Wandering Banshees

Posted December 17th 2006, major update June 21st 2018 and beyond

Associated movies

  • BCM293 - Heroic; Set-up and introduction (8:44)
  • BCM294 - Heroic; Circling break-up and Banshees playing (7:56)
  • BCM295 - Heroic; Fun with low circling (6:24)
  • BCM296 - Heroic; Extended play (7:34)
  • BCM297 - Heroic; Raising via sniping (6:35)
  • BCM298 - Heroic; High playing (6:36)


Spot the Banshee

One time after saving the survivors in the cliffside area where they were hiding underground, I left in a Warthog and a funny thing happened. Out in the valley, one of the newly triggered Banshees chased after the departing evac Pelican! As it flew past the waterfall at the end of the stream, I went to take a look.

By the time I got there, the Pelican had disappeared as expected (you can see it vanish if you make sure to get to the cliff edge in plenty of time), but what of the Banshee? At first I couldn't see it, but then I noticed a small dot moving around below.

Dude is travelling!

I took a closer look with my sniper rifle and sure enough, it was the Banshee! Apparently it had gone so far down that it was now having trouble navigating back up. It was wandering around looking totally lost, occasionally bumping into an invisible wall some way out from the cliff.

Before long it had got right down and was barely perceptible to the naked eye. It wandered leftwards around the coastline and I had to return to the cliffside survivor area to try and spot it again - which I eventually did. I tried taking pot-shots at it with the sniper rifle but they did nothing to attract it back up. Looked like the pilot was lost down there for good!

That's how this all began, but when I returned to the topic in 2018 to give it some movie treatment, I observed some new behaviour - not just the original 'wandering' - and made other discoveries too, so there's now even more to talk about. Also I refined my set-up technique, and that's what I'll detail now.

Setting up

Cyborg to the rescue!

The rough plan for setting up is to save the cliffside survivors, get the attention of the valley Banshees so they're flying around close outside, and then get a handy checkpoint, from which you hope that one or both Banshees will sometimes chase the departing evac Pelican, to maybe get lost beyond the cliff.

But here now is a more specific and detailed plan, largely reflected in BCM293. In regard to difficulty level, I've been using Heroic. I'm not sure if there are benefits to using some other difficulty (will Banshees be less quick to spot you on Easy?), but I'll probably look into that later.

Arrival in the valley

When you arrive in the valley after crossing the light-bridge, be alone in your hog (passengers could be a liability). Have maximum grenades and save them for potential use with the Banshees (yes, even frags). I also suggest having a pistol - a good weapon to have in the later fun.

They can hardly miss me up here

Drive to the lifeboat and get the sniper rifle, which you'll want for Banshee watching. Preferably don't use the rifle at all during set-up. Conserve the ammo for potential later use with the Banshees. In BCM293 I did use some of my sniper ammo, but at that time I hadn't realized it would be useful later.

Also, preferably save the lifeboat checkpoint. That way, if the remaining set-up work doesn't give a good enough result (there's some randomness involved), you'll be able to eject and reload the disc to try again. In BCM293 I didn't save here, as I didn't want to complicate the tutorial with that non-essential safeguarding aspect, but I'd instead saved a checkpoint just after the light-bridge.

Checkpoint (inside the trigger zone)

Save the survivors

Drive into the cliffside survivor area and kill the covies, making sure to save at least one survivor (there's going to need to be at least one guy leaving on the Pelican, or the Banshees won't chase it). When the covies are finished, the Pelican is triggered and so are the valley Banshees (in general the Banshees are triggered when you've handled your first survivor area, whichever one you chose).

Get the Banshees' attention

Return promptly to your hog, and go get the Banshees' attention, breaking up their initial circling. It seems best to drive up onto the hilltop overlooking this cliffside area, because they're certain to see you up there (whereas, driving out to the valley often doesn't work, because sometimes they're circling so low that they can't really see the valley, and it can be difficult even to attract them by hitting them with pistol fire). Spin safely down into the valley (spin keeps the hog upright as it falls), and evade.

Trigger zone boundary

Checkpoint to finish off

Finally, go up the high entrance to the cliffside survivor area to hide, and get an entry checkpoint, completing your set-up. A checkpoint will be triggered outside near the entry lights but delayed a while due to enemy threat. If you get sufficiently hidden soon enough, you'll get the checkpoint. If it gets delayable too long it'll be cancelled, but all is not lost. Assuming you're currently in the trigger zone (see pic), briefly leave it then return, and hopefully you'll get a checkpoint in a while - soon enough to suffice.

