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Halo 5: Multiplayer Beta Impressions

Halo is in a very strange place at the moment, specifically within its multiplayer – many people believe the series has gone downhill since the release of Halo: Reach and Halo 4, whilst others think change is good and the series is evolving in the right direction.

The lack of any real ranking system in these two games has certainly discouraged the more competitive gamers out there from playing Halo, at least online and/or in a competitive environment. Does Halo 5: Guardians give a reason to get back into Halo or should you go elsewhere for your multiplayer fix? Read on as I dissect all aspects of the beta – please note these are impressions based on a work in progress title.

Maps
A total of 7 maps were available throughout the beta, providing a good sense of the types of maps to expect in the final game. Most felt very competitive, usually small in proportion, offering lots of vantage points and tactical thought in terms of when power weapons respawn and such. My favourite map was Truth, a remake of the classic Halo 2 map; Midship – this time around it’s much more open and has little nooks and crannies to reach certain areas, which is nice as it feels like a new map but still has that specific Midship feeling to it.

Truth

Look at Truth as a much bigger version of Midship.

Another map that stood out was Regret, a crash site of a Covenant ship with overgrown trees and such, making for a visually appealing map but also satisfying when it comes to 4v4 Slayer. The other 5 maps were Empire, Eden and some forged maps, so yep – forge will be making an appearance, giving users a chance to create some absolutely incredible maps if history has taught us anything within the forge community.

Overall, each map is specifically designed for 4v4 arena-like competitive gameplay, complete with various power weapons but no power-ups such as the overshield or active camouflage were to be seen anywhere. Perhaps they will be added once the final game is released – I certainly hope so anyway.

Gametypes
The obvious Team Slayer was part of the beta; the first team to 50 kills wins – simple as that. A new gametype known as Breakout is a little more interesting, promoting team work and room for thought before taking on an opponent – the game is made up of rounds, in which each team must eliminate the other team using SMGs, M6 Magnums, Grenades and other weapons if they’re lucky enough to find one on the map.

There are no respawns once you die, instead your team gains a single point once the enemy team has been wiped out – the first team to score 5 points wins. I found this to be a very fast-paced gametype, which needs communication between teammates to achieve victory. Definitely for the more competitive gamers out there.

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When you’re the only person alive in a Breakout match, things can get quite intense.

Another new gametype is Strongholds, much like Territories in previous Halo games, your team must control designated territories around the map to score points, but there’s a few differences this time around. At least 2 out of the 3 control points must be occupied in order to score – this, much like Breakout, promotes a lot of team work to win. The only truly objective-based gametype in the beta, Strongholds was fun, often chaotic, but fun – and that’s what matters.

Spartan Abilities / Manoeuvrability
Infinite sprint is new to the series, however the catch is your shields won’t regenerate whilst sprinting. Despite no regeneration, I found myself getting out of tricky situations almost every time due to the fact I could simply run away. Sprint isn’t entirely new to Halo but the fact it’s now infinite certainly changes how certain battle scenarios are played out.

A completely new Spartan ability is Ground Pound, which is by far the most satisfying and entertaining to pull off. You basically take a leap in the air, charge up the attack and rain down terror as you pound your opponent(s) into the ground. It can be tricky to do on moving enemies but once you do, it’s pure joy.

Perhaps the most useful is the Thruster Pack, which enables you to quickly get out of enemy fire by rapidly moving in the direction you press. My shields were low many times but I managed to survive because of this ability. It’s not infinite though and a cool down period is required for future use, so using this wisely is advised.

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A mid-action Ground Pound. The guy below has no chance.

Another new ability, which can be extremely useful but also devastating, is the Stabilizer – this lets you Smart Scope (more on that in Weapons) whilst mid-air but will allow you to float as it were, giving you more time to scope out enemies. This does leave you open for attack quite a lot (which I found out the hard way), so it’s certainly an ability to use when the time is right and not just randomly.

Other general abilities such as Clamber allows you to climb nearby ledges – this combined with Slide (this let’s you slide out of danger, but only slightly) makes manoeuvrability very easy but can take a small learning curve to adjust. Once I mastered the concept of sprinting, clambering, sliding, and thrusting, I would win many battles which might have gone the other way without them. I could also access parts of the maps much quicker due to using these new abilities.

