The Battle Rifle Debate

The HaloWars.com forums are both new and very busy. It has been difficult at time to get at the interesting discussions because so much time has been taken up by the same issues over and over again. Since the announcement of Halo Wars, some eleven thousand posts have been made. About half of them are about why marines have battle rifles.

Things are improving. Their FAQ, while short, one can assume will be expanded at some point. Two sticky threads, on most-often discussed issues and instructions to new posters have gone up to try and keep duplicates to a minimum.

Still, this has barely stemmed the tide of those who wonder about the battle rifle's presence.

I'll try to put this question to rest once and for all here. Wish me luck.

Click "read more" from the front page for the entire article.


When discussing items like weapons in a game, there are two contexts to consider: the position of the weapon as an artifact within the fictional construct of the story, and the position of the weapon as a gameplay object within the game.

In the transition from Halo 1 to Halo 2, there are two prominent weapons-related issues: the upgrade of the rifle and the nerfing of the pistol.

As gameplay objects, this is relatively easy to explain, because Bungie has already set out their reasons for making the changes in the documentary contents of the Halo 2 Limited Edition DVD. They felt that the pistol in Halo 1 was unrealistically overpowered. Rather than being a sidearm, a backup weapon, it became the primary weapon because it was so powerful and accurate and had such a large magazine.

Conversely, the assault rifle behaved less like a rifle and more like a submachine gun. Slow-loading and with a high rate of fire, it was not particularly deadly or accurate.

Breaking What's Fixed
Bungie expressed a desire to reverse this trend in the second game; to make the rifle act more like a rifle and be the player's favorite weapon, and to make the pistol less powerful, and more like a sidearm. This is exactly what we see in Halo 2; the battle rifle behaves much more like the Halo 1 pistol than the new Magnum pistol does, and the assault rifle was replaced with the high-fire-rate, dual-wieldable SMG, which is a middling weapon; a pair of them are better than a Magnum but not as good as a battle rifle.

Within the context of these two weapons as artifacts in the fictional Halo universe, one of these changes is easy to explain while the other is less so.

In Chapter Fourteen of the Halo novel First Strike by Eric Nylund, an attempt is made to explain both these anomalies. Spartan IIs Will and Fred, in an underground ONI facility, are given access to a secure storage area by the artificial intelligence Kalmiya:

Fred peered inside and saw a rack of handguns. They weren't the standard-issue HE pistols; these had oversized barrels-- easily 30 percent larger and longer-- and they had grips of self-molding plastasteel. He picked one up and hefted it-- its balance was barrel-heavy, to be expected from an unloaded pistol. He found three boxes of clips at the bottom of the locker, opened one, and took out a clip. Whatever this new handgun shot, it was high caliber, slugs the size of his thumb. He slid the clip into the gun, and it secured with a satisfying click.

Now it was perfectly balanced, far better than the standard-issue sidearm.

He secured the weapon and turned to see what Will had found.

There is no indication of the designation of this weapon. It is compared to the "HE Pistol". Halo 2's pistol is the M6C Magnum. Halo 1's pistol is the M6D. Although it is certainly not a definitive answer, I think one may safely assume that two things are being asserted:

The M6C pistol, as used in Halo 2, is actually the predecessor of the M6D pistol as used in Halo 1, if the designation alone is to be considered enough evidence. This would be consistent with the idea that weapons get better with time, and consistent with Nylund's text in First Strike, but inconsistent with William Dietz' text The Flood, which indicates that the pistol used by the Master Chief during Halo 1 is "standard issue". So even before a single UNSC soldier in Halo Wars picks up a gun, the Halo universe is conflicting with itself.

Knowing that it is counter-intuitive for a lineup of weapons to decrease in effectiveness over time, Nylund here is trying to suggest somehow that the pistol Fred has found is in some way superior to the "standard issue HE pistol" and that therefore it is actually the M6D, the pistol used by the Master Chief in Halo 1, and that it is the M6C which is the "standard issue". This explains almost everything; it explains why the gun in Halo 1 is newer and better, and explains why it can't be found in Halo 2-- because it isn't the standard issue. It doesn't resolve the conflict with Dietz, but it does address everything else.

Fixing What's Broke
Conceivably, the question of what to do about the rifle would be easier. Many complained that the assault rifle was weak and inaccurate, so replacing it with a weapon that behaved more like the pistol behaved in Halo 1 should cause no problems.

Until people would start to wonder why, if that gun existed, it hadn't been seen earlier. Isn't the Master Chief the last Spartan, as far as we knew? Isn't he on a mission of the utmost importance? If so, then why wouldn't he be given the best available weapon, even if it were only a prototype? Many would conclude, sensibly, that the BR-55 as shown in Halo 2 simply did not exist at the time of Halo 1, and that this is the only logical conclusion for why it does not appear in that game.