On a point of detail here, preferably have yourself and the hog within the trigger zone at the time you get your checkpoint. I think that's going to be the most convenient, operationally. The zone stretches across the hump and you can see the inner boundary in the accompanying picture (you can see the outer boundary here if you're interested). In BCM293 I ended up quite close to the edge but still inside (and incidentally, the picture here shows where my hog was). Dismounting from the hog is optional, but remaining aboard does restrict your vision.

Using and testing your set-up

To potentially get Banshees lost out yonder, wait for the Pelican to depart. You're hoping that one or both of the Banshees will latch on and give chase. If they do, try to stay hidden. There are a couple of hiding options you can use besides just staying where you are and hoping you're not noticed, but I'll cover those separately in a moment. The Pelican eventually vanishes, and any pursuer will break off at that point, if it didn't break off earlier.

On your tail!

After the Pelican has passed over with one or more Banshees in pursuit, you can go and check the outcome (or you could wait a few seconds first, listening out for the swooping sound of an early return). Take the hog, because it'll help you keep up with any wandering Banshee.

Be very cautious about getting your first view because they may still be relatively high, and any Banshee that spots you will very likely be drawn up and regain its bearings. If only one Banshee sees you though, at least the other may start wandering.

Dang, they're both returning

There's considerable randomness in whether Banshees give chase to the Pelican. It depends where they are when the Pelican is coming over. And even if a Banshee does latch on, it may not end up lost. Sometimes they don't chase far enough, and return to the valley early. Depending on what hiding option you're using, maybe your set-up will often give you two lost Banshees, or maybe it'll rarely even give you one. You just have to do some playing to see. If the results are sufficiently pleasing, save the checkpoint to consolidate. Otherwise, start over from your original save checkpoint and hope that your next set-up will be better!

WARNING: approaching either entrance will trigger a new checkpoint, as long as enough time has passed since the last similar triggering (about 17 seconds). Be careful not to inadvertently lose your set-up checkpoint this way, if you haven't yet saved it.

Deep hiding may well help

Deep hiding

Depending on the angle the Banshees are coming from when pursuing the Pelican, it may help to back off down the hump (something seen in BCM293 and BCM294) to be better hidden as they fly over. 'Deep hiding' I call it (see pic). Bear in mind, the pilots have extremely good vision.

With at least one save I had, deep hiding made all the difference, giving me lost Banshees every time. When I didn't deep hide, the Banshees still chased the Pelican but soon returned to the valley. I'm guessing that I was spotted, but they initially ignored me because the Pelican was more inviting; and then when the Pelican vanished, they still had a sense of my location, and thus returned.

Hiding behind the tree

Another hiding option is to use the tree near the bottom of the hump, as seen in BCM296. This can work nicely if the Banshees are coming from a similar direction so you can keep the tree between them and yourself as they chase the Pelican. Take the hog with you, so it's handy to board after the Banshees have passed (and so you don't have to re-enter the checkpoint trigger zone to access it).

Early view, in third-person

With prompt boarding you can potentially get a very early view of the Banshees, and might see them initiating some circling (in fact, it's even possible to be early enough that you see the Banshees in the process of breaking off pursuit, the Pelican having just vanished). If you initially remain in the hog you can exploit the third-person perspective, which allows you to comfortably see the Banshees without them seeing you (it doesn't matter if part of the hog is in their line of sight I think; it's only your body that needs to be out of sight).

There's also a curious phenomenon that can occur, as seen in BCM296 (though it can also happen if you've dismounted). The Banshees may be drawn over to the cliff and bump into it as if confused or perhaps suspicious, and subsequently start wandering. I'm not sure exactly what's going on there, but it can be used as a way of trying to get two wanderers - which is exactly what I was doing in that movie.

Possible trouble

Here are a few things that could go wrong with the set-up, which you only realize later at the testing stage. Firstly, remember that the Pelican must get at least one passenger, or Banshees won't chase it. If you're not getting any chasing, maybe there weren't actually any passengers? You can check by getting a view with the sniper rifle as it rises. Secondly, you may find that two of the surviving Marines are running to your hog instead of boarding the Pelican. That's bad because they might draw the attention of a Banshee - and you certainly don't want anyone reaching the chain-gun! If you get such Marines, I suggest sniping them pronto. It's an obvious inconvenience though, to have to do that every time you replay.

