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Halo 5: Forge

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This game's announcement came at a pretty big surprise, actually. I'm not sure anyone expected Microsoft to put another Halo FPS onto the PC, but here we are in 2016, almost eight years after Halo 2: Vista's release and just under 14 years after Halo Combat Evolved was released. It's not technically a core game, so don't get your hopes up, but it's a fully working multiplayer Halo FPS that you don't have to pirate in order to play outside of Russia despite being free.

 

A while back, Microsoft announced that console games would be ported to Windows, keeping Xbox as a brand and platform rather than as a single piece of plastic. However, after Quantum Break (aka "Quantum Broken") was released on the Windows Store, I wasn't sure anyone was going to take Microsoft seriously on PC games. Halo however is a very core franchise for Microsoft, which could give Microsoft some foothold in the ever-growing PC gaming market.

 

This game is still a UWP program. I don't think Microsoft intends to change their stance on this. However, UWP games still have their issues: no SLI/Crossfire support, no adaptive VSync, and it's exclusive to Windows 10, akin to Halo 2: Vista being a Windows Vista exclusive. I wasn't even sure if I was going to bother getting the game, knowing the many problems that earlier Windows 10 titles had, but I was curious.

 

The game is out now, and I've played with it for several hours every day for the past few days to write my review.

 

Requirements and Performance

 

You need Windows 10, and it needs the Anniversary update, and you will need to have nearly 40 GB of storage space to spare. If you're using a smaller SSD as your boot drive and you can't fit it, you can get a secondary hard drive and install it on there. The load times aren't much worse on a 7200 RPM hard drive.

 

The requirements for this game given by Microsoft are a bit intense, so I decided to run this game using my Intel Core i7-6700K/NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070 build, first. This build effortlessly maxes out the settings at 1080p, and according to Microsoft's 4K requirements (Intel Core i7-4770K + NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 Ti + 16 GB of RAM), should play just fine at 4K.

 

I then ran this on my Intel Core i3-6100/NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960 build to see how it would perform on some more entry-level hardware. There was a popup stating that my PC does not meet the recommended requirements, and that I may encounter stability and performance issues, but it let me play, anyway.

 

Indeed, this game requires an Intel Core i5 at 2.3 GHz, and I was using an Intel Core i3-6100 at 3.7 GHz. However, upon further research, the only 2.3 GHz i5s out there are mobile dual-core i5s, which my i3 clearly outperforms, the i5-2500T, the i5-3570T, the i5-4670T, and the i5-6500TE. Despite being at a two core disadvantage, with settings maxed out, I found that it was at a smooth, stable 60 FPS at 1080p. In fact, the only thing that did bring the frame rate down was when a large amount of grass was present, which I found can only happen in Forge. This leads me to believe that the CPU requirement is just plain arbitrary.

 

This game can get random frame rate drops for no reason. Once again, due to not being able to use Fraps or any other FPS counter with this game due the nature of it being a UWP game, I cannot verify the frame rate, but it seems to drop all the way to around 30 FPS, and sometimes even to unplayable frame rates, but for the most part, this game stays quite smooth. I checked online and many people have gotten this issue regardless of their hardware, so it may just be a bug.

 

Just a heads up, though: This game is not (currently) playable on Intel graphics. If you're on an Intel-based CPU and you don't have a dedicated graphics card, then don't even bother downloading this game. The only thing you'll download is disappointment.

 

Free

 

It's free, as in, you do not have to pay any amount of money to play this game online with other people, provided you have an Internet connection and a computer that can run the game. What's the tradeoff? Other than the lack of any campaign or matchmaking, it's a fully functional multiplayer game. This may change in the future if it gets popular, but for now, there is no free-to-play garbage in the game like ads or microtransactions, not are there any plans announced to change that (though don't hold your breath here). It's just a free game.

 

One glaring issue is the lack of an ability to customize your spartan, leaving you either with the customizations you have on the console version, or with whatever random spartan armor color, service tags, and emblem you were randomly assigned if you are like me and don't care about the console version. You can at least change the armor color in Halo Waypoint in a web browser, but the other things require getting the actual Windows game to change. I wouldn't imagine something like this being too much to ask for in a user interface at some point, but we'll see what Microsoft does with this in the future.

 

Gameplay and Controls

 

The gameplay is largely the same as Halo 5, with sprinting, aiming down the sight, vehicular gameplay, and its other quirks, but with the addition of keyboard and mouse support. This makes it much easier to play the game without having to wait on an analog stick to turn the player in a direction when aiming or moving. In an FPS, a keyboard and mouse is superior to a controller when it comes to precision and reaction timing, which can be very useful to keep the pace of the game going. However, you do have the option of using an Xbox One controller with the game if this is your specialty, and the controls are identical to the console version. I found gameplay to be a very strong point with this game, nonetheless.

