(Editor's Note: Microsoft requested that we mention that this is work-in-progress content, and is not necessarily reflective of the final product.)
"Player vs Player meets Player vs Everything." That was the tagline shown in the trailer for Halo 5's newest multiplayer mode, Warzone. As neat as that sounds, it doesn't really give anyone a great idea of what the mode actually is.
After playing two full rounds of Warzone, I now feel like I have a good understanding of what Warzone is. Well, aside from being hands down the most fun I've ever had playing Halo in multiplayer.
The best way to describe Warzone is by thinking of it a gigantic game of King of the Hill, but infused with gameplay elements taken from popular MOBAs. It a 12-on-12 battle in a humongous map with three neutral bases that can be captured and held. There are three victory conditions for the mode: Be the first team to acquire 1000 victory points, destroy the enemy's core, or have the most victory points when time runs out.
You can acquire victory points in several ways. First, kills obviously will grant your team victory points, but considering the fact that they only give you one point per kill, and you need 1000 points to win, treating Warzone like team slayer likely won't help out your team very much. A much better way to earn points is by capturing and holding the three neutral bases on the map.
In order to capture a base, you must first clear out all of its defenders, and then remain inside until the capture is complete. A captured base will automatically add victory points to your team's total, and will continue to do so until the other team manages to fully capture it. Simply contesting a base will not stop the flow of victory points going to the other team.
The final way to win victory points is the most interesting. At set times throughout the game, AI controlled bosses will spawn on the map. If your team manages to land the killing blow on a boss, they can score as many as 200 victory points all at once, which is huge. In my second match, we were in control of the majority of the bases for nearly the entire match, but because we neglected killing the AI bosses whenever they spawned, we couldn't hold on to our lead as time expired.
So you can tell already where the MOBA influence comes in. Taking out the AI bosses is very reminiscent of grouping your team up to defeat the Dragon in League of Legends or rushing your team over to collect a tribute in Heroes of the Stormm, but that's not where the influences end. Each player also starts at level 1 and can gain levels by killing enemies. Gaining levels grants you energy, which can be spent by approaching a Requisition Station inside a captured base and purchasing power weapons and vehicles.
Energy refills over time, and completely refills every time you level up. The higher your level, the more energy you have, and the more access you have to the big guns in Halo's arsenal. Reaching level 6, for example, will get you access to every gun in the req station, including rocket launchers, hydra launchers, sniper rifles, and spartan lasers. Not only that, but you could also use your energy to purchase a Ghost, Banshee, or Mantis. Once you reach level seven, you'll even be able to purchase a Phaeton, which is a Promethean ship that can air dash, fire powerful gatling guns, and use a barrage of missiles. Needless to say, leveling up and spending your energy wisely is a surefire way to change the tide of a battle.
If a team manages to capture all three bases, they will expose the enemy's core in their home base. Destroy the enemy core and it doesn't matter how many victory points that team has, they will lose instantly.
Personally, I'm in love with this mode. It features everything that I love about Halo's multiplayer and presents in a way that's truly innovative and refreshing. I love being able to immediately purchase a weapon that can potentially counter a vehicle that's wreaking havoc on my team, I love the risk involved with spending a whole bunch of energy points on a big weapon and potentially getting killed before you even get a chance to use it, I love the teamwork involved with trying to get a squad together to hunt down the AI boss and how it can potentially lead to a base being captured due to there being less people to defend the base. Everything about the mode just seems very intelligently designed and I can't wait to play more.
Fortunately, we'll all be able to play more this year when Halo 5 releases on the Xbox One on October 27.