Coastal Hornet trick
Posted December 8th 2007
- The trick
- Setting up for exploration and fun
- Canyon and first tower
- Using the canyon gouge
- Onto the canyon arch and across
- Along the coastline to the third tower
- Into the snow section
At rally point alpha in level 7, The Covenant, you've got two Hornets ready for heading along the coast and there's another hovering offshore. If you destroy the first two without boarding, the third will come down and you can board after getting the pilot out. It's usually best to get him out as he comes down - which he does at a particular spot - else he's liable to start hovering about and you'll have to jump up to get him out. You'll now be free to fly to places that would normally have been forbidden!
For starters you can backtrack up the picturesque canyon and explore the area around the first tower, landing on hills and stuff. You can likewise get onto hills along the landing beach. But that's not all. By an indirect route - because the direct one is blocked by an invisible wall - you can also get to unusually high locations along the coastline to the third tower, giving you some novel attack opportunities. At the third tower itself, you can even use the Hornet to get yourself (minus Hornet) into the snow section beyond, not yet populated! There's also plenty of weirdness to see along the way - graphics glitches and more. I'll detail all this shortly. Marines won't join you on your Hornet, by the way.
What's going on?
Why do you have this freedom? Normally you'd clamber into one of the two provided Hornets, and I think this causes the old territory to be blocked off by new invisible walls, while others are removed to let you progress along the coast. But with the trick, you avoided those Hornets and thus haven't triggered those changes.
As to why that third Hornet comes down, I suspect this behaviour may have been intended as a safeguard for you further along the coast. For example, maybe you land on the Wraith island and dismount to tackle enemies on foot, and your Hornet gets destroyed or blown into the sea. In that case you've still got a chance of grabbing a replacement if one hovers near you. But if that was the intention, it seems to be implemented rather shakily. For starters a Hornet is unlikely to come down at all while there are Banshees around, so you could have an awfully long wait or maybe it'll just be destroyed. But even if it does come down to hover near you, it usually does so in a life-threateningly erratic way that makes you want to shout a few choice phrases up at the pilot, and it can be a real job to get him out. Anyway, even if that's why the third Banshee comes down to you on the beach, I doubt Bungie expected you to be borrowing it quite so soon!
Destroying the first two Hornets
As for how you destroy a Hornet, a Spartan laser will do that in very appealing fashion (it's the most fun I've ever had with that thing), as will a plasma grenade or spike grenade. A fuel rod gun or Brute shot are also fast workers. If you don't mind taking a bit longer, even 20 melee whacks can do the job.
Setting up for exploration and fun
Here's some advice on setting things up for exploration and fun.
Preferably don't jump in at rally point alpha
You may be tempted to jump into the level at rally point alpha to get your Hornet quick, but I'd warn against it. For starters the game doesn't provide the normal ambient sounds, either in the old territory or ahead along the coast, so things will often be weirdly muted and unatmospheric. No whistling wind, bird calls, waves lapping the shore, or waterfall noise. It seems to be a glitch in the game; it's nothing to do with using the Hornet trick, and you get the same problem when you jump into the game at rally point bravo. Another reason is that when you fly close enough to the first tower and you're relatively low down, your Hornet blinks out of existence and you fall to the ground, which although interesting, is hardly convenient! So I'd recommend playing through from the start. Besides, you'll need to do that if you want appropriate weaponry to have fun with.
As well as being loaded with grenades to play about with, I recommend you bring along a beam rifle and Spartan laser to rally point alpha, both on 100% charge. They're good for some long-range fun along the coast, and the beam rifle is also good for taking in views with high magnification. On Easy or Normal there was a spare laser near the Pelican wreck on the landing beach. You could also have Marines with you carrying other weapons you might want, either for a change or to destroy the Hornets. A fuel rod gun is good for destroying Hornets and also for some long-range coastal fun. Note that you could have an almost full fuel rod gun; see Extra fuel rod gun before the first tower.
If you're creating a save for repeated use, your save checkpoint can be the rally point alpha checkpoint you get near the Hornets after an intercom message. If you want to have the pleasure of destroying the Hornets each time you start your save, leave them intact until you get the checkpoint. However, it's also possible to destroy them in advance of the checkpoint. The unrushed way to do that would be to dismount and use a suitable weapon before you trigger the message (it gets triggered just after you cross from shadow into sunlight). Maybe a fuel rod gun you gave to a Marine riding with you, or a Brute shot you're carrying yourself. Alternatively you can whizz in fast and dismount to do the job close up with something fast-working.
