Halo Online Companion - Vol.1
Posted by Sketch at 12/30/2003 6:47 AM PST

Halo Online Companion - Vol.1

By SketchFactor
Tuesday, December 30th, 2003, 2:47 PM

Sketch's Halo Mac/PC Online Companion - Volume 1

Halo PC has been out for quite a while and with the recent release of the Mac version, more and more players are joining the fray each and every day. Judging by the surge in online activity this past week, its clear that Santa dropped off quite a few copies to the good boys and girls out there. While some of us have hundreds of hours of experience under our belt via the Xbox version, many others are experiencing Halo for the very first time. While I have personally played my fair share of the Xbox campaign, its only been through Halo PC that Ive really gotten a chance to experience multiplayer goodness.

If youre a die-hard veteran, chances are you already know everything Im about to write and then some. However, if youre a little less seasoned, you might just find something useful here. In either case, read on and do with it what you will. The Halo online battlefield can be a brutal place and to survive, it helps to get every edge you can. If youve got proven strategies and tactics that work for you, drop me a message and share the love. I'll gladly include them in the 2nd volume of this text.

So, without further ado, I bring you Sketch's Halo Mac/PC Players Companion Volume 1. A series of handy tips and suggestions designed to increase your enjoyment while playing Halo online. While I can't promise to turn you into the next CPL champion, I can, hopefully, offer some insight into the basic building blocks necessary to develop a winning strategy.

I. The Name of the Game
One of the biggest issues I've encountered so far regards an overall unfamiliarity with the gametypes available in Halo. It seems that more often than not, people jump in and start blasting anything that moves, with no distinction between friend or foe and no idea of what the actual objective is.

It's not always easy to identify the rules of the game youre in. Some servers, like our own BUNGIE-Teams, alternates between a variety of different team based games. You may be playing CTF one game and then it will suddenly jump to team Oddball the next. If you happen to be in the game when it begins a new map, there will always be an audio clue to indicate what the gametype is. Also, the icon in the upper right portion of the screen will always display the overall gametype. Heres a quick rundown of the major gametypes and what those little icons mean:

The first thing you should do when joining any game is press F1 to bring up the score screen which lists the gametype, and any specific variant, in the lower right corner. The only information you cant get from this screen are things like weapon sets, health, friendly fire, respawn rules, etc

Once you're in, take a few seconds to survey the scene. If you're red or blue, you're probably in a team game. If it's a CTF game but your flag isn't there, chances are you're playing Assault or possibly single flag CTF (though this is also displayed via the F1 screen). If you can't figure it out, there's no harm in simply hitting T and asking other players what the gametype is. Trust me, everyone would rather take a few seconds to answer your question than deal with you killing your team or running around like a madman.

II. Love Thy Neighbor
Lately it seems the number one problem plaguing most players are team killers (tkers). We've all had our run-ins with these folks. Whether it's completely intentional or just a product of ignorance, they constantly shoot you in the back and have no concept of what those green arrows mean above your head. There's no quicker way to alienate yourself and become an outcast in the Halo community than to get a reputation as a team killer.

Sometimes it could be completely innocent a stray grenade here, a misfired rocket there... But oftentimes it ends up in a nasty game of payback that drags the entire team down into the gutter. If you accidentally frag one of your teammates, do the right thing and issue a quick apology. Saying youre sorry will let them know that it was a genuine accident as opposed to a ruthless back stabbing act of betrayal.

With the release of the 1.03 update, Halo servers now have a means of combating team killing through an auto-kick/ban system. It wont be long before those pesky TKers are kicked to the curb. All of our BUNGIE official servers will be sharing a common ban list so if someones a jackass on one of our servers, you can rest assured they wont be allowed back into ANY of our servers. If it's an accidental kill, you should definitely apologize to your team and then if you play nicely for a few minutes, the mark against you will reset.

