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    Halo 5: Guardians, Turn and face the strange

    If the beta for Halo 5: Guardians is any indication of what to expect from the future of Microsoft’s favorite shooter, things are changing in Master Chief’s universe.Included as part of Halo: The Master Chief Collection, the Halo 5: Guardians multiplayer beta ran for three weeks, giving players an early peek at a collection of multiplayer maps, the new Breakout mode, and gameplay mechanics both new and familiar to Halo fans.

    The Controls
    Though not as dependent on aiming down the sights as shooters like Call of Duty, Halo 5’s controls encourage players to pull the gun up to their eye and look down the reticle. This is the most jarring change to controlling a Spartan on the battlefield. Spartans also now have a dedicated sprint button (something Bungie’s Halos never employed), are able to climb up previously inaccessible ledges, use a jetpack to float while aiming in the air or get a burst of speed to quickly relocate, and use a difficult-to-execute mid-air ground-slam.

    It’s not the Halo we’re used to, but it has enough familiarity to give the game an undeniable Halo feel. Grenades function as they always have, your opponents can still take a healthy dose of bullets before dying in Slayer, and verticality and jumping still play major roles in the firefights.

    The Modes
    The beta offered two modes for players to sample: classic Team Slayer and the
    new Breakout.

    Team Slayer is where Halo feels most familiar, even with the addition of ledge climbing and boosting from jetpacks. Halo 2’s popular Midship map returns, allowing players to run around, get into scuffles, move in for melee killls, and strategically bounce grenades off corners.

    Breakout mode constitutes Halo 5’s most dramatic new direction. Two teams of four
    players take on one another on a course best described as an Ender’s Game-inspired paintball field of the future. Every player has one life and the rounds go quick. The first team to reach five victories wins the overall game. It’s a new take on Swat mode, encouraging headshots and limiting shields. In a way, it plays like the child of Halo and Counter-Strike.

    Breakout feels like 343’s attempt at crafting an eSports-focused Halo mode, and even has the winning Spartans celebrating their victories with high-fives at the end of the match.

    Our own reactions are mixed throughout the office, with some long-time fans decrying the radical changes to the Halo formula and others ready to embrace the new direction. Personally, I am hopeful for Halo 5’s future. It’s a different game than the shooter Bungie established, but with a new developer overseeing the franchise’s direction, that’s as it should be.

    The Professionals
    Given the beta’s spirit of professional competitive play, we spoke with current and former members of OpTic Halo, a team of professional Halo players about the changes heading to Halo and their overall thoughts on the beta.

    Michael “Flamesword” Chaves »  “Sprint has always been questionable for Halo, but for the first time ever 343 Industries has made it work. If a player’s shields are down and they’re sprinting then shields will not return until they’ve stopped and they get a chance to recharge. This is an awesome new feature, as players can’t abuse doing sprint rushes and getting away with it. It returns the gameplay back to the way Halo used to be: rewarding the better player for the smarter play.

    Overall the beta is fun. It’s very different from past Halos, but holds to its core components as an arena shooter.”

    Mason “Aries” Miller » “I enjoy finally playing a Halo where it feels difficult to shoot in. It has been a long time since I’ve noticed a skill gap just based off a player’s ability to shoot in a game of Halo.”

    Clete “Assault” LoRusso » “To start, shooting and abilities are vastly improved in Halo 5. For instance, the sprint mechanics in the beta are superior to Halo’s previous editions since shields do not recharge while running away from battles. Additionally, the booster pack definitely added to the skill gap in the game, and with the competitive skill ranking created by 343 Industries, it should be quite obvious the players on the top of the leaderboard utilize this tool effectively and efficiently.

    However, I am worried about the game’s weapon balance, map designs, and controller settings. Although it’s possible they may not make it into competitive settings, Regret and its power weapon, the Hydra, have significant problems.

    Regret has a diminished line of sight which limits team shooting arguably a common occurrence in 343’s map designs. The Hydra, which can potentially replace a rocket launcher in competitive play, is quite overpowered with its ability to lock onto targets from far away. As an example, I can lock onto someone from red sneaky on Regret and hit someone across the map after I lock-on by pointing the gun to the sky and watching the missiles chase after my target as they go behind protective barriers.

    Overall, I’m mixed on Halo 5’s beta, but I’m optimistic for the game’s full release as long as 343 can improve weapon balance and map design.”

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