What 343i needs to fix in Halo 6: Art, game features, user interface, and business model

Halo 5: Guardians

Halo 5: Guardians (Image credit: Xbox Game Studios)

The latest main entry into the Halo franchise, Halo 5, is a game that has capitalized and expanded on many changes made to the Halo formula since Halo 3.

Some of us like these changes and some strongly hate them, but one thing that's certain is that Halo isn't the titan of the gaming industry it once was 10 years ago. And while you could argue that Halo is on the decline due to the series' age and/or its increasing competition in the market, industry staples like Zelda, Call of Duty, and Mario all continue to drive considerable amounts of hype and interest irrespective of their age.

Halo 5 remains a popular entry in the series, over all, but with a bit of TLC, Halo 6 could take the franchise back to its glory days.

I began to outline in a previous article how I believe Halo's overall declining success in the industry can be attributed to the radical changes in its designs and formulas. I'm not against change or evolution, but I do think that the changes that have been made push Halo beyond what made the franchise appealing in the first place.

In the previous article on this topic, I talked about gameplay mechanics, story deliverance, and polish. This time, we're going to talk about art and design, game features, user interface, and the controversial REQ pack business model.

What 343i needs to fix in Halo 6: Looking at performance, core gameplay, and story delivery

Without further ado, lets grab an overshield, hop in a Warthog and drive head-first into the fray.

Art and design: maintain Halo's timeless look

A hot topic in the Halo community lately is the changes made to the art style of Halo, and with good reason; almost everything in the series has received a new form of visual appearance.

Halo's designs can be altered, but should not be majorly changed in a way that radically goes against the established look of the series.

From the Spartans we control to the Grunts we headshot, everything has been given a fresh coat of paint, so to speak. However, I feel that a lot of these design changes have been too over the top. The Covenant in particular (both the phenotypes of the alien species, and the armor they wear) have been changed in a way that I think goes against what themes they have in the universe.

Take the Elites, for example — in the lore and in the original games, the Elites are fit, fast, cunning, and tactical. So, moving forward, their design should, in my opinion, reflect that. Unfortunately, the changes made to them in Halo 4 and Halo 5, to me, go against that entirely. The Elites in the latest Halo games have been much more heavyset, and in addition, their armor looks much bulkier. It makes them look very sluggish, not unlike another classic Halo enemy, Brutes. This look is a far cry from what the Elites were previously established as during the original trilogy, and this is why I think the latest art changes should be reeled in and replaced with new designs that maintain continuity of themes and appearance between games.

An example of a good design change 343i has done is the Halo 4 Forerunner architecture. While it manages to look fresh and new due to different colors, shading, and shapes, it still retains much of the old Forerunner feel of an ancient, mysterious race. Not all of the changes are negative, but I do feel that a good amount of them are, and in general I think the series will severely benefit from some new designs that take heavy inspiration from the original, iconic look of Halo.

Game features: a complete game at launch

One big and undeniable issue with Halo 5 was that it launched very bare-bones. Sporting only eight playlists at launch, as well as no Forge mode, Halo 5 simply did not have a particularly large amount of content at launch — and that's a huge problem.

Without a good supply of content at launch, a game will not have the longevity that it could.

If the game doesn't have a healthy variety of things to do, then people will get bored of it quickly, especially when other content rich games are available. Sure, 343 did add new things every month, but it was content that was already there at launch in Halo 3, Reach, and 4. It was things that should have been in the game to start with.

Whether or not this happened due to time constraints or development hiccups, we'll never know, but I wholeheartedly think that Halo 6 will retain its player base much longer than Halo 5 if it launches as a complete game with a wider variety of content.

User interface: the smoother, the better

Halo 5's user interface floods the user with images and text in mere seconds, and I think that's a bigger problem then most people give it credit for. When you go to choose an armor or helmet in Halo 5, you have to scroll through dozens of items to find the one you're looking for. And instead of compiling everything into a list that displays things one at a time, it displays as many things as possible.

This is even more troublesome when you take into account that Halo 5 doesn't organize any of its UI items (like the aforementioned customization armors) in any specific way. You can't find things alphabetically, by rarity, or by any other means of categorization. This is a staple that has been present in user interfaces for years now, and I don't think there's any justifiable reason why Halo 5's UI is this sloppy. It makes the game feel like a chore to navigate, when instead it should be easy, simple, and relaxing. While the UI may seem like a minor problem, I'm of the belief that making your game as easy to navigate as possible will do wonders for improving the experience players have with your game.

