Since 343 Industries took the reigns from Halo creators Bungie, there’s been a flurry of feedback from the series’ avid community. Many wanted to see the game retain its same playstyle and to simply exist as an extension of the series. Realists however knew that with a new developer came new flavor that would need to be adjusted to. Halo 4 didn’t sit well for everyone and was criticized for becoming too Call of Duty-esque with its online multiplayer features.
That said, Microsoft took Halo back to the drawing board and with the Halo 5: Guardians multiplayer beta we’ve officially gotten our first look and more importantly first hands on experience.
With the reemergence of the Halo Championship Series, it’s clear that Microsoft wants to rebuild the e-Sports community that was prominent during the Halo 2 days. While the Master Chief Collection gave us a preview of what was to come, though it didn’t necessarily work well, few would have expected the radical changes that 343 has made.
Of course this is just a public beta and the release of the game is a year away, we first noticed the graphical changes which seemed more stylized and less realistic, this was especially true of the Spartans who appeared much smoother and less defined.
Though this is probably the smallest change that 343 has implemented. Combat feels like an e-Sports edition of Halo. During matches Spartans will talk to each other, shouting out enemy positions and utilizing Halo terms such as, “Enemy on my X.” It’s a little jarring at first but ultimately comes as a welcome change of pace. Now if you’re braving Xbox Live by yourself the entire experience feels a little more lively.
Gone are Spartan armor abilities and in their place are features that everyone has. You can briefly blast your thrusters with a press of the B button, hover in air by aiming down your sights (which 343 calls Smart Scope), and slam down onto the ground, killing enemies below. Crouch jumping is nonexistent as Spartans have learned how to mantle, or clambering as 343 refers to it, grabbing on to cover that they’ve just narrowly missed and pulling themselves up.
If that wasn’t enough for you, most weapons have been re-tuned giving each its own strengths. The SMG can now obliterate foes at close range while the DMR clearly offers more utility than the Battle Rifle at long ranges. All the while 343 has placed an emphasis on power weapons, alerting all players as to their spawning locations and timers. It’s now important enough that Jeff Steitzer, the announcer, now warns both teams as to when they’re about to spawn.
The two maps we played Truth and Empire sported three power weapons combined. The former only contained the Prophet’s Bain, an energy sword like weapon, while the latter had one Sniper Rifle at each team’s spawnpoint.
More than ever it feels like 343 is trying to make everyday matches feel just as intense as those we used to watch online. Professional gamers frequently stressed map control, keeping good angles, and making sure they’re in the right place when weapons spawn. Through the aforementioned methods we found this to be the case.
On top of this there’s now a skill based ranking system. After ten matches you are placed in a division: Bronze through Gold, then Onyx, Semi-Pro, and Pro. Match to match your progress will be tracked and no longer will you be worrying about your kill to death ratio (K/D) but your K/D/A as 343 has chosen to include assists.
After all of this, we felt remarkably refreshed. Halo 5: Guardians feels like a step in the right direction as the series looks to firmly plant its feet with 343 at the helm.
We just can’t help but wonder how all of this is effecting the campaign.
These changes are huge.
Smart scoping, clambering, ground pounding, all of that works fine in multiplayer, but how will it change what we’ve come to expect from the single player?