Lately we’ve been focusing on the weapons in Halo 4. We’ve covered both the UNSC and Covenant arsenals, and today we are featuring the Forerunner side of things. In total, there are seven Forerunner weapons, including the Pulse Grenade. One of the best components of Halo has always been the combat sandbox, so it was both scary and challenging to create a whole new suite of weapons from scratch that were interesting, unique and balanced with the rest of the offerings.
Before settling on the final list, the team made concepts for approximately two hundred weapons. One of the biggest struggles was figuring out the high level vision and what made these alien weapons different from the Covenant and Brute weapons seen in past games. The vision we had for the Forerunner weapons was that they should feel technologically superior while still maintaining mechanical elements that made them visceral and relatable. We wanted them to evoke a sense of wonder and awe in the hands of players, similar to how you feel when you encounter Forerunner structures in the game. We also wanted them to be adaptive – both to the user and with regard to how they can be used.
The Scattershot was the first Forerunner weapon where everything started to click. Originally codenamed the “Spread Gun”, the Scattershot started off life as a rapid-fire shotgun that fired off a barrage of five projectiles in a symmetrical diamond pattern. The team started experimenting with having the weapon form around the player using it. We tried a couple different things, but ultimately, the concept of having the weapon assemble upon pick-up really resonated with the team. It also helped solve some other design issues we had around the drastically different Forerunner character models and how they would utilize the same guns that the player would eventually be able to use. For example, in the case of the Scattershot, the gun forms slightly differently to accommodate the Knight arms in that it actually attaches to the end of their forearm. We also started experimenting with adding more grounded elements to the weapons so that there was a unique juxtaposition of “super sci-fi futuristic” with components that were relatable to modern day weaponry. In the case of the Scattershot, that included trying out a hinge-action reloading animation and using more traditional individual cartridges that mimic how a traditional shotgun works.
On the gameplay side, we took a high level abstract concept of “adaptive weaponry”, considered how we could apply that to the gameplay itself, and started posing the question, “How can we extend the functionality of a shotgun and give it some added gameplay depth?” This is ultimately what led to the bouncing projectiles. In addition to functioning like a normal shotgun, it also had the expanded capability of allowing players to ricochet shots in tight spaces and use the weapon in a way that is distinct from the UNSC shotgun. You can see this theme infused in some of the other Forerunner weapons as well – the Bolt Shot and LightRifle both have dual firing modes, and the Pulse Grenade can be used tactically in several different ways.
The final component that really helped pull everything together with the Forerunner weapon subset was the work that the Audio and Visual FX teams did. We had a concept of “hard light” tech that powered the Forerunner weapons, but this meant different things to different members of the team. Originally, this concept was meant to be used as a kick-off point for the projectiles themselves but as the FX guys played around with it more, they came up with things like the animating light panels on the sides of guns. The Scattershot was pretty impressive prior to this – it had the bouncing projectiles, the really cool animations on the gun, and the satisfying gameplay, but the light panels really pulled everything together and made it stand out that much more from the other weapons. The other big “a-ha” moment involved the incineration effect that was being developed for the Knights death effect. We started integrating a similar effect into the weapon gameplay to add one final piece of flair, and that is a large part of what makes the Scattershot, Binary Rifle, and Incineration Cannon so satisfying to use.
Take a look at the seven Forerunner weapons in action by watching the following (new and wubby!) video, which features a sample from the 14-track remix album (not the original soundtrack).
If you’d like to hear the Forerunner weapon sound effects in all their otherworldly glory, here is the same video without the music.
Chris King (Lead Sandbox Designer), David Ellis (Spartan Ops Designer), and Christopher Blohm (Senior Sandbox Designer), along with Josh Holmes, Alyson Szymanski, Humberto Castaneda, Jeremy Patenaude, Brad Welch, Vic DeLeon, Paul Featherstone, Ali Zandi, Bill Clark, Kynan Pearson, Robert Pearsall, Chase Thompson, Jayce Diaz, Annie Wright, Leonard Holman, Sam Wolpert, and Tom Mathews joined me to share their thoughts about this particular subset of weapons. The Forerunners utilize the following base weapons:
Forerunner particle dilator used for both its precision at mid-range and its burst functionality when up close.
