Quick Impressions: Halo 2 1.1 Auto-Update

Today’s "Quick Impressions" comes from everyone's favorite 2old2play wordsmith Freyn Ap Thyr (aka Bubba). Bubba was kind enough to take a little time from his busy schedule and touch on most of the important aspects of the Auto-Update. Enjoy...
Halo 2 1.1 Auto-Update
The great news of the automatic update was rapidly overshadowed by the news that I will soon have something Halo-related to spend $5.99 on, New Maps! However, letting this tweak to gameplay go without a quick rundown of my impression doesn't seem like something any good gaming site should do.

A complete rundown of the fixes and tweaks is available at:


so I won't get too far into them here. The general gameplay summary is- Melee and grenades have been nudged to do more damage, dual wielding has been made a bit less reliable at close range. The stated goal of this was to create more equitable fighting options and to increase the number of possible outcomes when I, with a lowly SMG, come up against some dual-wielding psycho spawn camper.

Enough with the descriptions how does it actually work?

The good news for members of the 2Old2Play clan is that now doodirock sucks. Just kidding dood. However, like any tweak to gameplay, the people that will notice it, and be affected by it the most are the ones that have most completely mastered the old skillset. In a series of games played Monday night, some of the most proficient killers in the clan were noticeably absent from the top of the leaderboard. Also note that the lag that Bungie reported would happen was in full-effect. All of the games were played in a murky underwater fashion- but if you count that effect as equal among all participants, then it looks like the better you were, the longer the acclimation period may be to Halo 2 1.1.

Perhaps the most eagerly anticipated change revolved around the much maligned Brute Shot. When H2 shipped and we all got our hands on that fat bastard for the first time, I'm sure we all felt the same way- vastly underwhelmed. The AU promised to change all that. With the nudge to frag and melee damage, and the deliberate boost to the Brute Shot's gorgeous but ineffective scythe, I for one was looking forward to adding a new item to the list of Uber weapons. Fourteen members apparently shared my enthusiasm as it was easy to get consensus for an all Brute Shot Game as soon as we formed up. So how did the new Brutey fare against our expectations? For me, not so well.

Take this from a guy that sucked with the old Brute Shot and who still sucks with the new one. The nudge to frag grenades was not as dramatic as the boost given to plasma grenades (more on this later). It certainly was not enough to make up for my inherent inaccuracy with the Brute. While I could have anticipated that, what jumped out at me the most while fighting with the Brute Shot was the subtlety of the melee adjustments that were made.

Like many of the people I play with, jumping has been relegated to a movement role in Halo 2 and largely deleted from my fighting style. The loopy, predictable parabola and the disadvantage of having to recenter to head level after a jump, have made the closest thing to a cardinal rule in H2 infighting- "don't jump." The melee tweak is going to change that for many. When you consistently get beat down by the Brute's jumping, scythe attack (and lose when you attempt a standing melee with the same weapon), the full extent of the melee tweak is revealed. The jump melee is significantly more powerful. The standing melee has only been bumped a bit. People that can incorporate this advantage will have a new, unconventional weapon that is difficult to counter at their disposal. Imagine a boxer fighting against some wire-flying, John Woo-style badass and you will get the picture.

The other big gameplay mod is grenade damage. The new power of frag grenades is really tough to gauge at first because the boost was small. Additionally, my first impression was that the blast radius is largely unchanged. For example, if I would lose half-my shields at 15' from the frag before, I now lose slightly more, but if I was safe at 25' I am still going to come away untouched. Where the change is really noticeable is in Real War/no-shields games. Forget their utility at mid- and short-range. Frags were always great for that in Real War. Post AU, you can now be a surgeon with them from a long way out.

Because the line between death and damage is so thin in RW anyway, it caused me to rethink my initial impressions of blast radius. A grenade in the vicinity becomes an object of immediate and complete concern. And thanks to the AU you now have less time to react to it as well. The shortened fuse means that if you anticipate where the grenade is landing and try to evade it- and have guessed wrong- you will not have time to get away. The old patterns of movement that may have protected you as you huddled in the base on defense might not work anymore.

My final thoughts are on Plasma Grenades. Get them. Use Them. Love Them. They are now to H2 1.1 what Sam Colt's .45 was to the Old West. The great equalizer of men. Their damage boost is significant. Their fuse after contact is practically non-existent. The days when you could chase down the guy that stuck you and take him with you are a thing of the past. The days when you had to be a marksman to kill with them are gone too. Drop one within a couple of feet of your enemy and the chances are good that they will rapidly become a good enemy. Good and dead. They promise to make KOTH games a Killtacular party for all involved that learn to locate and scoop them up regularly.

Everyone is going to have different opinions about the tweaks. I have not even discussed the impending level-reset, the changes that are supposed to lessen glitching, or any of the other weapon tweaks. For me, the casual player that loves the camaraderie of the game and who is not that concerned with KPD and my matchmaking performance, the AU might have come and gone and I would not have noticed for a few days without the hype. But when I went looking for the changes and thought about the different styles that can flourish post-AU, I am going to give them a hearty thumbs-up.

Freyn Ap Thyr (aka Bubba)

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