How Covenant Enemies Can Be Innovated Upon In Future Halo Games

Greetings all!

Good to finally get back around to writing some more, now that my finals are done! I think this article will hopefully spawn some good discussion around the community about how the Covenant as enemies can be improved upon the future of Halo. This is something I hadn’t thought much about until my good friend LateNightGaming suggested I should write on it. The idea intrigued and interested me, and over the last few weeks (between hellish study sessions) I’ve thought quite a bit about how every Covenant enemy we’ve encountered (current or past) can be tuned and refined into high quality adversaries on the battlefield. Something to keep in mind is that I will be discussing every aspect of an enemy’s design (both in Halo’s history and what I specifically would add/remove) including:

  • Behavior (aggression/retreating, taking cover, adapting to player tactics, etc.)
  • Accuracy/Firing Patterns (How accurate should this enemy be? In what way do they fire their weapon? For example, a Jackal minor firing slower than a major)
  • Weapon(s) Used
  • Audio/Visual Cues (Elite shield “popping” with a flash, Brutes roaring prior to berserking)
  • Health (How much damage can this enemy take?)
  • Weak Points (Headshots, back of Hunter armor)
  • Special Abilities (Grunts going suicide, Brutes berserking)

In going over these things and brainstorming on what can be added to each enemy, the overall objective of this post is to determine how we can make each Covenant species:

  • Challenging in their own unique way
  • Fair
  • Engaging in combat
  • Feel fresh and “new” (in other words, mix the enemy up a little) yet fitting and faithful to their past designs

Lastly, keep in mind that the analysis of each enemy is based on my own experiences with them in-game. You may have experienced something different then I did; I can’t help that.

Now that I’ve done an overview on what I’ll be focusing on with each enemy type, as well as the goal I’m working towards, let’s dive into this. And who better to start with then the enemies that meet our Spartan heroes with formidable, equivalent strength at almost every opportunity?

The Elites.

Elites
The Elites are arguably Halo’s most iconic enemy in the field. In many ways, they are considered and designed to be the Covenant equivalent to Spartans (and the player, by association)

Analysis: Spartans of the Covenant

The Elites, alongside the Jackals and the Grunts, are the most common enemy we face in the Halo games. However, as anyone who’s played a Halo game before will tell you, the Elites are no easy foe. Throughout their iterations, the Elites have always remained HaloPvE bread-and-butter. This is because they’re highly intelligent; Elites in the field often turn on the aggression and rush your cover when they see you with low shielding, and will often fall into cover and break line of sight with the player as you assault their position or heavily weaken their shielding. Using a wide variety of ranged weaponry, such as Carbines, Plasma Rifles, Storm Rifles, and Needlers (and plasma grenades) Elites lay down accurate fire on the player with deadly marksmanship – if the player gets too close, Elites can also deliver swift death through a skull-numbing weapon bash. The effectiveness of these strategies and frequencies of smart behavior (as well as the strength of shielding) vary among the ranks of Elites; Minors being the least intelligent and deadly, and Zealots being the most. These ranks are discernible from each other via bright colorization (this is something the later Halo games have stopped doing, to my dismay) making them easy to differentiate between in the field. Minor Elites miss a fair amount of shots, are slow to get out of the line of fire, and can take fewer hits. With each higher rank above Minor, the Elites get smarter, tougher, faster and more accurate. Additionally, Ultras and Zealots wield Energy Swords as either main weapons or backups if an enemy gets too close. This makes high-ranking Elites particularly deadly and unique from their lower ranking brothers in that they have the potential to absorb close quarters damage and instant kill you with an Energy Sword swipe if you aren’t careful to keep your distance and stay aware of your surroundings.  Note the ranks, Minor to Zealot, lined up from left to right below:

