Commentary: I hate myself for writing this, but I really want the next Halo game to have a Battle Royale mode. Hear me out here...
Mark SerrelsEditorial Director
Mark Serrels is an award-winning Senior Editorial Director focused on all things culture. He covers TV, movies, anime, video games and whatever weird things are happening on the internet. He especially likes to write about the hardships of being a parent in the age of memes, Minecraft and Fortnite. Definitely don't follow him on Twitter.
A well-made, supremely polished video game, Spider-Man succeeds by appropriating the best parts of other, better
. The end result: mediocrity. Spider-Man is "good" in terms of the metrics we tend to use when judging video games, but it's a Frankenstein's monster that never feels truly cohesive.
In that article I said that process was "bad".
Now I would like to suggest that in some cases this process might be "good".
For the last year or two the world has succumbed to Battle Royale fever in a way that has made older gamers, like myself, clutch their pearls and shake fists at the sky like Abe Simpson.
Battle Royale, for the uninitiated, is a genre of video game where online players are dumped into an arena/island and invited to fight each other until one remains. Usually this involves guns and blunt instruments. The genre was popularised by
and launched into the stratosphere by Fortnite, which is now far-and-away-without-question the king of Battle Royale.
The Battle Royale concept is an alluring one. It's also incredibly lucrative. At last count Fortnite was making Epic (who created the game) around $300 million a month.
So as you might expect, the imitators have come in droves. Everyone wants a piece of the proverbial pie. At
this year it took literally six minutes for
to announce its first Battle Royale game mode for the upcoming Battlefield V.
And of course perennial Battlefield rival Call of Duty followed suit with its own take on the genre. They're calling it "Blackout" and it'll be featured in the upcoming Call of Duty: Black Ops IIII (no, that is not a typo, that's how they're writing the number 4).
For context, Call of Duty is a video game series that once represented the absolute cutting edge, but is now seen as an archaic, cyclical franchise sunk by its own hubris, cursed to repeat itself annually for a core audience that buys it every November no matter what. In short: It's the Madden of First Person Shooters.
But here's the thing: Blackout, Call of Duty's launching pad into the Battle Royale genre, is actually kinda awesome. And it's awesome for one simple reason: Call of Duty, at its core, is fun and it never really stopped being fun.
Call of Duty's Blackout mode takes pitch perfect shooting mechanics, tirelessly refined over literally decades of high level video game development and places it seamlessly into a concept that is literally taking over the world. It's a perfect storm and, if I was Epic (the company behind Fortnite), I'd be casting a wary glance at Blackout and asking myself, "Should I be worried?"
Yeah, a little.
Because as good as the Battle Royale concept is, the core shooting mechanics of games (in my opinion) aren't quite on par with games like Call of Duty. There's a reason
has been able to sell customers the same game year after year with a new coat of paint. Developers like Infinity Ward and then Treyarch and then Sledgehammer Games have inherited years of knowledge with one singular purpose in mind: Make it feel really, really, really good to shoot guns in a video game context.
Combine that with the Battle Royale high concept and you just might have yourself a goldmine.
No one does it better than Call of Duty, except maybe one. Which takes me to the point of this article.
I want the next Halo to have a Battle Royale mode.
I want Halo to do precisely what I criticised Spider-Man for doing. I want Halo to cynically borrow concepts from other popular video games.
I have my reasons and I have no shame.
Why not Halo?
Halo's had a tough run of it as of late.
Circa 2007, with the release of Halo 3, you could say Halo was the most valuable entertainment franchise on the planet and you could say that with a straight face.
It's been downhill ever since. After swansong Halo: Reach, creators Bungie passed stewardship of the series to 343 Industries, a company founded exclusively to advance Halo as an intellectual property. It's been a mixed bag ever since.
Halo 4's multiplayer tried to imitate the worst parts of perennial rival Call of Duty and failed. Halo 5's multiplayer was a return to form for a number of reasons, but it was too little too late and it fizzled quickly as both a multiplayer game and a potential esport.
But crucially Halo's core, much like Call of Duty's, has remained absolutely rock solid. On
at least, it remains perhaps the best example of pure shooting pleasure. In that respect, perhaps only
(Bungie's major project post Halo) has surpassed it.
Imagine that core gameplay applied to a Battle Royale mode.
As an older gentleman (37, thanks for asking) I've mostly ignored the Battle Royale genre. Not because I don't find it interesting, but mainly because a) I don't enjoy Fortnite on a second by second basis and b) it's difficult and intimidating to learn a whole new system of combat while being perforated by hordes of learned teenagers and their inhuman reflexes.
Halo? I understand Halo. I could compete in Halo. Battle Royale Halo, with its cleaner, more precise mechanics would absolutely rule.
You leap out of a pelican at top speed, armed with a pistol and an assault rifle. A small scale Halo shaped level slowly shrinks. You team up with friends on a Warthog and slaughter the strays. You pick up a covenant sword and infiltrate buildings with close-range encounters. Sniping battles across open terrain with the highest of stakes.
I picture these scenarios with Halo weapons and Halo vehicles, and I salivate.
If Call of Duty can do it, why not Halo?
I can't believe I'm writing this. I hate myself for writing it, but I would 100 percent play a Halo Battle Royale mode and the more I think about it, the more I think it needs to happen. I want Halo to be relevant again. I want to be able to play Halo online and actually have people to play with. There's a nostalgia element to it. Your parents still listen to Classic Rock Radio, '70s hits on repeat. I want Halo back on the airwaves.
Maybe Battle Royale can achieve that? Maybe Battle Royale can bring Halo back?
And even if it can't it'll be a crapload of fun while it lasts.
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