The Evolution of Abilities in Halo

It’s been a while since I’ve wrote an article specifically about Halo, and this article in particular is about one of the most talked about points in the Halo community. Armour abilities and Spartan Abilities. As most Halo fans will know, there is a big split in the community on classic vs current gameplay, and what direction Halo should go in the future. This article is going to cover why exactly we have evolved from classic style gameplay in Halo. Change in video games is a fairly normal thing, especially with a franchise 17 years old like Halo. However knowing why these changes have happened often helps us have a better view and understanding on the franchise as a whole.

An important thing to remember is that most of Halo’s major changes have been influenced both directly and indirectly by fan feedback. 343 Industries in particular pride themselves in listening to the fans, and this is an important point to take note of when looking at why Halo 4 and Halo 5 are the games they are. Listening to feedback Is something that Bungie did too. Halo has always received feedback and used that feedback to improve the next title, as we see from Halo CE being vastly different than Halo 2, Halo 2 is different than Halo 3, Halo 3 is different than ODST, and so on.

One of the main topics for change like stated earlier is armour abilities and spartan abilities. While classic style Halo fans are quick to jump on 343 Industries and say they don’t belong in Halo, it may just be those same fans that influenced them being in Halo in the first place. The positive feedback given by classic fans might actual be the reason abilities are in Halo today. Looking back at abilities in Halo, when did we first truly get to experience them? Many of you might say Halo Reach, but that isn’t completely true. Halo 3 actually featured and introduced equipment. Now at first glace, equipment may seem completely different from armour abilities, but again, that’s not entirely true. Here’s some examples of how equipment might actually be the predecessor to armour abilities. The bubble shield is the easiest example, as the Halo Reach Drop Shield armour ability is near exactly the same. Then you have Armour Lock, which can be closely related to a mix of both the Invincibility and Power Drain equipment once again from Halo 3.

Equipment also influenced some of Halo 4s armour abilities, such as the Hardlight Sheild being somewhat of an evolution from the Deployable Cover, the Regeneration Field being an evolution of the Regenerator, and the Autosentry being an evolution of the Auto Turret. Some other abilities, such as Sprint and Active Camouflage, can be explained through evolving from the power ups. Active Camouflage has been in the Halo games since the beginning so naturally it developed into an armour ability, although Camouflage was also seen in Halo 3 as equipment under the name Cloaking. Sprint on the other hand is one that people might not often make the connection to. The Custom Powerup in Halo 3 actually added increased movement speed, and this in itself could be seen as a type of Sprint. Even the likes of Promethean Vision in Halo 4 very possibly evolved from Halo 3 ODSTs Visual Intelligence System, Reconnaissance (VISR), or the scanning ability, that would allow you to both highlight points of interest and enemies.

Now that some sort of background and evolution has been established, it’s important to know just why these armour abilities continued to stay in the Halo games. Powerups such as active camo and oversheild have always been loved by the fanbase and these staying in the franchise in some shape or form was no question at all. Halo 3s equipment was enjoyed by most, especially during the middle of Halo 3s lifespan, and thus gave the impression that something similar should be in the next main title. Not counting ODST, Halo Reach was technically the next main Halo title, and Bungie’s last Halo game. They mentioned many times that although they were creating this game for the Halo fan base they also created the Halo game that Bungie always wanted to make. That being said, most of the new abilities were actually evolutions of previously included things in other Halo games. Evade, Hologram and Jetpack being the completely new additions.

As I’m sure most of you will remember, not all of Halo Reach’s armour abilities got positive feedback, and the launch game ended up being very different than the game midway through it’s lifespan. Moving onto Halo 4, there wasn’t actually any new abilities. Just evolved versions of previously used ideas. Thruster pack was a much more toned down version of evade, Hologram had evolved into Holographic Decoy, and active camo and jet pack had had some changes too. The other armour abilities as mentioned previously all evolved from the equipment in Halo 3. The main differences with the armour abilities in Halo Reach and Halo 4 were the environment they were used in. Halo 4 is more of a play for fun kind of game, as opposed to Halo Reach which was more competitive. Halo 4 was 343 Industries first halo game (not counting the changes they made to Halo Reach). 343 Industries did their best to evolve on disliked armour abilities from reach and improve the ones that were enjoyed. Of course we know Halo 4 wasn’t quite the game a lot of people imagined it to be, but that’s not because it was a bad game, it’s just because it was too different from what most people had played previously.

Now we come to Halo 5. The game that completely flipped Halo 4 on it’s head. Whilst Halo 4 was a play for fun kind of game, Halo 5 was a heavily competitive focused game. It was even marketed as such when it was first announced. Of course with the direction changing, so must the gameplay, and it didn’t take 343 Industries long to confirm that armour abilities were no longer in Halo. Instead we had the brand new Spartan abilities. Most fans were asking what the difference was, including myself. Spartan abilities exist for the core reason to make the gameplay and experience more fluid. Things like smart scope, slide and clamber all exist to benefit the players aim and movement. These abilities aren’t an evolution so much as they are a helping hand. Sprint however had been improved and evolved, and whilst it was now unlimited, the way sprint was used in Halo was completely different. In Halo 5 sprint is more to be used in short bursts simply to get from the place you are to a place very near by. Due to your shields not recharging and the overall fast pace of Halo 5, sprinting more than in short bursts is sure to get you killed, and thus sprint balances itself. Ground Pound and Spartan Charge were the brand new offensive abilities in Halo 5, and again exist to aid the player. These however proved to be more of a negative thing to the game than positive and as such have been removed from most competitive gametypes, such as HCS settings.

Now the real question is where will it go next. Well if 343 Industries are to follow the pattern of listening to feedback, we can expect two things. The enjoyed abilities will stay, such as smart scope and sprint, and the more disliked abilities will either be evolved or removed, such as spartan charge and ground pound. One thing is for sure though, these kinds of abilities have been in Halo as far back as equipment in Halo 3, which is 11 years at this point. Halo will not go back to the Halo 2 days, no matter how much classic fans want it to. The most beneficial way for Halo fans to have their voice heard is by giving constructive feedback, whether you’re a classic style Halo fan or current style Halo fan. Wishing for a Halo game to be like another will not help the franchise get anywhere, and it’s rather silly, considering there has never been a single Halo game that plays like another.

I hope you’ve all enjoyed this article and let me know what topics you’d like to hear about in the future. You can also watch my video about this topic here:

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Image Credit: Halo Wiki

Written by: Jordan Wharton

An avid gamer and Halo fan. Been in the gaming scene my whole life. Known for being the first person in the world to cosplay as the Halo 5 Master Chief. Love visiting Japan and America. Creator of the Halo Community section.

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