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Halo 5: Guardians Multiplayer Preview: Reviving A Classic

11/11/2014 09:42 GMT | Updated 11/11/2014 10:59 GMT

Halo 5: Guardians Multiplayer Beta is available from the 29 December for three weeks on the Xbox One.

Halo 5 isn't ready yet. That's not a negative observation, it's just a statement of fact.

That 343 Industries even have a version that is playable so far in advance is a testament not only to their ability, but also their commitment to make a game that Halo fans love and have a say in.

For some adults (yours truly included), Halo was as integral to my childhood as say, BMX-ing in the woods after school or bunking my first lesson.

That in itself is a big mountain of pressure, but it doesn't stop there. If Microsoft's grand launch of the Master Chief Collection goes as planned then they'll have inspired a whole new generation of gamers who'll have the same hopes and expectations.

halo 5 guardians beta

Halo plays a certain way, it always has. Throughout the series it has gone through various iterations but by and large, it feels the same.

The good news is that at least from what we played, Halo 5 too still feels like Halo. You still have the powers and sense of a superhuman soldier, with the same blend of power and dexterity. What 343 have done is build on the lessons learnt in Halo 3 and Halo 4: where the later games introduced third-party actions, Halo 5 will refine them.

Mjolnir:

Firstly though there's a big change regarding sprinting. It's back, but it comes at a high price. Your shields won't recharge while you're sprinting, so if you want to go on a sword-wielding sprint-fest then you're going to need to time your runs to perfection.

It's a simple and elegant solution to a balancing dynamic that left Advanced Warfare full of pistol-wielding sprinters.

343 has replaced Reach's weird 'super' moves with one system that's constantly active: the jetpack. It's an integral part of the suit that provides abilities which can speed up or slow down your gameplay.

halo 5 guardians beta

The Stabiliser ability is a prime example of this: jump in mid-air and then aim down the sights and your jet pack will drastically slow your descent back down making it easier to line up a shot.

Thrusters now allow you to dash left or right using 'B', it takes some getting used to but it's a great counter-balance to the increased speed of the game.

Groundpound is probably the most antiquated of these as it puts you back in third-person: jump off a cliff or ledge, click the right thumbstick and a landing reticle is displayed. Once lined up your character will use the jet pack to perform a massive physical ground-blow.

halo 5 guardians beta

It's slow, leaves you fantastically vulnerable but if timed correctly, can result in an instant kill.

It was -- in truth -- our least favourite element of the new gameplay changes but we can see it becoming a real trophy kill technique.

Finally there's charge: Start sprinting and then when you've lined up a target tap the right bumper and your jet pack will engage, turning you into a locomotive of metal and pain. Front on it'll remove their shields, hit them from behind and they're down.

halo 5 guardians charge

Other changes affect the weapons themselves with de-scoping making a much-needed return. 343 have also given weapons and update, weapons without physical scopes now project virtual scopes onto your HUD.

The Maps

So how does it feel to play? Well if there's one thing 343's team of Halo veterans knows how to do, it's build multiplayer maps.

We were able to play three maps, all very close-quarters. With such close-combat fighting it was clear how pivotal these new abilities will become.

halo 5 guardians beta

A well-timed dash can literally save you while the Ground Pound is a fine art with the close confines forcing you into split-second aiming decisions.

As with all Halo maps though they've managed to balance the close knit layout with plenty of height, forcing you to improvise.

One of the maps however was a little different. It was called Breakout and it almost stole the whole show.

Arena was shown off in the Beta trailer earlier this year, it's a four vs four area that looks like something out of a Tron light cycle circuit.

There are no respawns and very few weapons, there's also one height vantage point and a trench in the middle. Playing it was nerve-wracking joy.

What had started as a room of journalists just playing through the maps had turned into a deathly silence as both Xbox employees and non-players eagerly huddled round to see the result.

It's addictive to play and nail-biting to watch. As Microsoft's big play for Esports it has every potential to grab gamers hook, line, and sinker.

If Arena has any weaknesses it's that it relies on you having four friends you know and can communicate with. If you don't then the team-element could be lost on you.

Conclusion

This is arguably the biggest shake up to the way Halo has been played since it first launched. But the seemingly Titanfall-inspired changes appear -- at first glance -- to have paid off.

Simplicity and movement are the themes here, it's a bold step backwards where CoD is constantly fighting to innovate but honestly, it's simply returning Halo's multiplayer to what made it so great.