Plateau alley defence

Posted July 24th 2005, expanded later

Associated movies

  • BCM19 - Heroic; Plateau alley defence with pistol & needler (3:25)

The basic idea

Heading into the hidey-hole

Ideally starting with a modified far area horde set-up, drive around the right side of the rockslide and temporarily park up somewhere at the far end. I recommend going straight into the hidey-hole area mentioned in my Hidey-hole defence plan, but another option is to go to the right of the lifeboat, up to the cliff wall. Hold off on the carnage for now; all you're trying to do at the moment is draw the enemy after you. Give them time to approach, maybe firing a little to hold off the advance troops and help attract more distant enemies. But get ready to clear off fast. In the hidey-hole I'd normally be spending the last few seconds watching the motion tracker to decide when to hit the pedal.

Top of the alley

Before you get heavily attacked, retreat around the narrow cliffside path and up the rising alley that leads to the Marine plateau. The drive is a bit of a tight squeeze in places but shouldn't be any trouble; try a bit of finesse to ease through without any heavy jolts. Because of the way you've led them, hopefully most of the enemy will feed into the alley over the next few minutes. Your task is to try and hold them off from near the top, attacking them as they head up the alley or gather near the base. It's a pretty good defensive position. You can get some cover from the way the ground levels out, and from the rising edge of the plateau.

With enemies pouring into this relatively confined area and trying to push up the alley, you can expect a rather hectic time. This is quite simply some of the best combat going and in particular you'll get some fantastic grenading opportunities as the enemy clusters up the alley or lower down. So do yourself a favour and give it a whirl!

Hold firm Johnson!

Marine support

Chain-gun support is possible but can make things too easy, so I suggest you make any passengers dismount and quickly get the hog out of the way. Simply driving it a short way clear on the plateau is one idea, but I'll give some alternatives later. You could drop Marines so they'll be in the thick of the action and help take some of the enemy attention off you (they could even be dropped at the bottom of the alley), or you may prefer to have them further back so they don't get in your way too much as you dodge around or try to retreat. If they're well out in front though, I wouldn't give much for their chances! There's also the option of arranging a few extra Marines beforehand, to add to the fun.

Enemy arrival dynamics

In terms of enemy arrival dynamics (and in particular, getting most enemies to feed into the alley), I got the best results using a modified horde set-up which is why I recommend it, but it's not essential. You'll probably be able to get things to work pretty well with just a normal set-up. But see also my troubleshooting section for tips that could help.

Hold back those Elites!

Early on you'll have several nasty Elites to deal with; potentially six on Heroic. Holding them back can be quite a problem, especially if they arrive almost all at once.

Stacker you idiot! Have you never heard of a chain reaction?

Needler carnage

The needler can be great for this as they often run straight into your streams of needles when charging up the path. So satisfying! To minimize the amount of piping hot plasma coming your way, you can back off as you fire a stream (which also encourages Elites to advance and run into the stream), and reload from your position of cover whilst waiting for the bang.

Peeling off up the edge

Alternatively you can use a faster and more aggressive thrust-firing approach with the needler, which is what I normally go for when the enemy are really pressuring hard. There's a special way you can do it, as follows. Just to your right the plateau edge starts rising up. As you run forwards sending out a stream from the top of the alley, peel off to the right and continue up along the plateau edge, continuing to spit out needles, maybe altering to a second target further back, and maybe ending your run with a grenade for good measure. You can make those decisions as you go. The edge gives you some cover, and only enemies to the left of the path will stand much chance of hitting you at all. Reload as you backtrack. Fire stream after stream like this when the attack is at its nastiest, and you can quickly turn the path into a complete hell-pit of pink explosions and chain reactions, accompanied by a chaotic mix of Elite death cries and the sound of Grunts running for their lives. Glorious! Sometimes there'll be so much dust around from all the explosions that you can't actually see what you're shooting at, but I say keep firing anyway; those needles are almost bound to home in on something!

Now that's teamwork!

Welcoming grenades

You can give yourself a big helping hand by using a lot of grenades, though frankly I find that this can make things too easy. If you keep an eye on your motion tracker you can enjoy lobbing them down to meet arriving enemies. You can potentially even bounce a grenade off the right hand side of the rocks at the bottom, to land among enemies before they're in sight. You may not be able to see the resulting explosion when it goes off, but don't you love hearing the effects of a good bang? Comical stuff.

