Feb. 1, 2011, 1:57 a.m.
posted by ostin
Hacks 6–20: Introduction
In video game terminology, Easter egg refers to a treat added by game developers. Easter eggs come in many flavors. Of all the ones that I have seen, the Halo 2 skulls are the most impressive. If it wasn't jammed under my helmet, I'd tip my cap to Microsoft's Bungie developers and their system of Halo 2 skulls.
The skulls are objects hidden throughout the single-player campaign. They resemble a human skull—the Halo 2 multiplayer Oddball game type uses the same object as its "ball." The skulls are impressive for a number of reasons: they are difficult to find, each has its own unique effect, and there is a cloud of mystery surrounding them. In addition, by including the skulls, the developers added a new dimension to the single-player campaign. Instead of facing the restriction of playing out the same scenes repeatedly, Halo 2 gamers can choose to add a twist by activating one of the many skulls. For example, a hardcore Halo fan may choose to activate the Assassins skull [Hack #14] and play the entire game against cloaked enemies. Some of the skulls make the campaign easier, while others make it a great deal more difficult. Which skulls you activate is entirely up to you.
Skulls have no effect on multiplayer games—so don't expect to be able to use the Envy skull [Hack #13] in your Slayer games. All but one of the skulls require that you activate them on the Legendary difficulty setting. They either will not spawn on the other settings or simply will not work. The exception to this rule is the Blind skull [Hack #8] which will spawn, and is useable, on any difficulty setting. For this reason, the Blind skull is one of the easiest skulls to find.
To activate most skulls, hold the X button and pick them up. However, this is not always the way it's done. For example, the "I would have been your daddy" skull [Hack #9] will not activate until you have defeated many waves of attacking Elites.
To maintain the effect of the skull, you aren't required to hold the skull or complete the campaign in a linear fashion. The skull's ability will last until you turn off your Xbox. The effects carry over into new campaign games and once activated, work on all difficulties. This allows you to activate one skull and then switch levels to go for another. The effects will also carry over to other profiles, so you are able to sign in as a different user and still take advantage of the skull. If you want to play a good trick on someone, activate the Assassins skull [Hack #14] and then let him resume his campaign game. To deactivate a skull, simply restart your Xbox.
The Conspiracy of the Skulls
Most likely, curious Halo 2 gamers simply stumbled on the first few skulls. Since that time, a number of people have posted intricate theories about the skulls. One such theory is that Bungie hid information about the skulls in the official Halo 2 game guide.
If you look at the last page of the Halo 2 guide, you will see the title "INDEX." Above each letter is a small number. People have theorized that the numbers are a clue to some special outcome if someone were to activate all of the skulls in a certain sequence. If this were the case, the E in "INDEX" would correspond to the Envy skull and a gamer should activate that one first. While this wild theory is interesting, Bungie's weekly update (on http://www.bungie.net) has shot down the idea that something magical will happen if the skulls are activated in a certain order.
As for the number of skulls, there is evidence to suggest that the Halo community has discovered all of the skulls. Bungie is famous for hiding acronyms in interesting places. The acronym EGATFIBGBCSIMAW appears on the Halo 2 original soundtrack packaging. If you compare these letters with the names of the skulls, this apparent matching appears:
- E = Envy
- G = Grunt Birthday Party
- A = Assassins
- T = Thunderstorm
- F = Famine
- I = I Would Have Been Your Daddy
- B = Blind
- G = Ghost
- B = Black Eye
- C = Catch
- S = Sputnik
- I = Iron
- M = Mythic
- A = Angry
The W at the end was a mystery until some Xbox modders noticed clues embedded in some of the Halo 2 files. When Halo 2 is loaded, the game copies these temporary files onto the Xbox hard drive. For example, this is a hexadecimal snippet from the Halo 2 file mainmenu.map:
00EA:5B5D 45 6E 76 79 00 47 72 75 6E 74 20 42 69 72 74 68 Envy.Grunt Birth 00EA:5B6D 64 61 79 20 50 61 72 74 79 00 41 73 73 61 73 73 day Party.Assass 00EA:5B7D 69 6E 73 00 54 68 75 6E 64 65 72 73 74 6F 72 6D ins.Thunderstorm 00EA:5B8D 00 46 61 6D 69 6E 65 00 49 20 57 6F 75 6C 64 20 .Famine.I Would 00EA:5B9D 48 61 76 65 20 42 65 65 6E 20 59 6F 75 72 20 44 Have Been Your D 00EA:5BAD 61 64 64 79 00 42 6C 69 6E 64 00 47 68 6F 73 74 addy.Blind.Ghost 00EA:5BBD 00 42 6C 61 63 6B 20 45 79 65 00 43 61 74 63 68 .Black Eye.Catch 00EA:5BCD 00 53 70 75 74 6E 69 6B 00 49 72 6F 6E 00 4D 79 .Sputnik.Iron.My 00EA:5BDD 74 68 69 63 00 41 6E 67 72 79 00 43 6F 77 20 42 thic.Angry.Cow B 00EA:5BED 65 6C 6C 00 54 68 61 74 27 73 20 4A 75 73 74 2E ell.That's Just. 00EA:5BFD 2E 2E 20 57 72 6F 6E 67 .. Wrong
On the right side, you can see the name of Halo 2 skulls. In fact, this text follows the same order of the Halo 2 soundtrack acronym. If this is the case, the "W" in the soundtrack acronym would stand for "Wrong."
