This past weekend Microsoft did what most hadn’t expected it would. Halo: The Master Chief Collection buyers were already told to expect a Halo 5: Guardians beta later in the month. Instead of waiting until that beta and risking things going wrong when hordes of users played it later this month, developer 343 Industries and Microsoft rolled out a Halo 5: Guardians beta for members of the Xbox One Preview Program.
This past weekend’s Halo 5: Guardians beta isn’t totally indicative of what players can expect when Microsoft releases the final version of Halo 5: Guardians sometime in the fall of 2015. How strong weapons are, map layouts and more could change way before the game arrives. Still, most of the major components were available in the beta, allegedly, and that gives us a rare look at what the final game will be like.
Here’s what to expect from Halo 5: Guardians based on what was available during the beta.
Most assume that a newer version of a game will always look better the game that preceded it. That’s not always the case, but it is with Halo 5: Guardians. The beta this past weekend gave Xbox One owners a mere taste of the high-definition upgrade buyers of the game expect.
Frames per second is an off-hand measurement for how smooth video is. Typically, the higher number of frames you see on a screen is directly equivalent to how great video looks. Halo 5: Guardians was created specifically with this measurement in mind. 60 frames per second is what the beta rans at and it felt buttery smooth this past weekend. Every movement felt natural.
Typically, when you have a high frame rate you have to compromise in other areas like resolution. That wasn’t the case with the Halo 5: Guardians beta either. Again, textures looked great. Neither one of these things help directly with game play, but they do enhance the Halo experience’s cinematics. That’s key, Halo 5: Guardians is expected to deliver an almost theater like experience. It’ll be interesting to see how this works in any larger maps that are included with the game. Every map looked gorgeous.
Halo developers have never been shy about upgrading the multiplayer experience to make it relevant, and Halo 5: Guardians has its fair share.
Bungie, the series’ original developer, introduced armor abilities a few years ago. They were designed to let users customize their Spartan, to add a new dynamic to some mechanics that were already included in the game. Halo 5: Guardians changes to these is vast.
Moving quickly or sprinting used to require an armor ability to. Every Spartan in Halo 5: Guardians has a new Sprint ability and this addition makes the multiplayer experience faster. In past games, you may have felt like a mercilessly slow tank, missing the abilities you need to make a quick kill without jumping over and over. Sprinting makes Halo 5: Guardians feel as fast as contemporaries like Titanfall. There’s no wall-running or anything, but multiplayer feels like real war and not a somewhat casual stroll. For now, the rest of Armor Abilities are missing, surprisingly.
Speaking of Titanfall, I can say that two other key changes made the Halo: Guardians beta feel like a contemporary shooter. As I tried to jump from one platform to another in the hopes of claiming an energy sword for my own, I came up a bit short. I expected I’d need to try the jump again until I noticed the Spartan grab on to a ledge and pull himself up. This is new in Halo 5: Guardians and just makes sense.
The other feature was the jetpack. Those are actually what players in the game use to sprint and quickly move. The Halo 5: Guardians beta was a nonstop ground-pound fest for me. Jump high enough, employ your jets and your character essentially obliterates whatever it lands next too. It was as annoying as the armor lock ability from past games when it happened the first time. After learning that lesson the hard way, you almost never ignore anyone above you, giving the game some vertical play jet packs from previous games failed to make interesting.
Connectivity is the big wild card for this Halo 5: Guardians beta and it’ll be the focus of the one coming to Halo: Master Chief Collection buyers later this month. Besides testing core mechanics, betas like these are designed to stress test infrastructure, and find any holes that need to be plugged and patched. After the disaster that the Halo: Master Chief Collection multiplayer matchmaking became, it’s good that Microsoft is testing hard and testing early.
Lag wasn’t a problem and neither was staying connected to a party after I’d made it in. I still noticed a long wait time. We’d have a group of people ready and then it would drop some people and try again.
Halo 5: Guardians will launch in final form on the Xbox One exclusively. If Microsoft can deliver a captivating story and keep every map as smooth as what beta players had, the company has another hit on its hands. Well, as it’s a Halo game. It’s unlikely a game in the series will ever not be a hit. The true measure of success will be how long it remains popular on Xbox Live.