While destructible vehicles have always been a part of Halo, I always felt the damage systems could have been better. In Halo 1, the system was good, but it suffered from inconsistent application as only Covenant vehicles in Campaign could be destroyed. In the sequels, all vehicles could be destroyed in both Campaign and multiplayer, but the system itself was bad. In both Halo 2 & 3, a vehicle’s “health” was tied into the health of its driver and/or other occupant(s). An in-use vehicle could only be destroyed if the health of all occupants was reduced to zero (the only exception was the Ghost in Halo 2, which could be destroyed by shooting the fuel tank on its left side). As a consequence, a vehicle could withstand an unlimited amount of damage so long as the occupants kept their health above zero. This, when combined with the fact that vehicles can usually kill quickly if not instantly, resulted in them being quite overpowered. While there are several weapons that can kill a vehicle outright, a competent Warthog crew, tank driver, Banshee pilot, or whatever could easily run roughshod over players who are on foot and lack an effective anti-vehicle weapon. Similarly, in Campaign, killing an enemy vehicle becomes more difficult than normal should the operator have more shields and/or health than another, weaker operator, which is rather nonsensical (e.g. in Halo 2, a Wraith piloted by an Ultra Elite could take more damage than one piloted by a Minor Elite on the same difficulty level).
Needless to say, I consider the Halo 2 & 3 damage system to be broken. Fortunately, this was largely resolved in Reach, which took a H1-like damage system and applied it to all vehicles in all play modes (players still sustained damage when their vehicle was shot, though, which is something that carries over from previous games). This system was carried over to Halo 4 & 5 with no noticeable changes.
Suffice it to say, I would use a damage system nearly identical to Reach’s. Like Covie vehicles in the first game’s Campaign, each vehicle has a certain amount of non-restorable hit points represented by a damage meter on the HUD. Any and all damage a vehicle sustains is permanent and irreversible. Once a vehicle takes a certain amount of damage, it’s destroyed. Player and vehicle damage are totally independent. You shoot a driver, gunner, or passenger, and they take damage, not the vehicle. Likewise, shooting a vehicle doesn’t do anything to the driver, unless of course said shooting results in blowing the vehicle up, which would cause serious if not fatal damage. The only exception to this “only the vehicle or only the driver” rule would be explosive weapons due to the splash damage, which would damage everything within the area of effect, unless of course the driver was completely enclosed in the vehicle, which is the case with tanks.
This system would not only be simpler, but it would be fairer to players on foot who might not have a rocket launcher or similarly powerful weapon. For example, in multiplayer, a team under siege by a skilled Warthog crew, Banshee pilot, etc., could gradually chip away at it with their standard-issue weapons. It might take a while for them to neutralize a vehicle even with concentrated fire, but their efforts won’t be in vain, unlike in Halo 2 & 3 where if they don’t kill the vehicle in one attempt, the driver can simply run away, wait for his shields to come back, and it’s like the vehicle took no damage. Of course, even with a simple, non-restorable damage meter, if a team doesn’t focus on taking an enemy vehicle out, the latter can amass a sizable number of kills before dying or being forced to abandon their ride. Conversely someone in a vehicle will have to be more wary of enemies equipped with small arms, or else he could find himself with a completely thrashed ride, though he wouldn’t have to worry quite as much about his opponents spamming anti-vehicle weapons.
As for the graphical aspects of vehicle destruction, I’ve always felt that the visible damage a vehicle shows and what happens when a vehicle explodes could use more variety. Instead of a graphical progression from pristine to near-totaled that looks the same every time, all the dents, gouges, holes, and blown-off chunks would be plentiful and locational in nature. Also, there should be a larger number of destruction animations than in the past. For example, a Banshee that explodes mid-air could simply erupt into flames and fall to the ground in one piece like in Halo 1 or blow into pieces in many different ways. A vehicle might only blow into pieces if an explosive device destroys it. Also, Covenant vehicles might sometimes experience a delayed secondary explosion anyway like they did in Halo 2 when destroyed (this feature was de-emphasized in later games).
I always liked the idea of being able to hijack an enemy’s vehicle and forcibly eject him from it. While it worked fine in Halo 2, Bungie added some changes to it in Halo 3 which also carried over to every other subsequent game. For one, successfully boarding any vehicle will inflict damage on the victim, whereas in Halo 2, the only time boarding inflicted damage was when it was a tank being jacked, as doing so required punching the driver to death or throwing a grenade into the tank’s interior. The second major change was the fact that boarding a vehicle effectively paralyzes the occupant. Once boarded, the occupant cannot disembark by choice. In the case of light vehicles (Warthogs, Ghosts, etc.), the vehicle’s occupant cannot jump out once boarded, and after he is removed, he is not only damaged, he also suffers from temporarily but severely slowed movement. In the case of tanks, once boarded, the occupant is completely at the mercy of the boarder. He is forced to remain in the cockpit until the boarder kills him or is himself killed by a teammate of the tank driver (or the tank driver risks killing himself by firing at zero-range into a wall).
