Halo 5 Makes Me Miss Split-Screen Gaming

Halo 5 Makes Me Miss Split-Screen Gaming

Some of my fondest video game memories involve people huddled around one TV at the same time. With Halo 5, the sci-fi shooter series dropped support for split-screen. If there ever was a time to mark the end of an era, this is it.

When I was a kid, most of the video games I played were on my own, but there were three, distinct exceptions to that rule: Mario Kart, GoldenEye, and Halo.

One-on-one Mario Kart battle mode on SNES on Battle Court 1. Four-way fights, golden guns only, on GoldenEye‘s The Stack. Sniper rifles or bust on on Halo‘s Boarding Action. Though no individual match sticks out — except, maybe, the one where my friend walked away because we taunted him about sucking so much — those three games defined what games meant to me for many years.

This was an era before online gaming took over, when multiplayer meant splitting a blurry CRT television into two, three, and four parts and being convinced it was enough. Some people were lucky enough to have LAN parties or know software tricks to go online, but for me, it was split-screen or nothing.

There was something about being in such close proximity to another human that online gaming can’t replicate. I’m not trying to argue what’s replaced split-screen isn’t “better.” Having a full view of the action and being able to play with someone on the other side of the world is “better,” of course. But there’s nothing like being able to high-five, tackle, or scream at the person next to you.

Though it was understood people weren’t supposed to look at other screens, that never really happened. Some people went to extremes to prevent it.

(Photo credit: reddit user kromix.)

For most people, the death of split-screen is a footnote, nothing more.

For others, especially those in a Halo 5 thread on reddit, it’s a shock. My heart broke earlier today, as I read a story about a father and his 9-year-old son:

Just a bit of a rant here, and for that I apologise. I used to be much more of a gamer than I am today – nowadays a full time job, parenting, and a master’s degree program keep me pretty busy. As a result, Halo 5 has been completely off my radar.

Not so for my 9 year old son. He talks about it all the time, and his birthday is coming up. My dad got him a gift card, and my son wanted to buy Halo. He’s grown up playing splitscreen Halo with me. From a young age he wanted to be able to play games with me, and the Halo games’ relatively low levels of gore, combined with the inclusion of splitscreen (couch) multiplayer, has meant that they have become a bit of a tradition in our house.

So today he and I went and picked up his Halo 5 order from Best Buy. We got it home, we installed it on our Xbox One, and we sat down to get a level of the campaign in before his bedtime.

Half an hour later, I’ve got a heartbroken little boy who doesn’t understand why a game company decided to remove the ability for him to play with his dad. I got him started on the campaign solo, held him in my lap while he played, but his heart just wasn’t in it. He asked if we could just go watch some Netflix together instead.

A Kotaku reader also passed on this memory:

When me and my wife met, the first thing we did was spend loooooooong nights going through ALL of the Halo games together in Split-Screen. Snuggled up in my parents converted Garage to their guest house (I had recently moved back from Florida and didn’t have a place of my own yet, and the Garage in the Guest House was converted into a theatre/living room with futon.)

We’d play til the sun came up, and tore through every single one (other than Halo Wars). Now we’re married, were so excited about Halo 5, and now they don’t have Split-Screen because “players want 60fps.”. SPLIT-SCREEN DOESN’T AFFECT SINGLEPLAYER, AND PEOPLE WHO WANT SPLIT-SCREEN JUST WANT TO PLAY WITH THEIR FRIENDS/LOVED ONES IN THE SAME ROOM. We don’t give a RAT’S ARSE about 60fps, we’re used to graphics not being as good in split-screen. Stupid 60fps generation ruining it for everyone.

In a different world, perhaps Halo 5‘s singleplayer campaign was 30 FPS and the multiplayer was 60 FPS, allowing for split-screen to stick around. It’s not to be.

Developer 343 Industries broke the news about split-screen disappearing from Halo 5 a while back, but it’s not a surprise some casual fans didn’t pick up on it. It’s not like 343 Industries sent out a press releasing proudly announcing it was dropping a feature that had been a staple of the Halo series since its inception.

“It’s a bummer but 60fps had to take precedence,” said Halo franchise development director Frank O’Connor in a NeoGAF thread last June. “It’s not just aesthetics — the entire simulation is built on that framerate.”

In any case, it’s gone. There will be other games that support split-screen, of course; the feature is not dead and buried with Halo 5. But there’s something about a new Halo coming out without split-screen that…well, it kinda sucks.


  • And this is why there isn’t an XB1 under my screen.
    I am crazy for Halo, but splitscreen would make up way more than 50% of our play. No splitscreen = no purchase. 🙁

    From what I have seen, the enemy animations aren’t always 60fps, to me, no splitscreen and no LAN play always sounds more like a cashgrab to force people onto paid XBL subscriptions.

    • That is not a cash grab. Go learn what that actually means. Also go learn what “forces” means while you are at it.
      No split screen in no way forces people to get gold.

      • How is forcing you onto a paid service if you just want to play multiplayer with your kids not a cash grab?

