated in BCM318. Any difficulty level can be used. Legendary gives the most enemies and loose plasmas but you mostly have to be quite standoffish as the enemy are so murderous. You might prefer Heroic, which is more forgiving yet still with plenty of plasmas. On Legendary your eventual save can feature up to 15 covies (13 from the final dropships plus 2 from earlier), whilst on Heroic it's 13.

Heading for the cover rock, and bringing an extra weapon

Arrival and early work

When you arrive on the scene, be fully loaded with grenades for the later fun, and bring a full pistol and full needler. You could also be bringing an extra weapon along (or even two), such as a plasma rifle on 100% charge from a Banshee pilot, or a plasma pistol on 100% from a dropship Grunt (you'll need to've killed him before he opened fire I think). It'll be a nice start for your weapon collection. Incidentally, it's a good idea to save your arrival checkpoint, in case you need to attempt the set-up work afresh.

Go to the big rock on the right. I'll call it the 'cover rock' as it provides cover (going to this rock and perversely staying there was how I latched on to this business in the first place, by the way). Let allies get killed. Help the covies if you want; they can't easily get the two crewmen on the structure anyway. If you're having trouble getting them too, you could try lobbing frags; but remember to replenish them at the structure later (there are three spare).

Killing from a distance

Covie killing and weapon collecting

Now kill covies along the arc, to start getting it littered with grenades (the game may remove some of the grenades later though; it's a bit random). Preferably leave just a needler Grunt alive, so it's then relatively easy to go around building a weapon collection near the cover rock. Try to have at least three full needlers eventually, plus anything else you want (e.g. a plasma pistol for taking down shields, and an extra pistol for spare ammo). You may not be able to get everything right away, but you can do more collecting later. Incidentally, if you leave the Grunt alive too long, the game will remove him, which potentially loses you a needler. So don't dawdle too much.

Continue with the troops of the next two dropships, killing them along the arc and maybe doing more weapon collecting (which had best be completed during this time). Sometimes these troops mysteriously fail to come to the arc, which is no good. I don't know any way of countering that. If you see that they're holding back by the structure, all I can suggest is that you return to an earlier checkpoint to try afresh.

Useful stuff for later!

When dropship 4 comes down near the cover rock, it's safest to back off to a deeper rock for a while in case the Elites advance. They can be aggressive like that if you're in sight. But even if they do advance, they'll soon retreat to the arc. Watch your tracker and return to the cover rock when it's safe. Then reduce the enemy count to two or less, to trigger the final two dropships.

Final checkpoint

A checkpoint is triggered with the arrival of these ships, but keep it delayed for now. You can use enemy threat (standing at the cover rock with covies present), or at other times jumping.

Unless you want an arrival dynamic, delay the checkpoint until all the troops have reached the arc. That way, each time you wipe everyone out and revert, you get get back into your explosive fun with minimal delay (you won't have to wait for troops to arrive). If there any covies you want to eliminate (e.g. maybe you don't want any Elites), you can do that now. You can potentially also influence the enemy layout somewhat, because they react to your positioning. When you're ready for the checkpoint, move out of enemy threat and you should get it within a few seconds. For safety (see the following warning), save it. All done!

Warning: Post-wipeout checkpoint trigger

When the covies are wiped out, the Pelican arrival checkpoint gets triggered and would typically come during the message "This is Pelican Echo 419, anybody reading me?" So if you want to replay the fun, be sure to revert soon enough (you'd best do it before hearing "419"), or keep the checkpoint delayed until you're ready.

Eliminating music

Sorry Foe Hammer, no pick-ups for you today

If you fancy having your fun without music, that can be arranged with the following modification of a standard save - as demonstrated in the latter part of BCM318.

Wait about five minutes for Echo 419 to turn up. After the hog drop there's a bit more intercom chatter, ending with "Foe Hammer out". A checkpoint is triggered right after that (there was also a checkpoint triggered when the Pelican turned up), but assuming you're at the cover rock with covies in sight, it'll be delayed by enemy threat. When you're ready (you might like to let the Pelican fly off first, just so it's not contributing any noise, or any strain on the game), move out of enemy threat to get it, completing your new set-up.