Of course, more ranks have been added in the series, such as General or Field Marshal; these are just the basic four. In addition to the standard ranks, there are also some specialized Elites that you engage in the field infrequently. There are Spec-Ops Elites, which are more tactical, squad-based versions of Majors in dark purple or black armor; the weak-shielded, gray-armored Stealth Elites who use Energy Swords, Plasma Rifles and active camouflage to surprise attack the player (these two types would merge in Halo: Reach); Elite Rangers, who rain plasma down on the player from the air via anti-grav jetpacks; and Elite Honor Guards, which were Ultra-equivalent Elites that aggressively hunted the player as they tried to kill Regret in Halo 2. While these Elites are not encountered often (Honor Guards are only encountered in Halo 2) they offer a non-standard form of Elite enemy that challenges you in specific ways that the regular Elite ranks don’t.

Elites also act as field commanders for low-ranking infantry, such as Grunts and Jackals. Often times, these lower ranking units will flee if their Elite leader is killed.

When shooting Elites, their shielding gets brighter and brighter as it takes damage, becoming a blinding white light for a split second before finally collapsing after taking too many hits. This gives players an indicator of how much damage they’re doing to the Elite, as well as lets them know when the Elite can be headshot for an instant kill, which is their weak spot.

Lastly, something common to the majority of the Elites is their berserk behavior. Since Combat Evolved and beyond, Elites will sometimes roar in frustration following the collapse of their shield, and charge the player in suicidal fashion, firing rapidly and wildly at the player until they get to melee range, after which they will attempt to weapon bash or Energy Sword swipe the player, should the player allow them to get this close. If their shield recharges and the player avoids them, the Elite calms down and acts like a regular Elite again. This adds a dynamic of unpredictable behavior to the Elite enemy that always keeps players on their toes.

Buddies
Aside from leading Grunts or Jackals, Elites ranked Major or above can also be found leading Elite Minors into the fray.

The Innovation

At this point, you might be thinking, Elites are already amazing enemies – what needs to change?”

Well, in my opinion, not very much! I think that the current iterations of the Elites in Halo 5 are decent, but I think that the older Elites from Halo CE, Halo 2 and Halo: Reach are where the Elites as enemies have always been their best overall. I think that Elites should return to their past levels of dynamic battlefield intelligence (and bring back color-coded ranks, too! that was an excellent visual cue!) with some small innovations to keep things feeling fresh. One idea I had was to make their berserk mode more dangerous than it is currently – give Elites the ability to bob and weave as they fire and rush towards you instead of run in a straight line, making the player tighten up their aim. Another thought I had was to expand on their role as field commanders more. Have them order Grunts and Jackals to specific advantageous positions in the playing field, such as high ground, and then have the Elite lay down suppressing fire on your position to give them a chance to move. My last idea was to give the Elites adaptive intelligence. Seeing as they’re the smartest enemy in the Covenant roster, I think this would be an amazing addition to their behavioral AI. Here’s a scenario: a Major and two Minors engage in battle with you. You noob combo one of the Minors with a plasma pistol and your Battle Rifle. You try this again against the Major, but he notices your charged up plasma pistol and dives for cover as you go to fire it because he knows he’ll die like his friend if he doesn’t. Things like this would make fighting groups of Elites feel SO much more dynamic and challenging than it already is, while remaining fair to the player as there are more than one ways to solve a problem. The same tactic would suddenly not work more than one or two times against each group of Elites – the game would force you out of an easy win against the Elites, and get you thinking of other strategies you can employ against them. Overall, giving Elites adaptive intelligence would engage the player more by making them get creative or think outside of their comfort zone, while also making each encounter feel unique based on the tactics you choose to use against them because they actively work to adapt to your current strategy. I’m convinced that if Breath of the Wild can do it and do it well, then so can Halo, and there isn’t a better candidate for adaptive-style behavior in Halo PvE combat than the Elites!

Now, moving onward to our favorite cannon fodder…

The Grunts.

grunts
Grunts have always been Halo’s “punching bag” enemies as individuals. However, they form an effective fighting force in groups and led by Elites or Brutes.

