There’s a new “Halo” game out. Maybe you’ve heard? It’s the first new “Halo” game on Microsoft’s newest game console, the Xbox One.
It’s called “Halo 5: Guardians,” and it has all the usual “Halo” stuff in it: a single-player “campaign,” a robust multiplayer section with the usual modes (deathmatch, capture the flag, etc.)., and a high-priced marketing campaign that doesn’t have much to do with the game.
But wait, there’s more! There’s a brand new multiplayer mode named “Warzone,” and in “Warzone” lies the future of the “Halo” franchise.
So, what is it?
“Warzone” is, basically, “League of Legends.”
And what is “League of Legends?” It’s the most popular game in the world. As of January 2014, nearly 70 million people were playing it every month. It’s a game that has solved the issue of getting players to come back over and over and over. And that’s exactly the issue the “Halo” series is facing — it was nearly given up on by its owner, Microsoft.
To understand why “Warzone” is “League of Legends,” you must first understand how “LoL” is played. Thankfully, it’s pretty simple! We’re just going to outright crib a section from a previous Tech Insider piece on eSports that explains it really well:
“League of Legends” is what’s called a Multiplayer Online Battle Arena game (MOBA). This genre is especially well-built for eSports because, like tennis or basketball, it comes with standardised playing fields and leaves little to dumb luck.
MOBAs, in general, work like this:
- Two teams of players choose characters with specific roles.
- Each team has a base to defend and attempts to destroy the enemy base.
- Most of the action occurs along “lanes” linking the two bases.
- Computer-generated players spawn and fight alongside human-controlled characters.
- Players view the game from a top-down perspective (seen above).
- Often, defensive towers along the lanes form additional obstacles to assaults.
This standardization produces the same kind of coordinated team strategy and drama that makes major team sports so compelling for fans. Just like soccer, football, basketball, and hockey have the same fundamental rules (put ball/puck in opponent goal area) but wildly different gameplay, so too do MOBAs function according to like principles but play very differently from one another.
Got it? Great.
“Warzone” takes the first-person shooting that “Halo” is known for and puts it within the confines of a MOBA. Your team can defeat the opposition by destroying their “core” (a large cylinder that you shoot until it explodes), or you could reach 1,000 points first. And how do you score points? By doing stuff you’d do in a game like “League of Legends.”
For instance, in a given game of “League of Legends,” there are various computer-controller monsters that can be killed. In “LoL,” killing these monsters confers advantages to your team that can ultimately sway the outcome of the match. This same concept applies to “Warzone,” but instead of advantages like dishing out more damage, or speeding up your team’s player movement, killing the monsters in “Warzone” gives your team points. The first team to 1,000 points wins.
Additionally, there are several bases throughout each “Warzone” map that your team can take possession of, thus allowing your team to respawn further along in a given map (and inferring an advantage to your team). So the logic goes: the further along your team can respawn, the greater chance you have of keeping pressure on the opposing team and winning. And if the opposing team is focused on getting back a base, they’re not focused on killing monsters or unlocking vehicles or other stuff they should be doing to try and win.
It’s this complex balance of systems that makes “League of Legends” and other MOBAs so compelling, and “Warzone” adapts the concept to “Halo” beautifully.
Is it any good?
Good news: “Warzone” is super, super fun.
I don’t play MOBAs, but I do play a lot of “Halo” multiplayer. The best aspect of the “Halo” approach to MOBAs — by far the most popular genre of game played in eSports competitions the world over — is that it has “Halo” gameplay at its core. And “Halo” gameplay is very, very good.
Part of what’s kept me away from games like “League of Legends” and “DOTA 2” is my general disinterest in the gameplay. It’s fascinating to watch “LoL” competitive play in a packed Madison Square Garden, but I have little-to-no interest in playing the game competitively when I get home.
With “Halo 5: Guardians,” though, that issue is solved.
The basic systems of “Halo” are fast-paced, exciting, and varied. Do you like shooting games? “Halo” is maybe the best one out there. How about games with a great sense of movement? “Halo” is a master class in player movement. Perhaps you’d rather sit back and play defence in a massive tank? “Halo” has you covered. Everything about it feels top-notch — akin to the pixel-perfect jump of classic “Super Mario” games.
If I want to spend an entire match of “Warzone” carefully sniping enemies as they vie for control of a base, I can do that. If I want to terrorize the opposing team from above in an alien spacecraft, I can do that. If I want to focus solely on fighting monsters, that’s an option. “Warzone” takes the complexity of MOBAs, where teams have players assigned to specific roles, and allows for the flexibility you need with 24 randomly matched humans playing an online game together on Xbox One.
It is, in short, a real delight.
“Warzone” is also how “Halo” stays relevant in a world that’s moving on from classic online multiplayer games. It is no less than the future of “Halo.”
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