Halo eSports contains one of the longest lasting and richest legacies in competitive gaming, ranging from Final Boss’ undeniable reign in Halo 2, to the wide variety of breakout players and teams that emerged in Halo 3 and Halo: Reach. At TeamBeyond.net, we celebrate this legacy every day and are constantly looking forward to more incredible competitive Halo storylines.
This weekend will undeniably be the most important event in Halo eSports history. The inaugural Halo World Championship will take place from March 18th to March 20th, where 16 Halo teams from around the globe will compete for their share of a $2,500,000 prize pool. It has been a grueling road for competitors who were looking to qualify – spanning online qualifiers, live exhibitions, invitationals, and more intense tournaments and events.
Today, we’ll introduce you to the world of competitive Halo, both as a spectator and a player. Whether you have never watched a competitive Halo event in your life, or are returning to a game you used to play years ago, this viewer’s guide to competitive Halo will get you primed for the Halo World Championship 2016 and future Halo eSports events down the road.
Disclaimer: If you are familiar with the gameplay of Halo and Halo 5: Guardians, you can head to our Halo World Championship Forum Thread to learn about the teams and storylines heading into the event. You should also take a look at the Team Beyond Power Rankings.
If you’ve ever picked up an Xbox Controller and played Halo, it’s likely that you have touched a handful of Halo’s diverse experiences, whether it be the immersive Campaign, intense large-scale multiplayer modes, or even whacky mini games such as Infection and Race. Today, we’re taking a look at the focus of Halo eSports – Arena Multiplayer.
At its core, Halo is a variation of an Arena shooter, in which players spawn on equal footing (same weapons, abilities, and equipment) and must control weapons, powerups, and positions on each map to defeat the enemy team. Although each Halo game has changed aspects of this formula to varying degrees, the concept generally remains the same – manipulate and take control of the map to best your opponent.
The Halo World Championship 2016 features Halo 5: Guardians, which puts a large focus on Arena gameplay. Here are the key aspects that you should take note of when spectating the newest iteration of Halo:
- 2 Teams (Red vs. Blue) – 4 vs. 4
- 3 Gametypes – Slayer, Capture The Flag, Strongholds (we’ll discuss these in more detail soon)
- 8 Arena Maps (Symmetrical & Asymmetrical)
- New Abilities, Weapons, and more that you will see for the first time
Let us start to dive in to Halo 5’s gameplay and give you all an idea of what to look out for when tuning in to Halo eSports.
As stated previously, competitive Halo 5: Guardians pits two teams of four against each other across three modes and eight maps. We’ll break down how all of these variables play out, but let’s first look at the big picture and what makes Halo different from other games.
Spawns & Respawn
In competitive Halo, the modes played are respawn-based, meaning if a player dies, they are put on respawn for 8 seconds and can only assist teammates by relaying information from what goes on around their death location. After the respawn timer is up, the player will spawn in a safe yet predictable location.
Halo is a heavily team-oriented game, so when one team eliminates any number of players from the opposition, it can be capitalized on to sway the game in their favor. Killing all four enemy players means that there are no opponents on the field for a whole 8 seconds, making it easy to gain control of the map, earn power weapons, or secure objectives. Keep an eye out for when teams have a numbers advantage, as these are some of the most important moments in competitive Halo.
Factoid – Multikills are earned when a single player earns multiple kills in quick succession. Double Kill (2), Triple Kill (3), Overkill (4), and Killtacular (5) are epic multkill moments to get hyped over!
Radar & Shields
If you’re familiar with the lore of Halo, you know that the game’s Spartans are quite literally tanks on legs, equipped with high-tech equipment that enables unique traits. This makes gameplay against other players a fair bit more interesting compared to other shooters you are familiar with. Radar is one tool that notifies the player of enemies who are moving around them within an 18m radius. However, a player can crouch and/or walk slowly to avoid showing up on opponents’ radars.
