To many Halo fans, Reach comes as a blessing and a curse. Reach marks the final entry from bungie in the Halo universe, and where that is a depressing fact, Bungie is putting its best foot forward as they exit the scene. There is talk that other publishers may create further games, but to the hardcore fan this is the final Halo title.
Halo Reach takes place shortly before the events of the original Halo: Combat Evolved, on the planet Reach, a military hub that also houses over 70,000 civilians. You play as Noble 6, a spartan 3. Spartan 3’s are a line of mass produced soldiers who lack the expert training and combat prowess that Master Chief and the other spartan 2’s had. Because of your weaker armor variant, the Spartan 3’s are scavengers who take what armor and upgrades they can from fallen soldiers on the field, and this explains why the armor sets have so many Permutations this time around.
You fight as part of fire team Noble, which consists of 5 other Spartans, Carter, Kat, Jun, Emile, and the Spartan 2 George. Bungie is again following the trend of the main Hero being a nameless, faceless entity, because supposedly that helps the player feel more immersed in the game, like they are actually there. Your objective is to protect the planet of Reach, which being the main military hub, if lost would prove devastating for the UNSC forces. That is it would be devastating if Master Chief wasn’t a One Man Army who could take on the entire universe, but in line with the story, we don’t even know he exists yet.
The blessing comes most obviously in the form of the games multiplayer. Its obvious through Reach’s Open multiplayer beta that they are trying to create a near perfect specimen that can not only be enjoyable through Reach, but also used as the footwork for possible future titles to experiment with.
After spending hours inside the Beta, it has become obvious that Bungie is doing it right. They have taken a step back and analyzed other popular FPS titles, and incorporated parts of their success into their own game, but at the same time kept the multiplayer pure to what Halo fans would expect. The new weapons are fun and addicting to use, and provide a more streamlined feeling while playing the game. Gone are the dual wieldable weapons, and in there place are more situation specific replacements. So lets jump right in and talk about these weapons in depth.
The Pistol, DMR (Designated Marksman Rifle), and Needle Rifle are the bread and butter of Halo reach. Each of these guns can Kill an opponent with 4 shots to the body and one to the head, or a single headshot if your enemies shield is down. And don’t forget, the sniper rifle is back.
Pistol- The Pistol comes standard in almost every load out. I have found through playing the beta that the Pistol is a must have weapon. With a bit of practice and skill, you can quickly learn how to bring the pistol into a fight against an assault rifle, and win nearly every time. It’s fast rate of fire allows for quick close range head shots, and even though it looks small, it packs a big punch.
DMR/Needle Rifle-Both these weapons act nearly the same, it’s all about aiming for the head and managing your recoil. Use this weapon from long range and pick people off as they try to cross the middle ground. The only thing to note is the cool effect of the Needle Rifles needles exploding as an enemy dies.
Sniper Rifle-The Sniper Rifle behaves a little differently than in previous Halo’s. Because of the new recoil system, you can’t pump out 4 shoots in a row like you could in the past. Instead, you have to time up a nice head shot, or else its going to be a few seconds before you can take another accurate shot.
Medium/Close Range Weapons
This time around our medium weapons are the Assault Rifle, Plasma Repeater, and the Needler. The Shotgun returns as the up close and personal weapon of choice.
Assault Rifle/Plasma Repeater- Both these weapons function like the Halo 3 Assault Rifle. The only difference is that now the AR has recoil, so slight burst fire is needed, but you should have been bursting in Halo 3 anyway. The Plasma Repeater is the big brother version of the Plasma Rifle, because of the removal of dual wielding, it was a needed buff. The Plasma Repeater functions like the Assault Rifle, only it overheats instead of running out of ammo.
Needler- The Needler comes back with all its Glory. Same basic strategy as always, unload a clip, watch people explode in Pink mist.
Shotgun-Also virtually unchanged. Get up close, shoot, and if they don’t die, punch.
Coming back is the Sword, Gravity Hammer, and the good old elbow. The big difference in this game is how the Melee mechanic has changed. If you Melee a player who still has shield left, the damage of the melee attack will only break their shield. A single Melee attack will kill someone without a shield, but not if they have any amount of shield left at all.