David - It’s taken a while for me to completely wrap my head around all the combat options the Boltshot provides, but I think I’m finally there. In fact, for non-vehicle maps it’s pretty much my go-to secondary weapon at this moment in time. Timing the bolt blast effectively sets the average player apart from someone who will gladly wreck your face with a pistol. The animations in particular help to set this weapon apart as a beast. The first time you pick it up, your Spartan’s entire arm convulses as if you’re not sure if your Mjolnir will be able to contain all the energy packed into this tiny weapon of destruction.
Chris B. - This is a fascinating secondary weapon. With two fire modes, it gives you options… and we all need options. I rate it slightly under the Magnum when firing normally. The beauty comes when you figure in the charged shotgun-like blast. For players who enjoy the corner fight or lurk-about it can be a killer. Also on some maps, like Adrift, it can be used to great effect. I should say great effect in the right hands. It takes some skill and time to get a feel for the optimum range and the timing, but it is extremely satisfying to disintegrate a hard charging enemy that dismisses your pistol.
Chris K. - This gun has a bit of a learning curve on it but once you figure it out, it’s a ton of fun. It features two firing modes (similar to a Plasma Pistol). The primary firing mode does headshots and fires extremely fast. However, it doesn’t have a scope and each individual shot is relatively weak. This makes it a great option for playing cleanup on enemies up close. The secondary firing mode is where things get really interesting. If you hold the trigger down, four flaps on the gun flip open and it does a powerful charge shot that functions like a shotgun blast. The blast is extremely powerful but it is also hard to pull off as you will need to learn the timing as you can’t hold the trigger down indefinitely (much like the Railgun, it will eventually auto-fire). It’s also only effective at extremely close ranges. I think of all the Forerunner weapons, this one has the coolest animations of the bunch (and that’s saying something, as they are all pretty cool). The reload and charge-up animations are totally rad!
Paul (Assistant Director of Photography) - The Boltshot has become my go-to sidearm in MP because of the double functionality of the charge blast. Nailing someone coming around the corner with a one-shot kill is always satisfying.
Sam (Software Development Engineer) - I love the Boltshot because of its secondary fire mode. It's the ultimate risk/reward trade-off: you have to start charging at exactly the right time or the blast will fire before your enemy is at point-blank range. Get your timing right, though, and this handy little Forerunner pistol will send your opponents straight to deathcam with a single shot. Unleashing the Boltshot on an unsuspecting player coming around a corner is immensely satisfying. It's also a great weapon to pair with weapons that are more effective at longer ranges, like the BR, DMR, and LightRifle. Charging opponents wielding short-range weapons got you down? Don't worry, a couple of encounters with your trusty Boltshot will make them think twice about coming near you, making it that much easier to pick them off with a series of well-aimed headshots from your rifle of choice.
Fully automatic Forerunner infantry weapon, firing bolts of hard light in rapidly accelerating succession.
Chris B. - People say “spray and pray”. I say, in the right situations, feather the trigger and dance on the corpses. On tight maps, one of my favorite loadouts is the Firepower package with a DMR and Suppressor (DMR for the heavy lifting and the Suppressor for the CQB and cleaning up). Mid-range combat with a Suppressor, just say no. Seriously.
David - At first glance, the Suppressor might seem like a less accurate cousin to the AR, and you might not be entirely wrong in that initial assessment. However, this Forerunner SMG has a special place in my heart as it just plain shreds enemy Knights at close quarters. As Chris said, this weapon should only be used at closer ranges, but if you’re smart about positioning your Spartan relative to sightlines and geo, you will be rewarded.
Chris K. - If you like close-quarters combat in tight spaces, this is the gun for you! Individual shots are relatively weak, but it more than makes up for it with sheer brute force. It features an enormous clip (48 bullets) and the fastest firing rate of any of the fully-auto primary weapons (roughly 150% faster firing than the AR or Storm Rifle). The projectiles slow down over time so to be effective, you really need to use it like an SMG, although you can still psychologically overwhelm enemies at range with a barrage of projectiles. I find myself always rolling with the Suppressor on Adrift as the tight hallways really favor the strengths of the gun. It’s oh-so-satisfying to have someone come around a corner and be able to unload half a clip into them before they even realize what hit them.
