The 5 Things I Want From Halo 5's Multiplayer

Over the weekend Halo 5 was ‘announced’. Actually, ‘re-announced’ is probably the right word. Great news. But as someone who spent (literally) thousands of hours playing Halo multiplayer I care about one thing: how is 343 Industries going to make me invest in shooting other human controlled enemies in the face again? How will 343 make me care about Halo’s multiplayer?

So, with that, here is my own personal -- somewhat parochial -- views on what I’d personally like to see in a brand new Halo multiplayer game.

1. Make Halo play like Halo again

Talk about your all time vague statements.

Make Halo play like Halo again -- what does that even mean?

Perhaps the quickest path to understanding what I mean is this: I don’t need a Halo game packed with features that other first person shooter have.

Let me unpack that further: I don’t want to play another Halo game that makes me feel as though I’m playing Battlefield or Call of Duty. Please God no. I play/played Halo specifically because Halo feels different. Let every other first person shooter congeal into a messed up chimera with 10 heads and iron sights. Let them have their level-up systems, and their weapon upgrades and all that nonsense. Let’s keep Halo as something of a pure arena shooter, the way Zeus intended.


That means: no more ordnance drops. God. No more. Halo was always about map control and weapon control. It was always about balance and the creation of some sort of skill gap. That’s what kept things compelling. That’s why people constantly came back to Halo instead of abandoning it in droves **cough** Halo 4 **cough**.

2. Bigger isn’t better

This is just a personal preference of mine. Bear with me here.

Halo is many different things to many different players, but I’d argue you could splice its community into two large groups. There are people -- like me -- who like smaller 4v4 focused maps like Lockout/Midship and those who enjoy large scale vehicle driven maps like Blood Gulch.

The instinct of Bungie and 343, it seems, has always skewed towards the large scale side of things -- the Big Team Battle crew. It makes sense: with increased processing power comes great responsibility and the short cut to ‘OMG LOOK AT HOW MUCH HALO HAS IMPROVED’ is to create large scale maps with a lot vehicles. Focusing on smaller maps like Guardian tends to bring the ‘HALO IS THE SAME NEVER CHANGES’ crowd out of the woodwork.

But creating a good, small arena style map is always a far more difficult task in terms of design and, in the long term, will result in a more compelling experience that keeps players returning over and over again.

In short: I’m not saying we shouldn’t cater to those who enjoy the grand scale Halo experience -- not at all. I’m just asking for more of those small, arena style maps -- that’s where the core Halo experience lives.

3. Let’s Strip Back Weapons

Halo games -- and I’d argue this trend began with Halo 2 -- suffers from weapon bloat. Too many weapons that do the exact same thing. For every human weapon (sniper, shotgun, assault rifle) there is an alien equivalent that did the precise same thing. With the introduction of the Forerunners as a race, that two weapon eco-system transformed into a three weapon eco-system and yeah… things got a bit crazy.

In terms of weapons I’d still argue that the original Halo remains the most balanced, primarily because it’s the most simple: there was the pistol, which operated as an all round starting weapon, and there were power weapons, which worked brilliantly in their own specific station. A sniper rifle for long range, shotgun for close range, rocket launcher to blow shit up. In Halo 2 the battle rifle performed the same function as the pistol.

In Halo 4? Dear God, we have the battle rifle, the DMR, the pistol? Which is supposed to be our all rounder, and how do we decipher the balance between the other hundreds of weapons dotted around the map and in the game?

Halo has become far too bloated.

The rock/scissors/paper dynamic of the weapons, always a central part of Halo’s competitive mechanics, has been lost. Let’s get it back somehow.

4. Make Grenades Important Again

Sometimes we forget that, in the famed 30 seconds of fun at Halo’s core, it all starts with a grenade. In Halo, grenades are arguably more important than the weapons themselves. When Halo was first released the manner in which grenades were used was genuinely innovative: throw in a grenade, take care of the smaller grunts, drop the shields of the elites and clear them up with the pistol/assault rifle.

Endlessly fun. It’s still fun to this day. It’s as natural and primal as Mario’s jump.

