John ‘Unyshek’ Junyszek: I was invited to San Francisco to preview Halo: The Master Chief Collection and the Halo 5: Guardians Multiplayer Beta. Josh Holmes, Executive Producer, and Tim Longo, Creative Director, were there to introduce the game and provide a complete overview of the new Halo multiplayer experience. I played the Halo 5: Guardians Beta for just about four hours – plenty of time to test out the new gameplay features across three maps and two gametypes. Halo 5: Guardians Multiplayer has been in development for over a year and a half, and will continue to evolve when the Beta begins on December 29th, 2014. Below you will find my very first Halo 5 impressions.
Let’s start – there are technically seven new features in total. They are always available to each player across all gametypes and maps.
- Smart Scope Sights
- Sprinting and Spartan Slide
- Ground Pound
- Spartan Charge (Tackle)
- Thruster Pack
- Clamber (Wall Vaulting)
- Stabilizers (Hover)
Below you can find a breakdown of each ability, and my opinions and thoughts regarding each one.
The smart scope is a sort of hybrid between an Aim-Down-Sights mechanic found in other shooters and the current zoom feature in previous Halo’s. To zoom/aim, you now hold the left trigger, and it brings up either a scope or iron sights that are accompanied with a projected image of a reticle for precision. This feature is present for all weapons, but as I said, each one behaves differently. For example, the Sniper still takes up the screen as it has in previous Halo’s, but the BR uses a red dot sight, and the Magnum has an iron sight with a holographic reticle. A player is knocked out of his or her smart scope when they take damage, just like every Halo before Halo 4.
My Thoughts: Though the new Smart Scope feature looks new, it has actually been in Halo since its beginning. The ‘aim-down-sight’ scoping animation is only an animation. When using the Smart Scope, a player has the same scoping traits as if they had zoomed in like previous titles. There are many new features in Halo 5: Guardians that will change how we play Halo, this is not one of them. Although it was unusual to have a zooming animation on the Battle Rifle, I did not mind after a few games.
Sprinting, Shields, and Spartan Slide
Sprint behaves similarly to other shooters, such as Halo 4, but with plenty of changes this time around. Sprint is now unlimited, but your shields will no longer recharge while you are Sprinting. When your shields are down, you will see an indicator on the top of the screen that displays a timer, when the timer ends, your shields will begin to recharge. Whenever you begin sprinting, this timer is reset, meaning it will take even more time after you stop Sprinting for your shields to begin recharging. In addition, if the player presses the crouch button (Right Thumbstick by Default) while sprinting at full speed, they will initiate a slide across the ground.
My Thoughts: After I was told that sprint would be unlimited, Tim Longo immediately followed up with the fact that the shield recharge timer will not start until you have stopped sprinting. It is very important to note that when you begin sprinting, the timer does not pause, it completely resets. A player cannot run away then stop for a split-second to gain time towards shields then continue running; its fight or flight. This trade-off reduced the amount of times a player could finagle their way out of fights, but still allowed players a small chance to escape. I barely used the Slide mechanic but I expect it to come in handy during the Breakout gametype, especially considering that a player can still shoot while using this ability.
Thruster Pack is something that was carried over from Halo 4, this time as a universal ability for all players. The Thruster (now activated by pressing the B button) is now a first-person action. You can’t shoot while using this ability, but you can recover quickly from it and use it mid-combat. The Thruster also becomes an important function for a few more abilities that you read about below.
My Thoughts: I exclusively used the Thruster Pack Armor Ability in Halo 4 because it could be used strategically and was well balanced. In Halo 5: Guardians, it serves the same purpose and is still well balanced. It is worth noting that the Thruster can be used quite frequently, meaning it does not take long to recharge. I enjoyed having this movement ability in Halo 4 and I am glad it has made a return in Halo 5.
Spartan Charge (Tackle)
While sprinting at full speed, if the player presses the melee button (RB by default), it will initiate a third person charge that thrusts the Spartan forward, attacking another player. This attack removes the opponent’s shields and around half of their health, which makes it stronger than a normal melee.
My Thoughts: The Spartan Charge was the least useful feature. I say this for two reasons, the second being the main one. It requires a player to be at full sprinting speed and it takes a while for the attacker to be able to use their weapon after the blow has been dealt. The player being charged can return a normal melee while being charged at and draw their gun up to aim faster. This means that a player can simply melee you back to remove your shields and the follow up with a headshot, which seemed to be a quicker kill time than a Spartan Charge followed up by gunfire. After defeating numerous charging opponents, I found myself not wanting to Charge because of how long I was unable to use my weapon after the attack.
