The Infinite Zenith

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The Brass Beast

An antique machine gun made almost entirely of brass, the brass beast bears a striking resemblance to the original 1861 Gatling gun made by Richard J. Gatling. This is the single most powerful weapon the heavy can wield, but the additional firepower comes with a pair of caveats: the spin up time is 50% longer, and while spun up, the user will move at 40% of their normal walking speed. These factors make the brass beast particularly suited for defending objectives at close quarters: a heavy with this will be able to eliminate almost anything that falls behind the crosshairs.

  • I’m more of a high-mobility player, and as such, I prefer the Tomislav over the Brass Beast for most situations. I remember encountering a player who fell repeatedly to my Tomislav, threatened to pull out his strange brass beast on me. Sure enough, several kills and a domination later, he did just that. I conclude his victims weren’t particularly familiar with the WASD movement configurations, as his aim was surprisingly poor. A strange brass beast accumulating kills isn’t particularly impressive, given that it’s easy to do so.

  • Choosing a suitable loadout requires a degree of foresight: players with the brass beast are essentially mobile sentry guns. For instance, players wishing to have more forward offensive power will opt with the shotgun, while players intending on defending a particular target (like a capture point of intel) may do better to equip the Sandvich: a single heavy with a source of health regeneration and ammo is all that is needed to hold off the opposing team long enough to force a stalemate in the worst case.

For all its powers, the brass beast is impractical as an offensive weapon. The weapons massive firepower requires a long spin up, making it difficult to engage enemies rapidly. Furthermore, the near-total loss of mobility while wielding this weapon makes the operator vulnerable to snipers and spies. For these reasons, the brass beast is ideally paired with the conventional shotgun. Opinions of the brass beast change rapidly when the weapon is applied in defensive situations. An operator in a defensible (that is, wall to back, indoors) position with a spun-up weapon will cut down any enemy, even an overhealed heavy with very little effort.

Snipers

“Snipin’s a good job, mate! It’s challengin’ work, outta doors. I guarantee you’ll not go hungry, cause at the end of the day, long as there’s two people left on the planet, someone is gonna want someone dead.” -The Sniper on his profession, Team Fortress 2

Sniping is generally the most sought-after skill set in virtually every FPS involving long range, scoped rifles. Whether it is Halo or Team Fortress 2, there appears to be very few experiences in a game like getting a headshot at long range.

  • In Halo, sniper rounds have a slight delay in reaching their targets. Halo veterans recommend using the 5x magnification to hit targets reliably at mid ranges, and to constantly remain on the move to avoid revealing their position: both the sniper rifle and beam rifle leave behind a distinct trail that reveals the position of the sniper.

  • There are two types of snipers in Halo: the human sniper rifle, and the Covenant beam rifle. The sniper rifle has a larger carrying capacity (i.e. more rounds carried) and does not overheat, while the beam rifle can fire two shots in rapid succession and is quieter.

In reality, snipers are highly trained marksmen that typically work in pairs, from concealed positions, to take down single high-value targets. Snipers train vigorously to ensure that they are capable of making every shot count,  and must continuously take into account environmental variables such as gravity, wind speed, air temperature, relative humidity and (yes, I’m pulling this straight from Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare) the Coriolis effect at longer ranges.

  • Snipers in Team Fortress 2 have the distinct ability to ‘charge’ their rifles: by remaining scoped, the rifle charges and increases the damage an individual round until full charge is reached, whereupon it becomes possible to kill any class with a single headshot. The ability to one-shot any class is offset by the sniper’s low health, and being scoped also reduces a sniper’s awareness, making them prime targets for spies. Defensive snipers will carry a razorback to defend them from a single backstab attempt.

  • There are five sniper rifles available to the sniper at time of writing: the stock rifle is a good all-around weapon, the huntsman is bow meant as a closer range weapon, the Sydney Sleeper cannot headshot but covers opponents in Jarate (an agent that causes all damage taken to be mini-crits) and is an excellent support weapon. The Baazar Bargain is a weapon ideal for marksmen who can land consecutive headshots, and the Machina is a highly powerful support rifle. Players usually pick the rifle that suits them the most: for me, it’s the Machina.

