Counterpoint: Multiplayer Unlocks Don’t Ruin Halo 4

ARTICLE_halo 4 kotaku

Counterpoint: Multiplayer Unlocks Don’t Ruin Halo 4

And here we go…

by Arthur Kotsopoulos

©2012 Arthur Kotsopoulos

halo 4 boxartOver the last month I’ve had a few issues with the level of quality journalism from our colleagues at Kotaku, from the abysmal THQ Humble Bundle article to the criticism of why the Bioshock Infinite cover is terrible and why it matters.

As we all know, the third time’s a charm when another Kotaku article caught my eye, this time criticizing why “This Year’s Biggest Shooters Remind Me Why Multiplayer Unlocks Suck“.

At first I thought: “Okay, it’s a bit of a stretch but I’ll bend my imagination, give this article a read and see what the fuss is about.” The first paragraph sums up the article and its outrageous claims nicely:

Kotaku: The other day, a colleague mentioned that she felt like there was something off about Halo 4′s multiplayer. She was getting destroyed by others players, eventually feeling like she didn’t have much of a chance when up against people with advanced abilities or gear gained from level unlocks.

I’m not sure what game the supposed colleague was playing but as far as I know, Halo 4 doesn’t include advanced abilities, nor any type of gear you can unlock at higher levels that even remotely attributes to a stronger Spartan.

Sure, Halo 4 includes Armor Abilities, Tactical Packages and Support Upgrades, but neither of these substantially increase the player’s chances of being an unstoppable killing machine.

When GameInformer broke down the inclusions of Halo 4‘s multiplayer aspect, a lot of gamers cried foul about how Halo 4 was moving away from its roots and becoming another Call of Duty among the plethora of generic shooters.

Winds of Change

halo 4 multiplayer screenshots oxcgn #16I decided to write a piece looking at how COD-ifying Halo 4s multiplayer would make it better. It was met with a generally positive response.

I sought out John Elliot of, to weigh in with his thoughts about the article over at Kotaku, as well as Halo 4’s unlocks in general (as he and I have frequently done battle in Halo 4‘s multiplayer):

John: Halo has always been one of the most balanced multiplayer experiences, with every player starting out on a level playing field, and this had always been achieved by predetermined loadouts, and weapon pickups. But Halo 4 changed this, by allowing players to now customise their starting weapons.

At first, I hated the idea and was a little disappointed that my favourite shooter series had taken this turn. What I found to be the case, however, was an incredibly well-designed personalisation factor. Halo 4 delivers the most perfect – and I do mean that literally – mix of choice, control, and balance that I’ve ever experienced in a multiplayer game.

halo 4 multiplayer screenshots #14Players start with the default loadout, which consists of the Assault Rifle, UNSC Pistol and Frag grenades. Once you reach SR (Spartan Rank) 2 you’ll receive a Spartan Point (SP) and will be able to unlock the Battle Rifle or DMR.

I’m currently ranked SR-40, with over twenty hours of playtime and still use the DMR and UNSC Pistol. Why? Because these weapons are still formidable, and with a little bit of practice, can match a player using the Promethean Lightrifle or Boltshot.

In instances where players are wielding a DMR/Battle Rifle, up against another player with a short range weapon such as the Assault Rifle or Promethean Suppressor, chances are that unless you’ve fired off a few early shots to lower their shields you’ll end up with the short end of the stick.

John: Even still, there are only a handful of guns and abilities able to be chosen, even for the highest level characters. And these all provide a playstyle able to be used to the players’ advantage, as well as the oppositions. They all have obvious gains, and weaknesses.

The very first weapon available to you, the Assault Rifle, is able to destroy enemies at close range. Take the fight to the enemy instead of sitting back, and a skilled player will easily come out on top. Unlock yourself a Battle Rifle or a DMR, and make sure to take to higher ground and take on the enemy from a distance, because if they get close with an automatic weapon you won’t be pleased with the results.

All the game’s possible starting weapons are balanced to one another, better suited to different situations, all able to be countered by a skilled player, and all tailored to just be useful to personal preference. If you like a weapon, you’ll be able to use it well, no matter what it is or how early you unlocked it.

halo 4 multiplayer screenshots #6Once you reach SR-3 you’ll unlock the Armor Abilities, SR-7 will unlock Tactical Packages, and SR-12 gives you access to Support Upgrades.

