Halo 5: Guardians Multiplayer Beta Reveal and Impressions

A new Halo always brings a lot of hype and a lot of promise. With the release of Halo: The Master Chief Collection, fans and newcomers alike will soon be able to get a taste and make a real difference in the development of Halo 5: Guardians. Beginning at the end of December and lasting three weeks, anyone who purchases the Master Chief Collection will have the opportunity to participate in the Halo 5: Guardians Multiplayer Beta. We want to do our best to make sure you are all well prepared for what’s ahead, so we have laid out all the juicy details for you here, in one place! Including screenshots, videos, and info-graphics!

Last week, SMG and Drax were invited to New York City where they experienced the Halo 5: Guardians Multiplayer Beta first hand.
After giving you the facts, throughout this article they will provide their personal thoughts and opinions.



Spartan Abilities

Xbox One Controller Spartan Mobility H5 v2 small version

As the ViDoc at the beginning of this article describes, these are the core new features in Halo 5: Guardians. Features that add a whole new layer to the Halo multiplayer experience.
Drax: “I want to start off first, by saying that I can see why 343 decided to take this path. They want to try and keep up with current trends and they need to be able to compete with games like CoD and Battlefield for reign over eSports. From a business standpoint, it makes sense to me. That being said, these new abilities make sense in terms of canon, but they feel…out of place in Halo. That could just be because I’m so used to them not being there, however. That doesn’t mean they break the game…at least not in my eyes. Everything they’ve done seems to work and work well. Nothing seems too over-powered and everything has balance. It may feel really strange to have elements like this in Halo, but I believe, given enough time, it’s something you will get used to and something the community will learn to accept. My hope, however, is that the community does more than just accept it…I hope they embrace these new additions and turn Halo back into the greatest competitive eSport to ever hit the scene.”
SMG: “I have always loved the core Halo gameplay, but acknowledge that in developing a new game we should expect new or refined features. Some people loved armor abilities and others hated them. Spartan Abilities feel, to me, like the sexy love child of traditional Halo gameplay and the gameplay we experience in Halo: Reach and Halo 4 with the inclusion of Armor Abilities. The core Halo gameplay stands out as the dominant trait, but the armor abilities are still there however in a reduced capacity. The Spartan Abilities are much more reasonable than any armor ability. The fact that every single person from the beginning to the end will have all abilities evens the playing field and makes for fast-paced, fun, and competitive gameplay.”


Smart Scope / De-Scoping

Smart scope

Smart-scope isn’t something that is completely new to Halo, it’s just been limited to certain weapons. It is NOT what is referred to as ADS. The explaination as to how it works, is pretty simple and actually makes a lot of sense. Your armor recognizes each weapon and creates a scope for you by using your HUD inside the helmet. When you press the left trigger (default controls), you quickly zoom in with whatever weapon you are currently holding, whether that weapon has a physical scope or not.De-scoping has returned to Halo, which was a huge request by a majority of the community. When you are zoomed in with a weapon and you take any kind of damage, you will be forced out of zoom. This is a great way to suppress the enemy, especially those with long range weapons like the sniper rifle.

Drax: “I can see this being something that isn’t going to be received well by a large portion of the community, which is justified. As a long-time Halo player and someone who also plays games with ADS, I’m still on the fence about it. I’m still not entirely sure if I like it in Halo. As I said before, every new addition has something to balance it. The return of de-scoping is what balances this new feature. Whether ADS was a needed addition to the Halo franchise, still remains up in the air for me. Time will tell.”

SMG: “From an outside perspective, the addition of smart-scope seems to be a big change to the Halo formula. In the past we have only had experience with hip fire. A zoom feature was exclusive to only a few weapons (Battle Rifle, DMR, Sniper, Pistol etc.). I admit having some reservations about how smart-scope would function in a Halo game, however, after experiencing it for myself I’ve actually come to enjoy it. It does not devalue the use of hip-fire and does not reduce your mobility. The fact that it functions like traditional ‘zoomable’ weapons is a redeeming factor. The inclusion of ‘de-scoping’ was also a selling point. It definitely seems to be a logical step forward in staying true to the Halo formula while also keeping it fresh and new.” 


