Listen up Spartans. There are 117 days from the end of the Halo Reach beta until September 14th when all you greenhorns get your mitts on a full copy of the game. You've already wasted some of that time, so let's get to business. If you don't have your Recon armor already, you've got a lot of work to do to complete your Road to Recon. Lucky for you, I've got all the intel you need to make that happen.
The Road to Recon consists of seven achievements Bungie likes to call "Vidmasters." Most of them require immense teamwork, so they're perfect objectives for Co-Optimus to tackle. We'll even cover the solo and multiplayer achievements just to be thorough.
Team work is key, but if your friend gets stuck, it's time to run.
Let's start with the Halo 3 achievements. First up, is an easy one, 7 on 7. There has been a lot of confusion about this achievement so read carefully. To get this achievement, you need exactly 7 EXP total in a multiplayer playlist on the 7th day of any month. That does NOT mean you can start at 20 EXP and earn the achievement at 27 EXP. Just pick a playlist where you have less than 7 EXP, and play until you have 7 EXP. Of course, we all know gaming is more fun with friends, so pick a team based playlist, like Social Big Team, and find some teammates. With a tight-knit team, you'll pull this off in no time. We even have a thread in our forums devoted to this achievement.
Next up is Lightswitch. You simply need to earn the rank of Lieutenant on a playlist, which means you must earn 50 EXP on a single playlist. Once again, you'll reach your goal much faster if you pick a team based playlist and fill your party with friends who work well together.
In the Halo universe, we honor the dead by shoving our thumbs in their eye sockets.
Brainpan is probably the most rewarding achievement since you'll net 265 points in the process. To get this achievement, you must collect all nine skulls hidden in the campaign of Halo 3 (which each grant you 10 points each), and six skulls in the Mythic multiplayer maps (25 points each). Find yourself some teammates, print off this excellent guide from Halopedia, and go hunting! Just remember, you must start the appropriate mission from the beginning (not at a rally point) at Normal difficulty or higher. I would also recommend keeping Halopedia's Terminals page handy as well since you'll be passing several terminals along the way. Some of the skulls are very difficult to get to so be patient and read the guides carefully.
To round up the Halo 3 achievements, we have Annual. This one is a doosy. For Annual, find three friends, fire up the final mission (Halo), turn on the Iron skull, set the difficulty to Legendary, and make your final run on ghosts instead of the usual warthogs. Sounds easy right? It's not. Lucky for us, the guys from the Spartan I Project (SIP) have written an in-depth guide that walks you through how they do annual. I encourage you to read through that guide and watch the videos. Your first challenge is getting to the top of the building. If you're like me, the grenade (or rocket or fuel rod) jump in the guide may be too much to handle. Try it out on Easy a few times to get a feel for it before you attempt it on Legendary with a group. If it proves to be too hard for your group, just work your way up the ramps the usual way. With good teamwork and communication, you should reach the top in 30-45 minutes. If you follow the directions in the guide, you should be up there in less than 10 minutes.
Regardless of how you get to the top, make sure you find the bubble shield and follow the directions in the guide for killing Guilty Spark (basically, deploy the shield by the door when he starts shooting and everyone stay inside it). Once you're back outside, head back down the ramp and find the four ghosts directly under the ramp. If you're not good at maneuvering around things at the edge of the cliff, I'd recommend clearing the pathway to the door on foot. Just don't go through that door until everyone is on ghosts because you'll hit a checkpoint which will teleport everyone, with or without their ghost. Once you've made it to the other side of the mountain, line up in a straight line, and stick to that order. The point man is in charge of navigating while the player at the rear is in charge of telling the point man when to speed up or slow down. If someone tips over, there's usually plenty of time for them to get back in and catch up provided that everyone else slows down. If everyone sticks together, there's a better chance the floor won't fall out from underneath you. That is the most important part to getting to the end. If you can't memorize the path they take in the SIP guide, at least remember to stick together, boost as much as possible, and communicate.
What a strange place to hide a bunch of ghosts.
Of course, you could just ask SIP's Annual Team (private forum, join SIP for access) for help. Their current record time is just 12:26! I tagged along with their team once and we finished in 18:49. Compare that to 1:37:27, which is how long it took Bakken Hood, Husky Trooper, my wife, and I to complete it on our own without any guides. It was brutal. Trust me, you want to enlist the help of SIP, or at least follow their guide. The Annual Team is very friendly and easy-going so don't be shy! They're here to help. We also have a thread in our forums to find help.
Go Left, Trooper!
Now lets switch gears and look at the Halo 3: ODST vidmasters. In the same vein as annual, there's Déjà Vu. Once again, play the final mission (Highway) with three friends, turn on Iron, Legendary difficulty, and do NOT enter a warthog or scorpion. Don't worry, you won't miss them too much. When you get to the highway, head down the first ramp that takes you below the highway. There, you'll find four rocket launchers and two mongooses (mongeese? still haven't figured that out). The rest of the level is just a matter of making sure you hit checkpoints as a group and a few pretty simple strategies. The method that seems to work the best is rushing to the next door at each section, turn around and play defense until Dare and Virgil catch up. Whenever there are ramps that lead below the highway, go down there, dismount, and use their cover to help take out banshees and ghosts. One of the most important tips I can offer is always go through the blast doors as a group after you kill all enemies. If you don't, you may miss checkpoints which could lead to huge setbacks whenever someone dies. This achievement is easily obtainable by any good team who sticks together, but a little extra research will make it a pleasurable experience. Check out this guide, again, provided by SIP, to see the above tips and more in action. SIP also has a Highwayman Team (private forum, join SIP for access) who will help you get this achievement in no time.
