After a bit of a bumbling start (and that’s probably putting it very nicely), the Halo: The Master Chief Collection is now offering one of its most anticipated features. That’s right – stable multiplayer! I joke. It’s access to Halo 5: Guardians’ Arena multiplayer mode. After a mere 10+ gig wait, I was able to get some hands-on with the beta.
The beta offers a look at the newly envisioned Slayer mode in the Arena, which offers up two maps. Guardians’ Slayer is meant to push communication and “power weapons”. Power weapons are essentially the same heavy weapons that have been populating Halo maps for a while and in the case of the beta, they are specifically a sniper rifle and energy sword. Right off the bat, you’ll notice a few things that help push a new type of mentality.
First, upon a game load, you’ll have your entire four-person team posing like GLORY BOYS in front of either a R or B, depending on what team you’ve been designated. Does it do much push an immediate camaraderie? Not really, but it’s a nice little change from just seeing a bland list of players. It will then immediately transition to gameplay.
With no traditional Halo multiplayer countdown, I found it a bit odd the first time considering how used to the “beeps” and “doops” I was. That’s easily shaken off after one or two games, so there won’t be a delay to experience some new user interface holdovers.
The UI and pacing certainly pushes for this slight tactical feel. Each weapon has the ability to zoom and maintain a reticle, whereas in the past not all weapons could be fired from iron sights. I found this to be a welcome addition, as I’m one to aim down for some tighter focus. There are only a limited amount of weapons, including the energy sword (aka Prophet’s Bane), sniper, DMR, battle rifle and SMG. This opening week’s focus is the assault rifle and magnum loadout.
The weapons don’t feel much different outside of the zoomed in firing option, so it’s not going to make you feel like you’re playing anything other than Halo. It won’t get overly tactical, even to a Battlefield–type degree, but it’s still a hectic battle. Communication-wise, there is general chatter from your team that Guardians itself produces. If a squad member picks up a DMR, you may hear “Grabbed DMR!”, or if a grenade is thrown, you’ll hear a teammate warn everybody to seek cover. It doesn’t do much other than vocalize chatter you may have in your head, or off-mic.
On that note, I don’t see how the changes have improved or differentiated new Slayer to that big a degree. That’s not to say it’s the same old Slayer; it’s definitely feeling like a revitalized offering. I just found no huge benefit to grabbing the power weapons. For example, you won’t get extra points by getting kills with a power weapon, or killing an enemy holding one.
If you play the game well enough, you’ll end up with a victory. My first match, for example, on the Convenant-based map (Truth), my team didn’t control much of the sword and we still handily beat the other squad. The more Earth-based map, Empire, featured the sniper rifle which only offered a noticeable power-up here and there, not constantly.
I did end up liking the feel of the gameplay. It was crazy, but tight and controllable. The Spartan Boost is included in the beta, offering a multi-directional escape (or charge), as well as the Ground Pound.
The latter is a charged boost into the ground if you’re airborne. I found much more use for the Spartan Boost than the Ground Pound and it never felt too cheap of a tactic one way or the other. If used right, it can definitely lend itself to the low tactical feel Arena is going for.
So all-in-all, the Halo 5: Guardians beta is off to a pretty good start. There weren’t awful connection issues, but there were times where it was a bit difficult to connect to a match. A few times, there was just almost no connection attempt. Otherwise, an initial connection was established within several minutes.
If you’re able to get access to the beta (which is an automatic if you own the Master Chief Collection), I recommend giving it a look. The beta will run through January 18th.