Thursday, April 21, 2016



Finally, after almost half a year of playing this game I am ready to write about it. I guess I am late because I have always been a big fan of the Halo franchise and I was sort of trying to crack the numbers and searching for a long time to justify that game as at least somewhat acceptable to my consciousness…

Well, although there are things that are definitely good about Halo 5 there is a far more devastating majority of things that pissed me off in such an extent that I simply have to state that this was the last part of the franchise I have purchased.


Yes, I am quoting Angry Joe from my memory here but I am 100% sure he nailed it somewhat similarly. So to refresh your memory; what war are (we) talking about? – We are talking about the cancer of the videogame industry, about the other half of the coin, the dark side of the force, if you will: micro transactions, free to play, pay to win and all that nasty things!

For so long people like us have tried to warn the more consuming players, we stood firm against the current of commercialism and the relentless business machinery that wants nothing but money. We have tried to educate the next generation of gamers not to buy into that scam just because they are used to it already from their mobile “games”, if there is such a thing. It was a harsh war and while a few battles were lost now and then, for a long time we were successful in keeping that bullshit at least away from the consoles. But, with Halo 5, as one of the biggest and most cherished console franchises, a level was reached that unfortunately leaves us no alternative but accept defeat. If I remember correctly the H5 Requisition already generated about half a million dollar within the first week after release. So, do we need to talk more about it, to continue hoping? By now I would assume the whole micro transactions system easily cashed in about 3 million dollar…

 As a gamer and unfortunately as a completionist who would never spend a single cent on crap like this, there is no other analogy describing the situation better than feeling like a drug addict being constantly teased but also helpless to stop playing in the grand illusion of owning all the virtual rewards one day. Rest assure: There won’t be a new Halo soon without micro transactions!
If you take a look at how people are still protecting the system and what kind of brainless comments have been made about it since this was first announced by 343, it becomes clear that we are dealing with a new generation of zombie gamers.

This is the apex of blunt videogame addiction and new, masked drug dealers but with games, or rather virtual content, in their hands instead of heroin or weed. Although it might sound a bit harsh but other than I can’t think another way to say it, and before this explodes any further let’s talk a bit about the game itself and try to find some of the more positive things.


Let’s start with the graphics – an already enough controversial topic. In short: They are sufficient. But that’s also really all there is to say about it. In contrast to the character works (and admittedly the rocks in that picture), Halo is and always was a rather minimalistic game regarding environment graphics; big structures with clean, almost flat and futuristic, plain surfaces, not a lot of textures and things to look at when close but more than impressive from farther away. That’s not bad at all! In fact the art style of Halo was always pretty original and a welcome change to the eye with its simple and abstract yet coherent and well harmonized look, compared to games that aim for the ultimate and contemporary realism. But similar to other current games the question is undoubtedly justified whether a game like Halo 5 is really next-gen or not. – Have you ever thought about why there really is no split-screen in Halo 5? I give you a second…
Because if they’d implemented a split-screen the graphics would have dropped below a threshold unbearable for any current audience and the rants would have been devastating. – Of course I am speculating but seriously… I am certain a split-screen Halo 5 would have looked not even 10% better than Halo Reach on 360 and in my opinion that is the reason why we (even as players who don’t give that much about graphics but wanted to play together with friends) didn’t get it.

Story-wise the game is also OK but unfortunately nothing mind-blowing. It is probably the shortest story/campaign of all Halo titles, it ends with a rather unsatisfying cliffhanger and the whole marketing campaign teasing an epic showdown between Masterchief and Locke was nothing more than an empty promise putting the one and only John on to the bench and leaving not only me but a whole lot of players deeply unsatisfied.