Analysis: Strength In Numbers

The Grunts are an interesting enemy. Unlike Elites, which are individually dangerous, Grunts are designed around a philosophy of “alone I am weak, but together we are strong”. Grunts are often led into battle by the more durable and skilled Elites and Brutes, and will attack the player as a group (many can be killed quickly with headshots) with wild, slow Plasma Pistol and Needler fire, and stick close to cover as the player attacks. Occasionally, Grunts will also lob Plasma Grenades at the player. When their Elite or Brute leader is killed, the entirety of the Grunt lance often turns tail and runs away from the player, although on occasion they will attach two Plasma Grenades to themselves and attempt to kamikaze the player (screaming and yelling wildly while doing so) adding (similar to an Elite berserk) a layer of unpredictability to their behavior.

Suicide Grunt
Should the player become unlucky enough to meet an unexpected suicide Grunt face-to-face, they will meet a comically explosive end.

Grunts, like Elites, also have separate ranks, separated by color. (though, again, Halo 4 and give their Grunts several different colors which makes differentiating difficult at a glance) However, unlike the Elites, these ranks mostly only change health values of the Grunt, and not add or take away AI behavioral tendencies, accuracy, etc. The only difference between a Grunt Ultra and a Grunt Minor other than health, for example, is the fact Ultras are less likely to run away. The ranks are shown below, in order from Minor/Storm to Ultra:

In addition, like Elites, Grunts also have some specialized ranks. Unlike the main Grunt ranks, these special Grunts behave differently. Grunt Heavies (green-clad armor) make use of heavy weaponry, such as Fuel Rod Guns, and as such will often make an effort to stay at a distance, backing away from the player as you approach them (instead of walking forward into you or standing still, like regular Grunts tend to do) only running away if the player gets too close. Spec-Ops Grunts (gray) are special Grunts only found working with Spec-Ops Elites – they have the ability to active camouflage, and tend to be aggressive, similar to their larger Elite leaders of the same rank. Lastly, there’s the Grunt Ranger (chrome space suit) which was a Grunt recently introduced to Halo in 4/5. This specialized Grunt makes use of a booster pack on it’s back to jump around the battlefield, constantly trying to find new angles of attack to use against the player.

The Innovation 

With the Grunts, I think I would like to see some form of system where each Grunt in combat is more effective (fires faster, more accurately, etc.) as more allies are around it. Make it a sort of “point system”. For example, it would take 50 “points” for a Grunt Minor to reach maximum combat efficiency. There would be three stages: 15 points would be minimum efficiency, 30 would be medium efficiency, and 50+ would be where the Grunt is the most effective. Anything below, 15 would be considered the threshold in which a Grunt decides to turn tail and run away. These “points” would be distributed to each Grunt based on the type and number of allies near it. For the sake of example, let’s say Elite Minors are worth 15, Elite Majors are worth 20, Grunt Minors are worth 5 and Grunt Majors are worth 10. So let’s say you begin fighting a squad of Covenant composed of an Elite Major, and Elite Minor, three Grunt Minors, and one Grunt Major. That would be a total of 60 points for every Grunt in that group. All Grunts would be fighting at peak efficiency from the get-go. However, let’s say you take out the Elite Major. Now the points for the Grunts have lowered to 40. The Grunts, therefore, would only be fighting with medium efficiency at this point, because the lance lost its ranking officer and the points are below the required minimum for peak fighting efficiency. Next, you kill the Elite Minor and the Grunt Major, leaving only the three Grunt Minors left. This lowers the points down to 15; any more kills would break the “confidence threshold”, causing the last two Grunts in the lance to flee.

In my opinion, I think this is a cool, dynamic replacement for the way Grunts currently works. Instead of Grunts running away because you killed their officer, I think it would be cool to have it so that they still stand and fight on their own as long as there are enough Grunt allies nearby. This system would also compliment the Grunt philosophy of strength in numbers; when more Grunts group up together, they become an effective fighting force. But when they are encountered individually, they show their weakness as single units. This is something already present in Halo, but this system would only strengthen this mechanic while also making Grunts a much more engaging foe in firefights.

