Preview: Halo 5: Guardians

I was lucky enough to snag a code for an early preview of the Halo 5 beta last weekend. Available to purchasers of the Halo: Master Chief Collection (which sadly whilst improved still has some major issues) this was an early 48 hour, two map team deathmatch jaunt.

First observations then – well, it works better than Master Chief Collection. You can get into a match. First gameplay observations – this game is fast. Much, much faster than previous Halo games but it isn’t just in the running speed of characters.

The game runs at 60 frames a second, a first for Halo which gives it a very smooth feel. It’s also fairly light, this gives it a Titanfall-esque feel although of course you can’t wall run like that game. There are new abilities available to all Spartan’s though; the first of which is ‘clamber’. You’ll most likely discover this first as you go for your first jump and leap up onto the next available ledge. It makes traversing the environment quicker and adds to Halo’s fluidity.

Speed is enhanced through ‘sprint’. A stable of most FPS games but still fairly new to Halo, spring becomes part of the default arsenal now. The cost comes through halting any shield recharge you have to do, so a quick dash to get away from a firefight isn’t going to heal you up any. Thrusters add to the pace giving you a quick burst in any direction or can be combined with a melee attach for a charge. Verticality is added to the mix with an offensive ‘ground pound’ which sees you be able to target and smash people below.

Aim down sights mapped to left trigger is a new addition for Halo, which caused much furore among fans. Will this turn Halo into Call of Duty? Well, the developers say there’s no penalty to aiming outside of the sights, however some videos online show a noticeable benefit. Myself, well I struggled to get kills in classic Halo style until I did start using aim down sights. This is early, so may be tweaked but it’s a change for the series.

It feels like an evolution of Halo 4, and the direction of Halo is clear. 343 are trying to keep the spirit of the franchise alive whilst updating it for the new generation. There is a continued feel like Halo is being shaped for the exports market, with faster gameplay – built in references to locations on the map (ala Reach) and renaming weapons like ‘energy sword’ to Phantom’s Bane. I’m not sure what purpose that has other than it sounds like something very niche when commentators call it out. Lots of chatter from your team adds to the competitive element as you hear rockets have spawned rather than relying on your teammates to tell you in their native tongue.

So – how is Halo 5? It’s very early, new modes and maps with the proper Beta release next week will give us a better feel. The preview makes me feel a bit disappointed mainly because of map type – a revamped Midship (again?!) and a fairly bland looking corridor level weren’t hugely inspiring but I expect the big guns are kept back till next week. I hope there’s some decent objective modes as well, Halo 4 was too hooked on kills driving score rather than flag captures or anything else – some of the best Halo games of old have given victory to strategic team objective games rather than all out spawn campings. One thing is clear though – this is a new Halo, on a new generation, and it won’t be the same as before.

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