Alyson (Producer) - The suppressor has slowly won me over and become my favorite Promethean weapon. It feels good, sounds good, and breaking a Knight’s shield just before finishing him off or the popping death of a Watcher is a satisfying kill.
Annie (Editor) - There are players who operate like armored ninjas with guns: Swift, precise and most of all stealthy. This gun is not for those people. This gun is for players like me, whose strategy (if I can be said to have one) is more along the lines of “Expect to die, shoot anything that moves, and try to take as many of those moving things with me when I go”. I’ve always preferred closer combat to long-range attacks, and the Suppressor allows me to get fairly near and still cover a pretty decent area without sacrificing too much in the way of power. Combine with the Ammo Upgrade to put your carrying capacity over the top and Shield Package to make up for lack of cover if you want to experiment with the Suppressor on larger maps, and you’re in pretty decent shape!
Brad (Lead Designer) - At very close range, the Suppressor lays down the smack far more quickly than either the AR or Storm Rifle. It's a great weapon in maps such as Adrift where you have plenty of cover and corners. If you play the ambush game or use cover to quickly close distance, you can be devastating with it. The Suppressor's effective range drops off quickly, so you don't want to get caught in the open or a long hallway with it. Pair that sucker with some form of precision weaponry - a Magnum or use the Firepower Tactical Package to get a second precision primary.
Close-combat weapon with a deadly blast at short-range and a versatile ricochet effect against hard surfaces.
David - The Scattershot is a perfect example of the combined efforts of the sandbox designer plus the animation, art, and sound teams really creating a showpiece weapon. I think it’s been mentioned before, but the Scattershot (in its current incarnation) helped the team for a cohesive vision about the Forerunner weapons in general. Much like the UNSC shotgun, it’s absolutely satisfying to blast away foe after foe in close quarter encounters. Word of warning though: Because of the lightshow ignited with every trigger pull, this weapon is more difficult to conceal than its human-themed counterpart.
Chris B. - Not your Dad’s UNSC Shotgun. It’s not as straight of a beast as the raw power of the human tech, but it gives you a little more tactical flexibility. I find its range slightly extended from that of the a shotgun and occasionally will try to bank shots with the higher ROF of the Scattershot. Plus… disintegration.
Chris K. - By now, I’m sure most people are pretty familiar with this one. It’s a Forerunner shotgun, with ricocheting bullets that allow for really interesting tactics in tight spaces. Oh, and if you blast a guy up close, you get that totally sweet Forerunner incineration effect. This gun is definitely in my top three favorite power weapons. The FX, the animations, and it’s just so satisfying to fire. If you use it correctly, you can go on an absolute terror. One pro-tip – I see some people try to use this from longer distances than they should. Don’t be fooled by the projectiles; this weapon is lethal up close but you won’t have much luck starting a dual against a DMR player 100’ away.
Vic (Lead Mission Artist) - I love the Scattershot because it’s so much freaking fun to use. I can’t compare it to any other weapon. You can aim for your target like most weapons, which is no doubt how you will fire it for the first time like I did, but once I understood the projectiles and how they ricochet off hard surfaces (the non-meat-made surfaces), I started using it more strategically – aiming at floors, walls and ceilings. I’ve been able to bounce shots off corners and nail players, taking out shields then going in for the death blow. (It’s true, I have been known to shriek wildly when I get one of these in a game).
Josh (Creative Director) - The Scattershot is what would happen if a shotgun and a roman candle made deadly babies. Essentially a futuristic shotgun that explodes with the heat of a miniature sun, the Scattershot will disintegrate anyone that takes the full brunt of its attack. As an added bonus, you can bounce projectiles off surfaces, making bank shot kills utterly possible.
