Analysis of Vehicles in Halo Reach and Suggestions for Improvement

Hi folks,

I wrote this post originally for the Bungie.net forums, but as you’ll find, Bungie did not take a second look at the flawed Halo Reach vehicle system. Now that 343 Industries will be taking over and perhaps making adjustments to the gameplay mechanics to facilitate more classic-style play in certain playlists, I wanted to post this here for their consideration (hopefully they will be making adjustments to vehicles in classic playlists). Please read it all and I welcome your feedback! Without further delay:

The state of vehicles in Reach is very disappointing. Bungie’s previous games all had the best implementation of of vehicles in an FPS for their time. And yet, Reach’s vehicles are annoying, unbalanced, and downright frustrating to use and have used against you.

The sad part is that I know Bungie likes to hone their product to a fine tip then ship it, and they rarely look back to make changes to balance things, and only patch if there are game breaking bugs. That said, I would still like to voice my opinion on the state of vehicles in Halo Reach.

Before I start… why should you listen to me? A few credentials:

  • Played every Halo game made by Bungie

  • Halo 2:
    – 7,447 games played
    – 63,822 kills
    – level 21 in Rumble Pit before rank reset

  • Halo 3:
    – level 50 in Lone Wolves
    – General, Grade 3
    – 6,585 games played
    – 86,464 total kills
    – 10,978 Wheelman medals
    – My primary gunner has 2.2+ social K/D on 4 maps

I’m not the best player in the world, but I’ve invested a lot of time in the Halo series, and plenty of time in vehicles.

Let’s look at the issues with vehicles in Halo Reach:

Damage System
The first thing I’d like to talk about is the way that vehicles take damage in Halo Reach. Halo Reach’s vehicle damage system is different than any prior Halo game. In Halo CE, vehicles couldn’t even blow up. In Halo 2 and Halo 3, vehicle health was tied to player health. Vehicles would not blow up unless the occupant’s health was depleted.

In Halo Reach, vehicle damage is independent of player health. Vehicles sustain their own damage and their health does not regenerate. You might be inside a vehicle and your shields and health are at full, but the vehicle itself may only be able to sustain one more point of damage. If it does take one more point of damage, it will explode and kill you and everyone inside of it.

I believe this system was designed to prevent skilled players from being able to run around in the same vehicle for the entire game with little opposition. The linear vehicle health model means that each vehicle can only sustain a specific amount of damage before exploding, so even a single enemy on foot could blow it up and kill the occupant(s) as long as they could eventually do enough damage to it. For the most part, this problem was indeed alleviated with Halo Reach’s vehicle damage model, unfortunately I believe that it introduced more issues than it solved:

1. Abandoned Vehicles and Blowing Up Your Own Vehicles
In Halo Reach, it’s very common to find flaming abandoned vehicles. Why? Because no one wants to drive around in a vehicle that’s going to explode from a single DMR shot. People much more commonly abandon flaming vehicles than using them through their full lifespan.
Overall, this reduces vehicle usage. Instead of players using vehicles until they explode, then getting new ones once they spawn, most players abandon their vehicles which means that the vehicles have to sit around and despawn before they will respawn for other players to use.

Or…

This system actually gives players an incentive to destroy their own vehicle once it has sustained a certain amount of damage (usually once it starts flaming). Blowing up your own damaged vehicle means that you’ll get a brand spanking new one spawned for you. Players should not be encourage to blow up their own vehicles simply to get a new one spawned, otherwise you have players waiting around for new vehicles rather than being out in the field contributing to gameplay.

2. Boarding
I can’t say how annoying this scenario is: you’ve been firing on a Warthog for what seems like days with your DMR. It starts flaming, but the driver comes in for a splatter. You seize the opportunity to board the driver and kick him out as you hop in (this is how Halo Reach Warthog boarding works), as you drive the Warthog away, the guy you just boarded turns around and shoots your Warthog a few times and it explodes. The same thing happens frequently with every vehicle except for the Wraith and Scorpion (because their boarding system works differently). This devalues the boarding system greatly for all of the affected vehicles and is extremely annoying and frustrating.

