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The Glorious Masochism of Halo 2: LASO Deathless Runs

Over the last week or so, Halo 2 has had me practically glued to my screen. But not because I’m playing Bungie’s nearly two-decade-old FPS classic. Instead, I’ve been watching other insane gamers attempt the nigh-impossible: Beat Halo 2 on the hardest difficulty with all of the game’s modifiers (skulls) turned on.

Halo’s “skulls” are easter eggs found throughout the singleplayer campaigns. They’re not just pointless collectibles, though: They double as goofy game modifiers that can be toggled once found. Some skulls handicap the player, while others are merely cosmetic or textural. For instance, “Blind” completely disables the heads-up display, preventing players from checking their ammo or grenade count. Then there’s “I Would Have Been Your Daddy (IWHBYD),” which sounds kinky, but only causes human NPCs to say off-colour remarks more frequently.

You can play Halo 2’s campaign with any combination of toggled skulls. But the seemingly indomitable Legendary Difficulty All Skulls On (LASO) Deathless challenge requires players to complete the game with all of them enabled (except “Envy,” which grants the player a cloaking ability). Oh, and if you die, your playthrough is over.

Here’s what LASO changes (source: Halopedia):

  • Anger: Enemies and allies fire their weapons faster and more frequently
  • Assassins: All enemies in game are permanently cloaked. Allies can sometimes see them but mostly they can’t, so they can’t help much
  • Black Eye: Your shield does not charge normally. To charge your shields you must kill something (enemy, ally, or turret) with a melee attack (anything but the Energy Sword)
  • Blind: Your heads-up display becomes invisible. In other words, you cannot see your weapon (unless it’s the Energy Sword, which has a glitched appearance with this skull), body, shields, ammunition, motion tracker, or use your flashlight
  • Catch: A.I. will throw more grenades. Also, everybody (allies and enemies) will drop two grenades of their kind when killed
  • Famine: All dropped weapons have half ammo. Weapons that spawned on the floor or spawned with are unaffected
  • Ghost: A.I. characters will not flinch from attacks, melee or otherwise
  • Grunt Birthday Party: Headshotting unshielded enemies creates a Plasma Grenade explosion
  • I Would Have Been Your Daddy (IWHBYD): The rarity of combat dialog is changed, with rare lines becoming far more common
  • Mythic: Enemies have more health and shielding, and are therefore harder to kill
  • Sputnik: The mass of certain objects is severely reduced, making them fly further when smacked with a melee hit, or when they are near an explosion
  • That’s Just… Wrong: Strengthens the hearing of both allies and enemies
  • Thunderstorm: Causes most enemy and ally units to be their highest rank

The resulting gameplay experience is absolutely bonkers. On Legendary difficulty, Halo 2’s alien combatants are already crack-shots that rarely leave the player’s mistakes unpunished. LASO ups the ante even further — but the challenge is hardly fair. After all, Halo 2’s developers never intended the game to be played this way. They included these “skulls” as bonus gameplay modifiers — y’know, for shits and giggles. Only now, nearly twenty years later, these “gimmicky treats” seemingly exist only to torture Halo 2’s most dedicated (and arguably masochistic) players.

As of last month, YouTuber “Moistcr1tikal” is offering a $20000 USD cash prize to anyone who can beat Halo 2 on LASO Deathless, which has renewed interest in the challenge. He’s also compiled some standout freakout/rage moments from participant “Jervalin” — currently the contest’s frontrunner. Check them out below:

Featured image source: Jervalin

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