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Halo: Reach‘s beta has ended. The combat is finally over and the dust is beginning to settle. Spartans versus Elites, Spartans versus Spartans and Elites versus Elites. It’s all a massive explosion of carnage and combat.

That said, the planet has yet to fall. This fall the game proper will be released but until then, Bungie will be going over the results and and games fought over the past two weeks and fine tuning the multi-player experience.

So what came of the beta? Well it was fun, for one, but it was hardly a perfect experience. For every jubilant cry of victory there were expletives aplenty spewed into headsets.

Read on for our thoughts. 

First, the good.

The game is an outstanding, outstanding piece of fun. The addition of new guns, armor types (more on them later) and gametypes is a massive improvement over what Halo 3 and ODST managed with the community (and it is a massive community).

The removal of Elites as a playable option in normal slayer games was a good one. The shorter, more hunched Covenant warriors were difficult to headshot and harder to spot in general. Instead, the Elites can only fight each other in Covy Slayer or other Spartans in Covenent/UNSC grudge-matches in Invasion or Generator Destruction matches. It evens things out, mostly.

The new match selection is outstanding well done. Instead of a pre-selected option and veto, voting to one of three (or none of the above) with the simple majority winner being selected removes the SWAT/shotty-snipers circle of Hell that’s existed in our 360 for the past three years.

The removal of the ridiculous item combos and dual wielding has smoothed out the game and made it much leaner and fun, back to the simplicity of the original Halo’s multiplayer with some added bonuses.

The armour types are awesome. Jetpacks, active camo, sprinting and a personal timed overshield make things much more balanced than the old race for the active camo free-for-alls that happened before. That said, they’re definitely not perfect and it’s here that Bungie needs to do the most work.

Personally, we prefer Scout in most cases although the community at large loves those jetpacks…

The types cross across races with some minor differences for one simple reason – the races play differently.

This is both a blessing and a curse – the bigger, badder more intimidating Elites are broader and easier to hit, but more powerful, have more health, start with plasma grenades and are harder to headshot from a distance. The fun we had plasma charging and then melee killing Spartans could not be equalled. It’s the key to winning in SvE Slayer – everything else is just a bonus.

With the new races comes new melee kills, which was sorely needed. Pistol whipping everyone in every situation was rather lame and now assassinations are done with context (and race) specific kills. This is awesome. The animations are great and enjoyable to watch, but you’ve probably already seen them.

Invasion is a fun new, characterful mode that pits Elites and Spartans against each other, where Elites try and steal generator cores from the Spartans. The only problem is the lack of explanation. The directions were unclear and once the Elites went from winning 2-0 to losing 3-2 after the game had been called.

Everyone was a bit confused. More clarification would be nice here, Bungie.

So what of the bad? Well, the weapons are a mixed bag and some of the level design is a bit weird and one particular armor type needs nerfing in the extreme.

The weapons are useful, but an entire clip of the assault rife and it’s first-to-the-bumper kills, which was why it was removed from Halo 2 before the game got official LIVE support. Tone it down just a smidge.

It would be nice if the Covenant had a TRUE sniper rifle again. The Jackal’s rifle from Halo 3 is gone, replaced with Focus Rifle which leaves the Elites with zero one-shot-kill weapons (other than their new grenade launcher, which is… finicky).

Most of the rest of the weapons are tweaks – Energy Swords and the Gravity Hammer seem to have a shorter reach (yay!) and the needle rifle takes the DMR role for the Elites. The Plasma Repeater is a faster, more awesome version of the old Plasma Rifle of yore.

Why do we have to run across the level multiple times to capture the flag in Sword Base? This map was not made for CTF. Why does one team have an easily flanked capture point on Power Station, when the other has their backs to the wall and cover both sides?

While we’re talking about game type, let’s gripe about the propensity for people to select basic slayer. This though phenomenon lessened the closer the beta got to ending as people wanted to try new things but not once did we get to play Team Crazy King. It would be nice if occasionally there was no option for just slayer.

Invasion, awesome, yet so frustrating. This MASSIVE level highlights the need for the Covenant to get the big stuff first – the Spartans, with the long-range weapons capable of killing an Elite in one-kill can sit back and wait, while the Elites must move across open ground, vulnerable to sniper fire. Though the starting DMR loadout was removed midway through, the problem still existed – The Elites need bigger stuff first to even the playing field.

Let’s talk about armour types though. Stalker’s active camo makes your radar non-functional, when landing with the airborn jetpack you have a brief second where you can’t run, Scout… well he runs. We like the scout. Guard? Oh Guard…

Guard is overpowered, but underpowered. If you go off on your own with it, you’ll likely get killed if you run into more than one enemy, but if you run into a single person, you’re going to come out on top.

Pounding the ground, becoming invincible and going into and out of at will with no movement or shooting penalty is just crazy.

This guy just sold his team mate out so he could survive his own, ill-timed plasma grenade. How is that cool?

Once, we had someone go in guard WHILST we swung with the energy sword, which of course did nothing, they came out, hit us, which removed the shields, went down again as soon as we were able to swing again, came up and hit us again before we could hit back.

Ridiculous. Entire teams using Guards are like steam rollers of immobility, especially in capture the flag, doubly so on Sword Base.

So what can we expect from Halo: Reach?

The multi-player certainly has legs – it will likely replace Halo 3 as the de factoparty game and Xbox LIVE title of choice.

We’ve yet to see the campaign but given the stunning artwork and world building that’s gone into the Halo universe since the original game, this will be an excellent swan-song for Bungie to go out to.

So what can we expect from Halo: Reach? Fun. Lots of it.

 

About the author: Jonathan Harrop

 

Jonathan graduated in May of 2008 with a degree in Journalism in News/Print from the University of Arkansas. He currently lives in the Dallas, Texas area and has recently learned that 'freelance writer,' like 'starving artist' is not a cliche. Jonathan has played video games since Desert Strike forced him to break his 'B' button on his Sega Genesis controller.

 

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