Mass assault on the AA gun
Posted March 9th 2008
After doing a good job in the factory rescue challenge to get a large squad of Marines and workers, you can get them equipped with weaponry as desired and subsequently let them charge up the hill where the AA gun is located. That's a squad of up to 16 plus the Arbiter (unless you chose to eliminate him from the level), so it makes for quite an impressive assault. Payback time! This was suggested to me by Spartan-1138 as the natural follow-up to his rescue challenge. There's a checkpoint as the hill comes into sight, handy for saving if you want to replay the assault - which you surely will.
It can be quite entertaining to just take a back seat and watch, and there's also Theater mode of course, in connection with which you may want to see my advice on how to create a film without overwriting a save you want to preserve. If you're mainly interested in watching, you're probably best off using Easy or Normal to make the combat last longer.
Arming the squad
After polishing off enemies near the factory exit, your squad will stay indoors if you haven't ventured out yet (actually they won't go far even if you do venture out a little). That gives you all the time you need to arm them with weapons from within the factory. There were loads available, and note that weapon cases mostly have weapons on both sides, though you may have to move a case to get at them. You could equip the entire squad with battle rifles for example. There are also weapons you can pick up inside or outside from fallen covies of course. Once the squad have got far enough outside they'll run on towards the AA gun but wait at the checkpoint corner, giving you another opportunity to do some arming before the assault.
But if you really want to make your squad kick some covie ass, dish out as many as 10 rocket launchers - a little idea of my own. That's how many you can bring along from earlier in the level, as detailed in my support article Preserving rocket launchers. Forming such a 'rocket squad' is well worth the effort in view of the resulting spectacle, even if that does mean the squad frequently blows itself to pieces. I recommend having the Cowbell skull on for good measure; I'd say it suits the situation rather nicely. All in all, this is a highlight you really shouldn't miss. Just picture half a dozen rockets streaking towards a cluster of Grunts on the hillside, with the Cowbell skull on. Time to see just how far those critters can fly!
Once up near the gun, the squad tends to move behind rocks off to the left. But when only a few covies remain, they'll charge out and soon start firing on the AA gun itself. They tend to move to a certain place to do that from, namely the large rock the Brutes retreated to, supporting one of the gun legs. You can see some spookily good climbing animation as they swarm up it, but also some not-so-good animation in which folk keep stumbling up against the back of the rock as if trying to run into it.
Once up on the rock, the squad make a great sight as they blaze away. The view from below is especially dramatic with the storm vortex and lightning in the background, Banshees flying around, and intermittent exhaust from the gun vent. In fact, I think that's the most strikingly dramatic view I've seen in the whole game so far, and it would make a superb screenshot. Get down in front of the rock with a 2x scoped view or 3x binocular view and see for yourself.
It needs a cyborg's touch
But even if they're bombarding the gun with rocket launchers, they don't seem able to set it off. Apparently it takes a cyborg's touch! Obviously things have been designed that way "for the sake of gameplay", but for me it just makes things feel rather silly and artificial, and puts me in mind of the annoying boss fight against Tartarus in Halo 2, where there seemed to be nothing you could do to kill him until the magical effect of Johnson's sniper rifle took his shield out. Bog-standard videogame nonsense, sad to see in the Halo franchise. Actually it's also inconsistent with other parts of the game, where allies can deal the final blow to things. For example, in the Scarab area your Marines can destroy Wraiths; it's not something you're always obliged to do yourself. Possibly they can even destroy the Scarab itself; I've got an idea that actually happened once, but I can't remember for sure.
There are two other oddities in this final phase. Firstly, the Marines and workers seem to become oblivious to any remaining covies, and happily let themselves get shot up while they focus on the gun. There's clearly a flaw in the programming there. Secondly, although they maintain their aiming postures, they tend to stop blazing away after a while, almost like they're frozen. But it's not a complete freeze, because they're still visibly breathing and occasionally they fire shots together. I'm not at all sure what's up with that, but could their inactivity perhaps be deliberate, to encourage you to do the job? If that was the idea, it was very poorly implemented because it just looks like the game has blown a gasket.
One other thing I saw. When multiple squad members fire rockets at the vent at roughly the same time, which is very common, the later rockets can end up getting blasted back by the earliest to hit, and that can spell hilarious disaster for the squad. I watched one particularly nasty incident in Theater mode. Six rockets were fired almost together and a cluster of them got blown back towards the men on the big rock, wiping half of them out. Nice teamwork there guys! Another effect you can see is when a rocket gets blown away and ends up spiralling off into the distance, leaving a trail of exhaust. That's something I've never seen before.
Usually the Banshees just seem to fly around doing nothing, which is rather boring, but on one occasion I saw the squad engage a bunch of Banshees. If anyone knows how this can be encouraged, I'd like to know about it!
Using a gravity lift
During the battle around the gun, you may like to use a grav lift for amusement. Just plonk it down and step into it to starting going up and down. Fire away, throw grenades whatever. Enjoy the ride!