Boarding challenge

Posted 2004 I think; updated later

Associated movies

  • BCM16 - Legendary; Boarding battle with AR & grenades only (3:29)

Here's something I call the 'boarding challenge', for when you arrive on the alien ship courtesy of the grav-lift. On Legendary it's good intense fun and highly replayable. Namely, see how well you can do in the main battle (i.e. before the big sliding doors open) using only an assault rifle and grenades, and forbidding yourself the cloaking and medkit. Score 1 point for each survivor including yourself, but 0 if you die. You board with five Marines including either Stacker or Johnson at random, so you can score a maximum of six points on each play. Do ten or twenty attempts to get an average score (twenty will be much better for ironing out aspects of good or bad luck). You can do things on any difficulty level but I'm mainly thinking of Legendary here; that's where the real challenge lies.

Enemy numbers

On Legendary you'll be up against 10 waves plus an initial cloaked Elite. Each wave comprises either a gold Elite plus 2 Grunts, a gold plus 2 Jackals, 2 Grunts plus 2 Jackals, or 4 Grunts. It seems quite random. On rare occasions I've gone though a whole battle without getting a single gold, but on other occasions it's like they all turned up for a big gold Elite convention. As you might expect, the number of golds you get makes quite a difference to how hectic things are, not least since they tend to be pretty quick to reach the door. On Heroic things are very soft compared to Legendary. There are only 8 waves, and instead of golds you get cloaked Elites. You can pretty easily tackle things without even using grenades if you fancy giving that a whirl. On Normal or Easy there are only 6 waves, and instead of golds you get blues (and you don't even get Hunters afterwards; you get Jackals). In all cases, music starts up once the final 4 waves begin.

He's not too happy about that

Tactics for Legendary

To do well on Legendary you'll need to deal with each gold fast. Due to the weakness of the AR, you'll ideally want to tag them with plasma grenades as soon as they appear; so try to keep well stocked. The approach of a gold behind a door can can usually be identified from the speed of the blip on your motion tracker. If you see that you're going to be too late for the usual tagging (maybe you don't even have a clear throw), it's still often possible to melee a gold from behind while he's busy growling at the Marines before starting to swing that sword of his, so bear that in mind. Another tactic is to start drilling him with the AR then progressively back off. Bit dangerous though!

Have some of this fellas

As for the Jackals and Grunts, I favour going in hard, blitzing them with a healthy dose of extreme prejudice and then quickly preparing for the next door. Frags are best held back for pairs of Jackals I think, or for situations where you just want to be able to deal with minor enemies in a 'throw and forget' manner so you can start preparing for the next door. You can usually tell if Jackals are approaching from behind a door from their sound, and you can prepare accordingly. Plasma grenades are fine too of course, but if you don't have any grenades or don't want to use them, you can instead pile in with AR fire, perhaps getting around the back of the enemies then drilling them again as you head back out.

If you're still a long way off when a door is opening, at least lob a grenade over there if you can (you'll see that a few times in BCM16). It's crucial to stay on top of things. Try to be pre-emptive and keep things contained. If a new door is opening when you're still busy with the last one, you're likely to be cyborg toast pretty soon. Having said that, it's worth working hard to try to retrieve the situation. You might just scrape through and it's a great feeling when you do.

Split waves

Usually the members of a wave all come through the door they were intended for. However, when a wave spawns in the passage between the two linked doors, it's possible for the wave to split up, which I suspect is usually due to enemies getting attracted by your gunfire or your presence up a passage. You might for example have a gold heading through the 'wrong' door (where you were just finishing off some enemies) while his support uses the intended one. A split wave can give you a nasty surprise but you can be alert to it via your motion tracker. It'll probably be best to prioritize the gold if one is involved.

Legendary yardstick

If you're playing on Legendary I can give you a yardstick to compete against if you're interested. Measured over twenty consecutive attempts, my average score was 3.4 and I managed to keep all the Marines alive three times. Died four times; arrgh! So, want to see if you can do any better soldier? Stop press: concentrated harder and managed a 4.1, keeping all Marines alive six times. Woo-hoo! Still died four times though.

Repeated play

In regard to repeated play, you'd best save the checkpoint you get just before the battle begins, to make sure you can always get back to it. At the end of a successful battle you'll be due a checkpoint just before the big sliding doors open (revealing Hunters if you're on Legendary or Heroic), so preferably revert before getting it, otherwise you'll have to get back to your battle start checkpoint by ejecting the disc (or turning the Xbox off) then reloading, which is laborious. If you want to ensure that you don't get the secondary checkpoint - e.g. to make sure you have enough time to count survivors - you can delay it by jumping.

Similar challenges

Of course, you can make up other similar challenges based on different weapon allowances. To make things harder you could forbid yourself from using plasma grenades, or even from using any grenades. Another way to make things harder is to forbid yourself from leaving the central circle, in which case it's likely to be a lot harder to kill off the Jackals and to stay topped up with plasma grenades.