Halo 5: Guardians Preview

This is a preview for Halo 5: Guardians that covers almost everything you would want to know about the upcoming Xbox One exclusive.

I’m personally surprised by how much I’m looking forward to Halo 5. While I didn’t dislike Halo 4, I wasn’t that into the campaign and was one of the many people that left Halo 4’s Call of Duty inspired multiplayer after the first two months of the game being released. I also bought Halo: The Master Chief Collection that was ruined by connectivity issues for months after its initial release that made the multiplayer near unplayable, but it did have the benefit of allowing me to play the Halo 5 multiplayer beta.

The first thing that stood out was how it was trying to be more Halo 2 than Halo 4. While all players start out with the assault rifle and magnum in Halo 5 instead of the sub-machine gun like halo 2, at least on team slayer, you can grab weapons like the sniper rifle, shotgun or battle rifle when they spawn on the map. The maps in the beta were relatively small and featured no vehicles.

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With only Spartan on Spartan violence available in the beta, it did allow me to get use to the new Spartan abilities. Unlike Halo 4’s unique Spartan abilities that the player chooses, every Spartan in Halo 5 shares the same abilities. My favorite Spartan ability is a quick dash similar to the thruster ability in Halo 4, but more usefully. I’ll go into greater detail on why I personally loved this ability when I talk about my experiences playing one of Halo 5’s new game modes Breakout, but the other ability I had success with was the Spartan charge.

In Halo 5 you can sprint, which is something Halo games usually don’t have, and while you’re sprinting you can preform a melee attack that does enough damage to destroy your target’s shield and can be an instant kill if you hit them from behind. There was a moment in the beta where two of my teammates, and friends that also had the beta, were having a shoot out with one of the enemy Spartans. I heard the gunfire and sprinted towards the action.

Since I was already sprinting and I was to the left of the enemy Spartan who was focused on the two Spartans in front of him, I decided to try the Spartan charge. The result was a one-hit kill where I slammed into the enemy Spartan sending his body flying into a near by wall. It’s likely the Spartan I killed shield was already down from my teammates shooting him when he was hit with my Spartan charge, but it was one of the few moments I regret not saying “Xbox record that” to be able to share and relive that moment (I have an Xbox One that came with Kinect).

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Since precise aiming has never been one of my strengths in first person shooter, I had little success using the Smart Scope, which is an improved version of scope that Halo game’s magnum and battle rifle use. The new Smart Scope ability gives every gun a zoom in feature like most first person shooters, but will instantly disengage when the person using it receives any form of damage. Spartans can hover in the air for a few seconds, reach higher areas by having your Spartan grab a ledge and pull themselves up, and slide when your are sprinting.

The last and coolest looking Spartan ability, and hardest to use, is the ground-pound. It is exactly what it sounds like, an attack from a Spartan in the air when he/she slams into an enemy or the ground. This is an ability that seems more likely to be in a Street Fighter game than a Halo game, but maybe that is part of the reason it was so difficult for me to use. You don’t just jump in the air and press a button to slam. You have to jump in the air, float a few seconds as the ground-pound charges, and aim where you are going to slam.

While it is a one-hit kill if you hit someone perfectly with it, it is near impossible to hit someone with a ground-pound that is aware of your presence. If the person you’re trying to hit doesn’t notice you and moves enough between the time you’re aiming and diving towards them, it won’t be a one-hit kill but you might knockdown their shield (this happened the one time I kind of hit someone with a ground-pound in the beta).

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With the exception of Big Team Battle, which will be released as free DLC sometime after the game is released, all the standard Halo multiplayer modes exist in Halo 5. Team death match mode Slayer, solo death match mode Free-For-All, Capture the Flag, and SWAT, a mode where the players have no shield and no radar. There are three new modes in Halo 5, and they are Strongholds, Breakout, and Warzone.

Strongholds was the mode in the Halo 5 multiplayer beta I didn’t play, but it is your basic domination mode. A January 9, 2015, article from Xbox Wire describes Strongholds as, “three control zones placed around the map that your team will need to control in order to dominate the enemy. But take note! Only the team that controls two Stronghold zones can score points: the first team to score 100 points, wins the match.” If you play domination in Titanfall or are a big Battlefield fan, you’ll likely be a fan of Strongholds.

Breakout is a mode I enjoyed more than my friends when we played it in the multiplayer beta. Breakout is a team death match mode that is separated by rounds, players only have one life, and have weaker shields.
In the beta every player starts with a sub-machine gun, magnum, and a single grenade, and the only weapon that could be picked up on the map was a battle rifle. There was one battle rifle on each side of the map allowing one person per team to have a special gun.

In Slayer I was usually near the bottom of my team in kills and my friends was near the top, but in Breakout I was near the top and he was near the bottom, because Breakout requires a different style of play than other Halo modes. I have a more careful play style where I avoid racking up the deaths than getting a lot of kills. In Slayer, if my kill-to-death ratio is close to even I had good game, and in the rare instances when I lead the team in kills, it’s safe to assume we lost that game by at least 20 points. When you don’t have to worry about running into people with better weapons and a few shots will kill regardless of how good you are at getting head shots, it makes a big difference.

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The map in the beta was an outdoor map with a bunch of cubes that you could jump onto and get a vantage point to shoot enemies from a distance or above, or do what I did and use them for cover. By using the new dash ability, I was able avoid taking a lot of damage by firing a few shots then dashing to the left or right behind cover. With players only able to live from slightly more damage than a Call of Duty game in Breakout, this was a more effective strategy then it would be in any other game mode.

