Halo: Reach's Multiplayer Beta: The Important Parts

Posted by Brad (2881 posts) -

Whatever significant changes Bungie is making to the single-player campaign in Halo: Reach, be they squad-based action or the story's we're-all-doomed-from-the-start prequel setting, I can assure you after spending half a day with the game's multiplayer beta that Reach's online action feels 100 percent like Halo. That doesn't mean this is just a rehash of Halo 3's online mode with more maps (far from it). It does mean Bungie has evolved and modernized that signature Halo multiplayer formula to the point that I'm suddenly really interested in playing a new Halo game online. That's honestly not something I ever thought I'd say again. 

Next week we'll have scads (scads!) of videos from the beta, but for now, let's just break down the high points that make Reach look like a worthy successor to the Halo multiplayer throne.

Armor Abilities and Loadouts


Reach has a pretty neat-looking character progression system that lets you unlock snazzy new armor pieces for your character a la Halo 3. But it's nowhere near as deep as the equipment unlocks in Modern Warfare, as all the gear seems to be purely cosmetic (though it does carry over to your character, Noble 6, in the campaign).

That doesn't mean there aren't gameplay-relevant ways to customize your multiplayer dude. There are, and they're called armor abilities. These are sort of an updated version of Halo 3's pick-up equipment, except you don't, uh, pick them up anymore. Instead you pick a loadout every time you spawn that determines which ability and which two weapons you start with.

 Popping and (armor) locking.

On the spartan side, you can pick a basic sprint that gets you from A to B really quickly at the cost of lowering your weapon. There's also armor lock, which makes you duck and engage an energy shield that makes you invulnerable as long as you're using it. The tradeoff is that you can't move while you're armor locked, but a fully charged armor lock seems like it's just sufficient to recharge your shields before it switches off. As a bonus, if you hold armor lock long enough, you'll release an EMP blast that nullifies the shields of anyone standing too close.

Not surprisingly, elites get the Predator-looking shimmery stealth camouflage they use in the Halo campaigns. In addition to making you almost invisible for a few seconds, stealth camo also jams the radar of anyone nearby, filling their scope with ghostly trails . Elites also match the spartans' sprint with a dodge maneuver that lets them get the heck out of the way really quickly. The animation for this makes the elite look like he's doing some sort of somersault, but from your perspective you just sort of... dodge to the side.

And then everyone gets jetpacks. JETPACKS. Yes, you can fly with the right loadout, though a full charge will only keep you in the air for a few seconds, and the jetpack takes some time to lift you up into the air. Definitely a tool that will require some finesse, but essential on the vertical maps.
 

 WHOOSH

Spartans Versus Elites


I suspect this will be a divisive change: spartan and elites are dramatically different now, and not just in terms of which armor abilities they can use. Elites are faster than spartans, and their health and shields will both recharge after taking damage. Spartans' shields recharge, but they have to pick up medkits to restore health, Halo: CE-style. Weird, right? Elites are also bigger than spartans, though, making them a somewhat easier target at range.
 
 
In most team-based and especially objective-based games, you won't be able to mix and match both kinds of characters--it's spartans versus elites, period. A lot of the regular multiplayer modes, however, will default to spartan-on-spartan action, and it's worth noting that in custom games you'll be able to mix things up however you want. On paper, it looks like the elites have a distinct advantage to me, but I didn't get to spend enough time with the game yet to get an impression of the practical difference between them. The spartans' unique armor abilities might be a little more useful, though. Time will tell!

Odds 'n Ends


Bungie is making a ton of big and small changes under the hood to gameplay and matchmaking, probably more than I can even call to mind right now. Here are a few of the more prominent ones that stood out to me.

