Let's play Knock-off

Posted September 6th 2012, expanded soon after

The basic idea

While working on my article Aerial firefighting with a jet pack, I had an idea for a novel game type for the Holdout map and others, after finding it amusing to blast Grunts off the cliffs still alive so they'd die from the fall. The core ingredients of what I call 'Knock-off' - a general recipe rather than a specific game type - are invulnerable covies, infinite ammo (preferably via bottomless clip), Cowbell, and a nasty drop. The task then is to knock all the covies off the edge to kill them. Not only is it a heck of a lot of fun but it also brings with it a new set of skills for you to try and master, to do your work in style. You could play against the clock if you like, or just enjoy things at your leisure, possibly even waiting for enemies to come to you in a particular area near some cliff edge.

Other settings can be adjusted to fashion the exact nature of the challenge, and you might want to boost your shielding or damage resistance to make things sufficiently workable, or even make yourself invulnerable if you don't want self-protection to be an element of the gameplay. I get a big kick out of playing things from the air with an unlimited jet pack and low player gravity, but you don't have to be doing aerial play. The idea is just as valid for ground-based play, which is likewise a real blast with its own appeal. On the ground things tend to be very in-your-face. Specifically, lots of covies in your face, being driven back by your fire. From the air, it's kind of like you're moving pieces on a board game. Not that you'll find many board games with this amount of high-explosive flying about the place!

It's not just for Grunts either. All types of covie are on the menu, each with their own appeal and character in regard to how easy it is to shunt them around. For example, Elites can be relatively difficult to knock off as they move fast, making it harder to drive them to the edge.

Other maps too, especially Installation 04

Holdout isn't the only map on which you can play Knock-off. It's certainly the best of the maps on the Reach disc because of its precarious nature, but three others there include fatal drops, namely Outpost, Overlook and Glacier, so you can use those too.

And then there's the fabulous Installation 04, which is right up there with Holdout in terms of suitability, featuring a nice long cliff edge. With its beautiful and much more expansive scenery, it has a rather different feel and has quickly become my favourite Knock-off playground by quite a way, so I wholeheartedly recommend it. Among the delights, it's hilarious to see Grunts sailing down to the sea and rocks, screaming as they go. In fact, grunty deaths are even more enjoyable than in Holdout because covies fall much further before dying, allowing more screaming time. And that's a good thing, right? Another amusing aspect lies in blasting covies off the installation deck, straight over the cliff.

Plus there's Unearthed, another large map with a long cliff edge, albeit not so picturesque as Installation 04. I've only just started with that one but it's looking interesting.

Weaponry

In regard to weaponry the choice is yours, but let's have a look at the options.

Concussion rifle joy

The concussion rifle is unquestionably the star of the show. It's easily the best tool for the job and is my usual choice. Able to cope with all types of covie, it sends Grunts flying better than a fuel rod gun or rocket launcher, even though those weapons are much more powerful. It has higher possible rate of fire too, at about 150 rounds per minute, and it has faster shot speed - maybe around 70% faster than the fuel rod gun - which helps considerably. The lower blast damage levels are another point in its favour, as it means you'll be hurt less if caught by your own blasts when forcing a covie back at very close range.

Rocket launcher, fuel rod gun and grenade launcher

The rocket launcher can send Grunts flying a similar sort of distance to the concussion rifle if you get it right, but they tend not to get so far off the ground and it's harder to use. The fuel rod gun creates relatively weak blast effect and there's also the issue of shots bouncing harmlessly off the ground when the angle is wrong. The grenade launcher is an option but is quite a challenge to use. Also, all three weapons are only really practical on the lighter covies (in single-player at least). Against Brutes or Elites or Hunters you'll find them hard work at best, and in most cases useless or almost useless.

Gravity hammer

If playing on foot you can use a gravity hammer (or golf club if you prefer the aesthetics). That works ok on all covies except Hunters, with whom it's tough to make progress because of their melee attacks which knock you back. Against a very close enemy it has a significant advantage over guns as it can send him flying back without you taking blast damage. You could use the hammer to get him shifted a decent way from you, then switch to a concussion rifle or whatever. I'm not much of a hammer user myself, but if you like whomping things, Knock-off gives you a jolly good excuse for going nuts with it.

Needler and needle rifle

I overlooked this to begin with, but you can also use the needler and the needle rifle. They're far from ideal and you'd need to either be on the ground or hovering low, but with a bottomless clip you can drive all types of covie back except Hunters. Just fire a constant stream of needles and the explosions can do the rest. When I tried the needler on Easy, it worked especially well on Skirmishers. Grunts made pretty good victims but the explosions were unpredictable, sometimes blowing the Grunt upwards or sideways or even my way. Brutes held up the proceedings by repeatedly using armor lock, and Elites were relatively tough because of their movement. Jackals kept diving to try and avoid needles, which handily let them pile in! As for the rifle, it was actually better than the needler on Grunts, with a strong blast effect that reliably drove them backwards rather than all over the place. Things were easiest when the victim was no longer close, as that made aiming easier. So all in all, there's definitely scope for some needle play, perhaps even using the weapons together. The needler when close, and the rifle when further away.

