I know a lot of people active on this message board are excellent players: Gold, Platinum, Diamond, and above, congratulations! Truly, I respect and admire your skill, but I’m not one of you. I float between the mid-Bronzes and low Silvers in most playlists, and I’m totally OK with that. I’ve played Halo since Halo 3, and love the lore, setting, and format of the universe. I’ve put a generous (for me) amount of time into gameplay over the course of many months or years. I’m competitive to the extent that I like the chance to do well, and want to feel like I can hold my own, even if I’m never going to command top-tier status. I want to play against players like me, and expect all the code and magic behind the scenes to make that happen. Unfortunately, however, it just doesn’t in Halo 5.
While I love the look and feel of Halo 5’s multiplayer modes, and appreciate all the ways it felt instantly familiar and fun, while bringing all kinds of new things to the table, now several months in, I am stunned by just how bad game balance is. Or rather, this is what I thought the problem is. But really, is the problem me? has the game I love so much simply left me behind, and there’s no room anymore in multiplayer for someone who’s just average?
Case in point: In my experience, Team Arena objective matches are getting shorter, and slayer matches aren’t much better—1 or 2 players (on either side) are dominating kills and stats, leaving little for people like me to do but to drop to the ground before we even saw our opponent in a 1v1; when I review who I was paired with and against at the end of a match, I find at Silver 1 or 2, I’m far, far more likely to be going up against people with Gold or even Platinum CSRs than I am people with Silver or Bronze. Or someone who’s unranked, but a quick look at their Gamer Card shows it’s a brand new account of someone who got bored with their Onyx rank (or whatever) and wants to go through the leveling process again. There just doesn’t seem to be many of us true “scrubs” out there. I’ve gone days now with only a handful of Team Arena matches where I was able to maintain a KR above 1.0, and really the only way I can do this is by hiding and camping, which isn’t fun and isn’t the spirit of Halo’s small-map gameplay. I don’t want to be one of those people—I want to help my team! But more often than not, my team don’t need or want my help; they’re too busy mopping up the unfortunate souls like me on the other team.
Warzone/Warzone Assault and the Social playlists are, if anything, even worse: I’ve been in Warzone matches where a single player has achieved 50+ kills (the most I ever saw was 62. SIXTY TWO.) Then there’s a small group of people who are able to hang at a similar level—Maybe 20-30 kills—and then people like me, hiding by the Core, with 5 or fewer kills, 10 or more deaths, and nothing else in terms of stats or achievements to show for it. Why are we even being paired with such dominant players? Let them play against one another, not crushing those of us who are at the “omg double kill! I got a double kill! YAY!” stage. Or are there just not enough of us to pull a match together, so the game logic has no choice but to tack us onto the end of team of “real” players?
This is not to say I haven’t managed to ever do well—I’ve lead stats in a handful Team Arena matches (particularly Strongholds—I like that game format a lot as it really seems to emphasize overall gameplay and player positioning, not just kills), and surprise myself with a Killing Spree or even (gasp) a Frenzy, now and again. But I compare against how often I was able to do this in Halo Reach and Halo 4, versus how often I found myself on the receiving end of that style smackdown, and things just aren’t the same. At all. I don’t mind losing; what I do mind is feeling like I had no contribution to the win or the loss. I was just fodder for much better players.
So, what do people think? Is there a place in Halo multiplayer anymore to be an average, social player? I have to acknowledge I’m not a teenager, and haven’t been for a long time. I’ve struck up conversations with some random players who’ve admitted they put 6+ hours a night, every night, seven days a week into Halo 5. They all seem to do extremely well. Am I just being naive to think I can have a place in Halo 5 multiplayer without a similar commitment?