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1. Overview

Weapons will always be one of the central focuses of any first-person shooter. In Halo: Combat Evolved, we had a decent array of human and alien armaments that all had different capacities for use in various situations: a strong, mid-range pistol for balanced all-around combat, a shotgun for close-range combat, an automatic rifle for dispatching individual or multiple weaker enemies, a sniper rifle for long range combat, rockets for anti-vehicle work, grenades for thinning out infantry units, and alien plasma weapons that worked well against energy shields. Each of these weapons were quite formidable when used properly.

Unlike some people, I really have no qualms with the notion that humans might still be using conventional firearms 500 years from now rather than some form of directed-energy weapon. Rifles, handguns, and other small arms have proven their lethality countless times over the last several centuries, and I expect them and to continue being used for quite some time to come. Furthermore, it provides a certain aesthetic quality, separating them from the alien weaponry as well as giving them a sense of familiarity. Furthermore, I can understand why the UNSC would be using firearms with larger calibers and stronger rounds than what most militaries use today -- 7.62 mm NATO instead of 5.56 mm NATO for service rifles, sniper rifles chambered for big, powerful anti-materiel rounds instead of smaller, weaker, and more common rifle rounds, and shotguns with heavy shell loads and 8-gauge instead of 12-gauge bores -- since larger caliber, heavier weight, higher speed bullets tend to have more stopping power. After all, most Covenant are physically a lot tougher than your average human, and the Elites have an overshield that makes them that much more resilient.

The human weapons were for the most part quite believable, and there were some cool little details like what you would find in a real-life firearm. For example, whenever the Chief reloaded a shotgun from empty, he would pump it to chamber a round, just like you would have to do in real life. The pistol, assault rifle, and sniper rifle also had reload animations where the Chief would chamber a round. Even the ammo packs were detailed. For example, the Assault Rifle's ammo packs revealed that it uses the real-life 7.6251 mm NATO round. There were a few inaccuracies though (see each weapon's entry in subsection 4 for specifics). However, these were forgivable, as none of them really detracted from the game. The Covenant's weapons were reminiscent of sci-fi stock weapons, but they still had some innovative offensive capabilities -- most notably, the plasma pistol's shield-destroying overcharge shot and the Needler's explosive rounds -- that distinguished them from what you find in other notable sci-fi shooters.

In Halo 2, the weapons that have returned have undergone notable changes, mostly for the worst, while other weapons were replaced with newer weapons that, while they filled the same niche, are noticeably weaker and less effective. A rather reliable assault rifle has been replaced with a nearly useless submachine gun. The powerful pistol of Halo 1 has mysteriously disappeared, only to be replaced by a new stripped-down pistol that is extremely weak and its role as a mid-range weapon taken over by a weaker, less accurate battle rifle. While it was neat and more realistic for the player to have fewer magazines in reserve for the human weapons, their reduced strength and accuracy compared to their Halo 1 counterparts makes having less reserve ammo a major problem. The Covenant's plasma rifles fire faster, but are weaker and less accurate. Their plasma pistol's standard mode of fire is also much weaker, but its charged shot has gained the ability to relentlessly home in on its target; it is virtually useless as a standalone weapon, but the player can utilize extremely cheap tactics when using it in conjunction with certain other weapons. Grenades are weaker and have smaller blast radii. Even some of the vehicles have lost certain abilities and gained others. Why these changes were made in the middle of a war of attrition make no sense story-wise. It's as if the Pillar of Autumn and the Fleet of Particular Justice had arsenals wholly unique compared to the rest of the UNSC and Covenant, respectively. Highly unlikely, if you ask me. A military-themed, story-driven series like this should see little to no drastic change in the list of available weapons or in the capabilities of said weapons, especially considering how little time has elapsed story-wise between the two games, and the fact that the weapons the UNSC and Covenant already had were very effective. They would not have completely changed or replaced the standard-issue small arms in their arsenals without good reason, and they most certainly wouldn't have replaced them with new ones that are less effective.

Even the detail seen in Halo 1's weapons is largely absent in Halo 2. When reloading a human firearm from empty, the Chief (or Arbiter) no longer chambers a round like he should. Even the writing on the ammo packs is barely legible. There were obviously no technical limitations or time constraints that would've prohibited the addition of such details, which means that there's really no good reason for them to not be in the game. Though they were minor in scale and didn't affect gameplay, those details are among the many things that gave the first Halo its tremendous depth. Overall, the weapons in Halo 2 were lacking compared to those in Halo 1.

2. Dual Wielding

Like many other things in Halo 2, dual wielding is one of the new gameplay additions that seemed cool at first, but turned out to be poorly executed and totally unwarranted.

First off, despite the fact there are a good number of possible weapon combinations for dual wielding -- given the fact that there are five weapons that can be dual-wielded, there are 15 different combinations -- only about half of them are truly effective, and about half of those involve two of the same weapon. The following are probably the best overall: dual SMGs, dual Plasma Rifles, SMG/Plasma rifle, SMG/Magnum, Magnum/Plasma Pistol, and SMG/Plasma Pistol. Dual Needlers and dual Magnums are also somewhat effective, but to a lesser extent. All the other possible combinations are rarely used, and for good reason. While dual wielding seems like it'd be quite versatile, the fact that there are only a few good combos and only a couple of distinct weapon types makes it not very much so.

More significantly, though, is the effect dual wielding has on gameplay, particularly in Multiplayer. This effect is best reflected in the frantic "spray-and-pray" style of combat that plagues Halo 2. Dual-wield capable weapons are, with the exception of the plasma pistol by virtue of its charged shot (its normal firing mode is rarely used), all weak, rapid-firing bullet hoses. Also, because they are also by far the most common weapons in Multiplayer and are what the player normally spawns with, they are the ones that dominate gameplay (although gametypes with the BR as a starting weapon have been made more common). Furthermore, the simple fact that these weapons can be dual-wielded in the first place essentially makes them half a weapon. By themselves, they are exceedingly weak, and so the player has a tremendous incentive to find another weapon. More often than not, the player is forced to settle with pairing up with current bullet hose with another bullet hose, due to the fact that stronger standalone weapons are typically far less available.

Another problem with dual wielding is the fact that, while not all that complicated, it is often a very awkward system when trying to swap one weapon for another. Say you're dual wielding an SMG and Plasma Rifle and trying to exchange the half-empty Carbine you have for a rocket launcher, while still keeping your SMG/Plasma Rifle combo as your primary means of attack. You have to drop your Plasma Rifle, switch to your Carbine, swap it for the rockets, switch back to your SMG, find your Plasma Rifle and pick it back up. Due to the fast pace of most Multiplayer games, the awkward and time-consuming nature of this process can result in death for the player if faced with an enemy attack when trying to swap an old weapon for a new one, and even if you manage to avoid such a fate, you may end up being stuck with a weapon you didn't want. It can also get quite annoying when you have to keep picking up your other dual-wielded weapon every time you throw a grenade or attempt a melee attack. Obviously, such problems were not likely to occur in Halo 1 with its standalone-only weapon selection.

While dual wielding is a neat concept (though its been done before in several games over the past decade), it would be much preferable to have standalone weapons that do a decent amount of damage by themselves. After all, why have the ability to wield two of a weapon when you could have a single one that does the same thing? The Assault Rifle from Halo 1 was stronger and more accurate than two SMGs paired together, and the Halo 1 versions of the plasma rifle, plasma pistol, human pistol, and Needler were all just fine as standalone weapons, and they all had noticeably greater firepower than their Halo 2 counterparts. Dual wielding should be abandoned as a failed experiment. It is not only awkward and unnecessary, but more importantly, it also encourages spray-and-pray combat rather than accurate shot placement, and there are not very many useful or versatile combinations. Alternatively, if it is retained in Halo 3, it should exist only for Magnums (and perhaps also to the plasma pistol) due to the extreme impotence of that weapon. In any case, the current system is deeply flawed, and should either have greatly decreased prominence in Halo 3, or simply be eliminated entirely.

3. Weapon Role Duplication: UNSC vs. Covenant Armaments

In Halo 1, certain UNSC weapons had rough analogs with weapons in the Covenant arsenal. For example, there was the Assault Rifle and Plasma Rifle, M6D Pistol and Plasma Pistol, and frag grenades and plasma grenades. However, each of these weapons were still quite distinct from their counterparts. The Plasma Rifle fired slower than the Assault Rifle, but it was generally more accurate and had the ability to briefly stun an opponent and was more effective against shielding. The Needler was also an automatic fire weapon like the AR and Plasma Rifle, but it had its own distinct abilities as well. The plasma pistol lacked the range (it had no scope and its shots were slower) and power of the UNSC's pistol, but it not only could fire faster than the human pistol and could stun an enemy, it could also fire a charged shot that could remove an entire overshield. Finally, the plasma grenade not only had a longer fuze and smaller blast radius than the frag grenade, but it also had the ability to stick to an opponent, which normally results in instant death for the victim regardless of their level of shielding or health. There were also differences in the weapons technology itself. The human weapons are magazine-fed, require frequent reloading, are typically more effective against unshielded enemies, and can have an unlimited amount of spare magazines acquired. On the other hand, the Covenant weapons (except the Needler) are battery-powered and don't require reloading, can be fired continuously until they overheat, are more effective against shields, and must be replaced by a new weapon when their battery is depleted.

The concept of weapon role duplication was carried over to Halo 2, but to a much greater degree. You now have the Battle Rifle and Covenant Carbine, SMG and Plasma Rifle, Sniper Rifle and Particle Beam Rifle, Rocket Launcher and Fuel Rod Gun, and the frag grenade and plasma grenade (the shotgun and energy sword have also been considered rough equivalents, as both are strong close-range weapons). However, a lot of the distinction that the Covenant weapons had from their UNSC counterparts has been removed. Most of the differences between them are mainly in the technological basis of the weapons described above. These differences were of course in Halo 1 as well, so it really isn't anything new. Other than that, there really isn't much difference between the human weapons and their Covenant counterparts this go around, and what differences that do exist are largely superficial. For example, the removal of the Plasma Rifle's ability to stun and the increase given to its rate of fire has made it just another bullet hose that is not all that dissimilar from the SMG. The Covenant Carbine is not very different from the Battle Rifle either, other than the latter's three-shot burst and the former's semi-automatic fire. Both are magazine fed, mid-range weapons with comparable damage, rate of fire, magazine capacity, and accuracy. The Beam Rifle's only differences with the Sniper Rifle are in the technology (battery-powered vs. magazine-fed), which allows it to fire two very rapid shots in succession before overheating, or continuous shots at a much slower rate of fire. Almost none of these differences give a weapon tactical abilities that are distinct from its counterpart.

