A depressing new standard has befallen video game enthusiasts (I’ve decided I’m no longer using the term “gamer”) over the course of the last few years. Games are being shipped incomplete or improperly tested. It feels like nearly every major release with a multiplayer focus has suffered from days, weeks, and in the case of the Halo: Master Chief Collection, even months of unreliability or in some extreme instances, downright unplayability. All eyes were on 343 Industries as they prepped the launch of the most anticipated title on Xbox One this year. Instead of a release riddled with bugs and server failures, Halo 5 came flying out of the gate in grand form, proving that AAA developers can actually deliver a finished product on schedule.
Full disclosure: the launch of the Halo: Master Chief Collection made me lose a great of deal of respect for 343 Industries as a whole. What was supposed to celebrate one of the greatest legacies in gaming history, was instead smothered in a gross splattering of multiplayer connection issues. My group of close friends and I, the same friends who grew up sharing memories in Halo together, were so excited to relive our adventures via Xbox Live because now in our adult lives, many of us live far away from each other and this is one of the most powerful ways we can stay connected. We couldn’t even play a single campaign together due to an unsettling amount of gamebreaking issues with online connectivity. Every week we’d boot up the collection and give it another try and every week we grew more and more disappointed with our purchases. Eventually we just gave up. We all spent $60 on a game we didn’t even want to play. We had completely given up hope on the Master Chief Collection.
Months later, and I mean 6 to 8 months later, we heard from various friends that the issues with the MCC multiplayer had been fixed. Since connection issues were so inconsistent and sporadic between players, we didn’t hold out much hope, but we decided dusting off our copies to give it another go couldn’t hurt. So in July of 2015, 8 months after the original launch, we scheduled a bro-date to marathon some Halo campaigns. To our utter surprise, the multiplayer ran without a hitch. What started off as an unplayable mess, finally developed in to what we all originally envisioned for this monumental collection. Pressures from Microsoft and Xbox to meet the holiday deadline obviously caused 343 Industries to release a game that wasn’t ready for major distribution, but where other teams may have thrown in the towel, this studio buckled down and did everything they could to make it right for fans. Even though this release tarnished the legacy of Xbox’s key franchise, I believe it taught this team a valuable lesson, one they took to heart with the launch of Halo 5.
I typically expect a few unsavory things when booting up a huge multiplayer game on launch. I’ve grown all too familiar with server disconnects, seas of apologies from developers on Twitter and in-game message boards, and general network instability, but I experienced none of these things during my first session in Halo 5. I played several hours of Warzone without a single disconnect or error message. I was honestly shocked. I expected to boot up the game, wait 10 to 15 minutes for a single match, and then get disconnected as soon as I managed to actually find a full team. It’s really sad that as a consumer that’s what I expect to receive for my $60 purchase. This was the first time in a very long time that I felt fully satisfied with my gaming experience on launch day.
I’ve played Halo 5 on three separate days for a total of 12 hours or more at this point and in all this time, I’ve only experienced one notable issue with my multiplayer experience. During a match of Warzone the REQ station was unavailable, meaning nobody from either team was able to equip or upgrade weapons for the entirety of the match. Playing on a map of this scale with every player trying to pull off magnum headshots was pretty ridiculous. REQs are a huge component of the Warzone experience and playing a match without them truly made me appreciate the mechanic so much more. After our longest match in Halo history, my friends and I took a break to play a little campaign. When we revisited Warzone a few hours later, everything seemed to be running perfectly.
I truly hope this launch inspires other teams to deliver their original vision of a game the day it releases, not months later. With the increasing costs of games, DLC, and Season Passes, we shouldn’t be expected to suffer through such rocky releases and after learning a valuable lesson, it seems like the folks from 343 Industries feel the same way.