Banshee Handling V: Evasion
After I completed my last Banshee piece (the narrated video), I felt that I was done with this series. I’d said most of what I had to say, and moreover, it was coming up to the point that I was ready to quit Halo PC in general. I had never wanted to “overstay my welcome” and linger past my prime, growing steadily less effective as a wave of new players continually reminded me of what I no longer could do.
I did in fact make an official “retirement” from the game. However, more than a year later, I found myself still picking the game up from time to time, and recently I’ve been playing regularly again. No matter how poor this game may be, I cannot help but love the Banshee. So here I am, with one final article, on a few last points regarding what I have always called the most critical skills of the capable Banshee pilot: positioning, angles, and fundamentals.
THE VERTICAL LINE
The Banshee is a highly versatile tool, capable of rotating and moving on virtually any heading. Knowing this fact, it is easy to forget that, while the Banshee can face any direction, it cannot rotate toward that direction however it pleases. There is a vertical wall past which it cannot aim, and if you are aware of this, you can exploit it.
Due to how it is designed and programmed, the Banshee cannot under ordinary circumstances aim upward past the vertical, 90 degree angle, or downward past the same. In other words, facing forward, you can look up or down as far as you want, but you can’t pivot past straight up or straight down.
The implications of this should be clear. If you are motionless and firing at an approaching enemy, and he flies directly over your head, you will track him up, up, up, then hit a wall as he passes your “vertical line,” and be unable to continue tracking him. He then has an easy time delivering fire down into your back while you have to rotate to face him, which is an unwieldy and slow proposition from a standstill. The same thinking can be applied from underneath.
It is nothing more than another derivation of the same approach you would use attacking a tank or a turret, which cannot aim up past a certain angle (it is even easier in those cases, of course, because their maximum angle is significantly less than 90 degrees); if you can get past that invisible line, you have a sector of safety until they can rotate toward you, which takes far longer than simply aiming upward. Even infantry have this line; they turn much faster than vehicles, but they still have to rotate and reacquire you, giving you precious moments.
THE CIRCLE-BREAK COUNTER
The vertical line theory can be applied to a simple but devastating technique, tailor-made for dogfighting relatively skilled opponents. You may remember that I have in past articles discussed “breaking the circle,” or ending the traditional symmetrical airborne loop wherein both pilots rotate endlessly, trying to hit each other and being unable to. I illustrated the easiest way to do this in the video, which is nothing more than to stop, hover or drop in place, while turning and firing into your opponent’s oncoming circle.
If the continued circle is an amateur’s play, and breaking the circle is advanced, then the highest level is to counter the counter, and the vertical line gives an excellent means. If your opponent breaks the circle in that way, and if the circle is a tight one (this will be impossible if he is farther away, but in that case, it is not a true circle), you need only to continue flying straight toward him, over his head, perhaps angling slightly upward. If you can get past his vertical line before he can line up his shot and fire, then you’ve got him: merely turn to aim on him, hover or drop, and put fire into his back.
This can actually be done in other situations as well—any time when your opponent hovers or drops (sacrificing the forward speed which gives him the ability to turn and evade), if you are close enough to get past him, you can pull it off. And remember that you can go underneath just as well as you can go over the top.
THE HORIZONTAL STEP
Many times before, I have mentioned how staying alive while fighting a tank or Banshee relies heavily on your ability to see the angles he can fire on and staying out of them. However, I do not think that I have emphasized enough the importance of anticipating his next angle.
Tanks are the best example of this. The best Banshee pilots can take on tanks 99 out of 100 times once they close range, and it is based wholly upon this skill of anticipation. Obviously, once you are close, your goal is to stay behind or on top of the tank, out of the firing arc of his gun; this is old news and I have discussed it many times. However, even when this is going well, and especially when it is not, the tank will be trying to turn his barrel and get you in his sights. How do you avoid it?
It seems absurdly simple, but it is not. Do not evade randomly. Evade systematically. If you are hovering just off the ground directly behind a tank, and he tries to turn left (counter-clockwise) to face you, what do you do?
You go right. You flip from hovering to throttling, you scoot around to his right side (again, counter-clockwise), keeping close, staying on the opposite side of his turret from the gun; then you can once again hover and continue firing. If he keeps turning, you scoot again. If he switches direction, so do you.
Suppose, rather than a nice, close position, you are in the air and cruising around a skilled, mobile tanker. The same theory applies. If you are making your approach from his front, and think that he will probably reload his gun in time to get off a shot before you can pass his vertical line, you can still angle away from his barrel. If he is aiming a little to your right, angle to your left. Keep skirting around the circumference of an invisible circle surrounding him. In order to continually do this while still actually firing at him, you will need to be adept at drifting, or airborne strafing (which I discussed in the video). However, if you ensure that he does not pull too far away from you (which will make the circle you are tracing so large that you cannot traverse it faster than he can rotate), you will certainly kill him.