Controls

Xbox One Controller Callouts H5 v5 small

Drax: “The new changes caught me off guard in my first game. Pressing LB to throw a grenade feels…odd at first. However, I adjusted very quickly. It reminded me of the first time I played Halo: Reach and Halo 4…slightly new controls, but nothing too drastic. The same basic control structure remains, so be sure to give it some time.”SMG: “At first I was slightly disoriented by the shift in control scheme, but I quickly adapted. There were a lot of controller options, however, I stuck with the default scheme. If you wanted, you could switch to a more traditional Halo control scheme or any other of your favorites from previous games and then some. 343 wants everyone to feel comfortable when they play Halo 5, so don’t fret, chances are you will find a control scheme that fits your needs and desires (even if you are crab people).”

In-Game Call-Outs

The Halo 5: Guardians Multiplayer Beta features in-game call-outs in real time during a match. You Spartan will now call out everything from enemy movement, to when they are taking damage and even alert your team when heavy weapons will be respawning.

Drax: “I personally love this feature. I can’t even begin to recall the amount of times that I have lost online matches because my teammates refused to communicate properly or at all. Anyone who has played Halo seriously, knows that call-outs are absolutely essential to ensure victory. The fact that Halo 5: Guardians does it for you now, totally negates that issue. The times I found it to be the most useful, is when heavy weapons are about to respawn. A member of your team will call out when it is about to respawn, which is typically at 30 seconds and then again at 10 seconds. This feature should make online multiplayer much more enjoyable and a bit less frustrating. However, I believe there should be an option to turn off the ability to hear said call-outs. Some players would rather not hear them at all and rely solely on their teammates, which is something the eSports community will use for sure.”

SMG: “Out of all the new features, I was most skeptical about in-game call-outs. I love playing Halo and needing to communicate verbally with my team. As I played more and more games, these in-game call-outs grew on me. With the Xbox Live Party system and the unreliability of individuals with headsets, this change made sense. Overall, it adds to the balance of the game, nobody should be clueless as to what is going on in the match. All the information you need is being fed to you, you just need to be receptive to it. I’d like to see an option to disable it in custom game options and the option to opt out from call-outs in game.”

 


Spectator Mode

The Halo 5: Guardians Multiplayer Beta will feature something that fans have been asking to be added for a very long time. A spectator mode. You can now view matches that your friends are playing in real time, as well as fully rewind to the beginning of the match and fast forward again all the way back up to live gameplay.

Drax: “We personally did not get to see this feature used, but we were informed directly by 343 that it is, indeed, being added. I might actually use this a lot. Now I can eat my Oreos and watch my friends play Halo at the same time, without ever having to turn away from my TV.

Don’t judge. Oreos are important to me.”

SMG: “How can you hate this feature? I can now steal Drax’s Oreos and eat ice cream all while I watch him sob and play Halo.”

 


Customization

The beta appears to have a limited customization palette, like most betas. From what we could tell, there were only the options for colors, a helmet, and a full armor set. Other than changing your helmet, the armor in this beta appears to be limited to full sets. However, this may change for the full beta and/or full game.

Drax: “I am personally okay with there being limited options in the beta. My only hope is that there are MANY more options in the final build of the game. Maybe even more than Halo 4.”

SMG: “Options are great! I love options! From what I saw, there will likely be a lot of variety among armor pieces. I do hope for a much wider range of customization in the full release…but that’s for another time.”

 


Pre and Post-Game Scenes

Pre-game Intro

Before each match begins, each player now sees a screen with key information about the upcoming match. This information includes the map name, the gametype, the score limit, the time limit, and the on-map power weapon. Much like past Halo games, the background of this screen is a camera shot of the map. After this screen you will be shown a quick scene of every Spartan on your team lining up for the fight, which also indicates which team you are on. Red (R) or Blue (B).
Additionally, after the match is over, a similar scene with Spartans is shown. Except this time, it is only the winning team and they are not shy about giving each other high-fives and fist-bumps in celebration.

Drax: “I love this. The information being given at the beginning of the match means that everyone in the game has no excuse for not knowing what is going on. Fair starts all around.

The team screens? I love this too. It’s something that does not effect the gameplay, but adds to the immersion. You get a real sense of team pride and it’s a neat quirky little feature that I know all fans will enjoy. Good job, 343!”