Aside from this, I think the Grunts are good enemies as they are. I enjoy the dynamic that Grunt Rangers and Heavies bring to the battlefield, and I think adding too much to the Grunts would take away from their role on the field as cannon fodder. I think the system I discussed above would be the perfect way to evolve them without necessarily changing much in terms of their established role in the Covenant enemy sandbox. Also, as with Elites…please give us the classic rank/color relationship as a visual cue again!

Next up, we have Halo’s creepy, bird/raptor space pirates…

The Jackals.

JACKALS
This art is simply too epic for me NOT to use it.

Analysis: The Best Offense Is A Good…

The Jackals are a primarily defensive enemy type. Opting for either ranged rifles or personal defense shields, Jackals fill the role of area denial and damage mitigation in the Covenant. Similar to Grunts, they possess simple behavior and are deployed in high numbers against the player. However, unlike Grunts, Jackals are much more confident in firefights, and fight efficiently no matter what the situation is. The only time Jackals will retreat from the player is when:

  • The player breaks their shield
  • The player gets too close to a Jackal Ranger

After their shield recharges, or the Jackal Ranger retreats far back enough, the Jackal will then face the player in combat again. (Grunts almost never come out of fleeing mode, so Jackals are different in this regard as well)

C_gSVUpVwAAK_i1
Jackals work well with other Covenant ground units.

Keeping up with the pattern enemies having ranks, Jackals have three; Jackal Minors, Jackal Majors, and Jackal Rangers. Minors possess weaker, blue shields, while Majors have stronger, orange ones. (this is a visual cue 343 has thankfully kept in the newer games) Majors typically lead Minors and Grunts into battle, and Minors can act as leaders for Grunts as well. Both types act the same in combat, and both are smart enough to utilize the Plasma Pistol’s overcharge ability, which makes them potentially dangerous to your shielding or vehicle. Jackals act as compliments to Grunts, Elites and Brutes by requiring the player to carefully aim at the Jackal’s exposed hand, then line up a headshot when it stumbles. This can create openings for the other enemies in the field to take advantage and assault you while you’re trying to accurately kill Jackals by getting around their shield defenses. Jackals are also easily dealt with by throwing grenades at their feet, which break their shield and instantly kill them.

Jackal Rangers, on the other hand, fill the role of a sniper. instead of brawling with the player with shields like other Jackals do, Rangers go to high positions in the battlefield and attempt to pin down the player with deadly, accurate sniper fire with both Carbines and Beam Rifles. Players who get caught out in the open can be killed quickly by these area denial units, but Rangers can be out-sniped by the player with any precision weapon if the player peeks them from out of cover. Another tactic is to tap-fire an automatic weapon from range and hit the Ranger with a few rounds to cause them to stagger, giving you an opportunity to move closer for an easy kill. Rangers are easily differentiated from the regular Jackals by their headgear and lack of a personal shield. A recent addition to all Jackals in battle is the ability to melee the player.

JACKAL RANGER.png

The Innovation

I had a really cool idea for the Jackals that I think would add a lot to their role in the field. The shield Jackals could have a tactic where they react to an ally taking damage and move in as a team to shield that ally. For example, let’s say you’re fighting a lance composed of three Jackals and an Elite. You damage that Elite’s shield about three-fourths of the way, but before you can finish him off, he crouches down while his Jackal helpers form a small phalanx in front of him until his shield recharges. Then, the Elite gets back up and the Jackals fan out to their original positions. This ability could be worked around by taking one of them out and weakening their phalanx, or by throwing a grenade into the group of them, killing everything.

I think this would be an excellent way to flesh out the defensive nature of the Jackals as enemies. On top of this, it would also give front line Jackals a strong utility in combat, and helps make them feel more of a dynamic enemy, while also giving the player a strong incentive to use grenades wisely and not waste them so they can have one for when this happens.

In conclusion, I really think this ability would do nothing but add to the shield Jackal’s defensive utility in a firefight, and help make them feel more reactive and dynamic.