While I might expect a certain degree of convergent technology between a human and alien military, this is kind of pushing the boundaries of what could be considered acceptable. In Halo 2, we basically have two mid-range rifles, two submachine guns, two sniper rifles, two grenades, and, in Campaign, two rocket launchers. This does not create a lot of variation in Halo 2's arsenal. It may be nice to have Covenant-themed weapons similar to the human weapons when playing as the Arbiter or on stages that take place on Covenant turf, but in Multiplayer, it creates a sense of redundancy due to the overall lack of differences between the human and Covenant weapons. Even the vehicles suffer in this regard to a degree, as the only new playable Covenant vehicle, the Specter, is essentially no different from the UNSC's Warthog.

In Halo 3, there really should be an attempt to make the UNSC and Covenant weapons more distinct from each other. For example, you could restore the plasma weapons' ability to stun an enemy. Whatever you do, make it look like the UNSC and Covenant have their own firearms that give us the impression that they were created by two different species with differing levels and styles of technology. Don't make it look like they just copied off of each other.

4. The Weapons: Critiques & Halo 1 vs. Halo 2 Comparisons

What follows is the longest part of this letter (almost half the total length). Each weapon or group of similar weapons is given its own separate section, each a couple of pages long on average. I spent several hours worth of game time testing and retesting the abilities (damage, range, etc.) of each weapon. I will also use my somewhat extensive basic knowledge of firearms to provide various bits of technical info for suggestions on how to develop human weapons that are more realistic, believable, and detailed. Not that I expect the weapons to be exactly like those in real life, but I do expect some degree of realism with the weapons, especially considering the fact that some actual research was made on your part into how various firearms work. Certain mostly extraneous comments are relegated to footnotes at the bottom of this section. (Notes: Ranges from Halo 1 are based on the distance indicator provided in the Oddball gametype. Ranges in Halo 2 are approximations based on using the Master Chief's height of 7 feet as a unit of measure; I had two players faced off while a third was used as a viewpoint for measuring the range between the other two. Headshot vs. body shot damage is determined by shooting a target exclusively in either the head or torso, respectively. Except for sniper weapons, which give one-headshot kills under normal circumstances, all firearms appear to do the same damage to shielding regardless of where the target is shot.)

A) Grenades

I've already addressed the physics of grenades in Halo 2 as compared to Halo 1. Now for their abilities as weapons.

The M9 fragmentation grenade was a certified room clearer in Halo 1. It detonated about one second after coming to rest and had a maximum blast radius of about 7.5 meters (about 24feet). At that range in multiplayer, it would completely remove an enemy's shield and take away a bar or two of health. An enemy near the center of the explosion would suffer enough damage to take them down to only a couple of bars of health. Against an already-wounded or unshielded player, a frag grenade would normally be lethal anywhere within its blast radius. In Campaign, frag grenades would normally kill any unshielded enemy (e.g. Grunts, Jackals, Flood) caught within its blast radius, and do serious damage to an Elite's shield. A blast from a frag grenade also had enough force to overturn a Warthog or Ghost, and thus proper timing of grenades was a valuable offensive and defensive strategy when facing vehicles. A frag grenade could also knock around an enemy who survived the blast, temporarily restricting their movement and even sending them flying for several feet, which could potentially send them falling off ledges.

The plasma grenade had a maximum blast radius of about 6.5 meters (a bit more than 21.3 feet), and it took longer to detonate than a frag grenade. It took three seconds to detonate after coming to rest or adhering to an enemy or vehicle. In multiplayer it did damage at a given distance in the same manner as the frag grenade, i.e. removing an entire shield and doing slight damage to health at the outer edges of the explosion, while taking down shields and causing serious damage to health near the center. It made up for the smaller blast radius and longer fuze by having the ability to stick to an opponent, which would kill them regardless of their level of shielding or health. Like the frag grenade, the plasma grenade would kill most unshielded enemies caught in its blast radius, and could do significant damage to an Elite's overshield. Sticking any enemy except a Hunter would result in a one-hit kill regardless of their level of health or shielding. The blast from a plasma grenade had similar effects on vehicles and personnel as that from a frag grenade, and one could also stick a vehicle as well.

In Halo 2, the grenades have undergone a good bit of change. First off, they arm quicker and/or have a shorter fuze length than they did in Halo 1. Instead of arming once it comes to rest, a frag grenade now arms the moment it hits a horizontal or slightly angled surface, and it detonates about one second later, even if in mid-air. A plasma grenade looks like it now takes about half the time it did in Halo 1 to detonate once it comes to rest or sticks to an opponent. They have also suffered a noticeable reduction in both blast radius and damage dealt at a given distance from the center of a grenade explosion. Both types of grenades now have an identical maximum blast radius that is no greater than 6 meters. Furthermore, at the outer edges of the explosion, damage dealt has dropped to 1/3 of an enemy's shielding in multiplayer. This means that a player can potentially survive three grenade explosions, though a fourth will definitely kill them. At the center of the explosion, a frag grenade will remove a shield and do damage to health (though how much is, of course, unknown in Halo 2). A plasma grenade's damage dropped off with distance just like that of a frag grenade, but after the first auto-update, a plasma grenade can kill an opponent who has stepped directly on it, so the damage it does drops off much quicker with distance than a frag grenade. This has the obvious side affect of not necessarily needing to stick your opponent with the plasma grenade for an instant kill, which kind of defeats the purpose of the plasma's distinguishing characteristic: having to actually stick the grenade on your opponent's body for an one-hit kill rather than simply have it land near them. This has removed a lot of the skill necessary to use a plasma grenade to its fullest potential. Granted, they practically have to be standing on the grenade for it to kill them with a single blast, but it still requires more skill to actually stick them with the grenade.

The differences in the blast effects of grenades between Halo 1 & 2 are even more obvious in the grenade chain reactions in Campaign. Whenever a pile of grenades exploded in Halo 1, the blast was enormous. Even a pile of no more than a half-dozen grenades would not only instantly kill everything in a much larger blast area than a single grenade (even the toughest Elite ranks would die, as well as the Chief if the player wasn't a good distance away, though Hunters are typically immune to grenade blasts), but the force of the explosion would send things flying everywhere. A much larger pile of grenades, especially the artificially inflated grenade piles one could accumulate on the Silent Cartographer in co-op, could even send vehicles sailing through the air for rather long distances, giving us the always-amusing "Warthog jump" trick, and would send bodies and weapons flying for hundreds of feet. Of course, very large grenade piles were exceedingly lethal out to a good distance. In Halo 2, however, grenade chain reactions seem rather impotent by comparison. The blast of an average-sized pile of grenades (3 to 6) doesn't seem that much more powerful than a single grenade blast, both area of effect and damage-wise and in the force of the blast. All in all, grenade chain reactions simply don't feature near as prominently in Halo 2 as they did in Halo 1. Chain reactions are, curiously, not present in multiplayer for either game, and thus do not affect gameplay there. I think that the addition of grenade chain reactions to Multiplayer should be considered, unless they would imbalance gameplay.

The reduction of the blast radius and damage done at a given distance by grenades, combined with their in-game physics (faster arming time, shorter fuze, etc.), has had some notable impact on multiplayer gameplay in Halo 2. Like I've already said, in Halo 1, a single grenade was enough to do serious damage against most opponents in multiplayer, while getting hit by a second grenade meant certain death. Even in Campaign they were highly effective. In Halo 2, however, players are encouraged to spam an area with a ton of grenades. Under many circumstances, this is what is needed for grenades to have any effect. Much of mid-range combat involves players simply spamming a grenade or two at their enemy and then attempting to finish them off with whatever firearm they have (typically an SMG or BR). This tactic was uncommon in Halo 1, since the way the grenades were made it extremely difficult to pull off. It is also quite commonplace for a player to walk away from combat relatively unscathed despite the fact that there were several grenade blasts close by. Such occurrences were much more rare in Halo 1 due to the larger blast radius and greater damage. This of course carries over into Campaign as well. The player must now practically land a grenade right at an enemy's feet for it to do anything. Some may say that this makes it necessary to better time throwing one's grenades, but grenades aren't really designed for accuracy like most firearms are.

Another example of the decreased efficacy of grenades is their effect on vehicles. Even with proper timing, it is much more difficult to hit a moving vehicle with a grenade blast. Due to their small area of effect, grenades are not likely flip a vehicle or otherwise affect an enemy driver's control of their vehicle, though they do actually project enough force to overturn a vehicle. I'm not expecting a single grenade to send a Warthog or Ghost flying through the air, but it should at the very least cause it to go out of control in some way, such as by knocking it off balance, potentially causing it to flip.

Destroying an in-use vehicle is another matter entirely. Due to vehicle damage being tied into the health of its driver, it can take several grenades to destroy an enemy vehicle, assuming the driver's shield doesn't regenerate (see below in the Vehicles section for more). Even sticking a Warthog or Specter with a plasma grenade will not normally destroy it unless it sticks the driver directly, though they will destroy a Ghost or Banshee.

The grenades should be restored to the way they were in Halo 1, including the larger blast radius, greater damage at a given distance, and longer fuze length. However, there is the problem of the sudden drop from heavy damage at the explosion's edge and no damage right past that, effectively making the fatality radius (i.e. killing of all unshielded enemies) encompass the whole blast, with no casualty radius (i.e. wounding unshielded enemies). So I'd like to suggest that you make the explosion even bigger, with a smooth drop-off of damage towards the outer edge. After all, a real frag grenade like the U.S.'s M67 has a fatality radius of 5 meters and a casualty radius of 15 meters. The UNSC's M9 frag grenade should deliver more punch in a slightly smaller space than a real frag grenade. In multiplayer, it should do the same damage at a given distance that it did in Halo 1 up to the old max radius of 7.5 meters (25 feet), including total removal of shield and slight damage to health against shielded opponents. At 30 feet (about 9 meters) it should do massive damage to a shield or to an unshielded opponent's health. At 35 feet (about 10meters) it should do moderate damage to an opponent's shield or to an unshielded enemy's health, and at 40 feet (12meters) it should do light damage to either. The plasma grenade should have a slightly smaller blast radius than the frag as it did in Halo 1, and damage done should fall off with distance at the same rate as the frag. Adjust as appropriate for their effects against Elite shields and health of unshielded Covenant.

Even if you don't implement something like this, at the very least give the grenades the same blast radius, damage, and fuze length that they had in Halo 1. (As an aside, I do like how you can now shoot a grenade out of the air with a BR or sniper rifle.)