This is a snippet of text from the file cache002.map:
Envy.Grunt Birthday Party.Assassins.Thunderstorm.Famine.I Would Have Been Your Daddy.Blind.Ghost.Black Eye.Catch.Sputnik.Ice Cream.Mythic.Angry. Whuppopotamus.ASSASSINS.JUGGERNAUT.NOSFERATU.SAY WHAT?.HUDLESS.DISEMBODIED SOUL.MAKEOVER.Watch your back, the Covenant are having a sale on Active Camo..Brace yourself for baddies with overshields and boomsticks..Sure you're tough, but now you must suck to survive..Be poised if other emotional scenes tend to errupt..Go commando! Clear your screen of pesky status indicators..Experience the miserable existence of the Disembodied Soul.. Who says the Masterchief always has to wear green?.
This text seems to list the Halo 2 skulls, but some of the references remain a mystery. Is the Unnamed skull [Hack #6] actually the "Whuppopotamus" skull? What does the reference to "Ice Cream" mean? Could this be an undiscovered skull?
The Fastest Way to Collect All of the Skulls
Remember that you need to be playing on the Legendary setting to activate almost all of the skulls. This means that you must work your way through the skull's level on the most difficult setting. You cannot advance to the correct checkpoint and then switch to Legendary mode—Halo 2 does not offer this option. However, some things will speed up your skull retrieval adventures:
To get to the right level, play through the campaign on any difficulty setting. For example, you could play through the whole campaign on Easy, and then go back and start the level that contains the skull that you want to find. Using an Xbox memory unit, you can then make numerous copies of this profile—just copy it to the memory unit, rename it on the Xbox, and then copy the original back to the Xbox.
Before you try for the other skulls, activate the Envy skull [Hack #13] or the Grunt Birthday Party skull [Hack #11]. Having these skulls active gives you a tremendous advantage as you try to activate your next skull.
Play in co-op mode. As most Halo players have found, two can get through the campaign much faster than one.
If you know that you'll be going for a number of skulls, it will be worth your time to save a profile at the point where you pick up one of the helpful skulls (e.g., Envy skull [Hack #13] or the Grunt Birthday Party skull [Hack #11]). Since I knew that I would be going for all the skulls, I took the time to create a special profile called Envy. I played this profile until I reached the Envy skull. Once at the skull's spawn spot, I saved the game. Now I can quickly pick up the skull anytime I want. It took some effort upfront, but it saved me considerable time as I went after all of the skulls. This also allows me to quickly use the Infinite AC hack [Hack #42].
If you have a modded Xbox, you can search the Internet for game saves already set up to get the skulls.
Finding the Skulls
To help you with your search for the skulls, I have gathered detailed information from the Halo community. This data generally includes the campaign level, the mission objective, screenshots, and a description of the spawn location. Using this information, you should be able to find the right section of the level. Once there, the screenshots will help you figure out exactly where the skull spawns. If this information isn't sufficient, or you want to watch for updates on the saga of the Halo 2 skulls, refer to http://www.highimpacthalo.org/showskull.php, which includes links to videos that show the location of each skull.
Many skulls require that you use crouch jumps [Hack #1] and some require that you use a grenade jump [Hack #2]. To perform a crouch jump, you simply crouch at the apex of a regular jump. This lifts your feet and allows you to jump a little bit higher than normal. To perform a grenade jump, you need to jump up just as a grenade explodes beneath you. The explosion will take you higher than normal—but it will also lower your shields. For more information about Halo jumping techniques, refer to Chapter 1.