The Halo 5 Beta Is Everything I Hoped It Would Be

Here is the Halo 5: Beta in one single encounter.

I’m in Eden, one of Halo 5’s new maps. I am in the process of finding my feet; in the process of understanding its layout; in the process of rediscovering Halo, essentially; in the process of adapting to the newness of its controls. Also in the process of unlearning those bog standard console FPS controls we’ve all grown accustomed to across the course of the last generation.

All of a sudden: a red man appears. I am a blue man therefore I must shoot. This is my predestined function for this second and for all of time. This means war.

I fire off a couple of shots which land, but my opponent -- the man in red -- darts off and escapes. For a second I give chase but then, a second man in red. I can only assume he is red because he is shooting at me from behind and my controller is rumbling. I have to respond quickly or die.

I dash laterally -- a new tool in the Halo arsenal -- immediately placing myself outside of my opponent’s reticule. From experience I know he will require a precious second to re-calibrate his aim. I take advantage. I sprint towards an elevated window. In any other Halo game that window would be out of reach but I jump regardless. As I approach the ledge I tap the jump button again, clambering through the window to relative safety.

But in Halo escaping is only half the battle.

I turn a corner, figuratively and literally. Surprise. I am now face to face with the man I was previously chasing. A man with his shields half down in no fit state to fire back. I pop him twice with the Battle Rifle and he goes down. Success. I sprint down the corridor from whence he came.

Surprise #2: the man who shot me in the back. Red man the second. Because he was chasing me, I’ve circled behind him. Now he is the one at a disadvantage. Before he even realises I’ve shot him twice. In this situation I'm aware of a few things. I'm aware the Battle Rifle kills in four shots. I'm aware that I’m still one shot down. I know he’ll turn and face me, instead of doing what I did – the smart thing – which is to dash/sprint/run in the opposite direction and take refuge in some dusty corner.

Instead, as predicted, he spins. I shoot him a third time in the body. I now have an easy head shot. He’s facing me. He’s giving me the target I need.

He dashes into a strafe. Dammit. My shot goes wayward.

He puts two into my guts. I am now one shot from death.

I dash backwards. Bad call. My opponent won’t need to change his aim to put me away. I should have strafed goddammit. Bugger bugger bugger. He can’t miss.

Incredibly he misses.

A window of opportunity. I take my time. I get my aim right. I take the final shot. He crumples. The hair on my forearms stand on end.

“XBOX RECORD THAT.”

I’ve never said “Xbox record that” before and to my absolute surprise -- for the first time since I plugged in my Xbox One -- Kinect actually understands a single word I am saying and ‘records that’. For a split second I feel as though I am the master of my domain. I am in control of a machine that is seamlessly responding perfectly to my every command. Kinect, of all things, is responding to my commands.

Is this real life?


Maybe it’s just the heady cocktail of nostalgia, fandom and the shock of the new talking but, even in these early stages, it feels as though 343 Industries has gotten something spectacularly correct with Halo 5’s multiplayer.

Here is what 343 Industries has gotten right.

343 Industries has – first and foremost – absolutely understood that Halo’s point of difference over every other shooter on the console landscape is its ability to grant the player a second chance. In Call of Duty or Battlefield if you are spotted before you have time to react you are, generally speaking, toast. In Halo, when done right, players generally have the opportunity to react, out-think or out-skill their opponent and survive successfully.

So it’s telling that the inclusions 343 has made to Halo 5’s multiplayer are concerned with the art of evasion. Halo 5 has controversially added a default sprint to the game, which plenty of purists hate, but I actually found myself enjoying. This makes escaping a little easier, but sacrifices your ability to counter attack -- as it should.

But the new ‘dash’ button is where Halo 5 truly comes alive. ‘Dash’ basically allows players to move rapidly in any direction at almost any moment (there’s a timer on it, which means players can’t spam).

It is glorious.

It’s glorious because it provides another avenue to make encounters dramatic. It provides another avenue for the skilled player to evade and counter-attack. It does all these things without feeling unbalanced. It enables players to traverse multiplayer maps with increased purpose. It opens up different shortcuts. It helps players discover exciting new ways to move and fight. To begin with I often forgot that dash even existed; after a handful of games I began to find new and innovative ways to exploit it to my advantage. Ultimately, Halo 5’s ‘dash’ adds a fresh new layer to the cat and mouse combat of Halo 5. For that I am thankful.

