“Guns, Grenades, Melee” was the mantra and ideology that drove Bungie and made the Halo games feel unique. Gunplay has been the cornerstone every Halo game, and Halo 5: Guardians looks to follow that path. All the weapons in the Halo 5 beta look, feel, and sound fantastic.
BR: Still a solid 2 to the chest, one to the head weapon. Great at range, scope mechanic feels right; recoil stops you from spamming the trigger
DMR: If you’re looking for the same pros as the BR, without the recoil of a 3 round burst, this is your “go to” weapon. On the maps the beta handed out, I didn’t find myself too excited for this, as you start out with the BR, and the maps aren’t big enough to really warrant a DMR.
Pistol: Feels light, moves quick, fires even quicker. The rapid fire is balanced out with less power per shot. Great weapon for close quarters or finishing someone off after their shield is down.
Hydra: A mini rocket launcher weapon, fire’s small burst of explosive rounds; Great for emptying out a room, but not incredibly accurate.
SMG: This is the polar opposite of the Halo 2 SMG. Where the H2 SMG was a pea shooter, this new SMG is a beast. Close quarters, it will demolish an opponent. Minimal recoil, high rate of fire, good accuracy at a decent range, longer ranged when scoped, this is a go to weapon for now, but expect it to be nerfed by the games release.
Grenades haven’t changed much as the beta has only given us the classic grenade and covenant plasma grenade. Melee however, has undergone a pretty hefty overhaul. Along with the standard melee, and the assassination brought in with Reach, we now have the ground pound, and charge. Ground pound takes advantage of the vertical elements of the game, allowing you to jump down and smash an enemy. 343 have done a great job of balancing this mechanic with a 3 second charge time, where you’re floating in the air(completely vulnerable) and while the ground pound causes some splash damage, if you miss, you find yourself easily staring down the barrel of your opponents weapon.
343 Studios has implemented, for the first time in the franchise, and “Aim Down Sights” or ADS mechanic. Most gamers will recognize this from most modern shooters, where you can aim down the sights of any weapon, gaining increased accuracy. However, this mechanic is seen as a crutch by most Halo fans, as it can allow for almost any weapon to be used at greater range, which ends up making ranged weapons (BR, DMR, Covenant/Promethean rifles) less valuable by comparison. 343 has come up with a clever way of balancing ADS with classic Halo feel; a player is taken out of their scoped view the instant they take any damage. Meaning, at range, camping, you can scope all you’d like, but in a firefight, ADS is pretty much disabled. ADS in the Halo 5 beta was a cool to quickly scope out enemy position, but unless you had a BM or DMR, or had the drop on your opponent, it is hardly ever used.
343 also added a sprint/dash option for all players. Sprinting is a feature that Halo has needed for a minute, and was the only missing feature that makes Halo 2 Anniversary feel dated. And while sprint was available as a perk in Reach, it being open to all players changes the game. Moving quickly through open areas, sprinting through rooms, rushing to aid a teammate, all these help Halo feel like it belongs alongside our modern shooters. Dash is probably the most interesting movement feature added to Halo 5. The ability to quickly strafe, charge, or jump back has an enormous impact on play. Deftly dodging grenades or a sword swipe, quickly backing away from a room where you’re outmatched, a quick charge to catch up and melee an opponent all make the game feel new and fresh, while still feeling like Halo.
The Bad and Questionable
Halo has been renowned for being one of the first console-centric FPS’s that didn’t feel like garbage. This was part Microsoft developing a console that could handle FPS’s correctly in an MP setting, and part Bungie knowing how to craft a shooter. A large portion of that craft was knowing how an FPS should feel, meaning fluid controls, intelligent enemy AI, and the right balance of auto aim. Every Halo game came with enough computerized help to make operating an FPS with analog sticks easy, but not so much that the game felt like it was playing for you. Perhaps it’s how players move now, or the new control scheme and mobility options, or a significant decrease in auto aim, but it feels like I’m fighting the controls every game. Even with experimenting with look sensitivity, the controls are either too stiff or too jerky.
Going back to the ground pound and boost mechanic, for all the new air they breathe into the game, they definitely have a steep learning curve. So far, neither feels intuitive or natural. Clicking down on the right thumb-stick, holding and aiming with it can be frustrating. Having to choose between where to look and the ability to dash/strafe is also irksome; the dash button (B) and the right thumb-stick are operated by the same thumb, and switching between the two isn’t as fluid or intuitive as it could be.
Finally, and this might not be a fair gripe seeing as the game is still a year away, I’m not a fan of the pre-match cinematics or character models. The character models lack polish and look more like matte plastic action figures than a Spartan in Mjolnir armor. Again, I’m assuming this will be touched long before the game comes out, but it is enough of an issue to warrant mention here. As for the pre-game stuff, it just doesn’t feel like Halo. The animation reminds me of something you’d see from NBA Street or Madden intro. Call me a purist, but I don’t need to see my team boasting and acting like a professional athlete before a match. If 343 is intent on having something in there, then please, give me something that fits with the imagery of the elite Spartan soldiers we’ve come to know for 5+ games.
Overall, I’m having a ton of fun with the beta, and I’m extremely excited for the game’s release later this year.
Written by Jake Passot