  •  Backstabbed.
    Tweaks to melee. Melee damage is no longer a one-hit kill. Now, the damage stops when the shields drop. If your target has any degree of shields, your melee will only drop their shields and not touch their health, so you'd need a second melee hit to get a kill. Like that's going to happen. So melee is best reserved until you see their shields pop.
  • Dirty sneak attacks. The answer to that melee change is the assassination, which forces you to sneak up behind and get a melee hit on someone whose back is turned to you. That's an instant kill regardless of shield level, and the camera pulls out to show you one of a bunch of different kill animations depending on what side you hit them from. Assassinations leave you exposed for a second or two while you do them, but they're pretty awesome for bragging rights and humiliating for the victim.
  • Better voting. Pre-match voting is more than just a matter of voting down a map you don't like and getting stuck with the next one in line. Now you'll be presented with four map/mode choices with the chance to pick one. The one that the most people want to play, wins. It's an idea so simple I'm surprised we haven't seen more of it before now.
  • More matchmaking filters. In the final game you'll be able to customize the types of players you get matched up against based on a whole lot of weird criteria. You can prioritize normal factors like connection speed but even control things like what language they speak, how often they use voice chat, and how competitive they are, too.
  • Forge still coming. Just not in beta, but expect all the now-standard Forge options to exist in the final game, along with Theater, saved films, and all that other stuff you'd expect to be there.

Of course, those are just the nuts-and-bolts changes to the core Halo gameplay that you'll be seeing when the beta launches on May 3 (provided you've got a copy of ODST in the drive). Again, be sure to check back next week for a big fat video preview with lots of footage and info on the new modes and weapons, as well as an interview with Bungie multiplayer designer Luke Smith.

We'll also be giving away a batch of early-access Reach beta codes starting next week that will get you in and playing days before the general beta. Keep your eyes open for that! 
 

 
 
So how many of you out there are rabidly waiting to get back online with Reach? I'm curious what the anticipation level is for a new Halo, now that Modern Warfare 2 has come along and kind of taken the championship belt for online multiplayer. Sound off, if you please.
Staff
#1 Posted by Brad (2881 posts) -

Whatever significant changes Bungie is making to the single-player campaign in Halo: Reach, be they squad-based action or the story's we're-all-doomed-from-the-start prequel setting, I can assure you after spending half a day with the game's multiplayer beta that Reach's online action feels 100 percent like Halo. That doesn't mean this is just a rehash of Halo 3's online mode with more maps (far from it). It does mean Bungie has evolved and modernized that signature Halo multiplayer formula to the point that I'm suddenly really interested in playing a new Halo game online. That's honestly not something I ever thought I'd say again. 

Next week we'll have scads (scads!) of videos from the beta, but for now, let's just break down the high points that make Reach look like a worthy successor to the Halo multiplayer throne.

Armor Abilities and Loadouts


Reach has a pretty neat-looking character progression system that lets you unlock snazzy new armor pieces for your character a la Halo 3. But it's nowhere near as deep as the equipment unlocks in Modern Warfare, as all the gear seems to be purely cosmetic (though it does carry over to your character, Noble 6, in the campaign).

That doesn't mean there aren't gameplay-relevant ways to customize your multiplayer dude. There are, and they're called armor abilities. These are sort of an updated version of Halo 3's pick-up equipment, except you don't, uh, pick them up anymore. Instead you pick a loadout every time you spawn that determines which ability and which two weapons you start with.

 Popping and (armor) locking.

On the spartan side, you can pick a basic sprint that gets you from A to B really quickly at the cost of lowering your weapon. There's also armor lock, which makes you duck and engage an energy shield that makes you invulnerable as long as you're using it. The tradeoff is that you can't move while you're armor locked, but a fully charged armor lock seems like it's just sufficient to recharge your shields before it switches off. As a bonus, if you hold armor lock long enough, you'll release an EMP blast that nullifies the shields of anyone standing too close.

Not surprisingly, elites get the Predator-looking shimmery stealth camouflage they use in the Halo campaigns. In addition to making you almost invisible for a few seconds, stealth camo also jams the radar of anyone nearby, filling their scope with ghostly trails . Elites also match the spartans' sprint with a dodge maneuver that lets them get the heck out of the way really quickly. The animation for this makes the elite look like he's doing some sort of somersault, but from your perspective you just sort of... dodge to the side.