 

The keyboard and mouse controls are somewhat similar to Halo: Combat Evolved's controls, with a few differences: Grenades are mapped to the G key, changing grenades involves using the 1, 2, or 3 keys, shift to sprint, ADS/Zoom is right-clicking with pressing Z to change the zoom level on a weapon with multiple zoom levels, crouching is toggled with the control key rather than held down, scrolling down changes the weapon, holding TAB shows the score screen, and clambering is now possible by holding the jump key, allowing you to grab onto things like ledges.

 

This game does not have any sort of server browser, matchmaking, or direct IP functionality, requiring you to use Xbox Live's friend system to join games. If you don't have any friends on Xbox Live who also have the game, there really isn't any point in getting this. Sure you can use it as a replacement for the Xbox One version's Forge editor, but to my knowledge, you need friends to have custom games even on the Xbox One version.

 

Custom Games

 

UPDATE (10th of December): As of the update that took place a couple days ago, there is now a custom game browser. It took them long enough!

 

You can join custom games using this server browser. However, using it can be a little tedious, as you're asked to join a fireteam whenever you want to change games. A fireteam is essentially a party, though any time you want to join a different game, you have to change fireteams and this can be kind of annoying

 

The custom games list uses thumbnails, and while this has the advantage of showing off a screenshot of each map, this has the disadvantage of only showing a small number of servers. Also, while there are filters available, it's missing some very basic filters, such as hiding full games, though you can, at least, sort by player count.

 

One really nice thing is you can also sort by time elapsed so you can see the younger games at the top of the list. Also, if you attempt to join a full game, you are put in a waiting queue. Cool! These features are quite welcome.

 

There aren't currently a lot of games going on (only 22 at the time of writing this), so I'm not sure how well this will take off. It seems to have potential for something, though.

 

Graphics

 

The graphics in this game aren't special, but to me, it's unsurprising, given that it's a direct port of the Xbox One version. They aren't horribly ugly, either. 

 

Some objects like terrain have pretty blurry textures even with 4K textures enabled, while others are fairly nicely detailed, like the covenant textures for metal. Considering I'm using a 1080p display to test this and I have all of the settings turned up, I doubt there is much to be offered for people with 1440p and 4K monitors. I'd like to see what the modding community can provide in this regard.

 

The antialiasing setting is either on or off, and it look like FXAA, which makes me wonder if it's even worth turning on even if your PC can easily handle it (it probably can).

 

The ambient occlusion is sort of hit-or-miss in this game. Larger objects like terrain have it, but foliage doesn't have it, which while it's not a big deal, can make grass seem quite a bit off in terms of lighting.

 

Again, none of the above issues are in any way making this ugly, but it really isn't much better than the held-back Xbox One's version.

 

Moving onto the actual problems, there is no way to change the FOV manually. Map makers can select one of three preset FOVs on a map variant, but that's it. The default FOV is 78 degrees, a little bit higher than Halo: Combat Evolved (PC)'s FOV, but still a little narrow, in my opinion, and there's really no reason it shouldn't be adjustable. 

 

Also, there is a 60 FPS lock in the game, and this is independent of whatever refresh rate your monitor is using, which I'd imagine may cause tearing issues if you're using a 144 Hz panel unless you turn on VSync.

 

Supposedly, they'll remedy these two problems in a later patch, but for now, this is a con. Why is a 60 FPS lock even a thing in the first place when VSync is also a thing?

 

Forge

 

This is the main event of this title, as the game itself is called Halo 5: Forge. You're probably wonder if it is just as good as the past console iterations of Forge. Actually, it's better. Mouse support allows precise movement and placement of objects, and if that wasn't precise enough, you have keyboard support, which allows you to type in coordinates and other values. You get a titanic budget of 1600 objects which isn't touched by any other iteration of Forge, including the original Halo 5's console release of 1024. You also have scripting, special effects such as fire or smoke, sound effects, decals, tons of objects to choose from, coloring support for different objects, welding (the ability to combine objects into one object), and many other amazing features carried over from Halo 5: Guardians. All of these features are enhanced by keyboard and mouse support, and the game provides a helpful dialog that's turned on by default that will show you the individual controls.

 

The scripting support is quite basic and isn't like writing a script or anything as fancy as Halo Editing Kit. However, you can do various fun things with it ranging from buttons that launch kill balls to secret doors. You can also script special effects, if you desire. There's really a lot to mess with, here.

 

Welding allows you to combine objects together. Want to add a covenant turret to a civilian warthog? Want to add missile pods to a banshee? Want to attach things to a wasp and turn it to an airship? All of this is possible, and it adds even more possibilities to the game. I really reminds me of Garry's Mod in a way, though in space.

 

One feature I would have liked to see is an undo feature. Deleting an object does require holding down the delete key for a few seconds, making it hard to just accidentally delete an object, at least. However, things like moving objects would be nice to be able to undo.