Speaking of Jackals, I think it’s time we take a closer look at their cousins…

The Skirmishers.

skirmishers.jpg
They be nimble, they be quick. They’re all fucking annoying dicks.

Analysis: Harass, Harass, Harass

Skirmishers, a sub-species of Jackals, are aggressive, agile, and mobile variants of their defensive cousins. Opting to trade energy shielding for more limb movement, the role of Skirmishers is to flank, harass, and annoy the player by getting in their face and peppering them with a hail of Plasma Pistol, Needler, or Needle Rifle fire. The fastest enemy on the battlefield by far, Skirmishers utilize their speed to dodge fire and close the distance, constantly zipping around while laying down fire on the player. If the player is accurate, they can eliminate Skirmishers easily with well-placed headshots; players with poorer aim will have some difficulty keeping up with their speed. Skirmishers often work in small groups to distract the player, and, like their shield-bearing cousins, create openings for other Covenant enemies to capitalize on. Skirmishers, as with all other species I’ve analyzed thus far, have ranks – Minor (gray), Major (red), and Champion (gold). Minors tend to be the least intelligent and mobile, and periodically stand still. Majors are more intelligent, tough and mobile, and dodge fire effectively. Champions are the strongest, most durable, and most mobile of the three. These Skirmishers are the deadliest kind, and can be considered an equivalent to a low-to-mid ranking Elite in terms of threat level.

In addition to this, there are two specialized types of Skirmishers: Murmillones and Commandos. Skirmisher Murmillones are distinguishable by their arm shields and orange armor plating; their primary role in the field is to flank the player and take them on by themselves gladiator-style, using their arm shields for protection. The olive green-clad Commandos, on the other hand, are tightly knit squads of Skirmishers that aggressively attack enemies in a hunter-killer fashion. To aid them in this task, they employ holograms that create holographic copies of themselves in order to confuse their targets.

The Innovation

I enjoy the way the Skirmishers fit into the Covenant enemy sandbox – there’s not really a dedicated flanking unit in the Covenant aside from the Skirmisher. If 343 ever chooses to bring them back, however, I do think something that would make them even more effective in this role is to give them some vertical options. Make it so that Skirmishers can climb and hang off walls with one arm and fire its weapon at you with the other; give the Skirmisher the ability to climb trees or other surfaces and position themselves in/on top of them to give them a vantage point. Something like this would add a true vertical aspect to the Covenant again, something that hasn’t been present since Halo 3: ODST and the Drones. I think this ability would create a lot of cool opportunities for the Skirmishers to interact with the level design as well, whilst remaining faithful to their style of combat. The positive ripples that I suspect this change would send throughout the Covenant engagement design would be awesome.

Next up, we’re going to take a look at my second favorite enemy type in the Covenant, after the Elites…

The Hunters.

FUCKIN HUNTERS.jpg
Hunters are the largest infantry unit the Covenant deploy by FAR. When standing completely upright, the average Hunter is over 12 feet tall – that’s taller than Wraiths!

Analysis: Walking Tanks

The Hunters are the definition of shock troopers. Covered head-to-toe in thick, starship-rated armor plating and equipped with both a nearly impenetrable shield and a devastating Fuel Rod Cannon/Launcher (depending on which game they are encountered in) the Hunter is already an incredibly dangerous foe by themselves; the Covenant chooses to deploy them in pairs in order to double their effectiveness and cover each other’s rear blind spot.

Across all of the games, Hunters generally tend to engage the player passively by attacking them with Fuel Rod fire (the player can tell when they’re about to fire by listening to the weapon charge up) at range – they don’t engage in close combat unless the player gets close to them. However, should the player manage to kill one of the Hunters by any means, the other will go into a raging frenzy, completely foregoing using its firearm and instead opting to charge the player and attempt to smash them into the ground with its thick metal shield. This behavior is hinted at by loud roaring done by the Hunter. The player can easily avoid the shield swing and take the opportunity to get behind the Hunter and damage their weak spot as they whiff; continually doing so will eventually win the player the engagement. As Hunters are impervious to small arms fire from the front, heavy weapons are needed to kill Hunters in a direct assault; if the player lacks these, then they will have to get creative and find a way to use the environment of the battlefield to get behind one or both of the Hunters, or risk facing both Hunters in close combat in order to juke them out and damage them from behind that way.