Unless you know how to specifically use any of these upgrades or abilities to their full advantage, they are quite useless, and offer little to no help on the battlefield. I to this day still use ‘Hologram‘, due to the fact that enemy players still succumb to the pressure of seeing me run into the battlefield and assume it’s an easy kill.

They don’t realize it until it’s too late, and by the time they react I’ve abruptly ended their life, and gained a kill towards my name.

I arise victorious not because it’s an advanced piece of gear I’ve unlocked, or because it automatically gives me a substantial advantage over everyone else, but because I know how to use the ability’s strengths. That’s not to say the ability is flawless.

Even I’ve shown lapses in judgement and run up to a Spartan running aimlessly, only to result in my death. A stupid move on my part, but a testament that no one is perfect in Halo 4, regardless of the equipment they have.

When a player falls into such a trap, anyone who uses the mini-map will notice a red dot behind them, and depending on the ability they have equipped, can easily counter. If they have a ‘Thruster Pack’ equipped they can move away, turn around, and then have an even chance of eliminating the opponent.

If they have a high sensitivity they can spin around, raise their Hardlight Shield (if that’s the ability they’ve equipped), and retreat to safety in the hope of a teammate being nearby and coming to help.

halo 4 multiplayer screenshots #11The article itself seems to be completely ignoring the human factor behind these technological abilities, solely blaming unlocks as the cause for poor multiplayer balance. If you give a player the best weapon in the game, that doesn’t automatically mean they’ll be unstoppable.

Invoke a little bit of strategy and you’ll take them down before they have the chance to use it.

Practice Makes Perfect

halo 4 multiplayer screenshots #7Another part of the article refers to a previous Halo 4 article on Kotaku, where “Kotaku’s own” Tina Amini puts it well when she says this about Halo 4:

Kotaku: Getting the fanciest weapons requires real dedication, so it feels like it could be representative of how adept a player you are.

The fanciest weapons available in Halo 4 are power weapons that are only accessible via an Ordnance Drop or if you’re fast enough to pick them up at the start where they spawn. There’s no real dedication involved to obtain them, and it isn’t an indication of how adept a player one might be.

John: The items that you are able to unlock and use for your loadouts are very basic. They’re the simple guns of the game – standard issue assault rifles and carbines. No power weapons, no one hit kills. No shotguns, no sniper rifles, no rocket launchers – unlike most other shooters with customisable loadouts.

If you want the good guns, you’ll have to earn them. Find and fight for them on the field, or earn ordnance to have them dropped to you. And speaking of ordnance – essentially Halo 4’s version of ‘killstreaks’ – the game chooses what is available to you based on map and gametype.

No picking and choosing the most useful or powerful rewards and having them in each and every game – again, unlike most games with this mechanic.

Any of these power weapons in a player’s possession can easily be countered with an Armor Ability. Any ability can be stopped with a power weapon or even a regular weapon if you’re skilled enough.

halo 4 multiplayer screenshots #2With some practice and skill (which Halo has always been about), you’ll adapt to the various advantages and disadvantages that each piece of equipment has.

Thus eliminating the whole “getting destroyed by other players, eventually feeling like she didn’t have much of a chance when up against people with advanced abilities or gear gained from level unlocks” statement.

New game type, new tricks

halo 4 multiplayer screenshots #1Dominion is a great example to showcase true knowledge for Halo 4‘s abilities and loadout system. Power weapons are available from spawn and when fortified bases resupply themselves, there are no Ordnance Drops available to the player.

Already this evens out players from the moment they start the match, and a test of speed will ensure they pick up a weapon which helps them capture a base right off the bat.

Each Spartan ability in Dominion has its advantages when it comes to capturing bases and defending them. On the map Longbow, both the Alpha and Charlie bases have main entrances from ground level, as well as the roof of the structures.

If you have a jetpack equipped you’ll have the advantage of avoiding ground firefights and attacking from above.

If you’re defending, equipping the ‘Regeneration Field to heal yourself and any remaining team members will allow a few crucial seconds of survival for any other team members to spawn and provide defensive fire.

halo 4 multiplayer screenshots #5Running across the map in Exile or Ragnarok? Using the Thruster or Hardlight Shield will ensure avoiding any type of fire from the UNSC Sniper, Binary Rifle, Battle Rifle and DMR from across the map. In previous Halo games, this type of death would obviously result in extreme frustration, but in Halo 4 you actually have a chance.

It’s a chance to survive longer, to enjoy the game more, and to prove to the online community that it’s an all-around fair game now,  because the player with the sniper doesn’t hold all the cards.