Canyon and first tower
Here's some talk about exploring up the canyon and around the first tower.
There are lots of invisible walls or surfaces around, some of which seem to be one-way (blocking you one way but not the other), but there's one that merits special mention.
Just after the rocky arch up the canyon there's an invisible surface that stretches ahead, initially at about the height of the arch's opening. It starts near where the trees start. As best I can make out, it goes up along the canyon and then stretches out to cover almost all of the area outside the tower, except for a small area near the entrance and a small area further back. Quite what this 'invisible plane' is for I don't know, but you can fly above or below it, and you can't pass through it. So if you're in the tower area and you want to change which side you're on, you'll need to use one of the gaps.
If you're above it, you can actually sink down and land on it. If you then dismount, you'll remain eerily supported by it in mid-air, but the Hornet will fall to the ground. You can move along the plane but only very slowly. If you move off the edge at one of those gaps I mentioned, you'll fall and likely die. However, if you get near the tower it's possible to get down intact by initially falling down onto part of the tower then getting the rest of the way down via the hillside. There may be other safe ways down too.
While on the invisible plane you can attack any Marines below that are still hanging around. Pretty weird stuff! For example I was above a troop hog over near the start of the pool. I'm not sure if they were having trouble negotiating their route or what, but the hog seemed hesitant about climbing up and away from the pool. I lobbed a few grenades down and got a few unappreciative comments. Then I had a go with a Spartan laser and they didn't say much at all after that! Another time I blasted the hog over then destroyed it before they could get back in, then picked them off one at a time. It's quite amusing to hear them protesting, way down below. If you want to make sure there are Marines below to have fun with, just make sure to leave them behind after deactivating the tower. Destroy their vehicles if you want to make sure they'll be on foot.
When you get way up high on snowy areas on either side of the tower, you approach an invisible wall where the graphics degenerate into mind-swirling strobe patterns as you pan around (on foot or in the Hornet). You'll see what I mean. I think it's due to some of your image not getting refreshed properly because the game thinks it doesn't need to bother. If you pan around while firing an assault rifle, you can see frozen graphics of the bullet cases as they fly aside. You'll also see these effects at plenty of other high locations in the level, where the land is terminated with an invisible wall.
Note that you can land on either side of the tower, high up. At first you might think you're blocked from getting to the left by invisible walls, but walls sometimes don't extend as fully as you might think, and you can get around them if you explore. You can also land on parts of the tower itself.
In some places you can see gaping holes in the landscape, and suchlike. Obviously you were never meant to be able to see such things.
If you throw a grenade at one of those invisible walls I just mentioned, it gets stopped and will explode silently after spinning about in mid-air for a moment. Frag grenades are the most amusing for this, and there's a sound effect that seems to match quite nicely. It's the usual sound effect of it flying through the air I assume, but this time you'll hear it in a more concentrated way. But watch out if you stand close: the silent blasts can damage or kill you. You can also damage yourself by firing Hornet rockets or any other explosive weaponry into the wall at close range. Actually grenades aren't the only things to interact strangely with such a wall. Try firing needles into it.
Up near the source of the waterfall
See that waterfall opposite the tower? You can get right up to the high ground on the left or right of its source, to see beyond to the other side - which is quite an interesting view. If you try to fly there directly you're liable to bump into an invisible wall, short of your target. The key is to pass through a small opening which I'll describe.
Facing the waterfall from way back, you'll notice that off to the left there's a thick snowy ridge running around towards it. It rises up then levels off. If you skim up along that ridge, you'll approach an almost perfect line of four trees at the top (and beyond them in the distance is a beautiful atmospheric effect where the wind is whistling up over a mountain, creating thin wispy cloud). If you're approximately in line with those trees but just slightly to the right, you can fly or run through the gap I'm talking about (on the right of which is an invisible wall). If you want to then reach the other side of the waterfall, fly over it.
