Marine support


Now you've got the gist of things with the basic plan, it's time to turn up the pressure on that covie horde and bring in the Marines! This is where the battle really comes to life.

Pens and blockades

The key to arranging Marine support is to confine them in the twin bridges area beforehand. They can be held there inside a pen or (as I realized later) behind a blockade, built using Ghosts or other objects, and maybe taking advantage of rocks or other fixed features. An exception is that Marines left in a Marine-retaining hog won't need a pen or blockade, as the hog itself will keep them there (so, you could have a chain-gunner ready in a supporting position anywhere you like). With your Marines confined, you'll be able to go back and finish setting up the battle, getting the place heaving with enemies. Luckily they don't home in on the Marines while you're gone, as long as the Marines are reasonably distant. When you head into battle you can release the Marines or defend from inside the pen or behind the blockade, or whatever.

Two plans

I give two plans for setting things up, each on a separate page. The first gets you a small squad of up to five Marines, namely the ones that spawn in the spiral path area. The second takes things a stage further by bringing earlier Marines safely past enemies to join up with the spiral path guys, giving a large squad of up to eighteen. It's a fair bit more complicated, so maybe it's best to try to simpler plan first. You don't have to though, if you really want to go straight for the thrill of big-squad battling.

Each plan includes a description of how to create a good base save that covers the bulk of the work. This can then be used to produce multiple battle saves with relatively little effort, making it easy to try different squad arrangements and so on, giving completely different battle experiences.

Ok then, it's time to jump to whichever plan you fancy. The rest of this page contains advice relevant to both plans, and you'll get referred to parts of this advice where necessary.

Building pens and blockades

Here's some general advice on building pens and blockades in the battlefield. You can find other advice (including specific examples) on two dedicated pages: Pens and Blockades. A blockade is the easiest thing to start with as it spares you the fiddly business of getting Marines into a pen.

Using Ghosts

For your building material I recommend mostly using Ghosts. They're easy to move into position and they're low enough to shoot over when defending from behind. You can also quickly board one to release Marines or attack the enemy, or even to make good an escape when it's clear that you're getting overrun. See Ghost provision for advice on getting Ghosts.

Using other objects

Shades can be used too, and they're quite easy to move into position. You'd probably want to have them upright, because it looks nicer and makes them easier to position, plus you can always hop in to start firing. Not that I enjoy firing a Shade much as it's so imprecise and makes you a sitting duck against long-range fire from Jackals and Hunters; but it can make for an occasional change in defence tactics. There are already three Shades in the battlefield, but if you use any of those the right way up, grunty gunners will go running to them later if not eliminated beforehand. You'd need to kill them before they get there. There are plenty of Shades you could bring along from earlier in the level too.

Banshees can be used but they look a bit clumsy and really block your view. There was a Banshee already in the area, but if you were to use that the right way up, you'd want to have triggered and killed the pilot beforehand else he'll materialize in it later and fly off.

You can also use Warthogs, perhaps even with a chain-gunner mounted up, ready to fend off the enemy. I've sometimes exploited the length of the hogs in forming an extra-long blockade. But I'd normally have them separate, free to drive around without breaking the pen or blockade.

Keeping Marines out of the way

While building a pen or blockade, it's best not to have any Marines around as they have an annoying tendency to stand around like idiots and get squashed by a Ghost you're trying to drop into position, or suchlike. And the more Marines there are, the worse it gets. You can keep them clear by drawing them into the sunken area by the underpass exit, then blocking the zigzag path with a Ghost facing up the path (you don't have to put it crossways).

Check the seal

When you get Marines into a pen or behind a blockade, check that they're not managing to escape, before you head off to finish setting up the battle. If you need to make adjustments, try not to squash anyone.

Get creative

Pens don't have to form neat little curves of course, and blockades don't have to be straight (consider an arc for example). If you've got enough material, get creative. The shape of a pen or blockade blockade may affect how the Marines and arriving enemies position themselves. Could be interesting, and perhaps tactically beneficial.

