While I maintain that the Master Chief Collection remains completely broken, it presents an even more curious case as to why the Halo 5: Guardians beta is so incredibly amazing that many of us can’t stop playing it. For those of you not in the know, 343 Industries has planned a three story arc “Redeemer Trilogy.” Since this is a new story that takes place after the events of the original Halo saga, 343 Industries has an unlimited license on creativity. After spending a few hours putting the limited Halo 5 beta through its paces, I am starting to get the sense that 343 spent all of their time on this and not on the hot mess that is the Master Chief Collection. That’s great for the future of the franchise and gives me some assuredness that 343 Industries can adequately deliver quality products and deliver on their creative vision.
Here is a few of the exciting new features that I picked up during some Halo 5 beta gameplay:
It goes without saying that a console generation leap from the Xbox 360 to the Xbox One naturally means better eye candy, however, Halo 5 has maintained that distinct Halo-esque feel while creating its own individuality. It’s all of the little things in the map that really stood out to me, from the highly modeled weapons that are front and center during gameplay, to the more subtle (but no less detailed) backdrops. Since the beta is only limited to two maps, I can only speak to the amazing rooftop view that I got to witness during battle. Attention to detail is great, and it’s nice to see that Halo 5 multiplayer will not be played in a fishbowl or in a walled off, last generation frame rate saving environment. Speaking of frame rate, the game runs at a silky smooth 60 FPS.
CRISP, RESPONSIVE “CORE” GAMEPLAY
As many of us who bounce between various gaming franchises (and even across different platforms!) will attest to, there are just certain elements of each game that just “feel right.” Just as Uncharted has a distinct combat and cover mechanic, Smash Brothers characters each have a distinct weigntiness factor to them, so too does the Halo universe. There’s a certain floatiness to each jump, certain snap to each melee swing, and a certain finesse of each sniper trigger pull. Thankfully, each of these elements carry over seamlessly over to the Xbox One’s newly redesigned controller. I never felt lost, in fact, it felt like putting on an old pair of shoes. But even as great as the core mechanics are, there is even more to cheer about.
INNOVATIVE “NEW” GAMEPLAY
Unlike before in Halo: Reach when jetpacks were a perk type item, now each Spartan comes equipped with one. It’s a mechanic that’s clearly borrowed from Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare or Destiny in terms of player versus player mobility, but slightly tweaked to better fit within the exiting Halo universe. Each player now possesses their very own jetpack, which is connected to a battery charge cooldown. Whether you prefer to save the charge (resets every 8 seconds or so) for that last minute strafe to avoid a grenade blast, or whether you prefer to use it to get that extra umph to pick up an energy sword, the jetpack definitely creates some unexpected, but very welcomed, diversity. The jetpack also can be utilized offensively as a new “Ground Pound” move, which makes you a living missile as you attempt to smash into enemies below.
In addition to the jetpack, Spartans can now camber up on certain ledges. This fluid movement will allow players to move up to ledges easier without having to waste time performing a second jump. It’s a nice touch and really comes in hand during aggressive pushes (or the occasional retreat!), and speeds up gameplay slightly without breaking the core experience.
NEW MAP FEATURES
The map display has also been tweaked slightly in the Halo 5: Guardians beta. The first major improvement is that now each section of the map are associated with specific names, such as “Red Spawn” or “Engine Room.” That is great already for communication as players work together to take down enemies. But for those lone wolf types out there, it’s also an added treat as fellow Spartans will automatically call out enemies sighted (or heroes vanquished) for you. So if you just so happen to be in the “Red Spawn” you may hear a voice over that says, “Fellow Spartan downed at Engine Room!” which tells you that you’re down a player for a few seconds, but at the price of learning at least one enemy location. Power weapon drops are also called out and displayed on the map in a similar fashion, so you’ll know whether or not your team snagged the sniper rifle during a closely contested match.
There really is a lot of attention that is put into this game, and that’s great news. The controller vibrates on the left side to match the animation of your character utilizing his left hand to slam a fresh clip into a battle rifle. Each gun now has iron sights (or at least some element of zoom), which does not impact bullet spread or gun characteristics, but is just a nice touch. Even a replay-type camera makes its entrance, so you can see just what went wrong in your last failed confrontation.
These features are great, and definitely welcomed to the franchise. But after the smoke settles on this timed beta, many of us will have to either go back to the Master Chief Collection, or simply move on to another shooter until the long awaited end of the year release. Did Halo 5: Guardians affirm your faith in 343 Industries? Let me know in the comments below.