Bypassed covies near the tower
There may still be some bypassed covies near the tower to go and visit. For example I found a Grunt just outside the door and he got the heebie-jeebies when he spotted me. There was a Marine just around the corner. Neither the Grunt nor the Marine seemed to have any inclination to move about, but when I bodily pushed the Marine around the corner so he could see the Grunt, they started shooting. Ok so I'm a bit of a troublemaker…
If you jumped into the level at rally point alpha, you'll find the door to the tower unlocked and you can go up in the lift. But there won't be any enemies around and you won't be able to come back down.
Using the canyon gouge
After quite a few hours of exploration I made a great discovery. As you fly up the canyon there's a big gouge in the high left cliffside just before the arch, as if a scoop was taken out with a giant spoon, and there's an opening in the invisible ceiling there. You can take a left turn into the gouge and rise up into snowy ground, from where you can continue on to the first tower as a shortcut or, more significantly, access most of the rest of the level!
Getting to the snowy ground from the first tower
As I later realized, it's also possible to fly directly to that high snowy ground from the first tower, as long as you pick a good line to avoid being repelled or deflected by invisible walls. The tower's long sloping spine is comprised of two grey sections broken by a lighter area. If you start off roughly level with the base of the upper grey section and near its tip, you can now fly horizontally towards the snowy ground anywhere along that cliff, though you may briefly feel like you're having to push through a bit of resistance. If you find yourself being deflected gradually downwards, you've gone under an invisible surface and you'll have to back off and try again. It takes a bit of a knack, but once you've got that starting position right you should have no problem.
Onto the canyon arch and across
After using the canyon gouge you can curve around and get onto the arch itself. Yay! You can then explore the land beyond, which is good territory for graphics glitches and for those edge-of-the-world invisible walls that make grenades go funny. In places you'll be looking at land surfaces from the underside and be able to see straight through. Trees and other items can look as if they're suspended in the air. You can even end up standing on a very odd piece of invisible land and heading back down toward the end of the beach. I'll leave you to find it and explore.
Along the coastline to the third tower
After using the canyon gouge you can go left to access the coastline that stretches along to the third tower and beyond, getting some fantastic high views of things, including some lovely long-distance targets for a beam rifle or Spartan laser, or possibly a fuel rod gun, as detailed shortly. You'll get one or more checkpoints along the way. You could actually head down the cliff and out to sea to resume the sort of route the game expected. That route was originally blocked by an old invisible wall, but you've now managed to sneak around behind it. But never mind resuming your normal course; we're interested in novelty here.
At the second tower you'll Banshees pestering the Elite ships. The Banshees seem to be indestructible, though they will show a limited amount of damage if you care to have a go with a Spartan laser or whatever. Watch out if you venture out towards them; they'll attack, and even on Easy they're relatively lethal. I got shot down a couple of times before realizing that you shouldn't mess with them.
Why are they indestructible? Here's my guess. In normal play the game wants them to provide a distant spectacle as you approach over the sea, and it makes them initially indestructible so they'll still be intact when you arrive. At a certain point not far from rally point alpha, you trigger the departure of the Elite ships and the game makes the Banshees destructible. This time however, you've not done that triggering, so the Elite ships remain in place and the Banshees remain indestructible.
From way up high or whatever, you can use a Spartan laser to destroy the AA Wraith on the island, and you can use a beam rifle or laser to pick off the Brutes there. Nice! Explore for places to fire from. A fuel rod gun has just enough range to reach some enemies too, from certain locations. It'll take some practice to get the firing angles right, but can be quite good fun watching those green shots lazily sail in. One whimsical place to attack from is the top of the foremost Elite ship, which is conveniently stationary. From there a fuel rod gun can reach the Wraith.
Believe it or not, you can even grenade the Brutes once they gather on the nearest side, which they'll do after the Wraith is destroyed. It's possible from the tip of the long sloping spine of the second tower, but it's easier from the top of that Elite ship. You'll find that if you level your aim at the horizon or thereabouts, that's just right for the distance involved, and you stand a good chance of being able to tag the Brutes with plasmas or spike grenades, which is pretty hilarious. See if you can wipe them out with nothing but grenades. For the best aiming use a beam rifle. Fix on your target with a zoomed view, then unzoom and raise your aim to the horizon or thereabouts. There are a couple of spare plasma grenades near the entrance to the second tower.
Tip: To have island fun repeatedly, first get a checkpoint just past the second tower (about five seconds flying time) so you can keep reverting to it.