SMG: “It’s really cool to see your Spartans acting more organically with high-fives, and the occasional friendly smack on the butt (or was he just dusting it?). “

 


Graphics, Audio, and Fluidity

343 definitely knows how to make a fantastic looking game. The first thing you notice upon firing up the beta, is the main menu. You’ll see a little scene unfold where ONI scientists, UNSC officers, and Spartans occupying what appears to be an observation deck floating in low orbit about a blue planet with clouds that resemble Earth. Upon closer inspection of this, however, you will notice that it’s actually a projection, not a window. This is because, like in Halo 4, the Spartans of the Infinity are participating in the War Games simulator. However, it has now become more than a training tool. It is now the on-board spectator sport for the entire ship. What better way to boost morale than to watch the best fighting machines humanity has to offer, duke it out?

The in-game HUD has been changed and tweaked in slight ways to accompany the new added features, but it still as crisp and clean as you remember it. The basic structure of the HUD remains, with the shield bar on the top, motion sensor on the bottom left, scoreboard on the bottom right, and weapon/grenade counters in the top corners.

The looks of some weapons have changed as well. Some of which are to coincide with the new “smart-scoping” feature. Examples of this would be the SMG, Battle Rifle, and Pistol. There may be more, but other than “The Prophet’s Bane” and plasma grenades, UNSC weapons were the only weapons available during this playtest. There will be more in the actual beta, this December.

The audio is still just as iconic and powerful as you remember. The menu music appears subtle, yet calming. The sound effects are top notch, as always, but they aren’t without their changes. Most notable of these changes, is the shield depletion warning sound. It is still a sustained beeping noise, but it is not the one you’ve come to recognize.

Drax: “This game is just gorgeous. Halo running at 60 FPS is just plain glorious. The high resolution textures, the massively impressive sky boxes, and the in-game particle effects are absolutely top-notch. I often found myself just staring at things…even out windows…just to take in the view. Add all these things together and you get not only a beautiful game, but one that runs so smoothly and quickly, that it’s almost ridiculous. Top that with the amazing audio that the sound team has created for this game and Quinn is right…this game has some fangs on it.”

SMG: “Halo 5: Guardians has top notch visuals and audio. Everything was fast pace and fluid and there were no hang ups. The level of detail was fantastic and I found myself staring at little things all while trying to fend off foes hungry for kills and glory. The weapons sounded incredibly powerful, and the call-outs were effective but non-intrusive with a realistic sense of distance applied. I can’t get over how smooth everything operated. 343 knows how to make a gorgeous looking game, setting, and environment. I am excited to hear and see more.”


Maps

“TRUTH”

Truth is a spiritual successor to the classic Halo 2 map “Midship” and the Halo 3 remake “Heretic.” The map has a similar flow to these maps, with some added spaces that are best used in conjunction with new mobility options like clamber. The map is fairly symmetrical with an open middle and a light bridge that crosses the map from the top level. On top of a platform in the center of the bridge you can find ‘The Prophet’s Bane”, which is a legendary energy sword that grants you a slight boost to movement speed and can be “smart-scoped” like other weapons, which increases it’s lunge range. There are gravlifts as well as ramps running along the side of the map that allow you to navigate up towards the top and to the bridge.

Halo-5-Guardians-Multiplayer-Beta-Truth-Establishing-Bodies-in-Motion

Drax: “Who doesn’t love “Midship”? The memories from this map that come rushing back into my mind are insane. The additions and changes that they have made for this version of the map are not drastic at all. Other than a grav-lift and some areas for you to clamber up to higher positions, the map is essentially the same. The flow of the map seems to stick to the outside edges and the bases, which is classic “Midship.” I’d like to add that we at RUL know for a fact, that Vic Deleon worked on this map. Vic, the map is absolutely gorgeous. Phenomenal work, my friend!”SMG: “Sometimes you just find yourself staring out into space and I mean that quite literally. I cannot tell you how many times I would cease combat to just look out the window to watch scores of Covenant ships fly by. This map feels and plays almost exactly like Midship and I loved the nostalgic feel. I love Covenant themed maps, the architecture is unique and organic, with a natural flow. Combat flows quickly and naturally around the map with much of the combat occurring towards the outer ramps.Thank you Vic, this map was gorgeous and a lot of fun to play. Some people may still have PTSD over a little level called ‘Cortana’ where the Flood ranged-forms triumphed and ravaged many a Spartan. “

“EMPIRE”

Another symmetrical map built for 4 v 4 gameplay, “Empire” is set atop a skyscraper in the middle of, what is currently, an unknown city. Some areas of the map have received significant damage, indicating a previous battle or attack on the building. The map features two heavy weapon spawn points, both of which are sniper rifles. These spawn points are in the center of the map, but on either side, forcing each team to either rush one or split up for both. One of these spawns is in an open area over looking the city and the other is nestled in a tighter indoor area.

