Rocketing flights at the second arena

Posted January 17th 2008


At the second circular arena near the start of level 6, The Ark, Phantoms and Banshees can be seen cruising along above the desert every so often. If you bring back a rocket launcher to this place, you can blow them out of the sky! Banshees go down with a single shot and the pilot goes flying on by himself in hilarious fashion. It's harder to bring down a Phantom but you can actually do it with as few as three rockets, and very satisfying it is too. Read on for details.

Setting up

Here's my advice on setting things up with a convenient checkpoint.

Reach the second arena

Start the level on Easy and run non-stop to the second arena, leaving Marines behind. You'll normally get a checkpoint in the tunnel just before you arrive.

Your goal

Over the next four minutes or so there will be four flights across the desert, each comprising a Phantom and two Banshees. There's a degree of randomness in the timings and directions of the flights, but typically you can expect the third to occur 150 to 180 seconds from now, and the fourth to occur 35 to 70 seconds later, travelling the other way. Your goal is to bring back a rocket launcher in time to attack one of the last two flights, and crucially (which is the tricky part), to get a checkpoint just beforehand so you'll be able to conveniently repeat your attacks with minimal delay. You'll be able to get a checkpoint by finishing off the Hunters. Here's how I suggest you work things.

Do some killing at the arena

Quickly kill most or all of the initial enemies in the arena. I suggest you start with a few clips from the sniper rifle to take down the high carbine Jackal and most of the Brutes, then charge in with your battle rifle. Before the Hunters drop in, try to get loaded with grenades and maybe swap your battle rifle for a Brute shot. Watch out for two remaining carbine Jackals jumping down from the AA gun. Don't leave any Jackals alive here or they could annoy you later. Kill one Hunter. Tagging it twice should do, but the Brute shot can also be useful. Weaken the other so you'll only need one grenade to finish it off later.

Bring back the rocket launcher

Run to the next lot of Marines. You'll get a checkpoint as you encounter them, and ideally this should be happening no more than 90 seconds after the tunnel checkpoint if you want to stand a good chance of getting back in time to attack the third flight. Save it so you can return to it for another go if the remaining work doesn't go well enough. This tends to be the last checkpoint you get before your save checkpoint; but if you do get a later one, it'll be worth saving that instead.

Keeping up the pace, get the rocket launcher from the crash site. There's a spare case there too, so you'll have four rockets in all. Retain your sniper rifle as it's useful with the rocketing fun later. Head back via the shortest route. You can hop up off a rock to get back up towards the door from the crash site, and you can later hop up off a prong to get back to the top of the path that led up from the second arena.

Finish with a Hunter checkpoint

Go down to the arena and draw the remaining Hunter near where you want to rocket from, somewhere over near the edge. When you think a flight might be turning up shortly, finish the Hunter off with a grenade to get a checkpoint associated with having killed both Hunters. Try to be standing at your desired firing spot and facing out to the desert as you get the checkpoint.

Hopefully the next flight will turn up shortly after the checkpoint and be going from left to right, which is best (see below). But because of the randomness, you generally can't be sure (unless you were able to save a checkpoint later than the one I mentioned, in which case the flight timings can become usefully predictable relative to that checkpoint, allowing you to judge things better after first making a note of the timings then reverting). If things don't work out well enough for you, return to your saved checkpoint (hit the logo button then Y to exit to the dashboard, then reload and resume) and have another go.

Left to right is best

Rocketing will be easiest if the flight is moving from left to right. The main reason is that you'll have a better view which will help in judging when to fire. Targets moving the other way get clumsily obscured by the launcher. A secondary benefit is that initially the targets will be moving quite obliquely towards you, giving them relatively slow angular velocity across your field of view, which again makes them easier to hit.

Rocketing technique

Here's some advice on doing the actual rocketing.

Two approaches

Scoring hits takes a bit of practice as your targets are so far off. One approach is to aim instinctively just like when you'd normally lead a target (i.e. fire ahead of it), but that's rather hard as the leading required is so extreme. The other approach - and the one I've focused on - involves learning spots to aim at and times to shoot, for your particular position. The predictability of the flight path allows that method to become relatively reliable after a bit of learning and practice. You can time a shot by pulling the trigger when a Banshee or Phantom reaches a certain point.

Rocketing Banshees

I suggest you try for a Banshee first because they only take a single hit to bring down and it's so satisfying to see pilots go flying out (except that I've had odd cases where a Banshee seems to have had no pilot). Aim at a particular spot you can readily pick out using features of the scenery and of your launcher's reticle. For example you might be aiming "one unzoomed notch above the peak of that mountain". Refine your aim and timing and you should start getting hits.

You could potentially even get both Banshees with separate rockets. Fire one, pan your aim, fire two, and wait with bated breath. Come to think of it, maybe you can even get both Banshees with a single rocket if they're close; but I've never done that myself.

Rocketing Phantoms

Phantoms are bigger and slower, so they're easier targets. But while a single hit will often knock fragments off - possibly the gun turret - you'll need multiple hits to actually bring them down. Initially I wasn't even sure it was possible, but at 9:01 on a Monday evening I finally brought down my first and there was much rejoicing. That took all four rockets, but not long afterwards I managed the same job with only three! Scoring a hit on the frontal blue engine areas (if that's what they are) may be key to that, and I also think the underbelly is more sensitive than the armoured top. Sometimes the ship stalls briefly when hit, suggesting major damage.

When going for the maximum four hits, it'll be a case of learning two aiming spots, namely for rockets 1 and 3, and also learning how much to pan along from those respective spots to fire the follow-up rockets 2 and 4. Or at least, that's how I do it. In some places the ship may be moving slowly enough across your view that you don't need to pan at all for your follow-up rocket.

Uses of the sniper rifle

Your sniper rifle has various uses. One is to zoom in close and watch potential rocket impacts - perhaps after moving off to one side. It can also help you refine where and when to shoot, because you can more easily see whether you're firing too soon or too late. You can also use the rifle to precision-aim a rocket if you like. Aim the zoomed rifle at a particular spot then switch to the rocket launcher. Exact aim is preserved.

Honing a routine

I downed my first Phantom using a save in which the flight was going from left to right, the easiest direction. I honed a routine for this. Near the start of the flight path I was able to reliably get a double strike without panning between tubes, after opening fire the moment the ship came into view from behind rocks. While reloading I slowly panned closer to my next aiming spot but dawdled enough to be able to see my first pair of rockets hit or miss. After seeing that, I briefly accelerated my panning to get my aim for the third rocket. I fired as the Phantom re-entered my view, then I instantly panned to the right a bit and fired my fourth.

I probably took about an hour developing and practicing this routine, but by the end I was able to score four hits more often than not - something I'm telling you not as a boast but as encouragement in case you think it's absurdly hard. It's not. And if you're consistently giving your Phantom a quadruple whammy of rockety goodness, it shouldn't be long until you get lucky and hear the glorious rising "she's gonna blow" tone which precedes imminent spectacular destruction.

Banshee achievement

One final remark. When you bring down your first Banshee, you may get the 'Too Close to the Sun' achievement, as I did. That's described as "Destroyed a banshee with the spartan laser or missile pod in a ranked playlist or in campaign." Er, wrong!