There’s an overwhelming amount of content in Halo: The Master Chief Collection for Xbox One, from Halo 2 re-mastered to over 100 multiplayer maps and the live action series, Halo Nightfall. Even if you manage to get through everything, there’s one more feature Microsoft and 343 Industries have up their virtual sleeves, the Halo 5: Guardians Beta. Launching at the end of December and running through most of January, early access to next fall’s highly anticipated sequel provides an in-depth look at multiplayer, but what does it entail, and what’s new in the game? With these questions in mind, here’s a rundown of everything you can expect. 

When does the Halo 5: Guardians Beta begin? 

The action kicks off on December 29 and concludes January 18.  That’s 21 days of Halo, which means you have a potential 504 hours of playtime. 

How do I get into the Halo 5: Guardians Beta? 

For now, the only way to get access is to purchase a copy of Halo: The Master Chief Collection. There’s always a chance Microsoft will provide other means of entry, but this is a surefire way to guarantee a spot. 

How is Halo 5: Guardians different from other Halo games?

343 Industries made several exciting and possibly controversial enhancements to Spartan Mjolnir armor via GEN2 software. Players possess infinite sprint but their shields do not recharge while sprinting.  A new Clamber feature lets users grab onto ledges and pull themselves up, while Slide allows them to quickly get behind cover and/or out of harm’s way after reaching top speed.

In addition, a Spartan’s Thruster Pack lets he or she perform a quick dash in any direction, on the ground and in the air; there is a cool down between uses. Players may also use the Thruster Pack to execute a Spartan Charge to run into and damage opponents, along with a Ground Pound from the air, which can take out multiple enemies at once.  

Smart Scope mode gives players the chance to zoom in and get a much better look at intended targets, transforming the screen into an augmented reality HUD. Gamers have full range of movement in Smart Scope; taking damage forces a de-scope.  Smart Scope ties into a Spartan’s Stabilizers that grant the ability to hover for brief periods of time. While beneficial in multiplayer, hovering (especially while using Smart Scope) leaves the Spartan exposed. 

Note: All weapons in Halo 5 have Smart Scope ability.

What is Breakout?

Your newest addiction! Breakout is a brand-new mode in the Halo multiplayer universe. Two teams comprised of four players each (red versus blue) wage war in a first to win five rounds throw down.  You only receive one life per round and have weakened shields, making you and the other gamers easier to kill. A round is over when all members of one team have been eliminated. 

343 Industries will release different Breakout maps. The one pictured here is called Crossfire, and contains areas known as the tower, the house and the pit.  Knowing these locations and communicating are two keys to success. Example: “There are two in the house!” “There’s a guy in the tower!” 

What other modes are there?

In addition to Breakout, you’ll be able to play Slayer (deathmatch) across the following three maps: Truth, Midship from Halo 2 and the all-new Empire. The latter (pictured) is a vertical-style map with skyscrapers, which is perfect for showing off the Clamber ability. 

343 Industries will poll users (questions TBA) and release new maps and modes on a weekly basis. This content is unknown for now. 

What is the Prophet’s Bane? 

It’s a new and more powerful form of the Covenant Energy Sword. A Spartan carrying it possesses enhanced run speed. When used with Smart Scope, the player can pull off a much greater lunge attack.

Will my progress in the Beta carry over to Halo 5: Guardians?

Yes, all of the helmets, armor and customization transfers to next year’s Halo 5 release. In fact, you’ll unlock items for the Halo 5: Guardians Beta by doing things in Master Chief Collection, from watching Halo: Nightfall to playing the games. 

How does match making work in the Halo 5: Guardians Beta? 

343 Industries created a Competitive Skill Rating system (CSR) that tracks your personal strengths and weaknesses, then puts you in multiplayer matches with people of similar skill.