Players are also equipped with Shields, which means gunfights will last much longer than they do in other first-person shooters. In Halo, when in a gunfight with precision weapons, it will take X amount of shots to deplete an opponent’s shields. When their shields are gone, a headshot from a precision weapon will become an instant kill, but shots to the body will do less damage.
Example – The Pistol/Magnum is a 5 Shot Kill (5SK). This means it will take four shots anywhere to the body to break shields, and a 5th Headshot to finish the kill. If you miss the final headshot and only hit the enemy in the body, it will require 8 shots total rather than the Perfect 5 Shots.
In Halo 5: Guardians, players spawn in with an Assault Rifle (Automatic Rifle w/ Spread) and a Pistol (Ranged Precision w/ no Recoil or Spread) across all modes.
The Magnum is Halo 5’s utility weapon, meaning it can competently engage players from most ranges, only being bested up close by automatic weapons, and at very long distances by rifles. This will be the weapon you see most players using throughout matches, but the beauty of Halo is that it’s sandbox allows for a lot of diversity and player preference. The Assault Rifle takes more of a backseat but is still very viable in certain situations, such as cleaning up missed Pistol kills or catching players off guard with a strong flank. Players also spawn with two fragmentation grenades that can be used to clear out key locations or weaken players for a teammate to kill.
And what could be most important to keep an eye out for are the new player abilities in Halo 5. Spartans now have the ability to Thrust in numerous directions, Stabilize in mid-air combat, charge at opponents out of a Sprint, Slide to cover, and slam downwards with an aerial Ground Pound. The video above will give you a brief rundown of how they all work.
Weapons and Powerups
Now that we’ve covered basic gameplay features, let’s talk about the things that make Halo’s Arena gameplay interesting. On every map is a diverse set of weapons and powerups that give players unique tools to approach killing the enemy team and taking over objectives. Weapons are divided into three tiers that dictate their strength and priority of them within each match. Let’s break down these tiers so you know what to keep an eye out for during gameplay.
Tier 1 Weapons
The first level of weapons can be found frequently throughout the map. After being picked up, the weapon will respawn in the same location 20 seconds later. These weapons give slight advantages over the Pistol and Assault Rifle but do not dramatically affect the flow of gameplay. Precision Rifles give slight buffs to range or damage, and automatics provide fast Damage-per-second that becomes useful at close range.
- Battle Rifle (Precision, 4 Shot Kill)
- DMR (Precision, 5SK, Long Range)
- Covenant Carbine (Precision, 7SK, Fast Rate of Fire)
- Light Rifle (Precision, 3SK when scoped, 4SK unscoped)
- Boltshot (Precision, 3SK, Tracking Bullets)
- SMG (Automatic, Close Range)
- Storm Rifle (Automatic, Fast Kill Time)
- Suppressor (Automatic, Tracking Bullets, Slow Kill Time)
Tier 2 Weapons
Second-tier weapons are niche weapons that provide a dramatic advantage in specific situations. They respawn only once they have been dropped/deleted from play, meaning that only one of each weapon will ever be on the map at all times.
- Shotgun and Scattershot (Instant Kill Close Range)
- Hydra (Lock-On Missile Launcher)
- Plasma Pistol (Tracking Pistol that eliminates Shields and/or Overshields)
- Needler (Automatic w/ Tracking Projectiles)
- Energy Sword (Instant Kill Melee Weapon w/ ranged lock-on)
- Plasma Grenades (Sticks to Players, also used to launch Power Weapons across maps)
- Splinter Grenades (Creates a field of dangerous Splinters that are used to block off key areas)
Tier 3 Weapons
Tier 3 Weapons are the most important among the selections on each map. The dividing factor regarding Tier 3 Weapons is that they are set on Static Timers. This means that they will spawn at the same intervals throughout every match, allowing teams equal opportunity to compete over them. For example, a Rocket Launcher will spawn every 2 Minutes, but a Sniper will spawn every 3 minutes, regardless of when either are picked up.