B) Pistol, Magnum, Battle Rifle, & Carbine

The M6D Pistol was probably the best all-around weapon in Halo 1. It was balanced enough to be used effectively at almost any range, and its 2x zoom ability made it second to the sniper rifle in terms of effective range, with a maximum range of about 120 to 125 meters. It was highly accurate, and required precise shot placement to effectively incapacitate an opponent. Firing it more rapidly resulted in less accurate firing, especially when holding down the trigger for full-automatic fire. It was also very strong, chambered for a 12.740 mm semi-armor piercing high-explosive round that was far more damaging than any standard high-power pistol cartridge of its size or even most standard rifle rounds (even without the explosive tip, the rounds are likely about as powerful as similarly large real-life pistol cartridges such as the .454 Casull, .460 S&W, and .500 S&W, the latter two of which have muzzle energies somewhat less than the 7.62 mm NATO rifle cartridge and are, respectively, the fastest and strongest handgun cartridges in the world). Against a fully shielded opponent in multiplayer, it took 3 headshots and 5 body shots to kill them. A single headshot was all that was needed to kill any unshielded opponent, not only in multiplayer, but also in Campaign.

In Halo 2, the M6C Magnum has replaced the pistol. The Magnum is described as a stripped-down version of the original pistol. It still has a 12-shot magazine and it can be fired faster than the old pistol, but it is far less accurate and cannot zoom. It is also much weaker, which is odd considering it still fires the same caliber bullet. Apparently it uses a non-explosive cartridge of the same caliber -- its ammo packs state that it uses an "LAP-HP" (presumably short for "light-armor piercing, high-power") round, different from the M6D's SAP-HE rounds --, which cuts its power down greatly, but the rounds still look to be a about as strong as the aforementioned real-life pistol cartridges when compared to other rounds in the Halo games.

Due to its decreased power, it now takes 13 headshots or 21 body shots to take out a fully shielded enemy in multiplayer, with 12 of those being what is needed to drop their shield. Thus, like its predecessor, it still will kill any unshielded opponent with a single headshot, both in Campaign and multiplayer, though it'll take quite a few body shots (9 in multiplayer). This is a bit less than a quarter of the M6D's strength. Since the magazine still holds only 12 rounds, the Magnum cannot kill an opponent by itself without having to reload. This renders it practically useless as a standalone weapon, and it is only effective when dual-wielded with another weapon (normally either an SMG, Plasma Pistol, or another Magnum, as those are the only really effective pairings with a Magnum). Not only is the Magnum weaker than the M6D, but it also carries less reserve ammo (four full magazines, or 48 rounds, as compared to 10 magazines for the old Pistol). Despite this, ammo is very hard to come by for this weapon, both in Campaign and in Multiplayer. This is quite odd considering how weak this weapon is, and one would expect to find copious amounts of Magnum ammo lying about all over the place. Thus, the Magnum will quickly chew through its ammo supply and the player will not get much use out of it. To put it simply, the pistol has been reduced to a mere shadow of its former self.

The BR55 Rifle is the closest weapon in Halo 2 to the old M6D Pistol in terms of function and purpose. It has a 2x zoom scope, can fire 12 times in one magazine, and is best in mid-range combat. Unlike the M6D, the Battle Rifle fires in 3-round bursts from a 36-round magazine, and uses a high-powered 9.5 mm round. (The case length of the round is difficult to read on the ammo packs; it appears to be 50 or 60 mm, different from the 40 mm stamped on the weapon's receiver. It is likely no shorter than 60, however, as a bullet of its size would likely not be very powerful with such a short case length.[1]) However the BR is not truly an equivalent of the pistol, as it lacks the range, power, and rate of fire of the M6D. It takes 4 headshots or 7 body shots to kill an opponent in Multiplayer, assuming the entire 3-shot burst connects (each individual bullet does the same damage as the Magnum's rounds do, both to shielded and unshielded enemies). It is quite accurate, and will strike the same spot repeatedly when fired at a single spot on a stationary target (or a target moving directly towards or away from the player) within typical firing range. This applies even if the BR is fired as fast as possible, which is a good thing IMO. However, the burst spreads out noticeably whenever firing at an opponent requires a lot of vertical or lateral movement, and so it often does less damage under these conditions as the entire burst is less likely to hit its target. The further away the target, the more of a problem this becomes. It can often take an entire magazine or more even at about 40 meters or so. Even the best aiming in the world will not always guarantee that each of the three bullets fired per burst will connect. The burst also has noticeable spread at longer distances (esp. near its maximum range), and it is less likely for all three shots to connect. It thus does less damage the the further way the target is, even when said target is not moving. The pistol was accurate to noticeably greater distances and its single-shot semi-auto fire guaranteed that even at its maximum effective range, it would still take no more than 5 hits to kill an opponent. Getting screwed by shot spread was not an issue with the Halo 1 pistol, though it is quite common with the BR. The Battle Rifle, though perhaps the most useful all-around weapon in Halo 2, is simply not a suitable replacement for the pistol. In the end, its 3-shot burst fire is just another example of decreased emphasis on shot placement and the increased emphasis on saturation fire. Granted, it rewards shot placement more than perhaps any other non-sniper weapon in Halo 2, but the nature of its burst fire introduces luck and chance as a major factor into how effective it is under normal combat situations.

The Carbine, the Covenant counterpart to the Battle Rifle, takes 7 headshots and 11 body shots to kill a fully shielded opponent, though it fires faster and appears to do damage at about the same rate as the Battle Rifle. Like the pistol, Magnum, and BR, the Carbine will kill any unshielded enemy with a single headshot, though it'll take 5 body shots. You would think that with its single-shot fire, it would reward precise shot placement better than the burst fire of the Battle Rifle. However, this is not the case, as its shots have a wider spread pattern than either the M6D or the BR regardless of how fast one is shooting -- apparently, the Covenant, despite their advanced technology, are incapable of making a rifle that's accurate and can shoot straight --, and because it is much weaker per shot than either of them, the player is tempted to fire as fast as possible, and thus saturation fire takes precedence. The Battle Rifle, on the other hand, is more accurate and much easier to land shots with. Furthermore, ammo for the Carbine is rare in multiplayer (except in certain gametypes), as there is normally only one or two on the map, and it starts off with only two full magazines (one in the gun, one in reserve). This means you can get, at most, only 5 kills with the Carbine before having to replace it, though more realistically you're only likely to get two, maybe three. Compare this to the Battle Rifle, which starts with three magazines, and thus can garner up to 9 kills before having to find more ammo or a replacement weapon. Ammo for the BR is also much more common. Because of its inaccurate fire and scare ammunition, the Carbine is generally regarded as an inferior weapon to the Battle Rifle in Multiplayer. However, it is still rather useful in Campaign, particularly against Brutes, Grunts, and Drones, and ammo is plentiful in the later stages, and is recommended for mid-range combat when the BR is unavailable.

One of the most common complaints about the weapon setup in Halo 2 is the lack of a true pistol equivalent. So, what to do about this? Simple. Alter the Battle Rifle to do the same damage per burst as the M6D did per shot, and increase its effective range and accuracy. It can be argued that a rifle does make more sense than a pistol for the purposes of mid- to long-range combat, after all. The BR should have a maximum range of about 125 to 150 meters, and its shots should have near-zero spread even at maximum range. It should have a faster rate of fire; the burst should fire off much quicker, preferably about twice as fast as it does now (or at least fast enough to where it will be far more likely to count as a single shot when firing at a laterally or vertically moving target), and the player should be able to fire at least as many bursts each second as they could fire off M6D rounds. Its shots should also do more damage, requiring only 3 full bursts to the head or 5 to the body. This would not only make its damage per pull of the trigger equivalent to the M6D assuming the whole burst connects, it makes more sense given the fact that the kind of ammunition it fires is likely stronger than the kind of ammo found in either the Magnum or Halo 1's Assault Rifle (refer again to footnote 1). Alternately, the BR could simply be removed and the old M6D could be brought back, or perhaps a semi-automatic rifle more or less identical in damage, range, and accuracy as the M6D could be introduced.

As for the Magnum, assuming it returns as a simple sidearm in Halo 3, it really does need a slight boost in power. You should at the very least be able to kill an enemy in Multiplayer with less than a full magazine's worth of bullets to the head. Maybe 11 or 12 headshots and 18 or 19 body shots. It's accuracy should be improved as well; the spread pattern of the bullets should be far less pronounced than it is now, preferably zero spread, given how weak the gun is.

Also, the Carbine should be upgraded as well if it returns. Its accuracy definitely should be increased. Since it's semi-automatic, it should be given the same level of accuracy as the M6D, i.e., no shot spread when fired slowly, and low shot spread when fired rapidly. Also, it should do slightly more damage than it currently does, preferably 4 to 6 headshots and 8 to 10 body shots. This would greatly improve the weapon and it would reward shot placement far more than it does now.

Finally, before I move on to the other weapons, I'd like to tackle the complaints some have made against the pistol. Despite the gripes about "pistol sniping whores," the pistol was a weapon of great skill. It required the player to be exceedingly accurate with their shot placement, and the better one's accuracy, the more deadly they would be with the weapon. In pistol vs. pistol combat, the better marksman would always win. It wasn't something that just any average player could make good use of. Furthermore, it was strong and useful at almost any range. However, unlike some players, I don't consider it to be overpowered or too accurate. It was a strong all-around weapon, but at any given range, there was a weapon that could completely outgun it. At close range, the shotgun was stronger than the pistol, at medium range, the rocket launcher was the strongest weapon, and at long range, the sniper rifle was the dominant firearm. Also, the whole idea of "pistol sniping" is flawed in and of itself. The pistol had a rather large effective range compared to most of the other weapons, but had nowhere near the reach of the sniper rifle. The sniper rifle could reach clean across even the largest stages, while the pistol had a maximum range of only about 125 meters. However, the pistol wasn't as effective near its maximum range since it was harder to hit a moving opponent at such distance (it only had 2x zoom, after all), and most combat involving pistols took place within half that range. The pistol wasn't a sniping weapon. Its main role was that of a mid-range weapon, and it was a damn good one too in that it required a lot of skill to use to its fullest potential. And as far as "realism" goes, from a story perspective, I don't see any reason why a Spartan, with their training & physical enhancement, and their MJOLNIR armor which further augments their abilities, cannot consistently place accurate pistol shots on a target 50 meters away like you are able to in the game.

