The Battle Rifle: One of the Worst Weapons Ever Added to a Game
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 7 February 2012, 9:00 am

Halo is one of the best selling and most played franchises in all of gaming. I've been on board the franchise since the original, and have beaten all the campaigns on at least heroic and a fair chunk on legendary. I never got that hardcore with the multiplayer, but I have played countless hours as a casual player. Like everyone else I have given it well deserved praise. However, one red mark stands out starkly in my mind. The battle rifle.

Back To Basics

By now everyone is used to the battle rifle being a part of the Halo universe, but it wasn't always that way. Life without the battle rifle is called Halo: Combat Evolved. The original Halo did something very well. That something was called The Golden Triangle of Halo. The Golden Triangle is weapons, grenades, and melee.

The Golden Triangle of Halo

This golden triangle is why I love Halo, and if everything is going perfect, you should use every corner of this triangle in most combat situations. In Halo: Combat Evolved you did. Whenever you got into combat in the original Halo it was most likely up close and personal. This close combat caused players to use melee almost every fight, and if corners and terrain are involved grenades came into the action. The only times you didn't fight at short range was when a select few weapons came into play.

Long range was dominated by the sniper rifle. It was deadly and effective because there were no other weapons that could match it's range. However, the sniper rifle could not completely dominated the battlefield because of the sparse ammo available.

There was also only one medium range weapon, the pistol. The pistol was highly effective at medium range, but was impossible to hit with at longer distances. In close quarters it was hard to aim unless you were very good with it, making it necessary to switch weapons as the fighting moved closer.

Halo: Combat Evolved Weapons
(Weapons listed multiple time if they fit in multiple categories.)

Short-Medium Range
  • Shotgun
  • Assault Rifle
  • Plasma Rifle
  • Needler
  • Plasma Pistol
  • Rocket Launcher
Medium-Long Range
  • Pistol
  • Sniper Rifle
Long Range
  • Sniper Rifle

As you can see the original Halo was heavy on close combat.

F@┬ęking It Up

With Halo 2 came some problems. The first was dual-wielding. Dual-wielding was just too good. It was so good, in fact, that it was better to just keep shooting instead of beating someone in the face with a melee attack. It also stopped you from using grenades, because you have to drop a gun to throw one. Essentially, it destroys that nice golden triangle we talked about.

Bungie knew dual-wielding was a problem, and a big problem at that. So, for Halo 3 they severely nerfed the damage dual-wielding did, and gave people their assault rifle back. This fix apparently worked, because you almost never see dual wielding in Halo 3. But this post isn't about dual-wielding.

Which brings me to the second problem Halo 2 introduced, the battle rifle. Let's quickly look at the Halo 2 weapon lineup.

Halo 2 Weapons
(Weapons listed multiple time if they fit in multiple categories.)

Short-Medium Range
  • Battle Rifle
  • Energy Sword
  • Pistol
  • SMG
  • Shotgun
  • Plasma Rifle
  • Needler
  • Plasma Pistol
  • Rocket Launcher
  • Fuel Rod Gun
  • Carbine
Medium-Long Range
  • Battle Rifle
  • Carbine
  • Particle Beam Rifle
  • Sniper Rifle
Long Range
  • Battle Rifle
  • Particle Beam Rifle
  • Sniper Rifle

What's this? The battle Rifle is in every category?

Yes, yes it is.

When it came to weapon advantages, the battle rifle had it all. Its rate of fire, even in three round bursts, was relatively fast. It's damage was high, quickly ripping through shields, and able to kill in one headshot if the enemy was caught shieldless. Finally, it's range was that of a wet dream, being comparable to the snipe rifle. Lastly, and arguably the most important, ammo was plentiful.

Compounding the problem was that a huge number of game types had the battle rifle as your starting weapon and there was little reason to ever drop it. With the battle rifle now in everyone's hands, the golden triangle didn't so much fall apart, as it just never came into play. All combat was medium or long range and teams seemed to rarely ever get into close combat. The game devolved into a headshot fest.

Crawling Away From the Battle Rifle

With the release of Halo 3, Bungie made some much needed changes to the battle rifle. Firstly, they changed how the battle rifle fired by remove hitscan, which is a fancy term for insta-hit. The battle rifle in Halo 2 didn't have any bullet travel time, and to quote Bungie, "if the reticule is red when you pull the trigger (in good networking conditions) the bullet packet will hit the target." Halo 3 works differently. It adds travel time to the bullets, meaning at a distance you have to lead your target.

The second change to the battle rifle was the introduction of bullet spread. Each of the three bullets have a different possible bullet spread(or inaccuracy). The first bullet has the least spread, therefore being the most accurate. The third bullet has the most spread, making it the least accurate. Finally, the second bullet's spread is somewhere in between the first and third. What this means is that it becomes harder to do full damage at range because you start missing with some of your three shot burst.

With these two changes combined, the battle rifle range is decreased, bringing it back into the medium range. It also means that the battle rifle remains viable at short range.

Unfortunately, one problem that wasn't address was that the majority of game types in Halo 3 have you starting with the battle rifle. This means that once again, most fights happen at medium range. The changes help some, making it more likely that fights enter close combat, but it still doesn't happen enough.

The Future

Halo: Reach shows promise. Bungie has replaced the battle rifle with the Designated Marksman Rifle, and from what I played of the beta, it seems to be a good replacement. Whatever they did seems to have let the weapon find it's own place, without making it the be all, end all weapon. Hopefully, Halo: Reach will bring back the golden triangle and stop the headshot fetish the franchise has been on since Halo 2.


This post originally appeared on Lost in Neurons on Friday, September 3, 2010. As part of a clean out of Lost in Neurons to make it more focused, it has been moved here, where its author feels it better fit.

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