Monday, August 2, 2010

Halo Reach 1st Impressions And General Overview

Halo: Reach, First Impressions

For those of you unable or unwilling to plop down the money for a copy of Halo: ODST just to play the Reach beta, we took the plasma bullet for you. Now, to be fair, this is not a review. Reviewing a beta would be short-sighted and unfair to the game makers. The beta has glitches, lots of them, but that is what a beta is for. Some of the weapons are slightly unbalanced, the two maps released are somewhat unimpressive, which is likely to keep the gameplay moving faster to help developers with data (campers don’t help beta testing- you know who you are).
But, with that in mind, we sat down with a few dozen cans of Red Bull and played the Halo: Reach beta for several hours for you, the reader. You are welcome.

This is what the beta is all about. Maps change, weapons come and go, but if the gameplay isn’t solid to begin with, everything else becomes a moot point. Gamers familiar with the Halo series will quickly feel right at home. There are some changes to the way you might play, but the control scheme, movement, and feel of the game will be immediately familiar.
Modern Warfare loyalists that prefer the Call-of-Duty-style controls will likely hate the controls, possibly enough to abandon it and claim the game “teh sucks” and is full of weak gamers, while Halo veterans will quickly be owning noobs with the best of them. Oddly, there is still no option to customize the buttons. When a game’s budget is more than many Hollywood movies, you would think they could spare a few bucks to code customizable controls. Come on guys, we know you are proud of your controller schemes, and maybe it would take some work, but we are big boys and girls that are fully capable of assigning our own keys. It’s not a big issue, but if the SNES could do it, so could Halo.
There are a few gameplay changes that might affect the way you play, but nothing major. The legendary elbow melee attack that was once so powerful that players frequently ignored their guns in favor of dropping an instantly fatal Mississippi soup bone on players’ domes, has been augmented to include an assassination move. When you sneak up on a player and hold the melee attack down, your character will perform an instant kill animation. It varies based on the angle and the type of character you play (Spartan or Elite). They are awesome in theory, but in practice slow and imprecise. That should improve before the actual release. The possibilities of the new attack are fairly impressive, and when combined with a jetpack (more on those in a bit), players can hide in the air and drop down for an instant kill on an unsuspecting gamer for a video capture worthy scene, and bragging rights. It is especially sweet to do this to a mouthy kid who said stuff about our mother, who is a saint! Just for example.
The game plays just as you would expect. The first change you will notice is the inclusion of specific types of equipment loadouts that you select each time you respawn. At first they seem like a small addition, but you soon notice that they will affect the way you play the game.

