Hillside entrance battles

Posted June 28th 2006, expanded later

The basic idea

In the hillside survivor area in the latter part of level 2, you can get the enemy to chase after you to an entrance, giving a novel battle there or just outside, particularly if you've arranged a squad of Marines to face them!

The high right entrance is best for this. The battle is potentially a two-phase affair in which you first deal with some of the original enemies, then later a second wave including some reinforcements that come in on a dropship. There's a checkpoint associated with the dropship which makes things a bit awkward in regard to being able to revert to the start of battle, but on the other hand it allows you to keep reverting to the start of the second wave, which is potentially the best phase. The second wave potentially comes a long way out, which is quite a novelty. Imagine five Elites running out of the high entrance and heading down towards the stream, right into the crossfire of a dozen assault rifles. That's one of the highlights you can arrange.

There's also some strange behaviour to witness at the right entrance, in which Grunts and Jackals issue panic cries non-stop for no apparent reason.

Creating a base save

To begin with I suggest you create a 'base save', in which you've already assembled a squad of Marines outside the high right entrance to the hillside area. You'll be able to use this as a starting point for quickly setting up battles with different troop arrangements. Obviously it's not quite as convenient for setting up battles near the left entrance, but you could always adapt it to make it so.

Drop your passengers outside

Start by dropping your original passengers outside the entrance. I suggest you put your Marines quite a way away off to one side (downstream perhaps), leaving the potential battle area clear for now. This will make it easier to arrange troops for specific battles later.

Maybe get reinforcements

If you fancy having a large squad, add to it with survivors from the nearby rockslide area. See Hillside reinforcements for advice on extracting rockslide survivors. However, before you head off to the rockslide, there's something I recommend doing first. Drive up to the hillside survivors so they fall back. Then kill the Elite (or two on Legendary) based on the nearby structure, if you want to ensure that the survivors won't be attacked while you're gone. The other enemies aren't a threat yet; they'll stay down the hill. On Normal or Easy, another reason for wanting the survivors to fall back is to stop the sniper killing enemies. Actually, if you're not going to want him in your squad later, you could just kill him quick from the high entrance before you drive in, if you've got a sniper rifle.

If you want an even larger squad, you could also get survivors from the cliffside area. There's also the possibility of getting one or two extra Warthogs if you fancy the idea of multiple chain-guns blazing away. In any survivor area, an evac Pelican will bring in a new hog if you don't already have one there.


There's also the matter of acquiring weaponry. If you want things to be as flexible as possible, assemble a weapons stash outside the entrance so that each time you start a battle, it'll be easy to select the combo you want. It'll take a lot of weapon moving though. There are various places you could get weapons from.

Add two hillside survivors

Ferry out two hillside survivors; but on Normal or Easy, avoid the sniper (if you've left him alive). As you come through the entrance, you'll hopefully get a checkpoint. But if not, drive well away from the entrance then back towards it, which should do the trick. Save, to complete your base save. Importantly, there's still at least one survivor on the hilltop.

Setting up a battle from your base save

Starting with your base save (or with a copy of it, so you can feel free to save the battle), you set up a battle by arranging your squad and other resources as desired, then triggering the enemy into an attack. At some point you hopefully get a convenient battle start checkpoint, allowing you to revert to replay things. However, the details of all this vary according to which entrance you're battling near. The following four sections discuss four types of battle.

Outside the right entrance

Outside the high right entrance is where I think you get the most enjoyable battling, so I'll talk about this case in depth.

Arranging your troops and weapons

Arrange your troops outside the entrance as desired. Put them within firing range of the top if you want them for the first phase of the battle, in which enemies don't come out far. You can put them much further back or off to the sides if you want them for battling a second wave that comes out a long way.

Dropping Marines off on the steeper part of the slope takes a bit of a knack, but you can get them out as the Warthog slides down. If anyone ends up too far down for your liking, you can get them to move up by driving the hog across the slope to make them dive clear in the desired direction.

If you've got a weapons stash in your base save, possibly move it to the most ideal place for the battle.

Triggering the attack

With your troops in place, ferry out or kill the remaining hillside survivors (one or two). You'll hopefully get a checkpoint near the entrance as you come back out. It seems a bit fickle though; maybe it depends on how close enemies are to you when you exit. It might help if you briefly drive out a long way, say down to the stream. If you don't get it, I suggest that after dropping off any passengers, you drive back in and up to the hilltop, then back out, hopefully getting a checkpoint this time. Once you've got a checkpoint, you may like to save it so you'll be able to return to it even if that requires ejecting the disc and reloading. You won't necessarily be able to get back to it later by simply reverting, because you might be getting a later checkpoint associated with a reinforcement dropship.