The stabilizer ability utilizes the game-wide Thrusters when the player is in the air. At any point in the air, if the player zooms/aims (activates Smart Scope) the Thrusters will engage, catching you in the air and slowly bringing you to the ground. You can accurately aim just as you normally would in the air. According to some of the people I played with, there was an option to either disable this function, or map it to a different button. This would be useful if the player would rather fall normally rather than be Stabilized in the air.
My Thoughts: The addition of the Stabilizers was one that I did not see coming. It is a great way help players maintain their aim while falling down. Often times I go for flashy plays like jumping quickscopes but because of the Stabilizers, I would find myself completely exposed and practically frozen in midair. Having Stabilizers able to activate while a player Smart Scopes in the air is a very useful feature, but it should not happen automatically. I, and others who played, are thankful that this can be optional.
This was one of the more controversial announcements from the Halo 5 Beta teaser trailer. Here’s how it works: When a player is in the air, they can press the crouch button to charge the Ground Pound ability. An indicator will appear on the ground that can be aimed, and after a few seconds, the Spartan will Thrust towards the ground and create an area-of-effect blast that will take out any other players within the indicator.
My Thoughts: The ultimate risk vs reward, the Ground Pound. Very risky, but it can be very useful and is an absolute blast to pull off. The risk from the initiation of the Ground Pound is because a player has to be in a decently elevated position then has to ‘charge’ it up while floating in midair. Another sacrifice worth noting, is that the player sacrifices their high-ground and map control in an attempt to perform this attack. It is a ton of fun to perform, but it is quite risky and should only be used when circumstances align.
I have to mention that since this is also the Crouch button, there is no more Gandhi hopping. If you don’t have enough height to commence the Ground Pound, the animation will begin but you will just fall to the ground.
This new ability is more minor. Now, when a player approaches a previously unreachable ledge, they can press the Jump Button (A) to mantle up onto the platform they were jumping towards.
My Thoughts: Clamber, the new mounting feature allows for epic jumps and overall better map movement. The three maps I played were intentionally designed to make sure Clamber would be an effective movement trait. A player could quickly Clamber to get better lines of sight, obtain power weapons, and control the map OR they can take a longer route by walking up and down ramps to get to the same position.
I got to play three maps, all of which were small-to-medium sized symmetrical arenas. The first, Truth, was the remake of Midship. One that was previously showcased in screenshots, Empire, was a medium sized map centered in a Human-themed city. The final map was actually the one from the initial CGI teaser for Halo 5, titled Crossfire. It took place in a holographic arena that they also revealed to be a Forge canvas. The version I played had a specific layout for geometry, but I have seen some other designs floating around as well.
Truth: My first concern with Truth, the Midship remake, was how Sprint would play a role in the gameplay. As you can probably already tell, the map has been largely scaled up due to Sprint being a default ability, and while it does slightly take away from the feel of classic Midship, the design does stay fairly true to the original. Some people are concerned that the map is too bright or shiny, but this did not interrupt my experience at all while I was playing. In addition, the map’s geometry is slightly more curved and rounded than in previous iterations, but for the most part, this is an aesthetic change.
Crossfire: My experience with this map (or at least this variant of the map) was very enjoyable, it showcased how fluid movement abilities like Thruster and Clamber could work with a map designed for them. In addition, the map is surprisingly well designed for a gametype that you’ll read more about below.
Empire: The final map was Empire, and while I did have fun playing Team Slayer on it, I am curious as to how it would play out in a competitive setting. The map seems very segmented, which could make it a negative pick for Team Slayer, as players could possibly play more passively.
Sprint and Clamber were the most effective movement traits and the maps were definitely designed with them in mind. The maps were relatively small, but still big enough to make it hard to completely escape while sprinting. As I mentioned, Clamber was an effective movement trait that was clearly kept in mind when these maps were created.
Here is a list of weapons that I got my hands on:
- Assault Rifle
- Battle Rifle
- Energy Sword (New Name: Prophet’s Bane)
- Sniper Rifle
I did not get to see any powerups during my time with the game.
Overall the sandbox of weapons that I got my hands on felt balanced. Each gun has their respective role and effective range; when you use them correctly, you are rewarded. The on-map pickups filled certain niches, the SMG became a dominant close range weapon whereas the Assault Rifle become more powerful at mid-range, more than it has ever been. The DMR, which I thought was somewhat underpowered, was mainly designed for long sightlines.
Personal and Random Ordnances do not return from Halo 4. Standard weapons are laid out around the map, and do not have any indicators on them. Power Weapons do, but with a new twist. The new Weapon Pad System changes the way power weapon spawns work in Halo. Both thirty and ten seconds before a power weapon spawns, an announcer will call out that the weapon is dropping, text will appear in a feed above the scoreboard, and indicators will appear on the screen directing the players to the spawn point. 343 also confirmed that all timers for weapon drops would be Static, meaning that the weapons will drop at consistent intervals.