And then everyone gets jetpacks. JETPACKS. Yes, you can fly with the right loadout, though a full charge will only keep you in the air for a few seconds, and the jetpack takes some time to lift you up into the air. Definitely a tool that will require some finesse, but essential on the vertical maps.
 

 WHOOSH

Spartans Versus Elites


I suspect this will be a divisive change: spartan and elites are dramatically different now, and not just in terms of which armor abilities they can use. Elites are faster than spartans, and their health and shields will both recharge after taking damage. Spartans' shields recharge, but they have to pick up medkits to restore health, Halo: CE-style. Weird, right? Elites are also bigger than spartans, though, making them a somewhat easier target at range.
 
 
In most team-based and especially objective-based games, you won't be able to mix and match both kinds of characters--it's spartans versus elites, period. A lot of the regular multiplayer modes, however, will default to spartan-on-spartan action, and it's worth noting that in custom games you'll be able to mix things up however you want. On paper, it looks like the elites have a distinct advantage to me, but I didn't get to spend enough time with the game yet to get an impression of the practical difference between them. The spartans' unique armor abilities might be a little more useful, though. Time will tell!

Odds 'n Ends


Bungie is making a ton of big and small changes under the hood to gameplay and matchmaking, probably more than I can even call to mind right now. Here are a few of the more prominent ones that stood out to me.

  •  Backstabbed.
    Tweaks to melee. Melee damage is no longer a one-hit kill. Now, the damage stops when the shields drop. If your target has any degree of shields, your melee will only drop their shields and not touch their health, so you'd need a second melee hit to get a kill. Like that's going to happen. So melee is best reserved until you see their shields pop.
  • Dirty sneak attacks. The answer to that melee change is the assassination, which forces you to sneak up behind and get a melee hit on someone whose back is turned to you. That's an instant kill regardless of shield level, and the camera pulls out to show you one of a bunch of different kill animations depending on what side you hit them from. Assassinations leave you exposed for a second or two while you do them, but they're pretty awesome for bragging rights and humiliating for the victim.
  • Better voting. Pre-match voting is more than just a matter of voting down a map you don't like and getting stuck with the next one in line. Now you'll be presented with four map/mode choices with the chance to pick one. The one that the most people want to play, wins. It's an idea so simple I'm surprised we haven't seen more of it before now.
  • More matchmaking filters. In the final game you'll be able to customize the types of players you get matched up against based on a whole lot of weird criteria. You can prioritize normal factors like connection speed but even control things like what language they speak, how often they use voice chat, and how competitive they are, too.
  • Forge still coming. Just not in beta, but expect all the now-standard Forge options to exist in the final game, along with Theater, saved films, and all that other stuff you'd expect to be there.

Of course, those are just the nuts-and-bolts changes to the core Halo gameplay that you'll be seeing when the beta launches on May 3 (provided you've got a copy of ODST in the drive). Again, be sure to check back next week for a big fat video preview with lots of footage and info on the new modes and weapons, as well as an interview with Bungie multiplayer designer Luke Smith.

We'll also be giving away a batch of early-access Reach beta codes starting next week that will get you in and playing days before the general beta. Keep your eyes open for that! 
 

 
 
So how many of you out there are rabidly waiting to get back online with Reach? I'm curious what the anticipation level is for a new Halo, now that Modern Warfare 2 has come along and kind of taken the championship belt for online multiplayer. Sound off, if you please.
Staff
#2 Posted by FinalDasa (1518 posts) -

can't wait! :D

Moderator
#3 Posted by SilentCommando (579 posts) -

Looks interesting, but I've had enough of Halo.

#4 Posted by Abdiel (13 posts) -

Not that interested

#5 Posted by TheSmartMonkey (48 posts) -

This looks good lots of improvements

#6 Posted by Barrier (58 posts) -

cannot wait!