C) Assault Rifle & SMG

The MA5B Assault Rifle, while one of the weakest weapons in Halo 1, was not to be trifled with, and was second only to the shotgun at close range. In multiplayer, it would take 16 bullets to kill a fully shielded opponent (the rifle did the same damage for both head and body shots). Given the fact that its rate of fire was about 15 rounds per second, it could take down an enemy fairly quickly at close range. It was also particularly useful in Campaign, especially for dispatching unshielded enemies, namely Grunts, Jackals, and the Flood Infection Forms. I always kept one with me along with a shotgun throughout most of the latter half of the game, unless the situation called for something different. (Note: While real-life assault rifles are usually select-fire weapons -- meaning they can be switched between semi-automatic, full-automatic, and/or burst fire modes --, the lack of such a feature on Halo's AR is understandable due to fact that the nature of the games control scheme doesn't easily allow for secondary weapons functions like those found in games like Perfect Dark. Besides, the addition of such features would compromise Halo's intuitive, easy to use, and all-around great controls.)

The M7 Submachine Gun has replaced the MA5B as the standard fully automatic individual firearm for UNSC forces. It is noticeably weaker than the MA5B, as it uses a much weaker round. Not only does it take more shots to kill someone with the SMG -- about 25 to 30 rounds, which is almost twice as many shots needed with the MA5B -- it also has bad muzzle climb due to its recoil, which makes it less accurate. It is quite odd that the Master Chief, despite his super strength that lets him flip heavy vehicles over, is somehow incapable of holding a dinky little submachine gun steady but, oddly enough, can handle any other weapon just fine. The M7 SMG is in all ways an inferior weapon to the MA5B. I find it to be one of the most useless weapons in both Campaign and Multiplayer, and I don't ever use it unless it is the only thing available and/or I have something to dual-wield with it.

Bring the old Assault Rifle back in Halo 3, and get rid of the SMG. Not only is the SMG exceedingly weak and inaccurate, it makes no sense story-wise. Why would the UNSC replace their rather effective assault rifle with a submachine gun that not only fires much weaker rounds, but also has such severe recoil that even a Spartan cannot handle it during fully automatic fire? If the Chief couldn't handle the SMG, there's no way in hell a regular soldier could operate it. A firearm like that would never be approved for use in combat. The physics of the M7 SMG is absolutely ridiculous. Allow me to digress a bit into some historical & technical commentary to help explain some things.

The MA5B uses the 7.6251 mm NATO round, the same used in the U.S. military's M14 rifle as well as the H&K G3, FN FAL, and other rifles and machine guns (note: the ammo packs inaccurately describe the round as the M118 "Special Ball" variant specifically made for sniping purposes, rather than the standard M59 and M80 Ball variants used by battle rifles like the M14 and machine guns like the M60). The M14 was intended to replace the M1 Garand, M1 Carbine, and M1918 Browning Automatic Rifle. One of the disadvantages of the M14 was the fact that, due to the power of the ammo it used -- only slightly less muzzle energy than the .30-06 cartridge -- and the relatively low weight of the rifle, it was virtually uncontrollable when fired in fully automatic mode. Because of this, it is used only in semi-automatic mode, to great effect these days as a sniper rifle.[2] The G3 and FAL rifles had similar problems with controllability in full-auto mode.

Obviously, the MA5B doesn't have the problems the M14 had with uncontrollability when fired in fully automatic mode. Whether it had a highly efficient muzzle brake and/or some other means of reducing recoil, the MA5B was used by both the Master Chief and normal UNSC soldiers with no problems with muzzle climb. Given this fact, it is curious as to why the SMG is so uncontrollable that even the Chief can't handle it without suffering serious muzzle climb with sustained fire. Why doesn't it have a muzzle brake or some other form of recoil compensation? Besides, there's no reason why the SMG should have that much recoil to begin with.

A submachine gun (certain smaller SMGs are also called "personal defense weapons") is simply a select-fire or automatic-only firearm chambered for pistol ammo, or at least a cartridge with dimensions typical of handgun rounds.[3] Halo 2's fictional M7 SMG uses an equally fictional 523 mm round, which so happens to be caseless. Caseless ammo is still experimental, and was obviously chosen as the SMG's ammo type mainly because of its exotic nature and rather novel technology, rather than for reasons of gameplay or storyline.[4] The rounds found in your average SMG, all of which have conventional cartridge designs, are not particularly powerful. The most powerful rounds are no stronger than the 9 mm Parabellum or .45 ACP, the most common rounds used in SMGs. The M7's 523 mm ammo is likely no stronger that those rounds (and is probably weaker), all of which are much less powerful than the 7.62 mm NATO round, thus explaining the weakness of the SMG as compared to the MA5B. Since they have relatively low muzzle energies, the recoil from such cartridges is also a rather small fraction of that of the 7.62 mm NATO, even after taking into fact the weight differences between a typical service rifle and a small submachine gun. Thus, it simply makes no sense as to why the M7 SMG would recoil so badly in the first place. The MA5B should recoil worse, but it doesn't.

So like I said, get rid of the SMG and its ridiculous muzzle climb. The MA5B should return in Halo 3. I'd also like to suggest some improvements for it. Being a rifle that experiences no recoil, the shots should not spread to any noticeable degree. This is obviously unsuitable for gameplay, where some form of inaccuracy is needed. However, its firing pattern should spread slightly less than it did in Halo 1 and thus have a slightly greater effective range, but not much more so. After all, assault rifles like the AK-47 and M16 have effective ranges upwards of 100 meters when fired in fully automatic mode, so having an effective range of, say, 30 or so meters for the MA5B should in no way be considered unreasonable (as compared to the 10 to 15 meters as it actually is; past this, and it will not result in a kill even if you expend an entire magazine). Furthermore, if it won't affect the weapon's gameplay balance, reduce the ammo capacity somewhat, say, to about 30 rounds, 40 tops. Any more is pushing it. Based on its size, there's no way the MA5B's magazine holds 60 rounds. Modern day assault rifles with detachable box magazines have magazine capacities of no than 30 rounds, even for those chambered for the smaller 5.56 mm NATO round; those chambered for the 7.62 mm NATO round usually have magazine capacities of no more than 20 rounds, though the MA5B's magazines look like they could possibly hold up to 30 just like the 7.62 mm caliber AK-47 does. However, magazines with capacities above 50 are invariably drum/cylindrical magazines. If you're going for a 60-round capacity, give it a drum magazine. In any case, it doesn't take more than 40 rounds to drop an enemy with the MA5B when it is used at the proper range and aimed well.

Post-E3 update: From the looks of things, it looks like the good old MA5B, or at least a newer model with the same basic design and function, is making a comeback in Halo 3. Whether or not it will make it to the final version and function the same remains to be seen. Of course, I still stand by my recommendations that it be reintroduced into Halo 3 to replace that god-awful SMG, and that it should be made somewhat more accurate than it was in Halo 1 and, if it won't effect gameplay, should have a smaller magazine capacity.

D) Plasma Pistol & The "Noob Combo"

The plasma pistol in Halo 1, while perhaps the overall weakest weapon along with the assault rifle, could still be quite deadly when used properly by someone proficient with it. It was also highly versatile, with two distinct modes of fire. Though only semi-automatic in its standard fire mode, it could be fired as rapidly as one could pull the trigger. A person with a fast enough trigger finger could send a nearly solid stream of plasma bolts towards an opponent. In multiplayer, it took exactly 15 regular shots to take down a fully shielded opponent (like the MA5B, the plasma pistol was not headshot-capable). It was also highly accurate, and the plasma bolts have zero shot spread even at the weapon's maximum range. It also had the ability to slightly stun an enemy. Charged shots were of course stronger, and it took 3 hits to kill an enemy with them. In Campaign, the plasma pistol was particularly useful in dropping enemy shielding, and was especially great against Jackals and Sentinels. The charge shots were not only large and relatively fast, but they also had a slight tracking ability, though they could be easily dodged by jumping or strafing.

In Halo 2, however, the plasma pistol has undergone drastic change, and is practically useless as a standalone weapon. While still only semi-automatic, you can no longer fire it as fast as you could pull the trigger. Rapidly pulling the trigger will often cause the plasma pistol to "skip" instead of firing a shot each time the trigger is pulled. Furthermore, the damage done by the regular plasma shots has decreased substantially. It now takes 26 hits to do someone in with the plasma pistol. Even when dual-wielding two plasma pistols together, it is still nearly impossible to kill someone with them.

However, while its normal fire mode is now utterly pitiful, its newly modified charged shot ability has given rise to some rather cheap gameplay tactics. While the charged shot still takes shields down in a single shot, it no longer does damage to health. Instead, it has a greatly enhanced tracking ability. Though a charged shot moves slower now, it will follow you relentlessly. Jumping and strafing are practically useless, and the only way to avoid getting hit is to get a solid object between yourself and the plasma bolt. In fact, there was one occasion where I was being chased in a circle by one while riding in the gunner's seat of a Warthog in Campaign. I've seen similar incidents in multiplayer as well. It has also been demonstrated that a charged shot can make a sharp 90-degree turn in pursuit of its target. (This can be seen on Colossus when two players are on the bottom floor near the gravity lift. One player fires a charged shot at the other, who jumps into the lift before it connects. The plasma bolt then quickly changes from a horizontal to a vertical trajectory to follow its target. There is a video of this at It is almost impossible to dodge a charged shot now due to its homing abilities, which comes across as just plain ridiculous.

Since the overcharged plasma bolt now has unparalleled homing and moves slower and weapons can be drawn faster now, the player can now use what has now been commonly referred to as the "noob combo," labeled as such due to the fact that it's extremely easy to use despite its power. You know the drill. The player follows up a charged plasma pistol shot with a burst of fire from the Battle Rifle, which will kill an unshielded opponent with a single headshot. By time the plasma bolt hits its target -- and it will hit them well over 90% of the time, closer to 100% out in the open -- the player has drawn their BR, taken aim, and shot the target in its head, resulting in a quick kill. More rarely, the Carbine or Magnum (the latter used while dual-wielding with the Plasma Pistol), both of which will likewise kill an unshielded opponent with a single headshot, are used to the same effect and are also generally regarded as "noob combos." However, the Battle Rifle is not only more common, but its 3-shot burst fire makes it much easier to get headshots with than the less accurate single-shot fire of both the Carbine and Magnum, plus only one of the three bullets from the burst needs to hit an enemy's head to kill them. The plasma pistol can also be used in close quarters combat to kill someone by following up a charged shot with a single melee. With the melee lunge, this attack form is much easier to perform than than it was in Halo 1, especially considering the fact that a single melee rarely resulted in a kill when used against an unshielded enemy who's at full health. The plasma pistol is often used dual-wielded with an SMG as well, but since the SMG is inaccurate and cannot give one-headshot kills, it is not considered quite as effective as the other methods of attack involving the plasma pistol.

