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    Halo 5: Guardians, We can’t help but be piqued to see what’s up

    For a franchise that’s proven that first-person shooters can work on consoles, it’s telling how far Halo has slipped from relevance. Coupled with the fact that Halo: The Master Chief Collection isn’t exactly playable on Xbox Live either makes things all the more disappointing. It’s reached a point where today, the first-person shooter segment is dominated by Call of Duty and Battlefield, two military-based shooters instead of Microsoft’s marquee series. Sure, both of them, particularly Call of Duty, have had new games with alarming regularity, with each entry improving on the other in interesting ways, Halo has stayed the same for most part. Sprinting was absent (until Halo 4, while Halo Reach had it as a power-up), as was the option to aim down the sights of a gun, which most modern first-person shooters feature.
    There are a slew of changes to the old Halo multiplayer formula, and most of them feel right at home with the franchise.
    All this is about to change with Halo 5: Guardians. We sampled the beta, which is open to all Halo: The Master Chief Collection owners. There are a slew of changes to the old Halo multiplayer formula we know and love, and most of which have been done in such a way that they feel right at home with the franchise. For starters, sprinting makes a return and it’s done in a manner that doesn’t simply let you run around the battlefield without a care in the world. Rather, if you get hit while sprinting, your shields will not recharge. It’s a smart way to keep players from abusing the option. Another addition is dashing. The tap of a button allows you to boost your jump, letting you reach areas that you’d think were impossible. It also allows you to hover in the air for a bit to line up your shot. Dashing has a cool down period to ensure it’s not exploited.

    Speaking of lining up your shot, you’ll be able to aim down the sights of most weapons in Halo 5, barring the sniper rifle (that lets you zoom in anyway) and the covenant energy sword (for obvious reasons). As with sprinting, it comes to Halo 5 with some side effects. When you aim down the sights, you won’t be able to view your radar, which is crucial to check if there are any foes lurking behind you. If you get hit while aiming down the sights, you’ll go back to the game’s standard view. Another welcome addition is the automated battle chatter provided by your team mates. With most people shying away from using a headset, these do a great job of letting you know where new weapons respawn, and tell you of enemy locations. Granted they do get a little noisy at times, but they’re quite useful all the same.
    Beneath all the enhanced movement and shooting options lies the same old Halo we know and love.
    Beneath all these enhanced movement and shooting options lies the same old Halo we know and love. The pacing isn’t as fast as say, Titanfall, neither is it as slow as Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. It treads the middle-ground in terms of mobility, speed and gunplay with ease, augmented by sprint and dash functions that have their uses and don’t appear to be primed for exploitation just yet.

    When writing this, the beta only had human weapons for most part (barring the Covenant energy sword). Nonetheless, they handled as they should. From the sniper rifle letting you pull off satisfying one-shot kills to the pistol that acts as a handy secondary weapon, they all work as they should. Barring the smattering of super weapons that each player is encouraged to attain, there’s very little in the way of unbalanced weaponry. Always a good thing. Furthermore, gone is the loadout system that was prevalent in Halo 4. What this means is that instead of having to choose from an assortment of (potentially overpowering) guns to start with, everyone starts with the same weapons, making for encounters that are skill-based, much like it was in Halo games pre-Halo 4.
    Barring the smattering of super weapons that each player is encouraged to attain, there’s very little in the way of unbalanced weaponry.
    As for the maps, Truth is a remake of the classic Halo 2 map, Midship, which has you running around your enemies in circles in an alien vessel, complete with an energy sword in the middle. Grabbing it would make the fight a lot easier, allowing for you to slash down multiple foes in succession.

    The second map, Empire, is an industrial complex that has two sniper rifles at either end, and a host of narrow corridors in between. Both maps have an intense focus on weapon control i.e. getting to these high powered harbingers of death to allow for victory, much like the earlier games in the series. They work in-sync with the new movement and shooting systems. Not once did I feel like any one gameplay element, such as aim down sights or sprinting, overpowered the others. Would this hold up on bigger maps or not remains to be seen though.

    Also welcome are the game’s new melee moves courtesy of being able to sprint and dash. The ground pound happens when you hover over an opponent and slam down on them. It’s a neat addition that doesn’t upset Halo 5’s balance simply because there’s a long charge time. This means players would have to use it astutely lest it would backfire, having them shot in face instead. Then there’s jet bash, which lets you dash into your opposition, crushing them completely. Lining up a kill using this tactic is rather tough, making it worth consideration for only the most unsuspecting of enemies.

    We’ve seen betas and alphas of games this year. Most of them, such as Titanfall and Destiny, were done when the game was nearly ready to ship. They acted as marketing tools for a finished game rather than developers seeking player feedback. With Halo 5: Guardians due late this year, it’s interesting to see a multiplayer beta made accessible to the public this early. Considering their missteps with Halo 4 and Halo: The Master Chief Collection, it seems that 343 Industries and Microsoft are looking to do right by the legions of Halo fans by incorporating their feedback at this juncture prior to release, making the final product all the more interesting when it hits.

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