Hands-on Preview: Halo 5 Guardians

With just weeks to go before its release, Microsoft gave Australian gamers the chance to try out Halo 5: Guardians’ multiplayer at EBX 2015. The next instalment in the Halo franchise, Guardians is the first of the series’ main line of games to be exclusive to the Xbox One.

Before continuing, I would like to point out that all multiplayer DLC maps will be made available free of charge. According to the rep that briefed us, this decision was made so that all players have an equal chance of playing against one another.

SCREENSHOT_HALO_5_MP_0001_Layer 4The game’s multiplayer sees the introduction of the new REQ system, whereby players can earn credits to requisition equipment for use on the battlefield. These are divided into three categories: cosmetic, permanent gear, and one-use items.

Cosmetic cards generally refer to the stances and armour/weapons that can be equipped, allowing players to customise their own Spartan, as well as the appearance of their weapons. For a more personal touch, assassination animations can also be customised.

HEADER_HALO_5_MPTo put it simply, permanent REQ cards include the basic loadout weapons available and armour mods that are available to players.

Lastly, players can make use of single-use items during a match. These generally include more powerful weapons such as sniper rifles and rocket launchers, as well as vehicles like Warthogs and Wraiths. Once expended, the card will be consumed and no longer available in a particular match.

At EBX, we were able to fight it out in the core version of the new Warzone game mode, which allows for 12v12 battles. This core mode features PvP gameplay, though players must also contend with AI-controlled opponents such as the Covenant, Prometheans and their bosses. Furthermore, teams have to compete for dominance over the map, as I’ll discuss next.SCREENSHOT_HALO_5_MP_0004_Layer 1

Putting the REQ system into practice, players can find REQ stations located at bases on the battlefield, where equipment can be obtained. REQ stations are tied to the ownership of a base, so teams must maintain control over these areas to be able to use them, though each team does have a home base that they permanently control. I stress the importance of capturing and holding bases in the map’s centre, in order to be well-equipped to keep up the fight.

At the onset of a match, only basic equipment is available until a player’s team collectively unlocks higher levels during the course of the match (and subsequently, higher tiered items). To be able to obtain these items, players will have to spend REQ points that accumulate through killing AI-controlled opponents or other players. However, single-use cards and vehicles mean expending energy, which takes time to recharge, so players are advised to use it sparingly.

Now, upon the match starting, my team breezed right through AI opponents, quickly racking up the points and taking an early lead. But on pushing on to the first neutral base, we hit one hell of a snag.

We encountered a well dug-in enemy force, and engaged them. But our lead slowly dropped, as enemy players offered fewer points than their AI counterparts, and we failed to work cohesively as a team. We ended up embroiled in a tug-of-war battle for control over that one base for the remainder of the match, while our opponents surpassed us and took out the match with a 400+ point lead.

Though our defeat was staggering, I must say that I found the experience to be enjoyable overall. With the redesigned multiplayer, players can now participate in more large-scale battles, with a greater incentive to work together to win.

Halo 5: Guardians is set for release on October 27.