If you’re heading into the space-based wild west that is the Halo 4 multi-player universe, you’re going to need to think tactics, strategy, location knowledge, and weapons. But here’s the thing about playing Halo competitively – you could know a map back to front, but if you don’t understand the full capability of the weaponry in your hands, your potential could be wasted.
For this reason, we’re providing you with an in-depth guide to Halo 4 weaponry – what the weapons do, how they feel in combat, which situations to use them in and which situations you’ll find them totally useless. We’ll also comment on their balance, and what sort of players are going to benefit from certain loadouts. So join us, on our journey into the Spartan training armoury.
The Magnum was, without a doubt, the star of Halo: CE’s multi-player scene. An incredibly powerful pistol with a reasonable zoom, accurate and lethal from extreme range, it was hard to justify using much else, apart from the sniper rifle and the shotgun, when it came to playing around in Blood Gulch.
However, the Magnum was hit with the nerf bat later in the series and rendered largely useless compared to other weapons. In Halo 4, it’s back to full strength, and it’s a sidearm of choice for small environments that lack vehicles (we’ll get into why this isn’t your ideal vehicle map pistol later). Fast to reload and of course, available to all Spartans from the start, it’s a fantastic starting weapon and as reliable as an Assault Rifle.
Plasma Pistol (Covenant)
This weapon is why we’d ditch the Magnum on vehicle-friendly maps. The weapon of choice for Covenant Grunts, the Plasma Pistol is a basic energy pistol with an extremely valuable secondary fire function. Hold down the trigger and you’ll charge up a shot capable of not only wiping out a Spartan’s shields in a single hit, but also able to disable a vehicle for several seconds.
The reason this is such an important weapon is two-fold. Firstly, you’ll notice that the lethal Spartans on your map quite frequently rely on Old Faithful – that is, a Plasma Pistol and a Battle Rifle/DMR, as no shields, a weapon swap and a solid headshot is all it takes to repeatedly decimate other players. It can also make a Banshee on an attack run practically fall out of the sky, which allows enough time for you to hijack the thing and make a run for it. Not too shabby for a sidearm, and it more than makes up for the lack of a scope.
The new pistol, fresh from the corpses of the Prometheans, is a Forerunner pistol that will wow you the first time you pick one up, as when it reloads, it separates into floating components before snapping back together to deliver a pistol that fires semi-auto with enough power to really ruin someone’s day.
It’s an odd beast as at long range it’s not particularly useful, making it a little less appealing for long-corridor maps than the Magnum. But it also has the ability to charge up and fire a volley of shots, so you’re looking at a solid middle-ground for players who want the wind-up-and-go functionality of a Plasma Pistol, but don’t want the standard function to feel weak.
Ah, the DMR. There were cries of rage when it was revealed that this single-shot rifle was replacing the Battle Rifle in Halo: Reach. However, those cries were silenced when the weapon worked just as well, and it also became clear that while less forgiving than the Battle Rifle’s burst fire, its single shots were extremely accurate. A neat weapon for those who don’t miss, one might say, and an absolute dream in SWAT.
It returns in Halo 4, and it’s the same as it was before – a rifle that fires single shots with enough weight to crack shields after three shots and kill on the fourth. It’s still arguably the most powerful rifle in the game and is also your default primary weapon, and there’s little reason to change it on standard slayer for Big Team matches unless you’re opting for a more customized experience from the outset.
Battle Rifle (UNSC)
The DMR’s predecessor, it fires a burst of shots that feel weighty enough to pop shields if you’re completely on-target, and it’s an easier weapon to use if you’re coming into Halo 4 fresh from the battlegrounds of 3 and don’t want to deal with the DMR-shaped new kid on the block for longer than you have to. However, you may notice something a little different about this iteration of the iconic weapon.
For starters, it’s less accurate as far as the GUI is concerned, as its reticule is noticeably larger, which can be frustrating, but don’t let that fool you – it can still pack a punch. However, to take out another player you’ll be needing a fifth shot rather than just the previous four, which might wind you up a little. It’s still solid at all ranges, like the DMR, so it’s worth a test-run, at the very least.