Wandering Banshees

Idiot bumped into the cliff!

The original behaviour I saw is what I call 'wandering'. Namely, flying around in meandering fashion as if lost, and occasionally bumping into the distant invisible wall or the cliffs. Such a Banshee can end up right down near sea level, and actually there's a good chance it will, because there's a general tendency to get lower. Height tends to be lost when a Banshee meets the invisible wall or some cliff wall; I suspect this is the main cause of height loss when wandering.

However, a wanderer sufficiently high can potentially sense 'home' (the valley), in which case it can head back. Sometimes this happens quite early, with a Banshee wandering away from the cliff then turning and sensing home.

A wanderer may go out of sight around to the left, and if you drive out to the bottom of the valley, you may see it down below. If it's sufficiently high, it may sense home and fly up to re-enter the valley. If it's down near sea level though, I don't think it will. Normally it would be stuck down there for good.

Need to do some catching up!

Observing and tracking

The key thing about observing wandering Banshees (or playing Banshees) is that you don't want to get spotted. If a Banshee sees you, it'll probably start heading straight for you - though at least you can have some fun with that, tagging it or whatever. Banshee pilots have great vision, and even seem able to see you if you're somewhat behind or to the side. When a Banshee is relatively high you have to be very careful, but when a Banshee is down near sea level there's nothing to worry about, as you're well out of range.

Another issue is keeping track of a wandering Banshee. If it's low it'll be like just a speck to the naked eye, and can be hard to pick up, partly depending on whether it's moving over dark scenery or light. Of course, you can always scan around with low or high magnification (low should be enough). But still, it's quite easy to lose track if you're not keeping the Banshee in sight.

Classic meet-up swirl

You'll definitely want a hog for tracking. You can't easily keep up on foot when a Banshee goes along the coast. Plus, you might be needing to get to the bottom of the valley, or you might want to go to the top of the valley for an alternative view.

Keeping track of a Banshee is actually a lot of fun. An engrossing mix of watching, driving, and searching. I tried to give a good sense of that in BCM296, some extended play involving two wanderers, the second of which ends up right down low. Sometimes I've been tracking for half an hour or more! It's quite a unique activity in the game.


A benefit of having two wanderers is that they might randomly wander into proximity, and if they get close enough, they'll have a playful little meet-up. It'll probably just be a brief swirl around one another though - possibly after a bit of bumping if they were on a collision course (which is relatively rare). It's fun to see, and pretty cute. There's an example in BCM312 around 4:34. I've never yet seen any prolonged play arise from a meet-up, let alone any stable circling, but perhaps that can happen.

Nice place for a picnic too!

Going to the ends of the valley

I've already mentioned going to the bottom of the valley to potentially see a Banshee which has wandered out of sight along the coast. It's an excellent drive there, with humps to launch off along the way; and also, there might be one or more guards to encounter as you exit the survivor area (reminder: using an exit will trigger a new checkpoint, as long as enough time has elapsed since the last). At the waterfall there's a wide sloping area and you can get right to the edge.

But you can also observe Banshees from the top of the valley. Indeed, this can potentially even be the first place you go after the Pelican has been chased. It's a very nice area with a beautiful waterfall sound. If Banshees have started circling after chasing, you can get a good view from there. Remember though, that if you then head back into the survivor area, you'll trigger a new entry checkpoint.

Surface sniping and Banshee raising

A wandering Banshee is totally unaffected by being sniped (as far as I've seen), so that's no good as a way of getting its attention. But I eventually realized that if you snipe a nearby surface, that can get its attention. If it sees the hit, it'll divert to have a look, though it won't necessarily end up at the exact impact spot (in fact it might not get terribly close at all). This can be used to alter its course, but a more useful specific aspect of that is the following.

Going up!

Raising a low wanderer

If a low Banshee is near the invisible wall or some cliff wall and you repeatedly snipe the wall above it, you can draw the Banshee upwards - potentially high enough that it senses the valley and starts returning home. In practice you'd mostly be using the invisible wall, as you don't often get chance to be angling shots at the cliff wall.

This 'raising' technique makes for a rather enjoyable challenge too! You can see three examples in BCM297. The last play shows the best technique, with hits mostly being a good way off from the Banshee so as to draw it along as far as possible with each round.

Welcome back doofus!

Actually, wall sniping could similarly be used for lowering the height of a Banshee, if that's what you want for some reason.

