Halo 5: Guardians, Sci-fi

With Halo: The Master Chief Collection now available, it’s time to look forward to the one piece of content from that package yet to be unlocked. The Halo 5: Guardians multiplayer beta is scheduled to start at the end of December and run through late January. During that time, 343 Industries will collect telemetry to tune maps and balance weapons for the game’s release later in 2015.

For Halo 5: Guardians, 343 is tearing down much of what we know about the series’ multiplayer components. While Halo has evolved throughout the years with the addition of dual wielding, equipment, and armor abilities, this entry goes further to update the gameplay.

Every Spartan in Halo 5: Guardians is equipped with a thruster pack that enables a number of new traversal and combat options. Players can omnidirectionally boost-dodge, mantle onto any ledge, and slow their descent to line up the perfect shot. In combination with a full-speed sprint, players can “Spartan charge” into foes, instantly killing them from behind or knocking out their shields from the front. Players can also set up an instant kill ground pound, by jumping from an elevated position. Successfully executing a melee attack from the sky takes skill and leaves you vulnerable in mid-air while charging.

Another major change is the inclusion of “smart scope.” Halo titles typically eschewed the aim-down sights feature of other shooters (with the exception of scoped weapons). Now, every single firearm (and melee weapon) can take advantage of this targeting mode. There’s a drawback, though. Getting hit “descopes” you, forcing you to line the shot back up. There’s no movement penalty when linking your HUD to your weapon, and guns are still just as lethal from the hip.

Shields have been tweaked as part of the balancing act with the new unlimited sprint feature. There is a visible timer above your shield bar that winds down toward your recharge. Sprinting resets that, forcing you to find cover and slow down in order to recuperate fully.

We had the chance to play two modes and three maps during our beta preview. Team Slayer is as chaotic as you remember it, with additional strategy added thanks to more clearly defined power weapon spawn points. This creates more emphasis on map control, as players look to lock the opposing team out of those zones.

Teamwork is aided by the new chatter feature. In-game characters call out enemy positions based on easily identifiable zone names. These locations are listed above the minimap and are designed to be simple, like “blue street,” “red yard,” “house,” or “stage.” It’s possible to work with players off-mic thanks to A.I. callouts.

Truth, a mid-sized map inside a Covenant ship, and Empire, a rooftop battlefield with both indoor and outdoor lanes, felt like traditional Halo maps. They were a touch too large for eight players, but they also provided avenues for escape, stealthier options for attacking from above, and even a legendary weapon called “Prophet’s Bane,” an enhanced Elite energy sword with longer lunge range.

Developer 343 Industries is focusing the beta on eSports, particularly with the inclusion of a new mode called Breakout. We experienced this on the small, paintball course-like Crossfire map. In this four-versus-four mode, players have one life per round and lethality is drastically increased. The winning team scores a point, with the first group to score five rounds coming out the victors.

Rounds play extremely fast, lasting as little as a minute. Teamwork and communication are key, and we quickly learned to lean on the zone names to call out enemy movement. We suspect that Breakout will do for Halo what Kill Confirmed did for Call of Duty: provide a new home for players that might not otherwise gravitate toward multiplayer.

This is just some of the content planned for the three-week beta. 343 Industries tells us that the experience will evolve over that period, with balancing and tweaking to happen from week-to-week. When it’s all over, 343 will go back to the drawing board with all of your play data in-hand. As for us, the long wait will begin until the Halo 5: Guardians launches later next year.

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