The majority of the time, Hunters are deployed against the player by themselves in mini-boss scenarios. Because of this, they don’t react much to other AI or coordinate with them. Additionally, Hunters lack any rank – there are just Hunters. (I don’t consider the gold Hunter from ODST a separate rank because there’s no discernible difference from the regular Hunters aside from the different firing mode)

HUNTER 8D
Talk about intimidating. 

The Innovation

A big issue I had with the Hunters in Bungie’s games (Halo 4 too) were that they were way too easy to exploit. Their Fuel Rod projectile was dangerous, but the beam variant was stupidly easy to avoid. On top of this, their shield swing animation was pathetically easy to dodge as well, and it made them a lot less difficult than their imposing frame would lead you to believe.

Halo 5 did some things for the Hunters that I think greatly improved them as an enemy, including faster melee attack, better aim with their projectile, and giving them a “machine gun” firing mode for their weapon that tracked the player and allowed them to be dangerous at any range by switching between the two modes of fire. However, in some ways these changes take away from the Hunters’ traditional engagement design. Close combat was no longer a risk/reward scenario; it was suicidal, as their melee is now unavoidable. And their “machine gun” weapon was something that felt very “non-Hunter” like as well.

So the question is, how can we make the Hunters a challenging enemy, while also remaining similar to the past iterations of them?

My solution is to keep the dual firing modes, but replace the “machine gun” with a fast-moving beam weapon similar to the Hunters from Halo 2 and Halo 3. Improve the Hunters’ tracking (and remove the auto-aim the machine gun has now) so that this attack would actually be a threat, but make it so the beam can still be avoided if the player moves to cover before the Hunter leads their aim enough on the player to hit them. Then, the Hunter switches to the projectile explosive mode when the player gets closer.

As for the issues with the melee animation, I think I have a good solution for that as well. The speed definitely needs to be lowered to the point where a well-timed jump will still get you out of the way, but I do think that the animation should be a lot faster than the ones seen in past Halo games. However – as you damage the Hunter through whatever means, I think that as their health gets closer to zero, their melee animations should become slower and slower until finally they move as slow or even a little slower than they did in the Bungie-era before finally dying. I think this system of health/speed correlation would make the berserk mechanic after you kill one of them VERY satisfying in that you feel like you’re whittling down a rage-driven beast by skillfully dodging their faster attacks and being rewarded with slower ones as you damage them before finally delivering the final blow, rather than just pressing A to avoid an excruciatingly slow melee animation, shooting their back, and repeating this three or four times. I think it would do wonders to make the Hunters feel like a dynamically challenging, but fair enemy, and I also think it would cause an awesome feeling of “pressing your advantage” against the Hunter as it desperately tries to crush you while you damage it and slowly eat its strength away.

Now it’s time to tackle the Covenant’s most savage, uncivilized beasts…

The Brutes.

brutes.jpg
The Brutes are the Covenant’s most aggressive enemy type.

Analysis: Savagery In It’s Purest Form

Since Halo 3’s Brutes were designed by Bungie to replace the Elites due to the narrative direction and Elites not being enemies in that game, I’m going to focus on the Halo 2/Reach ones in this analysis.

The Brutes are summed up perfectly with one phrase:

ruth.gif
Brush up on your lip-reading…

In case you’re not able to discern what Mr. Cena is saying here, I’ll help you out.

Ruthless aggression.

THAT is the hallmark of a Brute in Halo. The Brutes aren’t smart, they’re not cunning. But the Brutes are very, very aggressive in combat.

