Halo 2 exists as maybe the most broken of all titles in the Halo franchise. From sword-lunging to foes hundreds of feet away, to walking straight through walls, to morphing into enemies – Halo 2 is rife with glitches that speedrunners use to cut down on time. Of all the tricks in Halo 2, however, “butterflying” stands out as the most ridiculous.
In May of 2016, former world record holder MisterMonopoli uploaded a video of a world record speedrun of the level “Gravemind,” the hardest in the game. His time of 7:20 lowered the record by nearly a minute despite being rather unoptimized, because it incorporated a brand new trick known as “butterflying,” which can be seen at 2:31 in the video. The record would be lowered by Cryphon by 40 seconds in just two days and would later work its way into other Halo 2 levels. So what is butterflying?
Butterflying is a trick that plays off of Halo 2’s melee-canceling function. Many Halo 2 players from back in the day likely remember the infamous “BXR” button combination, in which a player would melee an opponent, quickly press the reload button to force the melee animation to end early, then press the right trigger to fire off a quick battle rifle burst into their enemy’s head for an easy kill. Butterflying uses this exact same trick of cancelling a melee animation by reloading.
When you melee an enemy who is within range (a few feet), you will lunge towards them before making contact. This is possible even while midair, performing a physics-defying lunge as a sort of double-jump to strike an opponent. This technique plays a key role in butterflying. By canceling your melee before you hit the opponent, you will no longer deal damage to them, but your momentum will be conserved and you will still lunge toward them as you would normally. The kicker here is that when you lunge into them, you give them a slight nudge and push them.
By getting an enemy to stand on your head, you can initiate a jumping melee and immediately reload to cancel it. This will push the enemy slightly upwards and you will fall slightly as they move up. Rapidly repeating this button combo will push the enemy up higher and higher while you rest beneath them, repeatedly lunging upwards as they ascend. The result is levitation. In its first use on Gravemind, players trick a brute into following them into a downward gravity lift. Once they see “Loading… done,” the prison area will be loaded (the hardest room in the game) and they can butterfly upward until the prison de-loads. This tricks the game into thinking they completed the section and allows them to progress, skipping it entirely.
This trick would later be extended onto the level High Charity, the second last level in the game. Its use here is even more mindboggling, as speedrunners fly from the very start of the level to the very end in less than a minute. This version of the trick is much more advanced, as it requires players to fly horizontally and to steer as they do so. Speedrunners will position themselves slightly off-center beneath the flood form; the flood will face whichever direction the runner is offset to and the pair will move in that direction as they fly. By moving the left stick ever so slightly, they can move side-to-side to adjust where the flood is looking, and by waiting longer between lunges, runners can stay at a constant height as they fly to the end.
The end-of-level trigger is within the region that is loaded at the beginning of High Charity, though it normally involves fighting your way up and through a tower to reach it. Instead, speedrunners fly around the building and up the side to reach the trigger, skipping the entire level. This trigger that they hit was originally planned to start a warthog escape sequence, similar to that at the ends of Halo: CE and Halo 3. However, it was cut, allowing this level to be the only one in the series to ever be beaten on legendary in under a minute.
Butterflying went undiscovered for 12 years after Halo 2’s release and is a prime example of how it doesn’t matter how long a game has been out, speedrunners will always find a way to break it further. In this case, that discovery was made in the form of a bizarre, hilarious new method of taking to the skies.
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Gavin Burtt is a news, guide and list writer for TheGamer based up north in Ontario, Canada. Gavin has worked as a walkthrough editor and overseer for the TrueGaming network and has been an avid Xbox achievement hunter for years, accumulating over 700,000 gamerscore to this date. When he’s not writing or gaming, he’s focusing on his physics studies for Queen’s University.
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