Many players regardless of skill tend to camp and defend bases, which in this game type is perfectly fine, and in fact players are rewarded for base defense kills.

Having the Hologram ability equipped grants the leverage of running to the base entrance projecting your Hologram in front of you, watching the enemy player camping in the corner either running up to you to melee you in the back or shoot you.

halo 4 multiplayer screenshots #12Their position is discovered, ammo running low, with their blood pressure rising.

You’ve got the jump on them, gaining the advantage, but little do you know they have a Hardlight Shield equipped, evening out the playing field and giving this player even chance to compete.

You got to fight, for the right

halo 4 multiplayer screenshots #4Kotaku: Beyond forgetting about it, I feel as if there’s this weird community thing where it’s like “Well, if we have to bear it, so can you.” Isn’t that a bad sign? When you have to tolerate something? Or like it’s a right of passage, a tradition. You need to grit your teeth because everyone else does it, and if everyone has to do it, what’s the big deal?

It’s one thing to play on single player and have a sense of progression, feel like you’ve earned the right to be powerful. It works there. It lends itself to games that feature progression not only narratively, but mechanically: and that’s important.

But I shouldn’t have to earn the right to play at what would normally be my most competitive in a mode where the entire point is to be competitive. Non-cosmetic unlocks work against the very point of multiplayer, they get in the way of embracing why you’re there in the first place.

Sure, no one should have to earn the right to play and be competitive in multiplayer but personally, Halo 4 is one of the most balanced multiplayer titles I have encountered.

Ever since Halo: Combat Evolved, it’s still as much about skill as it is about luck.

No one is forcing you to play multiplayer to obtain weapons and abilities. If it’s that much of a disadvantage, practice in Spartan Ops.

Any experience accumulated will carry over to multiplayer, again eliminating the factor of other players who have had the game since launch and have this so called ‘advantage’ with unlocked gear.

halo 4 multiplayer screenshots #9If Halo 4 had implemented the XP penalty that it did in previous Halo titles, then I would agree with the article, stating that the unlocks result in an unfair disadvantage to those players who play casually and have a bad connection, drop out and lose experience making it harder to obtain any other weapons or abilities.

By looking at the less than stellar Kill/Death ratio many players level 50+ and a few 80+ (and a select 100+) leveled Spartans seem to have, Halo 4 rewards players based on all aspects of gameplay.

Medals can be earned for avenging another teammate’s death, or getting revenge or the player that just killed you. The more skilled the player, the more medals and experience they will earn at the end of a match. No extra weapon unlocks or abilities which will empower them greater than average players.

John: All you need to unlock weapons are Spartan Points, which are handed out like candy as you progress levels early on. You can have your favourite loadout weapons possible set up before you hit level 10, and with just a few hours of playing and you can have access to all of your desired abilities before level 20.

And that’s it; you don’t get better weapons or powers when you reach higher levels, it’s all there for low level players if they want it. All you get are visual armor upgrades and weapon skins that don’t change gameplay whatsoever.

Higher levels in Halo 4 do not have any advantages, except the obvious bonus of experience. And that’s what Halo is all about; experience and skill. If you’re getting smashed by the higher level players, it’s not because they have access to better weapons, it’s because they’re better than you.

halo 4 multiplayer screenshots oxcgn #15I’m not sure what Patricia Hernandez was trying to accomplish with this article by complaining why multiplayer unlocks suck. If they’re incorrectly implemented, of course they will hinder the enjoyment within a game, but when looking at Halo 4 in hindsight, it’s one of the most balanced FPS experiences in a long time.

Higher ranked players don’t necessarily mean they’re going to be better than you.

You’ll notice players still using standard UNSC weapons, ignoring any Promethean or Covenant weapons. They do this because they’re comfortable with what they’re familiar with, not because weapons unlocked later on are more powerful.

If you look beyond the unlocks of Halo 4‘s multiplayer and delve deeper into how to use them, you will see that unless the player behind the weapon or ability knows how to utilize it effectively, it will contribute absolutely nothing to the overall battle.

Halo 4 is a game which requires skill to reign on top, and if you’re lacking in that department take some time to practice with different weapons and armor abilities.

Get some friends together, create custom match types and enjoy what Halo 4 has to offer, but don’t go out on a limb and criticize the game’s unlocks and how their presence automatically decides that unlocks in multiplayer suck.