The same goes in multiplayer. Grenades are so integral to the multiplayer experience. Using them correctly is about map knowledge, it’s about reading the game, reading the players -- it’s about anticipating the moves of your opponent and strategically throwing grenades into the position where they are going to be.

Let’s bring that back. Let’s make that a focus for Halo 5.

5. Support The Competitive Scene

343 Industries, from what I can tell, is already doing this -- having hired a good number of ex-Halo pros like GhostAyame and Bravo -- but I’m hoping to see the fruits of that labour in the game itself and in the support for things like MLG playlists and adaptable settings that allow users to create the Halo that works best in a competitive setting.

It’s strange -- as pro gaming exploded into the mainstream, professional Halo just sort of fell to the wayside. Part of it, I think, had to do with the waning popularity of Halo itself, but I can’t help but wonder if changes to the core Halo experience with Halo 4 facilitated that fall from grace.

Twitch is a big deal. Streaming is a huge deal. Pro gaming is huge deal. I’m hoping Halo 5 -- as well as being a well made video game that appeals to a broad audience -- finds the space to appeal to that niche audience, because that’s what gives a game longevity; that’s what will inspire players to take it seriously as a competitive experience again.


    Going along with number 5. If there is no spectator mode. Or it is implemented poorly. The e-sport potential dies instantaneously. I cannot stress how important that is.

      It's probably worth noting that one of the reasons Halo left the competitive circuits is that Microsoft struck a deal with Virgin Gaming.
      It guaranteed exclusivity, & prevented Halo 4 from being on the MLG circuit.

    I disagree with you on #2. I'm part of the group that loves Halo multi for the big team experience - big maps and lots of vehicles are my ideal Halo experience - but for the past few games (Reach and 4), to me it's felt like they've really being trying to cater more to the small 4v4 crowd at the expense of big team stuff. Maps have been smaller, large teams haven't been as supported in game types and vehicles have been featuring less and less. If anything they need to focus more on grand scale stuff to get the series back to feeling like Halo, as small scale pvp has always been something I've associated more with games like CoD.

      Haha! It's crazy how both of us can feel under-served at the same time. I guess it's just human psychology.

      #2 is completely correct in my opinion and it leads to what i believe should be a #6. The larger maps completely changes the game style. People have the choice to select their primary weapons in H4 and because of the larger maps, it is normally a DMR or BR. The games then turns into a cross map shoot out rather than an arena arcade style game we all know and love. That was my biggest disappointment.

    Expected this to basically be "take out all the shit you added in Halo 4/Reach".

      So Halo 3 with updated graphics and new maps? I'm fully behind that idea.

        I'm not.

          Unfortunately there are two halo games.. Those who prefer the new style and those who want it to go back to ita roots and there is no group that falls in between.

          Unfortunately i have to agree with Dire Wolf as i would prefer Halo to do a complete swing in the other direction... And given its failure to maintain a fan base (and reach's) in comparison to H2 and H3 MM, most people do want this. I just hope 343i sees this and listens to the community.

        Halo 3 with updates to the connection quality. If I pick up a fps to play locally with friends it is halo 3

      I liked a lot about Reach, I thought Halo 4's multiplayer was completely brutal.

        Ah good, i thought you were against Reach too. I definitely liked that game more than Halo 4, both single player and multiplayer. It just felt more justified, rather than a desperate attempt to stretch out the franchise.

          I never understood the hatred towards Reach. I think it was the best Halo game.

          Just... No armour lock. Yikes, that was a bad armour ability.

            Wasn't that bad. I can fix it without needing an update.

    I don't know if I can enjoy Halo 5 as 343i is taking it in a direction I don't angree with. Not just gameplay, but also story, themes, and art.
    I forced myself to go with it, but when I discovered that the biggest threat to the Forerunners was humanity and they were de-evolved back to apes and shoved onto Earth I just threw my arms up over how stupid it was.

