Solo evac zone battle
Posted January 3rd 2012
In the evac zone battle at either of the two possible locations, you normally fight alongside Carter, Jorge and three troopers. In an earlier article I described a few methods of eliminating Carter and Jorge from the valley, potentially allowing you to tackle the battle with just the troopers, but here I want to go further and focus on ways of making the battle a solo affair, with a handy battle start checkpoint and with all 23 dropship troops either present or on the way. I'll cover two set-up plans, which give quite different starting conditions.
Fighting solo you'll have a lot of new options for enjoying and controlling the fight, or just playing around, as the covies won't be getting killed off or distracted by your allies, especially your annoyingly invulnerable Spartan pals. In particular you can take all the time you want, including tackling things from distance with DMR and needle rifle. Possibly from some nice high places, if you've got a Falcon on hand. Explore the possibilities!
Early checkpoint set-up
With this set-up your battle start checkpoint will be at the evac zone shortly after the first dropship has left. The reinforcement ships will be on their way, and thus you'll always have the opportunity of tackling some troops as they disembark, if that takes your fancy.
Elimination and arrival
At rally point alpha eliminate Carter and Jorge using Jun's Falcon or the truck, whichever you prefer. Head down the valley, maybe doing some weapon provision along the way. Arrive at the evac zone in a truck, in a sufficiently standard way that you don't trigger early reinforcements. Kill the troopers quick - I suggest using a plasma pistol - and hide. There's potentially time to grab a dropped DMR too (one of the troopers has one), and maybe pass over the one on the ground to increase your ammo.
Battle start checkpoint
Now here's the quirky bit. A few seconds after the first ship departs, the two reinforcement ships may get triggered even though no covies have been killed yet; and because you're hidden you should get the associated checkpoint too. I think your chance of success depends mainly on how quickly you got into hiding, but at the lower evac zone it's been as high as 40% for me when grabbing a DMR along the way, and at the higher zone it's been as high as 90% (those rates were measured on Heroic, killing the troopers with a plasma pistol and leaving the DMR guy for last to swap for it). Watch pulses on your tracker when hidden. If you haven't got a checkpoint within six pulses at the lower zone, or four at the higher zone, it's too late by then - there only seems to be a small window of opportunity - so revert and try again.
Note: At the lower zone I had a few anomalous occasions when I got a checkpoint yet the reinforcements hadn't triggered. I'm not sure what's going on there.
Arriving in the Falcon instead
Instead of arriving in a truck, you could arrive in Jun's Falcon so it'll be available for use in battle when you want. However, there's a complication. About 80 seconds after the reinforcement ships are triggered, Jun will appear in the rear right seat assuming it's vacant (and assuming it's upright - else he'll appear on top of the Falcon). He won't do any shooting from the seat, but if he's drawing fire you won't truly be fighting solo any more. Also, if you get more than about 35 metres away he's likely to switch to the pilot's seat (if the Falcon is upright) and use the cannon while clumsily trying to head in the direction of rally point alpha.
Eliminating Jun's Falcon
If you don't want Jun's Falcon to be flying around overhead during the battle, simply make sure to bring it down at some point during the set-up work. Possibly you used it to eliminate Carter and Jorge of course.
Late checkpoint set-up
With this set-up you end up with a battle start checkpoint after all 23 dropship troops have arrived. There's great freedom over where you get the checkpoint, and you can even get it out of bounds with a Falcon on hand, allowing some novel ways of attacking.
Elimination and arrival
Bring down Jun's Falcon at rally point alpha then eliminate Carter and Jorge using the truck retreat method. Fly down the valley, maybe doing some weapon provision along the way. Arrive at the evac zone in such a way as to trigger early reinforcements.
You now need to eliminate the troopers before they kill any covies, and you may also want to get equipped with a well stocked DMR. Assuming you do, I suggest first killing the troopers quick with cannon fire. One of them had a DMR and there should also be one waiting for you (though I've had occasions when it hasn't spawned), so combine the ammo. Early enemy fire can make things a bit hot while you're doing this, but you should usually be ok on Heroic or lower if you work efficiently.
Alternatively, pick up the troopers and the DMR waiting for you, fly off, get the troopers ejected (dismount somewhere so the Falcon tumbles down), kill them and get the extra DMR ammo. It's more time consuming, but safer as you won't be out of the Falcon so long - a possible consideration on higher difficulties. In regard to the detail of the pick-ups at the lower evac zone, one plan is to land near the DMR with the back of the Falcon towards the troopers (to make it easiest for them to board), grab it, reboard and wait for the troopers to board. Another plan is to land past the troopers along the path (hopefully getting dropship fire diverted your way to help the DMR trooper stay alive), let them board, fly to the DMR and briefly hop out to grab it.
Note: If you don't want a DMR yet, things are simpler of course: just kill the troopers with cannon fire. You'll still have the possibility of getting a DMR in battle, though it would be a good idea to make sure the dropped one is somewhere you'll be able to reach it reasonably safely.
Battle start checkpoint
For a battle start checkpoint, one option is to go to another enemy group in the valley (aside from Skirmisher groups), and either trigger it or wipe it out. I'd suggest wiping it out, to minimize the processing workload of the game after you depart, and thus minimize any possibility of framerate slowdown at the evac zone. With convenience in mind, you should be in the Falcon or a truck or have a vehicle close by when you get the checkpoint, so it won't take long to get into battle.