III. Theres no i in TEAM
One of the worst things a player can do is try to be a one-man-Rambo wannabe in the middle of a team based game. Teams with these types of players will usually flail and get owned by teams who play together. The team that plays together wins together... or something like that.

In a Team Slayer game, youll have a far better chance of winning if you and a few teammates stick together and move across the map as one unified force. Youll more than likely encounter lone opponents who will be no match for your finely tuned death squad. On the other hand, if you run around by yourself you could very well stumble upon a squad of enemies and then youve got to deal with being outnumbered and outgunned.

The same logic applies to Team Oddball and Team King games as well. There's a reason these are team games. There truly is strength in numbers.

CTF, Assault and other CTF variants are where the teamwork will really make or break you. If your entire team runs off to capture the flag, who's going to hold down the fort? While you're off blasting away, the enemy will waltz right into your base for an easy grab. For maximum success, a team needs role players. Some people excel at defending, while others are great drivers or have a dead aim for sniping.

The problem is, unless you've played with the same group of people before, chances are nobody is going to step up and try to organize your team. Generally, everyone wants to go for the flag but barely anyone is willing to defend. If it means your team has a stronger chance of victory, take the call yourself and volunteer to stay back with someone else and fight off invaders.

If you are on the offensive side of your team, don't just charge out on your own to capture a flag. In larger games, you'll almost surely be met by a swift death. Rather than be hasty, hook up with a few of your partners and stage a coordinated offensive. Having multiple vehicles all rushing a base from different sides is a great way to thin the defenders and provide an opening for a shot at the flag. This may sound like common sense, but youd be surprised at how many players completely fail to grasp the notion of a team game.

IV. Learn the lay of the Land
In order to really propel yourself into the upper echelon of Halo players, you're going to need to know the maps like the back of your hand. A veteran player can literally waltz through a map with their eyes closed and grab every critical power-up and weapon on the way to their goal. As you'll read in the section below, it's well worth your while to go out of your way to find the Fuel Rod Gun for its devastatingly powerful attacks.

If you're being chased by opponents, it definitely helps to know if you're about to come across an ammo stash, a more powerful weapon or a vital health pack. Likewise, if you're on the way to the enemy base or the King zone, you can alter your course slightly if it means you can grab an over shield or a better weapon. Taking a few extra seconds to grab a key item can mean the difference between victory and watching your opponent violate your freshly dead corpse (see Humping).

Beyond simply knowing where items spawn, there's also value in knowing good ambush points or good areas to snipe from. All of the maps in Halo have nooks and crannies that lend themselves to different strategies. Sometimes it's helpful to know where items are not so you can grab them but so you can ambush other players who are going for them. Dont think you're the only one with the bright idea of grabbing a Rocket Launcher.

In the near future, we'll have maps of the new maps available to help you out, but in the meantime, you can set up some games of your own and just walk around and get a feel for the layout. Eventually, with time and experience, you'll start to know the maps inside and out and you can find power-ups and enhance your arsenal without even thinking about it. For expert players, there's definitely a method to this madness.

V. The Fuel Rod Gun is Your Friend
One of the new additions to Halo Mac/PC is the almighty Fuel Rod Gun. This weapon, previously only available to the Covenant forces, is now an instrument of death in the hands of a skilled player. Raining green plasma down on your foes will put a world of hurt on them and give your team the edge to achieve victory. No matter what the gametype, the Fuel Rod Gun is incredibly effective and you (or someone on your team) should always strive to add it to your arsenal.

The Fuel Rod Gun can fire several shots in rapid succession and it usually only takes 2 well placed shots to kill an enemy player. Lead your shot and let it rip. Also, like the rocket launcher, the FRG is very effective against land based vehicles. With a few clicks of your mouse you can sit back and laugh as Warthogs and Ghosts go flying into the horizon. The huge, arcing range of the FRG also makes it an ideal siege weapon. As your teammates charge the enemy base, you can stand back at a safe distance and lob green hurt all over them. And its ballistic curve means you can take advantage of full cover.