Needless to say, many players regard the plasma pistol/battle rifle combo and its variants as very cheap. In fact, it was considered so bad a problem that it was removed from Matchmaking in two of the stages where it was abused the most. However, it continues to be abused on many other stages as well. The homing ability of the plasma pistol's charged shot should be drastically toned down in Halo 3. In fact, give it the exact same speed and degree of homing it had in Halo 1. Even after almost 5 years of playing, I've never seen Halo 1's equivalent of the noob combo -- the plasma pistol and M6D pistol -- used in multiplayer, because it wasn't particularly effective (I've tried it many times), mainly because the plasma pistol's charge shot's tracking was far less in Halo 1. Furthermore, restore the plasma pistol's standard fire to the way it was in Halo 1. That is, it should fire as fast as you can pull the trigger, and it should take no more than 15 shots to kill an opponent.

E) Energy Sword

The sword was a nice little novelty when Halo 2 was first released. However, after more than a year and a half of playing and hundreds of matches played, the sword comes across as being not only unrealistic, but also ridiculously overpowered despite how easy it is to use. It has been perhaps the most horribly abused weapon during multiplayer. It may not be some invincible, unbeatable weapon of mass destruction, but it is still way to powerful of a weapon in multiplayer and is exceedingly difficult for even veteran players to counter against.

The sword has a rather long-range lunge ability, with a range of about 8 or 9 meters (around 25 to 30 feet), the greatest effective range of any close-range weapon in Halo 2. This exaggerates the already preposterous lunge ability of standard melee attacks. Like the standard melee lunge, a sword lunge will clear that full distance in a mere fraction of a second. The sword lunge also makes the physically impossible aspects of the lunge (hurling yourself bodily a long range, reversing direction in midair) all the more obvious. Being able to reverse your direction in midair and fling yourself 30 feet at your opponent is perhaps the most unrealistic aspect of any weapon in the game. Not only is the sword unrealistic, it is extremely difficult to defend against, and is perhaps the hardest weapon to counter. While it is in principle possible to defend against the sword, all of the proposed countermeasures -- using the shotgun or plasma grenades, backpedaling while firing, or dodging or jumping over an attacking sword user -- are extremely ineffective, especially on Live due to the added factor of lag. The shotgun is an extremely unreliable weapon that deals wildly random amounts of damage (more on this in the section about the shotgun), and thus it rarely guarantees a kill against a sword user even with decent timing. It is even more difficult to use this tactic on Live, due to lag. A plasma grenade, assuming it sticks in the first place, will take them out with you, which only guarantees a kill for a kill. Attempting to dodge rarely works due to the sheer speed of the sword's lunge. Also, there's the fact that when you use a sword lunge (or a regular melee attack, for that matter), it will still easily hit someone who tries to jump over you. Backpedaling is a bit more effective, and if you have enough space between yourself and the sword user, you can kill them with a standard firearm (BR, SMG, etc.). However, if they get within 30 feet of you, you're screwed due to the fact that it takes longer to shoot someone to death than it does to kill them with a sword lunge (unless you get a direct hit with a rocket launcher or a lucky head shot with a sniper weapon, or the sword user is already heavily wounded from prior combat). About the only way to defeat a sword user effectively at close range is to gang up on him, and even then, the attacking group will likely suffer heavy casualties even if they succeed.

Of course, using any of these proposed countermeasures in the first place assumes that, among other things, you actually see your opponent brandishing the sword. Most players will wait until they are on top of their opponent before pulling out the sword, and with the ability to fire a weapon the instant it is draw and the sheer speed of the sword lunge, few players, even those who are very skilled, are not likely to be able to attempt to use any sort of countermeasure. So, unless your opponent completely botches a sword attack (or if there is heavy lag in the match), you will not survive. Furthermore, unlike in Campaign, the sword has no limit to its energy supply.

Needless to say, its long-range one-hit-kill lunge ability, the sheer speed of its lunge, the inability to effectively counter it, and its infinite ammo supply and lack of a need for reloading makes it way too overpowered, allowing someone to effortlessly defeat an opponent one-on-one and even to engage multiple opponents and defeat several of them, if not all of them. Given the fact that the sword is so powerful and requires relatively little skill to use (no more than an SMG, it seems; I picked up on it in a matter of minutes after I first got the game), I feel that this weapon, more than any other single weapon, deserves the moniker of "noob cannon." At least the rocket launcher has a limited amount of ammo.

So, I'd like to propose several ways of toning down the sword for Halo 3. First off, get rid of the lunge ability. Elites in Campaign could never lunge, so neither should the player be able to. Personally, as I've already suggested that the entire Halo 2 melee system, with all of its chaotic and unrealistic lunging about, should be replaced with the Halo 1 melee system, the sword should likewise have a reach not much greater than a standard melee attack. It should still be able to kill with a single swipe as it does when an Elite uses it against you in Campaign. There's no reason it can't do that without having to use a ridiculously long-range lunge that is also able to defy the laws of physics by reversing your direction in midair. Even with its lunge removed and the Halo 1 melee system implemented, the sword would still be a deadly close-range weapon, though not the overpowered superweapon it is now. I know I was always intimidated in Halo 1 Campaign whenever I had a sword-wielding Gold Elite charging at me. If the player could use the sword exactly how the Elites used it in Campaign, it would still be a most fearsome weapon at close ranges. If you don't get rid of the sword's lunge, at least reduce its distance to at least no greater than half of of its current range, and make it unable to lunge in midair.

Furthermore, the sword should have a limited supply of energy as it does in Campaign. A successful kill should eliminate about 10% to 20% of its battery power (preferably the latter). As another measure to tone it down if the lunge is retained, the sword should be required to be drawn and fully activated for it to be used. None of this quick draw stuff where you can lunge nearly instantly after switching weapons. Whether you take these suggestions or those of someone else into consideration, or if you have your own ideas, please do something to tone the sword down. I know you're all about balanced gameplay, and there's a lot of people besides myself who believe that weakening the sword would definitely make things more balanced. The sword should be a very powerful close-range weapon, but at the very least it should not outgun the shotgun. Speaking of which...

F) Shotgun

The M90 pump-action shotgun was a truly devastating weapon in Halo 1. This is befitting of its 8-gauge bore size and the 3.5" magnum shells it fired. According to the ammo boxes, the shells are loaded with 00-buckshot, and they always contained 15 pellets, which amounts to about 1-7/8 ounces of shot (a shell of its size loaded with 00-buck would actually contain a bit more than that -- most likely 2ounces, which amounts to 18 pellets -- but what it has is still reasonable). That's some serious firepower. It is perhaps the most useful weapon in the latter half of the Campaign whenever you're fighting indoors. It was indispensable against the Flood Combat Forms, and it could kill even the tougher Elite ranks with two or three shots at very close range.

It was also a force to be reckoned with in multiplayer. A single blast was always fatal up to a range of about 3.5 meters (about 11feet), and even two was enough to drop an overshielded enemy at that range. At 5 meters (about 16 feet) it took 1 to 2 shots to kill someone. At 10 m (about 32feet) it took about 2 to 3 shots. At 15 m (about 49 feet), it took around 3 to 5 shots. At 20 to 25 m (about 65 to 80 feet), it took about 4 to 7 shots. Past this range, damage becomes more random, even to the point where all of the pellets miss, and the shotgun becomes a far less effective weapon. For example, at 30 m, anywhere from 4 on up to 9 were needed. The shotgun could still cause damage at longer ranges, though -- up to about 50 or 60 meters (over 160 to nearly 200 feet). However, not only are shots far less likely to hit the target at that range, but when they do, the damage is so light that it could take almost an entire 12-round magazine to drop an enemy's shields, much less kill them. While the spread pattern is much bigger at a given range as compared to a real shotgun -- for example, a standard cylinder choke (no constriction), which has the widest spread of any standard choke, will have a spread pattern no more than a meter across at a distance of 10 m, while at the same distance in Halo 1 the spread pattern will be about 3 meters across -- and the effective range somewhat less (around 40 meters or so is the maximum effective range of most shotguns using buckshot loads, depending on the choke used), it is still a very strong weapon at closer ranges and it is not too unreasonably unrealistic.

However, the Halo 2 shotgun has become notorious for its highly random nature, which has garnered it the nickname "slotgun." (Come on, lucky 7s!) It is only reliable at noticeably closer ranges than it was in Halo 1. One reason why is that the shots spread out much quicker. If the Halo 1 shotgun's spread was mildly unrealistic, then the Halo 2 version's spread is outright preposterous. Furthermore, there are fewer pellets per shell. These changes are quite odd considering it is the same model shotgun using the same shells, according the manuals of the games. Another thing of interest is that the amount of pellets per shell fired is random as well, though it averages at about half as many as the H1 shotgun's count of 15 pellets per shell. I've seen as few as 3 pellets and as many as 10, though it's usually 6 or 7. This is at least a half as many or fewer pellets per shell than what's in any actual shotgun shell of its size, even if loaded with 000 or 0000 buck. Why this is (oversight, programming error, or deliberate action), I don't know. In any case, it has made the shotgun more random than its Halo 1 version could ever be.

All of these changes are peculiar, as the shotgun is the same model in both games, and they have made the shotgun a less desirable weapon in Halo 2. Of course, when you shove the muzzle right into your opponents face and pull the trigger, one shot will always be fatal. That's a given. However, at any non-zero range that would cause heavy damage in Halo 1, the shotgun now only causes light damage. For example, at an estimated range of about 5 meters, it now takes no less than two and can take up to four shots to bring someone down -- twice as many as the maximum amount at that range in Halo 1. At about 10 meters, the Halo 2 shotgun can take anywhere from 6 to over 12 shots to kill someone, if we include shots that completely miss despite the target being centered directly in the reticule (at that range, the average rate of missed shots when aiming perfectly at a stationary target can be as high as one per every three or four shots). At about 15 meters, the shotgun becomes practically useless, as very few shots will connect, and the few that do will not cause any significant damage. Past this range, you'd probably have a better chance of killing someone with a plasma pistol. But the facts are that the shots fired from the shotgun spread out faster with distance than they did in Halo 1 and that there are now fewer pellets per shell in addition to the random amounts of pellets, and this makes for a ridiculously random weapon that is only truly effective only when you are practically within arms reach of an opponent. The already random nature of the Halo 2 shotgun is even more noticeable on Live, where because of lag you can drill an opponent from only a few feet away, then hit them with a melee, and then hit them with yet another close-range shotgun blast, and yet they still survive. And of course I've already mentioned the problems associated with using the shotgun as a defensive measure against the energy sword, which has a much greater effective range than the shotgun.

