The final week of Halo 5: Guardians’ beta has come to a spectacular close, and 343 Industries finishes strong. The final update to included a new territories based gametype called Stronghold and the custom-made forge map, Pegasus.
First of all we have the new gametype: Stronghold. Stronghold tasks the red and blue teams with securing and defending three points throughout the map. The team with more captured locations than the other scores points for every second that passes. That is until the opposing team grabs overtakes them in dominated locations
Overall, the gametype is another welcome change of pace for the Halo franchise. Not too unfamiliar for those who loved the territories gametype, Stronghold forces players to knuckle down and hold the control points around the map. The new methods of traversal work well in that they allow the opposing team to weave in and out of a defended location. It strikes an interesting balance of defending and attacking control points which lends itself well to fast-paced Halo combat.
Onto the new map, the new Forge World looks promising. As the custom-made maps are introduced, the camera pans through the vast plains and valleys of the world, showcasing the possibilities that await master map editors. Promising features include: an overhanging cliff that creates a natural cave formation for dark slayer maps, an uphill valley that leads to an outcropping backed by a mountain to recreate an assault map a la Helm’s Deep from Lord of the Rings, and even a nice flat beach area perfect for small 2v2 team slayer battles.
Above all, the new Forge World in Halo 5 is lining up to be the largest one yet, and in turn massive conquest-style games will emerge. Here’s hoping the Forge World item limit is more forgiving than in past iterations.
As for the map itself, it’s an impressively expansive locale. The map, Pegasus, is an asymmetrical team slayer match with long corridors and stairs, leading to an open area which houses the hallowed Halo rocket launcher.
The map’s tight-quarters give players some claustrophobic firefights, leaving survivors gasping for breath and searching for cover. The long hallways of the map also stump those without a sniper rifle, turning them into nothing more than sitting ducks. The biggest issue with Pegasus in Halo 5 is the lack of cover throughout the long hallways. Having said that, dodging the rifle fire does have the empowering effect on players, making them feel invincible.
Aside from the obvious changes to the beta week after week, Halo 5 has introduced some smaller changes to the multiplayer to make it all the more competitive. As you pass through various locations, the bottom left corner of the screen lets you know where you are. This small addition allows team-based competition to evolve to the next level. By giving every map a uniform call-out system, teams are encouraged to practice map strategies.
Another minor yet welcome feature to the game is live spartan feedback. Accidentally throw a grenade at a teammate? The on-screen spartan will yell at you to check your grenade throws. Compatriots in Halo 5 will call out their kills, allowing others to know that the oncoming threat has been eliminated. These audio cues alone are something most first-person shooters lack, and Halo 5′s introduction of them helps to expand the run and gun multiplayer into something more tactical.
Oh, and for the curious – yes. The rocket launcher in Halo 5 feels exactly the same and it is glorious.
Overall the Halo 5 beta was an eye-opening experience for long-time Halo fans. It alleviates any doubts that 343 Industries was running the franchise into the ground, and fits the intellectual property’s path of evolution. We’ve gone from run-and-gun to run-and-gun, true, but this is run-and-gun with a few more traversal options. In turn, the minor addition of traversal options innovates on the idea of “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” by simply giving players the option to change their playstyle.
The biggest issues with the beta were minor connection issues, and the fact that the beta ran more smoothly than The Master Chief Collection. That sounds tongue-in-cheek, but it’s true. Is 343 Industries going to drop all development and fine-tuning of Halo 5 when work on the inevitable Halo 6 begins? The lack of polish on a retail release game versus the quality on a beta is shockingly unbalanced.
As for the things done right, well – mostly everything. The two biggest standouts in the beta for the expanded methods of traversing maps and the overall aesthetic of the game. The traversal keeps the gameplay fast and responsive, and adds a layer of vertical strategy that was lacking in previous games. Halo 5‘s futuristic look of the game fits with the general tone of the franchise and seems like a logical progression in terms of in-world technology, ranging from map structure and design, to the holographic sights on all the weapons. Subtle improvements include the overall focus on making Halo 5 the most competitive/viewer friendly game in the series.
Now that 343 Industries has their notes on the beta, all that’s left is a final release of Halo 5: Guardians sometime in 2015.