Halo 5 is this the beginning of the end?
For the first time in the history of the Halo franchise questions are being raised over the commercial & critical performance of Microsoft biggest platform exclusive. Playing Halo after i had finished Destiny and it’s expansions was like stepping back 5 years. Sure at first being back in the Chiefs shoes and smashing grunts in the face was as brilliant as ever but i’ve not returned to the campaign. It’s been cast aside in favour of it’s multiplayer mode and Rise of the Tomb Raider and i have no desire to return any time soon. It’s not because the campaign is bad by any means i appreciate it’s not perfect and the story is pretty told in a very clumsy manner but there is nothing new for me to experience. It will be the same every single time i play it a static snapshot to the last generation and one that is unfortunately no longer appealing to me as a gamer. I will have to wait at least 2 years for the next Halo experience and that to me is no longer a wait worth having to bare.
For all of Destiny’s many well documented problems Bungie crafted a delightfully addictive experience that just makes you go back for more and ignore all it’s problems. A broken mess of a story, a poorly thought out Light Level and a horrible loot system that hardly rewarded players with good gear. Destiny was the big hope of this Generation and when it launched millions were utterly bemused by how the almost god like super developer Bungie had dropped the ball. The story made no sense at all and the game felt like it had all it’s content scooped out and discarded just prior too launch. All that faith and hope was tossed aside and replaced with a beautiful but empty campaign that promised the galaxy but delivered little. Fast Forward 12 months and Bungie dropped The Taken King onto our consoles and all was instantly forgiven.
The Taken King’s arrival signalled a change in the way games are created and expanded upon by arriving a year after the main Destiny game and if you believe the internet it did contain elements cut from the main game but it’s still a large expansion and quite an achievement being launched so close to the main game. Expansions of this size have typically taken far longer to produce and release than the 12 months Bungie had managed to turn this around in. In a franchise like Halo you have this wait in between major releases that are typically 2 or 3 years and during this period i feel Halo has lost so much ground it was unable to adjust to the rapidly shifted landscape left in the wake of Destiny.
Destiny has no traditional campaign mode, shunning it in favour of providing the player with a Sandbox full of mini stories and a multitude of adventures and whilst the actual narrative element involving the Traveller and the Guardians could have been told far better such traditions would have limited Destiny. Sure you had to save the Galaxy from a dangerous and powerful foe but it was the journey that made the experience great. Those experiences either solo or with friends mixed with random guardians elevated the experience from a lonely slog through the same generic environments to a arguably the most epic gaming experience on any Console. Not forgetting the infuriatingly hard Raids that punished all but the most prepared team of Guardian, the constantly changing Strike missions and you have a game that never stays the same.
Destiny didn’t so much as rewrite the rulebook it fired the rule book out of a cannon directly into the heart of dying Star. In an instant games like Halo and Call of Duty the traditional AAA juggernaut franchises that Bungie either created or inspired were no longer relevant. Destiny proved that an action packed First Person Shooter no longer needed to be constrained by a by the numbers campaign mode with a separate multiplayer experience. They no longer needed to be this static, play once and forget experience they all seem to become played for 6-10 hours and discarded for something new. With Destiny each day is different with something else to do, another enemy to face another experience to have with your friends and that’s when Destiny is at it’s best. It may have fallen a little short of it’s ambition to be a true Console based MMO but whether you’re just playing solo or with friends you constantly run into other Fireteams and having the choice to join their fight or even to team up and take on a daily challenge is something other games simply do not offer.
If Halo is to avoid becoming an irrelevant franchise it needs to move with the time or risk being left in the dirt by Destiny but how can 343 and Microsoft keep us coming back for more? Sure the Halo 5 Multiplayer is largely brilliant especially Warzone but even that is beginning to feel a little stale with the limited pool of maps. There will be no additional campaign content and for me that is the major problem with the Halo franchise. Spartan Ops is one option that could be used alongside a redesigned FireFight mode they could inject a sense of continuity into the series. A gap lasting another 2 or 3 years really could be hammer blow to the Halo Franchise at a time when Microsoft desperately needs a big win in the console market. Sales are down across the board and Halo 5 barely made a dent in the PS4’s substantial lead proving times are indeed hard for Microsoft.
Gaming needs Halo back on form, back at the front of the pack innovating and leading the charge into the mainstream not falling behind in a market that has moved on. Halo needs to regroup and come back stronger than ever or i really fear we maybe witnessing the dying breaths of one of gamings most iconic franchises.