Halo: Reach, First Impressions

At the start of each new life, the player is given a choice of loadouts to begin with, and you can change the loadout each time you die. The Spartans are given four, while the Elites seem to have only two, but the primary beta focus is on the Spartans, and games with Elites are rare to the point of obscurity. Elites will be a big part of the multiplayer game, but not the beta.
Each of the loadouts offers equipment similar to some of the equipment found in Halo 3, such as the bubble shield, flare, and portable grav-lift, in the sense that they offer a new special attack. The difference is that the loadouts are rechargeable, and stay with you until you die. The gear selections are the most noticeable difference in the game, which also means they are the most likely to undergo the most noticeable changes before release.
Above the HUD, there is now a small circular gauge that represents the power left, or the gas remaining. It recharges quickly – so quickly that power management becomes an integral part of the game. Use it wisely and dominate, overuse it and it is just like running out of ammo in the middle of a firefight.
As for the selections:
1) Guard – The Guard loadout allows players to become invincible for a few crucial seconds. Although you can’t be killed while in guard, you can’t move either. When the guard runs out, a short EMP burst hits nearby players and strips their shields. That’s very useful in a game where you need to hold territory, or as the point man in Team Slayer, as long as people have your back. Proper timing with a sticky grenade can make the guard hilariously ineffective though.
2) Scout – Scout is pretty much just sprint with an added roll attack that makes melee especially effective. It can also help defensive-minded players get out of the way quickly. The downside is that even though you are quicker to get to opponents, sometimes that just makes you a faster target.
3) Airborne – Probably the most video-friendly of all the new loadouts, prepare to see people constantly pushing the boundaries of the game with this perk. Expect synchronized sky dancing, new player-created game types, and much much more. The airborne loadout is a jetpackjetpack can be extremely useful to move between levels and catch opponents off guard, and there will probably be many games when snipers are firing from the top of the map. On more wide open levels, it makes you a neat-looking target as you fly by and catch bullets from anyone that happens to look up. The sound of the jets also gives you away, and if you run out of gas at the height of your ascent, falling damage will hurt. A lot.
4) Stalker – With the push of a button, the player goes invisible, a trait that would seem to be incredibly useful, bordering on unfair. A skilled player that is familiar with the maps can quietly make their way through the game and destroy entire teams. Pair the invisibility with a powerful one-kill weapon like the gravity hammer or the sword, and it can almost be unfair. Invisible players do give off a shimmer, making them noticeable when nearby, but if there is cover they are gone. There are ways to combat it, though. First, the stalker scrambles radars, making it harder for the invisible player to find opponents, and also giving their intended victims a warning, similar to when a bunny suddenly stiffens and its ears pop up. Only the bunny has a high-powered laser rifle. Second, on levels where there are stretches of open map that you must cross to get places, the invisible player is a sitting target, especially if players come to rely on the ability and think they are totally invisible. Of all the equipment options, this one seems like the one that could enrage hardcore gamers the most, and the one that will probably become the most used when the game is first released. Of course, that is always assuming that Bungie does not nerf it.
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Level Design
With only two levels available to beta players, level design is impossible to fully gage, except to say that the levels felt like Halo levels. Players of the Halo series will feel a similar logic at work. The levels are also adequate in graphical detail, but not amazing. Lots of big blocky structures and bland colors dominate the landscapes. Hopefully further tweaks – or just more levels – will make up for it. The two beta levels chosen were likely chosen for very specific reasons as well, and the simplicity is likely to help developers chart gameplay.
1) Powerhouse – An arena-like setting with a central hub and an outer ring.  It’s more or less on one level, although there are roofs and a lower reservoir. A scattering of buildings offer some cover, but fast-paced, ever-moving games are common. The outdoor setting makes it an appealing area for jetpacks, but the bright skies can also turn jetpackers into clay pigeons for skeet shooting. It offers some potential for long range combat, but the majority of action will take place at close to medium range.
2) Sword Base – An indoor multi level map with two sides, a courtyard between the two and a series of bridges connecting the two sides. Fighting occurs on several levels, and a jetpack can give players an advantage in mobility. Sword Base brings out lots of long-range combat with some medium-ranged battles.

