Halo 5 Guardians continues to creep closer (though still further off than we’d all like) so we here at the Nation thought we would take a quick analysis of the gameplay of previous titles. Player versus player has always been a very large draw for Halo fans — due to this we will be focusing mostly on online play with the different types of matches and cooperative play styles.
In the first iteration of Halo, we had Combat Evolved on the Xbox. Halo CE was rather unique in helping to popularize games consoles. It proved that consoles could be viable platforms for first person shooters, back when PC shooters like Counter-Strike and Unreal Tournament were staples. Introducing cooperative and competitive play only through split-screen methods limited Halo‘s reach to the community. However, it was highly popular with PvP and had a few unique game modes.
There was Slayer, essentially a deathmatch free-for-all. Team Slayer had groups pitted each other. The next mode, Oddball, had players collecting skulls and holding them for a set time. This mode was playable in free-for-all or team-style. Players would lose the use of their weapons while holding but melee attacks became overpowered.
Capture the Flag was just like the classic mode we all know and love. There were subdivisions, however — “CTF”, Invasion, Iron CTF, CTF Pro, and Single Assault were all variations on Capture the Flag games. The next mode that was by far the most fun was King of the Hill. Players were tasked with setting up camp and defending a hill, often out in the open. Depending on game setting, the hill could move its position which made for some funny situations. It also had the King variation, where players would control the hill for two minutes to win.
Finally there was Race, an odd mode where players would have to make a mad dash for checkpoints in a free-for-all or team setting. This was usually done in a Warthog or some other vehicle from the game, as walking was frightfully slow in comparison. Walking also meant you’d often be mowed down by a warthog and that was always frustrating.
Halo 2 then hit, and it changed the game drastically. Xbox Live integration was the main crux of Halo 2‘s multiplayer support. Suddenly matchmaking allowed players to search through playlists for different game modes. They could even create their own lobbies and wait for others to join. This really was the start of the community as we know it today. Bungie introduced ranking based on individual playlists and players could play in ranked or unranked matches, depending on their play style. Medals for kill sprees were introduced and the Race game mode was absent. Three new modes replaced it.
Juggernaut, the first new match entailed players hunting down a fellow player. That one player was made the juggernaut. The juggernaut’s goal was to kill as many people as possible, while other players had to kill him. The juggernaut had a few advantages over his foes. He’d be occasionally blessed with higher shield, faster movement speed, optical camouflage, damage resistance, and ammo modifiers.
The second newest mode, Assault, was very similar to Counter-Strike‘s ever popular Bomb Defusal mode. Players would need to carry the bomb into their opponent’s base and detonate it in there in order to win. The difference was that once armed, it couldn’t be disarmed. Players would generally have to prevent opponents from arming the device, which took a few seconds.
The last new mode Territories had players capturing places on the map and holding them for certain amounts of time. Often multiple points needed to be held, similar to Battlefield‘s conquest mode. One newly introduced, but not well received aspect was the ability to dual wield. This upset myself and other fans of the franchise. Halo 2 is sadly no longer playable on Xbox Live via console and died when discontinued in 2010.
The next game in the series, Halo 3, took it all back to the drawing board. Via Xbox Live, players could play the entire campaign cooperatively with friends. Halo 3‘s co-op was altered from 2’s co-op, which had both players control the same character — this introduced new models for the other players. A number of aspects to help prevent spawn-killing were introduced along with matchmaking improvements. Players could now vote on maps they wanted, and maps could be customized to greater degree. Two new game modes, VIP and Infection, were introduced along with the Forge map maker.
VIP had three separate modes: One Sided, Escort, and Influential. One Sided VIP is where only one team has a VIP that they must defend before switching sides. Escort is the same but the VIP can earn points by reaching checkpoints. Influential provides bonuses to any players defending the VIP.
The next mode, Infection, required players to stay “uninfected”, with some players starting out as Alpha zombies. Their goal is to infect the other players while the others fight for their lives.
The Forge helped revolutionize custom Halo matches. It allowed players to make their own maps from scratch and manipulate game assets. Players could create whatever they could think of before sharing them online. The EXP system was added to online ranking. This helped match more advanced players with their own level and lower ones with their level of skill.
The next game in the series, Halo3:ODST, introduced a single new mode called Firefight and came with the Mythic disc, featuring all of Halo 3‘s online components. Firefight was a cooperative mode in which players would face off against wave after wave of increasingly powerful enemies. It sadly featured no matchmaking capability.
Halo Reach then introduced in-depth stats for matches and Halo profiles. The veto system from three was altered to be a straight voting system. New game modes added were Arena, Headhunter, Stockpile, and Invasion. Arena was a ranked skill-based playlist of month-long seasons, divided into 5 separate cups. The ranked and social playlists from 2 returned and players were automatically placed together in games. They were given the option to leave parties as well as settings to customize their own matchmaking desires. Halo Reach also included queuing up, allowing players to join their friends automatically after their match ended.
The Headhunter game mode had players fighting for flaming skulls. These skulls would need to be returned to base. Any player without a skull would still drop one on death to be picked up. Skulls would randomly spawn in different zones. It was generally free-for-all but a team Headhunter mode was available.
Stockpile mode was similar to Capture the Flag. It was team-based and players fought for neutral flags that would appear at random points in the map. The flag also needed to be held at the point position for a brief amount of time before it was awarded.
The final Halo Reach game mode was Invasion. It was a team-based mode where players are limited with what weapons and vehicles they have access to at the start. As they play, they unlock different phases which gave them a far wider array of transport and tools and weapons at their disposal.