3. Vehicle-Vehicle Battles
In Reach, most vehicle against vehicle battles are lose-lose situations. Consider the Warthog. If two Warthogs start shooting at each other at a similar time, the result is almost always that one Warthog blows up completely, while the other has all occupants killed except for the gunner, and the Warthog is on fire. Even if you were in the victorious Warthog, you’re left with a flaming vehicle (that will explode with little more agitation) and a dead driver. You’re almost better off not attacking an enemy Warthog, and instead focusing on infantry.

When two Spartans attack each other and one dies, the winner doesn’t limp away. His/her shields come back to full, and in most of the games, health either regenerates fully, or regenerates to a certain extent. They don’t walk away with one point of health leaving the slightest breeze of wind to be the cause of their death, and no one likes a double-melee which results in both players dead; that outcome is boring and not rewarding to either player.
Vehicles in Halo have always worked similarly, that is, up until Halo Reach. Any why has it always previously worked this way? Because it makes for good gameplay. The more skilled player gets to continue onward.

I do agree that a player (or vehicle) who was barely able to escape death should be at a disadvantage over a player (or vehicle) at full health. I think Halo Reach’s player health/shield system encompasses this very well by only letting health recharge to a certain extent, but allow shields to always recharge to full. Unfortunately, Reach’s vehicles don’t share this system, but I feel they should adopt something similar.

Please continue reading on the second post (7,500 character limit).

Vehicle Balance
Vehicles in Halo Reach are much closer to glass cannons than they were in previous Halo games. They dish out the damage but die rather easily. Part of this is because of the damage system that I talked about above. In previous Halo games, control of specific vehicles greatly altered the flow of the game over the course of the game. In Halo Reach, vehicles feel like little more than temporary powerups because they explode so readily.
Banshees seem to be the greatest offender of vehicle balance:

1. Banshee Scarping
In the Halo Reach beta, Bungie tried to prevent something that players had taken advantage of for a long time in Halo CE, Halo 2, and Halo 3 – Banshee scraping. Players would boost along the ground with their Banshee splattering everything in their way. In the beta, the Banshee would take a lot of damage if players tried to do this, and for good reason… aircraft should not be used primarily for splattering! Unfortunately, Bungie toned back this policy for the release of Halo Reach, and I’ve seen Banshee splatter scraping continue to occur.

2. Fuel Rod Cannon
The Banshee fuel rod cannon is ridiculous (let’s call it the Banshee bomb for now). Too many times I’ve had a fully loaded [3 occupants] (and seemingly brand new) Warthog killed by a single Banshee bomb. That makes the Banshee bomb nearly as powerful as a Wraith mortar! Not to mention the damn thing locks-on and tracks vehicles! I just recently played a game on Breakpoint where a Banshee pilot racked up 35 kills with a +35 K/D and never once switched to the Banshee’s plasma cannons. I’m sorry, but it’s just poor vehicle design if you’ve made a vehicle with two weapons, but one of them is completely useless compared to the other.

3. Tricks/Lock-on
Banshee tricks are way too fast in Halo Reach. Not only do they look ridiculous but they afford the Banshee way too many advantages. While a Banshee is doing a trick, it cannot be locked-onto by the Rocket Launcher, Plasma Launcher, and presumably the Missile Warthog (though I haven’t verified the latter). The Rocket Launcher takes long enough to lock on already, do Banshee tricks really need to prevent locks from occurring? In previous Halo games, you had to doge at the right time if you wanted to avoid a rocket/missile. If you’re in a Banshee in Halo Reach and you don’t want and rockets locking on to you, you can actually do tricks quickly enough to make it literally impossible for any tracking weapon to lock-on.

4. Angle of Attack
In previous Halo games, the Banshee was carefully tuned to not allow it to point too far down. This made it so you’d either have to fire from a decent distance, or your angle of attack would bring you dangerously close to the ground and thus in risk of being boarded (risk/reward). In Halo Reach, the Banshee can fly overhead, tilt quickly down, fire a Banshee bomb nearly straight down, then tilt up and keep going. Combined with the Banshee’s backflip move, the Banshee can fly just over the head of a Spartan and miss the splatter, then do a backflip and fire off a Banshee bomb to complete the job.

5. Made of Glass
All of these maneuvers make the Banshee insanely powerful against infantry and vehicles, but as soon as someone gets a Sniper Rifle in their hands, the Banshee is done for. Four shots from a Sniper Rifle will blow up a Banshee from full health, less if it’s already sustained damage. Again, this makes the Banshee a glass cannon.