In each case, getting boarded in Halo 3 and Reach is almost always an automatic death sentence. While a player may have deserved to lose his ride, he shouldn’t also be forced to die on top of that. I think that damage should be retained for boarding light vehicles (and would of course remain par for course when hijacking tanks), but otherwise, vehicle boarding should be more or less identical to how it worked in Halo 2. If a player is being hijacked, he would still have the option to leave his vehicle under his own volition at any time during the encounter. Furthermore, being ejected wouldn’t paralyze the player. He would retain full mobility. The only threats he’d face are his opponent and their newly acquired ride, enemy infantry who could take advantage of his weakened shields, or falling to his death if he’s ejected from a Banshee or Falcon at high altitude.
As for damage values, whether it’s kicking an enemy out of a light vehicle or punching a tank driver, the player should inflict a base value of 40 damage points, same as a standing melee attack. Grenades thrown into a tank would inflict double their maximum base damage to both driver and vehicle (e.g., a boarder who throws a frag grenade inside the tank in multiplayer would inflict 200 HP of damage to the driver and 100 HP of damage to the tank), but would not have any splash damage.
Health: The maximum amount of damage, in hit points, the vehicle can sustain before being destroyed.
Weapons: The armaments the vehicle possesses. Weapons described as “dual” are twinned weapons like the Ghost’s plasma cannons are. To avoid cluttering up the vehicle entries, weapon statistics will be listed in a subsection below.
Health: 200 (standard, transport, & civilian models) 250 (heavy models) Weapons: M41 LAAG or M68 Gauss Cannon (standard) 20mm Autocannon (heavy version only) none (civilian & transport versions only)
Notes: The Warthog would handle pretty much identically to how it has in the past, and there’s no real need for it to change appreciably in terms of gameplay. It would once again have several permutations, including but perhaps not limited to standard, arctic (which would have improved traction on ice), troop transport, civilian, and a “heavy” version with an autocannon and tougher armor.
Health: 80 Weapons: none (default) Dual M67 LMGs (Gungoose variant only)
Notes: The Mongoose would be more or less identical to how it was in Halo Reach. I would also include the “Gungoose” variant introduced in H2A.
Health: 160 (standard model) 200 (Ultra variant) Weapons: Dual Class-2 Energy Guns
Notes: The Ghost would have about the same base speed it had in Halo 1 (maybe slightly slower), including when strafing and driving backwards, though it would be just as responsive as in later games and still have the ability to boost.
The Ghost would have an “Ultra” variant with enhanced armor and plasma cannons.
Health: 150 Shields: 100 (Ultra variant only) Weapons: Dual Class-2 Energy Guns Fuel Rod Cannon
Notes: The Banshee would handle similarly to how it did in Halo 1, including the ability to hover when the player pulls back on the left stick. Its base speed would be a bit faster, though. It would still retain the ability to boost and perform flips & rolls.
The Banshee would have an “Ultra” variant equipped with energy shielding to increase its overall resilience. The shields would take damage like Elite shielding does.
Health: 180 Weapons: M41 LAAG × 2 (standard version only) 20 mm Autocannon (ground-attack version only) Dual Class-2 GMLS (ground-attack version only)
Notes: The Falcon would handle the same way it did in Reach. There would likely be two models: the standard UH-144A and a new model that serves as a dedicated attack helicopter. The standard Falcon would use the familiar side-mounted machine gun turrets used by the passengers but have no other defenses. Meanwhile, the ground attack version would feature a chin-mounted autocannon as well as guided missile launchers mounted under the wings that are similar to those of Hornet. This would give the pilot direct control over the Falcon’s offense. However, the ground-attack model would not be capable of carrying passengers.
Health: 175 Weapons: Dual 35 mm Autocannons Other Attacks: Enhanced ramming damage
Notes: The Chopper would handle much like it did in Halo 3, including having the ability to boost. Like before, it can do considerable damage when ramming another light vehicle, especially when boosting, with head-on collisions being easily capable of heavily damaging if not outright destroying the target vehicle.