REQ pack business model: make it easier for players to get what they want

Perhaps the most controversial addition to Halo has been Halo 5's REQ system. While I would prefer if Halo didn't have microtransactions at all, I doubt that, after how much money they've brought in for Microsoft and 343i, they would get rid of them. So instead, I've come up with a way to improve the system.

By reducing the amount of randomness in the system, players can get the REQs that they want faster and easier.

Essentially, the problem with the REQ system is that it's too much of a grind. Since armor, skins, weapons, vehicles, emblems, and power-ups are all tied to the REQ system, players who want to get any one type of thing often times fall victim to the random number generator. For example, many players weren't even able to get the standard loadout DMR gun in a year's worth of game time due to the REQ packs they bought never giving them one.

My solution for this issue is to make it so that you can buy REQ packs for specific items. Instead of cramming every aspect of Halo's customization and sandbox into one pack, there should be weapon packs, vehicle packs, armor packs, etc. This would work because having packs that only give one type of thing would significantly reduce the randomness and make it so that players can get what they want.

People who play Halo 5's Arena mode and want the latest skin could buy skin packs for a very good chance at getting it, while Warzone players who like using power-ups could buy a power-up pack and have a high probability of getting their desired item. I believe that if this kind of improvement is made to the REQ system in Halo 6, then it will be much more player friendly and will improve everyone's experience with REQs tenfold.

Your thoughts

Do you agree with what I've said here about Halo 5 and how Halo 6 can improve upon these problems? Let me know how you feel down below in the comments. In addition, if you haven't picked Halo 5 up, consider doing so to get a more hands-on opinion!

Brendan Lowry is a Windows Central writer and Oakland University graduate with a burning passion for video games, of which he's been an avid fan since childhood. You'll find him doing reviews, editorials, and general coverage on everything Xbox and PC. Follow him on Twitter.