Compared to Halo 3 and Halo: Reach, they’re balanced and open up a plethora of extra tactical decisions the player must make.

©2012 Arthur Kotsopoulos

Published by

Arthur Kotsopoulos, Editor in Chief

Owner/Editor in Chief of Twitch Streamer: Liftyourgame. Follow me on Twitter @grathiusxr 'Cause, remember: no matter where you go... there you are.

13 thoughts on “Counterpoint: Multiplayer Unlocks Don’t Ruin Halo 4”

  1. Halo 4 has single-handedly killed the online Halo community.

    For all your praising, all 343i’s praising and the assertion by fans of Halo 4 that it has evened the game, made it easier for “casuals” and balanced it far more than a Bungie game ever was. MLG players and players that enjoyed the far more competitive focus of the previous have abandoned it and left a small community of about 20,000 players max online. Not all “casual” players, in fact most aren’t. They are the small number of halo fans that the changes didn’t bother or are just waiting for Halo to return to form.

    The problem with Halo 4, is the COD-ifing, and over balancing of the weapons. Halo 1-3 took skill to control the map from start push players out of control positions o turn the tide of a game.

    COD (and by extension Halo 4) is nothing more than a clustermuck of single encounters, that do not aid the progress of the team to victory. The very fact skilled players can be over whelmed by consistently spawning and weapon spamming opponents negates the skill gap, which is what was and is so important in a Halo game, and a competitive game.

    The ranking system was intended to keep you playing with players your own skill level, and thus create fair and even games. In Halo 4, you could be against anyone, and games become random. Making the only fun to be had on the encounter by encounter level, and not the match by match level we had.

    343i and Halo 4 defenders are the people that focused on each gunfight never caring if the game was won, because you find it harder to win games. Bungie and us other guys focused on winning match after match. I don’t care about K/D, I cared about W/L. I knew when to sacrifice myself for a game, I know how to talk to my teammates and make a push for the objective, or to pull back and prevent giving the other team a kill.

    Abilities change map control and choke points. They undo skill jumps and item pick ups. Weapon spawns and drops negate the need to control the choke points, high ground and defending positions. They all remove what skill is needed to overcome another player.

    Halo Masterchief collection exists because Halo 4 failed. It failed because people wanted COD not Halo. Then they stopped playing Halo 4 and continued to play COD. The rest of us that hate COD for the very same reasons we hate Halo 4 are left with no-one to play on a game we didn’t want. With articles like this left as if the writer had some profound insight to game design and community of a game, when even he has probably abandoned the game to play fifa and COD.

    We made Halo 4 for people who play each halo for 6 months (or in Halo 4’s case, 1 month, because Black ops released shortly after) and NOT the players who play for 2+ years.


    1. I did in fact abandon Halo 4 but not because of FIFA and COD. Mainly due to the fact that I’m a games reviewer and I work full time as well as other daily hobbies I don’t have the time to stick to one particular game for too long. Every now and again I might come back to it but with so many games I need to go through I just don’t have the time.

      Heck, I barely play Titanfall anymore because of the same reason. COD: Ghosts? Didn’t even buy it. Black Ops 2? Bought it but only played the first 4 or 5 levels because I was bored with it. With Halo 4 I enjoyed the story and the MP. Time constraints however have rendered me unable to stick with it.

      I felt it was way better than than Halo: Reach which I felt was a really poor entry multiplayer wise.


  2. Wow did I join this party late! Lolhalo4 is a product of the whiny mobs that live on Neogaf, that I can see for sure. That, or he’s 11 years old.


  3. Lolhalo4, you say GrathiusXR here is a casual player, but then try to defend your argument of Halo 4 being ‘garbage’ by stating reasons that actually make the game tactical.

    In my very lengthy gaming experience, casual players tend to not like strategy or tactics (which in this case, is provided by the difference of players abilities, requiring the player to fight and adapt in accordance to thier enemies abilities in order to secure a victory), but prefer things be basic and simple so there is no adaption required.

    In this regard, your argument is very flawed. And thats not even getting into the silly comments themself such as;

    “Hardlight shield is annoying,”
    You personally find it annoying to verse a Hardlight, so that is a reason for the game being ‘destroyed’? How about when you see an enemy with one up, you either back off and dont fall for his bait, or you work with a teammate to flank him. Tactics, buddy, try them sometime.