 

One problem for some people is that Forge isn't playable without a network connection. For most people who just play games at home, this isn't going to be a noticeable issue. However, if you are playing this on, say, a gaming laptop, then you will not be able to play Forge just anywhere on the go. Why a network condition is required is due to the fact that games are being run on a dedicated server, which has many of its own benefits. There's no dreaded host advantage like there was in Halo: Combat Evolved, there's no need to forward any ports, and if the person who started the game leaves, the game won't die with it. I'm not sure what to think of this, though.

 

Forge is nowhere near as powerful as Halo Editing Kit for Halo Custom Edition. You can't create assets, only map variants. Fortunately, it's also not as bad as Halo Editing Kit, and I find the tradeoff to be acceptable.

 

Conclusion

 

So, did Microsoft redeem itself by releasing this game? This game exceeded my (very low) expectations, I will give them that. In fact, I'd say they did pretty well with this release compared to their blunders with past games and Games for Windows Live. However, I don't think this is enough to redeem the Windows 10 Store platform just yet, but it's not a bad start.

 

Pros:

  • It's free
  • Tons of assets in Forge
  • Games are run on a dedicated server, eliminating host advantage and port forwarding
  • Fun gameplay (in multiplayer)
  • Server browser supports a joining queue and the ability to sort by game duration

 

Cons:

  • UWP issues - It's limited to Windows 10, cannot be launched with Steam, cannot be benchmarked or used with Fraps, requires desktop capture for ShadowPlay, no adaptive VSync, and no SLI/Crossfire support
  • Limited graphics options
  • 60 FPS cap regardless of refresh rate
  • DRM - No way to work offline, requires Windows 10 update to be enabled, etc.
  • No way to change armor color, spartan service tag, or emblem from within the game
  • Using the server browser is somewhat tedious, and there is no way to hide full games

 

Note: Microsoft has announced to address some of these cons. I review a game as it is at the time I reviewed, not as what it's planned to be, because there is technically no guarantee they'll actually follow through. I figured this disclaimer would be good to put here before someone attempts to correct something.

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I would add the lack of true raw mouse input. There is definitely a delay, upwards of 50ms.  I haven't timed it myself, but have seen multiple videos of people taking slow motion captures of movement.  It makes the game feel very sluggish and brutish in its handling.  

 

The FOV and FPS locks can be removed with a few tweaks from the modding community (previously cheatengine process offsets, but now encapsulated into a convenient executable). I think it now goes up to 120fps and FOV is alterable up to at least 180 (so well beyond normal playing modes).  

 

Even with all the other benefits, I feel the mouse sluggishness is the real kicker here. I've been playing it, and it's great fun - but without the ability to really control the game the way I'm used to with pretty much any other FPS on PC, it's going back into my backburner for playability until that is fixed.

 

With any luck, and 343's amazing community outreach, this will be updated and fixed with a patch around the end of the month (which is their regular patch cycle). They've already officially announced the FOV and FPS fixes, but have remained silent on the raw mouse input support.

 

Still, this is <1 week out the door, so I'll reserve final judgement until after the first patch is out.

Also - NVIDIA cards seem to have issues with some of the more refined water effects (ripples and plane deformation).

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13 hours ago, NeX said:

I would add the lack of true raw mouse input. There is definitely a delay, upwards of 50ms.  I haven't timed it myself, but have seen multiple videos of people taking slow motion captures of movement.  It makes the game feel very sluggish and brutish in its handling. 

 

Even with all the other benefits, I feel the mouse sluggishness is the real kicker here. I've been playing it, and it's great fun - but without the ability to really control the game the way I'm used to with pretty much any other FPS on PC, it's going back into my backburner for playability until that is fixed.

 

There is a huge delay in control response time for sure. I'm all about that in every game I play and its the main thing that makes consoles feel so unplayable to me. Going from Overwatch to Halo 5: Forge felt so gross.

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14 hours ago, NeX said:

I would add the lack of true raw mouse input. There is definitely a delay, upwards of 50ms.  I haven't timed it myself, but have seen multiple videos of people taking slow motion captures of movement.  It makes the game feel very sluggish and brutish in its handling.

 

1 hour ago, Kvasir said:

There is a huge delay in control response time for sure. I'm all about that in every game I play and its the main thing that makes consoles feel so unplayable to me. Going from Overwatch to Halo 5: Forge felt so gross.

 

I really haven't played the game itself other than more than a few matches with a few friends, and I'm not one to quickly pick up on these things unless my mouse is acting like a brick. I do understand that it's a very major problem, and is especially noticeable when using something as precise as a mouse for gameplay.