    As for weapons the problem is complacency. The only weapon you needed to use in Halo 1 was the Magnum. Variety was already killed and if people played the game without the pistol they would probably find a level of Halo I enjoyed. This was made worse in Halo 2 where the BR was literally the only weapon worth using. All other weapons were too weak, or the because of the much bigger problem was the lack of health. Because of no health you had to play the game like Call of Duty, sitting back, poking your head out from range with the BR. All other weapons can't be used because you'll die too fast. You don't have the health to take risks anymore.
    This problem was less of an issue for Halo 3, but because of the lack of health, once again you have to play it like CoD.

    It got better with ODST and Reach, with the return of health. You can play those games without using the OP pistol or precision rifle. But then we went 3 games backwards with Halo 4 and back to the Call of Duty style of hanging back and sniping everyone. The game is so focused on BR only gameplay that they created 3 more weapons that do the exact same thing but to give the illusion of variety.

    Grenades were the strongest in Halo 1. For Halo 2 and 3 they were downplayed in strength because their fuse timers were shortened. They returned in strength for Reach, but because of the short fuse timers some saw them as OP (a simple solution would be to make single grenade loadouts). Another step back for Halo 4 because Halo 2 was the pinnacle. Unless they increase the timer and keep the strength they'll always remain weak. But considering we live in "only fast" world where CoD games have been decreasing the killtimes, I doubt it will happen.

    I actually think they shouldn't focus on competitive gaming. Probably no secret that I believe the competitive scene hurts games for everyone. This was proven in Reach, where the first update Bungie couldn't do but 343i was happy to do wasn't focused on fixing the problems the game had, but altering the game just to make MLG happy. This update was the first real population hit Reach had and was forced on everyone. To make matters worse, the playlists with these updates never got popular and once Halo 4 came out they reduced down to barely 5 people.

      Re: Halo's story direction. I agree with you on that. I enjoyed the stuff between the Chief and Cortana, but I didn't really like all the Forerunner and human history stuff. I think it was Mark who wrote an article a while back about how fictional universes should have a deep backstory, but then all that backstory doesn't necessarily need to be shown to the player as it can cheapen the setting and make things feel less exciting, and that's how I feel about the revelations in Halo 4. I liked not knowing much about the Forerunners. I liked their connection with humanity being up for debate. Now that we've got all these answers though the Halo setting just isn't as appealing as it once was. The Spartans and the Covenent and stuff is still interesting, but the mystery has gone out of the setting.

        Yeah, I actually wrote that because Halo 4 had so much painful exposition.

        There shouldn't been a connection. It should have been left up to chance. If it was up to me and I was forced to think up a reason why humans could interact with Forerunner technology but Covenant can't, it would have been because humans are all part cyborg and the Covenant aren't. The Forerunner technology and Moniters only grant them access because they're confused and think they're Forerunners, because they too were part robot.

        The Covenant are highly religious and traditional, having cyborg parts would go against their religion and that's why they couldn't use Forerunner technology and had to reverse engineer it. If they were part cyborg they could confuse and use the technology way earlier and blow up the universe years before the story takes place.

        Would have been a nice theme of traditional versus progress. With one group refusing to advance their race failing and another succeeding because they embraced it. Especially in todays market where people hate anything new, but complain when there's nothing new as well.

        But you know, going with the "humanity is speshul" trope worked just as well...

          And Master Chief used to be special because he was the cream of the crop and was chosen to be among humanity's finest, but as it turns out he was genetically pre-programmed by the forerunners to be Jesus Christ and save humanity. He is not longer a badass naturally, he's just a hyped up forerunner experiment.


            I've heard some people give the opinion that the ending with Cortana dying is the best moment in Halo history as well as Chiefs development. Because he's so perfect he's never experienced loss or never been in a situation he couldn't overcome. Meaning him watching Cortana go insane in Halo 4 is amazing because there's nothing he can do and it eats him up inside.

            Of course, losing entire squads of Spartans he grew up and trained with was no real big deal, they got in his way anyways.

            It's why I liked how Noble 6 was originally chosen by Cortana as she believed s/he was better than Chief. But 6 decided to stay back to give them a chance to escape and Cortana had no choice but to work with Chief. Really makes you think who actually was better between the two. Chief, who managed to work up to the ranks to command all the Spartans, or 6 who succeeded in multiple missions that were considered so suicidal for one Spartan they were omitted from records.

