Tag Archives: Halo: Reach Beta

What Halo Multiplayer Is

I love Bungie. I love the Halo universe. No matter how much I want to, though, I cannot love Halo multiplayer.

It is a game about duels. Discounting snipers or campers who are problematic in any FPS game, when mobile Player A sights mobile Player B, these players being opponents, they will run straight at each other with the most appropriate weapons at their disposal, and someone is going to die. Perhaps both of them. They will never attempt to retreat, they will have no time to call for help, it’s effectively one-on-one from the moment A and B lay eyes on each other, and that’s it. The end.

It doesn’t matter whether we are talking about every-Spartan-for-himself Slayer, Team Slayer, or any other variant of the game. Unless you snipe or camp, it is all about memorizing where the weapons lie on any map, getting them as quickly as possible, and then facing off one-on-one and surviving as long as you can until someone puts you down.

Never, not once, in all my time playing Halo 3 did I ever hear a player say the words “Flank them.” I’ve never heard the words “Suppressing fire” or “Fall back” uttered. Nor discussion of a “Feint” or “Covering fire.” These concepts simply do not exist in any Halo multiplayer circle I have walked among. This is unique in my FPS multiplayer experiences. Even in old-school shooters like Medal of Honor there were sometimes attempts at team communication when team-based play was the match type.

It does not come down to being in random groups, and therefore not having cohesive team play on that account. I play first person shooters on XBox Live with a very tight team of squadmates who have been playing together for years. We have gone through Call of Duty: World at War, and both Bad Company games, and both Modern Warfare titles, and Operation Flashpoint together, and we pride ourselves on tight comms and teamwork. Some of “the squad” have been playing FPS games together since World War II Online. We demonstrate proper FPS squad-based tactics as much as one might expect from a bunch of civilian gamers.

When we play Halo, we don’t use any of those words. There is simply no time for them. Halo multiplayer is a blunt object. It doesn’t matter if I am being killed by, or killing with, one-shot sniper rifle rounds, headshotting with a BR or the new DMR, or any other skillful fashion of dispatching the enemy, it still feels like being smacked in the head with an engine block or bashing someone with a concrete slab.

What I want to know is: why does Halo work this way? What is it about this particular first person shooter that even though it has now been through three iterations, judging by the Halo Reach Beta the gameplay still doesn’t feel like it has matured at all?

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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

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Beta Madness

Checking in on my RSS reader, it seems very sparse. Not much traffic today. Could it be…that everyone is playing the Halo: Reach Beta?

Inasmuch as I get to call myself a member of the gaming press (line between journalists and bloggers dissolving and all that), I certainly know what *I* will be doing when I get home from work today…

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