    “[Boltshot] beats the rest of the shotguns”
    There is literally not a single thing about the Boltshot which makes it more effective than either actual shotgun. It’s range is much more limited, which in turn makes it significantly less powerful as you must be ridiculously close to kill with it. It takes longer to load a shot, and must be charged up to be used in the manner you are referring to.

    “Promethean vision is overpowered in good player’s hands”
    Seriously? Read that again…
    “overpowered in good player’s hands”
    “in good players hands”
    “good players”
    I dont think something should ever be considered ‘overpowered’ if it requires a good player to use. That’s not the ability being powerful, that’s the player being good.

    “[Ordnance is] too random and unfair”
    Ordnance is offered based on what is fair and balanced to the map and mode at play. Unfair would be if players could choose what they received as backup on the field, as it would allow them to simply order in the best weapons. Instead, they have to work with what they get. Don’t like what you get, or are no good with it? Offer it to a team mate who can make good use of it. This too is a tactic, and a very valid one at that.

    I could go on more about your comments, but its to no avail so ill leave it at that. But seriously, you provide very little in the way of arguments against the game as most points are simply working mechanics that have balanced the multiplayer portion, and none which verify your claims of Halo 4 being ‘garbage,’ ‘destroyed,’ or ‘unplayable.’


    1. By stating the names of equipment and weapons you came to the conclusion that the game is garbage? I find that hard to believe.

      It would have been nice if you could have at least provided example the way I have to back up this claim.


      1. Read Neogaf. You’re a casual player so it is impossible for you to see how those things alone destroy the game and make it unplayable.

        Jetpack ruins maps, map control, map movement, etc.

        Spewing with the ability to become invisible. You can’t defend that. If it was a pickup on the map like actual good Halo games, then it would be fine because it would be one time use and it would be fought for.

        Hardlight shield is annoying at long range

        Promethean vision is overpowered in good player’s hands. Seeing through walls. Can’t defend that.

        DMR ruins big team games, maps. It’s the best weapon to use so the sandbox isn’t balanced. If it was a 2x scope it would be much better but now it is just a mini sniper. It halts battles.

        Boltshot…remember when 343 said you won’t be able to spawn with a shotgun? Yeah they lied. The boltshot is crazy overpowered for a secondary weapon THAT YOU CAN CHOOSE. It has a far range and it beats the rest of the shotguns if you’re competent enough to aim.

        Perks…you never know who has what. You can buff grenades to Reach power and hold 3 of them at the same time. You can get more ammo than what you’d usually get for op weapons. You can change your ordnance (ordnance should be removed because it’s too random and unfair) to get a chance of something even more op like an incineration canon or whatever.

        There’s much more but right now your brain is trying to comprehend how just that ruins the game and makes it nonHalo. The giant outsourced maps don’t make it better.


    2. How do you define what a casual player is? I’ve played Halo multiplayer since Halo: Combat Evolved. I’ve spent god knows how many hours on multiplayer across all entries in the franchise.

      Jetpacks don’t ruin maps nor map control it’s just as easy to kill an enemy with a jetpack than it is with someone who has invisibility.

      If you honestly still cannot distinguish a player who is cloaking on the mini-map nor identify them on the actual screen you need to practice more.

      Hardlight shield is again easy to counter. A player cannot do anything other than move slowly. Throw a grenade or just wait for the shield to be lowered.

      Promethean vision? Don’t use nor have I seen anyone use it. I guess unless the game type you play isn’t as fast paced or intense as Infinity Slayer or Dominion then it’s useless.

      I’ve seen players use the lightrifle and decimate players with the DMR. It all comes down to skill when using these weapons.

      With the boltshot when you charge up a shot you’ve got a very limited window to find an enemy and unless you hit them directly then it’ll just lower your shields. How about equipping a thrust pack then moving backwards when you see a player with bolt shot? There’s a perfect way to prevent it or equip the hardlight shield.

      All your points regarding the armor abilities have their advantages and disadvantages. It’s all about trial and error. You can easily counter a spartan using an energy sword if you have a thruster pack equipped.

      It’s luck and skill and knowing when to NOT run into a gun fight. Rather than going head first into battle and getting continuously owned by the Bolshot perhaps sit back snipe from afar throw some grenades invoke some strategy.

      I see more and more people complain about the so called ordnance drops and OP weapons and unfair abilities when in reality they can be easily countered.

      They seem to completely ignore the human element behind these. If again you don’t know how to use them correctly of course they will be worthless in the heat of battle.


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