So here it is at last, the Halo Reach Multiplayer Beta for the Xbox 360. I have been given a download code today so I can have a slightly earlier look at what is on offer from the masters of the Halo franchise and that is of course Bungie.
First of all you will need a copy of Halo O.D.S.T. to access this beta on May 3rd, so hopefully you haven’t traded yours in like a lot of people once you completed the single player campaign. The Halo: Reach Multiplayer Beta download is around 1.15GB, so grabbing a drink while you wait wouldn’t be a bad idea.
When you enter the game, you are greeted with a bit of a warning and an important request for feedback:
Welcome to the Halo: Reach Xbox LIVE Multiplayer Beta. The experience you are about to enjoy is a delicious sampler platter of multiplayer modes from Halo: Reach. Keep in mind that we’re testing out some new stuff, often under stressed conditions. Be prepared for a bump or two. That said, jump in, have a blast, and make sure to give us your honest feedback at Bungie.net!
First thing to do is press ‘start’ on your Xbox 360 controller to visit the settings. Here you can setup your control scheme (pay close attention to this as there are changes!), enter a service tag (a shortened name of your player, which is visible to your team mates) and adjust brightness levels. You can also customise your gear in the armoury if you fancy changing your helmet and suit design, not forgetting your logo. Even in these early days of the beta, you can view recordings of your experiences and upload them over Xbox Live for others to enjoy in the ‘Theater’ section.
Once you are happy with your configuration, you will now with plenty of brewing eagerness select the ‘Matchmaking’ option from the menu screen and choose from the small selection of playlists:
- Grab Bag
4-on-4 Slayer Objective game types focused on strategy and teamwork.
- Free for All
Spartan on Spartan, 8-player free-for-all action.
- Slayer Arena
2 teams of 4 square off in competitive, seasonally ranked Slayer.
Unfortunately maybe due to my early access to the beta, Slayer Arena wasn’t yet available.
Even at this point, there are a few more options we can tweak… ‘Social Settings’ adjusts as the name suggests the preferences for your Chattiness (quiet or chatty), Motivation (winning or good time), Teamwork (team player or lone wolf) and Tone (Rowdy or Polite). All of these can be set to ‘No Preference’ if you aren’t fussed though.
As you enter your first game you will notice (unless you visited the controller settings first) that the reload button is back to ‘X’ and melee is now ‘RB’. A little confusing for Halo veterans, but you can always assign the buttons differently if this new method doesn’t gel with your idea of ideal. When you spawn you have a selection of what is known as classes, improving your Spartan’s ability in battle:
Run like the clappers for short periods of time.
Sacrifice your mobility for invincibility.
Hover with a jet pack.
Invisibility for those who love to torment their enemies.
To activate any of these classes you press the ‘LB’ button on the controller (with the default configuration). Jumping height is also reduced slightly so no more low gravity like hopping. This makes the ‘Airborne’ class certainly more tempting.
My favourite new mode is definitely Head Hunter. The objective is to track down the other members of the game session and remove them from existence, well at least until they spawn again. Sounds simple enough but this is not your typical slayer match. Instead you will notice a skull appear immediately after this brutal attack, which you need to collect. You can carry quite a few skulls on your travels, however the longer you hold these precious items the more likely you are to be killed yourself and then you have lost multiple skulls all at once to the person who not so kindly walloped you one. All your hard work in this case turns to dust. Thinking tactically, you must find one of the points on the map that you can drop off your sordid collection of skulls and then and only then will you earn any points at all. The mayhem around any of these drop off zones is fascinating, especially as they move from time to time around the map to add to the confusion.
Another interesting addition is Stockpile. Here your team collects as many flags dotted around the map as possible and returns them to your own base. After a fairly lengthy timer, these will be attributed to your teams score, but only if you can defend them. There is a lot more to this beta than just these two modes, but I will leave you to discover and experiment without me giving anything else away.
The weapons are what you would expect from any Halo title, however changes and additions have been made. The pistol as an example encourages you to fire slowly, as your aiming reticule display is much smaller if you follow this rule indicating a far better accuracy. The rifle has had a visual overhaul and looks quite sexy for such a weapon of carnage, but reacts as you would hope.
Graphically there isn’t a great deal to shout about as you will notice quite a lot of jaggies on the polygons highlighting some of the less visually inspiring areas, but when you are throwing multiplayer modes in the mix, silky smooth frame rates are far more important and thankfully even in this beta version, with impressive explosions and other artefacts flying all around, you are rarely let down.
After each match, you earn credits which can be spent on improving the look of your Spartan for those who like to dabble with their appearance.
One of the best additions though is the queue feature. When one of your Xbox Live friends is online playing Halo Reach, you can select this new welcome option if you are currently unable to join their game straight away. Once they are available, over you are taken without any of the stress of previous titles. This ability would be great if adopted on other gaming franchises as well, so please take note developers.
Overall the Halo Reach Multiplayer Beta will certainly get a lot of attention from me and hopefully I will see you all there on May 3rd.