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Halo 5: Guardians Multiplayer Beta Initial Impressions: Early Access Weekend 

Posted on December 22, 2014 by Alan Walsh

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Halo 5: Guardians Multiplayer Beta Initial Impressions: Early Access Weekend

This weekend, 343 Industries and Microsoft gave Xbox One Preview members and Press a chance to have an early look at the ‘Halo 5: Guardians Multiplayer Beta’. I (and many others on the team) was fortunate enough to be part of the early access group so I’ve been playing this since it first opened up after 8pm GMT Friday evening and overall, I’ve been really enjoying it. On Friday, I left with mixed impressions and but after spending much more time with it Saturday and Sunday, I like it. I actually like it a lot. The first things I felt was that Matchmaking games felt much more fast-paced and the new default controller scheme makes things feel very different. Everyone has ‘Spartan Abilities’ and the older ‘Armour Abilities’ concept has been scrapped and this has made for much fairer and competitive matches. Sprint has also been balanced by not allowing your shields to re-charge while sprinting.

It’s actually worth noting that I spent ages sitting on the title screen before early access begun and we were allowed to play. Why? The soundtrack. The Beta gives you a glimpse of the Halo 5: Guardians Soundtrack and I really like what they’re going for. It feels fresh and identifies a modern Halo while still having that Halo vibe (it actually reminds me of Halo: Reach’s Soundtrack a lot). I’ve sat here listening to this for a good while and it sounds fantastic. I urge you to listen to this for some time whenever you get the chance.

Early Access consisted of one game type; 4v4 Team Slayer with two maps, Truth and Empire. The final Beta starting December 29th will feature seven maps and three game types and those will be added during each weekly beta period. 343 Industries have said the Beta is only “a portion” of the Multiplayer suite they’ve lined up for us in the final game, but seven maps is a lot in a Beta!

Here’s something that’s surprising. Matchmaking works great. I get into a game in literally seconds and after it loads up the map, we’re playing almost instantly! It’s great to be able to get into games this fast and there’s only odd disconnection issues. There is an odd bug where if after a game someone backs out, it’s sometimes unable to find another player(s) in place of them, but this is common in a Beta so early in development. There doesn’t seem to be a way to open post-game stats after you close them. The Roster also has weird issues and for me, even causing the game to crash at one stage. Audio also went funny (only playing sound during death cameras, the tense music but no in-game sound effects) at one point causing me to restart the game but again, it’s a Beta and these issues are normal.


The map Truth so far is my favourite in the Beta. It’s a remake of fan favourite ‘Midship’ from Halo 2 and contains one of the games new weapons, ‘The Prophets Bane’. It’s in the top-centre of the map and is usually the first thing everyone runs for at the start of match, I’m one of those people. When you’re using it, you love it. You could easily get a killing spree or frenzy with this and just dominate the game. However, when someone else has it, specifically on the enemy team, you realize how over-powered it is. It also increases your speed movement slightly and is a one-hit kill. Killing someone who has this, isn’t easy and quite frankly, it’s annoying and will definitely lead to rage quits during the Beta. My advice would be to tone down how powerful it is and I don’t think there’s any need for increased movement speed either for whoever has it. Or, have something else just a powerful as the Bane on the bottom-centre and top-centre gets most attention on this map during my experience anyway. I do think, however that the Bane will work great in some game types like Infection and various custom games, it just doesn’t feel right in a competitive match though.


Empire has been starting to grow me. It’s mostly out-doors which is cool. There’s no over-powered weapons on this one but you do see a greater usage of BR’s, DMR’s and Snipers on it. The Sniper is different, the time-frame between firing shots seems to have increased and to me it feels much harder to use where-as everyone else seems to be having better luck with this thing. However, it’s something I need to get used to. That’s something you’ll be finding yourself having to do when you first play Halo 5, there’s a huge learning curve and there’s a lot you need to adapt to. Both of the two maps we’ve got to play on look spectacular, they’re very polished and feel complete and ready to ship and that’s a great thing for 343 to have with a year before launching this game.


Spartan Abilities take some time to get used to again, but there actually handy and don’t make anyone feel over-powered. The stabilizer used by pressing LT and this has aerial stabilization (almost like gliding) for aiming your weapon and while giving you a better aim, it makes you an easy target for enemies. Ground Pound is used by holding down on the right stick and releasing it when you’re high enough to charge up and execute a ground pound. This damages enemies and can easily destroy them, but you may want to release it before letting the game do it for you, otherwise you’re probably going to be killed before you can initiate it. It does look cool though if you manage to pull it off. Clamber is a new way of climbing up edges. The thruster pack allows you to suddenly burst-move in a direction of your choice by pressing B and using the left stick. When you’re at top sprinting speed, you can press right-bumper to barrel through an opponent or you can press the right stick to perform a slide which is something a lot of games have been doing lately. Overall, the new Spartan Abilities allow new tactics for players as they must come up with when is the best time to use one. There all very balanced as there’s no one ability to gives you advantage over everyone else and everyone has access to these. It’s not like where you pick one and you have to keep that for the game, everyone has them, every game.


The ‘Spartan Hub’ can be found on the Main Menu or by pressing the ‘Menu’ button on your controller and this allows you to access your Service Record and Controller Settings. I’m happy to see 343 Industries are also returning to in-depth armour customization with customizable Visors, Body Armour and Helmet. It’s not as in-depth as what we saw in Halo 4, I enjoyed being able to have different arms, legs, shoulders, chest pieces and so forth but it’s a start and I hope they make more customizable armour for launch.

Rounding off with some final new features are Spartan Callouts, these occur during gameplay and is literally, your team talking to each other. You might hear players Spartans say “watch out” or “nice teamwork” or “take cover”. At first, I didn’t know how I would like these but again, they’ve grown on me and something I genuinely like a lot. I think some people may prefer a on/off toggle for it though. I also think the new Announcer voices are an improvement. Another neat feature, brand new to Halo is ‘Spectator Mode’, this allows you sneak into your friends game and see how they’re doing. It’s not exactly “live” and this is because they don’t want players to use this for cheating but instead, a way of learning how your friend plays and how seeing what their currently up to. It’s something I might use here and there and controls work very similar to Theatre.

Overall, this beta is unique and a first for Halo as it’s a year before the final game launches. I’m expecting we’re going to be seeing many changes to the game as the year goes on but I have to say, 343 Industries are really putting their own stamp on Halo and I like it a lot. I’m excited for the Beta that owners of Master Chief Collection get to play, which starts December 29th because it’s then we’ll see some of the other maps, weapons and game modes 343 Industries have planned for ‘Halo 5: Guardians’. ‘Halo 5 Guardians’ also makes me excited for what’s next in e-sports and competitive Halo, it makes me want to play more competitively in Matchmaking.  

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