Using one of these for the first time is going to shock you. Not because it’s bad or because it’s unwieldy, but because at medium-to-close range, it’s one of the most powerful weapons in the game and can turn you into a mobile turret. Think of it as four or five Assault Rifles strapped together – it does about that much damage, and can take out two or three Spartans in about five seconds given its stellar accuracy in close quarters. Very few bullets will go to waste here.
It eats through shields like nobody’s business, too. Sadly, it’s also a heavy weapon in the sense that you can’t stick one in a Loadout, as you’ll have to earn it as a weapon drop. However, when it does appear as one of your three drop choices, make sure you’re not in a big open environment where your foes are far away, as it will be sadly wasted.
Assault Rifle (UNSC)
The Assault Rifle is probably the most familiar weapon in the series to any Halo player. It’s not changed a great deal over the years, but there are still some approaches with it that people don’t always consider. It’s a fully automatic rifle, but that doesn’t mean spray-and-pray in all situations! Quite the opposite, as it can deliver a decent blast at someone’s shields if you’re willing to fire in bursts from mid-range.
Close range however, and it’s as reliable as it ever was, able to whittle down shields and kill another player within several seconds. Quite a while in Halo terms, but if it’s you and them and you’re catching them coming out of a gravity lift or from behind, it will disorientate enough to give you the time to take them out. Ideally though, don’t rely on the thing too much – stick to the above rifles!
Sniper Rifle (UNSC)
This is the mainstay of the Halo series, and has always been without a doubt the most versatile and powerful weapon in the game at all ranges, although longer is always better. For those who take the time to learn how to no-scope (shooting someone without using the scope, which takes less time and slows you down far less) and lead with their bullets (shooting just ahead of your target when they’re moving so the bullet doesn’t go where they were half a second ago), your Halo games are going to be super-fun the moment this weapon pops up on your drop menu.
However, it’s also a gun that requires a lot of skill to wield at full potential, so don’t feel frustrated if you’re missing constantly at first. If you’ve got the reactions, the patience (hey, crouching inside a shadow to shoot at the enemy base is immersion, not spawn camping, surely) and the desire to get better with Halo’s most formidable tool of death, then it’s worth doing so.
The Covenant’s equivalent of the Battle Rifle, the Carbine is a single shot weapon that, when wielded in the same manner as a BR or DMR, can be extremely powerful. It strips shields and kills in several shots, and carries enough in a single clip to out-do UNSC single-shot weaponry that requires more frequent reloading.
While it’s frustrating in single-player (as it’s not carried as often as some people (me) would like, hence doesn’t stay fully-loaded for long), in multi-player it’s a solid Loadout choice, and because it’s not your default rifle or even a UNSC weapon, it tends to throw the average player off their game a little bit, which can never be a bad thing.
The Needler is a fan favourite, mainly because it’s been noticeably more powerful since Halo 3. Less than a full clip of needles can send a Spartan to pink-crystal hell, and it reloads incredibly fast. While finding a reload in a multi-player game will be next to impossible, it’s a great tool for pushing someone back round a corner if you’re on defence, and a fantastic way to ambush multiple enemies if you’re following up a well-placed grenade.
Storm Rifle (Covenant)
Of all the Covenant weapons we’ve seen across the series, this new rifle is definitely one of the most interesting. Replacing the Plasma Rifle – a reasonable fully-automatic Covenant weapon commonly wielded by Elites in the campaign and multi-player of Halo: Reach – the Storm Rifle is a more focused, accurate, and powerful gun by some margin.
The main factor that requires the player to use it tactically is that it fires out a colossal amount of shots in five seconds, after which point, it overheats, forcing you to either swap weapons or retreat as you reload. In a multi-player game, it’s a gamble to go in full-auto with a weapon like this, but using it in bursts means you’ll be able to whittle down shields and take care of popped-shield Spartans quickly and accurately without running out of ammunition – after all, it fires a lot of bullets, and thus starts with quite a few, too. Two hundred shots. Use them wisely.