Halo-5-Guardians-Multiplayer-Beta-Empire-Establishing-Central-Command


Drax:
“This map feels great. Once you get a hang of the layout and weapon spawns, its a blast to play and maneuver around with your thruster pack. There are many elevated positions for the player to clamber onto in this map, adding a lot more vertical movement to a map that would otherwise be relatively flat. Although I didn’t get to play much on this map compared to the others, it may just be my favorite of the three.

SMG: “I had a ton of fun just jumping around on this map. I didn’t play this map as much as the other two and that may contribute to why it was my least favorite. It was in no way a bad map. It was still fun, but the atmosphere felt cluttered as I was navigating around. It was still a nice looking map. I actually felt like I was in a real Lethbridge Industrial Facility (Well, according to previous media). I spent an odd amount of time scanning the scenery and the monitors for the logo. In my opinion, this map feels like Countdown/Skyline. ”

“CROSSFIRE”

Possibly the most unique looking map to ever be in a Halo game, “Crossfire” and it’s accompanying gametype, Breakout, are the brainchild of Design Director, Kevin Franklin. Kevin is a big fan of paintball and it truly shows here. If you are familiar with the “speedball” style of paintball than you will understand. As you can see in the provided video and screenshots, the map contains cover, routes, and sightlines that are very similar to a “speedball” course. This map was the one featured in the CG trailer for the beta.

The Breakout gametype is what makes things interesting and highly intense. Each player has limited shields, an SMG, and only one life. Eliminate the other team and you win the round. The first to win 5 rounds, wins the match. Weapons spawn on the map, including a BR in a tower at each side, an AR on the opposite side, and grenades spawn at either side of the middle.

Halo-5-Guardians-Multiplayer-Beta-Crossfire-Breakout-Establishing-Playground
Drax: “Breakout on Crossfire was the favorite among everyone at the event and was played the most over anything else. We simply couldn’t get enough of it. It’s intense, it’s addicting, and most importantly, its FUN. I can foresee myself playing hours of Breakout in the future. Even in custom games with friends, just for fun. Crossfire itself, is a blast to play this mode with and I can see some amazing and hilariously awesome gameplay coming from this map.”
SMG: “I had an insane amount of fun playing Breakout on Crossfire! The atmosphere was tense and competitive. I wish I had footage of our matches. There were so many ‘did you see that’ moments I couldn’t believe it. Drax and I were actually instructed to split up when we were matched together to balance out the teams, and there were moments we’d look at each other and point ‘was that you?’. The map looks so freakin’ cool! I’m really excited to play this again come December.”

Final Thoughts

Drax: “All in all, the Halo 5: Guardians Multiplayer Beta is going to be unique, to say the least. With the new bag of tricks that they’ve given players, it will be interesting to see how the community not only reacts, but how well they are at giving 343 the feedback that they are looking for. This is our chance to shape the future of the Halo franchise. Ultimately, it is 343’s game and they will do what they feel is needed, but this beta test is an opportunity to make our voices heard. If this isn’t what we want, then we need to make sure we let them know that. Just as well, if we like something, let them know that too! It’s always great to hear positive feedback about your work and the people over at 343 are no exception. So, come December 29th, download the beta, get your hands on it, and really dig into the game. Soak it all in and get a good feel for it. A lot of these changes sound pretty jarring, but you may just be pleasantly surprised. I know I was.”

SMG: “Displeased with how things appear now? As the earliest beta for Halo ever and lasting three weeks, I implore you to get gaming and providing feedback (positive or negative) on Halo Waypoint. You can make an actual impact on the development of Halo 5. 343 sincerely wants us to be happy and have fun. You can sit back and grumble or you can make your voice heard. I also suggest informing 343 about what you like, too, as all too often it is those that are entirely displeased that are the most vocal. Every little bit of information will help make Halo 5 a great new installment to the franchise.”