Not only has the shotgun become far less reliable, it also comes across as being a rather unrealistic firearm. At the ranges cited, an 8-gauge shotgun with 3.5" magnum buckshot shells loaded with nearly 2 ounces of 00 buckshot would deal out damage in a manner closer to what was seen in Halo 1. It most certainly would NOT cause a light wound at 10 meters. It would be deadly. The fact that the shotgun has a much shorter effective range than the sword is another thing that comes across as highly unrealistic. Nor will the spread pattern be so ridiculously wide. At 15 meters, a well-aimed shot will certainly not completely miss, and definitely not on a regular basis; most of the pellets would hit. At that range, at least 80% of the pellets would hit a 30" circle with a real shotgun using a cylinder choke. So, I believe that the shotgun should be restored to its former glory in Halo 3. Give it the same spread pattern -- or even better, a spread pattern closer to a real cylinder choke; tighter chokes might give it too narrow a spread and too great an effective range for the game -- as well as pellets per shell fired and damage per pellet as the Halo 1 shotgun.

As an aside, I'm curious about certain decisions regarding the shotgun's design, which is the same in both games. I can understand the need for an 8-gauge shotgun firing 3.5" magnum shotshells, despite the fact that particular shotgun gauge has become obsolete. Considering the kind of alien baddies the UNSC is going up against, they'd need that kind of firepower. Then again, there's really no reason why a 12-gauge couldn't do the same kind of damage. However, the recoil from such a shotgun firing 1-7/8 ounces of shot at muzzle velocities typical of most shotshells would be absolutely brutal, and would likely be unsuitable for continuous use in combat by your typical soldier. There are several ways to reduce both actual and felt recoil in modern shotguns. First off, reducing the mass and/or muzzle velocity of the projectile will reduce recoil, but it has already been established that the shells the M60 fires are rather heavy loads that are needed to deal with certain Covenant. Second, a heavier gun of any kind would recoil less than a lighter gun firing the same ammo. Halo's M60 looks pretty bulky compared to your average shotgun, but it really can't weight any more than 5 or 6 kilos, or else it would be too heavy to be a practical combat shotgun. Ergonomic features such as recoil pads can also help reduce felt recoil. Finally, the type of action affects the level of felt recoil. Semi-automatic shotguns, particularly gas-operated ones, typically have far less felt recoil than other types of shotgun. Of course, I'm willing to suspend my disbelief somewhat with regards to the shotgun's recoil. After all, except for the SMG, no other small arms in the UNSC arsenal have problems with recoil.

What I don't get is why it was decided for the shotgun to be pump-action rather than semi-automatic. A semi-automatic shotgun not only has less recoil, it also can be fired faster. Furthermore, it would have made more sense to go with a shotgun that also has a detachable magazine rather than an integral non-detachable magazine. This would allow for much faster reloading than having to load each individual round separately. There are several notable semi-auto, semi/pump selectable, and fully-auto shotguns like this that have either box or drum/cylindrical magazines (some can use both). Examples include the SPAS-15, USAS-12, Saiga-12, and Pancor Jackhammer, as well as certain models designed to be mounted on another firearm.[5] Given the facts that Halo takes place in the mid-26th century and that standalone shotguns obviously hadn't become obsolete by then, the UNSC would probably not still be using for combat purposes an old pump-action shotgun that has to have every shell loaded individually. They likely would have already developed a reliable, efficient semi-automatic shotgun that has a detachable magazine. I'm assuming that the decision to make the M90 a pump-action shotgun was mainly for aesthetic reasons, rather than anything having to do with making it a believable or efficient mid-26th century firearm.

My last issue with the M90's design is its magazine capacity and design. Most shotguns with an integral magazine have a capacity of 5 to 8 shells (plus one in the chamber) depending on its magazine length and the size of the shotshells it is loaded with. The M90 holds twelve 3.5" shells, which is far too many for even the longest shotgun magazine. Supposedly, it has a dual tubular magazine like the Neostead 2000, which holds 12 rounds (6 in each tube) plus one in the chamber. However, the Neostead's magazine has a side-by-side configuration where the user has to load shells into the two magazine tubes through separate openings, six in each one. This design factor is not only for increased magazine capacity, but for versatility as well, as one magazine could be filled with shotshells and the other with less-than-lethal ammo, and the shooter could switch between the two. The M90 is reloaded by inserting the shells into a single opening like most other shotguns, which seems to imply that it only has the one magazine. I'm assuming the M90 has its magazines somehow arranged in an over-and-under configuration so it can be loaded through a single opening. The problem with this, though, is that the part of the M90 that houses the magazines doesn't look large enough to accommodate a dual over-and-under magazine. Furthermore, I'm not sure if this would even be a feasible design to begin with. In any case, the M90's magazine arrangement seems to not only remove the versatility aspect of the Neostead's configuration, but also begs the question as to why the design chose for the shotgun was a slow-reloading pump-action that only has a couple more shells than most other shotguns rather than a semi-auto with a detachable magazine for more rapid reloads. After all, depending on the model shotgun, detachable box magazines can hold anywhere from 5 to 10 shells, whereas a drum magazine can hold 10 to 20 shells. It's not like a faster-reloading shotgun with a somewhat smaller magazine capacity will drastically affect gameplay. All in all, the M90 doesn't have a very innovative or believable design.

While I'd like to see a semi-auto shotgun with a detachable magazine in Halo 3, it could be argued that it would break continuity too much. At the very least reduce the number of shells the M90 can hold, preferably no more than 8.

G) Rocket Launcher

The new rocket launcher seems at first to have a more focused anti-vehicle role, compared to the Halo 1 version which often seemed more suited to dispatching enemy platoons at medium range than for shooting down the nimble Covenant vehicles. This is mostly due to the new lock-on feature, which guarantees a rocket wielder an extremely good chance of hitting an enemy vehicle. However, it has also become far more suited than ever to fighting individual enemy infantry, especially in close quarters. The Halo 2 rocket launcher can cycle to the second shot much quicker, and it reloads faster. The rockets also do noticeably less damage at a given distance from the blast center in Halo 2. In Halo 1, a rocket could cause heavy damage within a radius of about 6 to 6.5 meters (about 19.5 to a little over 21 feet), taking down your shield and perhaps taking away a couple of bars of health. A kill was guaranteed within a radius of about 4.5 meters (a bit over 14.5 feet). Basically, anything that got caught anywhere near a rocket blast was dead meat or at least in serious trouble. While the maximum blast radius hasn't diminished noticeably, the damage done drops off with distance from the blast center much quicker. At a distance of about 20 feet, a rocket explosion will only take half of your shield down, as compared to the entire shield and a couple bars of health in Halo 1. The kill radius has diminished to about 10 feet. Therefore, a rocket must explode much closer to its target in order to kill it. This allows you to get in closer than you could in Halo 1 without having to worry as much about getting killed by shooting a nearby opponent, or killing an ally with friendly fire. Indeed, there does seem to be much fewer suicides in Halo 2 resulting from close-range rocket combat. It is also much easier to survive rocket combat by jumping around due to the decreased splash damage and increased jump height.

The rocket launcher is thus not only more suited for taking out individual enemies at close range, but, like the grenades, the player also now has more incentive to simply spam an area with rockets and utilize the launcher at close range. In Halo 3, I think the rocket launcher's rate of fire, reloading time, and the splash damage of the rockets should be made more similar to what it was in Halo 1. Having a slower-firing but more powerful rocket like the one in Halo 1 means that you had better get your opponent with the first shot, as you may not get, and probably don't deserve, a second shot. It also means having to be more careful with rockets at close range or when friendlies are nearby. Better that than having it to where you have to saturate an area with rocket explosions. Furthermore, not only should the splash damage be the same at a given distance as it was in the first game, the maximum blast radius should increase as well. Since at about 20 feet from the blast center (the maximum extent of the explosion in both games), you would lose both your shield and a small amount of health in Halo 1, then at 25 feet, it should take aboutof your shield away,of your shield at 30 feet, andof your shield at 35 feet (my suggested maximum). It should blow up big, and with a more or less steady drop off with distance. Not the sudden cut off in Halo 1 (i.e. heavy damage at the maximum blast radius, while no damage a couple of feet further), nor the rapid drop with distance like in Halo 2. Overall, the rocket launcher should be made closer to its Halo 1 counterpart in terms of how it functions (cycle period between shots, reload speed, etc.) and how much damage it does.

Furthermore, it is debatable as to whether the new lock-on feature reduces the amount of skill involved in using the rocket against enemy vehicles, or if it was a necessary countermeasure because it was too hard to hit a moving vehicle with a non-homing rocket. Having "smart" rockets seems much more realistic than "dumb" rockets, but depending on how smart the rockets are, their homing abilities could negatively affect gameplay. In Halo 1, the fact that rockets could not lock on made it a more challenging feat to destroy enemy vehicles. Vehicles are faster and more maneuverable now, so a lock-on feature does make sense. So in Halo 3, perhaps certain aspects of vehicle maneuverability could be toned down or done away with along with the rocket lock-on, most notably the boosting abilities of the Ghost and Banshee, and the latter's looping & barrel rolling abilities. Perhaps the rockets could be made to go in a straight line only as in Halo 1, but they could go a lot faster. In real life, most rockets fired from portable launchers move at several hundred meters per second or more, rather than the sluggish 35 m/sec the rockets in Halo travel (calculated by Zachary Hahn of HBO). While this is too fast for gameplay purposes, they could at least move twice as fast as they do now.

However, I think that the lock-on ability should be kept. As I said, smart rockets do make more sense for a future military, so perhaps the best solution would be to diminish the tracking ability of the rockets somewhat, in addition to removing certain aspects of vehicle maneuverablity, most notably the Banshee's looping & barrel rolling. Alternately, perhaps certain vehicles a lock-on warning if they are targeted. As it stands now, it is too easy to get a hit with a locked-on rocket, at least in a wide-open area (the odd spiral path a homing rocket usually travels in can cause it to hit other things before it hits its target, thus reducing its efficacy in cluttered areas), and combined with its anti-personnel aspects outlined in the last paragraph, it is much less skillful weapon to use in multiplayer. Also, friendly AI in Campaign is almost unstoppable when armed with a rocket launcher and facing enemy vehicles, as they invariably fire homing rockets. The bridge sequence on Metropolis is a good example. Likewise, if the enemy (usu. a Flood Combat Form) is in possession of a rocket launcher, the player won't hardly stand a chance if they fire off a shot. With the current lock-on feature, the rocket launcher is, under most circumstances, actually too effective an anti-vehicle weapon under most circumstances, which is somewhat ironic considering how most of the other weapons are highly ineffective in dealing with enemy vehicles (more on this later in the section on vehicle health).

