“Hello again” were the first words to leave my mouth when I fired up the Halo Reach Multiplayer Beta. And several games later, I can safely say that Halo has returned with a vengeance. The highly anticipated game set to release in September will be getting its beta this Monday for all ODST users to enjoy until May 19th, where we have to say goodbye for a few months. Luckily, I got in on the action early.
First up is the new interface. The menus have slightly changed. First off, you have a list of all your friends playing Halo Reach on the right side of the screen and shows what they’re doing, giving you the option to view their file share or join their game without having to use the pesky guide button. New social settings allow you to give a brief insight into how you act online, and the new Arena system will challenge the hardcore, whilst standard keep the people who play the game for a good time interested.
Customization has been ramped up a notch. After each game, you earn credits based on what you do in the game, and you can use these credits to purchase helmets, shoulder plates and chest pieces for your spartan. Some parts require you to be a certain rank before you can purchase them, but what is unlockable in the beta only gives a brief glimpse as to the variety of customization you’ll get in the final product. Emblem creation has been improved and simplified, plus colours are also back.
Let’s talk graphics. The graphics are improved and amazing, a big improvement over Halo 3 ODST graphics which where starting to show their age. Extra detail has been put into everything from the environment to the weapons. The closer you get to an object, the more detail is shown and also a slight motion blur makes it all look even cooler. The guns now sound even grittier and realistic than before, packing a punch.
New weapon additions include the Needle Rifle, a slow shooting rifle that shoots needles at your opponent, landing enough needles to score a pink explosion of death. The DRM, Designated Marksman Rifle has replaced the Battle Rifle and works as the Needle Rifle’s counterpart, a slow but powerful weapon that requires sequenced shooting to get the best accuracy. Firing that trigger like there’s no tomorrow will make your bullets go everywhere. The Plasma Launcher fires four homing plasma grenades at once but requires a large charge time similar to the Spartan Laser. The Focus Beam is a powerful long-range weapon that fires like a Sentinel Beam; you will dominate the battlefield if you get to this fast.
New gametypes include Stockpile, where flags are scattered across the map and your job is to get them back to your area, as many as you can. Every minute, any flags in the area are cashed in for points for your team, and flag spawns alternate to keep you on your toes. Most points by the end of the time limit scores your team a victory. Headhunter is currently Free For All only in the beta, where killing enemies drops a skull for you to collect. Cash in skulls at constantly changing checkpoints to score points. Doing one at a time is the slow but safe way to play, whereas gathering lots of skulls makes you a large target for enemies but reaps big points. First to score 25 skulls win, or whoever scores in 10 skulls at once gets an instant win. Invasion and Generator Defense will be added later in the beta.
New Armor Abilities replace equipment. There are currently four in the beta; Armor Lock, Active Camo, Sprint and Jetpack. Armor Lock puts you into a stationary position and makes you invulnerable for a short time, recharging your shields and unleashing a small EMP to take out the shields of anyone camping in your direct vicinity. Active Camo makes you invisible and scrambles both your and the enemy’s radar. Sprint works like sprinting in Call of Duty, giving you speed on the battlefield to get to destinations quickly and avoid enemy fire. Jetpack; well, you know what that does. Each ability has to recharge each time after use. The shorter you use it for, the quicker it recharges to full again.
There are currently two maps in the beta, but Boneyard will be added on May 7th, whilst Overlook will be added on May 14th. First off, Powerhouse is a complex outdoor map based around structures. One team starts on the high ground whilst the other starts on the low ground. Specifically designed for one way gametypes, this map will get quite frantic at times, especially with spawns like the Gravity Hammer and the Focus Beam to cause carnage. Sword Base will remind you of Boarding Action, with a series of bridges connecting the two sides together and a man cannon to propel you to various locations. Great for free for all gametypes and Stockpile, you will have to play this quite a bit to figure out which areas lead to where.
New assassinations have been added, where holding down the melee button behind someone will trigger an awesome animated assassination. Having certain weapons like the Energy Sword make it more interesting, however you can be saved if your teammate is quick enough whilst you are being assassinated.
Loadouts which can be chosen at the start and during game start you off with a weapon, secondary weapon, grenades and an armor ability. For instance, you can have Assault Rifle, Magnum, two frags and Armor Lock. Each is given a name corresponding to what its useful for, such as Airborne for jetpack types. A new yet exciting addition to Halo.
One thing is for sure, you are going to love the beta when it goes live to everyone. Safe to say, from only playing a portion of the beta, that this will be one of the biggest hits of 2010.