In video games, sniper rifles are designed to fire a projectile in a straight line or else act as hit-scan weapons, ignoring most of these elements altogether to ensure that the weapons are effective at long range without the same training snipers undergo. That said, sniping in video games is also challenging, as other players are constantly moving, and players must carefully lead their shots to ensure that their shots hit their target.

  • In Battlefield Bad Company 2, the campaign offers two sniper rifles, while there are seven rifles in multiplayer. The Type-88 is a semi-automatic rifle with a reasonably large magazine, making it highly useful as a designated marksman rifle. Most wielders find that its rate of fire and magazine size make it more viable at medium ranges, where more enemies are likely to be engaged. Moreover, beginners should have an easier time getting two body shots off.

  • The M95 sniper rifle is a bolt action rifle that offers more stopping power than the Type-88 at the cost of firing rate and magazine size. In general, each of the rifles have a different set of characteristics that appeal to different players.

Every game has a different set of mechanics for its sniper rifles and as such, require a slightly different adaptations to ensure they are wielded effectively.  For instance, snipers in Battlefield 3 need to be aware of bullet drop and use the markers on their scopes properly to compensate, while snipers in Team Fortress 2 need to be cautious of spies and play carefully to avoid death, as they have less health than most of the other classes. While I’m not totally familiar with all of the sniper weapons in every FPS per say, there are a general set of guidelines that seem to apply to all players interested in sniping.

  • Aim for the head– This is probably the most common thing posted out there on almost any guide about playing effectively as a sniper. While headshots are one-hit kills under almost all circumstances, the head presents a smaller target than the body. As such, aiming for the head is usually done only if there is sufficient time to line up a good shot. Otherwise, two body shots will usually be most effective.
  • Move constantly– This is another classic tip and usually involves either strafing constantly if one’s cover is blown to avoid taking fire, or moving from location to location to avoid being engaged at close range.
  • Secure a good location– A good place to snipe is essential. Many guides will emphasise finding several good hiding spots that offer a good vantage point while simultaneously providing cover.
  • Compensate for target movements– Depending on the game, some sniper rounds will travel more slowly than others. Players are typically told to lead their shots by a certain factor to ensure that they hit the target where they are expected to be, rather than they are.
  • Choose a suitable rifle– Most games offer several rifles with varying attributes. Sniper rifles can be grouped into two main classes: semi-automatic marksman rifles have slightly less damage and range but compensate with a higher firing rate, whereas bolt-action sniper rifles are slower to fire but have greater range, accuracy and stopping power. Players choose their rifles based on their preferred combat styles: the former is more suited for mid-range combat, while the latter is better for support roles.

  • I’m not too familiar with the Battlefield 3 sniper rifles, but here is the SV98, a Russian bolt-action rifle. In Battlefield 3, all sniper rifles are affected by bullet drop; moreover, different scope magnifications affect drop compensation. As such, guides recommend that players choose equipment that they are both comfortable and suited for the situation.

  • The Dragunov SVD is another sniper rifle found in Battlefield 3. One of the more interesting aspects in Battlefield 3 is unlockable customisations for rifles. These customisations allow players to choose a rifle and further modify it to suit their game style.

These are the five main points I’ve seen discussed time and time again by veterans to new players. Generally speaking, they are effective in the sense that they increase a sniper’s survivability. On the other hand, getting kills is a little more challenging for beginners, who have yet to find their ideal look sensitivity and learn the game mechanics with respect to where bullets land after being fired. Once players are familiarised with these essentials, they can work on their reaction times to ensure they are more combat effective. Of course, we are discussing games here: for players seeking a good time, sniping is but one of these means of do so.