When the enemy comes into view maybe your buddies will start lobbing a few grenades as well, and do some actual damage. Just make sure you're not on the receiving end of it! If you hear "Frag out!" or whatever when you're out in front, try to stay clear of the path of the throw else you can end up with a frag at your feet.

Fewer Elites

If you find that the Elites tend to be too overpowering at the start of the battle, you can always make things a bit easier by taking time to kill a few when still back in the hidey-hole area or whatever. Actually I sometimes kill one or two from there anyway because it's just so hard to resist using my lovely gleaming pistol when the frontmost Elites come into sight. Must… pull… trigger…

Grunts and Jackals

And now for your beaky buddies

While the Elites are still around, the accompanying Grunts and Jackals are all the more aggressive and dangerous, especially if you're in trouble. They'll come up in numbers, keeping up the pressure even while Elites are holding back recharging their shields. This is where I finally heard what must be an extremely rare Grunt line: a vicious cry of "This'll leave a mark!". It's all too easy to end up with a bleeping shield and no prospect of a breather as the enemy push continues. Other than grenades, one tactic you might use against this sort of mob is to quickly flick your aim around to pepper as many enemies as possible, hoping to make them just turn and run, to relieve the pressure. If you can manage rapid headshots with a pistol, so much the better.

Grunty grenades

As usual, you need to be aware of the danger from Grunts throwing grenades. The danger isn't so much to yourself as to your Marines, who are poor at getting clear. When I see a Grunt about to throw and I don't think I can stop him in time, a tactic I often use is to try and make sure I'm the target and move well clear of the Marines. By doing this you can guide where the grenade goes, to keep your bozos safe. Of course, this is just part of the general principle of making yourself the focus of enemy attention to help keep Marines alive (if that's part of your goal).

Aerial attack from behind

Easing down

Once you've seen off the Elites, things become less life-threatening. Now that you don't have any nasty reds sending hot plasma your way, you don't have to worry about cover so much, but it can still be pretty intense when there's a whole mess of minor critters coming up together, especially if they think they're hurting you, which tends to make them more aggressive. The pistol is great fun here. Dodge around whilst whittling down the enemy. The alley becomes littered with bodies and grenades, and at the right time you can send in a grenade to take out a whole wave of enemy in a huge chain reaction. Of course, you also have the option of going down the alley to seek out and destroy. But if you're feeling sneaky, something else I like doing is going up onto the edge of the plateau and attacking enemies from behind as they near the top of the alley. In particular you can jump down, firing a stream of needles as you go. Good fun on the last few critters!

Threat from behind

Pesky grunty infiltrator!

Something you have to beware of is the occasional enemy coming up behind you from the left approach to the plateau. Try to keep an eye on your motion tracker, and if anything turns up, take care of it fast so you can get back to focusing on the alley. Most of the time when I've been using my best saves for this defence plan, I've only had the odd Grunt or Jackal from the left, which is fine. Having the odd enemy coming in that way can actually be quite good fun, providing another test of your combat skill, including your ability to keep aware of your motion tracker even while under pressure.

A Grunt can be dropped instantly with a pistol shot, and with a Jackal I sometimes use a no-nonsense frag grenade. Throw and forget; you know he's going down. Or up, rather. Sometimes I get caught with a needler though, and rather than spend time switching to my pistol I'll send in an aggressive stream of needles, which can still do the job pretty fast. That's also how I'd normally tackle an Elite if one turns up, but it's rarer to get Elites from the rear. They chase you the fastest and are thus the most easily drawn to the base of the alley.

Now add a plasma grenade

Just passing through

Often when when a minor enemy comes in from behind, the death of an Elite will make him panic and head down into the alley. So instead of turning around to take care of the minor directly, an alternative strategy is to quickly finish off an Elite down the alley. If the minor enemy goes into a panic as desired, you can then exploit it by tagging him with a plasma grenade as he goes, so he'll hopefully take it down to share among his buddies (a tactic you can use on other minor enemies too of course). Nice!

Marines on guard

If you prefer, you could have Marines guarding the left approach to the plateau, enabling you to focus on the alley. They could be Marines you drove in with, or even extras you dropped beforehand. Have a think about where best to put them, and maybe give them a chain-gun to play with. That should help, right?


A few words now about weapon choices.

Jackal posse ahoy!

