Halo Reach Beta

by Adam Dileva

Time to dust off your Halo ODST because the beta for Halo Reach is now here and all you need is your copy of ODST in the tray to try it out! At the bottom of the main menu you'll see the option to play Reach, so if you haven't done so already, go download it now and read along to get prepared what to expect as you wait.

So what's new with Halo Reach multiplayer? Well for one, it's clear that Bungie has done much more than a slight graphical update and a few new guns. It's clear that they've taken inspiration from other games and put their own Halo-like spin on it.

The first of the biggest changes is going to have to be the inclusion of now choosing your armor abilities. This is kind of like a ‘perk' system from another game but of course with Bungie's own spin on it. Before you spawn you choose what ‘class' you want to be and each choice has a corresponding armor ability that can be used with reservation (since it's a meter that refills in time and is not infinite).

The most basic ability would be the Sprint; and it's exactly as you can guess. You can run very quickly for a short period of time to either catch up to someone for a melee kill or to quickly escape the heat of battle.

The next is Active Camouflage which is also self explanatory; you can become invisible whenever you choose to. This is a great skill for a lot of the game types, especially Flag style games that will allow you to sneak into the base stealthy.

A completely new ability for Halo is the Jetpack armor ability. Yup, you can have a jetpack attached to any Spartan and use it whenever you like. For some of the maps (like Swordbase), this armor ability is an amazing way to get around much quicker than Sprint as there is multi levels. While it may seem overpowered at first, it's not all that difficult to pick someone out of the sky if you are a good and steady shot, so there are definitely pro's and con's to this ability. Because there is now fall damage you have to remember to not run out of thrust extremely high up or else you will die with a big fall to the ground.

Armor Lock is another armor ability that seems to be a very popular choice. This allows the player to slam their fist in the ground and have invincibility for a short amount of time; almost like a self bubble shield but against all types of damage. This ability can be extremely powerful if used at the right time and if you get stuck with a grenade and use your Armor Lock before it goes off, it won't hurt you at all. Luckily Bungie is aware of is power and has nixed it from certain game modes like King of the Hill where it would be too overpowered. Overall, it seems like the most overpowered ability in the beta, so I'm curious to see how Bungie (may) tweak it for launch later this year.

The last armor ability is specific to Elites only and is an Evade. This ability allows the aliens to very quickly roll out (or into) harms way in any direction. It's an ability that makes them also very difficult to hit mid roll as well that makes them so elusive.

To go along with the new Armor Abilities also comes a handful of new weapons as well. Firstly, making its much anticipated return is the new Magnum Pistol that we all love from the original Halo. It is slightly different but is still one of the best weapons for quick and accurate headshots from close or afar.

The Battle Rifle from Halo 3 is out and the new Designated Marksman's Rifle (DMR) is in. This is your main medium to long range weapon and one of the main default weapon choices, so get used to how it operates.

The Needle Rifle is the Covenant equivalent to the DMR and is also the medium to long range headhunting weapon. What's so great about this new weapon is that it shoots the pink needles from the Needler gun and if you sink enough needles into your enemy it'll make them explode just like a normal Needler.

Next up is the Grenade Launcher which lobs a single grenade at a time. Shoot someone directly with it and it's basically a one shot kill and has an explosion radius. Fire it at the ground (or miss someone) and after it skips once, it'll then explode. What makes this unique as well is that you can hold down the trigger after launch and it won't explode until you let go, making almost like a home-made proxy mine.; this will be a deadly weapon in the right hands and someone with some patience.

Bungie seems to have combined the best of the Sniper Rifle and the Sentinel Beam to make the new Focus Rifle. This Rifle doesn't shoot bullets, but instead a condensed beam that will fry your enemies if shot at them for long enough. Since you are able to scope it, you can get quite a lot of range on this beam as well and can see it distinctly in the skies overhead as well.

The last and easily my favorite of the new arsenal choices is the Plasma Launcher. This bad boy shoots plasma grenades and is able to charge up to four at once for a simultaneous launch. What makes this weapon even better is that it is able to lock onto Spartans, Elites, and even Vehicles. You can even scope in for a further distance shot or even simply shoot 1, 2 or 3 at a time if you wish to preserve ammunition. This is an amazing weapon and I find even more powerful than the Laser from Halo 3 due to its homing capabilities.

Melee attacks are still a part of the combat mechanics obviously, but it seems to have been toned down greatly meaning you'll have to rely on your weapons much more than your fists. What's new though is the ability to assassinate; hold down the melee button behind someone and instead of a regular punch to kill them, the camera will quickly move into a thirst person view of you assassinating them in glorious fashion. There is slightly more risk at gloating this way as you can get killed while in the animation, but this is basically the new ‘in-game' teabagging for bragging rights.

New games modes are also being showcased in the beta, but for those traditionalists, the standard CTF, Team Slayer, Swat, Oddball and more are still included to keep thing mixed in the rotations.

Instead of playing the standard Free-For-All, try out the new Head Hunter mode which pits yourself against everyone else trying to gather as many skulls as you can from downed enemies and to bring them back to the goal. You are able to see markers of where everyone else is and how many skulls they are also holding so that you know who to gun for. The more you carry at a time the larger a target you'll be; so there's some strategy involved. Do you only grab a few and keep bringing them back to the drop zone or just camp near the drop zone and kill whoever is about to turn them in for yourself?

The Arena is a new playlist that Bungie says will bring the most competition. Complete three matches in a day and you'll get a daily ranking (and you can increase it by playing more or better), play enough over time and you'll get a season ranking which is where a lot of the bragging will be laid to rest.

Lastly is the behemoth that is Invasion mode. If you've played Rush mode from Bad Company 2, this will seem very similar. The game essentially has 3 phases and as they become unlocked, the map becomes bigger and different objectives must be met. These environments are larger than any Halo map before and what makes it unique is that it pits Spartans vs Elites for the first time on teams. As Elites progress on the offence and capture the points, new loadouts and vehicles also become available to help with the fight. If Elites make it to the last phase and manage to steal the Core and bring it back to the docked Phantom, they will win; so obviously Spartans will do everything they can to prevent this from happening. I found this mode to be much more entertaining than the standard Big Team Battle from Halo 3 and look forward to other maps to play this on.

Next is a popular mode called Stockpile. This is a new take on Capture the Flag will have multiple flags spawn at specific points on the map. Your team needs to get as many flags as they can into their own collection zone before the time runs out and the flags respawn. The first team to 10 collected flags wins and it's quite entertaining to steal the enemies' flags out of their collection zone just before the timer counts down.

The other new game type is called Generate Defense and much like Invasion, will have Spartans vs Elites again, but this time it's 3 on 3. The Spartans much defend generators as the Elites try and destroy them. This mode will be live on May 14th and I'm looking forward to trying it out.

If you haven't tried the beta yet for whatever reason, go and get your ODST disc and download it now since it won't be around forever. There is so much new to the Halo multiplayer that it's completely refreshed my interest in the series and I'm even more excited now for Halo Reach to drop this fall.




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