The only Vidmaster achievement that doesn't contain any sort of co-op, is Classic. It's almost ironic that the one completely solo achievement is actually one of the easiest to achieve. To get Classic, you must complete any mission, solo, on Legendary, and not fire a single shot or throwing any grenades. Note, it has been reported that pulling the right trigger while in a vehicle will actually void the achievement as well. You've been warned. This achievement sounds a lot harder than it actually is. The mission of choice is Uplift Reserve, so fire it up in Legendary. You start off with a path ahead of you. Head down that path until it opens up to a clearing. You'll be greeted by frantic marines and told to help them recover a warthog. Ignore them, you won't pull it off without firing your weapon. Instead, make a hard left and avoid covenant troops the best you can. Eventually you may catch the attention of a brute driving a chopper.
There's an easy way to get him off that chopper. Stand with your back against the wall of rocks. He'll foolishly charge at you and run into the rocks (of course you'll have to dodge him). He should slow to a dead stop and possibly even flip himself off the chopper. Either way, this is your chance to steal it! Once you're aboard the chopper, continue along the rock wall, boost your way around the wraith, and head down the path that wraith came from. A little ways down the path you'll find a ghost. Time to switch vehicles and continue on. If you don't know this mission very well, you'll want to take a minute to study the map whenever you're away from the action. The rest of the mission is a cinch! Just boost as much as you can with the ghost, and try your best to avoid confrontations with wraiths. I've shared a video of my Classic run on Bungie.net, but I don't think you'll need it. This one took me just 15 minutes (although I wasted six minutes before I decided to go left to avoid everything).
Lost Platoon features vehicles, making it a great map for epic firefight sessions.
Last but certainly not least, the mother of all Halo achievements, Endure. To get this whopper, you need to survive four sets of firefight (meaning you must make it to set five) on Heroic difficulty. The best advice I can give you is to be patient, and practice a lot. This achievement will take hours and you will most likely fail multiple times. There are two popular maps for this achievement. The first is Lost Platoon. Vehicles are your friends in this map. Have two people take the warthog and keep the petal to the metal at all times. Keep driving around the building and focus on taking out larger threats first. Choppers are probably the highest on the list, followed by Grunts or Brutes wielding fuel rods. Go easy on the roadkills since hitting Brutes and Hunters will do damage to your vehicle. The other two should defend the top of the building and take out the wraiths with the laser. Reserve the laser for the wraiths only or you'll run into trouble. The warthog crew should try to free up choppers for the two on the building. A good tactic is to move the freed choppers to the bottom of the main staircase (where the warthog spawns) so they're out of the way and they're easy to get to when you respawn. Make sure you leave the laser on the building though, otherwise you may lose track of it and you won't be able to get to it when you need it. When you have multiple vehicles running, it is wise to coordinate which direction you circle the building. A head on collision between a chopper and warthog will often result in a death or two.
Use Alpha Site's two major choke points to your advantage.
The second map is Alpha Site. For this map, you'll pair up and each take a set of stairs. Stay in the main lobby and take out enemies as they funnel through the bottlenecks. At the beginning of each round, I like to pop as many Grunts in the head with the pistol as possible as they head down that first staircase from the platform they land on. That requires you to leave the lobby for a bit but you're not too far out that you should run into any big trouble. Speaking of popping Grunt heads, I recommend turning on the Grunt Birthday Party skull so Grunts explode when you get a headshot. Besides the wacky comic relief, they also give you a few free kills since their explosion is enough to take out other grunts close by and explode any grenades sitting on the ground. But back to Alpha Site. Communication is key in Alpha Site since the four of you will be fighting in pretty close quarters. If you start getting overrun, make sure everyone backs up so you're not catching each other's grenades. During bonus rounds, you can usually take out quite a few Grunts as they come out the windows above the elevators on either side. When they start piling up in the lobby, use pistols and carbines to rack up the headshots as those will give you a lot of points. Use all your grenades as well since there will be plenty laying around when the bonus round is over.
Again, this achievement takes a lot of work, and most people agree that this is the toughest achievement in any Halo game. Communicate well, know your role, and try your best to stay alive. Most of all, be patient. If you need professional help with this one, SIP has you covered with their Team Punishment (private forum, join SIP for access). We also have a thread in our forums for all Halo 3: ODST meetups.
I can haz the recons?
Once you've hammered down all these wonderful achievements, head to Bungie.net to unlock your shiny new recon armor. You'll need to create an account and link your gamertag if you haven't already. On your service record you should see a banner with all the Vidmaster Challenge emblems and a button to unlock your armor. Once that's done, jump back into Halo 3 and check out your new gear. I hope all that hard work was worth it!