H) Sniper Rifle & Beam Rifle

The S2 AM sniper rifle is described in the Halo literature as an anti-materiel rifle, very similar to real life rifles such as the Mechem NTW-20, which the S2 AM is obviously modeled after in appearance, and more familiar examples like the Barrett M82A1 and Armalite AR-50, both of which employ the .50 BMG (12.799 mm NATO) cartridge. (The only differences between the S2 AM and the NTW-20 are the magazine capacity & position, the scope, its semi-automatic rather than manual bolt action, and its different ammunition type; the NTW-20 uses the Russian 14.5114 mm round, which has a conventional rifle cartridge design, while the S2 AM uses an APFSDS round of the same caliber, similar to the Steyr IWS 2000.) Such rifles are accurate, high-powered, long-range, large-bore firearms that are chambered for rounds that are designed for explosive ordnance disposal, penetration of light armor, and the disabling or destruction of equipment, and are not normally used for anti-personnel purposes. Such rifles are also much heavier than normal rifles, with the NTW-20 weighing in at a hefty 29 kilograms (about 60 lbs.), and are not fired while standing. I could understand Master Chief being able to use one easily while standing, but not a normal human like Sgt. Johnson. The S2 AM is presumably made of lighter materials than what we have today and obviously has advanced targeting systems and highly-efficient recoil compensators for it to be used by a normal human in a standing position without compromising the accuracy and extreme power of a rifle of its type.[6]

Given these facts about the nature of the sniper rifle, I am curious as to why certain changes, whether intentionally or not, were made to it. First off, in Halo 1 the sniper rifle could shoot straight through several unshielded enemies, as any anti-materiel rifle would be able to in real life. This made it devastating against enemies lined up in a row, but it also meant having to check your fire for any allies that may be behind the target. This feature has completely disappeared in Halo 2, for reasons never explained. It should be brought back for Halo 3.

Furthermore, the sniper rifle's accuracy seems to have diminished somewhat in Halo 2. No longer are you able to "red dot" an enemy from across the stage on larger maps like Blood Gulch/Coagulation, which is a range of about 480 meters for the original Gulch (at about 425 m, the rifle's distance indicator cuts off and the reticule will not turn red; further distances were determined via the oddball distance indicator). In Halo 1 Campaign, I've also managed sniper kills from such distances. Also, for some odd reason, sniper shots will mysteriously disappear before they get completely across the larger stages. In addition, shots seem to fly wide at very long ranges, on the order of a couple hundred meters, give or take. Even when firing at a stationary enemy, the shots for some reason will sometimes not connect at long range. At comparable distances, you cannot get a red reticule lock when targeting an opponent. Real rifles of this type usually have maximum effective ranges of well over a kilometer, though most sniping was well within that range in both Halo games. A proficient enough sniper with the right rifle would be able to hit shots within two or three hundred meters, so a fictional Spartan-II, a highly-trained super soldier equipped with the kind of advanced sniper gear we see in the game, should be able to do so as well. So, I propose that the S2 AM sniper rifle should in Halo 3 be given the accuracy and effective distance it had in Halo 1.

Furthermore, since the sniper rifle is an anti-materiel rifle, it is curious as to why it is not very effective at damaging certain vehicles like the Ghost or Warthog. As I mentioned earlier, anti-materiel rifles are designed with the primary purpose of disposing of unexploded ordnance and disabling or destroying equipment -- communications, parked aircraft, unarmored and lightly armored vehicles, and so forth -- and not for killing people. The .50 BMG round can blast through something like an inch of steel and would easily tear through an enemy soldier, and the guy behind him, and probably the guy behind him too. The 14.5114 mm round is even stronger than the .50 BMG, with about twice the muzzle energy. The S2 AM should then be able to do a decent amount of damage to vehicles such as the Warthog, Ghost, and Banshee, though not to tanks since even modern tank armor is invulnerable to anti-material rounds. It should also blast straight through a Warthog's windshield in a single shot or even the thinner parts of its armor, wounding or killing whoever it strikes. (Neither should the bullet be stopped by any other fragile object like a glass window.) While it takes 8 rounds to destroy a Ghost or Banshee and 12 rounds to destroy a Warthog when those vehicles are unmanned (when shooting them in the main body), destroying those vehicles is impossible when they are manned except under certain circumstances, due to the new system of vehicle health (see Vehicles section below). I would like to recommend that in Halo 3, the sniper rifle should do considerable damage to the lighter vehicles. It should only take a few rounds to their main body in order to permanently dispose of said vehicles.

As for the Beam Rifle, its capabilities should remain identical in Halo 3 to how it is now. I actually like how its temperature gauge regulates the way it is fired. It is able to fire two shots in rapid succession before overheating, or it can fire slowly and steadily at a constant pace without overheating. In certain circumstances, this can be much more useful than having to reload the sniper rifle every couple of shots.

There is one more notable gameplay feature of Halo 2's sniper weapons that I'd like to address. The practice of "no-scoping" has become quite common in Multiplayer, though it was in my experience nearly nonexistent in Halo 1 (no-scope kills were still possible, however; I've gotten a couple myself). Whether this is due to increased auto-aim or something else in the game engine dealing with the weapons, I don't know. Getting no-scope kills does seem to be more blind luck than anything else. I get them all the time, and not always intentionally. It's mostly just spray-and-pray. In any case, the fact that no-scope kills are more easily achieved makes sniper weapons almost as effective as a shotgun in close quarters. The main problem with this is that the sniper rifle isn't supposed to be useful at close range. Not only is that not its intended role in gameplay, the size of the rifle would make it awkward to use at close range in an actual combat situation, even if the user was able to wield the weapon while standing. The NTW-20, and by extension the near-identical S2 AM, is 2 meters (about 6feet) long -- not exactly a practical size for a close-quarters combat rifle. The Beam Rifle looks to be of similar length. Given the strength & agility of a Spartan, I don't see why the player can't no-scope from a storyline perspective, but from a gameplay perspective, it should be very hard to do so. It should not be a common occurance.

Something should be done to greatly reduce the ease in which the player is able to get a non-scoped sniper kill. Getting such kills should be exceedingly difficult at close range and should require nothing less than the most perfect aiming and timing. First, there should be absolutely zero auto-aim for the sniper rifles when they are not zoomed in. Also, they should not be able to hit anyone within 7 or 8 feet, due to the length of the rifle.

As for certain non-gameplay features, there was one addition to the S2 AM that I really liked, and that is the new monitor found on its scope. It's neat how it shows everything in the player's field of view. And of course, there's the suggestion I made during the commentary on the HUD earlier that the range indicator on the sniper rifle should be brought back, as well as its night vision capabilities (or infrared/heat vision in the case of the beam rifle).

I) Plasma Rifle

In Halo 1, the plasma rifle was a moderately powerful weapon, though only slightly more so than the plasma pistol. It took 9 headshots and 15 body shots to drop someone with it in multplayer. Like the plasma pistol, the plasma rifle could briefly stun any opponent it hits. Its accuracy was quite high when fired in short bursts, almost approaching that of the plasma pistol. However, its accuracy dropped quite a bit during full-auto fire, but even then it was still reasonably accurate at closer ranges. Overall, it was a pretty reliable weapon in both Campaign (esp. against Elites) and in multiplayer.

In Halo 2, however, it takes 18 shots to kill someone in multiplayer regardless of where you shoot them, as it is no longer headshot-capable. If you are firing two plasma rifles simultaneously, it actually takes 24 shots rather than 18 to kill them (in other words, it takes 12 pairs of shots rather than 9). This makes two plasma rifles only 50% stronger than a single one, rather than twice as powerful as one would expect. Furthermore, its accuracy has diminished noticeably, and it is no more accurate when fired in short, controlled bursts than in full-auto. Finally, the stunning effect of the plasma bolts has disappeared. These changes have reduced the plasma rifle to just another bullet hose -- a Covenant counterpart to the SMG. It is no longer a weapon distinct from the others, as the original one was distinct from the MA5B. (As a side note, what exactly was the point in creating the Brute Plasma Rifle anyway?)

The plasma rifle should be reverted back exactly to how it was in Halo 1, including its damage, accuracy, rate of fire, and ability to slightly stun an opponent.

J) Needler

The Needler was supposed to have been greatly improved for Halo 2, and based on certain videos from beta versions shortly before the game was released, it certainly looked like it was going to be a better weapon this time around. Most notably, it looked like it was going to have a faster firing rate and needles that traveled a lot quicker. However, the final version of the game unveiled a Needler that is in actuality no better than its Halo 1 counterpart, and is in some ways worse. The main differences are in the total number of needles you can put into an enemy, the resulting splash damage, and the weapon's rate of fire and magazine capacity.

In Halo 1, the Needler was one of the lesser weapons, but it was nonetheless capable of some serious mayhem. You could fill up an opponent with enough needles to explode several times over. It only took 7 needles stuck into an opponent at once for them to cause an explosion, which would do serious damage as well as cause splash damage to those nearby. 9 needles resulted in death. 13 needles would cause two explosions, and if you could fill an opponent with an entire magazine, it would cause three explosions. Splash damage had a maximum range of 3 to 3.4 meters (about 10 or 11 feet), and in Multiplayer was potentially lethal up to 2.5 meters (8.2 feet). The splash damage from a single needle explosion could remove an entire shield, while two can cause critical wounds, dropping the victim down to two or three bars of health. If three needle explosions hit them, they will die. You could even fill up a corpse with needles and it would still result in an explosion. In Campaign, the Needler was particularly devastating against Elites or when firing into a tightly packed group of enemies, especially when they're standing near a pile of live grenades. Fill an enemy up with enough needles, and it could set off a grenade chain reaction and kill everyone around. While the Needler could be passed up for other weapons most of the time in Halo 1 Campaign, there were still a few occasions where it became very useful.

