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After a long down period for Halo esports, the Halo Championship Series is in full swing in 2021. We’ve had two open bracket tournaments and plenty of scrimmages between the best players in the world. The first in-person major will take place in North Carolina later this week. Competitive Halo will only get better once players walk into the Raleigh Convention Center on Dec. 17.

So much has already happened with OpTic Gaming, Cloud9 and Sentinels crushing the competition. Pre-tournament roster shuffles have also returned alongside Halo Infinite. Sentinels player Mathew “Royal2” Fiorante received a ban from the HCS for server manipulation. Call of Duty legend and former Halo pro Matthew “FormaL” Piper has joined Sentinels in his place. That squad will be one to watch this weekend.

Looking at the beginning of the Halo Championship Series

HCS casters Sean “Spaceman” Rogers, Tim “Activee” Ferreira and European caster and former player Harry “Lethal” Thomas join us to give some insight into the resurgence of competitive Halo.

What are your impressions of the Halo Championship Series after the first couple of open bracket tournaments?

Spaceman: The demand for competitive Halo has never been higher, and the team at 343/HCS/EE has answered the demand by creating one of the smoothest launches for any esport I’ve ever seen. The format is precise and direct, the players are responding well to it and it’s incredibly approachable for newer fans who are just seeing Halo at the top for the first time.

Lethal: There were some predictable placements in certain regions such as Cartel dominating EU and Nutribullet crushing the Oceania scene. Even though Natus Vincere have had their ups and downs at the beginning of Halo Infinite’s lifespan, they’re now showing improvement and I think in time, they will give Cartel a run for their money.

Optic Gaming had a very robust start in the first two online tournaments in North America but now Sentinels have started to adapt and improve at a drastic rate.

Activee: I love what I’ve seen so far. At the start of Halo Infinite, we saw a LARGE gap in the skill level of some of the partnered orgs. Optic Gaming showcased that they are one of the best teams along with Cloud9 taking a close second.

OpTic Chicago defeat the Seattle Surge
FormaL retired from the Call of Duty League earlier this year. He’s a seasoned Halo player, so he should help Sentinels in Raleigh. | Provided by Call of Duty League

Why do you think players from other esports like Call of Duty are making the switch to Halo? What does this say about Halo and those other games?

Spaceman: I believe players in other esports titles are making the jump to Halo because there’s opportunity available. Halo has been waiting to make a comeback and its void was filled by various other titles for so long; let’s not forget it was the original console FPS esport and with that comes a deep-seated authenticity to its product.

It’s no secret that the lack of scheduling and structure from other major esports programs has begun to frustrate many and Halo has immediately capitalized on the uncertainty. Many esports programs make the same mistakes in their first five years of operation and, luckily with Halo, they’ve avoided so many and have so much more in store for fans. The other esports like Call of Duty may be going through some rough patches but they will be back and that means we can enjoy them both again as they hopefully lead the way for console FPS esports!

Lethal: It’s not uncommon for CoD players to grind a new Halo game, especially in the competitive scene. At the first H3 event in EU, at least a dozen established CoD MW1 players transitioned to test their skill set. The placements were adequate and I respected the fact that they played to the best of their abilities to try and contend at a game that isn’t their main. It’s very difficult considering the mechanical differences.

Activee: I think Call of Duty has slipped up a bit. Vanguard is a little bit of the same in terms of what we’ve seen out of Call of Duty games. I don’t feel like people were looking to go back to World War 2 again.

At the same time, Halo hasn’t released a game in six years. It has been a long-anticipated title and, regardless of what most thought would happen, 343 Industries CRUSHED it. The game has such an amazing foundation and an esports roadmap that really sets a lot of players and teams up for success.

Halo Infinite capture the flag during the preview
Capture the Flag is one of the most exciting competitive modes to watch. | Provided by 343 Industries

Are there any skills that transfer well from other shooters to Halo Infinite?

Spaceman: When it comes to skills, Halo is the golden standard for console FPS, so naturally players who have roots in games like Call of Duty will find the transfer both enticing and maybe a bit challenging. There are skills that transfer regardless of the esport, such as team-shotting, accuracy, reaction time, spatial awareness, critical thinking, etc. Halo is a very punishing game where one player can cost you the win more than they can help you get the win.  So while skills transfer, it’s still a complex chess game that requires respect, patience, commitment and dedication to be good.

Lethal: Here are some notable skillsets that I feel can be transferred to a certain degree:

  • Counter-Strike: Global Offensive: Cursor placement, patience/discipline, positioning, temporary setups, rotations, grenade line ups.
  • Quake: Weapon/item timings, aim skill, speed, Athena for the Grapple (lol), strong adaptation.
  • Call of Duty: Fundamentals, coordination, advanced comms.

Activee: I think a lot of First Person Shooter skills transfer over, but I also believe that Halo is completely different in so many ways. For instance, power weapons/power-ups and controlling them while also controlling the map and power positions. Halo Infinite is also the most team-oriented Halo since Halo 3. I’m excited to see what players are able to transfer. Lots have already done really well, but it’s going to take a LOT more work for them to break into the top eight.

Halo Championship Series
Raleigh is the first event of many in an ambitious 2022 roadmap. | Provided by Halo Championship Series

What are your thoughts on the ambitious plans for the current season of the Halo Championship Series?

Spaceman: I think the plans needed to be ambitious if Halo wants to be a legitimate esport again. Halo is a series built on ambition, legacy and historic precedent; it’s only fitting the esport delivers on these values as well!

A year-long schedule with stable prizing and developer support is something most esports dream of and things that should become widely adopted, immediately. In 2021, I’m happy we’re getting such clarity with details such as this.

Lethal: The entire roadmap for 2022 was exactly what the community needed. We now have events to look forward to and can make plans well in advance. With the online open/pro series, it gives everyone an opportunity to display their prowess and improve over the coming months in their respective region. Fingers crossed they’ll create road maps like this every year.

Activee: I love the road map they’ve laid out and I also love the fact that it is completely open and accessible to all players regardless of platform and input. This gives any player a chance to come from the bottom with hard work and rise to the pro bracket just like it used to be in the great MLG Halo days.

Do you think that competitive Halo is here to stay this time around?

Spaceman: Halo is here to stay. Long live Halo.

Lethal: There’s no reason why it shouldn’t. 343 Industries have done a cracking job making sure Halo Infinite’s esports Infrastructure gets off to a flying start and they’ve done exactly that. With the team skins, ranked playlists, no major networking issues from Day 1, you could say it was a dream and now they need to continue to thrive off this momentum.

Activee: I 100% do. The fact that they are using their own engine and have committed to 10 years of Halo Infinite means they have all the tools available to make changes that are needed in order to make Halo the most competitive FPS again. Esports Engine is a big part of that. They’ve got Adam, the original MLG Founder behind them, which I believe anyone would invest in. The man knows esports and he knows Halo. Halo Esports is here to stay.

Catch the Halo Championship Series Kickoff Major from Dec. 17-19. You can watch all the action on the official Halo Twitch Channel.