Microsoft and Halo series developer 343 Industries are kicking off the Halo 5: Guardians beta earlier than planned. Xbox One owners will be able to download and play the game beginning today. At least, they will if they meet certain requires that surprisingly, have nothing to do with purchasing Halo: The Master Chief Collection.
Late yesterday members of the Xbox Preview Program received messages over Xbox Live inviting them to participate in a Halo 5: Guardians beta this weekend. To participate in the beta, Xbox Preview Program participants will need to redeem two different codes over Xbox Live. They’ll also need to download the core of the game. A notice in the Announcements area of the Xbox One Preview Program App for Xbox One notes that what users are getting this week is the same content that’ll be featured the first week of the public Halo 5: Guardians beta. Those who are eligible are being warned not to give way the codes that they receive as part of the preview program.
Rolling out a small beta for those who already make a habit of testing your code and software is a smart move on Microsoft’s part. Halo 5: Guardians will officially mark Halo’s arrival on the Xbox One in 2015. Technically, the first game in the series for Xbox One was Halo: Spartan Assault, but it was a top-down shooter also available on tablets and smartphones. Halo 5: Guardians is a first-person shooter like previous games in the series. The Halo 5: Guardians beta needs to work on the day it’s available to all users, especially since 343 Industries is still fixing and addressing issues with the Halo game it launched for the Xbox One this year.
That games was Halo: The Master Chief Collection. It’s a remake of all the games to feature series protagonist John 117 from past games. The campaigns from Halo: Combat Evolved, Halo 2, Halo 3 and Halo 4 are all included for $60. So are the multiplayer experience and that’s where buyers found issues. At launch, getting into a multiplayer match took a half an hour or so. Even worse was the debacle surrounding Halo: Nightfall. The game included access to the television show at no additional cost. At least, it should have. A bug kept some users from seeing Halo: Nightfall for weeks. Ironically, Halo: The Master Chief Collection was billed as the only way to get into the Halo 5: Guardians beta too.
In a post about the Halo 5: Guardians beta on its Xbox Wire blog, Microsoft doesn’t acknowledge today’s limited beta, but provides more details about the wider experience coming later in December. The beta will kick off on December 29th and run until January 18th.
Instead of rolling out a few maps to test core mechanics and game play, Microsoft plans on treating the beta as a three week event. Each week new game modes and content types will appear for users to try. A total of 7 new maps will be available during the beta. New weapons will be available and a new ranking system, called CSR or Competitive Skill Rating, will complete the experience. It’s unclear if progress made during the beta will carry over into the final game. Typically, progress doesn’t carry over from early tests for games if the developer has to make changes to the core experience. It’s very unlikely that we’ll learn anything about the game’s story during the beta.
Microsoft has already confirmed that the final version of Halo 5: Guardians, multiplayer experience and all, will be available for everyone to purchase in the fall of 2015. We don’t know if there’ll be any special edition versions of the game, but a basic copy will cost $60.