When these weapons spawn (indicators will appear on screen), players will focus on them because wielding one can turn the tides of an entire game.
- Rocket Launcher (High Power Explosive, Instant Kill)
- Sniper Rifle (Ranged, Instant Kill w/ Headshot)
- Fuel Rod Cannon (High Ammo Count Explosive, Weaker than Rocket Launcher)
- Plasma Caster (Explosive Weapon used for Zoning)
Player Powerups stand outside of the three tier system. At the Halo World Championship, you’ll encounter two of these powerups from the Halo 5 sandbox – Active Camo and Overshield.
- Overshield – Upon picking up this powerup, the player will be granted with an Overshield that allows them to sustain additional incoming damage. This Overshield is more durable than the player’s standard shield, allowing them to survive numerous gunfights and take down opponents/complete objectives.
- Active Camouflage – This powerup will cloak an entire player’s model and weapons. They are able to traverse the map with low visibility, create extremely strong flanks, and catch opponents off guard. In addition, they are removed entirely from radar and can throw grenades without becoming visible. However, Sprinting, Thrusting Meleeing, firing weapons, or being shot at will all mark the player as visible. Players who pick up Camo are comparable to a glass cannon, they should definitely be an item to keep focus on.
Maps and Modes
Halo 5: Guardians eSports features three distinct and diverse gametypes that are played on a multitude of symmetrical and asymmetrical maps.
- Slayer – Halo’s Team Deathmatch equivalent; control power weapons, map positions, and enemy spawns to win the game. First team to 50 Kills Wins (or most kills at the end of 12 minutes)
- Capture the Flag (Symmetrical Maps) – Bring the enemy team’s flag back to your base to score. To score a flag, your flag must also be at your home base. If your flag is away, you can stand in close proximity to return it to the base. First team to capture 3 flags wins.
- Strongholds (Asymmetrical Maps) – Halo 5’s new take on Territories/Domination. Three hills are placed in specific points around the map. Teams fight over the objectives to either Capture, Convert, or Reset them. If a team holds two Strongholds, they will begin scoring (they will score twice as quickly by holding all three Stronghold locations). If a team holds only one Stronghold they will not begin scoring and must work together to take one of the opponents current two hills. First to 100 Points wins.
Halo 5: Guardians features a wide array of maps in Arena Multiplayer, ranging from Small to Medium in size, both Symmetrical and Asymmetrical. Some maps are considered ‘remixes’, so while you may see two maps that look pretty similar, they in fact play much different than their counterpart. Let’s take a look at each of the maps.
Coliseum is a symmetrical, Forerunner-themed arena featuring two (nearly) identical home bases, as well as two towers that feature the main power weapons of the map. The Sniper tower is enclosed with tons of ramps, entrances, and exits to create flanks and objective plays. The opposite tower holds the Rocket Launcher at a high elevation, but is extremely exposed to almost all of the map’s sight lines. Coliseum features Slayer and Capture the Flag.
Fans of classic Halo will recognize Truth immediately as a remake of Halo 2’s Midship. Similar to Coliseum, Truth features two symmetrical team bases and two Towers along the center of the map. These towers (Pink & Carbine Tower) are much more enclosed than those on Coliseum, offering more defined routes for Flag runs and spawn manipulation in Slayer matches.
Empire is one of Halo 5: Guardians’ smallest Arena maps. At the Halo World Championship, only the Strongholds gametypes will be played on this map, but it is one of the most punishing and hectic map/gametype combinations in competitive play. Empire features a three-level Tower that is home to a Scattershot, as well as an Overshield that spawns at the exposed Pit in the middle of the map. Both of these items are pivotal to Strongholds Gameplay, so keep an eye out for them.
Truth’s remix counterpart is Regret, a map that exclusively features the Slayer gametype. Regret is home to the Fuel Rod Cannon, a fast-firing Tier 3 explosive weapon that is pivotal to snowballing and catching enemies off spawn. An Overshield spawns on the bottom of the map and drastically changes the flow of gameplay. Teams will be focused on maintaining verticality and height advantages but when the Overshield spawns they will have to drop down and combat the enemy team to contest it.
