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The structure of Halo 2's multiplayer mode is divided into several gametypes, each with its own set of game mechanics. These game mechanics are determined by the selection of variables that govern several aspects of gameplay. Match options allow individual games to be split up into a number of rounds, they also allow for the imposition of time limits. Player options determine the respawn rates and availability of power-ups. Team options, if team play is allowed by gametype, determine the effects of friendly fire and collective scoring. If team play is available, up to sixteen players are grouped in two to eight color-designated teams. Vehicle and equipment options allow for the customization of weapon and vehicle sets. Options that dictate gametype-specific features, such as the number of territories or flags, are offered when applicable.
In the Halo lexicon, Slayer is a term for deathmatch, a gameplay mode that deals with the accumulation of frags (kills). A player wins a Slayer match after accruing enough points to meet a predetermined score, however it can be tweaked to incorporate lives meaning the last person with remaining lives wins. This score is tallied by the number of kills and, optionally, the number of special achievements and suicides incurred during the match. This gametype is referred to as "Team Slayer" if team play is enabled in the options menu.
Some built-in Slayer variants include:
- Rockets - Rocket Launchers are the only weapons. There are no motion sensors. 25 points to win.
- Swords - Energy Swords are the only weapons. 25 points to win.
- Snipers - Sniper Rifles and Beam Rifles are the primary weapons, while the magnum is a secondary weapon. There are no motion sensors. 15 points to win.
- Phantoms - All players are wearing Active Camouflage. 15 points to win.
- Elimination - The solitary survivor wins the battle.
There are some popular user-created variants that are commonly played on Xbox Live:
- MLG Team Slayer - Battle Rifle start, no motion tracker, no dual wieldable weapons on map. Used in competitive play by professional gamers at MLG tournaments.
- MLG FFA (Free For All) - Battle Rifle start, Human weapons on map, motion tracker off. Played on Midship.
- S.W.A.T. - All weapons replaced with Battle Rifles and Magnum pistols, shields and motion tracker turned off. A variation of this is SHWAT which is shotguns only.
- Fiesta Slayer - Randomized weapons on map and random starting weapons.
- Zombies/Resident Evil/Dawn of The Dead - Magnum and Sword start, Shotguns on map, No shields. One player starts as a zombie (green team) and all the rest start as humans (red team). Zombies have to kill humans using only their swords but humans can use pistols or shotguns. When a zombie kills a human the dead player switches teams and becomes a zombie until all humans but one are dead, this is the winning player. Another variant comes with a time limit, if the zombies kill all humans before the limit is up, they win but if humans survive past the time limit then the humans win.
- Boxing/Plasma Punchout/Beat Down - All weapons replaced with Plasma Pistols, and players start with no shields. 1 punch always kills.
- Counter-Strike - Team elimination, start with nothing but Magnum. One life per player per round, the team with the last man standing wins similar to the popular PC game Counter-Strike.
- Jack Bauer - Magnum primary, no secondary, shotguns only on the map. No vehicles, no shields, no motion sensors, no turrets, no grenades. Play to a time limit or last man standing. Teams or FFA. Plays great on any map regardless of size.
- Tower of Power (ToP) - Teams try to capture a tower with a turret placed on it only using shotguns, with no shields or motion tracker. Variations include selecting swords or magnums as default weapons instead of shotguns. Mostly played on the map "Ascension".
- Team Snipers - Two human controlled teams only use sniper rifles or Particle Beam Rifles. These games are usually played on Coagulation, Relic, Tombstone or Lockout.
- Glitches - This for all the glitchers in the game, Starting weapons are energy swords, secondary weapons are Rockets(for the human shields). Weapons on map are human only with Overshields on. Good for filming glitches in the game. Widely used to get out of levels.
- Bouncing - Team game for superbouncing. Starting weapon is magnum for easier sight while superbouncing. Friendly Fire Off. All people have to be on the same team. Everything else is up to you.
