Unless you’ve been living under a Wii, you know that the Halo Reach beta starts on Monday, May 3rd. In order to help ease your anticipation, or perhaps whip it into a frenzy, I got to play a little early. Here are my thoughts on the beta, including some helpful tips that might mean the difference between sudden death and a skullamanjaro.
The beta gives you two options at the start, Matchmaking and Theater. If you’ve played Halo 3, you know what each of these means. Matchmaking drops you into your lobby where you can see the playlist that’s currently selected, as well as any of your friends that are currently playing online. You can tweak your matchmaking playlist and even choose your social settings from right here. Currently you can choose from the Arena or Standard. Standard consists of Grab Bag and Free For All. Grab Bag drops you into objective games with a small bit of Slayer to fill in the gaps. Free For All is Lone Wolves taken to the next level.
Once you’ve been matched up with seven like-minded individuals, you’ll be given a list of maps and gametypes. Just hit A next to the one you want to play and hope everyone else feels the same. Otherwise, option 4 is None of the Above. If the majority chooses this option, you’ll get a few more maps and gametypes to choose from. It’s all very quick and very slick.
Dropping into a game is just like any other Halo game. The main difference is you get to choose a loadout before you spawn. Be quick, because you don’t get a lot of time. Every time you respawn, you’ll get the option to change loadouts. If you do nothing, you’ll stick with the one you had when you died. Loadouts in the beta consist of Airborne, Stalker, Scout, and Guard. Airborne straps a jetpack on your back giving you the ability to fly. Stalker gives you temporary invisibility. Scout grants the ability to sprint. Guard enables the armor lock upgrade.
The jetpack works great on both the Swordbase and Powerhouse maps. Sprinting is also very handy. Armor lock, while a lot like the bubble shield, forces you to stay immobile. This means no shooting back, which I find just allows your enemy to wait out the shield or throw a well timed grenade. Invisibility is a welcome return, but I haven’t seen many people use it (no pun intended).
Other than your armor abilities, each loadout comes with the same weapons. You’ll get the MAC5 assault rifle, the pistol, and a grenade. You’ll probably want to go find the DMR pretty quicky as soon as you spawn. The MAC5 is a fine replacement for the assault rifle in Halo 3, but the DMR packs more of a punch and has a better range. I personally liked the Covenant Needler Rifle. It’s the alien equivalent to the DMR with good range and power.
Some of the other new weapons I’ve come across include the Plasma Launcher and Plasma Repeater. The Plasma Launcher feels a bit like the Spartan Laser since it takes a second or two to charge before firing. Once you let the trigger go, four plasma grenades fire, obliterating your target or targets. Feels good! The Plasma Repeater feels like the Covenant equivalent of the SMG. It doesn’t pack a huge punch, so don’t expect to take down the Juggernaut with it.
The gametypes you will see are a mix of old and new. Slayer, Oddball, and Juggernaut all show up at some point. The new Stockpile and Headhunter gametypes pop up as well. Stockpile has you grabbing flags and trying to keep them at your designated area to score. Headhunter tasks you with gathering skulls dropped by dead players and taking them to a certain spot on the map to score. I think that Headhunter is a fun addition to Halo’s multiplayer, I’m less impressed by Stockpile. Time will tell how well this gametype is accepted by the community.
I have noticed that melee attacks seem weaker than in previous Halo games. Also, having to hold down the melee button to initiate an assassination appears to be a tricky thing to pull off, at least for me. Otherwise my only problem with the beta so far is people being better than me.
Bungie is expecting around three million gamers to help them beta test Reach’s multiplayer. Drop in your copy of Halo 3: ODST on Monday morning to get started. Don’t forget to launch Halo Waypoint after you play to unlock your free Avatar shirt.
The beta runs through May 19th. See you online. Go easy on me.