The Weapon Pad System improved on Halo 4’s Ordnance system by giving players advanced notice both through visual and audio contexts. Unfortunately, this lessens the importance of coaches in the Halo eSports scene, as well as the memorable tradition of learning weapon times and spawns in each gametype. However, it teaches new players to push for power weapons, and introduces them to creating setups to obtain these weapons and power positions.
New Gametype: Breakout
Part of my time with the game was playtesting a new gametype called Breakout. This new mode is a round based Slayer gametype where each player has one life per round. I only got to play the new mode on Crossfire, but it was probably the most suited map for the new gametype. Due to the lack of objective, a Breakout map needs to be incredibly small so players are guaranteed to interact with each other. 343 also explained that the gamemode featured heightened lethality, meaning that weapons were stronger and kill times were made faster. Melee’s were one-hit kills and the BR became a 3-shot kill.
My Thoughts: Breakout is essentially Spartans running into a paintball arena and shooting it out until only one team is eliminated. It felt like you were playing a very tactical game of speedball that hinged on positioning, communication, and of course gun skill. Initially. the heightened lethality made me worry that it would make this gametype seem more of a Twitch shooter than an Arena shooter, but with the new movement abilities, it was still possible to out-maneuver and out-shoot people.
Additional Notes and Concerns
- Instant Respawn has been removed
- Killcams are in Halo 5, and now have an improved breakdown of what happened and how you were killed
- Nothing was mentioned in regards to previous or returning gametypes (CTF, Oddball, Extraction)
- Descope occurs for every weapon while using Smart Scope
- I did notice that Flinch has been added during hip fire combat. While this may be easier to handle for weapons like the Battle Rifle, it was extremely difficult to handle with the Sniper; no scopes were nearly impossible. I do believe this is something that should be addressed and possibly changed, tweaked or removed, after the Beta. The flinch for hip-fire was different than in Halo 4 – the entire weapon and reticle seemed to shake, and it wasn’t easily manageable.
- The Battle Rifle had a tight spread, something that I’m sure a lot of you will be glad to hear. I’d compare it to the spread from Halo 2 Anniversary Multiplayer.
- As 343 has previously stated, Armor Abilities and Loadouts have both been removed from Halo 5 multiplayer
- Spectator Mode has been confirmed. Features the ability to view in First Person, Third Person, and a Free Camera.
- Interactive Map Elements are being strongly considered
- Radar Callouts have been dramatically improved from previous Halo games. The radar now features competitive-friendly callouts such as ‘Mid’ and ‘Red Two’, which will no doubt help introduce people to communication and team coordination.
- In addition, Spartans will now call out on occasion, using the same names from the radar.
- 343 commented on how the ‘Golden Triangle’ Halo formula was going to be affected by the new features. Previously, fans praised the perfect balance and usage between Gun, Grenade, and Melee, and 343 now wants to introduce the Spartan Abilities as a new part of this ‘Golden Formula’.
My time with the Halo 5: Guardians Multiplayer Beta was a very strange experience. I went in thinking I was going to play a competitive arena shooter with very basic mechanics similar to Halo: Combat Evolved but I was presented something completely different. The game felt very complex to begin with, but once I got used to all the new Spartan Abilities, a skill gap did emerge.
If you are looking for a classic arena shooter that resembles Halo: CE and Halo 2, then you will be disappointed. This is a next generation arena shooter that can be picked up and enjoyed by new players, but it also introduces a lot of new decision making that creates risk-reward situations. This new meta that combines new features and abilities will most likely generate a noticeable skill gap.
Ultimately, it is a Beta, approach it with an open mind and give it an honest chance. Then, after that, give 343 Industries feedback on what you enjoyed and what you did not. I enjoyed my time playing the Halo 5: Guardians Multiplayer Beta but there were aspects that needed adjustment and I hope they consider the input that you and I give them.
Thanks for reading!
For more information about the Halo 5: Guardians Multiplayer beta, be sure to check out our various other articles about it:
- Everything We Learned about the Halo 5: Guardians Beta
- Halo 5: Guardians Multiplayer Beta ViDoc
- Halo 5: Guardians Multiplayer Gameplay Revealed
- Halo 5: Guardians Multiplayer Screenshots Revealed
- Halo 5: Guardians Beta is 720p and 60FPS
- Halo 5: Guardians Spectator Mode Confirmed
- Halo 5: Guardians Multiplayer Pro Player Impressions
- Halo 5: Guardians Will Have Assassinations
As always, feel free to discuss all the exciting Halo 5: Guardians news on our forums!