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The epic sword-flying, mountain-jumping, Johnson-cloning Halo 2 speedrun

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Cloning Sergeant Johnson at AGDQ 2017

A good way to beat Halo 2 quickly is to literally jump over a mountain — and that’s just one of the mind-bending tricks that the speedrunner Cryphon showed off this week when he beat the first-person shooter during Awesome Games Done Quick 2017.

Start to finish, it took Cryphon (accompanied by his friend ShenanaganSmash) less than two hours to beat the 2004 Bungie game on Legendary difficulty. You can watch the whole thing on the Games Done Quick YouTube channel. In this article, we’ll walk you through four of the coolest things that he did — and in the process, introduce you to the world of speedrunning.

Behold! sword flying

In Halo 2, there’s a deceptively simple trick that saves speedrunners time and energy. It’s called the “sword cancel” or “sword flying,” and it works by fundamentally confusing the game.

Anyone who’s wielded a sword in a Halo game knows that there’s a bit of magnetism to some swings. When you’re holding a sword, facing an enemy and your reticle turns red, you can perform a lunge. Your character will quickly close the distance between you and your enemy, then slash away.

In effect, the sword cancel negates the swing but keeps the lunge, which sends your character flying across the map. Here’s how Cryphon explained it.

The best shortcut requires jumping over a mountain

No matter what game you’re playing, there are several ways to approach a speedrun. Maybe you want to beat every boss. Maybe you don’t care about that, and you’re cool with just getting from the beginning to the end as quickly as possible. The speedrunning community accepts both strategies, and at AGDQ 2017, Cryphon took the latter — and flashier — approach.

With speed as his top priority, Cryphon didn’t let a mountain stand in his way. Using the sword flying technique that we discussed above, he was able to bypass a large section of Halo 2. A mountain wasn’t going to stop him, and you can watch his Superman-like leap below.

Overcoming Halo 2’s random spawns

About 43 minutes into his Halo 2 Legendary run, Cryphon ran into a textbook example of the ways in which Halo 2’s random spawning can derail the best-laid plans.

Halo 2 veterans will know that reloading a checkpoint doesn’t reset the world to the exact state it was in when you got the checkpoint. Whether you’re speedrunning or just playing for fun, sometimes, you just get screwed. You might have died facing two enemies. You may respawn only to face three or more.

That’s exactly what happened to Cryphon. Knowing the game as well as he does, he knew exactly what to do to optimize for speed.

“This is one of those sections where it’s just faster to go through and hope,” Cryphon said after the first two ghosts spawned and killed him. What he didn’t know was that it wasn’t about to get any easier. You can check out his struggle in the video below.

Cloning Sergeant Johnson

There’s a way to make Halo 2’s final boss battle much, much easier. It requires a lot of planning, a bit of luck, a Spectre and a lovable non-playable character.

In short, as long as a Spectre (a vehicle that debuted in Halo 2) from the beginning of the final level, The Great Journey, survives your playthrough, you can return to it and use it to spawn multiple clones of Sergeant Johnson, an NPC who’s packing a powerful weapon.

In the video below, you’ll see Cryphon encounter the Spectre for the first time, leave it behind and return to it late in the level. At that point, he drives it through places it was never meant to be, finally placing it on a spawn point just before his encounter with the final boss, Tartarus.

This is where Halo 2 gets confused — and where speedrunners prosper. Cryphon parks the Spectre on top of a checkpoint. For reasons unknown, if Johnson’s in the Spectre, Halo 2 thinks he’s not there. So it spawns another Johnson. And another. And another. Using the exploit, the final boss battle takes no time at all.