HANDS ON: HALO 5 GUARDIANS BETA

Halo 5: Guardians is a First Person Shooter from 343 Industries and exclusive to the Xbox One. Recently gamers who bought the Halo: Master Chief Collection were blessed with a beta for the new game, and I’m here to recount my experiences with the game.

The game is different from it’s predecessors to say the least, in terms of gameplay that is. Most aspects remain; you are protected by an energy shield which recharges over time and provides more protection than say Gears of War and Call of Duty, so 1 v 1 fights are a little more sustained than other modern shooters. Weapons include automatic Assault Rifles, spray and pray SMG, the burst fire Battle Rifle, the single shot DMR and the Magnum Pistol, along with both Frag Grenades and Plasma Grenades which stick to players and vehicles before detonating. There is a lack of alien weaponry in the beta, save for a single shot light rifle used by Forerunner enemies in the 4th game.

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With Halo multiplayer it usually comes down to power weapons; in the first games it usually came down to a rush to the spawn points for these coveted one shot kill weapons, to the point that in this release it is the focus of slayer maps, which point out this maps power weapons and encourage you to collect them with a directional marker. This makes gameplay a little more balanced than in say Halo 2, where players who had studied the map extensively having the upper hand in regard to weapon spawns.

Power weapons include the sniper rifle, a long range headshot machine that will usually prove to be the bane of your existence in the hands of a capable player, the energy sword, which gives you a long range melee attack as well as giving you a one hit kill at close range at the expense of long range fire, the rocket launcher, a splash damage explosive with a nasty habit of not distinguishing friend from foe at close range if you get my meaning, and the new Hydra grenade launcher , similar to the rocket launcher, but it’s projectiles are affected by gravity and can track a target to a degree.

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The game seems to be lacking in the loadout system from the previous game and instead gave all players the same abilities, achieved using a new jet pack system. Players can thrust in any direction to avoid taking damage quickly, as well as being able to hover in mid air while aiming. This along with the ability to clamber gives the game an increased sense of verticality, with the ability to shoot from a higher elevation and get the drop on your enemy.

But if you need to get down quickly there is a new ground pound move that lets you slam down at high speed and pancake your enemy into the ground. Sprinting is now accelerated by the jet pack, though this is apparently only cosmetic as it doesn’t make you much faster than previous games, until you get close enough to shoulder tackle the enemy at high speed. Also you can slide. Neat. Another new feature is the ability to aim down the sight of any weapon for enhanced range and accuracy.

Something which threw me off was the new controls, with zoom applied to the left trigger and crouch to B, amongst other changes. At first I hated this immediately and changed it to something more familiar, but as it turns out these changes were made to make it easy to use the hover function and ground pound. Have you tried pressing the sticks in while jumping around? It’s not easy! So there is a learning curve for returning players adapting to the new abilities and controls.

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Another neat feature is Spartans communicating with each other in game, calling out enemy locations and warning of headshot weapons nearby. This won’t be of much use until you get a grasp on where everything is and the names of areas, but it is a nice new feature despite the very strong possibility of nobody using it in the heat of battle. The winning team will high five and showboat at the end of a game, which some people have compared to Call of Duty playing Bro gamers, but I should point out that originally that demographic was all about Halo before COD was even a thing. Besides it reminds me of Aliens, with the cocky marines, which the first game was very open about showing its affection towards.

Game modes featured in the demo are your standard team slayer, breakout which is a one death and round based mode, and a hardpoint mode where you capture and hold control points to increase your score. Nothing new in the Beta sadly; a new game mode as opposed to a Hardpoint variant would have been more impressive.

Maps include Truth, a remake of Midship from Halo 2, and a wrecked variant called regret, suggesting that multiple versions of the same map exist. I can only hope that this isn’t at the expense of new maps, though most likely it’s a way of giving you skins on maps for a little more variety as far as aesthetics are concerned if 343 is smart at least. Although, Truth features an energy sword as the featured weapon while Regret has a Hydra in its center.

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The next map is Empire, which is a round circuit with a lot of cover between one side of the map and other, with plenty of ledges to utilize the new clamber ability and a sniper rifle available as the maps power weapon. Eden is the alternate variant of this map, though it’s little more than a night variant, though it does allow for the use of an energy sword, along with the sniper rifle. The remaining maps are forge maps; the maps themselves are OK, but what interested me lies beyond the walls of the map; a series of forests and open land ripe for creating your own maps, which reminds me of Forge world from Halo Reach in terms of aesthetics.

There is also a forge canvas set in a Tron like environment called Breakout, which provides a lot of possibilities for arena designs, and focuses on unique designs with the ability to alter the ground itself looking to be very possible, though this is just speculation at this point. Though rest assured, when the game comes out I will be spending a lot of time becoming acquainted with Forge.

The biggest complaint I have heard about this game however is that it’s too much like Call of Duty. I have to call bullshit on this subject. The controls are similar to COD, especially with the inclusion of iron sight zooming, though these changes help incorporate the new moves like the ground pound and ability to hover. And the ability to zoom with an assault rifle is something that has been brought up with nearly everybody I’ve introduced the game to.

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On top of that the game feel hasn’t changed; in Call of Duty firefights end in a matter of seconds, making the game extremely fast paced, while in Halo the shield and tougher health make 1 on 1 fights last longer and allows for straight up duels that last longer than a few seconds. Some moves are the same as COD Advanced Warfare, like the hover and ground slam, though I attribute these attributes more to Titanfall. But the biggest difference is how the game is balanced; Halo 4 was closer to COD with the inclusion of customizable classes, while Halo 5 strips that out in favor of making everyone equal. There’s no perks or kill streaks to change up the equation either; it’s down to skill or your ability to get to the power weapons first.

The lack of power weapons is also a factor separating these series; these weapons are intentionally over powered to give the people using them an edge, which Halo 4 understood as well by not including them in the loadouts. In Call of Duty the weapons need to be balanced, including rocket launchers and the like; a guy running at you with a shotgun in COD is much different than in Halo, with this strategy in COD akin to suicide which in Halo there is much more of a threat as the enemy soaks up our gunfire while charging in. It’s not a huge difference but big enough to be noticeable. I apologize if you feel like I’m rambling, but this is a common complaint that I’ve heard and one that I disagree with for several reasons.

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Halo 5: Guardians is different than it’s predecessors, but in a good way. The core abilities give you plenty of new abilities to play with and the possibilities posed by Forge are very enticing. The Beta showed little new features as far as weapons and game types are concerned, with vehicle maps being absent from the Beta entirely, much to my frustration. But the new core abilities are on full display and provide a new PVP experience, so clearly the gameplay is what the game is focused on in this installment. It’s new, but you shouldn’t fear change; a game that stays the same game after game and never changes is how we really get Halo to be on the same level as Call of Duty.

+ New mechanics mix things up while maintaining existing formula

+ Pointing out power weapons helps eliminate need to memorize map; Players on equal terms

+ Variants on maps and forge elements show promise

– Lack of Alien Weapons

– Lack of Vehicle maps

– Game types felt lacking

 

MATT HANCOX

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