25 things we learned from the Halo 5 beta
343 Industries month-long multiplayer taster is over, but weve still got its vivid flavours swirling around our mouths. Let us take you through 25 appetising facts we learned during our time on the Halo 5 beta
After the online debacle that was Halo: The Master Chief Collection, the Halo 5: Guardians beta was precisely what the doctor ordered. The beta offered Master Chief Collection owners just under a month of access to kick the tyres of 343 Industries debut for Xbox One, and judge for themselves whether the studios plan to bring back that classic Halo feel might just work after all. During that time, OXM left no stone unturned in our effort to find the juiciest info-grubs around. Join us as we gorge on the finer details good and bad of Halo 5s beta.
The assault rifle is an absolute beast
The starting weapons were switched around a little during the beta, with players spawning with Battle Rifles during one memorable week, but the Assault Rifle was a constant presence, and a constant menace. The AR is an enormously effective mid-range weapon, dropping foes in seconds, but its efficacy is increased even further in Halo 5 by the new scope, making it more or less a 50/50 battle against a BR. For our money the AR is a tiny bit too effective, and hopefully by the full release 343 will have managed a compromise between making every weapon viable and aim down sights extremes.
If you can master it, the SMG is the gun of choice
The SMG has been buffed enormously in Halo 5 previously more or less useless unless you were inside someones pocket, it can now drop foes easily at short- and mid-range. The killer detail, however, is the addition of a scope that tightens the spread. If you can fire like this without being de-scoped, its now arguably better than the AR.
The Battle Rifle is as faithful as ever, but were unsure on the DMR
The most unchanged of the entire arsenal at your disposal in the beta, barring a visual overhaul, the Battle Rifle is a four-shot kill mid-range rifle that handles as beautifully as it ever did in previous games. The Designated Marksman Rifle, however, unfortunately felt a little underpowered in the beta with its five-shot kill rarely outmatching the BR or AR, but its important to note that all of the maps on offer were small ones. The DMR is more of a long-range, Big Team Battle kind of a weapon, so fingers crossed for its performance in the full game.
Legendary Weapons mix up Halos combat quietly but confidently
New to Halo 5 are the addition of legendary versions of weapons, and in the beta we saw the energy sword called Prophets Bane on Truth. This increases your Spartans movement speed by 25%, has an increased lunge if aimed in mid-air and, on a map full of camping spots, is an absolute beast to fight with and against. When kept on a tight leash like this, the idea is great the advantage is noticeable, but any decent team works to counter that, adding an extra spice to the usual tug-of-war. This is one of Halo 5s quieter innovations, but a smart one.
The Hydra weapon is essentially broken but turn it to your advantage
Perhaps the most misunderstood of all the betas weapons, the brand-new Hydra may also be the best in fact, once you learn how to use it you suspect theres no way itll exist in this form in the final game. The Hydra can be fired from the hip, which is how most players use it, and this makes it more or less a crappy grenade launcher. It can also lock enemies when zoomed, in which case the projectile tracks them. But the real key to the Hydra is to lock, and then aim at the sky. The projectile shoots upwards before regaining the lock bypassing walls to bring death from above.
Breakout makes Halos team play relevant again
The core of Halo multiplayer from the beginning has been team play, which leads to the principles that underlie this new mode: an even playing field where victory depends on communication, controlling the map and power weapons. Over the course of the beta, we had the chance to play plenty of Breakout and the big takeaway message is that this is not a mode for lone wolves. Spartans have no overshield, which means that engagements are over fast but, less obviously, grenades are absolutely deadly. On the map Crossfire, in particular, the first 20 seconds are all about surviving the inevitable Hail Marys.
Without radar, communication is key
The two Breakout maps on show in the beta were Crossfire and Trench, with the latters uneven ground and plentiful cover feeling like a much better fit for the mode. Crossfire has similar qualities but also features a house on one side that becomes a death trap. What really drives home the teamwork angle isnt the reduced health, but the lack of radar. This is one of those things that you dont know youve got til its gone, and it makes communication absolutely essential weve won games of Breakout against far better players, simply because we had our team on party chat and called out enemy positions.
