Jeff Markiewicz On December 29, 2014 at 4:37 pm

Halo 5 GuardiansLarge public betas were a tradition set for Halo games back when Bungie was at the helm of the franchise. Halo 3 started the trend with its beta in May of 2007. It packed three maps and debuted that games iconic equipment system. This continued with the Halo Reach beta in May of 2010. This one was even larger with four maps and debuted the new invasion game type. Both of these events were real betas too, launching approximately four months in advance of each games respective releases. There was actually a chance your feedback could alter the final product. Many games recently have pushed out pseudo-betas that are within a month of launch and feel like they merely lack the traditional day-one patch. When 343 Industries took over control of the franchise, it was wondered if they would continue having public betas but sadly they didn’t with their first Halo installment. Fortunately, as evident from this preview, they changed their tune for Halo 5: Guardians.

The Halo 5 beta, as similar to the other Halo betas, will have a slow rollout of content. Since I got a sneak peek in slightly early, I didn’t get to see everything they have planned. What I did get to see was the Week 1 content that will be available starting December 29. Week 1 includes a single game type and two maps. The game type is Team Slayer, which should be well known to multiplayer fans of the Halo franchise. For those who do not, it’s essentially team deathmatch with a race to get a combined total of 50 kills between you and your teammates. The matches were four versus four which felt like the perfect amount for the maps two maps, Truth and Empire. Truth is a remake of Midship from Halo 2. The second map is Empire. Empire is a completely new map with a human industrial theme. It is a little larger than Truth and features similar arena-styled combat. Both maps feature exclusively human weapons except for Prophet’s Bane on Truth, which is just the Covenant energy sword we all know and love.

Halo 5 features several new additions that alter the basic nature of the Halo combat. The first and most present feature is the new the ability to perform quick dodges. This lets you quickly skirt behind a wall or make it more difficult for a sniper to hit you. This is balanced by the fact that it takes a little time to recharge so don’t expect it to be spammed. The move makes you feel quite agile and after mastering it, I feel like it will make some battles a lot more dynamic, interesting, and survivable. My main issue with it right now is that you can use it to dodge in all directions except up and down. There are a couple parts of the maps that it would be nice to have boost to jump height. The next thing on this point is a new feature called clambering. If you miss a jump, you can choose to climb up the ledge instead of falling. This seems to replace the crouch-jump ability and feels like it’ll make maps a lot more forgiving of missed jumps. The next feature that is new is sprinting. A lot of people believe this one to be controversial but it really feels natural. Plus, on the larger maps, it’ll let you get to battle or flank that much quicker. The last major new feature is the ground pound. When you crouch in midair and a decent height, you’ll be able to slow down and aim at the ground. While this looks really cool, at this point it feels like more of a humiliation tactic. It’s a bit hard to use and takes time to like up where most people will have moved on at the point.

Along with this point, it feels like it will take time to get used to the controls. As they stand now, it feels like you’ll have to choose between what new things you want to be quick at hand and what you want to feel awkward. In one set up, the dodge mechanic will be second nature and you’ll have to take your finger off one of the sticks to make the ground pound work. In another, ground pound will be super easy but zooming in will be a little awkward. While the beta comes with a lot of different control styles, it might almost be time to just let the player customize it from the ground up so they can maximize their play style to their controller.

Lastly, I have to say I really liked the audio dialogue between teammates. As it currently exists, teammates in Halo 5 multiplayer will automatically shout call out enemy locations and say thanks for an assist. When Halo 2 first came out, everyone had their Xbox Communicators on and were talking. As time has gone on and Xbox Live has evolved, games have frequently gotten a lot quieter as people have moved to party chats or gone silent. This feature gives some semblance of pseudo-teamwork while actually being informational. It works well.

Overall, I came out of the experience optimistic about where Halo 5: Guardians is going. The gameplay additions felt good and well integrated. The audio is already sounding fantastic. The graphics look amazing. While there are certainly bugs, it’s very playable and fun. For owners of the Halo: Master Chief Collection, the beta will begin on December 29th and continue for three weeks. Over the span of each week, new content and features will roll out and culminate in a total of 7 maps and 3 game types. This will make it the largest and earliest Halo beta yet. If you want a chance to experience the current state of Halo 5 multiplayer and help direct its development with your feedback, this is it. See you on December 29th!

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