 

From what I've seen, the Xbox Game DVR may also be partially responsible. You also have that 60 FPS lock which can add an additional 16.67 ms of delay before you can get any visual feedback regardless of your VSync setting. This lock doesn't seem to be tied to your monitor's refresh rate, too, and from what I've seen, this can cause the frame to tear, resulting in one section of the window to be one frame, or 16.67 ms, behind. This is very distracting.


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6 hours ago, 002 said:

From what I've seen, the Xbox Game DVR may also be partially responsible. You also have that 60 FPS lock which can add an additional 16.67 ms of delay before you can get any visual feedback regardless of your VSync setting. This lock doesn't seem to be tied to your monitor's refresh rate, too, and from what I've seen, this can cause the frame to tear, resulting in one section of the window to be one frame, or 16.67 ms, behind. This is very distracting.

 

As of last night, I have the DVR turned off, framerate hacked to allow for a cap of 300 (which looked gorgeous and smooth btw), and the mouse still felt like I was hitting some kind of rubber-band resistance. Just a sluggish feel. I know I said it before, but it's like a 30-50ms delay between mouse movement and input registration. Uff - I've just been avoiding it at all costs until that's fixed.

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This is an annoying, reproducible FPS drop issue that can happen when trying to place something that doesn't fit. Does anyone else get it?

 

 

I get it on both of my gaming PC builds (Intel Core i7-6700K/GTX 1070/16 GB [video], Intel Core i3-6100/GTX 960/16 GB), so it's very unlikely that it's just me. Hopefully whatever it is gets fixed.

 

I have MSI Afterburner open with its information on the bottom-left corner so you can read the CPU, GPU, and RAM usages and make what you can from it. I had to record it from my iPad, as AB's on screen display function doesn't work on UWP games, and I didn't want to record a second monitor.


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I'm considering updating this review at some point for the new game. I understand there is little to no interest in this game, which is what I pretty much expected, but I figured I'll revisit the game and tell you guys how good it is, if it's actually worth playing. From what I've seen, there are a lot of mixed reactions to the latest update, so I'm a little concerned about how this will turn out, but I'm sure some people are curious on if it's better than what it was. I'll need to redownload the game, as I had deleted a few weeks ago due to it taking up space, and the fact that I don't bother playing it. The original review before the revisions will likely be kept in a spoiler tag.

 

Before the update, it wasn't that bad and had some redeeming qualities such as a very good level editor (since that's all it basically is, you should expect that), though it left out some features you should expect in a multiplayer PC game. Here are some of the common complaints as well as personal complaints:

  • No FPS lock or at least an optional FPS lock - 30 FPS or 60 FPS lock independent from VSync, with no option to turn it off
  • FOV settings or FOV slider - there were none
  • Debug console - there was none
  • Custom servers and/or matchmaking - Xbox Live friends only; no matchmaking
  • Raw mouse input - to my understanding, it sucked, and the input lag was hell
  • Graphics settings and optimizations for PCs of different performance tiers: high-end ("ultra" settings), mid-ranged ("high" settings), and entry-level PCs ("medium" and "low" settings) - sort of, but graphics settings had very few options that actually affected performance or actually made the game look better (turning on antialiasing [it didn't say what kind of AA, but my best guess is FXAA] did not affect frame rate in any noticeable way), and from what I've heard, the game ran poorly even on higher-end PCs
  • FPS counter - there was none. FRAPS and RivaTuner didn't even work with it likely because it's DirectX 12 or UWP, though I am hearing there are updates to either in place or will be in place
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There weren't enough changes to warrant a huge modification to the review, so there really wasn't any reason to archive the original review, but I did add a section on the new game browser, and it's actually okay.

 

However, that is the only issue that has been addressed as of the latest patch. There is no FOV setting, and the 60 FPS cap lives on. While this is at least somewhat acceptable as a standalone game, it's very anemic compared to modern PC games. If Microsoft wants people to play games on their Windows 10 store, and 343 Industries truly wants PC gamers on Halo (probably not - this is intended to be a tool, after all), they'll each have to try harder.


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The game kinda echoes that lack of quality we had with the release of H2V. At least this one doesn't cost anything though.


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On December 16, 2016 at 6:56 AM, Legion said:

The game kinda echoes that lack of quality we had with the release of H2V. At least this one doesn't cost anything though.

It echoes a lot more than that. To outline it, they both

  • require a less-popular version of Windows to run,
  • were likely made to get people on a less popular version of Windows and get people on their gaming platform,
  • have annoying DRM (Halo 5 must be connected to the Internet at all times, while Halo 2 has a CD key usage limit),
  • have level editors in some form,
  • lack cross-platform capability,
  • cost nothing for multiplayer,

however Halo 2

  • has the entire campaign,
  • costs money,
  • can be run on Windows 7,
  • and has a (from what I've heard to be very flawed) Halo Editing Kit,

while Halo 5 Forge

  • has Forge,
  • does not have its master server shut down,
  • and is not by itself a core series game.

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