Our final symmetrical map is once again home to Capture the Flag. Fathom is an inverse symmetrical map, meaning Red and Blue side have the exact same horizontal orientation and routes from each base. The top of the map features a Railgun, which allows for great pushes in Capture the Flag. Camo, located bottom-center, is pivotal for flanking and breaking setups when entering the enemy teams side of the map.
Empire’s remix map is Eden, a sightline-oriented map featuring long and elevated catwalks that allow for strong manipulation of weapons, spawns and map flow. On Strongholds, Eden features an Overshield, Camo and Rocket Launcher, creating extremely dynamic map movement and unique objective pushes. In Slayer games, a Sniper is placed at the high elevated Blue Base, and a Rocket Launcher is located in a central turbine.
Another asymmetrical map featuring both Slayer and Strongholds is Plaza, defined by its Sniper sight lines in Slayer (as well as an Overshield center-map), and its hectic Bottom Middle in Strongholds. Plaza also features a Railgun and Camo within Strongholds matches, and has a large amount of clever jumps that can be used to open up routes and flanks across both gametypes.
The Rig is one of the most polarizing maps in Halo 5 due to its stark gameplay contrast between Slayer and Strongholds. The map features two distinct components – aptly named Inside and Outside. In Strongholds, teams focus on locking down two key zones on the Outside of the map, whereas in Slayer teams use the Inside’s heavy spawn influence to rotate a Sniper Rifle across key locations.
Halo World Championship
Of course, the first time you’ll be able to apply this wealth of new knowledge is this weekend’s Halo World Championship (March 18-20th). Sixteen teams from around the world will arrive in Hollywood, CA to compete for their share of $2,500,000. After months of rigorous competition (as well as decades of Halo’s competitive legacy), teams are ready to conclude the storylines and win the grudge matches that were formed over the HWC Season. Here’s a hyper-brief summary of what to expect from these rivalries:
- CLG vs. Evil Geniuses: Pro Player Lethul was a member of reigning god squad Evil Geniuses before he abruptly abandoned the team to join Counter-Logic Gaming, the now unstoppable force expected to take first place. The two teams split series at the two North American LANs, so if they meet up at Worlds they will be playing to break a 1-1 tie – one of the biggest grudge matches in Halo history.
- Renegades vs. Team Liquid: Akin to Evil Geniuses v. CLG, Renegades and Liquid are also tied 1-1 in their North American series. Ninja and Spartan of Renegades were both released from Liquid at separate points within the season, so there is a fair bit of bad blood.
- Naded vs. 2nd Place: Naded has competed in Halo eSports for many, many years. With 60+ events under his belt, he has still yet to claim 1st place at a Major competition. It’s safe to say that the entire competitive Halo fanbase would enjoy seeing Naded succeed, and it would be incredible to have the Halo World Championship to call his first victory.
If you’ve made it this far, we thank you! Hopefully this extensive guide has helped brief you on everything you need to know about competitive Halo and Halo eSports, specifically Halo 5: Guardians. There will be a lot to take in this weekend, but Halo is an incredible game to both play and watch, and you’ll be up to speed in no time. Below is a video that you can watch to test your new knowledge of Halo (Grand Finals of the X Games Aspen Invitational, where CLG faced Evil Geniuses for X Games Gold Medals; this is where there rivalry began, and this weekend is where it ends).
Follow our Social Media on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube to keep on top of all competitive Halo news and discussion, and head over to our forums to share your thoughts and predictions regarding what lies ahead. If you are introducing your friends to competitive Halo this weekend, we encourage you to not only share this breakdown, but make sure they have the appropriate schedule to tune into Twitch.tv/Halo this weekend!
Writer | Ryan ‘Infinity’ Cox