I've been a fan of the Halo franchise since that fateful Christmas day when I received the original Xbox, Jet Set Radio Future, Sega GT, and some space game that myself and my cousins knew nothing about. Before long we were glued to the screen and so began a relationship that has lasted for almost 15 years. I've been a fan of Halo for more than half my life at this point, and through the good times and bad it has always been there for me.
I moved house in 2010 and at the time I didn't have a console. I remembered how fondly I played games such as Halo and Bioshock, so I decided to pick up an Xbox 360 with the release of Halo: Reach. It was an unbelievably fun time. I quickly got in with a group of guys who loved Halo as much as I did and we regularly played over Xbox Live for 12 hours at a time, only broken up by agreements to quickly stop for food and hurriedly get back to the game in half an hour.
To this day I still occasionally play Halo: Reach and I've so far amassed a total play time of around 2000 hours. In fact I even ended up moving interstate thanks to those same guys I met playing Halo and I couldn't be happier. So why am I telling you all of this? I'm telling you because despite playing Halo for as long as I have, Halo 5 just didn't grab me the way I thought it would and I think it was because of the game's extremely vanilla feeling back in October.
Next week sees the 8th major update to Halo 5 in as many months with 343 Industries adding the ever popular Firefight mode as well as the mandatory new level and REQ packs. I love it when a studio supports a game as much and for as long as 343i have been with Halo 5, but I have to question whether it was even a full game initially.
Taking a look at just what the team has released since October, we have the following:
- Big Team Battle
- Forge Mode
- Score Attack
Let's give credit where credit is due. On top of those game modes they have also updated Halo 5 with numerous new armour, weapon and assassination variants, new features within forge, and some entirely new levels which I commend them on. Not enough developers reward their long-time players as much as we're seeing here.
What bothers me is that these game modes have been staples in the Halo franchise for years and you would rightly expect them to be in the game at launch, and yet it seems like the fan base has more praise for 343 Industries now than any other time since their creation in 2009. It makes you wonder how they could have shipped the game in the condition it was in at launch without these fundamental pillars that make Halo what it is, but sadly this isn't a rare thing to see.
The Sims 4 by EA was lambasted for excluding pools and toddlers from their game when released, only to add in pools two months later in a free update, but any toddler update or expansion pack is yet to be seen in the almost two years since the game released.
More recently than that is the controversial launch of Capcom's Street Fighter V back in February. The list of missing features included characters and any arcade or even single player modes in general which would serve as tutorials for those wanting it. Filling that gap is the cinematic mode scheduled to be released sometime next week, but as of this article there is no information about the date beyond that.
"...Street Fighter 5 isn't finished — and if you're looking for more than the ability to play against other people, there are many more promises of what will come than actual in-game content." - Polygon
The main thing Capcom has going in it's favour is the solid core gameplay and loyal fans who are standing strong in the hopes that Street Fighter V comes good. Capcom has also gotten in front of the criticism with a willingness to listen and numerous promises that the game will get better over time. The point still stands though that the general perception of the game is a negative one from those who have spent any amount of time with it.
So what is something that each of these three titles has in common that could possibly cause the detriment of the game as a whole? They all had an in-game marketplace to take into consideration when designing the game. In the case of the phone market it has been said that if you're not going to build your game around in-app purchases then don't bother adding them at all because it just doesn't work the same way. Reconfiguring a game to work that way or structuring it like that in the first place must take time, as seemingly evident here.
Halo 5 introduced a new way to play the game with REQ cards. The Sims 4 was the latest to follow the tradition of expansion packs with many fans predicting those to be the final destination of the missing features. Lastly, Street Fighter V was built around a 'Zenny' game currency to unlock characters and costumes which has since been scrapped. Did all of this have something to do with the lack of features?
The underlying question which is the reason I'm writing this article is how have 343 Industries managed to spin this whole thing into a positive? Are the current crop of players made up solely of those who never played a game in the franchise when it was under Bungie's control and had those features as standard or is there some other explanation? If you know, then please let me know in the comments below.