Sword- Same as Halo 3, right trigger for a big lunge, right bumper for a quick swipe. And of course, its still a 1 hit kill. The big difference this time around, a well timed melee attack can cause a clash, similar to when 2 swords hit each other in Halo 3.
Hammer- The big hammer is also virtually unchanged. Right trigger for the big slam, right bumper for a quick pommel strike. Try striking out of a Sprint, its devastating.
Basic Melee- Other than the new mechanic regarding shields, everything here should be familiar. You can still hit someone from behind for an instant kill, or you can hold down the button and perform a flourished assassination, with special animation.
The Frag and Plasma grenade are back. Nothing special here.
The power weapons we get in Reach are impressive. My personal new favorite is the Plasma Launcher. We also have the Rocket Launcher, Beam Rifle, and Grenade Launcher.
Plasma Launcher- This weapon is a Plasma Grenade launcher, and it has homing projectiles, and it is awesome. Charge it up, lock on and release a barrage of 1-4 grenades at the target (and yes it can lock onto players, not just vehicles). This weapon is nearly guaranteed to get a kill streak going.
Focus Rifle- This weapon could more easily be understood if it was called the Laser Gun. While holding down the trigger, the gun shoots a Laser, and that beam of Laser keeps going until you release the trigger or overheat. A great weapon to burn those ants…I mean enemies running across no mans land.
Rocket Launcher- The classic Rocket Launcher. Pull the trigger, make a big explosion, get points, and become the most feared and hated player on the battlefield.
Grenade Launcher- Another new weapon with two firing modes. Pull the right trigger to fire a frag grenade that explodes on a set timer, hold the right trigger and fire a grenade that explodes when the right trigger is released. An impressive weapon for trying to shoot around corners, and other hard to reach places where the enemy might be hiding.
Load outs are the newest feature of Halo Reach that dramatically change the pace of battle. The load outs consist of a primary weapon, sometimes secondary weapon, grenade type, and Armor Ability. How they work is every time you spawn, you choose a load out. These load outs are all pre determined, and cannot be customized like in the Modern Warfare series that they are so commonly compared to. These preset load outs are geared toward a specific play style, and are not all available in all game types.
The armor abilities also require you to have some “Juice”, or energy to use them, and they consume this energy while you use them. Now lets talk about the Armor Abilities.
Sprint- Sprint allows your character to…well…Sprint, for a limited amount of time. This can be extremely useful when you are trying to run away from a fight, or run towards a fight without getting picked off, or running for a power weapon, health pack, to jump, in circles….it lets you run fast, which is always useful.
Jetpack- With the Jet Pack you can fly, for a limited amount of time. This allows you to attack a base and traverse a level in new ways. Use this vertical advantage to surprise your enemies, just be careful on the way down. If you fall from too high, your going to hurt your knees when you hit the ground, unless you crouch right as you land.
Armor Lock- With Armor Lock, your Spartan will punch the ground, and a bubble of energy will surround him, granting temporary invulnerability, as well as dropping the shields of any enemies standing too close as the bubble forms. There are many ways to use the armor lock, if you are stuck by a grenade, Armor Lock removes it, stops rockets or hammers or swords, and if you slam the ground next to an enemy, you have a perfect opportunity to get a quick headshot while his shield is down. Don’t underestimate this one.
Active Camo- Active Camo grants you that weird predator cloaking ability from previous games, as well as scrambling the enemies radar. The slower you move, the most invisible you are, and with the ability to cloak weapons like a hammer or sword, the Active Camo allows you to set up some mean ambushes and sneak attacks.
Evade- This is an Elite only Armor Ability. The Elites in the Beta only had Evade to utilize, but that does not mean its a bad ability. If you have ever seen an Elite in single player dive out of the way of a grenade, you have seen Evade. This ability is similar to sprint in the way it allows you to travel more quickly, but is slightly more effective in how you move at such a fast speed from a dead stop.
So I’ve told you about the weapons and Loadouts, now lets talk about player investment. In Halo reach Bungie is allowing you to build a character that, through player investment, you can truly make your own. The player investment system exists in the form of credits, the more credits you have, the higher rank you will achieve. With higher ranks, there are more armor permutations you can unlock through the new Armory.