In Halo 2, the Needler's rate of fire has decreased noticeably (by about 15 to 20%), though its magazine capacity has increased from 20 to 30 rounds. It now takes 8 needles fired into an opponent to result in an explosion and kill an enemy, so it is not much different from the Halo 1 Needler in this respect. However, you can no longer put more than 8 needles into an enemy. Once an enemy has fallen victim to a needle explosion, they become "inert" to any other needles fired into them. Thus, only a single needle explosion can result from any one enemy in Halo 2, whereas in Halo 1, you could fill an enemy up with enough needles to cause two or even three explosions. The splash damage from a needle explosion has decreased substantially as well. Even at zero range (i.e. physical contact with the target), the explosion will only remove about a third of a shield, though it is potentially lethal to an unshielded opponent. Also, while it is hard to estimate at such short ranges, the blast radius of a needle explosion seems a bit smaller than in was in Halo 1, and in Campaign is far less likely to trigger a chain reaction of any live grenades (and I've already mentioned the reduced efficacy of those). Now that the player can only get a single needle explosion out of a given enemy and the explosion's splash damage has a reduced effect, the Needler is usually effective only against a single enemy. This is not to say that the Needler is useless. It can still be quite useful in Halo 2 Campaign whenever two are dual-wielded together. They are often indispensable against Brutes, and can also be used to gib a Flood Combat Form. However, outside of these purposes, the Needler can still be passed up for other weapons in most stages just as it could in Halo 1.

The increased magazine capacity could be considered an improvement, but the lower rate of fire and other changes to its offensive capabilities have in some ways made the Needler a worse weapon in Halo 2. The ability to wield two Needlers simultaneously makes up for its lower rate of fire to a certain extent, but, like what I discussed in my commentary on dual wielding above, why have that when you could have a single Needler that has a higher rate of fire?

I think the Needler should be made closer to how it was in Halo 1. The splash damage should be identical, as should the magazine capacity. There really isn't a need for more than 20 needles per magazine, given what will happen to any opponent who has enough needles stuck in them. You should also reintroduce the ability to place enough needles into an opponent for it to result in more than one needle explosion. Also, someone who has fallen victim to the Needler shouldn't become inert to other needles fired into him. However, this alone will not suffice. The Needler should have a somewhat greater rate of fire, and the needles themselves should have a higher velocity and improved tracking.

J) Brute Shot

I don't really have much to say about this weapon, other than it is horribly inaccurate and doesn't have as much punch as it could, and thus it is mainly a spamfire weapon. This is especially problematic given its low ammo capacity. Perhaps a larger blast radius and/or greater damage dealt per grenade could be in order. In any case, something should be done to make it a more desirable weapon for its inevitable return in Halo 3.

K) Fuel Rod Gun

I really like being able to use the FRG in Halo 2, even though it's quite rare in the game (its new design is very cool, too). In Halo 1, whenever you killed a Grunt wielding an FRG, a self-destruct failsafe would activate, and so you never got to use it in Campaign (though it was available in the Multiplayer mode of the PC version, which I've unfortunately never had the chance to play). However, I was curious about a certain change made to the FRG's physics. The shots no longer travel in a parabolic arc as they did in Halo 1, but rather they move more or less in a straight line (they do lose altitude with distance, but it is to a very low degree), and they also move a lot slower. I don't know what the fan community's opinions about this change, if any, actually are, but I would think that an arcing trajectory seems like it would take more skill and precision than a flat trajectory. Furthermore, that would give it the ability to fire over certain obstacles to hit targets behind them. That would give the fuel rods an advantage over the straight-line movement of the SPNKr rockets in certain situations, while the rocket launcher's homing ability would make it more suited for vehicles than the FRG. This would also make the weapons distinct enough from each other despite their overall similarities.

Another thing I am curious about is why the FRG wasn't in Multiplayer. Supposedly, it was too strong. However, I seriously doubt that this was an unsolvable problem. If it is too strong, then reduce how much damage it does, reduce its rate of fire, or give the explosions from the shots a smaller blast radius. Or perhaps it could simply be placed only in custom games rather than in Matchmaking. I should at least be given the option to use the FRG in my own private games if I were so inclined. Just a little suggestion for your Multiplayer people to mull over.


[1] The BR55 fires a 9.5 mm "experimental high-powered semi-armor piercing (X-HP-SAP)" round. The BR55's bullets are probably the same weight as other rifle rounds of that caliber (typically between 200 to 300 grains). However, there's some confusion over the exact specifications of the round, as I pointed out in the BR's entry. The ammo packs look like they say that the cartridge is 9.560 mm, though the rifle's receiver states that it uses a 9.540 mm round. As a general rule, the longer a cartridge's case length, the more powder it contains and thus the faster it can propel a bullet of a given weight than can a shorter cartridge. For example, the 7.6251 mm NATO round has a somewhat slower muzzle velocity than the .30-06 (7.6263 mm) when firing the same weight rounds (860 vs. 887 m/sec for a 9.72 g/150 grain bullet), and thus it is slightly less powerful. The 7.6239 mm Soviet round, used most commonly by the AK-47, has a noticeably slower muzzle velocity (720 m/sec) even thought it has a somewhat lighter bullet (8.1 g, or 125 grains) despite being the same caliber, and thus has substantially less muzzle energy than either the 7.62 mm NATO or .30-06. Given these facts, it seems unreasonable for the BR55's ammo to have a case length of 40 mm (as case length of 40 mm would give it cartridge dimensions similar to that of a strong handgun round, but not a high-powered rifle round). Such a short round would be rather weak, due to low muzzle velocity despite high mass; it would be no stronger than the Magnum's rounds, which are likely no stronger than the 7.62 mm NATO round (see main entry), and could actually be weaker than said round. Assuming the 40 mm case length is correct, the BR55's cartridge is similar in scale to the .460 S&W round, which is somewhat weaker than the 7.62 mm NATO.

While this explains the observed strength per bullet (equivalent to the Magnum) of the Battle Rifle, it doesn't explain the fact that the BR's rounds are supposed to be a high-powered rifle round, and thus would have a case length greater than 40 mm. Then again, I could excuse a 40 mm case length on the basis of its "experimental" designation. Perhaps the UNSC has developed a new kind of gunpowder or some other form of propellant that provides high power in a small package. In any case, though, such a round would likely have similar power and ballistics to other high-power rifle cartridges in that caliber, e.g. the .375 H&H Magnum (9.52572.14 mm), which fires off a 17.5 g (270 grain) bullet at a velocity of about 820 m/sec. It would definitely be at least somewhat stronger than even the strongest handgun rounds. Since the case length of the BR55's rounds is noticeably less than the .375 H&H Mag, they are likely a bit slower and thus not quite as powerful as that round. However, I would assume that it is still going to be at least somewhat stronger than the 7.62 mm NATO round or the Magnum's 12.740 mm rounds, and this should reflect in the damage dealt by the Battle Rifle's rounds in Halo 3 by taking only 3 to 5 bursts (9 to 15 rounds) to take down an enemy, rather than the 4 to 7 bursts (12 to 21 rounds) it takes to kill an enemy in Halo 2 in Multiplayer. Compare this to 16 rounds for the MA5B or 13 to 21 rounds for the Magnum.

[2] Because of the unwieldy nature of the M14 in full-auto mode, the M60 light machine gun would become the U.S. military's main squad automatic weapon, and it in turn has been partially replaced by the M240 machine gun and the M249 SAW. Since the adoption of the M16 as the primary service rifle, which is far more controllable in full automatic mode thanks to the less powerful 5.5645 mm NATO round it uses, the M14 and its variants (M21, USMC Designated Marksman Rifle, etc.) have been used primarily as sniper rifles. Other contemporary assault rifles (H&K G36, French FAMAS, Steyr AUG, Tavor TAR-21, etc.) also use the 5.56 mm NATO round or a round of similar strength (e.g. the AK-74's 5.4539 mm round).

[3] For instance, most SMGs, including the Uzi and H&K MP5 series of SMGs, use the 919 mm Luger Parabellum round. As other examples, the Thompson SMG uses the .45 ACP round, the FN P90 PDW and Five-seveN pistol use the 5.728 mm round, and the H&K MP7 PDW and UCP pistol use the 4.630 mm round.

[4] The H&K G11 assault rifle is the most notable real-life firearm to use caseless ammo, and it employed a 4.7333 mm round. Prototypes were built and tested, but it never entered production. There was also a G11 PDW variant that was to use a 4.7325 mm caseless round, but it never left the concept phase.

[5] A rather innovative shotgun using a detachable box magazine is the XM-26 LSS, a modular firearm that can either be mounted under the barrel of an M16A2 rifle or M4A1 carbine or be converted to a standalone firearm; it is bolt-action rather than semi-auto, however. Of course, a standalone shotgun makes more sense from a gameplay perspective given the fact that Halo's control scheme doesn't lend itself to secondary weapon functions like games such as Perfect Dark (e.g. PD's Superdragon had a grenade launcher mounted under the barrel), and even if it did, having an assault rifle and shotgun in one weapon would probably cause gameplay to become imbalanced.

[6] Since the weapon designer decided to model the sniper rifle after a real rifle rather than creating a wholly original design, I'm curious as to why they didn't pick a more familiar example, such as one of the Barrett .50 BMG rifles like the M82A1 or the M95. The latter has a bullpup design, like the other human rifles in Halo, and it has only a 5-round magazine, which would be more suitable for gameplay than the M82's 10-round magazine. These rifles are much lighter than the NTW-20, weighing in at 13 and 10 kg respectively, are noticeably shorter, and use the more commonplace .50 BMG round (only a few rifles in the world use the 14.5114 mm round). I'm guessing the NTW-20 was chosen because it was considered more exotic from a design perspective, as many players would have probably recognized a Barrett .50 BMG rifle.

5. Other Weapons

Finally, I'd like to tackle the issue of other weapons that are less-frequently used small arms used by the UNSC or Covenant, namely portable and stationary machine guns, and large non-playable artillery.

First off, I am curious as to why the player couldn't pick up and carry the portable machine gun used by the Marines on Cairo Station and the New Mombasa stages, or its equivalent, the portable Covenant automatic plasma cannon, seen used mainly by Grunts throughout the game. You see them carried around and deployed by their respective users, and both the player and AI can use them, but they cannot be picked back up and redeployed elsewhere by the player. Very odd.

Secondly, I believe that the old Shade turret should return to take the place of the smaller, shielded, plasma turret seen in Halo 2. The Halo 2 plasma turret seems rather weak and ineffectual compared to the Shade, and it lacks the fun factor of the Shade. If the Shade is brought back, it should be identical in its capacities to its Halo 1 version and it should be fully destructible. If not, then the current plasma turret (or whatever new model shows up in Halo 3) should have the same damage, rate of fire, etc. as the Shade. Or you could make it like the turret mounted on the top of the Shadow transports.

Finally, I'd like to address the issue of artillery. I would have really liked for the Covenant plasma artillery cannons seen in the E3 2003 trailer to have figured into the game. While one was shown bombarding a building in said trailer, in the final version they were merely static objects sitting on the beach in Outskirts. These weapons should be in Halo 3. I don't expect them to be playable, but I do expect them to be actual, functioning destructive devices that the player has to deal with. I'd also like to see some form of human artillery as well.