Owners of Halo: The Master Chief Collection have been plagued by multiplayer issues since the game’s release. Developer 343 Industries has been working tirelessly to fix the matchmaking problems, even offering up a free remastered version of Halo: ODST as an apology. You can imagine my trepidation as promises of the Halo 5 multiplayer beta began coming to fruition. Much to my surprise, the small taste I got has me asking for more as it takes Halo’s multiplayer back to basics with a bit of flare thrown in. It’s important to remember that this multiplayer sample is only a beta, and since Halo 5 isn’t set for release until Fall of 2015, a very early beta.
That being said, sluggish matchmaking crops up, though more stable than the launch of Halo: The Master Chief Collection. As expected from a beta, it is limited in content, to just three game types and seven maps. Player cap in game types limit to four vs four with two new game modes (Slayer remains a staple) introduced to the series: Breakout and Stronghold. Breakout is a search-and-destroy style of game where there is one life, no respawns, and last team living wins the round. The first team to win five rounds walks away with a victory. Stronghold is an objective-based game type, where teams must control two of the three areas around the map in order to score points. All three games seem relatively simple in design, but there is a core change with the Halo experience that makes it more exhilarating than previous installments: Faster mobility.
That’s right, mobility. 343 seems to have done away with the sluggish speed of old and chose to breathe new life into the franchise with smoother sprinting, jet dashes, mid-air attacks, and climbing. Or as 343 refers to it, “clamber.” To top it off, they’ve added an aim-down-sights (ADS) mechanic that gives the game a very Call of Duty-esque feel. At first, I was disappointed because this seemed like the last franchise to implement such a thing, sticking with the “zoom in” feature of equipped weapons in the past. When ADS pairs with the now high-speed gameplay, I can appreciate why it was added. Of course, ADS doesn’t offer a great deal of help when being fired upon by the enemy, any hit taken snaps the camera out to the standard view.
The inclusion of clamber (climbing) aids to do away with the pesky problem of crouch jumping your way to higher platforms. Simply get eye-level to a desired location and holding the designated jump button to initiate the climb. And once again, invokes a greater sense of mobility. Finally, the biggest change to note of is a thrust pack equipped for everyone. This gives all players the same ability to dash (mid-air, ground), float briefly in air to find targets, and adds a downward attack to come down onto enemies with a mighty smash. Every use of the thruster pack requires a short recharge in between each use and provides great map traversal. I intentionally made it a habit of pairing the thrust pack with the clamber to make the most out of these new additions.
While playing, I noticed a clear emphasis of everyone being on a level playing field. No loadouts, no armor abilities, no sort of combination to choose from before the battle even begins. Simple texts are given at the start of each match that describes what the loadout is because it’s the same for all players, along with the thrust pack. I couldn’t help but be reminded of the old Halo days as I was left to scavenge the map for desired weapons, which made all power weapons a hot commodity at the start of each match. Every map is designed expertly, being careful not to give either team an advantage over the other. It’s also incredibly beautiful. Smooth textures of maps and characters paired with the crisp gameplay compliment well.
Leveling up in the Halo 5 multiplayer beta mirrors what we saw with Halo 2, players have a rank for each available playlist that can be gained or lost depending on both player performances and wins or losses. Before a rank can be given for a playlist, one must complete ten matches of it. This type of leveling system is arguably one the favored in the Halo franchise for gamers and it is a welcome return. Many have criticized 343’s performance after taking over for Bungie, but this beta shows they’re hitting their stride. Modernized, yet faithful, Halo 5 could be one of the best Halo multiplayer experiences yet. Taken the best aspects from previous installments, adding new features to make the gameplay stronger than ever, and did it all in beautiful 60 frames per second. It’s just a beta, and it’s only the multiplayer, but this small peek into the Halo 5 experience excites me and gives hope for the future of the franchise.
The Halo 5 multiplayer beta was provided by 343 Industries.
Derrick Ford is a one-legged wounded veteran, Xbox enthusiast, achievement hunter and writer for Front Towards Gamer.