Kynan (Lead Multiplayer Level Design) - I like the Scattershot because Brrrrauwwww… Brrrrauwwww… Brrrrauwwww… Brrrrauwwww… Brrrrauwwww!!
Precision weapon that uses particle acceleration to fire beams of hard light for mid-range to long-range combat.
David - Best of both worlds, master of subtlety, these are terms that I just wrote to describe the LightRifle. Neither quite captures the complexity of this piece of kit. I find both firing modes are a tiny bit less forgiving than the DMR and BR, but definitely put in the time to master the subtle idiosyncrasies of the LR. Your efforts will be rewarded.
Chris B. - Of the rifle class, the LR offers a bit more tactical options for the player (I’m sensing a theme here). It gives you the best of the BR and the DMR, depending on if you are scoped. Don’t be thrown off by the distinctive sound or the scope; use it to its strengths in all encounters, and you will be happy.
Chris K. - The LightRifle is a long-range semi-auto precision rifle. It features a 3x zoom, hitscan projectiles that do headshots, but, most importantly, it features two firing modes. The best way to think of it is a hybrid of the BR and DMR. When firing from the hip, it fires in three-round bursts, similar to a BR. Once the player zooms however, the gun switches over to a more powerful firing mode and combines the normal three projectiles into a singular shot. When zoomed, the LightRifle can kill a Spartan in four shots (w/headshot). That being said, there are still tradeoffs here that make it balanced in line with the other semi-auto weapons. It fires slightly slower when zoomed, and it’s just a smidge less viable from the hip versus the other stuff. Overall, this is a formidable weapon and has developed a cult following internally at 343.
Josh (Creative Director) - The Light Rifle provides the ultimate in versatility when it comes to a mid-to-long range precision weapon. In many ways, it's a combination of the BR and DMR. It's a little slower to transition into zoom compared to the BR and DMR, and you give up some additional situational awareness, but the sound alone is enough to strike fear into the heart of your opponent.
Extreme-range sniper rifle, designed to take down even heavily armored infantry with a single shot.
David - Poo-inducing. That’s how I describe the gut-clenching terror shuddering through my body every time I see the telltale laser sight of the Binary Rifle projecting across the map. Unlike other sniper rifles, this beastly harbinger of death is a one-hit kill rifle. ONE HIT. It’s a pretty rare ordnance drop and in Matchmaking, it doesn’t carry much ammo. But if you see the HUD marker announcing its arrival on the battlefield, RUN. Either towards the Binary Rifle in a mad, Hunger Games-like scramble, or away as fast as possible in the hopes that person wielding this weapon has difficulties tracking targets over extreme distances.
Chris B. - Boss. That’s really it (This gun rules. It has a hefty tell, but when your enemies are nothing more than carbon blowing away on the wind, why do you care?).
Chris K. - This gun is absolutely devastating! When someone manages to get one of these in MP, it’s a game changer. At its core, it’s a Forerunner sniper rifle. Unlike the other sniper weapons in the game, you don’t necessarily have to get a headshot though to score a kill. If you hit a Spartan anywhere, they will quickly incinerate from the point of impact in a spectacular fashion. That being said, there are some significant tradeoffs in using this weapon. For starters, it has a clip size of two, meaning you will need to reload more often than you will with the other sniper rifles. In addition, it is extremely inaccurate when shooting from the hip (think shotgun-sized firing cone, meaning you shouldn’t expect to have much luck no-scoping unless you are in someone’s face). And finally, when scoped, several laser sights on the gun are enabled that act as a tell to opposing players (think a more in-your-face version of the Splaser tell). I love the way this gun instantly changes the dynamic in MP, though. When someone gets one and scopes it and you see the lasers aiming towards you, it’s time to stop what you are doing and get to cover pronto!
Humberto (Producer) - I absolutely love disintegrating enemies with the Binary Rifle, which is essentially the Forerunner sniper weapon. Watch out for Crawlers peeking out with that ominous red light, though. All they need is an instant and then… ZAP! Total protonic reversal.
