Recently the details of a new game mode that will be in Halo 5 Guardians actually has me, for the first time, interested in Halo PVP. An obvious challenge facing established franchises that offer player versus player multiplayer is giving avenues and in-roads to new players without feeling they are completely out of their league. Call of Duty attempted to do this with their game and turned every game in to crap shoot where you aren’t able to get any consistency out of the gun play and hit detection. It seems that 343 Industries are attempting to add game modes with a more expanded accessibility not by dumbing down the game, but by opening up the action. One of my all-time favorite PVP game modes and games was Onslaught in Unreal Tournament 2004, and it was incredibly similar to the new Warzone game mode coming with Halo 5.
Great artists steal
A famous quote in the art world is that “Good artists copy; great artists steal”. The idea behind the oft-cited Picasso quote is that every artist is influenced by what they have seen. Anyone who played Unreal Tournament recognized a lot of the influence and inspiration in the vehicles and gameplay in Halo. Much of this went unnoticed as Unreal Tournament was a PC only game for a long time and never got traction on the consoles. Halo has always been a dominant force on consoles and made things more accessible to players new to the idea of PVP by having a much slower pace and movement which is fitting and appropriate when using controllers over keyboards and mice. So how did they steal this idea and why am I excited about it?
Bigger can be better
In Unreal Tournament 2004, one of the things that could get tiresome is the incredibly fast paced nature of just playing traditional deathmatch. Something introduced with the game mode Onslaught was large engagements, impactful vehicles, and necessary teamwork and strategy. Onslaught is a vehicle-based game mode where the objective is to capture a series of power nodes connecting each team’s bases. Capturing one power node allows you to capture the next, eventually leading to the shields coming down on the enemy’s base, allowing you to attack it. Each node had different vehicles that would spawn once captured, giving a good momentum and forward push to a team working together. It was typically an epic and intense battle of tug of war that could shift at any moment and was rarely a landslide victory. There were many times a base attack was interrupted because the connected node wasn’t defended well and got recaptured by the enemy. This could lead to an “enemy fast break” as too many players were at the enemy base suddenly needing to scramble, retreat, regroup, and defend.
Warzone starts with a base takeover that is initially just a PVE encounter. Then, similar to Titanfall, it moves into a blended PVP and PVE match where live players are mixed with AI controlled players. The objective is now to take over three neutral outposts. So similar to the flow of Onslaught in Unreal Tournament, you are pushing forward. Rather than ending in a base fight, this game mode escalates toward a boss fight. The bosses can be flying vehicles or what’s been described as “hulking beasts inspired by Halo’s brutes”. Rather than having a singular objective like in Onslaught (base destruction), you are going for 1000 points. So this isn’t as simple as capture the nodes, defeat the boss and blow up the base, although I’m sure that will be the approach many take. Different activities and objectives will yield varying point amounts, leading players and teams to decide what is the best tactic at a given moment.
MOBA in Halo?
This game mode also feels somewhat MOBA inspired as there is a focused attention on certain objectives with a trajectory leading to a boss fight with different vehicles and weapons forcing many to take on specific roles. There is also the REQ system which allows you to level up in-game and deploy different weapons and vehicles. Some have criticized the REQ system because you can buy the REQ packs with real money, but I think the wisdom of how 343 implemented this cannot be overstated. There is a skill hurdle in the way of using the most influential REQ items as you must play well enough to level up your REQ in a given game in order to use the items you have. So if a good item requires REQ level 3 a player hoping to pay for easy wins will actually have to excel at the game in order to level up and use their items. And since your REQ level resets every game, like a MOBA, this isn’t a matter of just grinding your level up so you can use all the best gear and weapons that you bought with real money. This REQ system is limited to the Warzone game mode, but you can get the points required to buy packs by playing any game mode. Hopefully the non-monetized paths aren’t too grindy and players who don’t want to pay for them can earn them at a decent pace.
This type of intense gameplay and chaos with large teams, vehicles, and bosses will hopefully open up the game a bit, creating a more casual friendly environment for those of us that don’t have the wealth and years of Halo PVP experience. And even if it doesn’t, it’s good to see innovation and creativity in a franchise that could have phoned it in with multiplayer satisfying most of the hardcore fans in the community.
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