Fixing the Problems

So what can be done?

Let’s talk about the damage system. I fully understand that Halo Reach is a different game than the other Halo games, but let’s face it, vehicle damage in the previous games worked famously. Reach’s current system reduces vehicle play, encourages abandoning damaged vehicles, devalues the boarding system, and even encourages blowing up your own vehicles.

Vehicle damage should be once again tied to player health. No one wants to get in a flaming vehicle only to get blown up by a single guy with a DMR. Vehicle damage should only come in to play during vehicle-vehicle fights. Damaged vehicles should blow up from less damage than a brand new vehicle, but only to a certain point. The vehicle health points should not be able to sit just above 0, otherwise we find ourselves with all of the aforementioned issues.
And how about vehicle balance?

Vehicles should not feel like glass cannons. Vehicle use in Halo Reach needs to be adjusted so that instead of being short and severe, it is instead longer and less intense. Banshees shouldn’t be able to drop a single Banshee bomb on a Warthog, killing 3 occupants, then get blown up seconds later as a sniper empties a single clip. Altering the damage system will help alleviate the glass cannon issue but this might also mean that vehicle killing weapons will need to be adjusted.

These are all really good points

One thing I’d like to point out is the sheer lack of vehicles in general
I have not seen even a mongoose in most playlists. I remember great 4v4 games on sandbox and standoff, and Halo Reach has no equilivient, and that’s when you forget the vast differences in vehicular combat between the two games

good post man

Vehicles do need to see some love during the Title Update. Warthog needs to be more planted to the ground and not as flimsy as it current is. Just traversing over Hemmorage is hard to do without the thing flipping over if you hit it wrong, and this is without someone throwing nades, dmr bullets, or explosions happening around you. The Warthog needs to become superior like it used to be.

I hate driving the Paper Warthog.

Revenant needs sniper passenger seat glitch fixed.
Gauss warthog needs shooting through Forge pieces fixed.
If they adding the Ghost wheelie button like in previous games, awesome.

Honestly, I like that vehicles have their own health. If it’s on fire, it should be a warning sign that something is about to go horribly wrong.

However, they can still be improved. I think an increase in vehicle health and increased resistances against certain weapons (bullets) would help address things. That way we can we feel a little safer driving around without having to worry about being shredded up by DMR fire.

And of course fixes for the Banshee and other exploits.

You’re completely right.

Excellent summary and completely agree…100% spot on.

> Vehicles do need to see some love during the Title Update. Warthog needs to be more planted to the ground and not as flimsy as it current is. Just traversing over Hemmorage is hard to do without the thing flipping over if you hit it wrong, and this is without someone throwing nades, dmr bullets, or explosions happening around you. The Warthog needs to become superior like it used to be.
>
> I hate driving the Paper Warthog.
>
> Revenant needs sniper passenger seat glitch fixed.
> Gauss warthog needs shooting through Forge pieces fixed.
> If they adding the Ghost wheelie button like in previous games, awesome.

Ah yes, this is another major annoyance – I didn’t even talk about how prone the Warthog and Mongoose are to flipping over. It’s almost like they were designed to land upside down!

I also didn’t talk at all about how the Sniper being an anti-vehicle weapon is incredibly stupid from a balance and gameplay perspective. On a map like Paradiso, you can’t even use the tank because a Sniper on the mountain has a covered position from which he/she can shoot you no matter where you are on the map.

I honestly wouldn’t even know that the Sniper Rifle was an anti-vehicle weapon if I didn’t read the little tip snippet that pops up while you’re waiting for matchmaking. The problem is that the Sniper has NEVER been an anti-vehicle weapon, and so why would anyone who has played Halo, Halo 2, Halo 3, and Halo 3: ODST even think that it was? If people don’t pay attention to those snippets (and let me tell you, I bet the majority do not read them) then they don’t even know that the Sniper can be used as an anti-vehicle weapon, which means your teammates who are using it are completely unaware of where they should be directing their shots (at the wraith you moron, not the infantry!). But at the same time, I cannot blame them because a Sniper as an anti-vehicle weapon just doesn’t make any sense.