Unfortunately, the brutal simplicity of their behavior (non-stop attacking) leaves me with little to analyze in terms of AI, aside from the basic formula of Brutes berserking if you get too close to them or damage them enough (oddly, they never did this in Reach). However, Brutes do have ranks. Similar to Grunts, very little changes between the ranks aside from weapons and health values, barring the Chieftain. Different than the other species, however, is the way their ranks are differentiated; Brutes of higher rank possess more visible armor than lower ranked Brutes.

The Brute Minors in Halo 2/Reach bore almost no armor save for helmets and some shoulder and leg pads. They frequently wield standard weapons like Spikers, Plasma Rifles and Plasma Repeaters. Brute Majors (Brute Captains and Honor Guard Brutes in 2) had additional armor plating and fielded higher tier weapons such as Brute Shots or Carbines, and some of them even wield Gravity Hammers. Chieftains (only present in Reach) almost always had Gravity Hammers or Plasma Cannons, as well as some energy shielding and even more armor. Something common to all Brutes (except for Brute Minors in Halo: Reach) is the ability to berserk. This is similar to the way Elites do, but much more ferociously to compensate for their weak skills with firearms and positioning on the battlefield. Brutes can charge the player at breakneck speed, using their high HP pools to absorb damage before delivering savage, deadly blows via melee attacks. The one crippling counter to this, however, is well-aimed headshots; one or two headshots to a Brute will instantly kill it, no matter how much health it has.

BRUTE GUY
Chieftains are considered the highest ranking types of Brutes among the standard Covenant ground forces.

The Innovation

Trying to think of something to improve the Brutes without making them feel like Elites (again, which is why I left Halo 3’s out of this as they were intended to be like Elites due to the absence of Elites as enemies) was a challenge, but I did have one idea.

What if the Brutes did something along the lines of picking up nearby Grunts or Jackals and using them as meat-shields as they charged the player? Imagine triggering a Grunt to run away from you, only to have its Brute officer angrily roar, heave the creature up by one arm and hold it in front of it as it ran towards you, letting its body absorb rounds, only to toss the corpse aside right before the Brute leaped at you and attempted to kill you. Another thing they could do is maybe have the Brute opt to throw the Grunt or Jackal at you instead, and if you get hit by it, it could cause your shields to weaken and your visor to momentarily get splattered with their blood before it gets wiped off, Republic Commando-style During this time the Brute would try to berserk you, taking advantage of your weak shields and obstructed vision. Brutal things like this to me seem like awesome ways that the Brutes can make up for their low intelligence on the field, while also remaining characteristic of their savage nature.

Now that we’ve covered the Brutes, I think it’s time that we evaluate the deadly butterflies of the Covenant…

The Drones.

DRONES.jpg
Similar to Grunts, the strength of the Drones is in their numbers.

Analysis: Swarm & Destroy

The Drones, in many ways, behave as “flying Grunts” in that they are individually weak, but can be extremely deadly if the player encounters an entire swarm of them in an open area. Utilizing their modified anti-grav wings, Drones zip through the air in huge groups that range anywhere from 10 to 50, raining a hail of Plasma Pistol and Needler rounds down on the player from several different angles.

Their behavior isn’t exactly smart; on the contrary, it’s rather simple. However, that’s fine in this case, as intelligence isn’t what’s important here. What makes them deadly is the ability to fill the air with death from all sides if the player doesn’t take steps to burn through the swarm. This can be done best with automatic weapons, and in a game where headshots are a super integral part of the formula, an enemy that is strong against precision weapons definitely does wonders to mix the engagements up a little and give some opportunities for weapons like the Assault Rifle or SMG to shine in the usually BR/DMR-dominant PvE experience. It’s also worth noting that unlike most races in the Covenant, Drones don’t have a specific rank. (Unless you count the “Drone Major” with shields in Reach, but I don’t, since they appear only once)

DRONES 2.jpg
Due to their small size and ability to traverse distance quickly by flying, Drones often traveled through pipes, vents and other small tunnel pathways.