Old weapons, new rules
Breakouts rhythm also changes the dynamic of the classic Battle Rifle. Its Breakouts power weapon, with each team spawning near one apiece, and while the reduced shields make scoring kills easier they also make it dangerous to Rambo into the enemy blindly. If you have the BR, in other words, the best way to play is often passive standing at your teams end of the map, calling out enemies and staying on the high ground.
It all adds up to a mode that utterly changes the rules, while still feeling like Halo. Veterans will be familiar with SWAT, where one headshot kills, and Breakout definitely has a little of this DNA. This is Halo 5s wildcard, a mode that jettisons all the fancy tricks in favour of teamwork, a level playing field and good old-fashioned tension. So, for those with a competitive inclination, it looks like the ace up 343s sleeve.
Pegasus and Orion provide a potential glimpse of Halo 5s Forge World
Pegasus and Orion are maps made in Halo 5s yet-to-be-seen Forge mode, and are set in the same landscape which strongly suggests were getting our first glimpse of Halo 5s equivalent of Reachs Forge World. One of Bungies greatest ideas, this is an enormous map created solely for you to build in. There is one interesting detail, however. The look on each map is slightly different lighting, colours and textures have changed. This suggests that Forge World, if indeed this is what were looking at, will have some sort of time-of-day or seasonal modifier.
Orions Hydra base is the best place to make your stand
Orion has an open middle and two asymmetrical bases with three power weapons (Sword, Sniper, Hydra) spread across the map. As it stands, the Hydra base feels much better than the others, with greater cover options and a wide field of view over the ground which contributes to Orion feeling like a real BR map, with plenty of sightlines and a lot of verticality.
Truth and Regret are remixes of remakes of
Truth is Halo 5s remake of the classic map Midship, and mostly wonderful. Its a little wider, with more mountable locations and a few new elevated spots, which in turn means more sightlines. The only black mark is the ability to clamber from the bottom middle right up to the power weapon platform, which makes acquiring height too easy. Regret is, in what is surely a sign of things to come, a remix of Truth. A remix of a remake? Hold that thought. It takes the basic structure and makes everything bigger, so it plays like a completely different map one much more suited to objective modes.
Empire and Eden find beauty in symmetry up to a point
Empire is one of the flagship competitive maps, and has a clever mix where the overall shape is symmetrical but the internal architecture doesnt quite work that way. Its one of the most powerful examples of Halo 5s principles in action, as the team-based fragging is regulated and shaped by the waeapon spawns giving it a flow thats everything to do with player movement rather than the position of corridors. Eden remixes Empire as a more open battleground that favours BRs. Theres a different flow to this map that, while team fights are still common, tends to encourage more lone-wolfing.
Thrusters are a game-changer
The most crucial new move by a distance, weve got a lot of love and a teeny bit of hate for thrusters. The ability to quickly dodge lets you enter or escape a firefight in an instant, and the multi-second cooldown feels just right. The love/hate relationship is unavoidable, because the key role of thrusters is to get you out of a bad spot when you manage this, it feels great, and when an enemy escapes its completely unfair BS. That said, the contribution they make to the overall smoothness of Halo 5s movement is enormous, and after the beta you could never go back to plain old feet.
Grenades have a wider blast radius making them essential
Grenades in the ability section what gives, Chief?! The biggest hidden impact of the new abilities is on the grenade explosion radius, which is much wider than before. To put it simply, if your shields are down and a grenade lands in the same postcode then youre done.
Sprint goes against everything Halo stands for but it works
Can you have a first-person shooter without sprinting in 2015? 343 says no, and this is dicey ground for Halo because the series has always been constructed on the principle that movement and gunplay are intertwined. While you sprint you cant aim or shoot, so this is rubbing against that core concept. But it works. Not only are the maps clearly designed for it, but the killer touch of your shields not recharging while sprinting feels like it balances the increased mobility.
Neither the Spartan Charge nor the Slam are as useful as they seem
At the moment these two abilities sit rather uneasily in Halo 5. Spartan Charge sees more use because there are more situations where its an option, but its hard to aim and not a one-hit kill. The risk isnt worth the reward because, even when you get the hit, you still have to find the enemys new position and finish them off. The Slam needs serious consideration. The wind-up is long, the area of effect is small, and there simply arent any situations where its more useful than throwing a grenade or shooting. It does look cool, but thats about it.
