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Posted by moonhead on May 16, 2010
Halo Reach Beta Preview

Halo Reach Beta Preview

The all new Halo is just about reachable at last.

For some unknown reason I actually kept my copy of the very average Halo ODST. So having punished myself in keeping this less-than-great title it became my duty on May 3rd 2010 to dust it off and download the beta trial for the upcoming Halo Reach and then let all our loyal G4A readers have the low-down.

So does all the hype from the Bungie and Microsoft hyperbole machine and their claims that this would be the best looking and biggest Halo experience to date ring true? Well graphically it is definitely a step on from Halo 3 and Halo ODST but to be honest it’s no quantum-leap forward but does compare well with its contemporaries in the FPS genre.  There is a grittier more realistic look to the game but it essentially still looks like Halo. It all still moves smoothly and as quickly as you expect a Halo game to do, but also everything looks chunkier and feels weightier including player movement and the weaponry on offer.

So far so good but what about changes to the gameplay. Well for starters there are some minor changes to the control layout. Your Melee attack is now on the RB button, your grenade throw is on the Left trigger (so shock horror no dual wielding) and the all new Armour abilities accessed through the LB button. These kind of act as combat classes found in other FPS games and as you are about to go into battle you are able to pick your armour load-out. There four kinds of Armour abilities with the first being ‘Guard’, this gives you the Armour lock ability. This give you the ability to crouch on the floor becoming invincible and once the bumper is released a burst of energy blasts out knocking over any nearby enemies making them vulnerable. Secondly is the ‘Scout’ this quite simply gives you the ability to sprint when you press the LB button. The next one is ‘Airborn’ and yes this the one that gives you the much hailed Jet Pack with which you can take to the air. Last but by no means least is ‘Stalker’ and this is a cloaking device,  again pressing the LB button will make you disappear and if you move slow enough you will also not show up on enemy scanners. All of these armour abilities are great fun to use and offer up a new level of tactical play.

There is also a  load-out to suit your style of play or the game type you are playing. These load-outs are for the Spartans alone and there are some change-ups to these when playing as Elites.

There has been some uproar within the Halo community about the new control scheme but I honestly don’t see the big issue after a couple of games it just starts to come naturally and the change is necessary to incorporate the Armour Abilities into the gameplay. Plus the control scheme is customisable so if you really don’t like it, change it.

Also new to the series is the credits system. This new system acts like the Modern Warfare template of  experience points. As you level up through the ranks you earn credits which you can spend on a wide variety of goodies allowing to customise your appearance in a far greater way than you ever have before. Right down to each part of your armour and helmet I cannot wait to see what the huge Halo community is going to come up with in this new system.

There has also been some changes to the matchmaking setup allowing you to set some social parameters such as whether you want a rowdy lobby or something more quiet and serene and a few other options to boot. It’s a nice and necessary touch especially if you have had your fill of having to mute idiotic kids making noises that would not sound out-of-place in a menagerie. There are several new game modes of which my two particular favourites are Headhunter and Invasion. There are others such as Elite Slayer and Stockpile but these were just re-runs of what has gone before and did not really do it for me.

Headhunter is just utter chaos and for the lonewolf’s out there. Every player has a flaming skull which he drops once shot, to win you need to collect these and deposit them into two constantly changing collection locations. It’s the ultimate game of risk and chance as you can carry multiple skulls and if you can deposit these you stand a good chance of winning but you also become a big target for everybody else as the number of skulls you are carrying is floating above your head. It really is good solid fun and I thoroughly enjoyed it which is saying something after the pounding we have given online FPS games over the last few months.

Next up is Invasion which is geared to team play. Played out on the massive Boneyard map Elites Vs Spartan 8 on 8. There are more character class armour load-outs on offer for the Elites in this mode to. It’s almost like a kind of Battlefield style objective game but much quicker and more entertaining than the EA series. There is a ton of vehicles and with ever-changing objectives this will be a real big winner once Halo Reach is released for real. This mode was my particular favourite and again it has kind won me over to the fact there is still some mileage in the online FPS.

Obviously these new game types give you a good chance to try out the all-new Halo weaponry and as usual this does not disappoint. The old battle rifle has been replaced by the DMR (designated marksman rifle) whilst not as powerful as the Battle Rifle it has a quicker firing rate and good accuracy the same can be said of the Plasma Repeater which has replaced the Plasma Rifle. There is also a new Needler gun and a Plasma Launcher much like the Spartan Laser but it locks on to three targets at once, be it a vehicle or enemy on foot. My personal favourite is the new UNSC Grenade Launcher which is just  the most destructive weapon yet seen in any Halo game.

The new maps on offer are also up to the high standard that Bungie have set themselves over the years. The first two new maps that were available in the opening days of the Beta were Sword base and Powerhouse. Both of these are smaller maps for the Slayer and Headhunter game types. With both Boneyard and Overlook being more suited to the larger team style games such as Invasion.

So is it any good you all ask? Well the answer is simply yes, but even though there are quite a few changes that have been made to the Halo template it is still very much the same old Halo. Which is no bad thing really why try to fix what is not broken. If you already like Halo you will love this and with the new stuff on offer it may even drag in a few new fans. One thing I would say though that as good as this Beta is it’s not worth buying the risible Halo ODST just to play it as Microsoft have suggested. In all this Beta which ends on the 19th May has served as a massive appetizer for what is to come later in the year and I for one now cannot wait.

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