If you're facing off against and opponent wielding the FRG, the best advice is to close the distance as fast as you can while weaving back and forth. Once you get on top of them, they're going to have a real hard time hitting you and even then they'll do as much or more damage to themselves. On the other hand, if you have a sniper rifle or pistol, you could try to take some cover and get a quick headshot.

Its usually well worth it to make a detour on the way to the enemy base and stop to pick one up. You do know the default spawn location for the Fuel Rod Gun, right? Whether you're clearing a path for your flag carrier or trying to clear out a King of the Hill zone, nothing beats the mean green machine. Some may say the FRG is unbalanced and too powerful and they might be right but until something changes, you should exploit it every chance you get.

VI. Burn Baby, Burn
The other new addition to your arsenal in Halo Mac/PC is the mighty Flamethrower. Originally scheduled to appear in the Xbox version, the Flamethrower was cut towards the end of development and has been lying in wait for this glorious return to service. Unlike the Fuel Rod Gun, the Flamethrower is not a weapon of choice for long range combat or for squaring off against an incoming Warthog. Instead, the Flamethrower excels at close range combat. This weapon was born to be used as a close-quarters flag defending instrument of burning pain.

It usually only takes a few seconds of exposure to kill an opponent which makes it that much easier to stop someone from delivering a flag at the final moment or from taking yours in the first place. Another nifty thing about the Flamethrower is that enemy corpses will continue to burn for a short time after the player has died. This means you can essentially create a flaming barrier of burning corpses to block a doorway or protect a flag. As invaders charge through, they will catch on fire and take damage before you even unleash your own flame on them.

And if you have to beat a retreat, the flamethrower is appropriately like a candle to a moth, and you'll find opponents blindly chasing the pretty (and deadly) light as you walk backwards, spewing an irresistible trail of death.

It's generally a good idea to carry some sort of longer range weapon in conjunction with your Flamethrower since youre dead meat if someone comes at you from afar with a pistol or plasma rifle. I like to enter an encounter with a pistol or something similar and then when my opponent gradually gets closer to me, I make a quick switch to the Flamethrower and voila - deep fried Spartan.

VII. Fly the Friendly Skies
Life was simpler in the old days While running across Blood Gulch you only needed to worry about attacks coming from in front, beside or behind you. Now, with the addition of Banshees to multiplayer, you've got to now keep an eye on the sky and watch for incoming bogies. On the maps that support them, the Banshee should have a key role in your strategy for success.

In team based games on maps that allow Banshees, it's critical that at least someone on your team maintains a presence in the air. Your airpower can quickly get you from one point to another, provide cover fire against enemy advances and act as a quick delivery means for a flag runner. Another point to remember - if you're controlling the airspace, your opponent is not. Dont let your enemy have free run of the skies ensure that someone on your team has a Banshee in flight at all times.

Banshees are particularly good at taking out incoming Warthogs and Ghosts via their powerful secondary attack (a la the Fuel Rod Gun). If you're dealing with infantry, often times pilots will swoop down and simply ram them. This is very effective but be wary of getting too close as you may put yourself in easy range for a rocket or shotgun counterattack.

If you're on Banshee patrol and your teammate emerges with a flag in hand, depending on the surroundings, you may want to simply drop off your Banshee and let them use it for a quick escape. If things are hostile, circle around and take out the defenders.

When it comes to Banshee-on-Banshee dogfights, it usually boils down to who can get behind the other person first. Then, players frantically scroll their mouse round and round in a never ending circle with each player trying to turn tighter than the other. The best piece of advice in this situation is to lead your target as much as you can. Eventually someone will break the circle and then you can attempt to swoop in and unload a secondary attack. Another tactic is to try and take the fight close to a nearby teammate and get their assistance in ridding you of this aerial nuisance. Pistols or sniper rifles are effective at chipping away at a pilots health from a safe distance. Personally, I rather enjoy engaging in a Banshee fight and as my attacker is pursuing me, I quickly hop out while turning 180 degrees and unloading a nice shiny rocket into their vehicle. Now that's a gratifying kill.