This is a technique that can be applied widely. Try it while you are very close in a dogfight, for instance, while you are resting on the ground (such as in a tunnel on Death Island). He starts to rotate toward you. You can do many things, but what is fastest? Simply “step” in the opposite direction, making a tiny circle around him and staying in his safe zones. How about if you are blasting at a Banshee with a shotgun while it foolishly sits on the ground and tries to shoot you from a standstill? Same business: strafe around him ahead of his turn, and you will be victorious.
(An excellent way to practice this skill is the “no shooting” game: dogfight an unsuspecting opponent without ever actually firing at him, merely practicing your positioning and staying in your safe zones while “miming” fire. See how long you can stay alive.)
Finally, understand that this need not be an extended move at all. Often enough, you will find it tremendously effective to make a quick, hard jerk in the appropriate direction to avoid an acute danger. It is just a brief tug to one side, but if a barrel or fuel rod gun is about to line up on you, it is the best possible answer, as it combines evasion (they will probably shoot anyway, and miss if you have dodged) with safe positioning (if you time it properly, you will actually be staying in a safe area the entire time).
The last thing I want to mention is an old evasion of the utmost simplicity called the shrug. It is essentially nothing more than repeated horizontal steps, which is why I have grouped it with the aforementioned technique, but it is not systematic; it is a rapid series of alternating sideways jerks, back and forth while you move forward, like your Banshee is shrugging.
This can fill two roles. The first is as an evasion of last resort. If you have flown yourself into a poor situation from which there is no real escape—for instance, you have misjudged your angles in a chaotic battle, and a tank is about to get a bead on you—you can insert a series of hard shrugs to try and avoid your incoming demise. It is not an especially effective evasion; however, it is by far the quickest. The diagonal loop takes time to enter; the drop takes time to begin falling. The shrug is virtually instantaneous and can make it far more likely that you will survive your blunder.
The second role of the shrug is when you do not choose to perform some other evasion, but want to add a bit of defense to your flight. A good example is if you’ve grabbed the enemy flag, hopped into your Banshee, and are attempting to escape. You will be safe within a few moments, once you can get past a corner or a hill, but until then, you are taking fire—assault rifles, pistols, even plasma or a tank. You are certain that your chances are much better if you run than if you try to kill them all, and also better to simply get out of range than to try some fancier dodging. So you fly hard and fast, but as you do, you throw in a series of shrugs, making yourself an overall harder target. You still take fire, you still take damage, but you are much harder to hit than if you flew straight ahead, and it may make the critical difference.
Shrugging is often seen when the pilot is lazy and fighting opponents he finds unskilled, since it is easy to do and often enough to keep him alive. This is rather unwise, but to each his own. It is also helpful when you do not think there are any enemies within range and are merely travelling, but do not want to be too easy a target for any bored tanks.
HIS LAST BOW
This is almost certainly the last of these articles I will write. I have made four written Banshee tutorials, covering everything from dogfighting basics to flashy air tricks; I have made a supplementary piece about the psychology of winning and losing in competitive play; and I have made a video piece showcasing some of the more difficult-to-envision techniques.
To talk about this any more would be ridiculous. Probably nobody else, or nearly nobody, is as interested in the Halo Banshee as I am. Indeed, in a sense, this series was always written for myself as much as for any readers; I enjoyed analyzing, setting my thoughts and style out into a structure, and being able to point others toward something that might help them.
To all those who have read, those who have played, and those who appreciate that flying purple monstrosity as I do, my thanks. Enjoy yourselves, enjoy the skies, and have fun.
After all, it’s just a game.
—Brandon “vector40” Oto
Not all people have quit the game
Me, and the fellow members from the Maw, the Bungie Halo PC forum, still play all the time. On Tuesdays and Thursdays we have a "Maw Gathering" on the "Official B.net server", where we have tons of fun. The forum regulars meet and have great laughs and amazing gameplay. I really loved the article. I think I will check out the videos you've made to get a new angle on my banshee skills (though I still think that any banshee pilot will fall against my plasma greande skills ) Anyways, I just wanted to let you know that your writing was appreciated and that a lot of us out there are still fragging it up in Halo PC, sure, so it isin't the greatest game in the world? But we still enjoy it. Here's the link to the thread with the server details: http://www.bungie.net/Forums/posts.aspx?postID=6090242
I'd love it, and I'm sure everyone else would to, if one of the old-school Halo PC players would join us just one time.