#7 Edited by Hitchenson (4682 posts) -

Glorious Reach. The beta is so close now, I can hardly wait! Oddly I'm more excited for the campaign portion of the game though. 
 
After playing Halo 2 from Wednesday until Sunday, it's rekindled my massive hype for Reach somewhat. 
 
Just read the article, early codes? I'm not leaving Giant Bomb between now and then. Oh man, that's a good fucking giveaway.

#8 Posted by RobotHamster (4171 posts) -

Whats halo? Oh yea that thing I told myself to never ever remember again.

#9 Posted by gakon (1945 posts) -

Oh SHOOT.  Jetpacks?  Halo went Tribes.
 
We like jetpacks.

#10 Posted by InfiniteGeass (2051 posts) -

God damn you Brad you big tease. I can't wait to play the beta and hope I can snag one of those early codes.

#11 Posted by MacEG (253 posts) -

Honestly haven't been excited for a Halo game until Reach.

#12 Posted by zyn (2591 posts) -

Going to be crazy fun!  :)

#13 Posted by Doctorchimp (4071 posts) -

Ahh, most skill based shooter on the consoles with an extra dash of crazy and jetpacks?
 
Can't wait for the beta.

#14 Posted by TurboMan (7428 posts) -

Is it coming to the PS3?

#15 Posted by TheMasterDS (2026 posts) -

Never been into Halo, but I think I'll jump aboard the beta with Giant Bomb's help and give it a proper go.

Online
#16 Posted by MightyMayorMike (423 posts) -

ONLY Spartans vs. Elites? That seems like it's going to kill the multiplayer for a lot of folks.

#17 Posted by Lies (3866 posts) -

Friend and Family codes? Sick. I probably won't manage to snag one though :(
 
But I'll sure try.

#18 Posted by Computerplayer1 (991 posts) -

I'm on the fence about some changes (jet pack?) but overall like Brad I'm equally impressed that they have me excited for a Halo game again.

#19 Posted by Vash10 (35 posts) -

I'm counting down the days, pretty damned excited!

#20 Edited by DoctorWelch (2774 posts) -

Right now me and all my friends play moder warfare 2, but that is all about to change in a matter of months .

#21 Posted by Blitzer (386 posts) -

No desire to play the Multiplayer. I still haven't gotten ODST as I've heard it's short and I don't want to spend the money.
Maybe once ODST and this are cheap I will get them just to complete the story.

#22 Posted by sodiumCyclops (2644 posts) -
@InfiniteGeass said:
" @MightyMayorMike said:
" ONLY Spartans vs. Elites? That seems like it's going to kill the multiplayer for a lot of folks. "
That's only in Invasion mode. "
So it's safe to assume Spartans can fight alongside Elites in other modes?
#23 Posted by BluntSharpie (1 posts) -
I'm still a bit skeptical about Reach.  I have not played Halo 3 for quite some time and I'm not sure there is enough new stuff here to lure me back.
#24 Posted by CrazyBagMan (836 posts) -

I'd say Reach is the most excited I've been for any Halo game. I just was never really into it before, but Reach seems to be heading in a direction that I'm more interested in as far as multiplayer anyway.

#25 Posted by alec2dabomb (8 posts) -

i am very eagerly waiting for halo reach i think it will be way more my kind of game then modern warfare 2

#26 Posted by ThePwnee (234 posts) -

Fuck yes, cannot wait for Reach. Halo shall reign supreme once again.

#27 Posted by Vrock (78 posts) -

Looks impressive. Definitely will drag some MW2 players away. 

#28 Posted by Dynamitekyle (530 posts) -

Do we have to have a copy of ODST to use you guyses codes?

#29 Posted by Pazy (2561 posts) -

Im really looking forward to Reach, I played so much Halo 2 online (and a fair amount of Halo 3) but I havent been in it in a long time (although ODST came out its multiplayer was Halo 3). Unlike the Cod games which come out every single year so I dont have that same separation from the older games to really get me excited (especially considering my personal enjoyment has gone down for the most part since Cod 2 on PC). Ive got my copy of ODST still and a 48 hour trial card handy (I dont keep gold anymore since I dont play enough).

