This, I can say, is the very question that thousands of Halo players are all asking themselves. The announcement of the $1,000,000 Halo championship took the competitive console FPS scene by storm; reviving a niche that was arguably more acclaimed in its heyday, than say, Call of Duty at present. I, for one, am positively ecstatic at the thought, yet doubtful at the same time. You see, the Halo series has always been a competitive one, or at least that’s how I think the developers wanted it to be. The maps, weapon locations, and spawn points were all solid foundations for a good competitive game. Take it from me, I used to play competitively with and against some of the world’s best. My doubtfulness comes from the fact that for the last two iterations of the Halo series, specifically Halo: Reach and Halo 4, the overall competitiveness of the games have dropped significantly. Halo has always been about map control, all the pros know this. Moving from area to area safely to get the Rocket Launcher or equivalent power weapon was what made Halo fun. It was the thrill and the adrenaline that made gamers come back for more. It was pure unadulterated fun, and the best part of it was the fact that if you won a match your level would go up – it turned fun into competitiveness. Players would always brag at what level they were, and what level they wanted, and in what playlist. They would match up with one another in hopes of having a well-rounded team for better success in the next game; it was a camaraderie like no other.
That was then, times do change, and changes did fall upon the Halo series. The first of these came in the form of the sprint ability, followed by player loadouts, and armor abilities, all of which were introduced in Halo: Reach. These two new abilities single-handedly changed the way Halo was played forever and not exactly for the better. Remember when I said Halo was all about map control? Now, with the additions in the game, this was no longer true. Players were flying around with jetpacks, hiding in normally inaccessible locations of the map. Now that the game featured loadouts, equality was no longer present at the start of a match. Another ability that was certainly abused was the “Armor lock”, wherein players with low health would enter a state of invulnerability for approximately five seconds, leaving the attacking player dumbfounded. This ability was abused during online matches on Xbox Live, wherein lagging players would have almost zero chance to combat a player equipped with armor lock – this infuriated a lot of players, and the overall competitiveness of Halo dropped. After all, who would want to play a game against a group of players all using shotguns with active camouflage? Such a match will end up being a waiting game, with all players crouching around corners with shotguns, hoping for another player crouching with a shotgun to make a move first. This wasn’t my Halo.
The next entry to contribute to competitive Halo’s downfall would be Halo 4. Although considered to be much better in terms of multiplayer competition, Halo 4 still ended up hammering the proverbial last nail in Halo’s coffin with the inclusion of instant respawn and killstreaks in the form of weapon drops. Rocket launchers at spawn became a painful reality. I was not the only person to agree that the game was turning out to be more of a Call of Duty clone than anything else. This perhaps is the very reason why competitive Halo had a slow and painful death with every new release; such are the sentiments of a player that has played, enjoyed and competed since Halo: Combat Evolved that they kept going even while the best bits fell away. But the community was whittled down slowly, so that by this time, it’s all but disappeared, taking the memories of the first three Halo games with them.
Last December, the series had some hope. 343 Industries opened the Halo 5 beta to the public and it once again brought change to the series. But this time, it was good- Armor Abilities and loadouts that broke the “Halo spirit” were removed, returning the game to its former glory. Map control is back, but with a new twist: players now have the ability to climb up waist-high walls, a much more forgiving feature compared to the previous iterations’ jet packs. Sprint was still present, but like the rest of the game, brought something new to the battlefield. If the player sprints, his/hers shields don’t recharge, a pretty neat compromise implemented by 343. Having said that, it was only a beta and things may change once again when the game officially launches in October. If the amount of fun I had during the beta is a harbinger of things to come, though, then the final game is sure to be an absolute, new-meets-old blast.
The series had its glory days behind it; the older games are what players fondly remember. But on the eve of Halo 5, loyal fans all around the world patiently await what 343 has promised – a return to competitive Halo. With the latest gameplay videos released to the public, they seem to be right on track.