The Frontier Justice

The Frontier Justice is a large pump-action coach gun-style shotgun with a wooden stock and ornate engravings on the metal receiver, to which a team-colored cylindrical capacitor with an antenna is attached. While it cannot randomly deal critical hits and has half the shell capacity of the regular Shotgun, it deals “Revenge Crits”: for every kill acquired by the Engineer’s Sentry Gun, two Revenge Crits are stored, while an assist kill stores one. Upon the machine’s destruction (including destruction by PDA), the Frontier Justice is granted with all of the Revenge Crits to use as actual critical attacks. The Frontier Justice is only able to store up to 35 of these crits at one time, which is the maximum ammo the weapon can have; three shots stored in the magazine and 32 stored in reserve.

  • There are several conditions the revenge crits operate under. If the Engineer has not respawned when his Sentry Gun is destroyed, no Revenge Crits will be given to the Engineer. Furthermore, should the Engineer die, he will lose all Revenge Crits currently stored in the Frontier Justice; those still stored in the Sentry Gun will remain, however, until its own destruction.

  • The Revenge Crits are retained even when switching weapon and have unlimited duration until their use. If the Engineer has Revenge Crits and is crit-boosted from another source, firing the Frontier Justice will still spend the Revenge Crits.

The Frontier Justice is statistically identical to the Shotgun, save the magazine size. This factor makes it difficult to kill multiple enemies with revenge kills, so ideally, the revenge crits are saved for dispatching isolated enemies. It is most effectively paired with a sentry in a combat position, allowing one to get several kills before its destruction; when paired with the gunslinger and its mini-combat sentry, the weapons allow for a reasonable number of revenge crits to be accumulated. The faster build time of the mini-combat sentry makes it a great distraction against other players and may contribute to getting assists that translate to revenge crits.

Tips for Halo Trial Multiplayer: Revisited

“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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

Medieval Mode Payload

Medieval Mode is one of the most amusing gameplay variants in Team Fortress 2. Set in an alternate universe where the Red Soldier displeased a wizard, the only permissible weapons are the melee weapons, the Crusader’s Crossbow, the Huntsman and the heavy’s lunch box items. DeGroot Keep is the only official map and is a control point gametype. Compared to conventional games, there are several differences, notably the fact that players drop small health kits on death and the Übersaw does not build up the Über Charge meter. However, I came across an unofficial Medieval payload match today. Armed with the Half-Zatoichi and the Splendid Screen, I charged and cut my way to victory.

  • Medieval Mode Payload is actually a brilliant concept; restricting the players to melee weapons forces combat surrounding the cart to me radically more chaotic. In medieval mode, the demoman, sniper and medic are probably the best of the classes to choose from.

  • A sword will promise critical damage when charging as a demoman. In experience, the Half-Zatoichi proves to be somewhat more useful than the Eyelander or Nessie’s Nine-iron by instantly restoring all health on a kill. Thus, a player gains increased survivability if they are occasionally getting kills compared to when they are wielding the Demoman’s other swords.

  • The payload is appropriately re-modelled to reflect the environment of medieval mode. It is essentially knight armour, a lance and a shield mounted on a wooden cart with a bunch of food in the back. Players should be careful not to accidentally end up in front of the cart: the lance can do some serious damage to both allied and enemy players!

  • The primary weakness about the Half-Zatoichi is the fact that another player wielding it can kill the wielder in a single hit. To maximise survival, it is best to keep the enemy at a distance and strike him between his swings. Generally speaking, use of a carefully-timed charge will make it easier to take down an opponent.

I had acquired the Half-Zatoichi and the Splendid Screen recently; while I previously did not play as the demoman, the acquisition of these awesome new melee weapons has made Medieval mode one of my favourite gametypes in Team Fortress 2. The former is an honour-bound weapon that can only be sheathed on a kill, and the latter offers less damage resistance compared to the Chargin’ Targe but compensates by doing 70% more charge impact damage. This unusual combination proved to be remarkably effective, despite the Half-Zatoichi’s reduced range compared to the Eyelander and Nessie’s Nine-iron. This is thanks to the sword’s awesome capability to restore one’s health completely on a successful kill. With a base damage of 65, the sword can deal up to 195 damage on a critical strike; pairing it with a shield will allow one to easily dispatch the weaker classes in a single shot.