Halo Reach beta – first impressions

Posted on 12 May 2010
By Sean Young
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Many of you are probably playing this to death already, but for those of you who haven’t managed to get a place on this highly anticipated beta, this is for you.

First things first – if you’re a Halo fan and you’ve not had a chance to play this yet, you’re missing out.

The game takes place in the year 2552 where humanity fights a desperate battle against the Covenant for the planet ‘Reach’, but that’s all we’ll say on the campaign side of things; what’s important here is how the multiplayer component of the game is shaping up.

The stereotypical halo features that made the previous titles great are still here – the exhilaration of taking out several enemies with a single grenade, the panic of dodging bullets from an invisible assassin and the infuriating frustration of having overly skilled 12 year olds tea-bagging your lifeless corpse whilst mocking you through the microphone – but there have been a few new and welcome changes.

Firstly, the various pickups that offered temporary boosts in Halo 3 have been replaced by permanent armour abilities. Players will be able to use a single ability for the duration of a match, including – active-camo (invisibility), jetpacks, and a new ability called armour-lock which gives the character a few seconds of invulnerability at the price of immobility. The weapons have also seen a bit of tweaking, and some new ones have been added into the mix.

What makes for a more interesting multiplayer experience rests in the way Elites and Spartans handle this time around. Elites are stronger, can perform directional rolls (great for dropping in and out of a combat zone) and can take more damage than Spartans but are unable to use the fancy pants armour abilities that the Spartans can. Bearing these differences in mind, another new feature to Halo: Reach is the choice of playing in Spartan vs. Elite, Elite vs. Elite and Spartan vs. Spartan matches.

The classic multiplayer modes such as Slayer and King of the Hill still remain but Reach also brings some stock to the table in this department too. One of the new modes, bluntly titled ‘head-hunter’, presents the challenge of collecting the most skulls. Each downed enemy drops skulls which the player must then retrieve and transport to a key area in order to earn points. The amount of skulls you are carrying at any current time is displayed above your head and when killed you drop all of these skulls. Friend and foe can see this number and so the higher it gets the more of a prime target you become making for more interesting gameplay.

Another mode presents a defend-the-fort style game called ‘generator defence’. Here 3 Spartans go head-to-head with 3 Elites. The Elites are tasked with destroying 3 reactors and the Spartans are charged with defending them. Gameplay mechanics such as the Spartans being able to lock down the generators (rendering them temporarily invulnerable) can tip the balance of a battle.

The third addition to the multiplayer is a mode called ‘stockpile’ where players need to collect neutral flags and hold them in capture zones every minute to earn points. At the time of writing this there are 3 maps available, with the last being released on the 7th along with the ‘invasion’ multiplayer mode.

With Microsoft finally releasing its tight hold on their most profitable developer this will be the last of the Halo games. After Bungie finish the transition out of Microsoft’s care and into Activision’s, Reach and the other Halo titles will have updates and support taken over by another developer. We can only hope that this new developer takes as good a care of Halo as Bungie did who’s frequent updates and constant link with the community make them next to none when it comes to making sure the game was to the player’s satisfaction.

Oh – and on a side note – all 9 people out there that somehow own ODST but not an Xbox Live gold account have a bit of good news. You’ll be able to play the Reach beta between 14th and 17th may without forking out for a subscription fee…seriously though, why own a Halo game and not play online?