Health: 200 (standard model) 250 (Ultra variant) Weapons: Light Plasma Mortar
Notes: The Revenant would be my vehicle of choice for the Covenant’s Warthog equivalent. As it was basically a much smaller, more agile, and less powerful version of the Wraith, it had more to differentiate itself from the Warthog than the Spectre and Prowler. The Revenant would handle the same as it did in Halo Reach, and would retain its ability to boost.
The Revenant would have an Ultra variant with improved armor and a faster-firing plasma mortar.
Health: 100 Weapons: Dual Class-2 Energy Guns or Fuel Rod Cannon
Notes: Though it’s technically not a vehicle, the Shade functions like one in that it can be boarded and that it takes damage like a light vehicle. It would be the same ball-type turret it was in Halo 3 and Reach, though it could conceivably rest on tripod legs like the Halo 1 Shade instead of on a platform fixed to the ground. As in Reach and Halo 5, the Shade would have a variant equipped with a fuel rod cannon as well as the standard model equipped with plasma guns.
Note: Heavy vehicles are immune to ramming/collision damage from light vehicles, but not from other heavy vehicles.
Health: 350 Weapons: Heavy Plasma Cannon
Notes: While the Shadow APC made only a brief appearance in Halo 2 despite featuring prominently in the 2003 “Earth City” demo, it would play a much heavier role in this game. As a ground-based troop transport, it would take over the role of dropships in areas where landing or maneuvering an aircraft would prove difficult or impossible. It could carry up to 8 passengers, depending on their size. Shadows would play a prominent role in the Earth-based missions, particularly the Battle of Sydney level. It could be hijacked and controlled by the player, and could potentially be used in Firefight and Invasion.
Health: 500 Weapons: M512 Cannon M247T Machine Gun Turret
Notes: The Scorpion’s machine gun would most likely remain a separate turret controlled by a second player rather than the driver-controlled coaxial version from Halo 1 & 2. The cockpit hatch could perhaps be shot off by regular weapons to expose the driver, taking damage as if it were light vehicle armor. Finally, the player would once again be able to ride on the tread pods like they could in Halo 1.
The Scorpion would have a heavy up-armored variant that is also equipped with a second machine gun mounted coaxially to the main cannon and would be usable by the driver, but would still retain the primary machine gun turret usable by a second player.
Health: 500 Weapons: Heavy Plasma Mortar or Dual Fuel Rod Cannons Plasma Turret
Notes: Like the Scorpion, the Wraith’s plasma cannon would likely remain a turret controlled by a second player, and the cockpit’s hatch could be shot off by regular firearms. It would handle identically to its Reach incarnation, including the duration and speed of its boost.
The Wraith would have a variant model in the form of the anti-air models first seen in Halo 3. The player would be able to use this version for the first time in a canonical Halo title. To make it a weapon more focused on anti-vehicle and especially anti-air combat, the AA Wraith’s cannons would have difficulty targeting infantry, perhaps by reducing aim assist against infantry and/or not allowing the cannons to angle down too far.
Health: 1000 Weapons: 20 mm Autocannon (chin-mounted) M41 LAAG (bay-mounted) Dual ANVIL-II Missile Pods
Notes: The Pelican would actually be destructible in regular gameplay. Rather than simply dropping troops and supplies for the player, they could also serve a role as a heavy gunship, providing heavy close-in air support. This can be scripted, or the player could summon them on a limited basis. Also, as mentioned earlier, there would likely be a Pelican fought as an enemy during the first level(s). It could also serve as a boss in Firefight.
Health: 1200 Weapons: Heavy Plasma Cannon × 3
Notes: The Phantom would be more akin to the Halo 2 version in terms of offensive capabilities and troop deployment, dropping troops from the grav-lift only and having two additional side-mounted plasma cannons instead of the Grunt-manned plasma turrets. It would generally carry fewer troops than the Spirit, though unlike the Spirit it can also carry Hunters, which are too big to fit into a Spirit. Also, the Phantom can still deploy two light vehicles or a Wraith.
Health: 1000 Weapons: Heavy Plasma Cannon
Notes: Less heavily-armed and armored than the Phantom, the Spirit would return as a faster dropship focused more on rapid deployment of larger numbers of troops rather than the gunship-style action of the Phantom. Unlike in Halo 1 and Reach, they can be destroyed.
