It’s hard to believe it’s been almost 3 years since we’ve gotten a new Halo multiplayer experience. 2009’s Halo 3: ODST added more maps but was the same multiplayer mode. With the amount of time that’s passed, it’s not surprising that Bungie has made some major changes to Halo’s multiplayer over the years, and I’d say it’s for the better.
If you’re a long-time Halo 3 player you may be surprised at how much you’ll have to change to get used to Halo: Reach. The hardest change for many will be the loadouts, which give your character preset starting weapons and armor abilities. The ones included in the beta grant sprint, stealth, near-invulnerability (at the cost of movement), and of course the much-anticipated jetpack, which I found to be the most enjoyable of the abilities.
Every ability has its own utility, and some are more useful in certain game modes than others. For example, in capture the flag a combination of sprint, guard, and jetpack is useful. That said the active camo doesn’t really seem to ever be particularly useful, as it’s still easy to see people with it. Jetpacks also make you a giant slow-flying target, so be careful about overusing them. Guard is great for flag defense, but since you’re immobile when you use it its utility in other parts of combat is limited.
Similar to Call of Duty, you’ll rank up and gain new equipment as you advance. Unlike Call of Duty, these upgrades are, so far, just decorative armor to better customize your character. Ranks unlock new items for purchase. Of course, you’ve probably already learned this, so what you want to know is how does it play?
The answer is great. Halo: Reach is a big change for the Halo series, but a welcome one. The variety in the classes makes for even more hectic and interesting matches, and the two new game modes in the beta are good fun. The first of these is Stockpile, which is like Capture the Flag but with neutral flags which must be held at capture points until they are tallied for points, once every minute. Headhunter mode is the second new mode in the beta, and in Headhunter mode everyone drops a skull when killed, and skulls must be collected and turned in at constantly changing drop-off points in order to earn points. Of course, if you’re killed you lose all skulls and get no points for what hasn’t been turned in.
Headhunter mode, in particular, is a blast. I’m generally someone who prefers to play in teams when I play shooters online, but Headhunter may change that. Chaotic doesn’t begin to describe the mode, as at times masses of skulls will end up in one area and all players will congregate to it in a mad dash, thus dying and building up the piles more. When you’ve acquired a few skulls suddenly it’s like you’re carrying the flag in Capture the Flag, only every single other player is against you as you make a mad dash for a collection point. Other game-modes, including the new Invasion mode, will also be added to the beta.
The shooting gameplay remains relatively unchanged. Speed and jumping height are just about the same (except for the sprinting and jetpack abilities of course), but jumping speed has been slowed to eliminate bunny hopping. Weapons will feel familiar to Halo veterans, although there are some changes, and grenades work the same as before. Melee has been weakened slightly, at least head-on. Assassinations can still be done when striking an unsuspecting enemy from behind, but now have cool death animations executed by holding the melee button down. The graphics are nicer than Halo 3 all-around, but not mindblowing. This is a small beta download though, so it’s possible the final version will look significantly better, and certainly likely that the singleplayer will look better. Vehicles are conspicuously absent from the beta at the moment, but fear not; they have not been cut from the game.
I’m having a blast with the Halo: Reach beta. I’ve always enjoyed Halo games and I find Reach to be nothing but an improvement in every way. I’ll be playing the new gameplay modes quite a bit, and the abilities are welcome and refreshing. Those of you with ODST can join in on the fun in a few days. Others of you may be playing with me as early as today if you got a code from our Beta Code Giveaway on Twitter.