Gameplay Basics

By Hard Way

Hey everybody! I’ve been noticing a lot of new players in the Halo: CE 2v2 playlist on MCC recently. I know CE can be a very unforgiving game, and can be especially brutal to newcomers. I fear that the knowledge barriers in this game might be turning some people away that might otherwise enjoy themselves if they were armed with more information. As a longtime player and someone that wants to see people enjoy the game as much as I do, I feel like it’s my responsibility to help new players while we have you, so that hopefully you have fun and stick around. With that said, there are a few things you need to know before you even search the playlist in order to hold your own in this game.

Let’s get to it!


Before I even get into the gameplay tips, there’s one small piece of prep work you really, REALLY should do before you compete in Halo CE: you should be playing with a timer. All the items spawn at predictable, static times in this game. They’re not influenced by player interaction whatsoever.

While Halo 1 NHE and Halo PC:E both sport a built-in talking timer and on-screen clock, MCC’s on-screen clock is unreliable since it does not appear on the player death screen (it’s also ~0.5 seconds off, but this only really affects precise timing of nade tricks). Therefore competitive players generally use an external timer such as Noah Evans’ Timer for Halo 1 MC Collection mobile app or insidi0us’ Cortimer web app. Such use of external tools may seem like cheating to uninformed players, but competitive players agree that the meta element that emerges when all players know exactly when items are spawning far outweighs the trivial “skill” of trying to keep track of items without a timer.

In the 2v2 playlist, most experienced players use a timer to track item spawns. In 4v4, not as many players use a timer, but it’s still recommended for serious matches. You’re putting yourself at a massive disadvantage by playing without one, and the game simply plays best when more people in the game are tracking item times.

For more information about the item spawns, I made a handy video you can check out here

Use the Pistol!

The fastest way to tell someone doesn’t know what they’re doing in CE is to catch them running around the map with their Assault Rifle still out (or with their flashlight on. lol). When you spawn, your pistol is in your secondary slot, but make no mistake: that’s your primary weapon. You should switch to it immediately every time you spawn. Learning to shoot with the pistol is non-negotiable if you want to enjoy this game. The actual mechanics of the pistol are pretty unique. Like Halo 3, its bullets are projectile, so you will have to lead your target. The amount of “lead” will vary depending on your distance to your target – but keep in mind you need to lead more than you might expect in close-range encounters.

The other unique thing about the CE pistol is that you actually get stronger bullet magnetism when you aim with the edges of the crosshair, NOT the center. So if the target is moving forward, backward, or not at all: aim with the bottom of the reticle and you’ll ensure that your shots hit only the head. If the target is moving laterally: aim in front of the target and use the inner edge of the crosshair. Your bullets will magnetize/register much better than if you always center the reticle on the target. Most people don’t know this, as it’s very counter-intuitive. I believe this lack of knowledge about the weapon is the source of most of the frustration people have with it. The pistol is your Jack of all Trades weapon. It’s good in any situation, but it’s not the best in all situations.

For more information about the weapons in CE and the way they behave, I made another video for you here


Halo CE uses a unique spawn system that puts a great deal of control/responsibility in the hands of the player. The system is fully explained on I strongly recommend spending some time on that site, learning about the spawn system, as well as seeing the actual spawn points and random zones. At the very least, read the front page.

In short, your dead teammate will spawn at the closest available spawn point to you. If there are no spawn points within range, you are standing in a “random” zone, and the game therefore removes you from consideration for spawns. In a 2v2 match, this means your partner will get a random spawn. The spawn system does not care whether or not a dead player is in danger of spawning in an enemy’s sightline – it is solely up to the living teammate to determine where the other player will spawn. This means that if your teammates die and the enemy knows where you are, they might just leave you alive so that they can farm your teammates’ spawns. Being selfish/cowardly (read: choosing to survive when in a terrible position) in this scenario is the fastest way to lose the game (and friends, lol). It’s up to you whether your control over your team’s spawns works to your team’s benefit or detriment.

For an example of what I’m talking about, I made a video showing how to give random spawns on Hang Em High here

Spawning in 4v4 Team Slayer

The spawn system is great in 2v2 because you have absolute control over spawns, but the system is less predictable in 4v4. Dead teammates still spawn on a living teammate, however the teammate is chosen at random. Standing in a random zone merely eliminates your influence. Put simply: you’re more likely to spawn next to teammates in 4v4 because it’s harder to prevent. The goal then becomes surrounding and containing the enemy team, and keeping the spawn trap going for as long as possible. It means leaving the last guy alive so that he can spawn his teammates in the trap. It means SPREAD OUT! It means know when you’re the last guy alive so you can give intelligent spawns.

Spend some time on or in training mode in NHE or Halo PC:E to learn where the random zones are. Knowing a map’s random spawn zones can easily make the difference between a win or a loss on maps like Hang ‘Em High, where players can give their dead teammates random spawns from nearly anywhere in the map. Spawn killing is just a part of the game. It’s the goal of the game, really. You need to have that mindset going in – accept your responsibility in giving safe spawns and take control of the situation!

Miscellaneous Tips & Tricks

Once you have the basics down and start getting some matches under your belt, you may notice other players still seem to have an edge. There are many exploitable elements of the game that players leverage in order to save time, acquire power items, or even sneak away. One of the most important examples is using grenades to send an item lying on the ground along a predictable trajectory. This is accomplished by standing in certain positions and throwing grenades (usually frags) to specific points in the map. Videos of common “nade tricks” can be found on McDick also published some helpful videos covering more advanced nade tricks on Damnation and Hang ‘Em High.

“Backpack reloading” is another very common trick used by competitive players. This involves double-tapping the reload button before switching to another weapon (using the default control scheme: X+X+Y). This simple trick allows the reload animation to play while you already have another weapon out. This can be looped when you switch back to your first weapon. Keep in mind that if you switch back to the weapon you were reloading before the reload animation is finished, the backpack reload will fail (actually you only have to wait until you hear the clip re-entering the weapon before it’s safe to switch back). Another useful “button glitch” is the double-melee. This is accomplished by cancelling the end of your melee animation by throwing a grenade, and then doing another melee attack (using the default control scheme: B+B+Left Trigger).

Other tips and tricks include:

  • Players who are scoped-in will be “descoped” when they take damage
  • You can reduce/eliminate fall damage by landing on slanted map geometry (or by crouching while landing from a fall)
  • You can prevent a player from entering a teleporter by standing on the exit (careful, you will die if you don’t yield after a few seconds)
  • The plasma rifle has a powerful stun effect that can prevent enemies from turning. It’s a great counter against overshield players.
  • Some players hold their controller “claw” style, allowing them to turn and melee at the same time. Those who are concerned about ergonomics may wish to use the Boxer control scheme to get similar results.
  • When you have camo, you will reappear when firing your weapon. The time it takes to return to full invisibility depends on what weapon you’re holding. Switch to an assault rifle, plasma rifle, plasma pistol or shotgun to “quick camo” after firing another weapon, making it harder for enemies to hit you.
  • When picking up an overshield, you will be invulnerable to explosions and weapon fire until it is fully charged. If the overshield is uncontested, you can exploit this by damaging yourself before picking up the overshield, resulting in a longer charging/invincibility period.
  • While “nade jumping” is risky but it can often pay off. Use grenades to launch yourself to higher platforms or across gaps to gain ground and/or save time.

Now that you’ve read the basics, head over to Helpful YouTube Channels to expand on this.