Last Friday, Halo announced that changes will soon come to competitive gametypes in the HCS. The changes follow several accusations from the Halo community about the competitive viability of Halo 5. In a heated debate, community members made clear that the longevity of competitive Halo 5 was at stake if their voices were not heard.
These changes seem to be a response from 343 Industries, who affirm that they will be working with pro players to implement additional updates. Shaking up the Halo 5 meta is a welcomed change to a game in which competition is beginning to stagnate. The hope of the community is that 343 Industries will continue to be receptive of such criticism as Halo 5 enters its final year of competitive play.
This article breaks down each of the changes, and explains their implications in changing the Halo 5 competitive meta.
Energy Sword Removal
When explaining the removal of the energy sword, 343 notes that the increased movement speed imbalances Capture the Flag (CTF) games on Truth. When combined with Halo 5’s enhanced movement mechanics, a player with the sword equipped can run a flag across the map incredibly quick. The utility of the weapon is consequently exploited in competitive play, allowing for very imbalanced games. 343 claims to be working on a change to the weapon, and say that it may be re-instituted later.
Halo 5’s Midship remake, Truth. Courtesy of HaloWaypoint
Meta Implications: Removal of the sword will balance out CTF games, and allow for more structured play. This benefits teams that can control power positions and set up for spawn-trapping on Truth. Without the energy sword, the frequency of back-to-back flag captures will greatly decrease as well. If the sword returns in the future, it will likely be with a movement speed nerf to preserve its lethality as a close-range power weapon.
SPLINTER GRENADE REMOVAL
Splinter grenades were intended to be used as a strategic tool for area denial. Closing off flag routes, or removing the possibility of a flank would assist teams that utilized splinters wisely. In the current meta, however, splinter grenades have become more of a tool for close-range instant kills. Throwing a splinter grenade at an opponent’s feet requires little skill, and 343 has thus removed them. These grenades may make their return later, following a balance tune.
Meta Implications: Splinter grenades have become a big problem in the Halo 5 meta. More often than not, they are used as an easy-out for players who are disadvantaged in a battle. Players must now rely on better frag grenade placement, and accurate plasma grenade sticks. Additionally, because a prime method of area denial is now gone, players will be expected to tighten up positioning to win games.
Assault Rifle Removal
The AR had unprecedented power, but no reward for accuracy. Courtesy of HaloWaypoint
Citing similar outcomes during battles between players of separate skill levels, 343 Industries determined that the Assault Rifle was unqualified for competition. In the current meta, the assault rifle can be used to easily kill an opponent close-range, or benefit those who camp with the radar. Criticisms about the assault rifle had been leveled against 343 Industries for most of Halo 5’s tenure, as many players questioned its place in competitive play. 343 states that they are seeking to better tune the weapon for the future.
Meta Implications: Gone are the days of camping with the AR and the radar. The gun rewarded spray and pray use, and seemed fairly random in terms of accuracy. Players will now be required to have a better grasp of the magnum at all ranges. This will separate those with an incredible shot from others who used the AR as a last-ditch effort to take down opponents.
Brute Plasma Rifle Removal
The brute plasma rifle allows players to obtain lightning-fast close range kills because of its sheer power. The rifle quickly eats away at shields, and players can swiftly finish off their opponent with a subsequent melee. The lopsided nature of the brute plasma rifle prompted closer examination by 343, who then opted for its removal. The absence of the rifle reinforces the notion that automatics serve as a detriment to competitive play.
Meta Implications: Although the gun lacks lethality from a distance, it is incredibly overpowered up-close. As automatic rifles are phased out of competitive play, the focus will shift back to precision. Keeping a steady aim will put players in the driver’s seat to control a game.
Weapon Respawn Timer Adjustment
Addressing the snowball-like nature of the current Halo 5 meta, 343 announced changes to the frequency of power weapon respawns. These changes will affect precision rifles like the Battle Rifle and Carbine, and close-range weapons like the Shotgun and Storm Rifle. 343 adds that the changes will not impact weapons on Weapon Pads.
Meta Implications: Placing the precision rifles and close range weapons to a timer that is more consistent with the high tier power weapons has two large implications. First, teams will need to prioritize which power weapons to pursue, given their strategy and map placement. Additionally, the change will create a more level situation when teams fight for fresh power weapons. This will put more of an emphasis on teamwork and strategy, rather than one team steamrolling another.
Halo 5’s in-game radar has been arguably the most hotly-debated aspect of competitive play for some time. Several players have called for its complete removal, as no other Halo game applied radar to competitive play. Conversely, other players claim that disabling radar will make gameplay too chaotic, given Halo 5’s movement mechanics.
The new radar will decrease spartan ability exploitation. Courtesy of IGN.
343 was reluctant to present a decisive judgment, but will instead work with pro players and the community to determine the best method going forward. Most recently, a new radar has been tested online in the Proving Grounds playlist. The radar compromises between each camp of thought, featuring an increased range, but only detecting non-silenced weapon fire, and spartan ability usage. The new radar allows players to control when they appear on the motion tracker, and better controls for exploitation of spartan abilities.
The changes to Halo 5’s competitive settings have been met with a mostly positive reception from the Halo community. Continued support from 343 Industries will hopefully give players the voice they’ve been yearning for. With pro player feedback as the driving force, Halo competition likely seems to be forging a better path forward.
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