              Who is better? 343i really wants the answer to be Sarah Palmer.

                Or maybe this new character on the box art that has the hips and thigh gap of a woman but has been labeled as a man.

                  Some big wig at 343i said it wasn't Sarah Palmer or anyone else from a previous game. It is a new character and it's a dude.

    Bring back Forge World! That thing was so great, Halo 4's "equivalent" was piss-poor.

    And Wayont, Wayont was my favourite map. Make that into a real thing.

    @markserrels: Agree on all counts, especially 1 and 2. I'm all for big maps, but I want a balance. Give me some smaller ones too. Some of my favourite Halo net maps were the smaller arenas like Derelict/Desolation and Wizard/Warlock, which were actually Halo ports of classic Marathon MP maps.

    I want to add one more really important one to your list:
    6. Must support local co-op.
    Being able to have 4 players on a box and multiple boxes in a local environment is always one of Halo's strengths. Playing online is fine and dandy, but nothing beats the experience of getting a bunch of systems and people together in one place and playing 16 players over system link. If that's not in it this time (and it might be dropped - we simply don't know yet what the Xbone can and can't do in this area) then it'll be an enormous failure.

    Bonus points if they remake Hang 'em High. But mainly I want to go back to when the game felt like Halo.

    Last edited 19/05/14 1:36 pm

    I was one of the folks who eventually gravitated over to COD, and found Halo hard to go back to because at the time (when I was young and more stupid) it felt like you had to mow away at a dude for 20 seconds straight to get a kill, as opposed to COD's headshot and move on.

    Now I've come a full circle and have tired of the COD formula (a few versions back)...and besides BF4 don't play any shooters. I'm really hoping H5 can win me back....but after the 'big epicness' of BF4 I'm not sure I can return

    Last edited 19/05/14 1:36 pm

    The only things I care about are:
    1. Dedicated servers (sub 20-40ms as Titanfall thanks).
    2. No more host migration and no more black screen thanks to 1.
    3. Reduction of cheaters thanks to 1.
    4. In game ranks that mean something from accurate statistics thanks to 1.
    5. More interactive maps like in Halo 2 bridges, gates, trains, spinning map elements etc. again thanks to 1.
    6. Serious separation of ranked vs social, guests ruin the party/skill matching and lead to quitting and lop sided rank stats like no other. Halo 4 and Reach forgot this important aspect.

    As long as at launch they have a new cloud mode, classic arena and the usual feel to Halo controls I couldn't give a toss if it plays like CE, 2, 3, Reach or 4. All of the issues above are far more important than the specific mechanics themselves.

    I'm always surprised by how much people dislike Halo 4.

    I'm in no way a 'Halo fan' or even an 'FPS fan' (I want to be clear on that up-front), but I enjoyed Halo 4's multiplayer tremendously and thought it was far more refined and well-rounded than any Halo before it. People also seem to compare it to COD, whereas I would liken it to the Unreal Tournament games - a good thing in my books.

    I think that 343 did a fantastic job with the weapons. I can understand how fans of the older titles see the weapons list in Halo 4 as 'bloated' but I would give credit to 343 for being able to balance that many weapons as well as they did. There may be multiple versions of roughly the same gun, but each one has unique pros and cons that either just 'fit' with you as a player or can be learnt and taken advantage of in certain maps, or in certain loadouts.

    Halo 4 was the first Halo that I ever wanted to be invested in, and I personally hope that 343 continue with this direction.

    Last edited 19/05/14 2:45 pm

      Please tell me how different the Assault Rifle is from the Suppressor.

        Bullet spread and rate of fire I believe. Assault rifle is more accurate and consistent rate of fire, Suppressor is faster and has a wider spread, making it less useful at longer ranges, can destroy up close (edit: or when firing upon groups).

        Last edited 19/05/14 3:04 pm

          I would like to believe that. I really would.

            Well I certainly found it more useful in those circumstances, whereas if you're going head to head with just one opponent, the Assault Rifle is much more useful, especially at mid range.

              I don't like it when "different" is just one fraction of a number difference. When I tested the weapons they all worked the same. The only category of weapons that were different from each other were the pistols.