Regarding gameplay and mechanics H5 introduced really cool things if you ask me. Especially the abilities to climb ledges or to hover in midair as well as the option to permanently sprint and using dashes add huge mobility to the character and thus the game absolutely feels like the fastest and most responsive Halo I have ever played. I think it’s pretty cool to see how over the past Halo games most of those special abilities, first introduced also be Reach, finally made their way into the core gameplay of Halo. While Breakout didn't catch my interest too much I really appreciated the new Warzone multiplayer mode. Yes, there are several flaws that can be traced back to the drawing board, for example that the AI bosses always appear at the same time at the same locations in the same fashion, making games predictable and partially decide the outcome already within the first minutes, but all in all that mode offered me a lot more fun than playing Arena (the usual multiplayer mode). I also find it great that Warzone is not only built around large teams but to the bigger part on the requisition system, allowing you to utilize tons of different weapons and vehicles that can literally turn the tide. It feels absolutely great to have that many different weapons. We all know most of the weapons in Halo since more than a decade, but with this approach we not only get new ones but new ones times three and all play a bit differently and come in handy in different situations. So yeah, in a sense the requisitions are good; they initially offer a great way to collect things, to become better and to change your playstyle on the fly in various degrees, but unfortunately they are based on a model of micro transactions that in turn completely ruins the fun.



You see, the problems with system like the requisitions is, that they are fundamentally conceived to make players buy things instead of unlocking them through simply playing the game. To achieve that you just have to follow some simple rules:

  1. Make a lot of items to unlock! Why make one armor set if you can make ten “different” ones with absolute minor and utterly negligible differences? Halo 5 did very well at that point and so you already had more than a hundred “different” helmets and a hundred “different” armors to unlock at the release of the game.
  2. Make even more items to unlock and separate them into tiers! Make some better than others. That way you can directly stimulate the player brain’s reward psychology mechanisms and maybe even cause addiction.
  3. Add all those items to a single, vast pool and only dish out very few of them at a time. – In H5 you unlock only two of the relevant items per pack for example.
  4. Make MORE items and make sure that you make a lot of crappy ones. – With hundreds of utmost useless and idiotic emblems that further reduce the value of already only two relevant items you can get to zero or one and add nothing whatsoever to the game, here is where Halo 5 really shows its true face!
  5. Regularly update those items with “new” ones, so that for example every month the (addicted) players have to play more and more and as a best case scenario they will never be done with the game. Currently Halo 5 offers about 200 “different” helmets as well as 200 armors.
  6. Make sure that the (free) points you give the players to unlock the items without spending real extra cash are as low as possible, sitting just above the pain threshold. To purchase a gold package of requisitions in H5 you will have to spend 10000 req points. That is equal to about 5 to 6 Warzone games lasting about 22 minutes on average, boiling down to somewhere close to two hours of playing. – Well done, 343 mathematicians!
  7. Put a lottery component in charge so that it becomes random whether the players get “trash” or “better” items to play with If you did well so far you don't even need to rig the lottery because the math does the magic for you.
  8. Whether rigged or not, never tell the chances of that lottery machine. A magician never tells his tricks.

Yeah, I guess there is a lot of the dark side in contemporary video games. If you somewhat followed that short list you should be able to see the parallels to H5 and a lot of other games. The goal isn’t any more to make it possible for the gamers to legitimately obtain rewards. In truth we are far from it. What systems like that aim for is to make it rather impossible to obtain rewards just by playing a game. They want you to realize that it is (almost) impossible and that it is easier just to spend a few bucks on a package for which you would have to spend two or more hours to get it otherwise. Oh, and wait; your smart brain already calculated that in order to get “everything” you would have to spend about xxxx hours so why not just buy 30 packages for 150 bucks and get another 15 for free! Man! You are saving 45 bucks and you will get 90 items at once. – Hopefully you have also calculated that those 90 items are just a fraction of the total items and you don’t get disappointed after opening all of them and only getting a bunch of useless emblems, armors and minor tier weapons…

I am sorry but in my world there is simply no cause or noble promise that justifies systems like that in videogames. I want a simple model of what you see is what you get; big addons and expansions are always welcome, but I want a complete game (at release!) for the price of x and without any additional and/or anyway unattainable garbage. That’s it. The price should include the development of the game [period!] If the game is good it is anyway selling well too and you should be making enough money to ensure the production of a sequel and be on a prosperous road into the future. It’s as simple as that. But we know the wheels are turning differently these days, right? It’s all about franchises and brands beautifully and directly piped to our brains by the advertisement. And the money that doesn’t even exist needs to be flowing already years before it even gets printed – if at all.