        Sure, you can argue that no one is “forcing” me onto an XBL subscription, but ever since MS removed LAN play from Forza, it has been a push away from multiplayer gaming that doesn’t require you to pay for an XBL subscription, even if you want to play against people in your own house.

        Split-screen and LAN play was a massive part of the Halo experience, there aren’t really technical reasons it still can’t be, but yes, you are now ‘forced’ or at least ‘required’ to pay a subscription if you want to play Halo 5 in multiplayer.

        forced – fɔːst: required, requisite, stipulated, dictated, ordained, prescribed.
        Cash-grab or Money-grab: An undignified or unprincipled acquisition of a large sum of money with little effort

        • If you have two Xboxes you can set one of the kids Xbox’s as your home and play all of your own content on the second box with One Gold subscription. Not to mention the fact that by Halo 3 all of the LAN party mates I have all went online anyway. Storm in a teacup.

          • Still need to have a live subscription for local play 🙁

            Hardly a storm in a teacup when splitscreen and LAN play are th way we play most games here, especially with our ultra laggy, internet that drops out all the time.
            It might not be the way you play, but there are others that do, and it is a PITA to have local play removed. At the very least, it removes a fun way to play, with friends, you remember them, they are people that make the effort to actually come to your house and share your experiences in person.

  • This is something I’ve thought about since they canned the feature and really one of two things was going to happen:

    – They would dump split screen in favour of graphics and get slammed
    – The would add split screen and get dumped on by journalists (*cough*) for not being graphically on par with the PS4.

    There really was no “win” situation here.

    • Honestly, I think the decision was made to try ‘showcase’ online co-op instead of couch co-op. Be that to sell subs or just the desire to be more like Destiny, which a lot of the new design decisions seem to stem from.

      Not because they would have to sacrifice visual fidelity. Halo has always looked (and performed) worse in splitscreen anyway.

      • Well 343 is in part composed of ex-Bungie employees so it’s not surprising that Destiny took some queues and Halo 5 took some ideas… seeings as it’s Bungie on Destiny now I look forward to an article regarding Destiny making me miss split screen lol.

        • Yup, I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing, just something I’ve personally noticed.

        • lol you joke but we were actually pretty bummed when we found out Destiny wouldn’t have split-screen 🙂 Granted this was a couple of years back now before everyone knew Destiny inside and out and also sideways, but it was a bungie shooter, we just kind of assumed it would!

          We’re lucky enough to be in a position to buy two xbox’s with two screens to play them on (damn you destiny) but to be honest i’d still prefer to play on the couch with my partner. We still have issues playing with two xb1’s on our crap internet though; for instance we can’t raid together, so the lack of splitcreen in halo 5 was a massive downer, not even sure if we’ll be able to play warzone together for this exact reason.

          Eh… dunno… Maybe i’m just a curmudgeonly old man who wants his things back how they used to be. That seems likely actually.

  • Don’t see why they couldn’t drop the framerate to 30fps solely for splitscreen, and drop the resolution to 720p. I’m certain the people who desperately wanted splitscreen would be happy with that given that’s what they’ve been playing Halo at for the past 14 or so years.

    • Animations and other game engine bits are tied to 60fps. It’s not as simple as dropping the frames and adding split screen into the game.

      I think if 343 actually explained how difficult it would be to recode to add split screen and the sacrifices that would need to be made people would be more understanding.

  • It’s honestly why my brother and I will be waiting for the price to drop on this one. Halo has always been something we enjoyed playing through split screen more than solo.

  • i have ALWAYS hated splitscreen so i will not miss it the screen is ALL mine as i prefer to play with others via online splitscreen just annoys me like trying to play driving games from inside the car does.

    • Except when your friends are there with you on the couch. Playing online doesn’t help much in that situation, and being in a room with people is so much more fun than being in a room on your own.

      • not for me prefer to play games by myself and drink if friends rocked up and chat away or head to the pub.i did use to like the lan parties we had with our xboxs with about 10 or 12 people all with our own monitors and no split screen.

      • There is a 24″ monitor and my gfs x1 next to the coffee table. So my couch gets regular co-op with guests and the gf. I set my ‘home’ x1 as hers and she gets access to my gold and digital games (which is 85% of them) and best of all no compromise with screen real estate, frame rate or res, other than what normally applies to console anyway.

  • Sad to miss out on this one due to no splitscreen.
    Have played all Halos splitscreen on Legendary and they were great fun.

  • Split screen gaming hasn’t been a thing for a long time now really, outside of some racing games.

    • I’m not entirely sure what to make of this comment to be honest. Do many games leave it out as a feature? Sure. Does that mean no one wants it? Hell no!

      • Yeah I was referring more to the fact that most games don’t ship with the feature anymore and haven’t really for a long time now, aside from some notable exceptions like Mario Kart and some other (mostly racing) games.