Ghost provision

Ghosts make the easiest objects to use as building material for pens or blockades. They're also handy for temporarily sealing off Marines in the sunken area past the underpass, plus they make great rocket targets. Fortunately there's no shortage. There are eleven available for early collection in the 'rearranging' phase when most of the level is deserted, and another seven become available for collection later. Here's a guide to the whole business.

Early collecting

In the early 'rearranging' phase of the work (if you were able to do a descent trick), the following eleven Ghosts are collectable:

  • 1 near the crashed Pelican.
  • 2 nearby: one in the tunnel and one down the hill.
  • 2 at the bottom of the rising tunnel after the underground bridge.
  • 4 around the huge tower.
  • 2 in the twin bridges area.

The level also has two dropship Ghosts at the top of the rising tunnel after the underground bridge, but they're not collectable yet. When the dropship arrives later, they'll get teleported into position underneath, wherever they are; so there's no point moving them yet.

If you collect the two Ghosts that would normally come in to attack you in the crashed Pelican area, you'll want to carefully kill their intended pilots later. They're initially on foot, but when you advance far enough they'll blink out and rematerialize in their Ghosts, or by them if overturned. You need to kill them before they teleport. That's quite easily done as follows. To kill the pilot in the tunnel, move onto the start of the central 'island' of ground and snipe him. He won't teleport as long as you keep back from the island's centre. To kill the pilot down the hill, you'll need a Banshee. I recommend flying way up high to the second ledge roughly above the starting location of the Marines here. It's possible to land without the Banshee slipping off; and from there you can snipe him. An alternative method is to bombard him with the Banshee from high up. It's ok to be further forward to do this, but you have to stay several metres higher than the first ledge, else he'll teleport.

In regard to the two Ghosts from the twin bridges area, their pilots will later head for the Ghosts if you've left them the right way up. In that case you'll probably want to kill them before they get there. That's usually no trouble, but remember to plan for it. If you don't want to have to kill the pilots, simply ensure that the Ghosts are overturned. I normally remove these Ghosts from the battlefield to keep them separate - I use them elsewhere.

Late collecting

Later on, an additional seven Ghosts become collectable:

  • 2 in the first snowfield.
  • 3 in the two-Wraith area.
  • 2 dropship Ghosts (finally).

But by now there are enemies around, so how do you actually get these Ghosts into the battlefield if you want them? Here's my advice on how to do it before completing a base save, so the extras you bring will always be on hand.

In the plan for a small squad, remember how you got hogs into the spiral path area by blasting them along from high up, taking care not to trigger new enemies? Right after doing that, you can use the same method to get extra Ghosts. The dropship Ghosts are already on hand. Bear in mind that as you blast a dropship Ghost along, a pilot will head for it whenever it lands right side up. This shouldn't be a problem though; you can probably overturn it before he gets there, especially if you've taken care to keep the pilots distant. As for other Ghosts, they'll need to be fetched from earlier in the level. Land near the tunnel exit (perhaps just inside), run down and bring up a Ghost from wherever (it might help if you've left it near the bottom of the tunnel), transfer to the Banshee and start blasting the Ghost along. Repeat for further Ghosts. One thing though: try to ensure that the Banshee doesn't come under heavy fire when landing or taking off, else it might accumulate too much damage before you've got enough Ghosts.

In the plan for a large Marine squad, you can do it more easily. Wait until the enemies in the spiral path area are all clustered behind their blockade, safely out of the way. Preferably also have the Marines blocked from coming back through the underpass. Fly up to the top of the spiral path (specifically, the 'off-point' mentioned in the plan), let your Banshee fall back down to the ice, and run off to bring back a Ghost, driving it over the off-point. Repeat as necessary. When you've got all the Ghosts you want, move them through to the battlefield, taking care not to squash any Marines (e.g. you could first lead them to the back of the battlefield in a Banshee, then whizz back to bring a few Ghosts through while the underpass area is clear).

In either plan, if you want to bring up some late Ghosts to leave as reserves outside the pass, you can do that easily, any time after the tower area has been cleared.

