Hillside reinforcements

Posted June 17th 2006, expanded June 28th

The basic idea

In the latter part of level 2, a few survivors shelter at the top of a hill. If you reinforce them with your passengers plus lots of Marines from the rockslide area, you can have a real humdinger of a battle up there when the enemy closes in, and it's also great for simply watching. Read on for details.

Building your squad

First you need to build up your hillside squad.

Drop off your passengers

When you emerge into the valley after the light-bridge, go to the lifeboat by the stream and get the sniper rifle. Drive to the hillside survivors, preferably using the high right entrance, and drop off your passengers. The survivors will fall back into the depression and greet you.

Maybe kill some threatening Elites

At the moment, none of the enemies will close in on the hilltop to attack, except possibly for Elites based on the nearby large structure. If you want to ensure that the Marines remain intact for now, kill such Elites. There are two on Legendary, but only one on the other difficulties. You can snipe them quite easily (perhaps from the high entrance, before you drive in).

Extract rockslide survivors

Drive out alone and enter the rockslide survivor area via the right entrance. Dismount as soon as you emerge into the area, and quickly snipe all the enemies you can see, ideally before they attack the Marines. You've got a great line of sight for this. Target the Elites first as this makes the Grunts panic. Hopefully the enemies were initially just standing around; but sometimes you can be unlucky and an attack is already starting. The last few enemies may be out of sight and require finishing at closer quarters.

Drive to the Marines. You can squeeze through a gap to reach them, after a sharp left turn. Efficiently ferry as many Marines as you want out to safety while the four dropships come in. You can take them through either of the exits, but the left one is closest (using that gap again, while they're still below the plateau). Dropping them in the depression just through the start of the exit passage is far enough. During this process, preferably kill most of the arriving enemy, to reduce the threat to the remaining Marines. You can do that with a combination of sniping, squashing, and chain-gunning when you've got a gunner on the back.

Ferry them to the hillside

Once you've got your selection of Marines out, ferry them up to join your growing squad on the hilltop.

Maybe omit snipers

There's one proviso to what I've said so far. You may like to avoid having any snipers on the hilltop, as they're so powerful. If the Marines are only using assault rifles, the battle will last longer and you'll probably have more fun. You can have up to 11 Marines with assault rifles: 3 that were already there, your 2 original passengers, and 6 from the rockslide.

On Normal and Easy there's a sniper already up on the hill (there are 4 survivors instead of the 3 you get on higher difficulty levels). If you don't want him, just kill him. You may like to do that by sniping him quick from the high entrance, to stop him killing any enemies. He's usually in view. If you want to leave him alive though, I suggest you at least drive up there quick so he falls back and stops being a threat to distant enemies.

Getting weaponry

There's also the matter of getting your desired weaponry for battle. There was plenty of chance to pick up dropped Covenant weaponry in the rockslide area earlier on if you wanted it.

Weapons stash

If you want to make your eventual save as flexible as possible, there's nothing to stop you building a weapons stash, though it'll take a fair bit of time. Each time you start your battle, you'll be able to select the combo you fancy; and you'll be able to swap during battle.

To build it, you'll need to do a lot of weapon moving. Get them from wherever you like. If you killed a nearby threatening Elite earlier, you can get his plasma rifle. There's some more killing you're going to need to do here shortly, which can likewise give you Covenant weaponry if you can manage to extract it without being killed.

Getting your battle start checkpoint

Ok, now you've got a mass of Marines on the hilltop, waiting for action. At the moment, enemies are territorial and won't close in on the hilltop to attack, with the possible exception of the Elites mentioned earlier. You need to do some killing to alter this. It seems that when their number drops to six, they become free to attack. At the same time, a dropship is triggered, whose reinforcements will attack too. There's a checkpoint associated with the dropship, and this will be your battle start checkpoint (which you'll be able to revert to, to restart the battle). But it'll be delayed if you're near any threatening enemies (the game delays checkpoints when it considers you under threat). In view of all this, I can offer two methods of getting your battle start checkpoint.

Simple method

The simple method is to snipe enemies safely from the hilltop until the dropship is triggered. Because you're not under immediate threat, you can expect to get the checkpoint straight away. However, the battle will tend to be a two-phase affair, comprising an attack by the original enemies, then by the reinforcements, who take quite a while to land and get here.

Refined method, for one big attack

Now here's a refined method, designed so that both the old and new enemies will be closing in at pretty much at the same time, giving one big combined attack that comes quite soon after the battle start checkpoint.

Start by driving to the high entrance to save a 'safety checkpoint'. This way, if your subsequent work fails to give the desired result in any way, you'll still be able to return to this point for another attempt, even it it requires ejecting the disc and reloading (which it probably would, as you'll probably have had the dropship checkpoint).