48 Comments
  • I have a lot of hate for Halo 5, but it's very little to do with this stuff. For starters, complaints about the Elite art are hard to relate to without pictures to back it up. I honestly don't have a mental store of Elite models across iterations of the franchise, so I don't know that your complaints are on-point or valid because I don't see proof in the article. Even then, I can't say there is a point of Halo 5 where character models were my issue. Only the skeletal art of Breakout maps (the large spaces of blue make depth perception on maps tough) really gave me a big issue with the game's art. I don't like microtransactions, but I don't really care about them because they're mostly limited to visual customization I can't see in-game on myself, or it's stuff for the atrocious Warzone modes (where skill means very little and bullet sponge RNG reigns supreme). I also don't think complaints of content quantity make sense for multiplayer. Overwatch released with 2 game modes and was a hit, even if I don't like it myself. The content quality is clearly the issue. They tried too hard to modernize with the market as their fan base was interested in games that reject the modernization. Halo 4 critics complained because the game took too many cues from the "progressive" changes in Call of Duty, and said they wanted something closer to the franchise's roots. What followed was copying the move to verticality (which made spawn-killing more prevalent and is the chief reason I hate the Halo 5 multiplayer), while adding in more nonsense like the Ground Pound and Spartan Charge, even though my complaint in the FPS genre (especially with CoD) is the incessant push to minimize shooting in shooters. UI stuff is definitely messy and could be improved as well. Filters and sorting are easy to add, though they also don't rank high on my list of wants or needs. For me, it's all about content quality at the core. Stop trying to be the competition; if I want those games, I'm leaving Halo for them either way. Stick to what made the franchise popular and make tweaks to feel fresh. Halo 2 did it fine, as did everything until Halo 5, IMO (though Halo 4 needed to reel a few things in as well). There's too much reliance on non-shooting mechanics like the super-bouncy frag grenades that have a huge AoE. Pound and Charge are moronic additions that take the guns out of hands and make the game more about getting a jump on someone than actually being able to take a shot. Map design is horrible and destroyed most all mid-range play thanks to tons of corners and the vertical design that forced everyone on top of each other. Fix that stuff, and maybe present us a campaign that doesn't omit the main character for 80% of it while focusing on a nobody character (Locke) who has no personality or purpose.
  • I typically don't agree with your halo five complaints. Mostly towards mp, but I have to agree with every point you made here.
  • I agree that frag grenades are overpowered: you spawn with two of them, replacements are all over the map, they bounce off walls and have a huge blast radius, which not only kills a lot of enemies that probably shouldn't die, but even if they don't, their splash damage brings up hit markers which give away a lot of information on enemy positioning. Despite that, all you hear from the "community" is people whining about splinter grenades, which I think are a fantastic addition to the game and are a key counter to things like sprinting, assault weapons, Spartan Charging, etc., as they deter kamikaze-esque behavior. People only complain about splinter grenades because they're new. If they had been in Halo from the get-go and frag grenades as they are now were added in, people would be complaining about them instead.
  • Well, Halo was the 2nd game I bought for the 1st Xbox in 2001, the first one was PGR, and to me, that "aseptic" visual almost free of vegetation and with tons of simple concrete constructions is Halo, plain and simple. I know these visual choices were made mostly based on the graphics capacity of that time, but that aesthetics fit so well with the game's theme, like everything were just like giant concrete bunkers, that I simply can't get used to the newer Halo games with forests full of trees, rich architecture et al. Everything on the aesthetics of first three Halo looked like it was made to be just functional and fast to made and repair, no-frills allowed, they only had time to try to survive. It was a just perfect mix of military constructions and sci-fi futurism. Bring this kind of atmosphere back and I think the game will start to go back to the right track. 343i must remember that Halo never was a showcase of what Xbox is graphically capable to do, leave this role for other games and stop trying to make Halo almost as full of trees and colors as Uncharted.
  • Halo CE was definitely a demonstration of the power of the original Xbox. Same for Halo 4 showed what the 360 is still capable of.
  • As a demonstration of power as a whole, I agree with you, but the graphics wasn't the selling point of Halo CE. MS used to show Dead or Alive and even the PGR when talking about the graphics superiority of the 1st Xbox over the PS2 and GameCube. Halo 3 was launched 2 years after the X360 and wasn't a graphically masterpiece, yet is still one of the best Halo available. I think Bungie focus were to make a great overall game first and then spend some time with the graphics, and 343i is just the opposite.
  • Well same for Halo 5. Ryse Son of Rome and Forza were the title to show the graphic power of the XboxOne and not Halo 5. Halo 5 was all about a stable 60fps frame rate. And that was actually one of the best things they have done with the game. 60fps Halo just feels so much better than 30fps. Visually Halo 5 feels like a 360 game sometimes. Especially the big multiplayer maps.
  • I remember being stunned by how good H4 looked on 360. Such a beast of a console.
  • Maybe time to give it a rest and try something new in the Halo universe?
  • That is arguably what the last few games have done, and it's been met with mixed reception.
  • Let John and Cortana die. Halo 5 just destroyed the whole story. Halo 4 had such a perfect ending.
    The next Halo games after Halo 6 could be about the time before reach or even with Jerome and Isabel.
    And most importantly get rid off the Promethians with their boring auto aim weapons and zero charisma. Atriox could be the new enemy after Halo 6. And HW2 mixed the old and new art style perfectly. Forge and the multiplayer are actually pretty good in Halo 5.
  • TBH I would be okay with this. I agree Halo 4 was a beautiful ending to Cortana's story, and I wouldn't mind seeing new protagonists in Halo. It worked in Halo 2 with Arbiter, worked in ODST with Rookie, worked in Halo: Reach with Noble 6.
  • Yes exactly. The only problem is the halo community. They always hate everything new. They hated the Arbiter, they hated ODST, they hated Noble 6, they hated the Halo 4 Story. That's the reason why the role of the Arbiter was shrunk down in Halo 3 (and the whole story was dull compared to Halo 2) and that was the reason they changed the story in Halo 5 and ended up with the mess we now have. The halo community always needs some time to accept a good story with some new elements. Today the campaign of Halo 2 and Reach are probably the most popular. And even Halo 4 campaign is now liked by many. I just hope 343i will risk something. And there's still the chance to get back in time for some games.
  • I don't care for Halo's old art style(didn't grow up with Halo's old art style and when I started playing Halo, it never really grabbed my attention), but I can agree they need to have all features available when the game launches. As well as the changes to the customization and the req packs. Now will any of these changes bring Halo back to its former glory? Heck no, Halo didn't have as much competition for peoples attention on Xbox as it does now. By the time Halo 6 comes out there will be another COD and Battlefield(Battlefront as well) that will compete for peoples money/attention. Not to mention all the other games that will offer similar experiences that will eat up that margin.
  • COD and Battlefield were well and alive in the mid-2000s
  • The art in Halo 5 is off putting, but I also did not like the changes to the sounds of the weapons. For me my biggest concerns about Halo 6 is if they keep the terrible squad systems and AI from Halo 5. I found the down but not out system did not belong in Halo and actually made the game feel poorly made when an AI squadmate couldn't even manage to revive you but you had to wait to bleed out rather than just restarting. The squad system also made the narrative rely too much on talking heads and squad banter to fill in the player. It made you feel less powerful. In the previous games you were one person fighting against the odds. Doom recently got that feeling right and 343 should look to that as a way to go back t