Because the hillside area no longer has any living survivors in it, the game considers the area dealt with, and this triggers the enemy into new behaviour. They lose their territorial restrictions and become free to chase you, which is just what we want. Get the enemy's attention by firing off a few shots near the entrance, if necessary. Once they're getting close, back off down the rise and they should start appearing at the top shortly. As the enemy approaches, you'll witness some anomalous panic cries from the Grunts and Jackals incidentally. Let battle commence!

There's an optional detail I didn't mention. Sometimes a few distant enemies may fail to get drawn into battle. If you want to minimize that possibility, you could try briefly driving around solo to tempt distant enemies closer to the entrance before you finally leave. Enemies near the far side of the large structure are the ones I'm thinking of here.

Explosive fun

The enemy can make an inviting target for grenades, not to mention a good stream of explosive pink needles. Marines are extremely keen on lobbing grenades here, and you can get some superb blasts, usually at the left of the entrance. Once I saw an Elite get blown halfway down the hill still alive, ending up behind the Marines. That caused a bit of a kerfuffle among the ranks!

Another time I saw an Elite dive forward to get clear of a grenade, and he sailed through the air for miles, taking a big health knock when he finally landed near the stream. And then there was a Grunt that did much the same thing; but it was far more amusing because of his arms-outstretched diving posture. You should've seen him flying through the air. Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it's Supergrunt! For a moment there I swear he had a cape on, fluttering in the wind. If you want to see this sort of spectacular diving, I suggest you lob grenades at enemies when they're at the far left of the entrance. The ground is really steep there.

I've also had some great fun lobbing high grenades from quite a way back, trying to blow enemies out through the entrance. It's pretty amusing when a Grunt or Jackal that was out of sight suddenly comes flying out into view. You can also enjoy bouncing grenades off the cliff walls so they plop down among the enemy.

Grunts are pretty keen on lobbing grenades too, and you'll undoubtedly see the occasional Marine get tagged and blown way up high. Those little critters are accurate! If you get just out of needler range, a Grunt will often start lobbing grenades one after another. On Legendary that can mean one every few seconds, amusing behaviour that I've experienced in a few other situations (see Danger! More falling Grunts).

Chain-gun action

You might like to have a Marine on the chain-gun, preferably quite a way back (even on the opposite bank of the stream), and watch his effect on the enemy through a sniper scope. You can get some really cinematic views if you stand somewhere close behind the gunner so you can see the spent cases flying out and the distant enemy getting massacred.

Warthog at the entrance

Here's something else to try. Leave an empty Warthog up at the entrance, or move it there during the battle (maybe making some enemies dive out of the way as it slides into place and you make your getaway). If you do this, it quite often ends up getting blown sky high, and sometimes crushes enemies when it comes down, adding to the entertainment value.

If you leave a Marine in the passenger seat, you can get another sort of amusement. The enemy tends to focus their fire on him, but he's usually well protected, so he might last quite a while. Meanwhile you can be just nearby watching. Enemies often ignore you entirely.

Reinforcement dropship

When the enemy count falls below seven, a reinforcement dropship is triggered. You can potentially see it materialize in the distance (beneath the sun), with doors that are open but which quickly close. Obviously Bungie weren't expecting you to be here to see this. Any remaining Grunts and Jackals seem to stop their anomalous panic cries soon after. Maybe the reinforcements gave them new courage? On Heroic the reinforcements seem to comprise 2 Elites and 4 Grunts; on Legendary it looks like 3 Elites and 3 Grunts.

Once the dropship appears, you're due to get a checkpoint, though it'll be delayed while there's any battling going on. If you want to delay getting it so you'll still be able to revert to the battle start, I suggest closing in on the enemy so you stay in their firing line. You could potentially finish them off then quickly revert. On the other hand, there's excellent fun to be had with the reinforcements too; read on!

Note that if you've made the hillside area the final survivor area to be dealt with, rousing music will start up after the dropship arrives, signifying the climax of the level.

Second wave

It would be nice if the reinforcements came straight over to join in the attack, but they don't. Initially they seem confined to a territory that stretches from the landing zone around to the hillside. In addition, the original enemies often fall back to the hillside (which makes for some fine sniping incidentally, particularly if the reinforcements are there too; and it's easy enough to get them heading over there if you want).

It seems to me that reinforcements only become free to come after you once the enemy count falls below six. So, I suggest you do some killing until only five enemies remain (potentially a mix of old and new), and then they should start heading your way. This is well worth doing because all enemies will now come a long way out of the entrance, given the chance. Apparently this 'second wave' is bolder. They'll come right down to the stream, and well off to the sides. It's quite a novelty to see enemies out here, and it can give some great battling. If anyone finds a way of getting more than five enemies to come out and play, please let me know!

