“Magnum and sprint? That’s it?” “It’s all I need.” -Arbiter on the awesomeness of the pistol. Arby n’ the Chief, Digital Fruit Cakes.
Halo PC was released way back in 2003, being a direct conversion of Halo for Xbox (released in 2001). Shortly after, a free trial was released, including the campaign level “The Silent Cartographer” and the now-classic multiplayer map “Blood Gulch”. Given that this trial was free, it is hardly any surprise that many bored gamers downloaded this version and began getting familiar with the mechanics of Halo PC. As such, following its release, “Blood Gulch” servers were the most numerous of the Halo PC servers. This is an article I found sitting around on my hard disk, and was once posted to my website. I now revive this article in its original glory.
Contrasting Halo PC and Halo 2 PC, there exists a very unique set of tactics that players adopt when playing solely on Blood Gulch, a wide open map set in a closed valley. There are two bases at the ends of the valley, with cliffs and caves lining the edges of the map. The original Halo for Xbox involved a multiplayer by system link and involved up to 16 players. As such, most strategy guides out there assume that one is on an Xbox and are playing with their buddies on a weekend. However, when paired with other players online, elements of communication fracture, and as such, so will any notion of teamwork amongst most players. Halo trial comes with two main modes of gameplay: slayer and capture the flag. The two modes start a player off with different weapons (plasma pistol and assault rifle plus pistol, respectively). However, the techniques generally remain the same with the weapons. Thus, let’s begin by considering slayer.
- It should be apparent that Halo 2 differs dramatically from Halo Trial. Owing to difficulties in getting screenshots of me dominating all I encounter (and my subsequent laziness in installing Fraps), I’ll use Halo 2 screenshots instead. The Battle Rifle replaces the pistol in Halo 2; aside from functional and aesthetic differences, it more or less serves the same role as the pistol in Halo CE. The map here is Coagulation, the direct descendent to Blood Gulch. Aside from having more complex bases, more greenery and rocks on the right of the blue base, it has a similar layout as Blood Gulch and as such, will be used for discussion here.
Slayer is the most straightforward of the gametypes; the goal is simply to get as many kills as possible to either reach the limit (usually 25) or until time runs out. In Halo PC, the only map is Blood Gulch, and as such, a mid-range weapon is always advisable. This role is satisfied by the M6D Personal Defense Weapon System, better known as the pistol. Its scope, coupled with heavy hitting rounds and high rate of fire, makes it behave like a designated marksman rifle; four shots will decimate any player without overshields. The choice of secondary weapon depends on one’s preferences: a shotgun or sniper rifle are advisable for extreme range combat. From a personal experience, having a sniper rifle and a pistol plus a handful of grenades is more than sufficient to easily dominate a match. Capture the Flag (CFT) is driven by bringing the opposing team’s flag to your team’s base. Teams usually have several players on offense, several providing support and several on defense. These concepts go out the window in Halo Trial; players usually stand still and are generally useless all around, or else go on the offense and leave their flag completely undefended. Typically, winning teams in Halo trial have a single player who carries out the offensive roles, and a handful of players who do little more than decimate opposing players.
- The sniper rifle is the most effective weapon on Blood Gulch given the map’s size. With a massive zoom and stopping power, it can be used to pick off enemies from across the map. The vapour trail the shot leaves behind will betray a wielder’s position, although this can also be exploited to lure careless banshee pilots to their death, as described below. Typically, my preferred tactic is to camp in the cave above the blue base and then use the pistol and sniper rifle to take out players.
With that in mind, there are four main classes of players in Halo trial:
- Objective- These players actively aim to win the game and are oriented by goals, such as flag captures. In slayer, they’re the most likely to use power weapons to get kills as needed, although they are usually competent with standard weapons.
- Defensive- These players tend to stay near the spawn areas and engage enemies as they move into the bases. Snipers fall into this category; they usually camp in the cave overhanging the blue base and have a nearly unlimited supply of pistol ammunition.
- Vehicular- These players will use the nearest vehicle they can get and either try to ram players or, in the case of the banshee, bombard other players with plasma.
- The rocket launcher in Halo CE does not have the ability to lock-on to targets. As such, it is primarily used for taking down groups of players or vehicles headed straight for a player. The decision to give the rocket launcher a lock-on function made vehicles death traps in Halo 2 and encouraged balanced gameplay by preventing vehicle-users from dominating a match.