Bottomless clip please!

Things are undoubtedly the most fun with a bottomless clip so you can keep up the pressure on a covie you're driving to the edge, but it's up to you. If you opt for having reloading, that would significantly add to the challenge because each time you reload, your covie gets time to recover and start wandering. Depending on your weapon and the type of covie, it may or may not be workable. One thing I can guarantee is that you'd be doing an awful lot of reloading, which could get to be quite a drag.

Damage modifier note

Just so you know, your damage modifier can affect how far a weapon blasts covies. Using a concussion rifle with damage modifier 25%, it's fairly easy to see that Grunts don't fly as far as normal. So would 300% be even better than the standard 100%? You'd think so, but actually I couldn't see any difference, so perhaps the blast effect has already maxed out. At any rate, I just stick with 100%.

Blasting technique

With skilful blasting you'll be able to take more pride in your work and it'll be more fun too, so let's have a talk about technique.

Ground blasts

Landing a shot on the ground near your covie is one to move him, and from the air you get an improved angle for your aim. With a concussion rifle, a fast way to shift him is to use double blasts. The first blast gets him flying and the second - felt while he's off the ground - gives him extra speed. Taking things further, try landing multiple blasts in a line to keep him on the move. You can potentially keep him off the ground a long way like that, driving him along on a bed of explosions so he doesn't get chance to slow down from friction. Very satisfying when you manage it. You'd really want to be airborne for that though, as you'll have a much better angle for shooting. With a rocket launcher or fuel rod gun you might find these volley methods difficult, partly because of the lower firing rates.

Wall blasts

Watch out for the opportunity of blasting any wall-like surface behind a covie, to send him shooting away from it. Wall, rock, tree, whatever. That's often useful in starting a covie on his journey to the edge, and in some places there are surfaces close enough to the cliff edge that he could go flying off without further ado, which is highly amusing.

Body shots

If you're on foot or flying very low, it's very effective to drive a covie back with body shots. On foot it's probably the method you'd be using most. Very satisfying too! You don't necessarily even need to keep pace with him, because a rapid volley of concussion rifle shots can cause him to fairly shoot away from you, over the edge. You tend to lose sight of him behind the barrage, and when the dust clears, he's gone! Brutes make especially nice targets for body shots, presenting an excellent wide area to lay into. If you can get your covie off the ground to some extent, that can speed things up because then there's no friction slowing him down.

Whether you're on foot or airborne, it's excellent fun to blast covies when they're in mid-air if you can manage it. And it's especially satisfying to give a Grunt his final send-off over a cliff by delivering a concussion rifle blast to the face. Yes, I'm evil like that. It's fun to try and score a hit as they're heading down too!

Exploiting covie recovery

When a Grunt or Brute lands after going fairly high (most likely from concussion rifle fire), he'll be stationary for a while, recovering, which gives you time to carefully take aim for your next shot or volley. So be on the lookout for the opportunity and make good use of it. The same goes for Hunters, but those are so slow that the pause isn't all that valuable. With other covies any recovery pause is less noticeable, and in particular, Elites barely slow up at all.

Moving a covie towards you

Quite often you might be facing a covie and wanting to drive him your way, e.g. if the cliff edge lies somewhere behind you. One way is to blast a vertical surface behind him if he's sufficiently near one, but let's suppose there's nothing convenient. If you're airborne or if you briefly make yourself airborne, a well-placed shot to the ground directly behind him would obviously help, but that can be difficult if you're low. If you're on foot, blast the ground to the right of him and to some extent behind, to get him up off the ground, then move and rotate to get a good angle for further blasts. You can potentially make your second blast a body shot while he's off the ground, which can add very nicely to his speed if well timed. Overall it's like you've done a quick one-two to get him heading for the cliff. If you're instead hovering low, you can do things in a similar way except typically just using ground blasts, as a body shot would drive him downwards if you're higher than him.

Exploiting enemy momentum

When you see a fast-moving enemy heading in the direction you want him shifted, try to exploit his momentum by landing a blast which will help him along. He can get carried a long way like that; maybe right off the cliff. It's an excellent technique to use on Elites who dash about, but it's also good on Skirmishers. Brutes move a lot slower so you won't get such a marked benefit, but it's still worthwhile. Of course, the faster the enemy is, the slicker you'll need to be with your timing and aim. But when it works, it's great.