Health: 10,000 or special Weapons: Focus Cannon Ultra-heavy Plasma Cannon Plasma Cannon × 4 (infantry weapon)
Notes: The Scarab would be much like it was in Halo 3. However, it wouldn’t be just a big, dumb, slow clod that blows up real nice. It would be given better AI and larger arenas in which to fight and show what it’s capable of. When it comes to fighting it, the player can still board it, though the crew would be better at guarding the power core than in Halo 3. Of course, the player could attack it from the outside with a vehicle or heavy weapon, though the legs and rear armor would be considerably more resilient, and the player would have to take out at least two legs to disable the Scarab for boarding from the ground. The core’s shield would be more resilient this time as well. The player could also simply just shoot the Scarab to death instead of taking out the core, though the walker could take an incredible amount of damage before going down. Finally, the Scarab would have the same weapons as before; the large plasma turret at the rear of the vehicle could actually be completely destroyed this time, however. I would also consider adding an automated light plasma turret or Shade cannon to the Scarab’s belly for added protection.
Vehicle Weaponry Attributes
Note: All vehicle-based weapons have infinite ammo and, in the case of plasma weapons, never overheat. Also, all the below entries follow the same layout as those of the infantry-issued weapons.
1. M41 LAAG
Damage: 18 Accuracy: 1° Rate of Fire: 10 rounds/sec max. Projectile Speed: 900 m/sec Damage Modifiers: Vehicle Armor: 15% Otherwise same as Assault Rifle
Notes: As in more recent games in the series, the M41 can overheat with sustained fire. Also, it takes a second to “spin up” to its full rate of fire.
2. M68 Gauss Cannon
Damage: 250 Accuracy: 0° Rate of Fire: 1 round/2 sec Projectile Speed: 600 m/sec Damage Modifiers: Hunter Armor: 50% Sentinel Armor: 40% Vehicle Armor: 20%
3. 20 mm Autocannon
Damage: 30 Accuracy: 1 to 2.5° Rate of Fire: 6 rounds/sec Projectile Speed: 900 m/sec Damage Modifiers: Vehicle armor: 30%
Note: Unlike the M41, the autocannon does not overheat, nor does it require any time to reach its maximum rate of fire. It also is more effective against vehicles.
4. M67 Light Machine Gun
Damage: 12 Accuracy: 0.5° Rate of Fire: 5 rounds/sec Projectile Speed: 900 m/sec Damage Modifiers: Same as Assault Rifle
Notes: The Gungooses’s machine guns would basically be mounted ARs for gameplay purposes, albeit more accurate but with a slower rate of fire for balancing reasons (though since there’s two of them firing alternately it makes up for the lower RoF).
5. Class-2 Energy Gun
Damage: 16 Accuracy: 0° Rate of Fire: 5 rounds/sec Projectile Speed: 180 m/sec Stun: 0.05 sec Damage Modifiers: Same as Plasma Rifle
Notes: The plasma cannons utilized by the Ghost, Banshee, and Shade are functionally very similar to the plasma rifle, except they cannot overheat and are more powerful. Individually, they have a slower rate of fire than a plasma rifle, but the fact that they are paired and fire alternately makes up for it.
6. Fuel Rod Cannon
Damage: 150 (Banshee) 80 (Shade & AA Wraith) Blast Radius: 4.5 m Accuracy: 0° + ballistic arc or homing Rate of Fire: 1 round/4 sec (Banshee) 1 round/2 sec (Shade) 3-round volley @ 1 round/sec (AA Wraith) + recharge time Projectile Speed: 75 m/sec Damage Modifiers: Same as Fuel Rod Gun
Notes: The vehicle-mounted fuel rod cannon is similar to the hand-held fuel rod gun. Unlike its handheld counterpart, it can lock onto vehicles to fire a homing shot. The Banshee’s is more powerful but is slower-firing. The cannon on the AA Wraith and Shade is weaker than the others but compensates through greater rate of fire. The AA Wraith’s cannons fire similarly to that of the missile Warthog from previous games, with each of the twin cannons alternately firing a volley of three fuel rods each for a total of six shots fired per pull of the trigger; this is followed by a reload/cool-off period of several seconds.
7. Chopper Auto-Cannon
Damage: 30 Accuracy: 0° Rate of Fire: 2 rounds/sec Projectile Speed: 150 m/sec Damage Modifiers: Vehicle Armor: 30%
8. Class-2 Guided Munition Launch System
Damage: 60 Blast Radius: 3 m Accuracy: 0° or homing Rate of Fire: 1 round/4 sec Projectile Speed: 45 m/sec Damage Modifiers: Same as Rocket Launcher
The Falcon’s missile launchers would have offensive capabilities similar to that of the Banshee’s fuel rod cannon, including the same projectile velocity and the ability to lock on to vehicles to fire a homing shot. However, the missiles have the same base damage and blast radius as a Brute Shot’s grenades. As they are fired parallel to each other several meters apart when not tracking a vehicle, they would be less effective than a fuel rod cannon against infantry units.
