First-person shooters aren’t quite as simple as they were in the Halo 3 days, back when Halo consistently topped the Xbox Live charts. In between that title and Halo 4, the Call of Duty series really came into its own in terms of multiplayer, and that introduced a lot of actions we take for granted, like sprinting and climbing.
Halo 4 tried to adopt some CoD aspects, such as loadouts and weapon drops, and also moved away from the arena-based combat that made Halo so popular. The result was one of the lesser-played Halo multiplayer modes in the history of the franchise. So 343 decided to go back to the drawing board with the multiplayer in Halo 5: Guardians.
I played about an hour of multiplayer back on Saturday, thanks to 343’s “early access” event for Xbox Live Preview Program members. What I found was the game I’d really hoped Halo 4 would be back when I played it at the end of 2012. Halo 5: Guardians manages to fuse the soul of those old-school Halo classics with some ideas from modern shooters like Call of Duty and Titanfall, and for the first time in a while, Halo multiplayer feels completely fresh, but still familiar.
Some notables: sprinting is the same left-thumbstick click that it is for every other first-person shooter — this will undoubtedly please those trying to run around in Master Chief Collection. There’s a dash button now that works both on the ground and in the air. And, speaking of air, the game gains some much needed verticality. You won’t have to land jumps perfectly anymore, as there’s now some ledge climbing. And you can also jump and aim to suspend yourself in the air for several seconds.
If you’ve played some of the newer shooters, you’ll appreciate these changes in a big way. But Halo is its own game, and thankfully, it feels like the core mechanics and gameplay from the older titles are back. Guardians is not about ordinances or special abilities; it’s about knowing the map, working as a team, and controlling power weapons. And, personally, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
This is a beta for a game that’s a year out, though, and a lot could change in that time. The end result we get in late 2015 could take us back down that same, dissatisfying road that Halo 4’s multiplayer chose. But strictly speaking about my opinion of the Guardians beta: 343 is headed in the right direction.