Temporary flight

If you're doing ground-based play but you also have a jet pack, it can be worth briefly taking off to get a good angle for a first blast to get a covie off his feet. You could then come back down to continue the blasting. More generally though, the jet pack would allow you to use aerial techniques for brief periods if you wish.

Herding multiple covies

Using a concussion rifle from the air especially, it's viable to herd multiple covies at once. You'll need good shot placement to keep them in a sufficiently tight bunch to avoid losing any, but it's worth a go and makes for a challenge. My own gameplay thus far has been single-player, but it strikes me that two or more players working together could herd covies rather impressively. In fact I'm picturing it now and I think it could be darned amusing! Poor old covies - I almost feel sorry for 'em.

Specific game types

A few days after posting the original version of this article, I added a specific game type called Knock-off Alpha which was intended to be suitable for both aerial and ground-based play, though it was oriented more towards aerial. But I soon decided it would've been better to have separate versions for the two types of play because of their differing requirements. In particular, the 150% player speed which was good for aerial play was really too fast for ground-based play, and for the latter you could also do with more protection because you tend to take more fire. There were a few other ways I thought I could improve things too, so I got busy and redesigned things, taking more care to get it right this time. I've now got a separate page of new and improved Knock-off game types for you to play, which I expect to add more to as time goes by. So go check 'em out and have fun!

As for Knock-off Alpha, that should be considered defunct, now replaced by the pair Knock-off 1 Standard and Knock-off 1 aerial. But just for the record, the settings were as in Knock-off 1 Aerial except that you had 3x overshields which recharged at normal rate, no boosted damage resistance, and loadouts as in Knock-off 1 Standard.

Creating your own game types

I also used to have a section giving advice on creating your own game types, but I've cut that. It was mostly about choosing Spartan settings, but my advice now is largely embodied in the choices made in my redesign, and you can read there about my rationale for those choices. So all I'd suggest now is, use my settings as the standard to go by, and just make adjustments if you think you'd prefer things a bit different in some way.

Assorted tips

Here are some assorted tips for Knock-off play, whether it be with my own game types or otherwise.

Cliff cover

In aerial play, bear in mind that you can potentially sink below some cliff edge to use it as cover for recharging. That can be very useful on occasion. In some places you'd be out of bounds though, so try to avoid those or quickly move to a better spot. Also, you obviously need to avoid sinking too low else the game could kill you. You really don't need to sink very low at all. Just hover with your head below ground level and that's usually enough.

Ambushing and holding out

In various places near a drop, there are good opportunities for waiting for enemies to turn up then ambushing or blitzing them as they arrive, especially if playing on foot. The area around Station 2 in Installation 04 is a good example, where it's relatively easy to blast enemies off the cliff as soon as they show their faces. On Legendary you might feel obliged to make that sort of play a key part of your tactics, as it's so risky getting near more than a few covies at once. A particularly dangerous situation in Holdout is when a drop pod comes down and its occupants come after you, adding to covies already after you. In such situations, you might want to get to a good spot to defend from!

Fuel rod Grunts and other nasties

On the higher difficulties, one of the biggest dangers to watch out for is Grunts with fuel rod guns. Especially on Legendary, where they can be absolute murder in standard play. Try to spot these devils early so you at least know they're there, and then make them priority targets. If possible, get one as soon as he hits the ground from his dropship. Enemy snipers are another major hazard, potentially ripping your shield to pieces in seconds, so again you'd do well to prioritize them. Fortunately, Jackal snipers are often stationary, making easy targets which get blasted for miles.

Heretic Heavy

Here's a tip for aerial play. When it comes to tackling Heretic Heavy, the most important thing for your safety is to keep on the move when exposed. This is especially important in regard to avoiding rockets. Avoid drifting to a momentary halt in the open (e.g. to then head back the other way), else something nasty is liable to slam into you. The golds with rocket launchers are by far the most dangerous, so take every chance you get to eliminate them, prioritizing them over the blues. Also, preferably avoid enemy concentrations.

Holdout

In Holdout you've got great opportunities for blasting a mass of covies off the cliff as soon as they're dropped, which is obviously going to be a big time saver if you're playing against the clock. Try and get yourself into a good position for doing that, and preferably blast the dropship's cannon off beforehand for safety (but don't let it hold you up unduly). You can potentially get some covies from a second dropship too. For the highest efficiency, exploit those drops to the max!

Installation 04

The ODSTs in Installation 04 will be invulnerable because you made the covies invulnerable. Hence they can keep fighting indefinitely, though in practice they often end up so far from the installation that the covies lose interest. Makes quite a nice feature, albeit a touch unrealistic! If you don't want covies to be distracted away from you though, disable hazards so you don't get the ODSTs. An alternative idea is to blast them to places where any distracted covies might be easier for you to access and deal with. E.g. nearer the cliff edge. Sometimes I try to do that before the dropships make their first drops, but it has to be done carefully else you can end up sending an ally to a watery end.

