May 4, 2010 – Halo: Reach is easily the most anticipated game of 2010. Halo 3 was the first blockbuster title of this console generation, and while Halo Wars and Halo 3: ODST didn’t really match the success of Halo 3, fans are still expecting quite a lot from Halo: Reach, especially as it has been announced recently that Halo: Reach will be the last Halo title developed by series creator Bungie. The multiplayer beta went public a few days ago, and, while there are a few lingering questions and concerns about this title, we’re pretty much sold on the fact that the multiplayer experience in Halo: Reach will be something to remember.
One thing that is important to remember about the Halo: Reach beta is that it features just a sampling of the multiplayer modes and maps that will be included in the final game. So while we got some serious time in with most of the content in the beta, the modes and maps featured in this article are by no means exhaustive.
The basics here are the same as you remember from previous Halo entries. You can create your own Spartan and rise up through the ranks by playing different matches. Ranks in the beta include multiple tiers of Private, Corporal, Sergeant, and Warrant Officer. By unlocking these ranks, you will not only be able to show off an awesome little badge next to your gamertag, but you will also be able to unlock new customizable components for your Spartan armor.
The customization system in the Halo: Reach beta is fairly lightweight, but it follows the template of previous Halo titles fairly well. However, once you are suited up and ready to go, it’s time to launch into the gameplay. One of the first changes you’ll notice in Reach (compared to other Halo titles) is the presence of a load-out menu that gives you the option to choose from several power-ups that you can use to gain a tactical advantage during the game.
There are four different special abilities that you can equip your Spartan with: guard, stalker, airborne, and scout. The guard ability allows you to perform an armor lock, which shields you from enemy attack for a few seconds when active. The stalker ability allows players to disappear for a few seconds while approaching a target. These two abilities allow users to play very defensively, but if you are looking for a more offensive approach, the airborne and scout abilities allow you to either use a jetpack to quickly roam around the level or have an increased sprint boost. These load-out abilities are easily the standout feature of the Halo: Reach beta, and are plenty of fun to experiment with.
However, the way you use these load-out abilities will vary widely depending on what type of match you are playing. During our time with the beta, we were able to check out two of the game’s maps and five of the game’s multiplayer modes. While some of the modes were very familiar (slayers modes and capture the flag were identical to prior Halo games) there were three all-new modes to check out. These include Oddball, which challenges you to keep you hands on a single flaming skull for as long as possible, Stockpile, which involves capturing ten flags and bringing them to your home base, and Generator Defense, which allows Spartans to face off against Elites. Also included in the beta is the Headhunter mode, which involves grabbing flaming skills and hanging on to as many as possible, as well as the Invasion mode, which is an advanced Slayers-type mode that features an expanding arsenal that includes vehicles.
While playing the beta we were able to check out two of the beta’s four maps (the other two have yet to be released as of this writing). The first map, Powerhouse, has a similar look to High Ground from Halo 3 and is a multi-tiered level with inside and outside components (and a big waterfall!). The other map is Sword base, which is a darker, indoor map with plenty of hallways, corridors, and rooms to hide in.
The Halo: Reach beta is still ongoing, and is definitely worth checking out if you purchased Halo 3: ODST or were able to get a code. The new load-out abilities are tons of fun to play with, and the new modes definitely breathe new life into the game. Although the visuals are very reminiscent of Halo 3, the game’s new features will help you shake off any lingering doubts about this title and get back into your Spartan armor. Although there is no firm date for Halo: Reach yet, this beta has cemented this title as one to put on top of your list of games to watch for this fall.
The Biggest Halo Ever?
March 17, 2010 – The developers at Bungie Studios want to be done with Halo. Okay, it’s probably overstating it to say that Bungie is sick of the franchise – after all, it’s the studio’s best-known creation and it made the developer one of the most well-known studios in the world. But, when the studio left Microsoft to go off on its own, it made no secret of the fact that one of the reasons it craved independence was that the teams wanted to work on non-Halo projects.
When it was announced at E3, the prequel Halo: Reach was sold as Bungie’s “final” Halo game. Whether or not the developer returns to its signature series in the future remains to be seen, but for now it appears that Bungie is preparing to leave the Halo series with a bang.
Most rabid Halo fans already know the setup for Halo: Reach. Set prior to the events of Halo: Combat Evolved, Reach will tell the story of humanity’s first encounter with the villainous aliens of The Covenant. Anyone who has read the Halo: Fall of Reach novel knows that this is a story that ends badly. But, just because the game and the book cover the same time period doesn’t mean that the events of the game will exactly mirror the story you know. This is Bungie’s version of the tale, and it will surprise even the most well-read Halo fans.
Don’t expect to see Master Chief in this game. Reach is the story of Noble Team, a squad of Spartans that find themselves deep in the conflict with the mysterious alien invaders. The player takes on the role of Noble 6, a replacement for a fallen member of the squad. As in Halo 3: ODST, the player’s character will be more of a blank slate than the rest of the characters in the team, so the player can feel like he or she is personally a part of this elite squad. Each of the members of the team has his or her own role to play. There’s squad leader Carter-259, heavy weapons specialist Jorge-052, sniper Jun-266, and two other Spartans who will each fulfill a specific purpose on the team. Bungie has many of the specifics of gameplay under wraps, but all signs point to some degree of squad-based combat.
As tight-lipped as Bungie can be, the studio has shared a few details on what we can expect to see in Reach. The Halo engine has been rebuilt from the ground up, and can now produce better graphics than ever before. The new engine is capable of generating more on-screen characters than ever before, which means bigger battles with both more enemies and allies at the same time. Bungie claims that the campaign will also be less scripted than previous games, and that gameplay will often feel more like an open-world “sandbox” game than a linear shooter.
With new challenges comes new gameplay tools. Not only will old favorite weapons be met by new and upgraded guns, the Spartans of Noble Team have some all-new gear. The one-time use equipment of Halo 3 has been replaced by armor upgrades; multi-use tools that grant incredible new abilities. Early trailers for Reach have shown off Spartans with jetpacks, and we can only imagine what other armor upgrades Bungie might have in store.
Of course, the campaign mode is only half of the appeal of a Halo game. Like the campaign, Bungie has only shared bits and pieces of what we can expect in Reach’s multiplayer mode. The huge suite of features from Halo 3 are supposedly all set to return, including popular features like Forge and saved films. Hopefully, Halo 3: ODST’s best feature, Firefight, will be included as well. Fortunately, Halo fans won’t have to wait too much longer to get some answers about Reach’s multiplayer first-hand; the Reach multiplayer Beta is scheduled for May 3 and will be open to anyone who purchased ODST.
There’s still a lot we don’t know about Halo: Reach, but a few things are certain. Reach isn’t an expansion, as some players derisively called OSDT. It isn’t a lazy, phoned in sequel from a developer eager to move on to new things, either. Everything that Bungie has shown off about Reach points to the biggest, baddest, most polished Halo title ever, and it looks destined to be one of the biggest games of 2010. And even though the developer claims to be moving on after Reach, the Halo franchise will continue on for years. Let’s hope that Halo: Reach sets a high bar for the post-Bungie chapter of the Halo franchise’s story.