Clamber leaves your crouch-jump redundant but its the right move
Clamber means that the traditional skill-based mechanic of crouch-jumping is not present in Halo 5 (if you press Crouch while jumping it initiates the Slam). This is a trade-off with ease of movement that, overall, does seem to be the right one simply because Halo 5s movement feels so much smoother in general, and a big part of this is that you rarely fail to get where you intend to go.
The ranking system is rough around the edges but has a world of potential
Halo 5s core is the return to competitive arena play, and the beta showcased an early form of 343s new ranking system - after ten games youre placed in a medal bracket, from Iron to Gold to Semi-Pro and Pro. From here, wins and losses affect your points total, shown clearly after each match. During beta this felt very much like a work in progress, mainly because in our experience there were a lot of mismatches wed win 50-5, or lose by the same. But the basic components of CSR (and the fact its team-based rather than individual) are a move back in the right direction.
Callouts give a great overview of whats going on but less is more
343s new system of automated callouts is overall a brilliant addition, particularly when youre solo queuing or otherwise not on voice comms. Theres perhaps a little too much of it we dont need announcements that a teammate has picked up a DMR, or congratulations on a double kill but in general this helps the flow of the game enormously and is more-or-less an unqualified success. Particularly notable is that this, along with the on-screen prompts for power weapon spawns, comes straight out of those core Halo principles of map and weapon control, which is why they fit so well.
Aim Down Sights shakes things up and maybe not for the better
Aim Down Sights, or ADS, is a thorny one with Halo 5, and this is entirely because never before have the automatic weapons in the game had scopes (barring ODSTs silenced SMG). The problem with ADS is that it reduces shot spread. Shot spread is the range penalty for weapons such as the AR or SMG. So now these automatic weapons are much better at mid-range than, really, they should be and somewhat mitigate the advantage of having a BR or DMR. Whether this is a problem or a great thing depends on your stance but, for us, a BR should have the advantage over an AR at mid-range.
De-scoping is back, and skirmishes will no longer be a flinch-off
Halo 5 brings back de-scoping, which is when you get shot while scoped and are zoomed back out. This is great! Its always been a key part of long-range battles in Halo and the feel of BR engagements. Unfortunately the beta also saw your viewpoint flinch when shot, throwing off your aim, and this makes certain engagements feel like a crapshoot in every sense. Luckily 343 has confirmed that, following the beta, flinch will be removed from Halo 5. Hooray for feedback!
The medal system incentivises you to hone your skills
The beta showcased several new medals, and whats interesting is the general direction theyre trending in. Halo 5s new medals are designed to flag up skilful play. You get a medal for perfect kills with the Light Rifle (three shots), Battle Rifle (four shots) and DMR (five shots). Theres a Snapshot medal for Sniper no-scopes, as well as a bespoke headshot medal for kills with the weapon. Theres a BXR medal for the classic melee/BR combo, a Hail Mary for long-range grenades, and so on. These highlight great plays, and incentivise them.
The Prometheans are back. Maybe
This isnt exactly confirmed, but the presence of the Light Rifle in multiplayer strongly suggests Halo 4s antagonists will be returning in some form during Halo 5s campaign. And on that note, one of our few disappointments with the beta was the inability to play as Covenant Elites. If this feature isnt present in the final game, were going to go ape with a crude energy sword fashioned from fluorescent tubes or something.
Stronghold is the pick of the modes, as it plays to Halos strengths
Apart from vanilla Slayer, the beta offered two other modes: Stronghold and Breakout. Stronghold is different from Halos traditional Territories mode and will be instantly familiar to Destiny players, in that there are three zones to control that (after capturing) you dont need to stay in. This keeps players mobile and suits Halo tremendously well, because the games traditional problem with modes such as King of the Hill is grenade spam everyone spawns with two, after all. It also has the happy bonus of making maps like Regret feel much more focused.
One more thing...
Theres a feature in Battlefield and several other FPS titles that would slot perfectly into Halo 5 and its new chatter system tagging enemies. In BF4, if you see an enemy and click the right stick theyre spotted for your team. This feels like it would suit Halo 5s teamplay mechanics very well and remove some of the frustration at seeing your prey dash for a corner you can easily give a teammate the chance to finish them off.