Have lots of ammo

In view of these uses of the sniper rifle, it's good to have plenty of ammo. The rifle at the lifeboat in the valley isn't quite full but it has 26 rounds, which is enough to give you a realistic chance of even raising two low Banshees. In BCM297 I only had 16 rounds, because I was using a set-up created before I realized what you can do with sniping. That made things a bit tight, and certainly I wished I hadn't used up so many rounds in the set-up work.

Wanderers only

For diverting with surface hits it seems that you need a wandering Banshee. I don't think it'll work with two playing Banshees. I tried it with two Banshees circling near sea level but couldn't get any reaction. It's as if they're too involved with their playing. Actually, there was one time when I sniped to divert a wanderer, and for a moment it was diverting, but then the other Banshee happened to cruise by and the first pilot cancelled his interest in the surface hit, to instead do some brief interaction with his buddy. All of this suggests that Banshee interaction takes priority over chasing surface hits.

Playing Banshees

Circling quite high, but sinking

When revisiting the wandering Banshees topic in 2018, I saw new behaviour. If two Banshees chase the Pelican, they can end up circling and sinking. Indeed, I now think this may be quite common (it was very common with my BCM293 set-up at least). If left long enough, such Banshees will sink to near sea level, as seen in BCM295.

Disrupting with grenades

Circling can be disrupted by throwing a grenade into their vicinity - close enough that it's noticed. It may take multiple tries, and this is part of why I recommended having maximum grenades. The Banshees may end up going their separate ways, giving you two wanderers. If you break up the circling early, you can get relatively high wanderers. If you leave it longer you'll get lower ones.

Banshees at play

Other forms of playing

Alternatively they may end up doing larger orbits or going the other way, or maybe it won't be quite so circular, or maybe they'll get into some irregular or semi-regular swooping, repeatedly passing close, maybe crossing paths. I refer to all such interaction (including circling, a special case) as 'playing', because that's what it looks like. It's quite reminiscent of birds swooping around one another, and it's highly watchable. See BCM294 for lots of that.

Incidentally, I'm not sure I've ever seen irregular playing start up after the Banshees break off from chasing the Pelican. I think it normally only occurs after some circling has been disrupted.

Just like circling, irregular playing can potentially be disrupted with grenades, potentially giving you wanderers. It can also be broken up by simply getting spotted. If only one Banshee spots you (which you might be able to arrange), it's liable to head your way while the other starts wandering. So, getting spotted can be a quick way of getting a single wanderer, if that's all you want.

Stabilization to circling

Irregular playing sometimes stabilizes into circling or something similar (non-circular mutual orbiting of some type). On the other hand, playing can fizzle out, leaving you with two wanderers.

High playing

Rising and high playing

Sometimes when the Banshees are playing, they gradually rise. I'm thinking especially of irregular playing here, though circling can rise too (it more commonly sinks). This is unusual and rather engaging. If you see it starting to happen, you need to start thinking about getting away from the cliff before they get high enough to see you. You might like to retreat onto one of the two structures for example. Rising play can get high, and then it's very nice to watch. I showed some in BCM298.

Breaking up circling by crossing a loading point

When you have low circling Banshees, it can be quite hard to get the circling broken up (with grenading) so they start wandering. I found an alternative method. Drive down the valley and into the tunnel, and cross the loading point. When you return, you may find that the Banshees are no longer circling where they were; and instead, you've got two wanderers (which may take a while to spot of course). This doesn't always happen. Sometime the Banshees are still circling. It seems random. If it fails, just try again.

Modifying and other checkpointing

Modifying to a later checkpoint

If you've created a decent save which can give you lost Banshees, and there's a sufficiently long time you have to wait before the Pelican is departing (which was the case with my set-up in BCM293), you can potentially modify the save as follows. After waiting a while, exit the checkpoint trigger zone (assuming you were inside as I recommended) and re-enter to trigger a new checkpoint. From this checkpoint you'll have less time to wait for any potential chasing, and you may find that you get lost Banshees more regularly, because there's less time for Banshee movements to randomize things. If it's good, you can obviously consolidate by saving.

I used this technique with a copy of my BCM293 set-up to create a modification in which the Banshees seemed to always end up lost, as long I used deep hiding. So, it's definitely worth trying, if you're interested in such a save.

Checkpointing lost Banshees

If you obtain one or more lost Banshees (wandering or playing), you can checkpoint the situation by getting another entry checkpoint if you want. If using a copy of your set-up, you can then save to make it permanent, without having lost your original set-up.