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Halo 5 Guardians: Learning from Halo 4’s Mistakes

Halo 5: Guardians has a problem. While the multiplayer beta and demo were both solid, the campaign demo at E3 was extremely troubling. The demo had no “wow” factor, and honestly the squad mechanics that they displayed were lackluster and unimaginative. Go there, look at this, shoot that grunt, I don’t care. Show me some interesting mechanics that actually take advantage of the player being surrounded by Spartans.

From the Campaign Demo at E3

Aside from my gripe with the campaign demo, the game has other problems. The game comes out the week before Call of Duty: Black Ops III, two weeks before Fallout 4, and three weeks before Star Wars Battlefront. How in the world is Halo 5: Guardians going to hold an audience base with that line up? Lets look back at a similar situation, comparing it to this year’s lineup, when Halo 4 was launching in 2012.

If you are going to surround me with Blue Team, let me use them!

2012 Video Game Release Dates (see vgchartz for stats)

November 6th, 2012 – Halo 4 (9.48M in sales as of 2015)
November 11th, 2012 – Call of Duty: Black Ops II (28.54M in sales as of 2015)
December 4th, 2012 – Far Cry 3 (7.25M in sales as of 2015)

2015 Video Game Release Dates

October 27th – Halo 5
November 6th – Call of Duty: Black Ops III
November 10th – Fallout 4
November 10th – Rise of the Tomb Raider
November 17th – Star Wars Battlefront

They are similar in the sense of Halo launching, being followed shortly after with Call of Duty, then followed by a massive RPG. The main difference here is 2012 is much more forgiving than 2015. Halo 5: Guardians has its work cut out for itself. Call of Duty: Black Ops III, Fallout 4, and Star Wars Battlefront are all practically guaranteed to sell 10+million copies, whereas Halo 5: Guardians audience is limited to the ~14 million Xbox One consoles out there. Assuming 60% of Xbox One owners are Halo fans (and lets be real, most are), Halo 5: Guardians sales are going to hover around 8.5 million copies (not including new Xbox One owners come the holidays, whom will also be playing the other games releasing). How is Halo going to have the legs to keep a large active player base post launch? Well, below I analyze the issues with Halo 4 and why its player base was not strong, and how Halo 5 has resolved that.

In terms of raw sales numbers, Black Ops II sold 13.38M alone on the 360, compared to Halo 4’s 9.48M total. Halo 4 had a huge opening in 2012, becoming one of the fastest selling Halo games in history. The problem was that it had no legs – not even a few months after launch its online player base was well below 10,000 players in North America, while Call of Duty was still going strong, and Far Cry 3 was a surprise hit that took a lot of time away from gamers everywhere. Why did Halo 4 not last in the market? It had the most rich Forge mode ever, a deep and engrossing campaign that was a bold new step in direction for Halo that 100% paid off, awesome multiplayer that shipped with tons of big team battle maps (more than any other Halo game to date), and an ongoing episodic mission series in Spartan Ops that is longer than the campaign. It looked to have all of the right ingredients for a mega-hit like Halo 3 and its predecessors were. What was wrong with Halo 4?

Well, I cannot think of much to be honest. The game itself was incredible and highly reviewed, gaining high and mid 9s out of 10s across the board on major review sites. But here are a few things below that I think turned off people from Halo 4, and luckily are being changed in Halo 5: Guardians.

Halo 4s problems that are being fixed in Halo 5: Guardians

1. Weapon drops in multiplayer
Weapon drops in multiplayer was an interesting experiment, but ultimately turned a lot of Halo fans off. It completely ruined the balance of Halo when you could drop an energy sword at your feet, wherever you are. It ruined the challenge and thrill of taking power weapons away from the enemy team, and eliminated the point of attempting to get map control. Why would you hold a strategic location that normally would house a power weapon when you can just drop a rocket launcher at your feet (after getting enough points, of course) and clear the base? This is fixed in Halo 5: Guardians, as weapons now have a fixed location on the map, bringing back the importance of map control and power weapon control. This is with the exception of the new mode Warzone, as you gain requisition points and redeem them for power weapons and vehicles. It looks like it works well in that mode, as it is 12vs12vsAI, so it gets hectic enough that weapon requisition makes sense.

These broke the game
2. Armor abilities and load outs
Armor abilities and load outs were also a problem in Halo 4, just as much as they were in Halo Reach as well. The problem was that certain armor abilities were much more useful than others, and being able to spawn with whatever weapon you would like (excluding power weapons and specials) was also unfair. You can imagine that the assault rifle and plasma rifle were pretty well completely unused, and the only way to compete would be to use a dmr, battle rife, carbine, or promethean rifle. This is addressed in Halo 5: Guardians as well as all players now have all the same spartan abilities no matter what, and load outs are no longer a thing (with the exception of weapon spawning in Warzone).3. Sprint
Not unlimited sprint, but sprint allowed players to escape and recharge their shields, while sprinting. This was a massive issue and completely ruined the balance of Halo. This is partially addressed in Halo 5: Guardians as they are keeping sprint but making it so your shields do not recharge when sprinting, so when you are running away you are just as prone to dying as staying in the fight.

4. Spartan Ops was not enticing enough
Spartan Ops was a way to keep players coming back for more after Halo 4s release, with 10 total chapters of 5 episodes, an extra 50 missions, you think that would be attractive enough to keep Halo campaign fans coming back after they play through the main story. It did not succeed, as Spartan Ops missions were repetitive, tedious, and generally felt like more of a chore than all of the fun of the Halo campaigns. There is no Spartan Ops in Halo 5: Guardians, but it will remain to be seen if Halo 5: Guardians will need something like Spartan Ops to keep players coming back. It certainly did not work with Halo 4.

5. Map packs were bad, and split the player base.
Most, if not all of the dlc maps in Halo 4 were not the best maps. Most had design flaws and imbalances in spawns, and all of the map packs did not feel attractive. For the first time in any Halo game, I did not buy all of the DLC (I later played all the maps on Halo: The Master Chief Collection), and I feel like many other players did the same as me. The issue this created is that it further split the already low player base into different groups. I’ll list them below to illustrate the issue this caused.

Group #1: No map pack owners
Group #2: Map pack 1 owners
Group #3: Map pack 1 and 2 owners
Group #4: Map pack 1, 2, and 3 owners
Group #5: Map pack 1 and 3 owners
Group #6: Map pack 2 and 3 owners
Group #7: Map pack 3 owners

That is seven different player groups playing one game, far too many to keep a solid player base. This has also been fixed in Halo 5: Guardians as all DLC maps will be completely free for everyone, keeping the player base together as one unified group. It won’t matter with the quality of the maps if players will buy it or not, they will all just be free for everyone to try out for themselves regardless.

In conclusion, Halo 5 has a huge hurdle to jump when it releases. Keeping an active player base after Call of Duty, Fallout, and Battlefront launch is a huge task. It seems that 343 Industries has learned from Halo 4’s mistakes, and are putting their knowledge to good use. I am excited for the possibility of Halo 5: Guardians becoming my new favourite Halo game, but it will have to do a lot to prove itself to myself and the rest of the Xbox community.

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