Whether 343 Industries would like to admit it or not, their team must be under immense pressure to not only continue Halo‘s already storied legacy, but also to expand on the masterpiece of a franchise. Halo 4 was the first test, challenging 343 to get the basics right. It also proved to be divisive among the fans: some were blown away by the new campaign, while others weren’t as optimistic. In reality, Halo 5 is the first time we get to see the team flex their muscles and really focus on making the series their own. They already have one full length adventure under the belt and know how to build a proper Halo adventure.
With Halo 5 less than a month away, Microsoft and 343 invited to have some extensive hands-on time with the game. I had the distinct pleasure of playing through a couple of campaign missions, and challenging some of my fellow colleagues in both Arena and Warzone. Continue reading below for a closer look at what to be excited for and some concerns that arose through my time with the game.
Campaign–Two missions, one happy Spartan.
We’re less than a month away from unveiling the truth we’ve been seeking for so long. Master Chief is no longer viewed as the valiant hero and is now being chased down. That, of course, will not stop him from completing his mission. As we already know, Master Chief and his team are being hunted down by Spartan Locke and his group. 343 has made a large effort in promoting what could possibly be the largest Halo campaign yet, so obviously the team made it a point of emphasis.
I had the chance to play through 2 missions, one as Master Chief and his team, and the other with Spartan Locke and his squad. The first of the two was an earlier mission where Chief had to infiltrate a location, while the latter was a massive Kraken battle where multiple vehicles were required.
There were two starkly different missions that got me fairly excited. The first mission was filled with tight corridors, and boasted a Halo 2-like feel. The confined spaces coupled with smoke felt both eerie and claustrophobic. The emphasis on this mission was teamwork. You can easily command Master Chief’s team to complete different tasks by simply looking at something and hitting the D-pad. I found it almost unnecessary until I found myself in a giant firefight with too many enemies to count. By simply directing my team at an enemy, they would help me quickly dispose of them. I quickly found myself wrecking the larger baddies using my comrades.
Defeating a Kraken with Spartan Locke on the other hand was the opposite of the first mission. Later on in the story, you battle through a massive outdoor location with a large fleet of enemies standing in your way. Things quickly escalate into a vehicular battle, where you must mount the giant beast that is causing such a headache.
Previous installments did an excellent job of keeping the gameplay varied and making sure you’re not doing one thing for too long. It’s also important that epic scale missions are present.
Another important note is that 343 seems to be trying to make Master Chief more personable. He has been through a lot in the past couple of games, and is finally starting to show that even the ultimate war machine isn’t physically (and emotionally) indestructible. He’s not at his best here, and his team definitely notices. I for one love this choice. As beloved as this character is, he was so hard to connect with when he didn’t have an expressive personality.
As we know, 343 already has a general idea of what the next 10 years will look like for this franchise, so hopefully that means that our hero will experience some emotional change.
Warzone–Multiplayer for the most refined squads.
Warzone is the mode for those that want something new, with a bit more strategy and teamwork. The skinny: you’ll be tasked with completing multiple objectives around a map, while also dealing with enemy AI and enemy players, which results in one giant skirmish where both sides are trying to reach a points goal. Battles feel huge because it’s 12 vs. 12 madness. The first thing that was immediately apparent was the size of the map. In order to accommodate the number of players, AI, and objectives, these maps had to be massive.
Before even moving out onto the battlefield, we had to secure our home base by clearing enemy AI out. It was far from difficult, but was the first objective of many. That’s when the map opens up, and it’s up to you and your team to decide how to establish dominance over your opponents.
Communication is imperative in this mode. Your team is stronger when you properly coordinate. Individual success is possible here, but the team best organized usually emerges as victorious. The whole thing actually felt like a natural extension of the campaign’s team-oriented gameplay.
Outside of actually planning your strike with teammates, the best tool at your disposal is the Req system. As confusing as it may seem, the truth is that it works a lot like Titanfall Burncards, just some cards here are permanent. You have special cards that you will be unlocking as you play online and you can use them during matches to give yourself a special weapon, vehicle, or a boost of some type like an armor mod. As matches progress, you’ll gain energy to unleash your best gear. You’ll have to use more energy for the best items, giving each match a natural escalation progression.
Using cards in the middle of a match can give you an advantage that can quickly turn the tides of battle. Having to redeem energy points gained in a match keeps the competitive balance that we all love to see in games like this. As fair as it may seem, things can really get out of hand if you’re not playing well.
Having multiple objectives on the field also allows smart teams to turn the tables on their opponents. There are multiple win conditions that can be taken advantage of in order to make a miraculous comeback, like taking out the opponent’s core. If played right, you can quickly make up ground in the points section.
Yes, it may seem daunting to understand all the strategies required for this game type, but this is a perfect mode for those that want more thoughtful moves, and team work. My biggest fear is that playing with strangers will almost always lead to a frustrating beat down from more prepared opponents. As well balanced as everything feels, you can’t really equalize the organization level between teams. With that being said, the madness is awesome. This mode will quickly become a fan favorite.
As for those looking for a more classic Halo MP experience…
Arena–Classic multiplayer for the classic gamer.
Don’t care much for large battles spanning across huge maps? Do you just want to get down in the classic Halo multiplayer? The Arena is for you. This is the gritty 4 vs. 4 mode Halo veterans want. Arena includes the following game types: Breakout, Strongholds, Capture the Flag, and Slayer.
What can I say? The classics rule.
We got to fiddle around with several maps including Crossfire, Coliseum, and The-Rig. Each one of these maps are excellent for the several playable game types. There are tighter corridors, and hallways made perfectly for fire fights, with the most open of all the maps being Coliseum.
We got to play several game types on each map, and it seems like they are all well made for whatever mode floats your boat. Some of the more intrusive presentation choices included in the beta were subtle this time around. Spartan abilities also seemed to be tweaked as well–players were using the groun- pound more effectively. 343 seemed to use the beta information effectively to tweak some of the complaints made by fans. It feels more like classic Halo.
Crossfire is still the the best map of the bunch. Its Tron-like esthetic is a perfect backdrop to the action going on.
As much as fans feared that it would feel like Call of Duty in space, it really feels like the same action-packed multiplayer that we all originally fell in love with. Sure, it has evolved, but I would definitely say that it appears for the better thus far. This is the intimate multiplayer that will give you a break from the total chaos of Warzone.
There you have it, folks. Halo 5 could prove to be the largest Halo yet. The new additions add another dimension to the gameplay, and the multiplayer modes include a little bit of something for everyone. Stay tuned to Nerdist for more on this game as its release approaches.