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Halo 5: Guardians' new Warzone mode is bigger, slower, and smarter

Halo 5: Guardians introduces a new Warzone multiplayer type, with bigger maps, more players, and tactical diversity unseen in other Halo modes.

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The new Warzone in Halo 5: Guardians is a lumbering beast of a mode. Its increased player count, lengthy play time, and sprawling map size make it the biggest of the Halo offerings in more ways than one. And while it does impact the pace of encounters in unexpected ways, it also opens the door for 343 Industries to introduce tactical diversity not found in the series more standard multiplayer offerings.

In a hands-on of a single match, I was struck by just how many options I had at any given time. As opposed to a standard objective-based multiplayer bout, I was constantly encouraged to choose from three or more goals, any of which would assist my team. I could defend my own territory, fight my way into an enemy base to claim more territory, engage with a dropship full of Covenant underlings, or even take on a significantly more powerful Promethean boss. The result is akin to mixing Halo's classic multiplayer with an open world game. I really haven't played anything quite like it. 

The variety of objectives all assign different point values to your side, and a high point total is required to win the match. That makes matches extra-long, with an 18-minute timer, because you're capturing a few points here or there to reach the 1000 that wins the match. (You can also capture all the control points and destroy the enemy core to win quickly, but that seems likely to be rare.)

AI-controlled opponents are worth quite a bit, but they're points for the taking on both sides. That leads to intense three-way battles as you're forced to fend off human opponents just so you can claim the kill for yourself. 

Even at higher player counts and with so many objectives, though, the map I played may have still been a hair too big. Often, when I decided that pressing for territory was the highest priority, I would have to jog for a while to reach the conflict area. The moment-to-moment combat is just as quick as ever, but the intermittent pauses between the action while you cross the map do have the effect of slowing its pace somewhat.

You can speed up that pace by spending Requisition Points, which unlock gear or vehicles. I was a bit wary of it, since I didn't want to annoy my teammates by claiming a vehicle for my own and then mismanaging it, costing us the win and the points in one fell swoop. But, since they spent the majority of the match laying dormant, I ultimately decided to try out a giant mech. It did feel incredibly powerful, though not invulnerable, and is just the sort of thing that could turn the tide of battle--if in the hands of a better pilot than myself, at least.

My team eventually did lose the match, thanks largely to a complete lack of communication. I could hear the other team start to chatter midway through the match, and that perfectly coincided with them taking the lead and then the win. Communication is key in any multiplayer game, but it may be even more invaluable in Warzone. 

The reason is simple: this isn't Slayer. Racking up kills will help your team a little, but the strongest teams will be the ones that position their resources to where they'll be most effective. That makes it a smarter approach to multiplayer, and serious Halo players will need to adapt their thinking to strategize on a much broader scale. 

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