Last weekend, I played my first few rounds of Halo 5: Guardians multiplayer. I’d seen the videos and I’d heard the concern from Halo fans, but I wanted to actually get my hands on it before I made any judgments. After all, Halo’s competitive multiplayer has never been my strong suit, so I was more excited about the changes than the Halo purists.

FROM EARLIER: BGR plays Halo 5 multiplayer live starting at 4:00 p.m. ET – watch right here!

I’m pleased to say that Halo 5 is a true evolution of Halo multiplayer, but still distinctly Halo. What stands out the most is the pacing of the rounds. Halo was never exactly a slow game, but it felt more deliberate than many popular FPS titles on the market.

In Halo 5, sprinting is no longer optional. If you want to survive, you’ll need to learn how to traverse in a way that you might not be accustomed to. After a few seconds of jogging, your Spartan will break into an all-out sprint, propelled by jets protruding from the back of his (or her!) armor.

There are a few other innovations as well, such as the ability to boost dodge out of harm’s way both on the ground and in the air. You can also freeze in mid-air by zooming in on an enemy. It makes aerial kills more viable, but also leaves you extremely vulnerable.

The most baffling inclusion is the ability to ground stomp your opponents into submission. Straight out of Mortal Kombat, once your character has ascended into the air, you have the ability to pause, aim your body and then charge into the ground, decimating anyone in the immediate vicinity. It feels more satisfying than Destiny’s one-hit kills, but it was incredibly frustrating to deal with as I was trying to learn the maps and the new moveset.

Speaking of maps, both Truth (a remake of Midship) and Empire (an original map) felt perfectly suited to the sped-up action. I streamed the first hour of my time with the game, but took out a single match as a highlight, which you can watch below.

(Ignore my silent mug in the corner – the Kinect mic is much worse than I’d expected.)

It’s been a long time since I’ve been this excited about Halo. Yes, the team at 343 Industries seems to have taken a cue from another popular FPS franchise, but from what I’ve played, Halo 5 fits nicely in an unexplored space between the relentlessness of Call of Duty and the more deliberate pace of previous Halo games.

For everyone who bought Halo: The Master Chief Collection, the full Halo 5: Guardians Multiplayer Beta will be available on December 29th and will run through January 18th.