Halo 5: Guardians – Arena Mode Impressions

Complementing the ambitious campaign mode for Halo 5: Guardians, Arena mode is going to definitely be a joy for anyone looking for serious competition in online multiplayer. Despite being able to customize your online arsenal through the Requisition System, none of those weapons or perks will transfer to Arena Mode, effectively leveling the playing field. The only thing that will carry over are cosmetic tweaks you’ve made to your character save for the color. No matter what, you’ll always find yourself in classic red or blue.

Capture-the-flag mode is standard as far as objectives: first team to steal the opposing team's flag and return it to their base three times wins. In the meantime it’s also a mad dash to find the best weapon spawn points to defend your fellow flag carriers and defend your team's flag.

The addition of thrusters to the Spartan armor help significantly in all forms of multiplayer as they can easily help you avoid several dangers of the battlefield. My favorite element is how the thrusters can benefit you in close-quarters combat as those encounters in Arena can be the deciding factors no matter what mode you're playing. In one instance I was able to deter an ambush at our homebase by body-checking an enemy Spartan in order for my team to score the winning point during a round.

Perfecting the Spartan Charge move can help you take out enemy flag carriers easily, allowing you or your teammates to regain the advantage. You can also try using the new Spartan Ground Pound move, but this requires you to essentially hang in the air before locating your target so you’ll make an easy approach.

I preferred sticking with the close-quarters melee attacks and specialty SMGs/assault rifles during these rounds as opposed to the rocket launcher or sniper rifle. Those high-powered weapons are the most sought after on the battlefield, so going for them right away is asking for trouble. The SMGs were surprisingly the most effective for me during these rounds as they had a fairly low recoil and packed quite a wallop. Grenades are also in constant use, but getting kills with them is more difficult for everyone since the Spartan Thrusters can easily get you out of harm's way if noticed in time.

4v4 classic deathmatch is back as well. Depending on which end of the map you start on, you’ll have easy access to different weapons right out of the gate. When I played, someone on the opposing side clearly knew where to find the rocket launcher straight away so my entire team was effectively dodging heavy fire for a long while. That didn’t stop us from dominating most of the Deathmatch rounds, though. The maps I tried—Coliseum, Breakout, and The Rig—aren't too large so learning them is very easy even if you only play for a short amount of time. This factor really helped me determine the common movements of the enemy team, so I could avoid them as much as possible until it was the optimal time to strike. The specialty weapons do respawn during each round so it is possible for multiple people to end up with the same high-powered artillery.

My favorite mode was also the most challenging Arena mode and that was Breakout. It is a single-spawn competitive mode that pits players on opposite sides with one flag in the middle of the map. If one team is able to get the flag and move it to their home base, then they win the round. You can also win by being the last player standing, however if the remaining players on both sides don’t capture the flag or kill each other before the time runs out, you tie the round. This is another way of “winning” for the losing team which adds another tactical layer to Breakout.

Overall, it’s the single-spawn element that makes this an extremely challenging competitive mode and can lead to very quick rounds. That along with the time limits incentivises players to engage in combat even if they find themselves in an outmatched scenario. It can also lead to some ridiculous victories. Part way through one round, I had found myself with the flag, alone, surrounded by enemy players. Somehow I managed to elude them and make it back to my team's base to score and win the round. Luck is almost more of a factor in Breakout than any other mode due to how fast-paced it is with the single-spawn element. The quick matches can easily trip up even the most skilled players and I foresee it as the mode with the most potential to cause upsets in the eSports community.

Halo 5 has a wide range of multiplayer value even for players who wouldn’t normally play multiplayer in a first-person shooter game. The only real downside is that there will be no split-screen multiplayer which means that you won’t be able to spontaneously initiate multiplayer match-ups with your friends unless you happen to have a spare Xbox One around the house. For those of you who can’t wait to test out Arena Mode for yourself Halo 5: Guardians releases next month, October 27th, exclusively on Xbox One.