Pistol and needler

My own favourite weapon combo for this battle is a pistol and needler. I've already mentioned the explosive fun you can have with the needler. Meanwhile the pistol is great for taking down the lesser enemies quickly; and they sometimes come up the alley in such numbers that quickness can be important. Rather than frantically sending multiple rounds into an enemy's hide and getting into a panic as the advance continues, try to stay calm and maximize headshots so you won't have to reload so often. The enemy can push up significantly while you're fumbling about reloading (or recharging your shield), and it can be worth holding back a few plasma grenades to buy you a bit of time in such situations.

Headshooting Jackals isn't as easy as with Grunts, but you can help yourself by picking the right moment. You're in with a chance as he advances and intermittently has part of his body visible when his shield swings to the left. If he's crouched, you can make him roll by pinging a shot off his shield. A headshot is then briefly possible as he gets back up. Whilst waiting for him to roll, fire on other targets if possible; you've got plenty enough time to bring down a few more Grunts.

The pistol is also great for tackling Elites. Peppering them can cause them to hold back near the base of the alley rather than rushing straight up and slaughtering you. I often try to give them pause for thought like that if I see a whole mob turning up at once. It's also good for putting Elites down of course. If one is coming up the alley, you can back off to stay out of his line of fire (thanks to the curve of the ground) while continuing to slam in the headshots.

Look what I've got for you grunty!

Plasma weapons

One advantage a plasma pistol shares with the needler is its homing ability, which is handy when there's so much earth and dust kicked up that you can't see a clear target. The plasma pistol is perhaps also the best weapon to have if the enemy manage to get close. But a plasma rifle isn't too shabby for that either, and it's also good for peppering the enemy when they're still further down the alley.

Nice weather we're having

Usually there'll be quite a few explosions in the battle and you'll find that it's raining weapons, so you can often pick up whatever enemy hardware you fancy, or get a reload for your needler. Isolated enemies coming in behind you are also potential supply sources, as are enemies who manage to reach the top of the alley. You could also have arranged a few spare weapons near the top of the alley, enabling you to pick and choose from the very start.

Chain-gun comfort

Watch out for that Grunt fellas

If you brought Warthog buddies along and you want things cushy, just swing the hog around as you get to the top of the alley, so it's pointing down. Both occupants will have good protection against the onslaught and the gunner should have a fine time of things mowing down the enemy ranks. Meanwhile you can work around the hog or move around up on the plateau edge to send grenades and gunfire down into the enemy. Either way, the Covenant aren't gonna like it. If you prefer, you could get the seated passenger dismounted so he can throw frags.

Careful with that gun please

Surprisingly you can even work in front of the hog, without getting your head shot off. Just make sure the hog is well back where the ground is levelling out, and you seem to be ok. It's a nice arrangement because you've got a clear view and room to move around, and you've also got the comforting sound of that chain-gun going like the blazes just behind you.

Guarding the rear

Another thing you can use Warthog buddies for is to guard your rear whilst you take care of the alley yourself, an idea mentioned Threat from behind. With a chain-gun, they should be able to do a decent job of that.

Ditching the hog

Here are some ideas for what to do with an empty hog, aside from just moving it clear on the plateau. You can glance at your motion tracker on the way in to help judge how much preparation time you've got before enemies arrive.

Hey, that's enough of that pointing!

Sending it down the alley

One thing you could do with the hog is to send it down to the bottom of the alley to hinder the enemy when they arrive, and possibly even squash a few advance troops just as they turn up. I quite like sending it down by arcing around leftwards at the top of the alley to drive it off the nearby plateau edge, jumping out as it goes over, as seen in BCM19. Give it enough air and it'll turn over and make a nice crash as it lands part way down the path. Ok the UNSC might not like me handling their toys in such a cavalier fashion, but I don't see why I shouldn't have a little fun whilst saving the entire human race!

The obstruction will tend to lower the intensity of the enemy attack to some degree, especially in regard to the rush of Elites at the start, so this can be used as a way of making things a bit less hectic on average if you prefer things that way. Later in the battle you can have the fun of lobbing a grenade down to the hog to blast it up into the air and down onto enemy heads. That's especially good fun when there are some loose plasma grenades around to send it extra high.

Deliberate blocking

If you've got time, you could instead drive the hog down and deliberately park it to block off the right approach to the base of the alley. Actually there are two variations here. You can completely block it by putting the hog across the gap between the plateau and the huge rock, or you can partially block it by putting the hog between the plateau and the small rock. This gives two very different situations, each with its own delights as follows.