Cant wait for Reach!

#30 Posted by InfiniteGeass (2051 posts) -
@sodiumCyclops said:
" @InfiniteGeass said:
" @MightyMayorMike said:
" ONLY Spartans vs. Elites? That seems like it's going to kill the multiplayer for a lot of folks. "
That's only in Invasion mode. "
So it's safe to assume Spartans can fight alongside Elites in other modes? "
I think it's just Spartan vs. Spartan in other modes. As far as I can tell from the info released so far at least.
#31 Posted by Lies (3866 posts) -
@sodiumCyclops said:
" @InfiniteGeass said:
" @MightyMayorMike said:
" ONLY Spartans vs. Elites? That seems like it's going to kill the multiplayer for a lot of folks. "
That's only in Invasion mode. "
So it's safe to assume Spartans can fight alongside Elites in other modes? "
Usually you'll be constricted to Spartan v Spartan, Elite v Elite, or Spartan v Elite. They won't be mixing.
 
Especially in the Arena and other competitive playlists, you'll be limited exclusively to Spartan vs Spartan. You won't be seeing mixed teams
#32 Posted by wingedlegionary (19 posts) -

Cannot wait. This just looks like absolutely insane fun!

#33 Posted by Dryker (491 posts) -

Flipped Halo 3 and played a smidgen of the multiplayer, but... definitely interested in Reach. The iconic maps (read: easily identified sectors for game chat) make for much better team play than Modern Warfare's more realistic, more or less indescribable-in-a-few-words map sections.
#34 Posted by Jayross (2365 posts) -

After ODST... Halo, never again!

#35 Posted by goodwood (600 posts) -

I got ODST on the cheap off ebay and reach seems like a good change so I will be getting into it.

#36 Posted by Skytylz (4031 posts) -
@MightyMayorMike said:
" ONLY Spartans vs. Elites? That seems like it's going to kill the multiplayer for a lot of folks. "
I think that's just one mode.
#37 Posted by lordofultima (6215 posts) -

This looks f'in epic. About time there's A) Jetpacks, and B) Elite vs. Spartans.

#38 Posted by AltonBrown (949 posts) -

My God. I'm interested in a Halo game.

#39 Posted by BraveToaster (12590 posts) -

looks promising

#40 Posted by bjorno (1411 posts) -

gimme the code

#41 Posted by Rezonator (66 posts) -

I am extreamly hyped for the beta I'm getting tired with MW2 now and with all the new matchmaking features and other tweaks i think Reach will over throw MW2 in no time

#42 Posted by Rhombus_Of_Terror (2089 posts) -
@Jayross said:
" After ODST... Halo, never again! "
Again?
#43 Posted by SolidEyeSystem (76 posts) -

I'm ready for the beta to start already, pretty sure I'll be spending a lot of time in Invasion.

#44 Posted by Pibo47 (3166 posts) -

Looks like halo is going in a interesting direction. I like it

#45 Posted by Belonpopo (1823 posts) -

Wow, Brad does a good job of bashing Halo incognito.

#46 Posted by Trilogy (2645 posts) -

Fuuuuuuck. I'm excited for this.

#47 Posted by august (3827 posts) -
@Belonpopo said:
" Wow, Brad does a good job of bashing Halo incognito. "
What?
#48 Posted by sodiumCyclops (2644 posts) -
@august said:
" @Belonpopo said:
" Wow, Brad does a good job of bashing Halo incognito. "
What? "
I think HE thinks Brad is silently bashing Halo.
#49 Posted by lamegame621 (975 posts) -

Halo multiplayer is utter trash. Oh i know let's add sprint!

#50 Edited by ThePhilatron (256 posts) -

Bought ODST the day it was released mostly for this beta. I will find myself re-addicted soon enough.

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