Generally speaking, players who use vehicles tend to be the most irritating to engage. There is a specific set of tactics that may be used to defeat players using Warthogs.
- Players driving the Warthogs can be defeated with sustained fire from the pistol coupled with a well-placed grenade. The grenade can flip the vehicle, forcing them to exit it and damaging them in the process, and the pistol is then used to deal with the player. Alternatively, a Banshee’s fuel-rod cannon and plasma cannons can be used to quickly defeat a moving vehicle and its occupants.
- Players using Warthog turrents are sitting ducks: a well-placed headshot will one-shot them. When lacking a sniper rifle, use a combination of grenades to flip their vehicle, and then finish them using the pistol. It is imperative to stay out of the operator’s line of sight. In this case, using a Banshee is ill-advised, given that the firepower of the minigun easily exceeds the Banshee’s output. If forced to engage a player on a Warthog turrent, use the fuel-rod gun to flip the vehicle over, and the plasma cannons to (hopefully) mop up the player.
- To ensure competitive balance, the Banshee in Halo 2 lacks the fuel-rod cannon and is susceptible to rockets, as well as boarders. The latter makes it inadvisable to splatter enemies on the ground at times. Given that Halo CE does not have these limitations, players often exploit the Banshee’s firepower to get easy kills.
Players piloting the banshee are the most difficult to eliminate. Players out on foot in the middle of the map have very little chance against a banshee, so it is advisable to take cover in the bases or the caves near blue base immediately when the distinct wail of a banshee is heard. There are several special techniques one may attempt to defeat one, all of which are context sensitive.
- If practical, grab another Banshee and use the fuel-rod cannon in conjunction with the plasma cannons. Whoever lands the first shots will be the likely victor, so timing of the fuel-rod cannon is essential. To evade the other pilot’s fire, use circling motions and occasionally switch directions to close the distance.
- If both Banshees are gone, grab a Warthog mini-gun turrent; the two pilots are concentrating on each other and typically use circling motions. Take advantage of this and lay down some heavy fire. The combined fire will take down at least one of the pilots, and chances are, the other pilot will be low on health and thus, also be easy pickings. The rocket Warthog is useless owing to its slow project tiles.
- Continuous fire with a pistol, shotgun or assault rifle will most rapidly defeat a careless pilot if one’s on foot. Stay near buildings for cover, and failing that, near objects like the trees. This will prevent the pilot from getting splatter kills; if a pilot decided that ramming is the best solution, backpedal and use grenades.
- If one plays as a sniper and has access to the caves above blue base, they have a massive advantage over the banshee pilot. Plasma grenades and the pistol spawns in this area; use the sniper (if ammunition is relatively plentiful) or the pistol to draw the pilot’s attention, and more often than not, the pilot will attempt to go right into the cave. As soon as the Banshee’s frame is seen, stick two plasma grenades to it. The pilot cannot survive the two explosions, and will quickly be dispatched. This is probably the most effective method against most players currently.
Other than these tips for handling vehicles, the traditional rules of FPS apply here: always keep moving and strafing to avoid being sniper targets, use grenades to suppress an area, and always carry the pistol in conjunction to another weapon. Moreover, the old adage of aiming for the head holds true: four well-placed pistol rounds will finish any player. There is a slight delay in pistol shots at longer ranges, so leading shots and predicting where a target is going becomes important.
- The shotgun is remarkably effective when paired with melee attacks. A pistol should be carried in conjunction with the shotgun to maximise combat capacity at different ranges. In Halo trial, most players do not bother defending their flag or, in some cases, going on the offensive. When actually playing Halo trial, don’t expect graphics like those in the screenshots above: I’ve already mentioned that they are Halo 2 screenshots and are here for the purposes of discussion.
These tactics become indispensable when one goes up against inexperienced players who decide that the Banshee is the only way to get kills. Of late, most of the servers I’ve encountered are hosted by Spanish speakers…who appear insistent on using the Banshee. Playing on 48k modems, their servers are plagued by significant lag, and they will exploit this. Fortunately, most of them are not particularly skilled with the standard weapons: use one of the aforementioned techniques to remove them from the vehicle, and subsequently dominate the game using the pistol. Expect them to insult you in Spanish should that happen, but ignore them and demonstrate that the pistol is mightier than the insult. You may also choose to quit before the lag gets too particularly bad.