Bridge onslaught challenge

Posted October 13th 2009


Just as I was about to get back to some H1 play for my next movies, One One Seven alerted me to some excellent fun he'd been having at the start of ONI Alpha Site; namely trying to hold his ground or even advance, and wipe out the covie forces. I gave it a go and it was good indeed! Much playing later, here's my write-up focusing on a formalized version of the general idea (just to make for a well-defined challenge).

The challenge

At the start of the level there are strong covie forces already on the ground, hoping to secure the bridge. You start just past stanchion 4 where the first charge is, and a Phantom with reinforcements can be triggered by passing stanchion 6. The bridge onslaught challenge is to wipe out all covie ground forces including Phantom reinforcements, plus the Banshees, and also make the Phantom leave, without setting the charges and without retreating further than the front of the wrecked Scorpion unless it's to briefly swap weapons with Micky (that's partly to stop you letting the indestructible Micky take the brunt of the enemy's attention, which would just be cheap). One other rule though: no killing Marines to nab their weapons or ammo. You're supposed to be a hero dammit, so we'll be having no nasty 'accidents' here!

Happily there's no checkpoint to interrupt the battle (the next one would be back past the sandbagging, but you'll be remaining well clear of that), hence you can revert to replay the challenge once you're done. Ideal!

As One One Seven noted, the situation is reminiscent of the Flood onslaught challenge in Halo. It's just a lot less gooey and on a rather more industrial scale! Actually I dare say a lot of people have already been trying to give the covies a good pasting, rather than just retreating to blow the bridge. It's certainly a lot more fun!

Early Phantom rule

If you care to raise the pressure, add this extra rule: you have to trigger the Phantom before attacking any infantry. This way you'll soon have all covie forces present, and you won't have the luxury of tackling things as a two-phase affair (i.e. dealing with most or all of the initial forces before triggering reinforcements). If you're using this rule on any difficulty above Easy, you'll need to run forwards to trigger the Phantom before covie forces advance much. However, you'll still have time to laser a few Wraiths on the way if you wish, and that's fine; it's only the covies on foot you can't attack yet.

Difficulty levels

Playing without any difficulty-enhancing skulls (just IWHBYD and Grunt Birthday Party), and using the early Phantom rule for the full onslaught experience, I eventually found Heroic to be the sweet spot in terms of providing a tough but reasonably manageable challenge - lasting around five to six minutes. However, it actually seemed way too hard to begin with and I quickly dialled things down to Easy to help me develop tactics without getting slaughtered. You may like to do the same, or perhaps start with Normal. After many attempts and much pain I managed to prevail on Legendary too, but I wouldn't be in any rush to do it again!

Enemy numbers

Initially there are 3 Wraiths plus 5 Brutes and 15 Grunts (the infantry start in 5 groups, each comprising a Brute with 3 Grunts). The Phantom drops 6 Brutes and 6 Grunts, plus a Wraith if any of the original three was destroyed by the time the Phantom was triggered. As far as infantry go then, you're up against 11 Brutes and 21 Grunts. Those Brutes are armed with 6 Brute shots plus a randomized selection of plasma rifles and spikers.


Here's some advice on tackling things in the case where you're playing at a challenging level. But I strongly suggest that you try to develop your own tactics before reading any of this. That's part of the fun!

Early lasering

Even on Legendary, Wraiths are a one shot kill with the laser as long as you hit them right - I go for the nose here when visible. That's good because you've only got the one laser. My five shots would normally go on the Wraiths plus the Phantom's front cannon. For starters it's easy to advance and take out the middle Wraith with a zoomed shot as you go. I'd target the one on the left next. As for the one on the right, if you continue advancing it tends to move off to the right, giving you an easy shot. If you don't want to advance far enough to trigger the Phantom however, it tends to be mostly obscured but you can probably still take it out with a shot on part of its wing. Either way, that could be three Wraiths down already!

If the Phantom is bringing in another Wraith, you may like to destroy that one early too. Sadly it can't be destroyed while still attached, so you have to wait for it to drop. If you're in a good position though, you can take it out practically the moment it's down. The only trouble there is that covies on foot might be getting dangerously close; so you may prefer to leave it for later. However, I found a good spot for taking it out early in relative safety. Running back to stanchion 5 after destroying the initial Wraiths, hop up onto the wall on the side where there's a charge, and from there you can get a good shot on the Wraith's nose while it's still sideways on. As a bonus you can often catch a Brute in the line of fire too! Incidentally, when tackling that Wraith early (sometimes from further forward), I've often seen it fire a blast before it's clear of the Phantom, hitting the underside and causing grunty casualties up top. What a bunch of idiots eh? Well, that's what you get when your key personnel are space monkeys!

