On December 29th 2014, 343 Industries opened their servers to allow players to see Halo 5 for first time. It served as both a public quality assurance test and server functionality test. 343 closed the servers down on January 19th 2015 and have claimed that this test was a rousing success. In order for players to have accessed the beta, they needed to own a copy of Halo: The Master Chief Collection...
Once downloaded, players were given one game type, Team Slayer, with 2 maps, Truth and Empire. Truth looks a lot like a classic map named Mipship where players battle on a Convenient cruiser. Empire places players on the roof of a tall building in an undisclosed city. Later 2 variations on these 2 maps were released, Regret and Eden. Regret is a crashed Truth. The foliage and ground are all on the bottom layer of the level but its functionally the same. Eden is a nighttime version of Empire. This variation has platforms and walkways added to its original layout.
Later in the beta, players were given a new game type and 2 new maps. The game type is Breakout, 2 teams of 4 players must take each other out in a series of rounds. Each round, a player is given one life, once all players on a given team are dead, the opposing team wins, first team to 5 wins gets the match. The 2 maps, Crossfire and Trench, are specifically designed for this game type and are also forge maps. On both maps, players launch in from either side and begin looking for other weapons or a strategy to survive. The last game type to unlock was strongholds which is basically king of the hill from previous halo games. Towards the end of the beta, players were given a choice during the beta on 2 forge maps to play on, Pegasus or Orion. Pegasus won and can be only described as a classic looking forge map.
The weapons are what you would expect from halo. There were 11 useable weapons in the beta and most of the them you would recognize right away. The returning ones are the Assault Rifle, Battle Rifle, DMR, Sniper Rifle, Rocket Launcher, Energy Sword (and its visual variation Prophet’s Bane), Magnum, Light Rifle, Shotgun and the SMG. All these weapons function the same as you know them to. The newest one, which was only found on the Pegasus map, the Hydra MLRS. This weapon looks like a grenade launcher but functions like a rapid fire rocket launcher. It can lock onto enemies including opposing spartans. It felt like the UNSC’s version of the plasma launcher from Halo: Reach.
The most impressive part of the beta were the visuals and sound design. It has a certain aesthetic that makes it feel like halo but new enough to be different. The textures and particle effects were something to admire while I was getting shot in the face and that’s saying something. I really enjoyed how the breakout maps looked, the tron esque design was minimal and this allowed for better concentration on playing the game and less on the surrounding areas. I can’t wait to see what’s in store with that. The sound of the guns was very satisfying. Every click and bang sounded right, including the Spartans armor as you ran around the map.
I have quite a few gripes to lay out about this beta, first would be the matchmaking. Now it could be argued that this is a beta and i’m not going to get a the full matchmaking experience and that’s fair to say. However the master chief collection’s matchmaking is still extremely broken and that was a full retail release. I do fully understand that with a beta, there are issues and it’s our job as potential consumers of said product to let the developer know of these issues so they can be resolved. There is no excuse for what happened with Halo MCC and that’s why I’m sure the matchmaking issues we found in halo 5 beta were the same.
The next thing that bothered me greatly was the weapon balancing, it was to the point that playing wasn't fun. For example as to what im talking about, my friends and i got split up in match and i wanted to test this. We found a secluded spot to test and aimed the same weapon at the same body part and fired in controlled burst. One of us would walk away every single time. Seriously, not one time was it a draw. This leads me to believe that they wanted a more dynamic rock, paper, scissors type of gameplay. But how is all this actually decided, we couldn't figure that out, it all seemed random.
The next thing that I was constantly upset with was how the game handled gun control. In halo 5, you can look down the sights of every available gun now, a completely new feature that I am behind. In previous Halo titles, if you zoom with a certain weapon and get shot while zoomed in, you zoom back out and are forced to use the weapon differently, except there is a major flaw with the beta that breaks all the fun. You aim down the sights, shoot your opponent, they fire back, you get hit, zoom back out and then wiggle around like you are sitting on top of an old dryer full of shoes. This is something that became an annoyance because you have no time to react, aiming down the sights became a death sentence and we had to learn to play without it.
The last thing I want to bring up that bothered me was some of the new functions that you can use during your gameplay. The Spartans all have booster packs attached their armor and this allows for them to do some pretty cool and fun things. During your sprint, if you press the melee button, you can perform a shoulder check. This would be great if it had any impact on the opponent. They will always walk away from this and what makes little sense is this attack looks so much stronger than regular melee but seems to have the same impact. The next thing is the ground pound attack, this move is extremely powerful and will kill any spartan that is underneath it. Unfortunately it’s the hardest thing to use because it requires you click and hold the same thumb-stick you use to move. This is a completely disjointed attack that requires too much from the player to use properly.
Overall I feel that there is a lot of potential for a great game here. I buy Halo games for the multiplayer primarily because of the way I play games. If 343 and Microsoft want my money, they are going to need to address these issues. The bright side to this is its a while away from release and there is plenty of time to resolve these issues. I have hope but I’m very cautious about this one.
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Images Courtesy of 343 Industries