Despite his lack of interest in the next Halo iteration, Kyle still thinks it could work in the eSports arena
343 Industries has not received many compliments from me. The idea of reviving the Halo series by following Master Chief more has always filled me with bile. Instead of leaving the story wonderfully complete, gamers must suffer through what’s ostensibly a cash grab by Microsoft. Halo 4’s online retention was legendarily short, a fact that always gets an approving grunt from me. Furthermore, the Halo: Master Chief Collection launch is now known mostly for its awful network problems. Though I’ve said nice things about the collection in the past, almost all of these compliments reflect Bungie’s original work encapsulated in one package. Finally, the bro-y fist-bumping attitude of the Halo 5 beta pretty much turned me off of buying that game in the future.
Still, 343 Industries has stated that it intends to make Halo 5 an eSport and, weirdly enough, I think it’ll find success. I don’t even mean that in a “because the system is broken and people make terrible choices” cynical way; I mean that 343 has laid the groundwork for a competitive shooter that can captivate an audience appropriately. By taking the Halo arena shooter formula and combining it with many of the more recent tweaks in shooters, I think it has a product that will see a large following, gamers and spectators alike.
Mind you, I think 343 has something of a head start as Halo itself probably would’ve made a decent eSport if conditions had been better. The Halo series (minus Halo 4) multiplayer is described as an “arena shooter”: a rather nebulous term that comes down to an FPS where all players start with the same equipment. No perks, no killstreaks, no loadouts, just the guns you start with and whatever shows up on the map. This meant every game depended on what the players did during the game, not before. Argue about whether this makes the game more fun all you like; I think this makes Halo much more enjoyable for spectators. The simplicity of what each player has to work with is all that’s needed, everything else is just distraction. Additionally, Halo’s well-known shield system makes for exciting tactics. While in CS:GO, the audience must watch two guys with pistols peek at each other from corners, the shields in Halo give players the freedom to take greater risks. More leeway = more action = more fun. QED.
Halo also has many more tools available to it now. Obviously, Twitch.tv and the like make viewership much more accessable and the popularity of eSports makes that path more conceivable but I think it has much to gain mechanic-wise. Halo 4 mistakenly included the loadout system from Call of Duty but there are still things that 343 can learn from Activision. Killcams are nothing short of ESPN instant replays and, though we didn’t realize it back then, Halo has sorely needed a sprint button. Relatedly, if I were to say there was any theme that the shooters of last year shared that Halo 5 needs to be an eSport, it’s mobility. Titanfall has parkour, COD: Advanced Warfare boost-jet exo suits, and even Destiny has double jumps. This quicker, more flexible movement would be killer if added to Halo.
And, judging from the beta, the team did just that. Halo 5 features many of the traits of its predecessors: shields but no loadouts. On top of that, they’ve borrowed the best ideas of the games of 2014: sprinting, boost-jumping, mantling, and overall mobility. What we’re left with is a fast-paced shooter that features only what skill the player brings. Who wouldn’t want to watch that?
Let’s just get rid of the fist-bumps, yeah?