- Shark Attack-Game played on Ascension where everybody must run to the banshee spawn and try and board the banshee.The person who gets into the banshee is the shark and must boost into the other players.The players who are not the shark must remain on the banshee pad and try to board the banshee if they leave the pad and hide the banshee can shoot them.everyone starts out with swords,no shields,no motion sensor and can only slash other players if they banshee falls off the map or blows up which then becomes a free for all.Any body who kills other players while the shark is still alive must commit suicide.Everyone starts out with 1 life the banshee cannot shoot you when the game starts only when you first get to the banshee pad and then leave it to go hide.Players may slash at the banshee to destroy the wings
- Zombie Cars-This a game played on coagulation were 1 person is the zombie(green) and the other players are humans (red) everyone starts out with swords and the red team must get to the four warthogs and drive around running over zombies.The zombies are not allowed to drive warthogs but can try and board it or if the player has enough skill jump into the passenger seat.Players may sit in the turret but cannot shoot the zombies. Zombies must slice the warthogs trying to kill the driver, passenger and gunner the easiest one the zombie can kill is the gunner if the zombie jumps over the warthog and slashes him. Humans cannot slice the zombies with swords if they don't have a warthog they can only run them over in 1 if they don't have 1 they must either get a lift off someone else or hide until appears 1 there is a time limit of 20 minutes and the humans must survive until it reaches 0 if a zombie kills a human they must change to green and then help increase their numbers this game is best played with a full party as the last human alive must dodge all fifteen zombies but driving through a whole group can be suicidal as the zombies can destroy the warthog by slashing it to many times or slicing the driver.Humans are not allowed drive on cliffs or into the caves
- Can n' Mouse - Played on Coagulation, one person on blue team while everyone else is on the red team. Person on Blue team goes in the wraith while everyone on the red team goes in the warthogs. Set the time limit to six minutes. The guy in the wraith cant boost until the timer reaches five minutes, and cant shoot until the timer reaches one minute. Everyone has only one life and no shields.
Only one player, the "Juggernaut", may score in this offshoot of Slayer. The Juggernaut may optionally be endowed with special characteristics, such as increased speed or invisibility. To gain this status, a player must first kill the current Juggernaut, making for a bizarre twist on the predator and prey relationship.
Some built-in Juggernaut variants include:
- Ninjanaut - The Juggernaut has constant Active Camo and a Motion Sensor. 10 points to win.
- Phantom Fodder - The Juggernaut has Active Camo but no Motion Sensor. 3 rounds to win, 5 points to win a round.
- Dreadnaut - The Dreadnaut is faster, has damage resistance, an overshield, inflicts extra damage, and has unlimited ammo. 20 points to win.
- Naut Weak - Everyone has overshields, motion sensor, does extra damage, has damage resistance. The Juggernaut has no shield, no motion sensor, moves slowly, and no extra damage/resistance. Difficult game that lasts a while. Often played to 3/5 points due to difficulty.
- Hide and Seek - The Juggernaut has overshield, damage resistance, extra damage, fast motion, and infinite ammo. Players have no shields, but Active Camo. The Juggernaut has 5 minutes to find and kill all of the players, but starts at 6 minutes. This extra minute gives players the chance to hide. Players are not allowed to fight back until one minute. Played to the first to three wins.
- Streaker - The Juggernaut is the "streaker"; he has no shield, moves faster than everyone else, and only uses the sword. This game type is normally played on Midship, as it is perfect for the Juggernaut to run around in circles killing everyone.
- Predator is a game played on backwash were one person is the Juggernaut and the other players must kill him to become the juggernaut.
Version 1: The weapons are: dual weapons and grenades on the map, and everyone starts out with a sword, an SMG. The Juggernaut may only use the sword to kill but is permitted hold out his gun to hide, only if he does not fire his weapon.
Version 2: Version 2 is believed to be a lot harder than Version 1, as the humans cannot see the juggernaut. The humans may use guns, but not swords. Everyone may use grenades. This game seems hard for non-juggernaut players when only a few players in the match. In a party above 5, the Juggernaut can be killed quickly.
Capture the Flag
An implementation of the classic first-person shooter mode, Capture the Flag is a gametype in which teams of players attempt to secure a flag and bring it back to their base to score. This variant is usually played with two teams, Red and Blue, each with a flag located in their base. Gameplay may involve only one flag, in which case the match is split into several rounds and teams alternate between defending the flag and attempting to capture it. In "Classic" Capture the Flag, each team must have their flag at the base in order to score, and in "Neutral Flag" each team aims to capture a single flag that is located in the center of the level.
