With its Day-Glo colour scheme, small size and wholly unconventional appearance, it’d be easy to dismiss Halo’s Type-33 Guided Munitions Launcher, or ‘Needler’, as a throwaway, novelty weapon. But when you consider that it’s a ferociously powerful, lightning quick bit of recovered alien tech which fires crystalline, explosive shards that penetrates armour and flesh before clustering together and causing an explosion that decimates your opponent…. well, it’s clear that this is not a gun to be fucked with.
The Needler doubtlessly has it’s place during campaign play (it’s grace and speed are a perfect compliment to Bungie’s Spartan super soldier) but, for me, The Needler sums up the very essence of Halo PVP. Halo online is notoriously fast paced and slick; overwhelming yet intimately inviting, managing to simultaneously leave you gasping for breath and gagging for more. While The Needler doesn’t have the sheer impact of the Battle Rifle, the final say of the M90 Tactical Shotgun or the set-piece-decimating power of the ‘Jackhammer’ launcher, it’s versatility makes it an essential addition to anyone’s load-out. The rate of fire is blistering; the rapid “pfft-pfft-pfft-pfft” sound as the crystal needles are forced from their holsters in the top of the weapon down into the chamber and ejected out of the barrel is exhilarating if you’re pulling the trigger, terrifying if your hearing it from across the battlefield. A Halo match just wouldn’t be the same without that noise. It’s an intrinsic part of the soundtrack. The sheer speed of that sound and it’s subtle, graceful, metallic blow-dart-from-space quality is the hectic icing on an already frantic cake.
And boy, is it a devastating bit of kit. These needles, once unleashed, have homing capabilities. Woe betide if you’re in or around someone’s sights once they begin unloading; watching as a hail of fluorescent pink, razor sharp darts curve across the arena is a beautiful sight to behold, regardless of whether you’re the shooter or the target. And that’s just the first course. As the target of a needle barrage, you’re counting the shards as they penetrate. One needle, two needles, three, four, five. Oh shit. A single needle on its own- that’s bad enough news. It hurts, taking a chunk from your health bar. Feel a few ram home though and you know it’s a matter of seconds before they fuse together and cause an explosion, tearing you apart and providing a free shrapnel injury to anyone unlucky enough to be sprinting past. Game over. ‘Overkill’, indeed.
Bungie’s new IP, Destiny (you may have heard of it) cribs a lot of ideas from Halo’s masterful gunplay. It isn’t a problem; the developers have, over the course of the Halo saga, built a combat system that is one of the best in videogames. To not transfer that framework across would be lunacy. But in Destiny’s Crucible PVP, as head-spinningly fun as it is, I miss that Needler. That sense of frenzy.
Bungie, if you’re listening – DLC? £3.99 for a Needler? I’ll take one.