How many should you collect?

If you want a base save to have enough Ghosts in the battlefield to cope with a good range of blockade designs, including blockades that can stretch across either side of the battlefield, I'd suggest having at least seven there. That's the minimum you'd need for blocking off the left or right side of the battlefield with Ghosts (though you can always use other objects as part of a blockade of course).

Separately, you'll also want two Ghosts for temporarily sealing off Marines just past the underpass. But you can potentially re-use those two 'sealing Ghosts' once they've served their initial purpose. You could use them to complete a pen or blockade design (though you'd potentially now have Marines running about, hindering your work), or bring them into the battlefield to serve as rocket targets.

You may also want some Ghosts for use in the spiral path area, where you need to form a blockade or two. Other objects could be used too of course. Note also that in the plan for a large squad, you'll eventually be able to cannibalize the shadow-line blockade that initially holds back the spiral path Marines. Once you've got your final squad sealed off past the underpass, that blockade is no longer needed, and any Ghosts in it can be transferred to the battlefield before completing your base save.

Early collecting can be sufficient to cover all the needs mentioned so far. But if you want your base save to be handy for quite elaborate designs in the battlefield, you'll probably want to collect more Ghosts later. However, bear in mind that when setting up a battle which leaves multiple Ghosts unused, those surplus objects might end up needlessly adding to the framerate slowdown you can get in battle. You can always remove surplus objects before getting your battle start checkpoint, but that takes time. It's up to you to decide how many Ghosts will be about right for your needs.

Reserves outside the pass

Even if you don't collect later Ghosts though, you might at least move some of them nearer to the battlefield, so that if you do want extras occasionally, you won't have far to go. I suggest you leave such 'reserves' just outside the pass that leads into the spiral path area. Out there, I'm pretty sure they'll have no contributory effect to any framerate slowdown in the battle (notice how slowdown ceases when you return to that area, suggesting that it forms a different zone in relation to game workload).

More than one base save

If you plan on doing a lot of experimenting in the battlefield, it would probably be worth your while creating two base saves: one with a fairly conservative number of Ghosts immediately available, and one with rather more. In setting up a battle, you'd use whichever base save is most suitable. Note that in the case of base saves for a large squad, you can create the second base save just by taking a copy of the first and then doing more collecting; you won't have to create it from scratch.

Getting Shade gunners

In connection with the Marineless basic plan, I mentioned how it was possible to also get the two spiral path Shade gunners into the battle, and likewise the underpass Shade gunner. It's still viable to get these gunners when setting up for Marine support, but here are a few tips on each of the two cases.

The spiral path gunners

Leave these gunners in place until your squad is sealed off past the underpass. But get them down before completing your base save, so you won't have to do it separately for each battle.

Sometime before the gunners spawn (e.g. during early rearranging work), preferably move the Shades a bit further back from the edge so they're less likely to fire on Marines, and so the sniper can't shoot the gunners (check the lines of fire). In the plan for a large squad, it might be worth actually blocking the Shades with Banshees placed right in front of them, so you won't come under fire when making early Marines jump down to the ice - something you'll be doing if you bring more than eight early Marines along.

Another bit of rearrangement to consider. You could use a Banshee to push the leftmost Shade along the ledge until it's past the shadow-line blockade, so that when you eventually get the gunner down to the ice, he'll be behind the blockade. It's not completely necessary though; and in the plan for a large squad it would be redundant anyway if you're planning on later cannibalizing the blockade to get some extra Ghosts into the battlefield. A loose Grunt would theoretically be free to go into the underpass and get into a fight with the Marines waiting on the other side; but he probably wouldn't.

The underpass gunner

Leave this gunner seated until your Marines are in the battlefield and held back by a pen or blockade. Until that time, you'll want to prevent any exchange of fire between him and the Marines. You can do that by pushing his Shade away from the edge of the roof to a suitably harmless position; perhaps around to the other side of the pinnacle. Later you can push it back and get him down in the usual manner.