Covie vanishing issue

Aside from being able to hear the covies better, an advantage of this music-free set-up is that after wiping out the covies there won't be any new checkpoint due, so you don't have to worry about reverting before one comes. On the minus side though, there's an issue with covies vanishing. Once Echo 419 arrives, the game is prone to removing covies when they're out of sight. It's in a clean-up phase. From the cover rock the covies are generally mostly in view so this shouldn't spoil your fun much, if at all. But if an enemy takes cover, that may be the last you see of him. Likewise, an enemy may vanish if you momentarily look away - even if he's busy shooting at you!

Loose grenades, and bodies

To maximize the eventual carnage, you'll want the arc to get littered with plasma grenades from the earlier troops. You can get enemies to move around the arc by influencing them with your positioning, and that helps you control where grenades drop. You could have them scattered all around the arc for multiple small chain reactions, or try to build up concentrations for bigger bangs.

You guys might want to move, right about now

In particular it's easy to build up a high grenade count over by the large rock on the right. Enemies often head over there, and you can encourage this by positioning yourself so that enemies over on the left have to move across to be able to see you. In one Legendary save I managed to get 17 plasmas by the rock, along with plenty of bodies. When that all goes up, it's a sight to behold! The multitude of flying bodies really adds to the spectacle.

Countering removal

However, a frustration you have to contend with is that the game may remove some bodies and plasmas before those final troops arrive. They can vanish if you look away from them. That's annoying of course, but at least it doesn't take long to have another attempt, especially if you saved a checkpoint sometime earlier when things were still on course, so you can always get back to that state.

That was a lot of bodies!

If you're really keen on getting high counts of bodies and plasmas, you can try to minimize the removal problem. Here's the key thing to know. In order to stop the game removing stuff, it seems to me that contrary to what I'd previously thought, you don't actually have to keep it in sight. It's enough that you're merely looking the right way, irrespective of your view being blocked by interposing objects.

So for example, if you were to back off around the cover rock yet still be looking in the general direction of the right hand side of the arc, where probably most of the bodies and plasmas lie, that stuff won't get removed, even though it's out of sight. In deciding whether to remove an item, I think the game only takes into account the position of that item relative to the direction you're looking. If it's within the three-dimensional 'view volume' extending out from you in the direction you're pointed, it won't be removed (even when very distant). Or at least, that's what my testing suggests.

Invited guests only

Grunts and Jackals only - but they're vicious critters!

Bear in mind that because you can delay the save checkpoint until you want it, it's possible to create a save in which you've already killed some of the final enemies, leaving just the ones you want to play with. You can select your clientele.

For example I've got a nice save in which I've already killed all the Elites (which hopefully boosted the count of loose grenades a fair bit), leaving just the Grunts and Jackals. Moreover, I managed to persuade almost everyone to be over near the rock on the right where all the loose grenades were. So each time I start my save, I've got a whole bunch of soft victims standing in a sea of grenades. All I need to do is send in a stream of needles or a grenade, and BOOM! Very nice.

A save such as that is ideal if you're interested in setting off huge chain reactions again and again, with minimum work between blasts.

Having your fun

What you've basically got here is a very nice shooting gallery. You can enjoy using any weaponry but it's especially good for needling, and that's usually my focus, as you might gather from BCM319 and BCM320. You can use vicious long streams to take out covies with multiple bangs and trigger chain reactions among loose grenades.


Optionally, send in a grenade before or after the stream. You can get a different dynamic in each case. If you send it in before, it's liable to cause the targeted enemy to dive, and before he's fully recovered from that, he's got a stream of needles piling into him. This can be a nice way of getting an Elite who might otherwise dodge your needles. On the other hand, if you send it in afterwards and the needles are busy piling in, the grenade should help launch him skywards.