The Phantom's front cannon has very long range and can be a serious threat when battling covies on the bridge, so I'd suggest lasering it pretty early. You can get it while the Phantom is making its drop if you like, though it sort of folds up and isn't as clearly visible. From the spot on the side of the bridge I mentioned, it's possible to blast the cannon off before you blast the dropped Wraith, if you're in position quick enough. If you miss that opportunity you could get the cannon as the Phantom is rotating into its final hovering position, or you could wait for an easier shot once the Phantom has finished rotating. Whatever you do though, it's good to do it fast so you can focus on the advancing troops as soon as possible. One other remark. If you want a challenge (just for fun), see if you can get the cannon as the Phantom is flying in!

Tackling advancing infantry

In regard to tackling the enemy advance, here's something useful to know. Wraiths and Banshees only seem to focus on you when you're past stanchion 6 - the same point at which the Phantom is triggered. While they're around then, it makes sense to do most of your defending further back, so they only pester the Marines.

On the higher difficulties a Marine usually gets killed by a Wraith blast a few seconds after the start, in which case you can probably pick up his weapon and possibly some frags, to help you start tackling the advancing troops. You could swap the laser for it, potentially coming back for that later if there's any charge left. When Wraith blasts land close to it they actually don't seem to move it much, which is totally unrealistic but quite handy. As One One Seven pointed out to me, you also have the option of swapping weapons with a Marine as he retreats, early on. In particular you can get a pistol, which would be rather useful for headshots. Sadly there aren't any more spare UNSC weapons when you fall back unless anyone happens to get killed on their way, but you could swap a weapon for Micky's SMG if you like. I deliberately allowed that in the rules because lets face it, the SMG rocks!

Depending on difficulty, you may be forced to gradually retreat. On Heroic you can pretty much count on it! With UNSC weaponry in such short supply, you'll soon need to get hold of covie weapons. One technique there is to deliberately get a Brute into rage mode so he'll bring one to you, saving you from having to dash forward to grab one. If you do need to make a dash 'n grab though, try to pick your moment carefully to minimize the danger. As for the weaponry itself, a plasma pistol is good for bringing down Brute shields, and I often end up finishing them off with SMG fire. Talking of which, you'll probably want to use the SMG in short clinical bursts, especially against Grunts, aiming for their heads. A plasma rifle is also good, and personally I'd favour it over a plasma pistol. But the Brute shot is what I'm really after as I enjoy using it so much and it packs a heck of a punch. Happily there are plenty of them coming your way! Or maybe I should've said unhappily, heh heh. I also find that a Brute shot blast is a nice way of finishing off a Brute after bringing down his shield. In that respect it's like a replacement for the pistol.

There's plenty of cover along the bridge, and on the higher difficulties you'll need to make good use of it! You can also get behind a bridge stanchion. Don't feel too safe behind a stanchion though; you can get blown into the water by devilishly aimed Wraith blasts, and also Brute shot blasts. And apparently ODSTs can't swim!

One One Seven suggested that if you want to ignore the Wraiths, it can be fun to line lots of covies up and try to laser them all down. Initially I was thinking this might be best left for the lower difficulty levels where you've got a decent chance of being able to take out the Wraiths by other means later. But perhaps on the higher difficulties it could actually be worth saving yourself a shot or two, as a means of bringing down one or more Brutes in the leading wave, to help you acquire covie weapons. After all, it's not critical to laser the Phantom's front cannon; so that's at least one shot you could save for use on infantry.

It's possible to hop up on top of a stanchion if you first hop onto a charge placed on its side. You get a novel vantage point from up there but are obviously rather exposed, so it's not terribly practical. I did have some fun with it on Easy though, seeing if I could wipe out the advance with just an SMG and pistol, plus frags. You might be able to manage that if you're really efficient with your ammo.

Tackling Banshees

As mentioned earlier, Banshees only focus on you when you're past stanchion 6. In practice I find that by the time I've dealt with the enemy advance across the bridge, the Banshees have already been destroyed by the Marines, which is fine by me. If you do need to get rid of one however, one idea is to hit it with a plasma ball as it's heading over water. It'll fall into the drink and suffer a catastrophic short-circuit or something. Boom! There seems to be a degree of homing if you fire when the reticle is red, so that can help. If you bring one down onto the bridge, it's easy to move in and deliver a second blast as it's starting to fly off. You've also got the option of tagging it of course. When it comes to weapon fire, I'd suggest a plasma rifle or Brute shot. But I'm still annoyed that Banshees don't gradually smoke up like they did in H1. I suppose we're meant to judge how bad a state it's in by how wonky the legs have become. C'mon Bungie-folk, what's wrong with ya? Smoke was far more appealing!