Some built-in Capture the Flag variants include:
- Multi-Flag CTF - Defend your flag while trying to capture your enemy's flag. 3 captures to win.
- CTF Classic - Defend your flag while trying to capture your enemy's flag. Flag must be at home to score, flag may be returned if touched by its team. 3 captures to win.
- 1 Flag CTF - Take turns on offense and defense. A capture wins a round. Flag may not be returned. Rounds last 3 minutes. 3 captures to win.
- 1 Flag CTF Fast - Take turns on offense and defense. A capture wins a round. Flag may not be returned. Rounds last 2 minutes. 3 captures to win
- Neutral CTF - Two teams attempt to retrieve a neutral flag that spawns between the two bases. Can be played in rounds, where the teams switch sides of the map to make sure neither has an advantage.
- Epic CTF - Designed to represent an extended campaign, single flag CTF, with teams alternating between assault and defense, and rounds lasting 30 minutes each. Few players enjoy the variant due to the length of the game. Played on Coagulation. Vehicles are spectres and ghosts.
- Shenanigans - Four flag CTF, played on Warlock. Maximum players possible is four. Each player grabs a flag, and proceeds to melee the other flag bearers for five minutes. Flag capturing is not allowed, and player with most 'kills' wins.
- Tremors - Two players are on blue team, the rest on red team. The Blue Team must prevent their flag from being taken. The Red Team must capture the Blue Team's flag, while not touching the ground. The Blue team must kill all of the Red Team while in ghosts. The Red Team is not allowed to drive/hi-jack the ghosts. The Blue Team is not allowed to kill Red Team members while they are on rocks/cliffs, or by shooting them.
- Lava men - Sword start. Two are on red team, the rest one blue. The red team tries to kill all of the blue team members, but the lava men cannot kill a person standing on an object(i.e. box, ledge, catwalk, etc.). They have 8 minutes to retrieve the flag and return to the base. The lava men cannot stand on objects. They must stand on the ground. Blue team may not kill the red team. One lava man for up to 5 players, two lava men for up to 8 players, three lava men for up to 10 players, and 4 lava man for a full party. May not change teams. Played on Tombstone or Turf.
- Troy/300/Roman Wars - Played on the map Coagulation, two teams start on opposite sides of the map with brute shots and fire all their ammo at the beginning of the game trying to hit the enemies on the other side. Once your ammo is gone you must go up and melee the rest of the people who survived the many shots raining down from the beginning. Better with large parties and a time limit of at least 3 minutes.
Assault is a gametype loosely based on Counter-Strike's "Bomb Defusal" mode. However, this gametype was featured in Halo as a variant of CTF, so it is not a blatant cover of the Counter-Strike game mode. Each match is divided into several rounds during which the attacking team must plant a bomb in the other team's base in order to score. The bomb carrier is unable to use any equipped weapon, however the bomb itself may be used for powerful melee attacks. This bomb must be "planted" within the bounds of a predefined plant site, that is X shaped, in the opposing team's base. Before a player may plant the bomb they must first arm it, meaning that the bomb must remain within the circular armring territory for a predetermined amount of time.
Some built-in Assault variants include:
- Multi bomb - Defend your base while trying to deliver your bomb to the enemy base. 3 successful bombings to win.
- Single Bomb - Takes turns on offense and defense. A successful bombing wins the round. No bomb return. Rounds last 3 minutes. 3 successful bombings to win.
- Single Bomb Fast - Takes turns on offense and defense. A successful bombing wins the round. No bomb return. Rounds last 2 minutes. 3 successful bombings to win.
- Neutral Bomb - 1 bomb in the middle of the map. There are 12 minutes to successfully score. Use it to bomb the enemy base. 3 successful bombings to win. Bomb arming time is 5 seconds.
- Blast Resort - 1 bomb. 1 life and no Motion Sensor. 10 seconds to arm. Rounds last 3 minutes. 3 successful bombings to win.