The Armory is similar to the armor customization in Halo 3, only now you can buy parts for your suit. When you first delve into the armory, you notice that its not going to be an easy trip to unlock some of the high rank permutations, basically, things get expensive.
Now you can earn credits a few ways, the first being the most basic, multiplayer matches. Since this is assumed, I will skip over that. The second way is through challenges. There will be Daily, Weekly, and Monthly challenges. These challenges will also take place in both single player and multiplayer, and could range from killing a certain amount of players to a part of the campaign in a strange fashion.
Now for the more hardcore style of distinguishing yourself. The Arena
The Arena is pretty basic at heart, play matches, get a rating. The matches consist of certain team sizes and game types per season, seasons being a set amount of time such as a month or 2 weeks. Every day if you play at least 3 matches, you will get a rating. From there, you can play as many more matches in that same day to get a better rating. Since the Arena only factors in your 3 BEST scores from a single day, there is no reason not to play as many as possible. Your rating is determined by factors such as Kill to Death ratio, assists, average life team, and betrayals. In the Arena, you are being encouraged to play as a good teammate, not as a crazy lone wolf. Now after you get a few daily ratings, you will be put in a division, these divisions spawn from Steel, Bronze, Silver, Gold, and finally Onyx.
Key point of information here, the HIGHER your Arena score, the better. So if you get your first rating and it says 300, don’t get too excited. You aren’t ranked 300th in the world, you are actually quite low.
So now you know about the Arena, there is one more thing left to talk about, New game types. Slayer, capture the flag, oddball…most of the classics are back, so I will talk about the ones we haven’t seen before.
Head Hunter- This game type quickly became a personal favorite. The objective of the game is to kill an enemy, run over and pick up the skulls that flew out of his dead body, then bring those skulls to a collection circle and get points. Sounds easy, but it gets hectic. After a few minutes of playing the game, the amount of skulls on the field gets insane, and everyone is trying to hoard them all. To make matters worse, the collection circle keeps moving.
Stockpile- An interesting twist on capture the flag. Each team has a capture circle, and there are numerous flags scattered around the map. The objective is to bring as many flags as possible back to your collection circle, and hold them until the circle pings and collects all the flags. Because the collection of the flags is on a timer, it allows for you to sneakily snag flags out of the enemy circle and drop them right a the circle pings, allowing for those flags not to count towards their score.
Invasion- Invasion is a game type that needs some work. On its first day in the Beta, it was obvious that the Spartans had an advantage over the Elites. Invasion works similar to Conquest mode in Battlefield Bad Company 2, where one team, the Elites, are attack and the other, the Spartans, are defending. The objective here is to capture control points and advance down the map towards a Phantom. With each control point that is captured, a new area of the map is unlocked, new load outs are made available, and power weapons and vehicles are dropped into the mix. The game type has potential, but needs some serious fine tuning before it goes live.
The biggest problem so far is the spawning system. You have the ability to spawn on teammates, but only if they are out of combat. For some reason, the game is extremely sensitive in regards to the terms of what out of combat means. Because of this you can get stuck in painfully long respawn times, or you can be forced to spawn extremely far away from the objective, and given the time limit, spawning far away can be fatal for your teams success. Hopefully these issues will be worked out by this Fall.
Generator Defense- In this game type 3 Spartans have to protect 3 generators against 3 Elites. The Spartans have the ability to activate a shield on the generators that lasts for 30 seconds, and the Elites can use any means necessary to destroy the generators when they are vulnerable.
Generator Defense is another game type that just doesn’t seem to have the balance right. Since the Spartans can spawn with DMR’s, they have the ability to pick off the Elites as they try to cross the middle ground, a problem also apparent in Invasion. But all in all Generator Defense doesn’t feel like a Halo game type, and seeing as it’s name in house at Bungie is “Network Test 1”, I wouldn’t be surprised if we don’t see this game type in the live launch of the game.
So thats all I have to say about Halo Reach, the Beta was fun, but sadly is now officially closed. So keep playing Halo 3 and ODST until Halo Reach comes out September 14th, 2010.