Josh (Creative Director) - Like the name implies, the Binary Rifle is a one-shot instakill when you hit anywhere on your opponent's body. Nothing is more satisfying than zooming in and nailing an opponent from across the map, and watching as they are immediately incinerated from the point of impact.
Chase (Audio) - I love watching someone derez after a headshot with the Binary Rifle. That weapon just feels so dangerous and powerful, and sounds so huge that I can’t resist picking it up every time I see one!
Jeremy (Franchise Writer) - This weapon is no friggin’ joke. Last week, we were playing Regicide on an unannounced map, which is a large symmetrical map that fans will unquestionably dig – evergreen, plenty hilly, and Forerunnerlicious. Generally speaking, you don’t play Regicide on maps this large, but we were doing it, and it was AWESOME. At any rate, I had been trading the King spot with one other player the entire match, and it looked like he was going to pull away with it because time was running out and he had just climbed into a vehicle that is a straight-up death dealer. He was about to square-off against three other players who were rushing him with small arms (not sure what they were thinking). They didn’t have a chance, it was a certain win for him... until an ordnance drop fell from the sky: The Binary Rifle! I raced to it, drew it up and fired on two of the other players, instantly turning them into ash. I reloaded, fired on the third for another instant kill, and then fired on my nemesis to secure the victory. And his -Yoink!- exploded into a million pieces. Such a crazy ending to such a crazy match.
Jayce (Spartan Ops Designer) - The Binary Rifle, or Bi-Ri as it’s affectionately called, is my favorite Promethean weapon hands-down. It’s incredibly powerful in the right hands (or wrong hands, if you’ve come up against a Knight Ranger). The trade-off here is the two-shot ammo capacity, but two shots are all you really need. If you’re good, an Elite will go down in one hit, while a Knight typically takes two. Just don’t miss.
Ali (Systems Designer) - The Binary Rifle is a great way to spear through multiple Spartans with one shot. It’s quite interesting because it will give away your position when you are zoomed in as a counter balance to its lethality. You can also try to use it like a shotgun, which is quite BAUS!
Robert (Test) - Lift the Binary Rifle to your eye, double zoom-in on a Promethean Knight, reticle between his eyes and pull the trigger to feel the WHUMP of the energy leave the weapon as he derezzes.
Kynan (Lead Multiplayer Level Design) - The Binary Rifle is my favorite Halo power weapon ever. It’s like Christmas every time you pick it up. A one-hit kill no matter where you hit an enemy. It’s sooo good when you just barely clip someone’s foot and then watch as they fragment into thousands of angry burning embers. I also love that even though it’s incredibly powerful, when someone is zoomed in and looking to take a shot, you can see a laser leading to everything they are looking at. Points you right to where they are.
Powerful shoulder-mounted weapon that launches highly charged particles at a target with explosive results.
David - I love watching someone use the Incineration cannon for the first time, as it often ends in hilarity and self-immolation. The submunitions offer a new wrinkle to the concept of the traditional “rocket launcher” weapon class. You definitely want to make sure you keep your distance from your intended target in as many situations as possible, but I try to use the particular personality of this weapon to my advantage. Enemy camping around the corner? Well, fire your main shot as close as possible and watch the submuntions bounce and explode right on top of your unsuspecting foe. Campaign pro tip: Beware the Incinerator-wielding Knight Commanders. They are deadly. You cannot outgun them so you’re required to outthink them.
Chris B. - Devastating, and at times fickle. The main round is slightly less deadly than the UNSC Rocket Launcher but also MIRVs into four submunitions. These subs can catch the people that try to jump the main round, as they can bounce out and hit people on the edge of the area-of-effect that survived the main, and they can break your heart occasionally by missing entirely. With great power comes great heartbreak (or something like that). It’s a fun weapon to use in all cases, especially against vehicles and groups of enemies. Try shooting it at a low ceiling above an enemy sometime.