Tackling Wraiths without a laser

If you run out of laser shots to destroy all the Wraiths, they can still be taken out by other means as usual, even on Legendary. Annoyingly, the first three Wraiths are not boardable. Perhaps Bungie assumed we wouldn't be heading into covie territory? But you can still jump on top and use melee. The reinforcement Wraith actually is boardable, so at least you can take that one out with a single grenade if needed.

You could use a plasma cannon blown off the side of the Phantom, but that might be best left for the easier difficulty levels as you can otherwise end up getting blasted rather quickly.

Making the Phantom leave

Disabling any two of the Phantom's three plasma cannons is enough to make it leave; and by 'disabling' I mean blowing the gun off or, in the case of the side guns, killing the gunner. The Phantom seems to be indestructible incidentally. Pity!

It's fairly easy to kill a gunner with long-range fire from a plasma pistol or plasma rifle, but if the Phantom is the last thing left, I like to have more fun by getting underneath and using a Brute shot. One blast on the underside of the cannon platform is enough. If you've already blown the front cannon off, the Phantom will start rising as soon as the first Grunt is down, which makes your shot at the second platform a challenge. Bonus points if you can hit the gunner with a blast as he falls! Those platforms can be tagged too, so you might like to try that instead. It's possible to get both gunners if you make your second throw quick.

Advancing into covie territory

If you play on Easy, a new approach to the bridge onslaught challenge becomes possible. No need for retreating; you can take the fight to the covies! You can wade into them on their side of the bridge and try to tough it out at close quarters, which can be pretty good hectic fun. You may want to turn on your VISR though, as the lighting is very poor on this side of the bridge. Bear in mind that you can blast a plasma cannon off either side of the Phantom, for use in slaughtering the opposition.

Down a ramp

One particular tactic I enjoyed was heading down one of the two ramps and trying to survive from there. The covies will soon be clustering around the top, and some will advance. Expect a heck of a fight for survival, plus a whole lot of annoying and distracting bleeping, so thoughtfully incorporated into your audio by the UNSC boffins. Er, just in case you didn't realize you were hurting or something. If the Phantom is still present it can be a good idea to disable the nearest side-cannon to stop it tearing into you. It can get an angle on you even when you're down that ramp, unless you make sure to stay close to the relevant side-wall (which would prevent you dodging about freely). You may also want to eliminate the danger posed by Wraiths. Not just their blasts but their infernal gunners. I'd normally destroy Wraiths with the laser on my way forward. Or at least the middle one and the one on the side I was heading to.

Off to one side

You could also try surviving on level ground off to one side. If you make sure to destroy a side Wraith in advance, you'll be able to use it for cover. Or you could hop up onto the raised area, perhaps going to the back of it to get a bit of distance from the mob. At the back corner there's an inviting looking recess that looks like it'll give some cover, but you'll be disappointed because an invisible wall stop you using it. Darn those things!

Boardable Wraith

If the reinforcement Wraith is present (you only get it if at least one of the others was destroyed by the time you triggered the Phantom), bear in mind that it's boardable, unlike the others. While you're clinging to it enemies won't fire at you (aside from the gunner if still alive, so make sure to kill him first), which can enable you to get your stamina back. I had quite an amusing situation like that. Masses of covies were clustering around the Wraith as I held on, and it was continually bumping into them, resulting in a non-stop stream of cries. "Yoh!", "Yah!", and so on. Blinkin' idiots. Give it a go and you'll see what I mean. The Brutes are pretty monotonous with only a few cries but the Grunts are a bit more varied.

Grunty fun

Here's an idea for you. Kill all the Brutes and eliminate all enemy vehicles, so you're left with nothing but a mass of Grunts. And then slaughter the grunty daylights out of 'em! The mob makes quite an entertaining spectacle in Theater too.

Grenade fun with Catch

If you turn on the Catch skull, enemies make nice stationary targets for tagging as they throw, and they drop lots of grenades too, giving you a steady supply. You can have good fun trying to work your way through the infantry, killing as many as you can by tagging.

Tag challenge

If you want to make things more formal, here's a points-based challenge. Assuming you survive the bridge onslaught challenge, score 1 point for each foot soldier killed by tagging, and also for each Phantom gunner killed by tagging the underside of his platform or by tagging the gun or the gunner himself. See how high you can score. Part of the skill will be to tag targets when they're not too close to their buddies, as you don't score points for enemies merely caught in a blast. If you do have to go for a target when others are near him, try to use a spike grenade as it doesn't have the plasma grenade's blast radius. If you prefer not to count points as you go along, you can always tally them up in Theater mode afterwards. But remember, no points at all if you don't survive!

Grenade challenge

If you can't be fussed to count points, here's another challenge, again intended for use with the Catch skull. See if you can prevail in the bridge onslaught challenge using only the laser and grenades (no melee).