That's one very frustrated mob

With a complete blockage, you might think that the enemy would flock around the huge rock to get to you from the left approach. That's what I was expecting at any rate. But what actually tends to happen is that they accumulate behind the hog. The Elites will stand around mumbling, unless they catch sight of you, in which case you can expect a dose of plasma to come flying your way pretty sharpish. You can do two things with this situation. First, the obvious. Kill some Elites or Grunts to get some loose plasmas on the ground, add a live grenade of your own, settle back with some popcorn and enjoy the bang! You can do this from down on the ground or from above on the plateau. But for more serious combat, go around the left of the huge rock and see if you can hold off the enemy from there. They'll soon be flocking around the back of that rock to try to get you, but they don't have much room and you've got great cover, so you're in with a chance. Plasma weapons and the AR are the obvious choices for the close-up dirty work you can expect here - and shovel those grenades! I wouldn't class either of these plans as proper plateau alley defences, and the chain reaction plan is pure mischief of course, but this seemed the natural place to mention them.

That beaky fool hasn't spotted us yet

Meanwhile, with a partial blockage the enemy gets diverted through to the left, giving you more time to line them up in your sights and keep them back. The enemy can't push up the path in numbers as quickly as usual, so it gives things a different flavour. Arranging a partial blockage is also quicker and easier; and you'll need to be quick when those Elites are hot on your tail.

With both types of blockage it'll be easier if you don't have any Marines to drop off, so you'll have more time to get the hog into position before the enemy arrive. If you do have Marines however, you could save a bit of time by dropping them off relatively low down so you don't need to bother driving right to the top.

You can also experiment with completely or partially blocking the left approach of course; I've had fun with that too.

Hog launching

Another idea for your empty hog is to quickly drive it up near the plateau corner, then drop a plasma grenade at its rear end so it'll get blown down onto the heads of the arriving enemy. Now that's amusing! As a variation on that theme, you could instead park it just nearby along the edge, and at some point in the battle when a mass of the enemy are approaching up the path or starting to get on top of you, throw a grenade to blow it down. Again you should be in for some fine amusement at the enemy's expense. If the hog slides down a crowded alley, it can easily leave a trail of squishy destruction.

Hog distraction

Hey, can I play too?

Here's something fun to try with a manned Warthog. Quickly drive it up to the corner of the plateau above the bottom of the alley. Optionally you can even make it hang over the edge, frontways or backways. The gunner can potentially get a line of fire down to some areas even if you haven't made it hang over the edge, but the real benefit is that the enemy seem to focus their attention on the hog almost exclusively. They get completely obsessed with it and send in a cacophony of fire, which often doesn't trouble the occupants at all because they're so well protected.

And here's the really good bit. Potentially unnoticed at the top of the alley, you can now enjoy sending streams of needles into the sides of distracted Elites, or tagging them one by one, or just lobbing grenades into the mass of fixated enemy, and generally doing whatever naughty cyborg mischief you can think of. If you're careful, you can even go down the alley to stand behind the enemy and watch as they continue their upward firing. Quite a novel situation! Enemies do tend to gradually edge up the alley though, presumably in an effort to approach the hog via the plateau. So unless you do the appropriate killing, you're likely to get spotted at some point.


If you're getting more than a few enemies coming in behind you from the left approach to the plateau, try spending a bit longer at the start trying to lure the enemy after you, maybe pause along the way to fire a few shots in the air, or maybe vary your route a little. If that doesn't work, maybe you'd better try using another set-up. The enemy's initial deployment is bound to be a factor and some set-ups will give better results than others. You can always transform an existing set-up to a new one by driving in and around a bit (don't kill anyone yet though), then back out to get a new checkpoint. The enemy will shift around and maybe things will turn out better.

Another problem you may get with some set-ups is a tendency for a group of enemy to fail to turn up at the plateau at all. It's like they lost the scent. They'll just be standing around somewhere having a group chat, seeing who's got the shiniest needler or discussing why the heck they named a ship the 'Truth and Reconciliation' when something like the 'Death and Annihilation' would've been much more in keeping with the Covenant way of thinking. Having an isolated group is no good of course. For the full-on battle experience you want everyone possible to come along in one big attack. If you get this problem, try the same things I've already mentioned.

In summary, you may have to persevere before getting a set-up that reliably gives a massive battle focused almost entirely on the alley. But if my own experience is anything to go by, you shouldn't have much trouble at all. Once you've got a set-up that works well, I suggest you save it!