Alternatively, escape from normal bounds using one of the dropships (ideally without losing health), wait for the final ship to drop it's troops if it hasn't already, get the relay outpost loaded (see advice here) then get the valley reloaded (see advice here). When you next dismount, you'll trigger the 'dismount checkpoint' associated with the 'ADVANCE INTO RELAY OUTPOST' prompt. You'll need to be well enough clear of enemies that it doesn't end up getting delayed by enemy threat and then cancelled (which would happen within a few seconds), but aside from that you can get it almost anywhere, which is great. In particular you can get it somewhere still out of bounds, leaving you the option of attacking from places out of bounds. With the lower evac zone I especially like getting it way up high on the mountain behind the zone, because it's a lot of fun to head down the mountain on foot when you want. Another place out of bounds is the top of the waterfall feeding the stream. That's a few metres above the invisible ceiling of normal bounds.
Note: If you've used the dismount checkpoint option, expect the valley to be missing its trucks. They don't seem to get reloaded with the rest of the valley. One other thing about that option. The reason I said to wait for the final drop is that if you load the outpost sooner, that final ship may drift away with its troops because the evac zone is gone, resulting in their loss.
If you're going to be heading back to the evac zone in the Falcon, there's one other thing to deal with. About 80 seconds after the reinforcement ships are triggered, Jun will appear in the rear right seat if it's vacant (this namely happens when Charlie 2 spawns to fly in). However, you can prevent his appearance by simply being in the seat yourself when the time comes. It'll just be a matter of waiting around a while before going on to get your checkpoint. Do it before getting the outpost loaded if you escaped normal bounds.
If you don't prevent his appearance like that though, you can get rid of him in various ways. One to lure him off with a truck. Another is to take a passenger seat so he gets out to take the pilot's seat, then take it yourself (maybe beating him to it) and fly clear. Another is to dismount somewhere to let the Falcon tumble to the ground, hopefully getting him ejected.
Fun with Charlie 2 - or not
Prior to getting your battle start checkpoint, you could optionally destroy the Falcon 'Charlie 2' which flies in to hover near the evac zone (about 80 seconds after the reinforcement ships are triggered). It doesn't attack the covies so it won't interfere with your battle, but maybe you prefer it to be absent so you've got a better sense of being alone, or so you're not hearing it hovering all the time - not that it's loud.
However, there are a couple of benefits to leaving it intact for the battle. The main one is that you can dismount onto it to use as a high platform from which to attack. Good fun - and get a load of that impressive heat distortion effect from the thrusters! You can access it from within normal bounds (it's sufficiently far under the ceiling), and the dismount isn't very hard. Settle your Falcon's nose onto the back, and dismount on the appropriate side of your cockpit by using the right joystick to look to that side slightly, just beforehand. When you dismount, your Falcon tends to initially stay in place and bring Charlie 2 down, but it'll probably fall off (you can also dislodge it with a punch or shot), after which you'll rise back up. If you ever want to get down off Charlie 2, hit it with a plasma ball and jump off at the bottom.
The other benefit to having Charlie 2 around is that it's rather enjoyable to destroy with cannon fire when you feel like it. Consider it an added bonus.
I'll mention one other option. With a bit of careful cannon fire you could eliminate the Elites and any Skirmishers before your battle start checkpoint to create a Grunts only battle. Yay! More generally you can eliminate anyone you like, to effectively select your opposition.
Needle rifle provision
In each of the set-up plans, I've already mentioned about getting a DMR right after arriving. But it's also possible to be ready with a well stocked needle rifle, which is the other weapon of choice if you're interested in shooting from distance - plus it's fun to see Grunts trying to dive clear. You could already be in possession of a needle rifle from before rally point alpha (one of the Skirmishers in the first covie group has one), and in the valley you can add to your ammo from two Skirmisher pairs prior to making the game select which evac zone to use. There's a further such pair along the path between the two possible zones.
Each dropship brings in 7 Grunts, and the reinforcement ships also carry an Elite apiece, so that makes 21 Grunts and 2 Elites in all. However, 2 Skirmishers can also be present. With the lower evac zone, the pair from the left of the valley can take part if you've tackled the group of covies at the circular building area not far from them, because they retreat down the valley when you've finished off that group. With the higher evac zone, the pair from down towards the stream seem to head for the battle area once the reinforcement ships have been triggered.
Restarting the battle
After wiping out the dropship covies there's a checkpoint triggered in association with the 'OBJECTIVE COMPLETE' message. Any Skirmishers who turned up are irrelevant to this trigger; the game doesn't treat them as part of the battle. Usually the checkpoint would come just after the message, but you can't rely on that; so when you think you've killed the last dropship troop, you might want to revert promptly to avoid the checkpoint. However, it can always be delayed and cancelled by jumping if you want to survey the scene for a while, and could also get delayed by the proximity of any remaining Skirmishers.
If you ever happen to get the completion checkpoint, you can potentially still get back to the battle start checkpoint by using suicide reversion, killing yourself quickly five times (plasma grenade recommended).