Before getting to the other new multiplayer mode, I need to mention Halo 5’s new currency system. Requisitions, or REQ as it is called, and it is a new card based system similar to the ones used in Titanfall, Hearthstone, or Ultimate Team mode in Madden. You can earn REQ points playing any multiplayer mode, but I don’t believe campaign co-op counts. You then use your REQ points to buy a REQ pack that is basically a Halo version of a booster pack of cards.

There are different level of card packs like Mass Effect 3’s online mode, with Bronze packs having the cheapest price and worst cards, Silver packs costing more than Bronze packs and giving players better cards, and Gold costing the highest amount with the best cards. The REQ system also gives Halo 5 a new form of micro-transactions allowing players to spend real money to buy REQ packs. While Halo 5 adds a new way for players to spend more than the 60 dollars they paid for the game, it gets rid of the old way.

Unlike previous Halo games, all maps that are released after the game has launched are free of charge. There are three types of REQ cards and they are Cosmetic, Permanent, and Single Use. Cosmetic REQ cards exist to make sure you have the sexiest Spartan on the battlefield. Add flames to your helmet, have your Spartan’s armor design have the pattern of a zebra, or give yourself new assassination animations, are possible example of what players can do with Cosmetic REQ cards.

Permanent and Single Use REQ cards can only be used in Warzone, but Cosmetic REQ cards can be used in any multiplayer game mode, with the possible exception of campaign co-op. Permanent REQ cards are guns like a sniper rifle and shotgun that you keep and can equip in several Warzone matches, and Single Use are vehicles like the Ghost or powerful weapons like the rocket launcher that can only be used once. There are over 1,000 REQ cards when the game launches with more added sometime after the game is released.

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Warzone is the most unique multiplayer mode in Halo 5 and any other first person shooter. Out of all the new additions to Halo 5, Warzone has the most potential to be a game changer that games in any genre and franchise will look to copy in the future, if it’s as good as it sounds and looks. Warzone is like Battlefield’s Conquest mode with a big twist. Warzone caries a total of 24 players between two teams.

One of the main goals of Warzone is to take control of bases scattered throughout the map that both teams fighter over, and controlling more bases will increase a team’s chances of winning, because each team has a home base that loses its shield when the other team controls all the other bases. Within bases there are Requisition Stations that allow players to use their Permanent and Single Use REQ cards. Using Permanent and Single Use REQ cards uses a player’s energy, which keeps players from giving themselves the best weapons and vehicles anytime they are at a Requisition Station.

What really makes Warzone special is the AI allies and opponents running around the map. Each team has AI teammates helping out, but there are AI opponents that ally with neither team and these opponents involve one boss unique to every map, and there will be six Warzone maps when Halo 5 launches.

Every map in every non-co-op multiplayer game mode will be part of a playlist or rotation of maps the game goes through after a match is over. In most Halo games the players vote on the next map they want to play, but that is not the case for Halo 5. Players will no longer be able to able to veto maps they hate or vote to play maps they like.

While Halo 5’s matchmaking should eventually give players more popular maps than unpopular maps, it’s likely players might not benefit from it until days after the game has released. If you’re a player that seems to like maps that most people hated and rarely get to play the maps you want due to loss elections, you should enjoy the change. But if you’re someone that enjoyed only playing what most people consider the best maps, you might be disappointed by the change.

Above is an official trailer for Halo 5 that focuses on the campaign story. Halo 5’s campaign will likely be similar to Halo 2’s campaign, when it comes to its story. In Halo 2 the player controlled Halo series star Master Chief and new character the Arbiter. It showed two different perspectives in the war between humans and the Covenant, and ended with the two protagonists and enemies working together.

Halo 5’s story seems like a more personal version of that. It focuses on a conflict between Master Chief and new character Jameson Locke, and both characters are leading a team of Spartans. Master Chief reunites with Spartans he worked with in the past known as Blue Team and his teammates are Frederic Ellsworth, Kelly Shaddock, and Linda Pravdin. Locke leads Fireteam Osiris and his teammates are Holly Tanaka, Olympia Vale, and former soldier in Halo: ODST now Spartan Buck. All eight of these characters are playable, and unlike previous Halo games, you don’t have to be playing four-player co-op to play with the entire Blue Team or Fireteam Osiris.

When playing Halo 5’s campaign solo, you will have three AI buddies and there will always be an AI controlled Spartan unless you’re in a four-player co-op session. Like a Ghost Recon game, the player can give the AI controlled Spartans orders like move to this spot, attack that enemy, or revive your killed Spartan teammate. When controlling different Spartans, you’ll notice that each one is unique, instead of Master Chief copies with different looking armor. All Spartans have the same abilities, but the hud changes based on which Spartan you are controlling.

If you’re controlling Linda, your health bar will be a normal horizontal bar and colored gold. If you’re controlling Locke, your health bar will have a slight “U” shape and be colored blue. Different Spartans start a level with different weapons. If you’re controlling Master Chief, you start with the assault rifle like most Halo games. If you’re controlling Linda, you start with a sniper rifle. Each Spartan has one area that they are better than all other controllable Spartans. If you’re controlling Kelly, you will have the fastest moving Spartan on the team. In depth, but spoiler free, campaign missions details will be part of our Halo 5 review sometime in the near future.

I hope you enjoyed this preview for Halo 5: Guardians and I like to thank HaloWayPoint and IGN for providing a lot of the research for this preview. You can play Halo 5: Guardians on October 27, 2015, and below is a video from Microsoft’s E3 press conference where they showed some of Halo 5’s campaign and a little bit of Warzone.

Author: Michael Bronson

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