- Football - Played on Coagulation. There are no shields, no weapons on map and all players have plasma pistols. Set the bomb to neutral bomb. A successful bombing wins the round and you need to win three rounds to win the game.
This gametype includes one or several skulls that are designated as "balls". Players seek to take possession of these skulls, and hold on to them for a predetermined amount of time. The skull is considered to be a melee weapon and so it replaces whatever armament was previously equipped; if the player desires to use any other weapon, they must first drop the skull. (Note: Two melee attacks with the ball will usually kill an enemy, making it a great close combat weapon)
Some built-in Oddball variants include:
- Rocketball - Rocket Launchers are the only weapons. Hold the ball for 1 minute to win.
- Swordball - Energy Swords are the only weapons. No Motion Sensor. Hold the ball for 30 seconds to win the round. 3 rounds to win.
- Dodgeball - Brute Shots are only weapons.
- Low Ball - Team game. Everyone in the team must hold the ball for at least 30 seconds to win.
- Fiesta - You respawn with random weapons. Hold the ball for 2 minutes to win.
- Hogball - Played only on Coagulation to 30 minutes. Players spawn with a brute shot and a sniper rifle. The player holding the oddball is able to operate vehicles, so teams make use of Coagulation's four Gauss Warthogs.
King of the Hill
A derivative of the popular children's game, this gametype is scored by the amount of time accumulated by a player or team in the occupation of a designated area. In "Crazy King" there is an alternating arrangement of such areas.
Some built-in King of the Hill variants include:
- Phantom King - All players have Active Camouflage. Hold the hill for 1 minute to win.
- Crazy King - The hill changes location from time to time.
- Shotgun Don - No Shields, shotguns only, (no secondary weapon, no weapons on the map) hold the hill 2 minutes to win, active camo, no overshields on the map.
Played on Lockout, Foundation, Warlock
- Random King - Shields or Overshields, random primary secondary and set on the map, no death penalty, 3 second respawn, no changing hill, extra damage and resistance in the hill, no turrets, get many people to play for a good game, time doesn't matter but with around 10 players 3 minutes to win games will take close to an hour.
Most fun on Midship. Headlong works, even with vehicles.
- Michael Jackson - Plasma Pistol and Sword Start, moving hill, unlimited time, one life, 4 rounds, one person starts on the pink team as Michael Jackson and the others have to go on red team. all of the red team have to go to the hill, when inside the hill the guy on pink team cannot kill you, wait for the hill to move, when it does you have to quickly get to the other one without michal jackson killing you, Note: you cannot kill the pink person
- Sun King - Played on Foundation or Midship. Players start with rocket launchers and there are no weapons on the map. The hill does not move, so it stays in the middle of the map. Since it is very easy to clear the hill of people with a rocket, players tend to get a lot of kills as well as betrayals.
- Death Pit - Played on Midship. Players have only Shotguns. Since you are on Midship you start with plasma grenades. 1 or 2 Minutes to win, usually depends on the amount of players. Hill does not move and starts in the middle of Midship, it acts like a pit. Active Camoflauge on hill. Many people tend to keep throwing plasma grenades into the "pit".
Territories is a gametype in which teams vie for the control of a predetermined number of areas. Control is gained through the uncontested occupation of these areas for a small period of time, and maintained as long as opposing players do not contest this occupation with their presence. Not very popular to most people but some people can variate the game and make it fun after all.
Some built-in Territories variants include:
- 3 Plots - There are just three Territories. Earn 3 minutes to win.
- Land Grab - Earn 5 minutes to win.
- Gold Rush - Pistols and Shotguns are the only weapons. Earn 2 minutes to win a round. Rounds last 3 minutes. Win 3 rounds to win.
- Control Issues - Everyone has Overshields. 2 Territories only. Earn 5 minutes to win.
- Contention - Team game. 1 Territory only. Earn 2 minutes to win.
Bungie Studios maintains a number of thematic playlists used in Halo 2 matchmaking when playing over Xbox Live. These are comprised of custom gametype variants, and include a core subset of playlists that have been available since November 2004. A listing of all current playlists, and the gametype variants they use, is available at Bungie.net.