I am certain that, at some point, we’ll see the ‘other’ Halo -- the Big Team Battle Halo, the Halo that has players wandering across massive maps, fighting over tanks, warthogs and ghosts and whatnot -- but for now it’s evident that 343 Industries has placed a huge premium on catering to the tight knit, competitive 4v4 Team Slayer/Objective crowd. I’d much prefer that Halo finds its own niche and -- in this current climate -- I suspect that a well-made arena shooter might be that niche.

Halo 5 is, essentially, a game made by competitive players for competitive players. 343 Industries hired a number of ex-Halo pros during the making of Halo 5 and it shows. The map design benefits most from this renewed focus: every map I’ve played so far seems to fall into the ‘deceptively simple, endlessly exploitable’ box. Additions like the dash feel less like gimmicky add-ons for the sake of it and more like a seamless attempt to evolve how the game is played at a fundamental level.

And it all works, which is remarkable at this early stage in development.

I’m certain there will be complaints. I’m equally certain these compaints will be valid. Things like weapon balance, speed balance, the minutiae of how the game works will no doubt be discussed endlessly for the duration of the beta and beyond -– but that’s what betas are for. It’s near impossible to get these things 100% correct from the get-go.

For now the foundation is absolutely there. This is Halo stripped back to its fundamentals and rebuilt from the ground up in a sensible, innovative fashion. It is lean, clean and punches with remarkable power and precision. It feels suspiciously like a Halo designed specifically for me, tailored to my own wants and needs -- which I love, obviously. After the debacle that was Halo 4’s multiplayer, I’m flabbergasted at the changes made and how effective they are. I’m amazed that it managed to transform my hard-edge cynicism into a gooey optimism.

It’s been years since I’ve been able to type these words with any kind of sincerity, but Halo has somehow managed to captivate me again. I can’t wait to play more. And that's the truth.


Comments

    Not for me, it looks too much like CoD now.

    and I haven't even played the beta, but then again I think everybody is sick of my excessive whining.

      I'm a regular whinger too but this game looks at least 10% better than last gen Halo!

        That's actually not that hard to accomplish. All you have to do is make sure the game functions to beat out the MCC.

        I've said it before, it sure as hell doesn't feel like Halo anymore. At least, not Bungie Halo.
        It's a lot of fun, even though I was losing majority of the time, it was fun. 343 have made there Halo, and I like it.

      I don't know where people keep getting this idea. It plays nothing like CoD. Like, literally nothing. It plays like Halo. If you tried to play this like you play CoD you'd get slaughtered.

      Last edited 05/01/15 5:29 pm

    If it has real LAN ability, then its a winner otherwise im not gonna bother.

      now why would they want to add LAN, when you and 3 friends can pay $5.99 a month to enjoy online together, even in the same room

      Not too sure, there's only 2 player splitscreen afterall.

    Having so much fun in the beta and seriously cannot wait for the full release. Enjoying the new weapons and movement abilities. Traversing the maps can be so much fun.

    I'm yet to get a kill with the Ground Pound ability, it's pretty hard to do, but imagine it would feel awesome if you get it. I'm really not liking the Spartan Charge as it just seems useless/counter-productive and also grenades seem somewhat overpowered.

    Also, getting a medal for a perfect kill (4 shotting with BR) feels pretty good. XD

      My nade tossing ability must really suck then. I don't know if I just haven't gotten used to it, but I hardly get a kill with my nades. Truth be told I seem to die a lot from them though...

        Yeah I don't get enough either. I feel like the blast radius is quite small, but the damage output is more so than usual. So I probably just need to sharpen up my throwing.

      Having just looked up those two abilities, I hope there's a lot of chatter about how much this has ripped off Destiny. I mean even the way your team enters the game and you all stand in slightly different poses.

      Ground Pound and Spartan Charge both have Destiny ability equivalents.

        They both work differently, they just have similar animations.

        The Spartan Charge doesn't do much more damage than a regular melee, it just seems to be like a regular melee with longer range. The Ground Pound is difficult to aim and also does fairly low damage.

        I've not seen either ability used to get easy kills. They're not really super powered abilities like they are in Destiny, they're pretty much just different ways to melee.

        Plus, it's not like they started designing Halo 5 in the last few months. It'd be very unlikely/impossible for 343 to have "ripped off" gameplay elements from Destiny.

        Last edited 05/01/15 5:43 pm

          Yeah but we saw these abilities in Destiny's videos and the like over a year ago. If it were any other games/developers i'd say it's just coincidence, but given the closeness of many team members between each team, and the similarity of the games to begin with, it seems to be more than just coincidence.