Beam Rifle (Covenant)
The Beam Rifle is one of the most unfair weapons you could ever come up against. It’s a Covenant sniper rifle that’s almost as powerful as its UNSC equivalent per shot, but it fires as fast as you like, provided you don’t overheat the thing. If you know someone might be wielding one, it’s probably wise to stay completely out of open areas.
If you’re the one using it, however, enjoy yourself – it’s a fast, accurate, powerful gun that will get you used to sniping in Halo multi-player very quickly, and its lightweight feel means that you’ll need to re-adapt when changing over to a UNSC Sniper Rifle, but you’ll have benefited from being able to land more shots on a moving target with this blue shiny wonder gun.
Concussion Rifle (Covenant)
Imagine a grenade launcher with a time between shots of basically nothing, but with smaller explosions. That’s what you get with the Covenant Concussion Rifle, a compact, fast-firing, but very powerful gun that fires explosive ammunition. While it’s not hugely accurate and you’ll need a fair few hits to take someone out, it’s an incredible weapon both in close quarters and when shooting at someone who stands/runs at a lower elevation to you. Death from above? Quite.
If the Forerunners made a Battle Rifle that operated like a Beam Rifle… oh wait, they did – it’s called the Lightrifle, and it’s a horribly powerful gun that is now many players’ primary weapon of choice. The fascinating thing about it is that it fires three rounds in quick succession normally, but one at a time when you’re using the scope, allowing you to swap from a Battle Rifle to a DMR feel very rapidly. It also packs a huge punch with its scoped rounds, but they use the same amount of ammunition as three non-scoped shots.
As a result, it’s very much a varied weapon that performs well in a variety of environments, but you’ll want to keep a careful eye on your ammunition counter, lest the “one shot counts as three” rule catches you out just as you’re becoming surrounded.
The Suppressor stands roughly between the SAW and Storm Rifle in terms of its feel, but hits like an Assault Rifle. Burst fire will bring enemies down, but it’s not about to outdo most weapons at any range. However, it’s a capable ambush weapon and does the job, so all is not lost for Forerunner technology.
UNSC Shotgun (UNSC)
The human-wielded shotgun is a marvel of game design, primarily because shotguns in games are always enjoyable to use, with a weighty feel to them and ridiculously high damage levels at close range. In Halo, the UNSC shotgun has always operated soundly on two tactical approaches – a two-shot kill, or a single shot and a melee finish. You need nothing else, bar a sense of where to hide and go dark on enemy radar, and how to manage your approach so that you’re never caught trying to use it at a range greater than a few meters.
The Scattershot is the Forerunner answer to the wonderful UNSC shotgun, and it’s a doozy of a weapon. It visibly burns enemies into nothing, should its ammunition be what does them in. However, its beams of light do tend to ricochet off surfaces, so shooting in a way that means those projectiles are headed back your way usually results in death. Be careful!
Rocket Launcher (UNSC)
The Rocket Launcher is a mainstay of the Halo armory and has never really changed. Two shots ready to go at any one time, and it starts with four. Able to kill anything within its blast radius instantly, and capable of taking out most vehicles with a solid hit or two, it’s an incredible weapon to tool around a map with, but your aim has to be great to pull off some truly spectacular tricks.
To name a few: shooting Banshees out of the air, shooting up into the underside of a Warthog sailing overhead, multi-kills, tactical reloading, and so on. But mostly, point-and-shoot will award you more than enough entertainment.
Spartan Laser (UNSC)
Three… two… one… ZAP! BOOM! The Spartan Laser is an incredibly powerful weapon, capable of wrecking all but a Scorpion or a Wraith in a single hit (those vehicles take two). With a strong scope and a reasonable amount of ammunition (you’ll get a good few shots out of it), the Spartan Laser is a force to be reckoned with, and makes your using any vehicle a huge risk when there’s someone going head-to-head with your team who knows how to use one. The timing is awkward, as you’ll have to cancel laser shots more often than you fire them at first, but once you master the charging-up phase, it’s all good.
Rail Gun (UNSC)
If the delay of the Spartan Laser has never bothered you too much, then the Rail Gun will make you just as happy. A huge WHUMP of energy launches from the end of this rifle-shaped heavy weapon after a short delay as it cycles up to its firing-ready state. Capable of decimating vehicles, Spartans, and doing a good amount of splash damage, it’s a Spartan Laser for those who don’t mind trading a little power for the ability to cause true chaos – it might not always kill the vehicle you’ve fired at, but it will send them noticeably off course – preferably into a wall.
