|System: Xbox One|
|Dev: 343 Studios|
|Players: 1 (2+ Online)|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p|
by Jason Messer
There is palpable electricity in the air, especially among FPS enthusiast. It’s the kind of charge which can only be generated by a new Halo release. And I’m not talking about a compilation or “remastered” edition either, but an honest to goodness sequel in all its warthogin’ glory! One great thing (among many) which can be said for the Master Chief Collection is that it shipped with a Beta preview of the upcoming multiplayer engine for Halo 5: Guardians. After spending some time on the battlefield, here are all the inside details of what players can expect when our next installment hits store shelves sometime in 2015.
343 have said right from the start they wanted to return to an old school arena style shooter, and in this Beta, that fact clearly shows. Everything about Halo 5 screams pro circuit, as the presentation almost takes on a Hunger Games-esque vibe (very much like watching it on ESPN). I found both the frame rate to be silky smooth and the graphics to be just as sleek as you’d expect from a next-gen upgrade. But if there was one huge difference that immediately jumped out at me, it was the revamped control scheme. Halo has finally decided to steal a page from other mainstream shooters and move the zoom functionality (also called the “aim down sights” by some) from the awkward R3 button to the left trigger by default. This replaces the grenade toss in a changeup which many will find is LONG overdue. Another nice addition is just how interactive your team mate A.I. has become, who’ll call out things like enemy movement on the map or give you a quick “thanks” if you happen to save or assist them with a kill.
Overall, I’d say the game just feels more alive than ever before. The maps I had a chance to play were limited, but I found both Eden and Regret to be pretty standard fair for what you’d expect in a Halo layout. Slayer takes on a whole new flair with your goody bag of revamped tricks, including abilities such as hover, ground pound and smart scope (with its augmented reality view). Personally, I found the unlimited sprint to be quite helpful in staying on the move. Coupled with a Spartan toting the ever-deadly one hit energy sword, you have a combination more devastating than anything we’ve witness in previous exploits. I can attest to this first hand, as the game winning double kill I garnered using this method just before sitting down to write up this preview still has me grinning from ear to ear. The fire fights remain a bit of a chore at times, as face offs usually result in a back and forth bullet trade ‘till someone is eventually dead (think of it like Rock Em’ Sock Em’ Robots). Even though zooming in is much more intuitive now, hip firing is what 90% of people use anyway. So this improvement becomes kind of moot at short ranges (but I guess that’s what makes this Halo right)?
The other mode available is something called Breakout. If you’ve ever wanted to pretend you’re a contestant on a futuristic version of America Gladiators, this is your chance! You’ll find these arenas are those which represent the roots of Halo’s past most, as both Trench and Crossfire look and play a lot like Hang Um’ High (with a Tron overlay). This game type consists of eight rounds, where the team who survives scores a point. Here is where the ability to vault over objects and dodge in different directions comes in VERY handy. Thrusting sideways saved my ass during more than one confrontation, which is not to be taken lightly here. One unfortunate misstep and you’ll be forced to sit out the remainder of the round (which can become quite tedious watching your team mates have fun without you). The most intriguing aspect of Breakout is the cat and mouse dynamic that often arises if you do happen to survive until the very end. At one point, the announcer informed me I was the only one left alive and that the match was now 4 on 1. Needless to say, those next few heart pounding moments were nerve racking. And while I gave it a valiant effort, alas the hunter finally became the hunted, as the odds were simply too great for one gamer to overcome. Fun none the less.
343’s goal with this Beta was not only to work out the kinks in the multiplayer engine, but to generate a healthy amount of buzz ahead of the official launch. In that regard, I’d say they have been successful. I know I’m looking forward to the full Halo 5: Guardians experience, as I’m sure many of you who played this small sampling are as well. It’s now clear why the developer has yet to set a firm release date, as they’re still likely attempting to translate the new play mechanics across other modes such as CTF and King of the Hill for example.
However, I have complete confidence Halo 5 could become one for the record books. Dare I say…one of the best online Halo experiences ever? Time will tell the tale.
Date: January 9, 2015