And if Halo took place in a real universe, they would be correct. But it does not take place in a real universe, and they are not correct.

Nylund addresses the issue of the rifle as well, but does it in an extremely vague way; as if to explain why there is now a new weapon in play, but giving no information about its origins whatsoever:

Will examined a plastic-wrapped rifle. He removed the rifle from the locker, ripped off its sheathing, and shouldered it. He nodded with satisfaction.

Unlike the MA5B, this rifle had a longer barrel and stock, with a cutdown muzzle shroud. A scope was mounted on an optics railing along the top of the rifle. Will hefted a clip and inserted it into the receiver.

He shouldered the rifle again and peered through the scope. "Auto zoom, nice."

Will and Fred then traded and inspected the new weapons. Fred liked the feel of this new rifle, but wondered how much punch it had-- enough, he hoped, to make the trade-off of having fewer rounds in the clip worth it.

By all accounts, this would seem to be the BR-55 from Halo 2, although no designation is given. The barrel, the muzzle, the stock, the scope, and the smaller clip size all mirror the comparison between the MA5B and the BR-55. Despite the fact that we know, gameplay-wise, this rifle to be superior to the MA5B in almost every imaginable way, Nylund tries to present it as a tradeoff, and insinuates that it might not be powerful enough to be worth the smaller clip; to make it sound more like an equivalent of the MA5B, merely trading capacity for power, when in reality the BR-55 is superior in almost every fashion, and the clip size is a nonfactor.

The word "new" is used to describe the gun twice. However, it is not qualified at all. The gun may be new to the Spartans; they may not have seen it before. It may mean "new" in the sense that they have not yet been used, as they are described as being wrapped in plastic.

Although Nylund could have taken this opportunity to precisely identify the weapon, its designation and capacity, name its designer and the year of its creation, or do anything else more concrete to explain why this weapon now enters the scene in the place of the MA5B, he does not do so. Likely because he could not be sure of what the future impact of such actions might be; not necessarily on a game like Halo Wars, but on any future Halo game, Halo 2 included.

A Tale Of Two Studios
Ensemble Studios, going forward, is going to want to make their game attractive. They are aware of the weapons Bungie put in its latest title. They are aware of how many fans that game has, and how often they play on Xbox Live. They are aware that although for the hardcore fans, Halo 1 is the favorite game and the pistol is the favorite weapon, they know that for many more people, it is the BR-55 that is the standard-bearer.

Put yourself in their shoes. They are doing a game set earlier in the Halo timeline. Given that Bungie made a game including weapons that they themselves described as unrealistic and unbalanced, which they revised in the sequel, does Ensemble go back to using those unrealistic, unbalanced weapons in their game? Or do they instead take the new weapons, look the other way, and let someone come up with a rational in-fiction explanation for why?

I think the answer speaks for itself.

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Anonymous's picture
Anonymous
they might of just put the

they might of just put the br in there to make it look cooler. it wouldnt look very cool to the non halo fans if they had stinking pistols... plus halo 2 is more recent and people(including myself who never owned halo 1) dont want old wepondry in the game

Anonymous's picture
Miguel Chavez (not verified)
I like your answer better

anonymous poster ftw

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous
Too much credit?

How about this: What if they just didn't think about it. Ensemble most likely knows the ins and outs of Halo 2 more than Halo 1. Is it possible that they didn't even THINK about consistency? Maybe they just did one of these:

"Hey Narc, put in them there Battle Riiifles into the trailor! That thing looks sccchhwweeet!"

"Yea Bob, yur dead on! Them there fanboys are gunna get themselves a treat!"

...

I'm sure the folks an Ensemble don't really talk that way... that just the way Narc and I talk...

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous
I'm sure Narc knows that the

I'm sure Narc knows that the appearance of the Battle Rifle in the Halo Wars trailer is simply because Ensemble wasn't aware that the gun didn't exist (theoretically) at the beginning of the C$H war. He's just giving an explanation to justify the mistake. And, Anonymous 2, who cares if it's an old weapon? It's called "nostalgia". The old weapons in Halo 1 were just as cool as the ones in Halo 2. They had the MA5B, which, althought not as efficient a weapon as the BR-55, is cooler. And has auto-fire, as opposed to just burst, which is really strange considering we have guns NOW that can fire in both bursts and auto.

narcogen's picture
narcogen
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Joined: 05/26/1999
Acknowledged

I do recognize that the simplest explanation is just that the BR was the most recent rifle in a Halo game, the most current, the one Ensemble was most likely to have seen and associated with the game when they looked at assets available to use.

That is, of course, the "outside the game" explanation that would still require some kind of retcon to explain if one is shooting for maximum continuity (pun intended).

What I was suggesting is that Ensemble might very well have chosen to use the BR even if they were aware of the AR/BR inconsistency and knew there would be an apparent anachronism. The point being, if Bungie, for gameplay reasons, had chosen to retcon their own weapons there would be little point in them reverting to the previous versions.


