News December 23, 2014

UFG Goes Hands on With Halo 5's MP Beta!

Written By: Jaime Mejias Jr.
Date: 12/23/14

Halo is a franchise that helped revolutionized the FPS on consoles and was a huge contributing factor to the success of Major League Gaming. This is why 343 studios let a lot of people down when it released Halo: The Master Chief Collection (before the multiplayer was addressed via patches). But, being the fan that I am of the series, that didn’t stop me from having hope for Halo 5: Guardians. As press, I got early access to the multiplayer beta this past week. And let me tell you, after spending a few hours in game, I can’t wait to experience the final product!  

Halo’s multiplayer action is what led me to falling in love with the series. Though the campaigns were great, I always saw Halo as a competitive game where players/teams can battle one another for bragging rights. When Halo 4 was released, 343 removed the skill brackets which took away a large part for me; it helped keep people competitive as they strived for those higher brackets. Not only that, it help to keep the matches close as you weren’t put up against players whose skill level was way above yours.  Well in Halo 5 those skill brackets are back. Before I go to deep into the matchmaking and how it’s been improved, let’s backtrack to the basic gameplay. The normal running and gunning in Guardians feels familiar and different at the same time. If you’ve used a rifle in a previous game, you’ve used one here. That said, you can also aim down the sites (something that was only available via the scoped weapons) on any gun using the Smart Scope. What makes this more interesting is that aiming this way doesn’t slow you down.

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Fans may cry foul here. They shouldn’t worry too much though as it’s possible to shoot someone who’s aiming down sights and knocking them out of it. Also, being that they’re view is zoomed in, they won’t be able to see the map – a crucial reason to keep the left trigger holding to a minimum. When it comes to fluid movement, running while aiming isn’t the biggest change coming to Halo. Take the old way of making tough jumps for instance. Before, you’d have to crouch (picking your knees up) before reaching a high ledge. Now, by holding down the jump button, your Spartan will grab onto a platform before quickly climbing over it. Unlimited Sprint and powerful thrusters, that allow you to dodge in multiple directions, combined with the climb ability makes it super easy to traverse the game’s maps.

Just like the Smart Scope, sprinting has its pros and cons. While it’s good to be able to get from point A to B, it can be risky when your shields are low. You see, when your shields are down Sprinting will actually keep them from recharging. What this means is you’ll have to decide when it’s a good time to run away; do you try to flee and hope someone isn’t there to get that last shot or do you walk it out, staying close to an opponent but allowing for your shields to recharge? What we get is a slightly faster paced Halo that is worth getting used to.

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A new gameplay mechanic comes in the form of the Spartan Charge. After running at top speed for a while, you’ll build up a charge. Running into someone from behind will instantly kill them, while crashing into a facing opponent will deplete their shield. Another move has your Spartan slamming down into rivals. While in the air, holding crouch will allow you to float and charge up a powerful melee attack. It’s similar to the smash attack from Advanced Warfare except in this case you’ll deal massive damage to anyone caught in the blast radius (as opposed to one person). The drawback is it takes some time to charge, leaving you a sitting duck floating in midair.

Both of the new maps shown leave me very excited for what’s coming up later. One map is a remake of the longtime fan favorite Midship from Halo 2, updated for Halo 5 and renamed Truth. The other map is an original map called Empire. Empire is a symmetrical medium sized map perfect for 4v4 battles. While I didn’t notice any new weapons in these two maps the weapons we all know functioned a little differently; they felt balanced, yet more powerful than before. One thing I noticed was the inclusion of power weapons is back. Basically, these are powerful weapons that only spawn in certain positions on the map. Controlling this points and making sure your teammates grabs these weapons are all a part of a winning strategy. Another thing I thought was cool was the “call outs”. When playing a match, your Spartan will call out what they see (an enemy position, an incoming grenade, ect.), making it easier for players to communicate with one another without actually saying anything themselves. It seems that 343 certainly wanted to up the competitive nature of the franchise.  

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Speaking of competition, let’s go back to the brackets. Though this is a beta – meaning there was some server issues here and there – the Competitive Skill Rating (CSR) system worked well. Even with the small amount of people playing, you could tell that the game was trying to match you with similar skilled opponents. Adding to this are the brackets; they give you a clear picture of who is ranked what based on what bracket they made it to. It seems really simple and as long as you don’t read up on what’s going on under the hood, it is. Ultimately though, it’ll offer up a better way of putting gamers together for fair matches…you know, sans the people that are just naturally good but haven’t been ranked yet.  

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The last things to note are the aesthetics. Customization is finally back to the way it was before being stripped down in Halo: MCC. Though it’s not a big deal I like having the option to customize my Spartan the way I want. As for the visuals, the beta was running at 720p at 60fps (the final game will run at 1080p 60fps). That said, it still looked better than previous Halo games. As the beta goes on, we’ll see more new modes, maps and weapons introduced on a weekly basis. It’ll run from December 29th to January 18th, 2015 for everyone who owns a copy of Halo: The Master Chief Collection. For me, the new gameplay already has me sold on Halo 5. Here’s hoping that the accompanying campaign is just as much fun. Now if you excuse me, I’m going to jump back into team slayer!