Halo 5: Guardians, creating a wolf in Master Chief’s clothing

Despite its undoubted brilliance, Halo 4 was a relatively safe move by 343 Industries. Being its first full blown thrust at the franchise without the presence of original series creators Bungie, the Chief’s sojourn through Requiem and the multiplayer offering that surrounded it was grounded in what had gone before.

There was the playful introduction of Forerunner weaponry and the team tweaked the HUD for optimal sci-fi flavouring, but we were still playing something very familiar. This fifth foray is a different prospect. now, confident that it has the fans on side, 343 is able to put its own stamp on proceedings. Firing straight into the beta recently, we got a taste of what’s in store.

We’re about to tell you about the big new shift in Halo 5’s multiplayer, but promise us something. Swear you won't sigh and just assume you’ve seen it all before. To simply state what the changes are does them no justice whatsoever.
“offensive and defensive manoeuvres have all been injected with extra oomph”
you have to feel the difference. Movement has seen a complete overhaul, with your Spartan now capable of boosting around the battlefield with timely thruster spurts. We can feel the air expelling exasperatedly from your lungs from here, but trust us: this isn’t a rehash of Titanfall’s pilots, Destiny’s Guardian abilities or COD’s exoskeletons. Walk with us through a typical few minutes that we experienced while playing…

Proof or dare
We’re cast as Team Slayer in Truth, a gorgeously lit remake of the purple tinted Midship map from Halo 2. With our battle rifle loaded and primed we charge around a corner and come face-to-face with two opposing Spartans. a tap of the B button and we quickly perform an evasion burst, our body firing backwards and into the paltry cover of a nearby alcove. as our shield bleep-bloops, being inches away from death, a fellow ally Spartan lunges forward, a thruster boost infusing his charged melee attack with extra meaty devastation. One enemy player crumples instantly and we burst back into the fight to tackle the remaining foe.

Boom. a third enemy, unbeknownst to all, had been perched above us and ground pounds the entire area with an annihilating aerial thwomp. Had we seen him earlier suspended out of cover and easy pickings as the attack had built up steam we might easily have shot him out of the air and survived. Instead he wheels away in celebration. We know because we can hear the real-life human in the packed room we’re playing in whoop with delight. We’re too busy nodding in approval to begrudge him.

Sideways evasion thruster boosts, hefty melee charges which instantly deplete enemy shields or insta-kill from behind, and a ground-pound that would have Castle Of Illusion’s Mickey Mouse doffing his, er… ears. With your new Spartan abilities repertoire, which replaces the armour abilities of previous outings, navigation, traversal and both offensive and defensive manoeuvres have all been injected with extra oomph.

Beta max
There’s a Clamber ability there, too, which allows smooth transitions from platform to platform, while a very Destiny-like slide move lets you enter cover more cooly than a mafioso Inuit supping on a Slush Puppie. all of these things we’ve seen in some form or other elsewhere, but throw this into the mix with the existing Halo moveset, and this frenetic concoction feels more right than it has in any of those aforementioned titles.
“this is the most daringly different take on the halo franchise formula we've yet encountered”
Of our precious few hours spent bombing about in the beta, we got to see three maps. The first was the previously described Truth, which feels suitably moulded to allow for optimal usage of the new Spartan moveset. alcoves now have multiple tiered verandas to leap upon, while the ‘light bridge plus jump-boost pad’ combo that resides in the centre of the map feels as compulsive/suicidal as ever. The second map we played, Empire, is brand spanking new and we have to admit, feels the least memorable of the three. Set among the smoking shell of a shrapnel-shattered skyscraper, it relies a lot on its use of ambiguously levelled vertical arenas. We found, admittedly after only a few bouts, that there was little to visually distinguish one area of the map from another.

 The same can’t be said of the third map, Crossfire, which still inspires the Halo shakes when we think about it. It’s glaringly simple in concept, being a series of chest-high cover blocks strewn around an otherwise open arena. The trick is that it’s clearly been constructed with the new multiplayer mode, Breakout, in mind. In Breakout each player in a 4v4 team has only one life, so success is geared around communication. In Crossfire it’s possible to see from one end of the map to the other with a single jump, but doing so will instantly reveal your position.

Breaking good
Each match plays out with rapidly ratcheting tension, as the announcer tolls the body count. The roles of the fallen morph from active participants to camera touting recon agents, so you never feel like you’re out of the game entirely. 343 has cracked the one life only game mode with Breakout, and it feels glorious.

There’s plenty for hardened fans to be sceptical about, here. This is the most daringly different take on the Halo formula we’ve yet encountered. But to play it is to believe. Set your Xbox One to download the open beta when it hits on 29 Dec, just in time for the post-Christmas binge, and you’ll get a spoonful of the action for yourself.

The house that Halo built

How multiplayer was put together
On building maps…
“Playtesting is really the core thing that evolves a map for us, and with all these new abilities it’s proving to be a cool new challenge to make sure they’re all fully integrated.” Tim Longo, Creative Director

On pro gamers…
“We hired pro players and brought them on to the team as a council. They give constant feedback, so as we’re going through an iteration of the game, they’re also feeding  back.” Josh Holmes, Executive Producer

On abilities...
“We are very inspired by the Spartan fantasy but we always talk about the old and new. We have that classic Halo feel , so adding something new to that needs to be balanced.” Tim Longo, Creative Director

On the basics…
“What makes Halo so great is the interplay between players. If there’s something that emerges that pulls away from that core, we immediately we know we’ve broken it.” Josh Holmes, Executive Producer

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