Heavy Machine Gun (UNSC)
Detachable, powerful, but a weapon that turns you into the slowest-moving player on the battlefield, the Heavy Machine Gun is a great weapon for those who are defending a point or lucky enough to have a player (or five) providing covering fire as they help to capture a point with sheer weight of fire. It contains more than enough rounds for a lot of heavy work, but don’t get cocky – it’s extremely easy to kill the wielder from a distance, so make use of cover and stick to corridors to make the most of this weapon.
Sticky Detonator (UNSC)
A gun semi-equivalent of the Plasma Grenade, this UNSC weapon fires sticky explosives that detonate not automatically after a set time period has elapsed, but at the command of the wielder. This makes them fantastic tactical weapons, ideal for defending a point, as you can stand behind transparent cover and detonate them when your enemies are in range, forcing them to endure a trial of fire in order to get to you. Not too shabby for a pistol-sized weapon, methinks.
Plasma Cannon (Covenant)
There isn’t much difference between this Covenant weapon and the Heavy Machine Gun mentioned above, save for its appearance. Same rules apply – be careful, use cover or covering fire, and enjoy yourself – after all, when either weapon runs out of ammo, you can drop it and you’ll still have all the weapons you had on you when you started using it.
Incineration Cannon (Promethean)
This Promethean weapon is utterly ludicrous. Firing a huge slamming volley of ammunition that hits like a shotgun, burns like a flamer and explodes like a rocket launcher, it’s game over for anyone who comes up against a Spartan wielding this thing with even the vaguest idea of what they’re doing. Of course, it doesn’t fire many rounds at once or reload quickly, but that’s the price you pay for having the most devastatingly powerful heavy weapon since the UNSC started putting rockets in tubes and attached them to a shoulder mount and a trigger.
Frag Grenade (UNSC)
Frag Grenades are the mainstay of the Halo thrown weapons range, delivering an explosion that taken directly will kill, and will decimate the shields of those standing too close. Good for clearing rooms, it has a great bounce that allows you to cause considerable chaos in a small area with one or more of them.
Plasma Grenade (Covenant)
Similar to a Frag Grenade, save for one detail – it sticks. Yep, that’s right, it’s the Plasma Grenade, the cause of some of the funniest moments you’ll ever experience while playing a Halo game. Stick them to Spartans and watch them explode, helpless to escape from the munitions you’ve just attached to anything from their foot to their helmet. Fun times await.
Pulse Grenade (Promethean)
The Pulse Grenade is essentially an EMP device in the form of a thrown weapon. A brilliant way to suck the shields off a room full of defending Spartans while marching in, guns blazing – just make sure you make as much use of this as possible while many players are still new to just what that orange bouncing thing that just came into the room does.
Energy Sword (Covenant)
The Energy Sword is the iconic melee weapon of the Halo series, and for good reason. Traditionally wielded by Elites in the campaign, this dual-pronged glowing monstrosity is capable of not only killing any Spartan in a single direct hit, but it also has the ability to allow you to home in on someone in close range. That’s right – wait until your targeting reticule goes red, hit the trigger, and watch as your Spartan flies forward towards the foe, swinging its blade of pure energy as the other player frantically tries to get out of the way.
Gravity Hammer (Covenant)
For those who are less subtle and just enjoy creating a ton of damage in a localized area, the Gravity Hammer, made famous by Covenant Brutes, is ideal. Swing it into the floor? Everyone flies away from the impact point, and it does damage to shields. Score a direct hit? Spartans go to heaven. The blast goes through doors and walls, and if you can swing before someone aims a shotgun at you, you’ll find yourself charging forward like an Energy Sword user who’s completely lost the plot. A great, fun weapon to use.
About Our Guest Author:
Jimmy Wentz is a budding freelance tech writer, gadget and gaming enthusiast, and social media junkie. He writes regularly about O2 and the latest news in the tech, gaming, and the social media world.