              It also doesn't help the fact that bloom is fake in Halo 4 and doesn't make any difference. In fact, it actually lies to you with the reticle.

                I do agree that the Suppressor wasn't as high risk vs reward as it could have been, but it was the first version of the gun. If it makes it into Halo 5 hopefully it will be higher powered but much wider spread, making it a true crowd control option, but almost useless at one on one.

                  I believe the Spiker from Halo: Reach did a better job at suppressing than the Suppressor did. It destroys shields instantly but does no real damage to health. When people have their shields drop when fighting someone who hasn't had theirs drop they freak out and run away.

    Put simply, Halo 4 had too much bullshit. It was Halo CODified. Even Reach wasn't really ever as engaging for me as Halo 3, but it still basically felt pretty good to play.

    Halo 4 had a bland an uninteresting campaign with bland an uninteresting characters and bullet sponge enemies that led to bland an uninteresting multiplayer with a surplus of crappy weapons on maps that were neither suited to large scale vehicle action or strategic foot-combat/CQB.

    Lose loadouts. Lose ordinance. Lose the forerunner weapons or at least make the differences meaningful to give them purpose like you did with the brute shot, plasma pistol, needler, etc. Don't nerf vehicles so badly that driving a tank or Warthog feels like you're navigating a crowded bar with three schooners of beer precariously balanced in your hands. Make them a threat instead of a fat moving target, but don't give vehicles complete map control at the same time.

    I don't know how to solve these problems, I just know where Halo 4 felt wrong. I feel like Halo 4 was designed by someone who understands how to make games but never bothered to play one.

      The biggest blight on FPS multiplayer these days is bullshit. Just too much bullshit. Every game has all these killstreaks and perks and gadgets and power ups and all this unnecessary stuff that makes the game more complicated and adds more potential for imbalance.

      Another really big problem I have with post-Halo 3 multiplayer is the fact that you spawn with a BR. Back when you just spawned with an SMG or AR and you had to be lucky enough to find a BR made it much more interesting. Now there's no point even picking up the assault rifle because you start with a BR or DMR. I think back in Halo 2 when you spawned with the SMG was the best. A pretty minor change but I think it has a big effect on the game as a whole, especially on large maps. If you spawned with an AR or SMG it forces you to jump in a vehicle or find a better gun instead of just finding somewhere to snipe people with your BR.

      The killstreak crap needs to go too. So do unlocks and perks and loadouts. Also, for christ's sake, just make weapon spawns the way they were before. The spawns in Halo 4 where it drops something random in a certain spot is painfully dumb.

      Last edited 19/05/14 3:11 pm

        Not for me. I enjoyed the times I sniped DMR spammers with my AR on Hemorrhage in Reach.

        Last edited 19/05/14 3:11 pm

          A game that is only fun for snipers is not a game I want any part of.

            I know, that's why I always disliked the Magnum, BR and sometimes the DMR in Reach. Discourages movement and weapon usage.

            But at least Reach had a Snipers only gametype. Kinda wish they had a everything gametype (I always hated people voting for Slayer DMR/Pro).

    I feel like No Bloom Halo: Reach provided the best gameplay experience since H1 + H2, ironic seeing as its default settings were imo worse than H4 (just by a tad). It was fast paced, required individual as well as team based skill, and had a fairly balanced sandbox.

    In order to succeed, Halo 5 needs to provide incentive for players to keep coming back past that initial honeymoon period. H4 tried to cater to all audiences in the wrong way by having nothing but a progressive ranking system, one that didn't even take long to max out. At least Reach had Arena - it was flawed but still a great concept, but H4 had nothing to distinguish the MLG Pro from the Average Joe (CSR doesn't count).

    Gameplay should be evolutionary, not revolutionary. No gimmicks. Look at CS GO, some purists may disagree, but for me it felt like a natural evolution of the CS formula. It had gameplay that stayed true to its roots, and just added extra gravy in the form of features. All of that, plus a side order of consistent dev support.

    If 343i is able to release a game wherein the competitive and casual gamer can co-exist, Halo will be able to return as the Xbox's Killer App. We need to bring back the Halo that used set the standard, not the modern Halo that follows the standard!