          As an aside, I'm just so skeptical that this game, single and multiplayer, will be any good after the utter trainwreck that was Halo 4. The movement options sound promising, but I won't know for sure until i play it myself. If you look back, the reviews for Halo 4 were positively glowing from almost all outlets, so a review won't do any good either.

    I personally don't like it. I like that Halo was Halo, and always has been halo. Sure there have been some changes but if you only played halo 1 you could still jump into Halo 4 and feel like you were in the same universe.

    Halo 5 to me feels like they just went around and grabbed bits and pieces of other games and put them all together with a sticky grenade to hold it all together. It feels more like many other games that are not Halo than a new Halo game.

    To be fair the controls are good, the maps are interesting and well thought out, and the game ran smooth. I don't feel that it is a bad game, just doesn't feel like a Halo game to me.

      See I feel the opposite. I feel like they've stripped Halo back, removed all the bullshit and added a few key, game changing elements that actually work on a fundamental level.

        I can see and agree with what you are saying. But the way it feels to me is that they took Master Chief, stripped him down to a basic human form, and replaced his armor with other games. It just feels like some creepy 3 way love child of Halo, CoD, and Titanfall.

      I've only ever played Halo 1 (on PC) and my definitive memory of the 'feel' of that game is the Elites ducking, weaving and sidestepping around, and the dance-like quality to the combat in general. So to me at least the new dashing ability seems to fit in just fine.

    I'm actually really enjoying it.
    I'm not sure that it's up to Halo 3 standard, but it is enjoyable, and feels like Halo.
    I wasn't sure about the changes at first, but they make map traversal feel way more efficient and fluid in a good way.

    Lest we forget the "other other" Halo...objective 4v4. Loving the beta so far. Biggest gripe is we can't select regional Azure servers, ala Titanfall.

    Last edited 05/01/15 12:38 pm

      I'm not even sure Aus servers are being used in this beta...

      Judging by the lag, and how many yank voices I hear through the mics.

        Seems pretty accurate, even if the Dedis are being used is Aussies are certainly getting out into USA hosted Azure games. Just as much latency really.

    Change!!!! Kill it!! Kill eeeeeeeeeeeeeettttttttttttttttttttt!!!!! :P

      Please don't kill ET...

    TOOT TOOT! All aboard the (over) hype train. Hopefully it is as phenomenal as Destiny and Titanfall

      You mean hyped up beyond all reason and quickly forgotten a week later? :P

      Its a halo game, its deserves hype. Even if you don't like it its one of the best shooters ever made.

    For some reason I just cannot start a single match in the beta, connection fails everytime. Not sure if its my 1.5mbs net or something else.

      Welp, my 800kb/s connection definitely won't cut it then :P

      I could be totally wrong, but it might having some do with you NAT type? If it's not set to 'Open' it might mean you will have some problems, good luck though!

        i would kill myself if i had a connection speed that low. Seriously, kill myself

        my nat seems to be open, so no idea

          Yeah that sucks, I find floating around on the games forum to see if other folks have found a fix.

      Try holding the power button on the front of the console until shutdown, or even unplugging it. That helped me when I had the same problem.

    Halo 5 feels like Halo 2 with sprint..... which means I love it.

    Halo 2 was a competitive masterpiece, balanced weapons and some of the best mp maps ever.

    So what do I mean by Halo 5 feeling Halo 2? I mean it feels like it has stripped Halo back to the basics with the added difference of maneuverability.

    Ever since Halo 2 each instalment there after added more and more clutter to the game, which in turn, dulled down the competitive feel. Halo 4 was the end reault of adding to much shit into a game to try keep in relevant to everyone else that doesn't play Halo..... The COD players. One of the worst things with Halo 4 was the fact weapons could be called in and dropped weapons disappeared after a short period of time, turning the game into not Halo.

    Halo 5 is the perfect level of movement (dashing, springting and clambering feel right) and map control (as power weapons wont just disappear if they arent picked up off a dead body quickly).

    Im very impressed with 343 and what this multiplayer feels like, I didnt think it could ever be done again after seeing what has been put out lately. They have learnt from their mistakes of Halo 4 spoken to actual competitive players and created a highly competitive gametype in breakout.

    Extremely excited for the full release...... I just beg to God they put in a local seach preference like earlier Halos so it does t turn into a who gets host which wrecks the games matchmaking.

    Last edited 05/01/15 4:29 pm

    thanks for the article. I am one of those purists that hate the run button but i really enjoyed your explanation of what you like about it. Maybe you have opened my eyes haha. Either way, ill have fun with the game.

    Also, im pretty sure the run button was introduced in halo 4, not this game.

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