PAX10: Q & A with Halo: Reach

halo-reach-trailer-1Media day during PAX is the Holy Grail. The golden hour of no one else but other media badged attendees.

Nick, Edie, and I spent hours organizing what we were going to cover during this time because there was no way to get to it all.

My first choice and the game I wanted to cover was Halo: Reach’s Firefight Multiplayer, which Bungie had available for testing at PAX. During my too, too short time with Bungie, I was able to ask a bunch of questions to Halo’s graphics and multiplayer-level designer Andrew Davis.

I had the questions, he had the answers. And now, I bring them to you:

GH: Where did the inspiration come from to create the Noble Team?

Andrew: The Bungie team created the Noble team as a whole and no one person can be credited for it but they wanted to make sure that the team fits in with the rest of the Halo stories and franchise.

GH: Why is there no dual-wielding in Reach?

Andrew: The balance of the game would be compromised if we were to allow dual-wielding in Reach. There is a certain pace that we wanted to have and maintain in the gameplay. It needed to be fast, quick-paced, and give that unique Halo feel.

GH: The Magnum Handgun — why so long to bring it back?

Andrew: Fan input! We had enough fans that wanted us to bring it back that Halo: Reach would not be complete with out it. Halo is built up for the fans, and we build games for them. The magnum is a little revamped over the original from Halo: CE in terms of power and range. We didn’t want to make it too powerful but we didn’t want it too seem weak. We think you are going to love the way it handles in the game.

GH: How long is the campaign? Any specific achievements that you enjoyed earning while playing?

Andrew: We found through trials that it took the average player on heroic (difficulty) about nine to 11 hours in single-player campaign, although this can vary based on how you play and the difficulty you choose. Sometimes it’s great to just stop and smell the roses. As for the achievements, the hardest to get is the Legendary solo-campaign completion. Be ready for some hardcore gameplay. For multiplayer, the favorite was “All CAPS.”

GH: Whats “All CAPS?”

Andrew: You can find that out when the game releases!

GH: Co-op campaign this time?

Davis: Yes! For the first time we have a co-op campaign mode that allows up to four players to participate on Xbox Live! Players can select the level, difficulty, and vote on what they want to play.

GH: How have you improved the AI over previous Halo games and how much “re-playability” would you say there is in Reach?

Davis: Compared to previous Halo games, the AI now use squads with rank-and-file leadership. Elites will lead in grunts and brutes. If the Elite is killed in combat, the grunts no longer will run around freely and panic. They will run to find cover and reorganize. If enough units loose their Elites or get worn down from combat, they will link up and become a single unit! The Covenant now use cover exclusively, have upgraded weapons to last longer, and finally, even the weapons can jam! Elites have been upgraded to be stronger and give a better sense of toughness and exclusively try to flank Spartan players for quick kills. They use what we call strategic real-time movement.

GH: Did you improve the play for users when they choose to be a Elite over a Spartan in multiplayer?

Andrew: We did some tweaking, but in this game our main focus was on the Spartans.

GH: Can you tell me about a few new weapons that are coming with Reach or revamped weapons?

Davis: The timeline follows the story and development of the Halo franchise, but its always nice to have new additions to any game. We have created a grenade launcher that has two modes of fire and even a EMP pulse! (Ed note: EMP or Electromagnetic Pulse is a weapon that destroys anything electronic by the circuits in it, rendering it useless)

GH: How many players can play online in the multiplayer? Any online rewards?

Andrew: In the new Firefight mode: Four. We have 16 online modes to choose from that feature different amounts of players that you will see. We wanted to give the community as much choice as possible for their online play. When you win online, you are given “credits.” Credits can only be used in the “Armory” and are spent on small upgrades for weapons and armor. Matchmaking occurs though the True Skill rank system that has been seen in other Halo titles. Individual player rank-up will also occur from playing online that is not connected to the matchmaking itself.

GH: Last question. Is this the last Halo title by Bungie? If so, whats next? Will you continue the sci-fi drama from Halo 3 or make some completely new game that’s in the same genre?

Davis: No comment at this time. (Ed. Note: Said with a knowing smile and a twinkle in his eye.)

Halo: Reach
Bungie/Microsoft Game Studios
Xbox 360
Releases September 14

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