Eliminating unwanted Marines before battle

Suppose you've got a base save that features a pool of Marines, and you're now setting up a battle from it but want to eliminate some of the Marines. Maybe you fancy a smaller squad today, or maybe you just want to eliminate snipers, or whatever. The trouble with just killing them is that you run the risk of becoming a traitor, though you can very likely kill at least 1 with no problem.

Sniping from way off

If you get very distant from the Marines, it seems that they'll potentially tolerate more killings than normal, before branding you a traitor. In an experiment, I flew up to the nearest bridge and used the sniper rifle to kill Marines being held back near the underpass (blocked by a Ghost on the zigzag path). On some occasions I was able to kill 5 without turning traitor, but on others it was as little as 1. It seemed quite random. Still, if you don't mind making repeated attempts (shortly after a checkpoint, preferably), it looks like you'll be able to kill at least 5 this way.

Waiting for forgiveness

If you do get branded a traitor, it's always possible to wait for forgiveness, but the more you kill, the longer you have to wait; see Forgiven cyborg for details. Waiting may not matter to you though. For example you could simply leave the game ticking over for the required time while you're getting on with your real life (you know, all that incidental stuff that doesn't involve Halo).

Or consider the following plan. Get all the Marines confined using the pen or blockade you've set up, use the sniper rifle to kill from a safe distance, then go off to bring enemies into the area. That usually takes quite a while, and by the time you're done, enough time may have elapsed for you to be forgiven, in which case you'll probably get a chorus of grudging forgiveness lines from the Marines when you near them again. Mind you, it would get a bit repetitive to hear that chorus every time you fly into battle; so it would be a good idea to briefly fly near the Marines before getting your battle start checkpoint, so they can get it out of the way. Another aspect of this plan is that you're likely to create a pile of loose frags among the Marines, which might later go off with spectacular effect. That could actually be quite amusing! Although not to the Marines, obviously.

Get enemies to help out

If you don't want to end up having to wait for forgiveness, here's another idea.

If you can manage to separate out the unwanted Marines so they're back near the underpass exit and the other Marines are confined in the battlefield, you can pretty much let the enemy take care of the killing for you when you're tempting enemies through the underpass. Elites will be the first to appear and will happily slaughter them; especially if you help out by severely weakening the Marines beforehand (a good idea, partly to minimize the danger of enemies damaging themselves with a lot of friendly fire). Actually you could even kill some yourself now, as Marines are quite tolerant of 'accidental' deaths in battle situations. Prevent Marines from lobbing grenades, and stop them doing much shooting, as you don't want enemies harmed. Stop snipers doing any shooting, of course. You can use an AR to keep them flustered - or just kill them.

There remains the question of how to separate out the unwanted Marines. Here's one plan. Get everyone into the battlefield, then block the zigzag path with a Ghost. Use a hog to pick up unwanted Marines, and make them dismount off the edge so they end up back in the sunken area, unable to escape.

Killing them all

Of course, if you want to eliminate all the Marines, to set up a solo battle, that's no problem at all. You can just blast them from a safe distance with your Banshee.

Removing surplus objects before battle

After building your blockade or pen, and maybe leaving some Ghosts or other objects about the place to use as future rocket targets or extra cover, you may be left with some objects that have no place in your design work. If you leave them in the battlefield, their presence will add to the game's workload and they might contribute to framerate slowdown in battle, especially if there are a lot of them. It may therefore be worthwhile to remove them to a place where you hope they'll have little or no contributory effect.

The sunken area near the underpass is an obvious place to dump them. They'll typically be out of sight when you're battling, so at least the game won't have to work to render them. You could move vehicles back to the other side of the underpass to ensure that they'll be unseen even when you're up high in battle.

But might they still be a significant drain on the game's processing power? I'm not sure (I might do some experiments sometime to try to get evidence one way or the other). If you want to go the extra mile later, wait until all enemies have come through the underpass, then move surplus vehicles (currently in the sunken area) way back into the tower area, where they'll surely be no drain (notice how slowdown ceases when you enter that area, which suggests that it forms a different zone in relation to game workload).