If you want to avoid waste with needler ammo, note this tip. When you've emptied a needler, don't just walk over another to get fresh needles. You'll lose the needles in its current clip (they'll disappear with the needler). Instead, first discard your empty needler by swapping for another type of weapon, and then swap that weapon for a new needler. Of course, if you've got enough needlers that you don't mind a bit of waste, you can ignore this nicety.

He's gonna feel those needles

Multi-directional blitz

You can be as leisurely as you like about wiping out the enemy. It can be fun slowly picking them off one at a time, but let me put in a word for the other extreme, in which you blitz them with a multi-directional non-stop succession of needler bursts and grenades (and maybe the occasional plasma ball for taking down Jackal shields). This can get pretty funny. Sometimes it's as if the whole arc is erupting with explosions. Like that Marine says, "I almost feel sorry for 'em!". For best effect you'd ideally want loose grenades scattered all around the arc, for plenty of chain reactions.

High bombardment, from behind the cover rock

To get a blitz off to a roaring start, you could send a spread of grenades high up into the sky so they'll land along the arc. Maybe throw a few more with a lower trajectory, then let loose with your needler. It'll practically be raining grenades over the next few seconds as your needles fly in. And that's got to be good, right?

Linear chain reactions

If you put a bit of work into your grenade distribution so they run along a section of the arc quite close together, you can end up with a 'linear' chain reaction that runs like a fuse. You set things off at one end of your grenade line, and the explosion travels along to the other end. A great spectacle, if the line continues a good way. You may've occasionally witnessed such an effect in normal gameplay just by freakish chance, but here at the arc the potential is unique. The holy grail of this business would be to see a chain reaction that goes all the way from one end of the arc to the other. I've at least managed a chain reaction that went about halfway around, but I did have to kill some of the final troops first to add to the grenades already prepared.

Have some of these

Up on the rock

For a bit of variation, climb up on the cover rock and attack from there instead. Nice view! However, you probably won't want any Elites over on the left, as they're liable to open up with those nasty plasma rifles. That said, it's possible to stand slightly back from the top of the rock so it gives you some cover.

Enemy complaints

The arc is great for provoking plenty of amusing Grunt exclamations of pain by sending in single shots. Lots of fun for Grunt fans. You may like to kill the Elites first, so you can get a bit closer without getting pestered by plasma. Here's something to try with a needler. Rapidly fire single needles at Grunts and Elites all around the arc. You don't even have to aim well; most needles are likely to home in on a target. You'll get an amusing non-stop succession of complaints from around the arc as the needles hit.

Bonus fun with a grenade concentration

If there's a good concentration of loose plasmas somewhere along the arc - such as at the rock on the right, where it's relatively easy to arrange - there are some bits of bonus fun you can have. One is bllue beam zapping which I've detailed on a separate page, and you definitely don't want to miss that. But here are some other things.

Nice view!

Cyborg launch

Use the concentration to launch yourself. You can potentially take some covies with you! The grenades can be detonated with a grenade of your own, or letting covies needle you. Go high enough and you'll see that the trees up on the hills are just two-dimensional sheets.


Use the concentration to send an incoming plasma grenade shooting off. Some shoot off so fast and high that they're simply never seen again! I've covered this general activity on the Flares and meteors page in the combat tips section of the site.

Tagged body

Launch a body or live covie with a plasma grenade fizzing on him so there's a nice mid-air explosion.

Other places

Although nothing matches the arc, there are other places where you can get covies assembled (with similar set-up work), ready to be slaughtered from a safe distance. The best other place I found was as follows.

When dropship 5 comes in, be standing up on the hill directly off the ship's right side. The enemy tends to collect between a tree and a large rock, ahead of the ship's hovering position. Halo rises into the sky practically dead ahead as you eye your foe. The curve of the hill gives you some cover but the enemy does tend to open fire on you more readily than at the arc, which is the main drawback. That said, I've obtained some excellent carnage here, with large chain reactions just to the left of the rock.