The Innovation

I think the Drones are actually perfect where they’re at right now, to be honest. If there’s an enemy I wouldn’t touch at all in the Covenant, it would be the Drones. However, I do think there’s some potential for some cool interplay with the level design with them. For example, let’s say there’s a mission where you have to go through the inside of a human ship boarded by Covenant. Throughout the level you can see Drones dart in and out of vents on the ship, and you have the option to kill them, if you’re quick enough. Later on, near the end of the level, you encounter a large swarm of Drones – the amount of Drones in this group depend on how well you were able to kill the Drones moving between vents. This type of dynamic would give the player some choice. Do you want to take them all on like a badass? Or do you want to thin their numbers out beforehand for an easier fight? Just a little idea I had for them that I think would be a cool dynamic addition to their place within the levels.

And now, last, but certainly not least, we have our tentacle-clad friends…

The Engineers.

ENGINEER
The only alien in the Covenant roster that doesn’t want to brutally murder you.

Analysis: Battlefield Support

The Engineers are fairly simple, and there’s nothing really to analyze besides basic role here. They hover high in the sky, projecting overshields onto all Covenant soldiers within its radius. The Engineer doesn’t move at all unless it’s shot, after which it will attempt to move away from the danger. It also lacks combat capability, meaning that it relies on its allies for protection. If the Engineer survives, but all of it’s allies are dead, the bomb attached to its body explodes to kill it and prevent it from falling into human hands.

ENGI BUDDY
Best friends forever!

The Innovation

For Engineers I came up with a cool idea. What if the whole “suicide bomb” mechanic was scrapped, and we were rewarded with the Engineer shielding us until the enemy manages to kill it if we manage to kill its original “owners” without killing the Engineer? To me, it seems like a cool opportunity for some player choice. We can either shoot and kill the Engineer to remove the overshield from our enemies, or we can choose to defeat the overshielded enemies and get rewarded with a new ally that will assist us in future engagements. I think it would be interesting, especially when you factor in the units the Engineer may be with. For instance, it might be worth it to just kill it so we don’t have to fight shielded Hunters, but if it’s just with some low ranking Brutes and Grunts, it just might be worth saving for when we have to face, say, Elite Ultras later in the level.

And with that, my friends, comes the end of my analysis/brainstorming session on how we can improve every Covenant foe we’ve encountered up to this point in the Halo series! If you have any ideas, comment them here or let me know via my Twitter which you can find on the sidebar of the blog!

Thanks for reading, and remember to set blasters to stun – Lord Vader wants the princess alive.

Love,

Lor

4 thoughts on “How Covenant Enemies Can Be Innovated Upon In Future Halo Games

  1. This is an extremely comprehensive guide that 343 should definitely take note of.

    One thing I would say is why not add ranks to certain species? ODST showed an interesting view with ranked Hunters and Drones.
    1. Why not have the Hunters carrying different weapons depending on rank (like in SPV3)
    2. Why not have higher ranked drones act as “swarm leaders”. These swarm leaders could coordinate drones to either prioritize specific targets (i.e. have them focus fire on the spartan instead of the marines) or shield the leader itself, only attacking once the number of drones reaches a certain threshold. The higher the rank, the more drones they control, and you can mix drone ranks into these swarms which could lead to a “divide and conquer” scenario. i.e. A Drone Ultra controls a large swarm of drones, a few of which are Drone Majors. You could choose to eliminate the ultra first, but this would divide the swarm into smaller mini-swarms that can attack more unpredictably, or whittle down their numbers until you face the deadlier ranks at the end.

    Keep up the good work!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I see you don’t monetize your site, don’t waste your traffic, you can earn extra cash every month because
    you’ve got hi quality content. If you want to know how to make extra $$$,
    search for: best adsense alternative Wrastain’s tools

    Like

  3. Field Major Dabrowski. April 7, 2018 — 8:44 am

    Nice.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this:
search previous next tag category expand menu location phone mail time cart zoom edit close