Because they come out so far, you may like to arrange your Marines right back near the stream or way off to the sides, specifically for fighting this second wave. There's plenty of fun you could have with different squad layouts. First time I did this on Heroic, I had ten Marines stretched out a long way back, and when a blue Elite came down, the crossfire was the most spectacular I've ever seen. Poor fella didn't know which way to turn, and got cut to ribbons in pretty short order! Four Grunts came toddling out behind him and I had fun burying vicious long streams of needles into their grunty hides. Nice.

Actually the needler is a major delight in these encounters. When enemies are focused on Marines, you can send deadly streams of needles into their sides or backs from distance, giving them a nasty surprise. Ok the bang sometimes takes out nearby Marines who don't have the wit to get clear, but hey, is that my fault?

If you want to focus on second wave battling, try to make sure you get a checkpoint just before the wave comes out; either a delayed dropship checkpoint, or an entrance checkpoint after making a brief trip into the area to reduce the enemy count to five. You'll then be able to conveniently revert to fight the wave again.

Wave selection

Note that you can potentially select which enemies you want for the second wave; just eliminate the ones you don't want (easy if you've got a sniper rifle handy). For example, how about a battle in which five Elites come galloping out? I don't think the Marines are going to thank you for that particular choice, but do try it as it's rather spectacular. Better have a big squad ready!

Additional threats

While battling, there are two other threats you might face at some point.

Because the game considers the hillside area dealt with, one or more new enemies may have appeared across the stream, near the left entrance to the rockslide area (3 on Easy or Normal, 1 on Heroic, but none on Legendary). So you may find yourself accosted from behind. However, I don't think they like to appear if you're nearby. Maybe they'll only appear after you re-enter the hillside (which you might have cause for at some point, to get a second wave coming after you).

There's also the matter of Banshees, which get triggered after a first survivor area is dealt with. Even if you can see them circling in the distance, normally they don't get attracted over to you. However, if you back off along the stream towards the wide tunnel quite a way (e.g. defending against a second wave), or if you have Marines there, the chances of attracting a Banshee become higher I think, so watch out! Banshees are liable to act strangely in this area; see Mad Banshees.


You can have fun simply watching the Marines defend themselves. Using Easy will probably give the longest battles if you like this sort of thing. For a novel perspective, it can be fun to back off across the stream and watch with a sniper scope. It's also fun watching when standing behind a chain-gun blazing away, or behind a sniper working his way through the enemy.

Up at the right entrance

It's possible to set up a battle in which you have your Marines up at the high right entrance itself, firing on the enemy down below. Mind you, it's a bit fiddly dropping off your troops without squashing anyone, and there's also the problem that they may get spotted and come under fire before you've got everyone in position.

Trigger the enemy attack in the same way as for a battle outside the entrance. With this battle, the enemy doesn't seem to try very hard to press forward; they mostly stay back down on their side of the hill, probably because they can already see enemies well enough to shoot. The situation makes for some excellent grenading and needling.

Outside the left entrance

You can tempt enemies through the left tunnel entrance to have a battle outside. But it's hard to get a good bunch through, so the battle may be a bit feeble.

Triggering the attack

My advice for triggering an attack here is different from that for the other entrance. If you use that method (emptying the area of survivors and letting the enemy come after you), you'll find that when the enemy dropship is triggered later, the original enemies vanish courtesy of a glitch, even if they're right in front of you. Not ideal! If you want to avoid that, you'll need to trigger the dropship before leaving (by reducing the enemy count to six), standing well away from the entrance.

Regardless of your triggering method, it's quite hard to get a good pack of enemies to come through the tunnel, possibly because it's so bendy. Usually a handful will chase you out but others lose touch and stay back near the other end. If you head through the tunnel slowly, you should get more; but that's only a realistic option on the lower difficulty levels.

Additional threats

You may have to deal with two Banshees during the battle, triggered once the game considers a first survivor area dealt with. If you don't want Banshees flying around, you could deal with another survivor area first to trigger them, then destroy them. You may also have incoming fire from one or more enemies that got dropped near the stream, now that the game considers the hillside area dealt with.

Behind the enemy

Here's a novel position you can take up. With your Marine squad outside the entrance, lead enemies through the tunnel then hide behind the Warthog at the final bend in the tunnel. When enemies near the hog, they spot the Marines and start battling them. You can watch from behind, potentially unnoticed. Of course, there's nothing to stop you giving the enemy a nasty surprise at some point!

In the left entrance tunnel

Instead of battling outside the left tunnel entrance, you can battle inside the tunnel itself. This is perhaps more satisfactory than battling outside, as enemies are more readily attracted into battle (the sound of gunfire is closer to them). Things can get pretty intense as it's so confined. You'll probably need to take down any Grunts throwing grenades, else a large chunk of your squad could go up in one go. Hopefully you'll be unmolested by Banshees, though they may sometimes enter the tunnel if you're relatively close to the start.