When you're past the Wraith island you may like to attack the Phantom which is hovering about with more of those indestructible Banshees (actually I think I saw one blow up when it collided with the Phantom, but they certainly seem indestructible by enemy fire). The Hornet is able to do the job without losing the ability to return to the high coastline. The Spartan laser doesn't seem quite powerful enough to bring it down, even on Easy with the full five shots, but if you've weakened it first with Hornet fire you can potentially finish it off with the laser. One place you might like to use the laser from: on top of the big arch rising out of the sea just after the island.
When you near the third tower you've again got scope for long-range mischief with a beam rifle, Spartan laser or fuel rod gun. In particular, you know the Brutes on the high prow? You can be shooting at them from side-on and a bit higher up than them. There are some explosive blue plasma batteries on the prow too. Wouldn't it be a shame if somebody set those off?
If the nearest AA Wraith notices you it may open fire, knocking chunks off the top of the cliffside in fairly spectacular ground-shaking fashion. Worth experiencing! The normal Wraith may fire on you too, and watch out because it's accurate! If either of the AA Wraiths gets destroyed - even of its own accord by blundering over the edge - the Elites will turn up and you'll get a checkpoint. The destruction of the normal Wraith won't trigger them though.
You can get onto the long sloping spine of the third tower and run up or down it along the entire length (no grenade jumps required at the breaks when going up).
Past the third tower
You can get well past the third tower if you take a high route that gets over an invisible wall. Starting from high up on the left of the tower, continue along the top of the cliff, which is sliced off abruptly all the way along. Near the end there's a snowy strip with trees along it. Around about here, rise as high as you can go, and you'll find that you can continue a fair way, after which you can sink down for a look. There's a grassy area on the end that you can land on if you want.
Out to sea along the coastline are some distant islands that feature beautiful swirling wind effects. Well worth a look with the beam rifle. It's just a pity we can't go out and visit!
Behind the towers
On the left of the top of the second tower, you can get over the top of the cliff and sink down to land on what seems to be an invisible surface. Both yourself and the Hornet will be resting there, seemingly in mid-air. You're partly under and behind the scenery, and only certain elements are visible. You'll also see plenty of the weird strobing graphics I've mentioned before. There's a similar business going on at the third tower, and it was there that I found myself suddenly breaking through to the snow section of the level, as detailed in Citadel Hornet trick.
Into the snow section
While exploring glitchy territory up high at the third tower, I discovered how to get into the snow section of the level prematurely.
Way up high on either side of the third tower - but I'd recommend the left - get up over the rock then sink down as you hug the tower. The view will be glitchy. Just as you start to get under a part of the side that slopes inward, the screen freezes for a second or two, then there's a loading point. Your Hornet disappears and you fall onto either the tower itself or the ground beside it (unless anything goes wrong - see later). The game has loaded the snow section and you can go and explore! You'll also get a checkpoint (unless you care to cancel it by immediately jumping five or six times).
The place is deserted and eerily atmospheric with whistling wind. It's backed by a massive curving support for the barrier, and you can get all the way along it and onto snowy ground beyond (at both ends), and also clamber around on the rear of each tower. You can pass through the barrier itself with no trouble.
The third tower is still operational of course, and you can get a good look at a pulsing beam of light shooting down. You can get down from the tower on its left or right very quickly to reach the path the game intended you to come along later. You can backtrack along that path to the massive door, but it's locked as you'd expect. Also, on your way you'll have passed through the barrier in a tunnel, and it won't let you back through again.
Disappointingly, it seems like you can't get down onto the actual ground where you normally fight Scarabs. If you try to go down the usual path, you suddenly die. I guess the game hasn't taken too kindly to you breaking through the barrier early and spoiling its fun!
More detail on breaking through
Finally, a bit more detail on breaking through to the snow section.
You can also do it without being in the Hornet. When you sink down, there's actually an invisible surface on which you can land and dismount (you may like to look around at the glitchy views; notice that distant vehicles seem to be invisible, though their fire isn't). You can then approach the side of the tower on foot to trigger the loading point.
However, regardless of which way you do it, you can sometimes end up with a really weird view that gives stroboscopic patterns as you pan around. You can't move but you can look down into the tower, which suggests that you're somehow inside it. If it goes wrong like this, fortunately you can revert to a recent checkpoint for another attempt.
One other remark. Why did I recommend using the left side? Mainly because the ground seems safer for potentially landing on.