The next 'Halo' will return the series to its esports roots
The next generation of the most storied game franchises in esports is promising to return to its roots—balanced and competitive multiplayer action.
Halo has a long and storied history in professional gaming. It was the primary game behind the rapid growth of Major League Gaming, producing bonafide esports stars like David “Walshy” Walsh and Tom “OGRE2” Ryan. Over $4 million in prizes have been awarded in Halo series esports events. But the recent Halo 4 and Halo: Reach were steps back in the esports popularity of the series.
Franchise director Frank O’Connor believes part of that is a “backlash” against “reward-driven” mechanics, popularized in franchises like Call of Duty. Halo 4, for example, included a progression system with weapon unlocks, as well as kill streak bonuses a la Call of Duty, things that produced uneven experienced for players.
“As esports comes back they want something more balanced and more symmetrical and fair,” said O’Connor, on a Giant Bomb E3 panel discussing his game.
"I think it's a seesaw, and I think that it is tipping back towards the—and eSports is certainly driving a lot of that—is going for things that are really truly competitive rather than just sort of reward driven.
But I think you can have your cake and eat it, you can have both of those sets of experiences in a game. And sort of reward people in the campaign and make sure that your multiplayer is something pure."
That purity probably drives the tag lines in the short multiplayer teaser for Halo 5 at E3, which advertise it as the “next generation arena multiplayer” and “60 FPS on dedicated servers.” For your average gaming fan, server frames-per-second is little more than a technical buzzword, but it’s an important advance for competitive players. And the accuracy of server updates plays a large part in ensuring the game feels smooth and plays consistent.
Not to mention the inclusion of dedicated servers themselves, something that’s no guarantee in the current online climate but a critical feature in hosting your own esports matches. The teaser even shows off an actual arena, complete with scoreboards plastered with Red and Blue Master Chiefs. That shows that 343 Studios, the game's developer, isn't just spouting rhetoric—it may actually be pressing the right buttons to turn Halo 5 the next esports title.
You’ll have your chance to find out soon enough, as the Halo 5 multiplayer beta will be available in December on the Xbox One. Purchasing the upcoming Halo: Master Chief Collection, due out November 11th, will guarantee you beta access. The Master Chief Collection will allow you to relive every part of Halo esports legacy, as it includes the full multiplayer functionality from each of Halo’s original four titles.
No one will blame you for putting in some Halo 2 games on Midship, but if things go right, Halo 5 will bring that classic esports gameplay into the modern age.