The Halo franchise has been around for awhile now, first launching with Halo: Combat Evolved in November of 2001. While it’s crazy to consider Halo old by gaming standards; the game that created the era of multiplayer shooters has been surpassed by the competition for the last few years due to their fast-paced gameplay and addition of progression systems.
So naturally, when 343 Industries took the franchise over in 2009 for Microsoft, they wanted to bring Halo into the same territory as Call of Duty and Battlefield, but it wasn’t met with a great reception from a majority of fans who criticized the map design, the addition of armor abilities, and loadout customization in Halo 4.
And as a result, 343 changed their entire approach to multiplayer in Halo 5, the latest installment in the franchise.
Instead of focusing on bringing Halo 5 to the same playing field as Call of Duty, 343 seems to have worked really hard to bring Halo back to its roots — which involves plenty of teamwork and tactical, calculated calls for each match — while also evolving the franchise into what truly feels like a ‘modern’ Halo game with fast-paced gameplay.
It’s refreshing to see this evolution in action, especially with new mechanics such as the ability to aim down sights and perform an instant-kill ground pound move on your opponents. They’ve also added in the ability to sprint, run, and charge at opponents and mantle over objects — all of which are staples of modern FPS franchises.
Take sprinting for example, which wasn’t included in a Halo game until Halo 4 as an armor ability. Back then, many saw it as a necessary ability in multiplayer, alongside the Thruster Pack for dodging. Instead of continuing the practice of armor abilities, 343 made springing and dodging accessible to all players in Halo 5. However, it doesn’t come without a risk — because your shields don’t recharge when sprinting around. This in turn adds a risk/reward dynamic to the mechanic, which feels more in-tune with the calculated gameplay that Halo as a franchise based itself upon.
The result? Fast-paced gameplay akin to what we’ve become accustomed to in Call of Duty and Battlefield. In Halo 5 it’s easy to move around and get to the action, but it comes at a cost, which is something that makes Halo feel unique once again.
And these changes exist all throughout Halo 5 in subtle ways, providing Halo veterans an experience that focuses on calculated calls and teamwork. Essentially, 343 has taken a more sensible approach to ‘modernizing’ the franchise’s multiplayer with these changes.
On top of the abilities, 343 has also removed customized loadouts from Halo 5 entirely while playing the traditional 4v4 Arena modes. Instead? They bring back the focus on power weapons scattered across the map, which have spawn timers built into them that count down for both teams. Each of these power weapons will spawn at a specific point on the map at a specific time, which allows the traditional Halo gameplay to shine. Every map revolves around controlling these weapons and using them against the enemy team to keep them suppressed while your buddy moves their flag back to your base.
The same sort of tension exists in Halo 5’s new mode Breakout as well, where 8 players go head-to-head to capture a single flag in the middle of the map or kill the opposing team. Going along with Arena, it’s focused on collecting power weapons and controlling the map — and it feels fantastic as an experience.
It’s engaging when every move is calculated between you and your teammates — making sure that someone has the rockets when they spawn in 30 seconds while someone else grabs the sniper rifle to cover you as you push into the enemy base. Once again, calling out to your teammates matters and it keeps the adrenaline pumping as you play every match.
Essentially, 343 has managed to capture the same feeling many of us had back in the day while playing Halo 2, and while their take on Halo multiplayer certainly does need some work here (namely with matchmaking and map design), their basic formula for Arena is something that feels like a true return to form for the franchise.
And if Arena doesn’t really feel like your thing, you can always dive into their new 12v12 mode Warzone.