Reach Beta impressions, vol. 1

I’ve only had two days of play time so far on the Beta, and only 10 matches a night tops due to working on some pieces for the English gaming site I’m writing and editing for, but I do have some reactions to the Beta as it stands thus far.

I was hoping that with all the news about different game types and Kit selections that Halo would be getting more in line with modern shooters like Modern Warfare and Battlefield, via diversifying gameplay and viable play styles, but it’s still what Halo always has been: reflex. It doesn’t matter if the game type is Stockpile or Capture the Flag, it still always comes down to who can off the other guys the fastest. There’s no “strategy” other than “find and murder everyone else.”

A friend of mine refers to Modern Warfare 2 as “the new Halo,” mostly on account of how quickly everyone dies and the lack of subtlety to the gameplay. My wife was watching me play the Reach Beta last night and said “Everyone dies so quickly. It doesn’t matter what kind of game it is and what the objective is, everyone just kills each other so quickly.”

She’s not wrong.

While Goldeneye pioneered successful console FPS controls, Halo perfected them and established the standard; and when Halo 2 hit the market, it was the first large-scale FPS experience a generation of console gamers, who had either deliberately eschewed or could not afford PC’s, had ever enjoyed. This established Halo’s console FPS multiplayer primacy, and I feel that there’s a certain mentality to Halo players (beyond exceptional rudeness) which I only heard about in reference to Halo 2, experienced firsthand in Halo 3, and now am seeing again in Halo Reach. It may be that the tendency for Halo players to play Slayer regardless of the match type is inextricable at this point

To be fair, I have had no access to the Generator Defense or Invasion game types, and those sound like a lot of fun. They also might be more objective-centric and defy the Slayer mentality a bit more. We’ll see.

We also have only had two maps so far, Swordbase and Powerhouse. I really dislike Swordbase. It is too difficult to find quick access to the upper levels of the map, so repositioning is a pain. I like maps to be more fluid than Swordbase allows for. Powerhouse I like, however.

I wish Sprint was not an armor abillity tied to a kit, but rather a default functionality for everyone. Much was made in the pre-Beta discussion among gamers about there finally being a Sprint function in Halo. Well, yes and no. Only if you are a Spartan.

Halo is about being a walking tank. You are slow and deliberate. Once you make contact with the enemy, there is no falling back. You shoot it out right then and there and win or die; and even if you win, if you’re playing against a halfway-competent team then one of your victim’s buddies is right there to finish you off.

With the Sprint ability, players can get out of a tricky situation and re-set. They can quickly reposition to hit an exposed flank, or hear shots fired and reinforce a friendly position. There’s a word for this sort of thing: tactics. It is what Halo has always sorely missed compared to games like Battlefield, which center around objectives and team play.

So far jetpacks just seem to paint bullseyes on people. I’m sure inventive use will start showing up soon, but I’m not really jazzed about them. I don’t enjoy using them because I feel it takes too much fuel to get decent lift established. Active camo hasn’t impressed me very much…perhaps people just need to learn how to use this, as well…but I have yet to be caught unawares by someone with active camo. Really, the camping mechanics in Halo don’t require active camo, and if you’re running around looking for targets the camo breaks and you also appear on radar…so if the camo is only good for sitting still, which you can do without the camo…

Armor lock seems useful for recovering flags in CTF, but otherwise it appears to make people targets, or hold up the enemy long enough for reinforcements to show up. I think it absolutely requires the nearby presence of teammates. I have yet to see it used in non-team Slayer matches, probably because all one needs to is wait patiently for the lock to run out and then shoot the person who employed it in the head.

The Elite Evade ability functions like a short-range Sprint move, so I’ve been enjoying that. Anything to add to the speed and agility in Halo is a welcome change by me.

The graphics are better than Halo 3 with denser textures, better lighting, smoother animations, but they are still not impressive. The game still looks like Halo 3 – in the middle of a fight, I don’t really notice these changes.

Not that I expected any different. For all its faults Modern Warfare 2 had some great graphics with really detailed environments, and Halo looks blocky and sparse by comparison. It always has, however, so isn’t necessarily a criticism of Halo Reach in particular. It’s just the art aesthetic of Halo design.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *