And if so, how?
Do I think it can? Absolutely.
Do I think it will? No, not unless 343i seriously reconsider how they choose to design the game.
For starters, what can we say about the first three Halo games? Each one continously improved on the last. Each one added to the player experience, giving them more reason to come back, to explore, and gave the player greater agency over the game. Halo 2 added deeper custom options and more gamemodes, it added skulls to campaign and contextualized the story. Halo 3 brought in forge, theatre, even deeper customs, character customization (beyond what Halo 2 offered), Campaign scoring, terminals etc.
That's part of why I think Halo 3 is considered the epitome of the Halo experience, it added so much to Halo as a whole. We can criticize the campaign or individual aspects of the multiplayer all we want, but overall it was a solid title that improved the Halo experience
And this has been my fundamental problem with 343i, and what I consider to be the current problem with Halo. Ignoring my own opinions on questionable multiplayer, architectural and stylistic changes, 343i haven't done anything that's significantly improved what Halo 3 did. In Halo 4 they attempted to take their own spin on things, but in the process they butchered customs, forge and theatre, they removed campaign skulls and in-game terminals, among a slew of other problems too numerous to name individually. The recompense, the addition was Spartan Ops. And while Spartan Ops was a great idea
it failed to capture any sort of magic, falling flat as more of a repetitive button-pressing simulator than an evolving episodic side story.
Skipping the mess that was Halo MCC because 343i stated they had very little to do with the project, lets move on to Halo 5. Halo 5 takes everything the first three Halo games had set forward about improving the gameplay experience and giving the players agency, and chucks it out the -Yoinking!- window. We regressed across the board.
No splitscreen, no offline multiplayer to be found what-so-ever, no Forge on release, no functioning fileshare, a pitiful amount of gamemodes, poor player customization that I can only assume was done to sell REQ packs and again, among a slew of other problems. The guise this falls under is of course "free DLC" and the promise that 343i will add everything back eventually, but they're by no means obligated to add everything
that people have come to expect from the series, and instead of using this post-release time to work on the next game or add new
content to the series, they're using it to finish up a game that can only be described as an Early Access title.
The only new feature Halo 5 brought to replace everything it removed was Warzone. Warzone was a great idea, and I think it could (and should) have been a stand-alone Halo title. But by tacking it onto Halo 5, not only does it not get all the attention it deserves, but it has to restrict itself to "traditional" Halo design philosphies, even with all the additional mechanics at play. And at the end of the day, warzone as it stands is no more than glorified BTB, it can't replace everything else 343i have removed.
I could rant on and on about how and why I think this is awful decisions making, but to draw the line: Halo built itself upon continuously giving the players agency and improving the experience. I believe Halo's current problems lie in the fact that 343i insist on delivering their
experience, and not necessarily a Halo or Quality Player experience. All my objections in relation to gameplay changes stem from this fact, all the problems in relation to the lack of Social playlists. Other problems such as the lack of armor customization appear to be driven by money, they restrict and remove armor to sell REQ's later instead of giving players the option to choose their own and unlock it in a logical way. The lack of an armor based progression system that gave the player something to actively work towards, among other things.
So what do I think Halo needs to be on top? I think it needs to focus on providing a top notch player experience. 343i need to take along, hard look at how they choose to design, whether it be the introduction of new mechanics that negatively impact the depth of the game for the sake of market accessibility or the conscious decision to remove social playlists because "it makes players play properly", and ask themselves if they are providing the best possible Halo experience they can. They need to look just what made Halo 3 so popular beyond
it's gameplay, figure out how Bungie managed to cultivate such a fervent and dedicated community
. They need to look at other successful titles, such as Counter-Strike Global Offensive, and ask themselves just what makes those games so successful with the competitive, casual, and creative communities alike.
There are reasons those things are as popular as they are, and there are reasons Halo fails to capture the attention that it used to. It's not as simple as gameplay or aesthetic, even if those do play a huge part.
If 343i are willing to ask these questions, to learn, understand, and perhaps apply different strategies or philosophies than those they currently use, I think Halo has potential to be a top game again. As it stands right now however, I expect Halo to fall slowly into obscurity. Not immediately, the quality of the games and legacy they are built on will keep people around for a while, but it'll fade to a point where people are tired of hearing its name, where it's used in a similar sense to Assassins creed to describe a series that has gone on too long, without fully understanding or realizing just where the heart of the issue lies.
Doesn't matter how many fancy skins or million dollar tournaments they throw out, there's something deeper in the game that's missing, and without that I don't really see a hope of greater success.
Honestly, I could go on for another hour or so, talking about designing for longevity, accessibility in game design, teaching players rather than designing for them, but those are different topics for a different time. Point is, I think Halo's problems extend far beyond its gameplay and have more to do with 343i and the premise on which they build the game than anything else.
... Well, back to lurking.