VIII. Hide the Flag
If you check the rankings on the Gamespy page, it's easy to see that CTF (and CTF variants) are the dominant gametype online. Whether you're playing Assault and trying to sneak your flag into the enemy base or playing traditional CTF and trying to sneak their flag back to your base, success will come easier with a bit of stealth.

For starters, dont just tear off on your own for the enemy base. Regroup and bring reinforcements. Ideally, a vehicle or two will take the lead to draw off opponents while another vehicle, carrying (or picking up) the flag holder follows behind.

If you're using a Warthog, don't drive off until you've got at least a gunner in the back. A Warthog with no gunner support is relatively useless. If youre intent on a solo capture or escape, you're much better off using a Ghost or a Banshee.

If you're carrying the flag, you should either be driving or manning the gun. If you ride in the passenger seat, the enemy can see your huge flag waving in the wind and it's a welcome invitation to blast the hell out of you. The flag carrier should avoid the passenger seat whenever possible. When I'm going to capture a flag, I like to either be driving or riding shotgun. Once we reach the base, I can jump out while theres a gunner around to provide cover fire. If I'm not the driver, the driver can circle the premises and wait for me to emerge with the flag in hand. The same thing goes for delivering a flag - either the driver or passenger jumps out while the teammates provide cover.

And remember, when driving at full speed, you can launch your body out of the vehicle at incredible speed, so make sure to aim (for example) slightly to the left of your base entrance so that you shoot straight in the door. With some practice, you'll get it every time. This technique has saved many a flag from a pursuing Scorpion.

We'll have some more in-depth strategies for CTF and Assault in a future installment but for now, just remember that its always best if the enemy cant see who's carrying the flag.

IX. Lead and Listen
Stop, hey what's that sound... Actually, it's the reassuring beep of a registered hit on an opponent. When playing online, almost everyone is subject to some sort of lag (a delay in the information flow between your machine and the server) at one point or another. This creates a problem when you're trying to kill someone because they may not really be where they appear to be. According to your machine, they seem to be right in front of you but on the server, they've already juked to the left and now theyre firing at you.

There's not a lot you can do about this but the audio hit indicator has been added as a way to let you know whether or not you've hit your opponent. If you're firing away but you dont hear the beep, you're not hitting them and you should adjust accordingly. Listen for the audio clue and adjust your aim.

Leading your target refers to your anticipation of where they are going, not where they currently are. This applies to vehicle and weapon combat. If you can anticipate where they are going, your chances of landing a hit will be much greater. If you shoot where they are now, theres a greater chance that theyll either move before they get hit or they've already moved and your machine hasnt received the updated data yet. Experiment with different levels of lead and use the beeps to hone in on your target.

X. -blam!- Flambe'
And finally, the number one piece of advice that I can pass along to new players is this - Dont hump burning corpses. The corpse hump is a famous after-death taunt that has made its way from the Xbox to the Mac and PC. The hump has gotten so popular and is so deeply rooted in Halo lore that Im planning on doing a follow-up feature devoted strictly to the art of the corpse hump.

With the addition of the new flamethrower, the hump now has an added element of danger. If someone dies from a flamethrower, their corpse will continue to smolder for a few seconds after they've perished. If you're too hasty and you go for the hump, chances are you're going to singe your Spartan private parts and possibly even die. Nothing is sadder or more embarrassing than dying at the hands of your dead opponent while trying to taunt them.

Until Next Time...
There's definitely much more to be said and many more tactics to share but this is enough for the scope of Volume 1. In the weeks ahead, keep an eye out for detailed map and gametype strategies as well as real-world tips straight from the Halo community. Until then, have fun and play well. I'll see you on the battlefield!

Send me your tips, tricks, and strategies for Halo PC/Mac and if they're good enough, I'll add them to the future installments and give you mad props for your l33t skilz!

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