    One thing I would add is bring back weapon balance and variety.
    Starting with Reach they skewed the weapon balance heavily in favour of the precision weapons such as the DMR/BR and it really hurt the game for non MLG style players and the whole "feel" of Halo.

    In a Halo 2/3 match anyone could be packing anything because the maps were loaded with a variety of weapon pickups and you started with a gun that was serviceable at best - BR's were a semi power weapon. Combat was varied and interesting because everyone had to change up their strategy on the fly depending on what they could scavenge.

    But In Reach/4? Everyone starts with a DMR and almost all of the weapon pickups are gone (removing most of the map control part of the game in the process) which turns the game into a boring mid-long range marksman fest. And because of this they have to design the maps around these ranges rendering other weapon types even more useless.
    CODifying it, as my mates and I call it.

    Ditch weapon loadouts and bring back map weapons I say.
    Also un-nerf vehicles. Halo 3 had it pretty much down pat but driving the Warthog in subsequent games just makes me want to take the poor thing out the back and put it out of it's misery.

      I think you've got the a bit backwards. It was Halo 1, 2 and 3 that heavily relied on the same one-gun formula. Even if it's been proven to be an accident in Halo 1. ODST and Reach did a better job balancing out the weapons, Especailly with Reach adding in bloom. If anything it's the community to breaks the sandbox, prefering to vote for BR/DMR gametypes to avoid the necessity brainwork of figuring out how all weapons work and instead sit back on their starting weapon.

      I also thought Reach handle vehicles better than Halo 3. Except for the Scorpion and Banshee/ While the Scorpion was more situational, the Banshee was an overpowered mess that destroyed Invasion and BTB.

    That said, I won't be playing it regardless.
    As huge a Halo fan as I am, I feel Halo has had it's day. 343 will never manage to recreate the magic - it will either be too similar or too different.
    Bungie was wise to move on to new things before the IP does a Crash Bandicoot and turns to shovelware.

      Naughty Dog also quit out on Crash Bandicoot early, selling the game to Sony.

    No mention of Spartan Ops? I'd love to see Spartan Ops return in Halo 5!

    And I agree with all points except #2 -- part of the Halo feel stems from playing in large maps. The singleplayer captures this greatly, but the multiplayer maps lately are either smaller rehashes of singleplayer maps or singleplayer maps cut up into tiny sections. More focus on vehicular combat would help this a lot.

    Halo 4 was a dissapointment for me because of these exact reasons. It really didn't feel like a halo game. Lets hope Halo 5 draws back to it's roots.

    I love Halo and everything it stands for. I still recall to this day playing Halo CE and Halo 3 campaign with my mates co-op over again because the missions were that fun. Then the multiplayer aspect brought a breath or fresh air as it had everything you could think of.

    Then bungie released Reach....
    Now Reach is not a,TERRIBLE game (as Halo 4) however, they took the franchise in a different direction to try and conform to the FPS hype that COD and BF is. Unfortunately, Halo is more of an Arena style game and it plays better as an arena style game. Simple as that, imagine Doom converted into a COD system....

    Don't get me wrong, I still did love the campaign story throughout the series, but the missions were not even half the length or half as difficult as the H1 and H3 missions were. Back then, a mission on legendary was next to impossible.. But time and patience and more time let us accomplish it. It was an amazing time always having to try new and different ways to bypass or kill an enemy, where as H4 was just.. Run in and shoot.

    The other side which really disappointed me is the MM. This to me is the only reason I replay a game these days. Halo Reach and H4 had a very COD-like MM which turned a beautifully made arena game where its comes down to who knows the map layout better... To a game where the win is determined by who can 4 shot the other faster. The sprint ability caused maps to be bigger and more open. This, along with the ability to select a BR and DMR as your primary weapon, turned the game into a cross map shootout. Leaving those who still prefer the older style of game play to,be easy pickings to the others who prefer to camp a birds eye view.

    if they can fix these flaws then I, and I believe I speak on behalf of most of the Halo fan base, will most likely quit my job to play Halo 24/7 :P

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