Halo: Reach, First Impressions

Of all the changes between Halo: Reach and the previous entries, the matchmaking is the focus Bungie has most discussed. Unfortunately, the changes and tweaks are mostly on the technical side, and as a beta, all are potentially in flux at the moment. If it all works, though, it could set the standard for online games. You will notice the word “if” featured frequently in this section.
The options of the type of game and the type of gamers you want to play with are enticing. If it all works out, it could be awesome. Gamers have the option to choose the type of competition they would like, whether it is just for fun or competitive; the type of people they would like to be on a team with, either team-oriented players or lone wolves; even the type of talker you want, either polite or a trash talker. One of Halo’s biggest complaints has always been the aggressive nature of the players. Even the best-natured person might find themselves in a screaming match with a kid who just discovered the world of profanity and is intent on using every single word. Sometimes a game of Halo is enough to truly convince you that the future of the world will simply be one giant ball of hate and teabagging. The beta offers you these choices, but it will take time to notice any difference.
There is also a ranking system, that if it works as promised (that is a big IF), will put the player in the ideal game for him or her. The ranking system will follow the way you play and attempt to match you with players of an equal level. It is a good idea that Halo 3 began, but the beta will probably not give us a real glimpse to its potential. It is also likely that Bungie will continue to fine tune it after the game is officially released through patches.
The resultant system could be the new way all first person shooters will strive to be. Again, big, huge, massive, “IF.” If Halo: Reach actually allows you to choose the type of people you will play with, the game itself will almost be a secondary concern. Even crap games can be fun if you are with a group you enjoy playing with.
The jury is still out on the matchmaking potential, but with the complexity involved in tracking players and determining ideal matches, the matchmaking is likely the most complex of all the beta coding that Bungie will need to track and tweak.
Another addition that is a simple, but welcome, is pre-game voting for what you want to play and where. Once a lobby is full, the gamers all vote on which map and gametype they want to play. If the beta is a preview of how the finished product will look, there will be three random choices and the majority wins. It feels like the evolution of the “vote to skip” process, and like all great ideas, it seems like such a simple addition that you wonder why no one else thought of it before.
The Halo: Reach multiplayer is ridiculously addictive. The games are fast and the gameplay is smooth, so much so that you will quickly forget that there are only two maps. Everything feels familiar, but that may actually be a problem. If this is truly to be Bungie’s last venture in the Halo universe before going on to bigger and better multi-platform things, what there is of the beta feels more like an expansion to the previous entries than a new game. You can make the same argument for the Modern Warfare sequel, but the MW series is only two years old, and it completely overhauled a four-year-old series. The Reach beta feels like little more than a new map pack with a handful of new abilities.
If the matchmaking can be upgraded to the point that it is noticeable, it could eventually win over new players, but gamers that have invested literally years to Halo 3 and purchased numerous map packs might be slightly disappointed to find little more than another expansion in a fancy new package. If Bungie follows suit, it will likely offer all, or some of the previous maps as it did with Halo: ODST. That should be enough to convince gamers to drop the $60, but for the last Bungie Halo game, Bungie should really wow us. If they can combine maps and keep stats through the Halo Waypoint app that is downloadable on Xbox Live, then fans will likely flock regardless of a lack of innovation. But come on Bungie. Give us more!
All in all, what there is of the beta is solid, but don’t expect to be blown away by anything. The technical aspects will be running at full speed in the background, but if you want to play a Halo multiplayer game with more depth, stick with ODST and wait until September 1 for the full Halo: Reach.
Those of you that have already played the beta, chime in. Were you impressed or underwhelmed? Are you going to buy Halo: Reach? Here's the best deal on the internet at

Now, Like the rest of you I'm a die hard halo fan. My gamer tag is EW Snip3down and I can be found playing among the top players of  Halo. I call myself the "silent assassin" because you never see me coming, and before you do your shield is already half-way down,. After all, that is the best strategy in Halo, just wait for people to come to you or to approach enemies undetected.Here's my Pro  Bungie.Net profile:
Enough About me. Now, Halo Reach , like I'm sure all of you know, is a 1st person-shooter, Created By Bungie and Published By Microsoft,t That Follows The Saga of The Spartans and their heroic leader, Master Chief, defending Earth Against The Deadly Covenant.

     In Halo: Reach, players experience the fateful moments that forged the Halo legend. It's the story of Noble Team, a squad of heroic Spartan soldiers, and their final stand on planet Reach, humanity's last line of defense between the terrifying Covenant and Earth. This darker story is echoed by grittier visuals amid a backdrop of massive, awe-inspiring environments. Characters, enemies and environments are rendered in amazing detail by an all-new engine designed to deliver epic-scale encounters against the cunning and ruthless Covenant.
Once the campaign is over, the battle continues online with an unparalleled multiplayer experience that expands on the award-winning suite of features that helped define the Xbox LIVE experience.

    " Bungie may not have attracted the 3 million players they expected to host for the "Halo: Reach" multiplayer beta test, but they sound like they came close. "More than 2.7 million" is the official count, according to a report by the AP, and September 14 will be the ultimate release date for the full game.

"It's exceeded our expectations," Bungie community director Brian Jarrard said, according to the story. "Our only real perspective going into this was the 'Halo 3' beta test, which had about 800,000 people. We knew there were a couple million copies of 'ODST' out there, but we really didn't have any specific information that let us know what the population might be like."
Emotions and demands likely run high right now on the Halo team, since "Reach" will be Bungie's last title with Microsoft before embarking a new project with Activision
"This is the most pressure we've ever been under," "Reach" creative director Marcus Lehto. "This is the biggest 'Halo' title we've ever made, and we're worried there's 'Halo' fatigue out there. That's why we set out to add new twists, and we're happy to see people enjoy it, but it was a huge risk for us to release what's essentially a work in progress to almost 3 million people."
2.7 million participants is certainly nothing to scoff at, and that much gameplay should make for a healthy chunk of data to use for debugging and polishing up Bungie's final project."

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