Snipe some enemies from distance if you like, but make sure you still have to kill at least one more before the dropship is triggered. Now drive to the side of the hill that holds the lifeboat, and try to get the attention of most enemies. Put yourself under a degree of threat, then finish killing enough enemies to trigger the dropship. Because you're under threat, the checkpoint will hopefully be delayed. Get in the Warthog and drive around evasively while the dropship is coming in. Then start heading up the hill, hopefully with all enemies following. Once you get near the top, accelerate away to rejoin the Marines and get ready. Now things are briefly quiet, you finally get the delayed checkpoint. The enemy should be arriving pretty shortly.

Here's an extra tip. When I said "make sure you still have to kill at least one more before the dropship is triggered", you may have wondered how you can tell how many need to be killed before the dropship is triggered. You can determine that as follows. Having got your safety checkpoint, snipe enemies until the dropship appears, then quickly revert before you get the dropship checkpoint. Now you know how many need killing. However, you didn't necessarily need to do this. If you know how many enemies were originally here (13 on Legendary and Heroic, 14 on Normal and Easy) and you're sure of how many have been killed so far, you can work it out, given that the dropship appears when you're down to 6.

Further set-up tips

Considerate ferrying, for healthy foes

A drawback to ferrying Marines into the hillside area two at a time is that chain-gunners may do serious damage to the enemy. Although they probably won't kill enough to trigger the dropship early (which would really mess things up), you might end up battling some badly weakened enemies, reducing the challenge. You can minimize enemy damage by only taking seated passengers, as much as possible. For this approach, modify the set-up work as follows.

Assemble all your reinforcements outside the area to begin with (down by the stream outside the high entrance, I suggest). Now for the ferrying. Each time Marines clamber aboard (except for the final two), nip out and get the gunner to dismount, then drive in with just your seated passenger. Driving straight in via the high entrance has the added benefit that the passenger is on the wrong side for shooting at the enemy; not that he's likely to do much harm anyway.

Enemy selection

You can pretty much select which of the original enemies you want to take part in the eventual battle. When doing your killing to trigger the dropship, kill ones you don't want. For example, you could whittle the original enemies down to just six Jackals, if you fancy some beak-heavy battling.

More Marines and Warthogs

If you're really keen, there's nothing to stop you boosting the hillside squad still further with a few guys from the cliffside survivor area. There's also the possibility of getting one or two extra Warthogs if you like the idea of having multiple chain-guns ripping into the enemy. That would be pretty handy against half a dozen Elites on Legendary! In each of the other survivor areas, an evac Pelican will bring in a new hog if you don't already have one in the area.

Battling to music

If you fancy battling to music, deal with the other two survivor areas first. This makes your battle the last phase of the final survivor area, hence it'll be accompanied by rousing climactic music.

The battle


When the enemy closes in, it's quite nice to be right at the back so you can see everything and perhaps rain grenades down on the enemy. I'm not sure the Marines will appreciate taking the brunt of the enemy fire though!

A more aggressive position is near the large rock at the front corner the hilltop. It gives you some cover, and you get a good view of enemies who approach along the top of the hill. You also get the chance to fire into the sides of enemies that come further in and attack the Marines to your front right.

Another idea is to clamber up on top of a rock, if possible. You'll probably be rather exposed, but it's interesting. You can sometimes get up on top of the large rock against the cliff wall at the back of the depression; but it depends on the rock geometry (decided at the loading point you get in the tunnel after the light-bridge). Up on that rock you may notice some graphical glitches though (bits of the scenery disappearing); it's a quirky place.


On Heroic or lower, pistol fire could make things a bit easy, so I'd stick to other weapons. An assault rifle will make things more challenging. On the other hand it's hard to resist the delight of an explosive stream of needles, or a spot of plasma! On Legendary you might consider a bit of chain-gun support against those nasty Elites; but on lower difficulty levels it would probably make things much too one-sided.


It's a lot of fun simply watching the Marines defend themselves against the onslaught, and a large squad armed with assault rifles might actually do a fair job of it on Heroic. If you like watching, you may like to try setting things up on Easy, as the battle can last for quite a bit longer in that case.

Bonus feature!

You can use your save to do some other good battling, particularly if you used the refined method of setting things up. Here's the idea. Quickly drive away from the Marines (optionally with passengers for support), attracting the mass of closing enemy away from them. Park up somewhere and defend; for example near the lifeboat. Can be great fun. Try sending streams of needles into Elites galloping your way; that'll soon put the brakes on!