Competitive Skill Rank / Spartan Rank
The CSR (Competitive Skill Rank) is making a return to Halo 5, but be reassured it’s nothing like Halo 4. This time, your skill will be measured and you’ll either be rewarded for it if you play well or the opposite if you have a bad game. This doesn’t mean the 1-50 ranking is back but something very similar in terms of skill recognition and such is now in place.

This new and improved CSR system is split into a total of 7 divisions, ranging from Iron (the lowest), Bronze, Silver, Gold, Diamond, Semi-Pro, then Pro (the highest). Much like Arena from Halo: Reach, you’re required to play a certain number of matches for a specific ranked playlist in order to achieve a division placement, for example I did fairly well, racked up a lot kills, helped out my team a lot, gained tons of assists, which resulting in me getting a Gold ranking. Playing to a much higher level would’ve put me into either the Semi-Pro or Pro divisions, which is something to boast about.

Matchmade games after achieving this ranking put me with players either in the same division or very close such as Silver ranked players. Each playlist had a CSR system in place, although in the final game I imagine there will be a combination of both ranked and social playlists in order to create an enjoyable multiplayer experience for either the competitive or casual gamer.

Weapons
One of the biggest differences between Halo 5: Guardians and previous titles is the Smart Scope – this lets you effectively zoom in with any weapon, even the Assault Rifle, which feels very strange. Even using Smart Scope with the Battle Rifle and DMR feels weird as you can still see your weapon as you scope in. This can all take a little getting used to, but for the most part, it works well. I just don’t agree with being able to Smart Scope with hip-fire weapons.

Returning weapons include the Assault Rifle, Battle Rifle, Sniper Rifle, SMG, Energy Sword, DMR, Shotgun and Light Rifle. They all do the same job as they have in previous Halo titles, which is fine but I do think the Assault Rifle is way overpowered and needs to be weakened upon the game’s final release. Everything else felt well balanced.

Don’t worry, the Rocket Launcher is also there but it’s gone through a bit of a revamp – it still shoots out devastating rockets but the overall look and feel is way off. It no longer feels like a “Halo gun”, rather a generic gun from any other average shooter. There was nothing wrong with the double-barrelled Rocket Launcher, so why 343 Industries decided to change it up boggles my mind.

Whilst the Rocket Launcher looks different, it's still very capable of dealing heavy damage.

Whilst the Rocket Launcher looks different, it’s still very capable of dealing heavy damage.

Brand new weapons include the Hydra, which is much like the Plasma Launcher from Halo: Reach, lets you shoot out multiple missiles at a rapid pace. A lock-on ability is also an option, but don’t expect it to work every time. I might just be bad using the Hydra, but I couldn’t seem to get a lock on anyone, so I just went with manually shooting each missile, which worked out much better.

The Prophets Bane is another new weapon – similar to the regular Energy Sword, you can melee-kill opponents but the only difference is the Prophets Bane has a larger lunge distance. It also looks cool…

Medals
Medals, medals everywhere! Halo has always been known for its way of rewarding players through giving you medals. Virtual medals, obviously. However, there’s just too many in Halo 5: Guardians – you will get a medal for something as menial as killing an enemy with a grenade or getting a kill with the Hydra.

These are basic gameplay mechanics that don’t need to necessarily be acknowledged everytime you do them. Medals such as Reversal are understandable as the game is rewarding you for outplaying an opponent – Reversal is awarded when you kill an opponent who shot you first. Having too many medals isn’t a major problem but I remember the days of Halo 2 and 3, in which you would be given medals for genuine gameplay feats.

Concluding Thoughts
After 3 weeks of playing Halo 5: Guardians multiplayer, I can safely say the series is going in a new direction, one that some will appreciate, others will hate. I am stuck in the middle as I did enjoy playing the game but would often question if this is the way Halo should be going.

The fact an actual ranking system is in place gives me hope for the future of competitive Halo, which is fantastic as Halo has always been a great competitive shooter (excluding Halo: Reach and Halo 4).

The new gametypes give me the impression there’s plenty more to come in the future of the game as well as some impressive maps along the way. Overall, it’s been an enjoyable experience – the initial changes did really put me off at first but once I got a grasp on everything, it was fun. I would prefer if Halo was still like “the original trilogy”, but I guess I can’t be stuck in the past forever.




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