9. Light Plasma Mortar
Damage: 75 Blast Radius: 4.5 m Accuracy: 0° + ballistic arc Rate of Fire: 1 round/2 sec Projectile Speed: same as in Reach Damage Modifers: Vehicle Armor: 60% Otherwise same as Fuel Rod Gun
Notes: The Revenant’s plasma mortar has the same firing arc as in Reach.
10. Heavy Plasma Cannon
Damage: 20 Accuracy: 0° Rate of Fire: 3 rounds/sec Projectile Speed: 150 m/sec Damage Modifiers: Vehicle Armor: 15% Otherwise same as Plasma Rifle
11. M512 Tank Cannon
Damage: 300 Blast Radius: 7.5 m Accuracy: 0° Rate of Fire: 1 round/4 sec Projectile Speed: 600 m/sec Damage Modifiers: same as Rocket Launcher
12. M247T Machine Gun
Damage: 10 Accuracy: 0.5 to 1.5° Rate of Fire: 15 rounds/sec Projectile Speed: 900 m/sec Damage Modifiers: same as Assault Rifle
13. Heavy Plasma Mortar
Damage: 300 Blast Radius: 7.5 m Accuracy: 0° + ballistic arc Rate of Fire: 1 round/3 sec Projectile Speed: same as in Reach Damage Modifiers: Vehicle armor: 100% Otherwise same as Fuel Rod Gun
Notes: Since the Wraith’s plasma mortar has a slow, arcing trajectory instead of the fast, straight-line trajectory of the Scorpion’s main cannon, I’d give it a faster rate of fire to compensate. It would have the same firing arc and projectile speed as in Reach.
14. Wraith Plasma Turret
Damage: 14 Accuracy: 0 to 0.5° Rate of Fire: 15 rounds/sec Projectile Speed: 150 m/sec Stun: 0.05 sec Damage Modifiers: Same as Plasma Rifle
15. Focus Cannon
Damage: 150 per second Accuracy: 0° Rate of Fire: Continuous beam Projectile Speed: 50 m/sec
16. Ultra-heavy Plasma Cannon
Damage: 40 Accuracy: 0° Rate of Fire: 1 round/sec Projectile Speed: 90 m/sec Damage Modifiers: Vehicle Armor: 50% Otherwise same as Plasma Rifle
In addition to all the vehicles listed above, I’d try to fit some others from the series into gameplay in some fashion. For example, Longswords (or possibly Shortswords) could serve as some form of air support, appearing during scripted events or being summoned by the player to perform bombing runs similar to what was portrayed in the E3 ’03 “Earth City” demo where a pair of Longswords bombed a Covenant heavy artillery emplacement that kept the UNSC ground forces pinned. Also, the absence of APCs in the UNSC has always been puzzling, so maybe I’d consider adding one. I would also try to introduce a boat (I’d call it the “Barracuda” to keep with the animal theme naming of UNSC vehicles); water vehicles had been considered for past Halo games but never implemented. The boat would be a small patrol craft equipped with an M41 LAAG controlled by a second passenger and the ability to carry a third passenger, essentially making it a waterborne Warthog.
Another thing I would consider is adding some of the vehicles introduced in Halo Wars. They seem rather interesting, though they could potentially clutter up the roster with redundancy. They may work fine in the confines of an RTS, but they may lack the necessary distinctiveness to warrant a place in an FPS. For example, do we really need a Rhino, Vulture, or Locust when we already have the Scorpion, Pelican, and Wraith? However, it is possible that a couple of them can be fit into this game. For example, the Hawk can be a mini-boss in the first stage, though the vehicle itself would not be available to the player for reasons explained during in-game dialogue. The Vampire could be a Covenant air-support unit since the Phantom isn’t quite as heavily armed as the Pelican. The Wolverine can serve as a replacement for the missile Warthog; being larger and more heavily armored than a Warthog, it could be classed as a heavy vehicle and serve as a rough analog to the AA Wraith. The Vulture could serve as a heavy gunship, carrying far more powerful armaments than the similarly-sized Pelican. Finally, the Locust could be a unit more focused on direct engagements with ground forces, its walker abilities giving it the ability to more effectively traverse rough terrain than the Wraith, which would be more focused on artillery barrages. Also unlike the Wraith’s slow arcing shots, the Locust’s beam weapon would allow for direct line-of-sight fire, the the “head’s” ability to pivot would allow the Locust to fire in one direction while walking in another, similar to the Scorpion.