Rampant for over se7en years.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous
Inconsistency? What inconsistency?

Since it was never confirmed that the BR didn't exist at the time of the AR, we really can't argue about:

1: Something that wont change.

and 2: A problem that only WE think exists. We created the problem. Technicly there is no definite error.

-mice16 (Yeah, not on this forum...)

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous
What about Halo3?

Master Chief is hefting what looks more like an assault rifle than a battle rife, why wouldn't Ensemble go for that if it's in the latest and greatest? why, why not?

If we are that concerned, maybe the BR featured in the trailer is not the same model BR as used in Halo; perhaps it fired less powerful ammo, was less accuratte, had any number of issues where it was perhaps too big for it's firepower to be useful to Spartans (who used the silly MA5B to great success) up until it was beefed up in First Strike.

as for the M6D.

The M6D might be standard issue for navy crews?
Perhaps Dietz meant that the M6 series was standard issue, and that varients thereof were facilitated for different duty stations, but all used the standard M6 chassis.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous
I'm not down with the trailer

Just because we see that the weapon's niches have changed, doesn't mean we should go back and edit the Halo timeline so that the BR shows up anywhere we feel like it. The story's got to have some integrity, y'know?

I don't think that article dealt with how laughably, inaccurate ensemble's portrayal of Halo was or the real controversy. It was mostly about the BR in general and it's role in Halo 2. Even if you were right and the Battle-rifle needs to be in Halowars, I don't see any in universe explanation as to how it got there. It's just a gaping incongruety, even if the gameplay in a completely different game (Halo 2) were to dictate that it's needed.

One way I do see it though, is that the trailer is that the trailer is just pre-rendered show of graphics and isn't canon in anyway. It doesn't even look like it could possibly show up as cutscene in the game. I could excuse all the little incongrueties as a few tweaks in artistic vision. I don't see any reason why you or anyone else should really even bother to defend the teaser trailer's content, it obviously has little or no bearing on the plot. In my opinion, the whole argument is moot point, it's about as canon as the Halo 2 teaser.

narcogen's picture
narcogen
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Canon

Anonymous wrote:

Just because we see that the weapon's niches have changed, doesn't mean we should go back and edit the Halo timeline so that the BR shows up anywhere we feel like it. The story's got to have some integrity, y'know?

It certainly does. However, the exact specifications and appearance of weapons used is literally of zero consequence to the story.

Halo 1's story is of how the crew of the PoA crashlands on Halo, fights the Covenant, discovers the Flood, and the Master Chief and Cortana escapes. Which gun he uses to achieve that end has literally no canon value to the story.

Indeed, because every time you play the game, you take each fight differently and use different weapons, those things don't even exist in the storyline. All that exists is that you survive and perform key actions-- activating the map room, rescuing Keyes, retrieving the index, destroying the pulse generators.

Those are the things that the story requires integrity for. The details of weapons and equipment are, for all intents and purposes in the story, merely window dressing.

Anonymous wrote:

I don't think that article dealt with how laughably, inaccurate ensemble's portrayal of Halo was or the real controversy. It was mostly about the BR in general and it's role in Halo 2. Even if you were right and the Battle-rifle needs to be in Halowars, I don't see any in universe explanation as to how it got there. It's just a gaping incongruety, even if the gameplay in a completely different game (Halo 2) were to dictate that it's needed.

It's not necessary to explain how it got there. There is no date provided anywhere within the Halo canon for when, where, and how the BR-55 was designed. It's not a gaping incongruity. It is minutiae. If Nylund doesn't give you more detail on the pistol and rifle retcons because he doesn't want to interfere with future potential retcons, why are you going to expect one from the Halo Wars trailer?

And even if you do get one, it'll just be whatever people can pull out of their asses to cover changes that had to be made for gameplay reasons-- like the Lost Network Packets.

Anonymous wrote:

One way I do see it though, is that the trailer is that the trailer is just pre-rendered show of graphics and isn't canon in anyway. It doesn't even look like it could possibly show up as cutscene in the game. I could excuse all the little incongrueties as a few tweaks in artistic vision. I don't see any reason why you or anyone else should really even bother to defend the teaser trailer's content, it obviously has little or no bearing on the plot. In my opinion, the whole argument is moot point, it's about as canon as the Halo 2 teaser.

There is no story in the trailer, so how can there be canon? Nothing happens. Elites kill humans and vice-versa. We don't know when or where except vague details.