When a Grunt or Brute mans the machine gun turret, he seems to temporarily lose his invulnerability (an apparent defect in the implementation, though at least Elites seem to be exempt). You can take advantage of this if you like, e.g. sending in a rocket, but for your own safety you might want to destroy the turret before it gets manned!

If you see a covie near the man cannon, you can blast him into it to give him a trip he may not have wanted. If he gets extra boost from the blast, he can end up skimming off the installation's deck and going off the cliff, which is pretty hilarious.

Tackling Banshees

For tackling Banshees in Holdout and Installation 04, a rocket launcher is easiest though the homing rockets are by no means a sure thing. A fuel rod gun is fine if you wait for an attack run, but that's hardly ideal. A grenade launcher can make the Banshee fall out of the sky if the grenade detonates close, which is fun to do. If it falls past the cliff, it can get destroyed by the game, but if it merely drops to the ground you'll want to try and follow up with more damage while it's struggling. As for the concussion rifle, it's rather weak against Banshees and you'll need quite a few hits to destroy it. Banshees can also be tagged of course.

Suicidal Grunts

If a Grunt goes suicidal with plasma grenades, he drops his weapon first, and after surviving the bang (courtesy of his invulnerability) he'll be conveniently weaponless! This is perhaps a good reason to prioritize killing Elites. It could nullify a few Grunts into the bargain.

Elite scoring bug

By some quirk, you don't score for killing invulnerable Elites, though other covies score fine when you knock them off. If this troubles you, a potential fix is to alter the covie damage resistance to 2000% and also have the Mythic skull on. That should make covies 40 times tougher than usual, so they'll be able to take a lot of blasting, and will hopefully only end up dying by being knocked off, as desired. On Heroic I think Grunts can take at least 45 concussion rifle blasts, while on Normal it's less, maybe 38, and on Legendary it's maybe 60. In the case of Installation 04 there would also be the issue of covies taking damage from ODSTs. I haven't checked into that to judge how rapidly the damage might mount up, but I suspect it wouldn't be too much of a concern as long as you work through the covies reasonably fast.

Personally I'm not worried about the lack of scoring for Elites (it took me weeks to even notice), though the inconsistency is annoying. A drawback is that there won't be a score appearance to serve as kill confirmation, but that's not very important as you'll usually be well aware of the situation without.

Territorial shooting limitation

Another way of having some sport is to limit yourself to shooting from certain territory, or even a particular spot or collection of spots, and try to blast covies off the cliffs from there. Possibly even all of them if you give yourself sufficient scope. Sometimes you might be quite far from your targets, making things a real challenge, but careful barrages with a concussion rifle can leave you with a satisfied smile on your face. I've only just started with this idea but have already had fun with it from on top of some trees in Installation 04. See all those high pointy trees? You can land on 'em! In that map, one pretty obvious territorial limitation would be to limit yourself to the installation. I've gotta try that.

Note: If your territory comprises multiple areas or spots, you're allowed to move from one to another of course (jet pack recommended); you're just not allowed to do any shooting in between.

Amusing spot in Installation 04

I found a very amusing place to shoot from in Installation 04. I was using Grunts and I was invulnerable. Stand on the rock which is on the cliff edge near Station 2, or just lurk around in that general area. When Grunts arrive you can send a well-timed concussion shot against various bits of the station or the tall rock nearby to send them flying over the edge - and you can peer down to watch them go. Hilarious! Just let your victims keep on coming - it's excellent leisurely fun. If you stand nearer the station door they tend to try and use it, and you can send them off the edge with a blast against the doorway or side of the station.

Tough covies

Thus far I've been talking about invulnerable covies, but there's scope for similar gameplay using covies who've merely been made very tough, by raising their damage resistance and maybe also using the Mythic skull if needed. The idea would be to make them weak enough that you'll need to be quite efficient with your blasting. That would be the challenge. And if any end up dying prematurely, you fail - or maybe you could take some sort of penalty. I haven't investigated this idea yet, but I think it's got potential and maybe I'll update the article later with suggestions for some specific settings.

Let's play… Water-kill?

The Knock-off idea can also be widened to include death by drowning, which is something you can play in Beachhead. Blast covies sufficiently far out to sea and they drown. It's a similar principal insofar as you're killing them by knocking them off the playable area into a death zone, though admittedly it's not as visually amusing as sending them off cliffs. You do get drowning sounds however, so it has its charm. Not sure what to call that game. Water-kill?

Waterfront has sea too, but actually it's no good. It's very shallow and I couldn't get any Grunts to drown in it, even though they can be completely submerged. Bunch of semi-aquatic spoilsports!