Unlike previous titles, Halo Reach had armor abilities. This replaced all the random pickups before in previous games. These abilities could be altered within the load-out screen. They ranged from active camouflage, to armor lock drop shields, evade, a jet pack, and even the ability to move faster while running.
Reach also introduced a new matchmaking co-op list where players could vote on what level of the main campaign they wished to play.
Halo 4 borrowed gameplay aspects from the other two most recent titles. Sprint became available to everyone as well as armor abilities. Firefight was replaced with Spartan Ops. This was a cooperative mode in which teams would have to complete set objectives in order to be victorious. New modes Dominion, Extraction, and Regicide were also added.
Dominion mode required players to complete objectives scattered around the map, holding bases while eliminating the other team. Each base could be fortified once captured, allowing cover, turrets, and vehicles. Extraction required players to extract more data from sites than their opponents. Upon extraction, you’d have to defend it while the device grabbed the data.
The final new mode Regicide is similar to King of the Hill — however, players themselves have to remain as the King. Whoever lasts the longest wins. They can move around and kill other players, but the main goal is to survive longest.
The final new change Halo 4 brought to the table was Spartan Points. These were effectively the currency used to buy weapon and armour upgrades, as well as ordinance and abilities. Borrowing from Halo 3, armor is also now free but upgrades are not.
As we can see, the Halo series has had a rather rich history of changes, some for the better and some causing the community distress. We will now give a brief rundown of what has worked and what hasn’t over the years.
While Halo: Combat Evolved had a generally positive campaign with little to no complaints, the community didn’t take too kindly to Halo 2. The initial E3 demo created a stir and fans were less than impressed that they had been misled. The second character in the game, Arbiter, wasn’t and still isn’t generally liked. Another infamous mention among fans: who could forget Halo 2′s ending? “Finish the fight” indeed. It was later revealed that the planned final level of Halo 2 on Earth was cut in order to rush the release of the game.
Halo 3 also had its fair share of setbacks. The game was claimed responsible for a cold-blooded murder case back in 2008. It also received criticism for being Xbox 360 exclusive, fairly short and too difficult. The most annoying controversy was by far the nerfing of the pistol. Shortly after came ODST, which was generally considered to be a cash-in. This game definitely split and confused the community — even critics did not give it a great write-up. The game’s characters weren’t well liked and fans felt it had nothing to do with Halo 3 beside the name.
The next title Halo Reach had a fairly uneventful launch. This was apart from players disliking armor lock, as well as the controversy that Bungie faced with that amazingly tragic and poignant ending of Noble 6’s Team.
With Bungie out of the way, fans were understandably concerned about the future of the Halo series. Halo 4 then dropped, being the first of the titles in the new Reclaimer Trilogy. It received downright terrible scores by a few critics but general reception was mixed, stating it was run of the mill and nothing new. Studio 343 was criticized for the way they marketed it. The mandatory install was a point of contention, and the game received much criticism from the community about losing its identity and certain modes being made DLC only. Surprisingly, Halo 4 was somewhat of a hit with parents of young children and received good community reviews. Despite all these shortcomings and issues plaguing it, Halo 4 was considered a good game.
So the future of the Halo franchise is once again called into question. Halo 5 continues what is now called the Reclaimer saga. What do we know so far? Well, we know there is a live-action series developed called Halo: Nightfall. It introduces players to the new character seen on the boxart, Locke. Locke’s backstory and character development is revealed through Nightfall, which is a tv series tie-in from Halo 4 to Halo 5. Included in the recent Master Chief Collection was the Halo 5 Guardians beta. This showcased two infantry modes and three maps. There was an entirely unwarranted scare back in November regarding the possibility of having to aim down the sights. 343 Industries have also tried to stress over and over that the multiplayer for Halo 5 will be returning to the arena based roots it sprung up from in the competitive gaming scene.
While Halo 5: Guardians is quite a change in terms of the in-depth mechanics of the game, it looks great. Halo 4 armor abilities have been scrapped in favour of Spartan abilities, now available to every player. Spartans will be able to sprint at any time, but there is a catch that has players slightly concerned. While sprinting, your shield does not recharge. It’s advisable to take it slow if you get a spare minute to breath and recharge. Running builds up a sort of friction bar which can be used to power an instant death melee attack or slide across the floor.
The jet packs are back too, sort of. You can double jump in the air, effectively allowing Spartans to dodge while in the air. This aspect adds a whole new dimension to gameplay mobility, and you can finally mount terrain and climb up onto ledges and platforms!
There are new maps of course. Some old favourite game modes are being thrown in like Team Slayer, among others. Halo 5 is evolving, and the community is ready for something different. There’s still the occasional nay sayer but the response to the Guardians beta has been pretty positive and suggests that 343 Industries have what it takes to advance such a rich mythology as the Halo series. They’re doing a good job of keeping everything balanced, challenging, and fresh. They’re making some much needed changes to a well established franchise they inherited, and so far they’ve been doing alright by us.
What is your opinion of the Halo series as a whole? Are you disappointed in the odd new direction 343 are taking the series? We at the Nation are hyped as all get out for the new Halo title and will have a preview of the Halo 5 Guardians beta shortly. We truly think that the new Halo could be what fans have been waiting for since the release of Halo 3. 343 aren’t afraid to experiment. Of course, there will be mistakes along the way but clearly the studio has a good vision of where they want everything to go. Feel free to voice your opinion. If you want to question us on the finesse of the Halo series go ahead and tell us. As always if you like what we do here at the Nation, feel free to stalk us on Twitter.