Reach Falls 2010

From the beginning. You know the end.

The Halo: Reach Beta is almost over, and here are my impressions.

Leave it up to Bungie to create something new, yet completely Halo at the same time. And leave it up to them to make it totally kick ass while they’re at it. The beta, which went live on May 3rd, has consistently had a quarter-million users online at peak times, and with good reason: this thing is freakin’ awesome!

You get three maps in the beta. Sword Base is the vertical, six level indoor command centre that makes jetpacks ridiculously useful. Powerhouse is the sprawling outdoor base that is perfect for massive matches as high as 8 vs. 8. The last map, used only for a mode called Generator Defense, in which a team of Elites goes up against a UNSC group to try to steal a generator from the middle of their stronghold. Think of it as a more intricate Capture the Flag mode, but more unique and intense. Sadly, I don’t think it will have the staying power that Bungie’s other new creations such as Firefight from ODST has had.

The powerups that you choose at startup are an all new mechanic: they include jetpacks, invisibility, sprinting, and a guard move that makes you invincible, although stationary, for a short period of time. The most useful really depends on the situation. In capture the flag, as you defend, you may find invisibility most useful to guard your flag without your opponent’s knowledge. Jetpacks are certainly useful to evade enemies when hoarding skulls in headhunter, a new game mode in which you steal skulls from other players and collect as many as possible before they find and inevitably kill you. Collecting 25 wins the game, but if you collect 10 at once, you get a “Skullimanjaro” and collect all 25 points right away.

The other fantastic thing about this game is the weapon assortment. Nothing decent is back from the original Halos except for the Needler, Pistol, and Carbine, all of which have been upgraded in some way. My new favourite is the Plasma Launcher, which throws out a barrage of targeting plasma grenades and is really great for taking out a bunch of people at once and getting that coveted triple kill. The Marksman Rifle (replacing the Battle Rifle) and new Assault Rifle are good, but they don’t have the same feeling as the originals. Not quite as powerful and certainly not as fun to use. To kill with the MR, you need a good five shots, and with the AR, you’ll need to unload a full clip. That was about the same as the last Assault Rifle, but it just isn’t as satisfying.

The audio, as you’d expect, is top notch, and the score has beautiful hints of Halo: Combat Evolved, right through ODST. Marty O’Donnell just knows how to craft these games and it evolves in a beautiful and natural way. For me, the multiplayer audio needs some tweaking however, if only because it’s been done the same way so many times. The round starts with a loud “SLAYER” and ends with a “GAME OVER” and everything in between is the same. Shield recharges, critical hits, and weapon swaps all sound like recycled audio. Not from Halo 3. Not from Halo 2. From Halo: Combat Evolved! A lot of people will argue that these are classic Halo sounds, so I say let them be that… classic Halo sounds. Reach is supposed to be a unique prequel, so give it some new audio effects, tweak it to be incredible, not just tried and true.

Either way, the multiplayer audio, of all things, is something tiny to get hung up on. Halo: Reach is fantastic, and I can’t wait to see how everything unwraps in the single player campaign. My only concern that there might be some ‘cheese’ is if there is no mention of the power-ups in the campaign, which may make it feel like a tacked-on addition to the multiplayer making things a bit over the top. Meh…. This is Halo.

I’d usually write a bit more, but screw you. I’m going to play more Halo: Reach.