I have been a Halo fan since I first bought an Xbox back in 2002. I have bought every Halo game since on the day of release, and completed it (on at least Heroic) the same day. I bought the Legendary Editions of both Halo 3 and Halo Reach; I even bought the Halo Reach console as a second console. I also have a couple of Halo graphic novels and a Halo T-shirt. I think it’s safe to say that I am a pretty big fan of Halo. While I have never played competitive Halo, I am a fan of the ranked multiplayer. I dread to think the number of hours that I have put into playing Halo online. As you can imagine, Halo 5: Guardians is my most anticipated game releasing this year. I am really excited to see where 343 Industries will take the Halo story next. Everything I have seen of the campaign mode of the game, so far, has completely sold me on Halo 5. What I’m not so sure about is the multiplayer.
Microsoft is really pushing Halo 5: Guardians to be big in the eSports arena. I can understand Microsoft’s desire to be part of eSports. As successful and well received as Halo 4 was, the online multiplayer was not that popular. The true test of any game’s multiplayer is the percentage of people who are still playing it months later. Halo 2 had a dedicated following for years after it was released. Halo 3 was also still popular months after release. Halo Reach was when things started to go downhill. In Bungie’s attempts to shake up the multiplayer, they lost some of the devoted Halo players. With Halo 4, 343 Industries continued this misstep with Spartan abilities. The great thing about Halo multiplayer was that everyone started every match the same, similar powered weapons, similar abilities, same ammo count, and same health & shield. This balanced setup allowed for even matches and play that meant tactics could be a match decider alongside skill.
Halo 5 has been making all the right moves in terms of fixing the multiplayer. There are only 2 load-outs to choose from and they are really well balanced. There are also Spartan abilities, but everyone has them, which makes it fair, and they’re more about speeding up movement and enabling new ways to play. The character’s movement speed has been increased as well, making matches quicker and punchier. 343 Industries seems to have learnt a lot from making Halo 2: Anniversary and appears to have the same ethos in Halo 5 Multiplayer that made Halo 2 so successful. These are all things that are needed to draw the eSports crowd in. The best eSports players have lightning fast reflexes, and incredible knowledge of every game they play (level layouts, choke points, weapon locations etc.). They also demand level playing fields, so that as much luck as possible is removed from the equation. Real eSports players want to know that when they beat someone, or get beaten by someone that 99% of the reason was skill.
There are only 2 multiplayer modes in Halo 5: Guardians: ‘Arena Multiplayer’ and ‘Warzone’. ‘Arena Multiplayer’ is classic 4-vs-4 Halo multiplayer while ‘Warzone’ is a brand new, massive-scale multiplayer mode that supports 24-player battles with both friendly and enemy AI constantly dropping in to mix up the experience. It’s nonstop action when you confront Spartans, Covenant, and Forerunners, all while trying to complete a variety of objectives.’ Both of these modes have been created with an eye on eSports, but is this a good thing or a bad thing?
I actually think it’s quite a good thing. The fact that the multiplayer will be really well balanced has to be a benefit for players. Putting so much effort into making a multiplayer mode that will attract eSports players has to be a good thing. Where I think the eSports focus is turning into a negative is the advertising for the game. Every bit of publicity for the game that features multiplayer is eSports focused. I’m not saying that they shouldn’t ever mention it at all, but they need to sell this game to us mere mortals as well as the superhuman eSports players. Competition players make up such a miniscule fraction of the people who will play this game online. Microsoft needs to let the more casual players know that this game is going to be fun for them too. Warzone looks like it could be amazing, with really busy battlegrounds akin to those of Titanfall, they need to advertise this mode more. Show some coverage of multiplayer without showing footage of professional clans playing together in a row with matching headphones on and having eSports shoutcasters yelling over the top of it. Halo multiplayer needs to be a game that anyone can play and that the eSports community adopts, not the other way around.