Chris K. - This is another Forerunner Weapon that has the ability to incinerate opponents. This can lead to especially impressive multi-kills given the large area-of-effect/submunitions. Not too long ago, I was able to kill four enemies with one shot, and watching them all dissolve in front of me was about as satisfying as it gets. Another cool moment I witnessed with this one involved a teammate firing it near a speeding Warthog with three enemy passengers, all of which were killed and starting dissolving while seated in the ‘Hog. Rad! Worth noting here, this weapon has an especially long reload time; you have to reload between every shot, and the projectile itself is fairly slow. This means you really need to connect with your shot, or you will be at a disadvantage to your opponents.
Bill (Software Development Engineer) - My favorite weapon is the Incineration Cannon. Even just the initial warhead is punchy and powerful. When you add in the chaos of the submunitions flying around, it’s a recipe for mayhem and destruction. The fact that whoever you just wrecked is dissolving into a million glowy bits is the icing on the cake. The awesome reloading effects as you prepare for another shot is the cherry on top.
Leonard (UI Engineer) - You just gotta love the Incineration Cannon; it’s like a Rocket Launcher that spawns baby Promethean bombs. It’s a pain in the ass when your enemy has one aimed at you since you know you’ll likely turn into Promethean fairy dust. However, when the tables are turned and you’ve got one of these bad boys slung on your shoulder, you know whoever you see next is pretty much dead. Another cool thing about this gun is, if the initial hit doesn’t kill, the splash damage will likely finish what your aim couldn’t, plus it will likely take out anyone or anything near it! The only real drawbacks are the reload speed and that you’ll likely shoot your eye out if you’re not careful... splash damage works both ways.
Sam (Software Development Engineer) - Apparently, the Forerunners don't mess around when it comes to blowing stuff up. The Incineration Cannon is probably my favorite weapon in the game. It's like the Rocket Launcher, if the Rocket Launcher fired an oscillating cluster of energy that disintegrated any unfortunate soul it came into contact with. Rockets explode on impact; on impact, the projectile fired by the Incineration Cannon divides into *more* packets of energy that *also* disintegrate anyone unlucky enough to be in the way. Explosions are awesome. Fountains of disintegration are awesomer.
Tom (Software Development Engineer) - This thing is a beast. If you see it pop up on your HUD, get ready with your grenades as you close distance because there’s going to be another few Spartans making a beeline for it. Once you have this beauty in your hands, aim carefully because you have to reload after each shot. But it’s so very, very worth it: the gentle pull of the trigger sends out a number of projectiles weaving towards your foe. Upon impact, these projectiles then blossom out from the initial detonation into a cascade of secondary explosions. Nothing feels better than slamming a fresh round into the cannon while watching three or four of your enemies disintegrate into electronic dust.
A field-effect-generating attenuation device used to overload both simple and complex power networks, forcing them temporarily offline.
David - The Pulse Grenade is an odd beast. It’s extremely powerful in the right hands, but it requires you to use it differently from other Halo grenades. I find it be most useful as an anti-vehicle or area-ofdenial weapon.
Chris B. - The Pulse Grenade adds a lot to the dynamic of the battlefield. It does constant damage for the life of the sphere, but you should be most concerned about the blast when the sphere forms and when it collapses. Since it doesn’t bounce, you can place it accurately. Try throwing at a person’s feet for a huge hit on their shields, or throw it behind them and force them back into it. Or, if you need to run for your life, throw it down and go. Enemies rarely will charge through it, and the screen shake can throw off that final killing shot. Remember, you only get one with a normal loadout, but it can change the battlefield, so don’t shy away from its use.
Chris K. - Functionally, this is somewhat similar to the Halo 3 Power Drain. It’s a bit different from the other grenades in that it doesn’t bounce off surfaces; instead it will stick to the ground/walls and then pop out and detonate a split-second later. This means you can be a bit more precise with it than you can with the frag or sticky ‘nades. It also makes for some interesting ambush options when you consider the bounce (for example, toss it above the ceiling in front of a door way to surprise someone before they run through). It’s great for area-of-denial and is a favorite of mine for objective-based MP modes. As mentioned above, one significant tradeoff with the Pulse Grenade is that you only get one grenade by default in MP (two w/the Grenadier Armor Mod).
And that wraps up today’s feature about Forerunner weapons. Stick around, though, because I still have lots to talk about. And “lots” is an understatement.