Besides the micro transactions and the other already mentioned points, for me Halo 5 failed drastically in several other aspects: One being the fact that it is (also) absolutely nothing for gamers who like to collect in terms of achieving. This point has nothing to do with the requisitions but it sort of has the same meaning. Against prior announcements not only some but ALL ranked arena playlists are reset every month! Yes, you heard right! – They not only screw you with the constantly expanding requisitions, but also every month you have to start from scratch to earn a rank in the competitive playlists, essentially removing all progression and every (rank) goal you might have wanted to achieve, work on and sadly feel good about. And please let’s not argue about a True-Skill system and more accurate matchmaking at this point. Systems like that still remain a dream and nothing like that can ever really work in a game that matches teams and single players together! Trust me, at the end of the day under a 50:50 rule, the whole matchmaking system either fires in the completely wrong direction or it keeps a slave to RNG. Fun at Arena matches in terms of playing against equal opponents simply is nothing but an illusion! Sadly I also have to admit that it seems I have lost the touch and it seems the age is kicking in slowly here as well. I remember times when I played Halo competitive and even finished games first in the team with up to 30 kills and 0 deaths, but I guess that was a long time ago. Maybe the competitive shooters became too fast for me, maybe the new breed of shooter fanatics are simply too good for me, maybe it’s RNG, maybe it’s cheating (and yes, I consider playing a shooter with a mouse on console also as cheating), maybe it’s the ping… I don’t know. And honestly I don’t even want to know. I just feel old and unfortunately Halo 5 is not giving me a reason not to feel that way. Why did they remove Swat with DMRs? Why again do we get a Halo without a brilliant Firefight mode like in ODST? Why are there so many 12 year old brats I have to listen in the pregame lobby screaming or talking bullshit probably without even knowing that their kinect microphone is turned on and transmitting everything throughout the net?

Another very crucial point where H5 utterly fails for me is the fact that it is not working at all from time to time. Seriously, this game’s connection issues are unrivaled. – And that several months after release! Honestly I don’t want to put all the blame 343 for this because I am pretty sure the problems exists mostly because of Xbox Live and the networking architecture the game needs to utilize in that regard. So again and unfortunately persistent, I am really sad to say that Xbox Live – also after several major updates and by now years of use for the Xbox One – is still a wreck compared to what we had back in 360 times… and beyond those few words about Xbox Live I guess it’s good that I am simply speechless or else I’d have to add another page just about that to this already extensive review.

Just one last thing: Ever heard of the expression “Size matters.”? Well, Let me tell you when it comes to videogames, it does. Halo 5 is the biggest game on my Xbox One with an astonishing 70+ GB! Currently there is already the next update with 8+ GB pending to download. I didn’t download the update and I am not going to. For me the mark is clearly overstepped in that point alone. My Xbox has the default hard drive with 500GB and it is filled with only a hand full of games! I have zero tolerance that games sizes are exploding and nearing the three digits of gigabyte, or rather that this wasn’t anticipated by the console manufacturers. Furthermore I have had it with games telling me that I have to monthly update them with up to 10 gigabytes of content I don’t even care for the slightest. Yeah, I am most-likely going to delete Halo 5 from my hard disc altogether because without the update I am anyway not able to play the game anymore, isn’t that great?!?!? That not only means that right now I am not even able to play the game I bought for a lot of money at all, but also that if I deleted the game completely and in say half a year I just want to play the campaign again, I would have to download 70+ GB anew. I guess that’s it… not only will I probably never play Halo 5 again but I am out completely from that farce. Personally I will handle it similar to the Assassin’s Creed franchise. I will not buy another game of it. I will maybe play the next Halo together with friends where we all share the costs of one copy and resell it afterwards, but that’s it. Goodbye Halo, I am out.


I am sorry. Seriously, I am sorry that this review got out of hands and I am sorry if you as a diehard fan or maybe as developer might feel offended by it. I am sorry for myself, because I always considered myself a diehard fan as well. Hell, Halo even was the reason why I decided to get an XB1 and not a PS4! I really wanted to see beyond and I put in a lot of time to find something that would have justified holding on to that franchise, but I couldn’t. Sometimes it’s time to let go. If you like this game, please, be my guest and have all the fun you can have with it.

Play more! Lose more!

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