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Here we are folks, just a scant few days left in the Halo 5: Guardians multiplayer beta. Feels like it was only yesterday that I was struggling to even get through a match without mixing up the crouch and zoom buttons. Now I’m a proper pro, with a kill/death ratio that is almost positive! Get me, eh?! For this remaining week of game-time 343 Industries have kindly provided us with a few more new goodies to futz around with.
First up is the new map, ‘Pegasus’, the first of two forge-based and created maps. It’s a solid, if slightly sterile and unremarkable piece of work. As a forge map, built out of pre-made pieces for function rather than form, it’s not much to look at from an aesthetics standpoint. In terms of fascinating exciting gameplay though it works well enough. It’s quite large with plenty of room for all sorts of sniping contests, with a cramped lower area beneath that makes for intense close-quarters skirmishes. The more of it I played the more I began to suspect it was created by 343 purely for the purposes of giving you somewhere to use all of your Spartan’s new abilities. A sort of playground, if you will.
The second forge map is ‘Orion’, an asymmetrical map that immediately brought all sorts of memories of Halo 2’s ‘Ascension’ map flooding back to me. It’s a mix of that type of layout with some more wide open areas, the flow between different types of gameplay on this map is just great. One second you’re picking off enemies from across the map with a sniper rifle, the next you’re getting up in someone’s face in the middle of a hectic melee. Or just running away from their energy sword. Again, as a forge map it isn’t a very pretty prospect, but the design is classic frenzied Halo stuff. Definitely my favorite of the two forge maps.
The new game mode is dubbed ‘Strongholds’ and is very much in the vein of something like ‘Domination’ from the Call of Duty games, if you’re familiar with that mode. There are three control points on the map (the mode is only playable on the ‘Regret’ and ‘Empire’ maps in this beta) and your team must control at least two of them in order to gain a point every second. First team to a hundred points wins. Strongholds more so than any other mode really emphasizes the increase in pace and just overall hectic feel that 343 have implemented with Halo 5: Guardians. This thing is intense, sweaty-palms stuff from beginning to end. A whole lot of fun, but not the kind of mode you go for when you’re just looking for a quick and simple multiplayer session.
And that’s just about that for this beta. I have to say, no other beta or demo or what have you in recent memory has piqued my interest quite as sharply as this one has. It’s clear to me that 343 really want to break away from the conventions of the franchise as much as possible, and to contribute their own unique ideas to it’s core DNA. A lot of the time this sort of experimentation with a well-trodden formula can lead to disaster, or at least mediocrity. However, after actually spending time with it I have the utmost confidence in 343 that they are going about doing so in the smartest way possible. I think this could be a really exciting new dawn for the Halo series, and I can’t wait to get my hands on the full game later this year.