  • Having played the final product I’m very suspicious about the “entire simulation is tied into 60fps” argument. Given animations run at 30fps at a certain distance/enemy count (seems to be a bit of both) I see no reason why they couldn’t run the sim at 60fps but output graphics at 30fps. (And anyhow, it’s common for driving/sim games to run a higher sim rate than frame rate).

    I suspect it’s to drive more people to online and paid subscription….

      • Which bit? The bit where I point out the “everything runs at 60fps” argument seems invalid based on the fact bits of the game run at sub-60fps, or the bit where I propose an alternate reason given the stated reasoning seems a furphy?

    • I agree, this is definitely a ploy to make people buy more Xboxes and gold subscriptions.

      However they probably have done the stats and worked out that relatively no-one was playing split screen in the Halo MCC, so they thought that they shouldn’t spend time on it.

      Still hurts though.

  • Halo 5 also makes me miss good storytelling, good levels and good missions. And Halo 5 makes me realise how much I HATE power weapon map control as a game type. It feels like bad Sonic games – hidden pitfalls and other elements where the winner is the person who knows the map better, not the one with the more skill.

      • Dude, shut up. Do you know how transparently ignorant you are? At least try and hide your ignorance in one of your posts, geez.

  • Agreed, I have 4 ppl in my household that play halo and only 2 xbox ones….I guess we will never play as a family 🙁

  • Somewhat related, the decision to cut story/adventure mode from Smash Bros. (Wii U) for no (valid) reason meant I couldn’t enjoy it with my wife the same way we played through Brawl/Melee.

  • I’m quoting a friend:

    “Damn you bungee / Microsoft (whomever is milking that IP cow now), split screen multiplayer halo is an institution!

    I hope that quotes gets emailed to the guy who chose to remove multi player side of the game.

    I also hope that bees nest in his letterbox, or something.”

    No sorry, my bad, ‘Fiend’, I’m quoting a fiend.

    … Who I partially agree with. I’m just not sure which part.

  • I never really liked Halo very much. It was the first console shooter that actually felt good to play on a controller. Other than that, it was just pretty good. I hated 2. I was lukewarm on 3. ODST was ok. Reach was poos.
    Halo 4 was really very fun. The new dev team breathed new life into the series. The art direction (except for porn cortana) was great, the weapons felt good, the campaign was fun and interesting… even the multiplayer was a vast improvement. But the co-op made it for me.

    This news upsets me. the one thing that made me feel like I shouldn’t get a PS4 over an XBone was the splitscreen co-op in Halo 5. Now nothing can turn me away from having a 24/7 Bloodborne machine. Sorry, Microsoft.

    • Halo 4, fun? It was alright at best. If you didn’t like halo 2 or 3 it’s probably because you sucked at them or needed to be shooting at something 24/7 like a twitch shooter

  • The really stupid thing about this is, surely it would cut into Microsoft’s profit?
    Why would anyone need to buy extra controllers if not for split screen games?
    Just seems like a poor business decision to make on a 1st party title.

  • There’s no real conspiracy here. Microsoft didn’t remove the split screen to seek more Xbox live subs.

    It would have been a simple matter of them doing the maths of the cost of development / QA and judging any potential delays to their crucial release date. Implementing split screen mode is alot of extra work and testing, and they determined it wasn’t worth it.

    I hope this backfires and they change their tuner for future releases however, as the split screen feature is the core reason I play Halo, and it may turn off others like me. I won’t pick this one up until it’s very cheap, despite being a big fan of Halo games and owning every other entry on the series, as playing with my partner and best friend is a big part of the experience.

  • The Campaign involves 4 team AI that was built into the game from story boarding + 60FPS + Getting the best out of the XboxOne in terms of graphics. You have your 4 player Co-op NOW! For sure it isn’t couch Co-op but fuck me, everything is digital now! The fact that these people are saying “Stupid 60FPS generation ruining it for everyone”. What? so you want to live in the year 2001 when your beloved Halo: Combat Evolved came out? Fucking times moved on mate, I am so sick of people who talk about games and the gaming industry like they work in it. Then act like Developers owe them something because there favorite property has taken a different direction in one or two ways. What? So next your going to be saying. “You know what? Fallout 4 is good and all. But I really miss it when I didn’t have a dog in Fallout 3, stupid digital animal lovers!”.

    Don’t like the way the gaming industry is going? Let me tell you a sad truth, couch co-op, isn’t used any more because vary little people play it any more. There are specific games that will tailor to it, Party games, Nintendo. But major AAA games, will ALWAYS! ALWAYS! take more frames and better graphics, better net code control over your beloved father son split screen moments. Facts are, there are more people online then there are in each others houses while playing games online, add that to the fact that you can take advantage of full screen while talking to your friend in real time over the net using voice/Skype etc. I miss the days when I used to play NES and my friends used to come over, but I don’t wish for it BACK! Not when I have what I have now.

    Tell you guys what, how about you go back to that, I’ll also throw in a few carrier pidgins too so you don’t have to use your mobiles any more as well! And a bucket so you can shit in that instead of a toilet, that will really take you back to the good ol’days!

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