I wasn’t a fan of Halo 5’s campaign. It’s too short, the AI’s too dumb, the gameplay too tedious for my apparently short attention span. It was a disappointment, but not a wholly unexpected one.
But regardless of what you thought about the campaign, the multiplayer is something pretty special. The ranked Arena matches showcase the franchise’s natural competitiveness, the dedicated server options and the fact that some people can never seem to work out how single flag capture the flag works… custom Games are as fun as ever, giving players ample opportunity to tweak settings to create something crazy… and Warzone mode melds both PVP and PVE into one grand mode designed to be everything to everyone. It combines MOBA design concepts with classic Halo multiplayer — vehicles, weapon variety and sprawling maps — to deliver a fantastic mode where basically anyone can feel like they’re contributing to their team’s success. It’s 12 v 12, it features boss fights, each round lasts just about 20 minutes and… it’s pay-to-win.
It’s not even subtly pay-to-win either. The vehicles and weapon variety both stem directly from Requisition cards. Requisition cards are acquired via Requisition Packs. The Packs are purchased, either with REQ currency earned in-game or with real money, and so a person who pays extra money (on top of the purchase price of the game already) will have an advantage over someone who doesn’t.
Allow me to explain it further. To equip a weapon, vehicle or power-up on your character, you need REQ energy (gained by completing objectives within Warzone) and you need a requisition card. If I want to use a Mongoose, I need two REQ energy and I need a Mongoose card (luckily I have 87 billion of them). When I use a Mongoose Card, it’s gone forever — I’ve used it, and if my Mongoose card amount reached zero, to get a new one, I’d need to find one in a Requisition Pack.
To buy a Requisition Pack you can either pay real money for one, or you can earn REQ currency in-game by playing. On average I’d say I earn about 1700 REQ currency for a game of Warzone and 500 REQ currency for a game in Arena mode. It costs 5000 for a Silver REQ pack, which means that it takes me three games to earn enough REQ currency to buy a card pack to replenish any REQ cards I use in a round.
If I don’t use a REQ card, by the way, my only option is to go into battle with my stock standard Assault Rifle and Magnum (or the Battle Rifle). Obviously, this isn’t a problem in and of itself — you still have guns, you’re still a seven foot tall supersoldier, you’re flanked by 11 other similarly sized supersoldiers, all vehicles in Halo 5 can be destroyed with grenades and Assault Rifle shots… you’re not completely boned from the get go.
If I pay, say, $20 I can get 5 Gold tier REQ Packs and a whole stack of cards which I can use instead of the stock standard kit I have. I can rock up in a Tank, or a Banshee, or a Mantis (a freaking mechwarrior) and the advantage clearly sits with the person who has cards.
Of course being a card pack, there’s every chance that I might not get what I want — but there’s every chance that I might get exactly what I want as well.
Except you unlock cards which increase your chance of finding more of the same thing — I currently have a modifier which allows me to find more Fuel Rod Cannons, for example. I didn’t choose to activate this modifier, I found a card and it activated all on its own. The game has, at random, decided to actively skew the odds in favour of a weapon I already have 15 of. To be completely frank, I’d probably prefer to have a shotgun available to me at any time than a Fuel Rod Cannon. But because the game relies on weighted dice rolls — but dice rolls none the less — it’s entirely possible that you might find yourself without access to a whole range of items.
If you look at my vehicle options, for example, until I hit 7 REQ energy my options are Quad Bike, Quad Bike with guns, Ghost or nothing at all. I can’t fly a Banshee, I can’t use a Warthog, and if I use my Ghost five more times I won’t even be able to use that. Everything is expended at considerable cost to the player.
Imagine if in Hearthstone when you discarded a card it got destroyed for realsies. You had a basic deck of trash cards, but you only had a limited number of specialist cards that you could play. You only had 4 Dr Booms, or 3 Pyroblasts until you opened a new pack. The people with access to more card packs would have an obvious advantage. And who would have access to more card packs? The people who paid money.
That’s what’s happening in Halo 5 Warzone right now. The rate at which you earn REQ currency or spare REQ packs isn’t nearly fast enough to give a player access to even the basic items they might require.
People will soon either be buying packs to keep up with others in Warzone, or playing Arena matches at dramatically reduced Currency gains just to avoid using all their Requisition cards. Or they’ll stop playing. Whichever way it goes, the population for the game will slip, the quality of the games will drop and the mode will die out.
The simplest fix is to make at least basic weapons and vehicles permanent. Remove them from the packs altogether and make it so everyone has access to at least a Warthog, a Shotgun, a Banshee, a Sniper Rifle for crying outloud. Let people choose how they want to play without the need to decide whether a situation really calls for an item’s use. “Hmm, I’d really like to use a Ghost right now, but I just don’t know if I can afford one” is not a train of thought that should be going through someone’s head.
Make REQ Packs just for earning crazy legendary versions of weapons. It’ll still give people who play an advantage, but at least they won’t be the only ones using something other than an Assault Rifle and Magnum in each bloody game. Alternatively, unlock everything and do away with REQ Currency. What do they add to the game experience, apart from money in Microsoft’s pockets?
So, from the top — REQ packs can be purchased with real money, which give you the cards required for you to call in new guns, vehicles and powerups. Powerups, which are legitimate, deliberate advantages in-game. Nobody is saying a person who pays money is unkillable, nobody is saying a person who pays for REQ Packs can’t be stopped by someone who doesn’t. But the reality is, paying real money for REQ Packs gives a player an advantage over someone who doesn’t.