Rampant for over se7en years.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous
But narcogen thats not the

But narcogen thats not the point here the point is everything in the halo universe has been reversed and thrown topsy tervy we dont care about the guns i can point out about 90 other things in the trailer alone that conflict with the timleine ie the landing treads on the halo 2 pelican versus halo 1 versus the trailer mark 6-7 armor on the spartans in the foreground windows media guide saying the master chief is back in halo wars the right and left shoulder pauldrons of said mark 6-7 mjolnir armor as well as the unsc battle armor and on the foreground screenshot to the left there is a 'hog with a halo 2 light cannon.. all while being set in the timeline period of 2525-2546? its just not happening

narcogen's picture
narcogen
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Sigh.

Anonymous wrote:

But narcogen thats not the point here the point is everything in the halo universe has been reversed and thrown topsy tervy we dont care about the guns i can point out about 90 other things in the trailer alone that conflict with the timleine ie the landing treads on the halo 2 pelican versus halo 1 versus the trailer mark 6-7 armor on the spartans in the foreground windows media guide saying the master chief is back in halo wars the right and left shoulder pauldrons of said mark 6-7 mjolnir armor as well as the unsc battle armor and on the foreground screenshot to the left there is a 'hog with a halo 2 light cannon.. all while being set in the timeline period of 2525-2546? its just not happening

Okay, let me approach it this way. We'll use Plato to solve this problem.

Plato imagined that for every object in the universe, there was an ideal that did not exist in reality. And that every object in the real world was an imperfect realization of that idea.

That there was an idea of a "perfect, ideal vase" and that all real vases made by people were poor approximations of that ideal, which could never be realized.

Imagine that there is an Ideal Halo Universe that exists somewhere, but we can never see it. Imagine that Halo 1 and Halo 2, as artifices created by human beings, are windows into that world.

The Pelican in Halo 2, therefore, is not an "upgraded" Pelican. It's just closer to the "ideal" Pelican that exists in the ideal Halo universe.

The same can be said of nearly every tiny little inconsistent cosmetic detail either described (or, from my perspective, imagined) by Halo fans in the Halo Wars trailer.

They are using the latest version (or, in many cases, their own, newer versions) of every art asset they have in their version of a window into the Halo universe.

In this view, none of those changes are retcons. They are just approximations of the ideal Halo universe that change over time.

One of the functions in those changes is the capability of graphical engines. Halo 2's engine was able to show more detail than Halo 1. The Halo Wars trailer, due to its prerendered nature, is able to show more detail than that. Ensemble is not going to render a Warthog interior to look like that in Halo just because it would appear more consistent with the timeline. These aren't real objects we're dealing with.

That is the point. The point is you can't have a universe "turned topsy turvy" when the whole thing is made up in the first place. You're trying to apply principles which aren't relevant.

As for happening? It most certainly is happening!


Rampant for over se7en years.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous
about the armor

Honestly I don't think the armor is some new Mark 6-7, but the original ones that the spartans had that had no shield generators. Good job narcogen, it helped a bit.

Anonymous's picture
Mintz (not verified)
HE Pistol

"They weren't the standard-issue HE pistols..."

When I first read this in the book, I assumed it meant "High-Explosive" pistol from Halo 1. That's not the official designation in the game, but the booklet does mention they are high-explosive.

Spartan182's picture
Spartan182
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last spartan

Well I know that the master chief is not the last spartan. Read the book first strike and at the end John, Fred, Linda, and Will survive along with Srg. Johnson and Cortana.

Anonymous's picture
11798 (not verified)
last spartan reply

I have to agree but it does not say happen to the reamaining spartans.

Spartan182's picture
Spartan182
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spartans

No it does not say what happens to the spartans. Hmmmm....maybe they will be introduced to Halo 3. Or maybe they died on the ride back to earth. Who knows.............

dustin sharpensteen's picture
dustin sharpensteen
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The Battle Rifle debate

I think the reason for the UNSC using the BR in halo wars is that they have always used it. If I remeber correctly the spartins were to infiltrate a covonant ship and learn the location of the covonant home world. fighting inside a ship dosent require that much range. you would need somthing that packs a punch and has a high rate of fire, like the MA5B assault rifle which can fire 60 7.62mm semi armor peircing rounds before reloading. The BR has a smaller calliber and smaller ammo capasity. So before the mission they could have recived a speacial weapons upgrade. Also i think the pistol used could have changed to offer more power for tight combat situations, the rounds explode just after impact and you get a scope to me thats not a standard issue pistol.

p.s. i had to write this in a hurry so I might have left somthing out...and please ignore spelling and grammer i know im bad at it.

Johny117's picture
Johny117
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The Battle Rifle

I loved the Battle Rifle in Halo 2. Although, the SMG was not a very good replacement for the Assault Rifle from Halo: Combat Evolved, the BR55 was an excellent substitute for the M6D Pistol.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous
Re: The Battle Rifle Debate

Sorry for bumping such an old post, but if you remember playing through halo (1) you always found pistols on the dead marines... maybe the marines aren't as adept with the pistol as the mc is.

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