> Vehicles do need to see some love during the Title Update. Warthog needs to be more planted to the ground and not as flimsy as it current is. Just traversing over Hemmorage is hard to do without the thing flipping over if you hit it wrong, and this is without someone throwing nades, dmr bullets, or explosions happening around you. The Warthog needs to become superior like it used to be.
>
> I hate driving the Paper Warthog.
>
> Revenant needs sniper passenger seat glitch fixed.
> Gauss warthog needs shooting through Forge pieces fixed.
> If they adding the Ghost wheelie button like in previous games, awesome.

I dissagree the warthog in reach takes skill to drive and if your flipping in it its your fault. I can go games not flipping the thing because i am a good driver and have over 4000 driving assists to prove it. Most people just dont understand how to drive on some maps, hemmorage for example dont drive over the biggest hill you will flip almost every time. I Think that if anything dmrs shouldnt be able to flip a warthog on flat ground or in the air.

Lots of great points and interesting discussion to be had here.

I like some of the suggestions offered, but I feel like half of the problem with vehicles in Reach is that there aren’t any. I’ve gotten used to the vehicle physics and the new damage model (somewhat), but it’s a shame that there aren’t any 4v4 maps with vehicles or more vehicles on BTB maps.

I agree wholeheartedly with the Banshee issues and here’s my solution to the problem:

-Primary weapon (plasma bolts) should be buffed. They are useless, as the OP addressed.
-Banshee’s shielding should be buffed, as it is rather weak.
-Banshee Bomb should be nerfed, radius and/or damage.
-Flips and tricks should have a cool down. 1/3 of the boost meter for a trick, might be a possible solution.

Is that reasonable?

Snipers should absolutely not be effective against vehicles, and DMRs are too effective as well. Banshee bomb and flips are too good, and the Warthog should be a little more solid. The Falcon guns could use a small buff too, as it is, that thing is pretty much a death trap. I think vehicles in the game would be much, much better if just these changes were implemented, and I enjoy them as they are now.

I agree with everything except when you talked about Banshee scraping. Let’s look at splattering vs. shooting for a while. While it’s incredibly obvious that shooting is the most optimal gamplay style with vehicles, and splattering may get you killed easily, splattering should be encouraged in vehicles with boosting ability. This is because splattering balances the vehicles out.

Halo 3 maintained a healthy balance with this when it comes to Banshee, you really couldn’t be super deadly if you only used Banshee bomb and the palsma turrets in Halo 3, it granted you easy kills, but you really couldn’t do it for long enough to rack up large amounts of multikills. To do that, you needed to go to the ground level and start splattering, it made the Banshee mroe useful as you could sometimes splatter a large amount of players in arow, but this laso exposed you to hijacking and sticking with plasma grenades. This created a balance where the pilot had to be experienced in order to stay alive at the ground level. It still wasn’t enough as staying on the sky still granted you too much kills.

Banshee isn’t the only vehicle this applies to, Ghost, Chopper and revenant are all vehicles that are very efficient while splattering, but require a level of skill in order to be actually effective. In Halo 3 Ghost wasn’t used much with it’s turrets because they were ineffective, this was a good solution. Revenant is another good example, while the turret is deadly, the vehicle is much more useful when used for splattering. Chopper also brought an interesting view to this with it’s quickly draining boost instead of the long boost that is on most other vehicles.

In my opinion, the weapons with boosting ability should be more useful when used for splattering as this balances out the gameplay while still letting the player to shoot if they want. The current way for Banshee just doesn’t work, it’s either unimaginably overpowered or super weak depending on your team and opponents. Only actual way it’s used is the bomb, giving people too easy kills with low amounts of danger. Scraping is nearly useless as it tends to damage the Banshee pretty much.

Where I’m coming from with my claims? I started splattering in halo 3 two years after it’s release after finally getting as my previous internet connection had been way too bad for any kind of gameplay. The netcode of halo 3 still hindered my abilities (splattering a player doing absolutely no damage to them), but still managing to give me almost 1,500 splatter medals and six Vehicular Manslaughters. In Halo Reach I currently have about 1,800 splatters and ten Sunday Drivers after restarting splattering a bit over a month ago.

I have also been a Warthog gunner alot in Halo 3 and vehicles were my main weapon in Halo 3 when playing BTB, and I mean really, I used vehicles every time I could. I’m definitely not the best and wouldn’t even consider myself a “pro” (vehicles tend to have low skill gaps anyways) with any vehicle, but when it comes to them and especially splattering, I know what I’m talking about.