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Halo: Reach Beta Impressions Part Two

Continuing from the first half of my Halo: Reach beta impressions, I am going to run down the various game modes that were included in the beta as well as give my thoughts on the new maps showcased in the various modes. So, without further delay, check out the rest of my Halo: Reach beta impressions.

Game Modes

The beta also showcased a number of new game modes that Bungie has been working on and will appear in the final version of Halo: Reach. First on the list is Headhunter, a free for all game mode in which players fight for possession of flaming skulls. Killing an opponent will always cause them to drop at least one skull, as well as all of the skulls they were carrying at the time of their death. Once a player has one or more skulls in their possession, the objective is to store them and earn points by running into an objective marker. This game mode is fast paced and frenetic with players constantly trying to both down their opponents and steal their skulls while protecting their own.

Second is Stockpile. In this team-based mode, each team has its own repository for depositing flags that are scattered around the map and the goal is to deposit ten flags before the other team. There is a persistent countdown timer on each repository and when it reaches zero, the flags inside are collected. Of course, this means that the enemy team can come in and take your flags out of your base to prevent you from capturing them. The back and forth between depositing flags and defending those you already have creates a surprisingly fast-paced and very exciting gameplay dynamic which is, of course, a ton of fun.

Third is Generator Defense, another Spartans vs Elites mode for six players that appeared for a short time to help Bungie test its co-op netcode which is in dire need of some polish. Hampered by laggy connections, frequent disconnects and overall poor stability, Generator Defense on a new map, Overlook, was a decent mode that was brought down by an inability to play it smoothly. The concept of this mode involves, once again, the Spartans on defense as the Elites attacked with the objective of destroying three generators situated in various spots on the map. The Spartans have the ability to lock the generators to prevent them from being damaged for a short time to make things a bit more difficult for the attacking team but on the whole, the experience felt very well balanced.

Fourth is Spartans vs Elites Team Slayer, which, as its name suggests, pits a team of Spartans against a team of Elites. This game mode showcases the various advantages and disadvantages that each side inherently has. Elites regenerate health and their shields recharge faster, and the downside to this is that they appear to take slightly more damage to both their health and shields. Elites also have the combat roll ability to counteract the Spartans’ sprint ability on top of moving slightly faster than the Spartans by default. This twist on the standard Team Slayer game mode is one that was pretty darn fun to play. In addition, Bungie also added “Covy Slayer” to the mix which pits teams of Elites against each other, which feels almost radically different than the standard Team Slayer game mode.

Perhaps the most intriguing game mode in the beta and one of the most entertaining is Invasion. This 12 player Spartans vs Elites game mode is very similar on the surface to the Rush mode in Battlefield Bad Company 2. The Spartans play defense as the Elites attempt in the first two acts of the mode to get to certain checkpoints and hold them for 30 seconds, which will open up the Spartan’s base and allow the Elites to get to their real objective, the Memory Core. At this point, the game turns into essentially a single flag game of capture the flag in which the Elites have to deliver the Core to a drop off point to win the game. The Spartans, of course, have to stop them from doing so.

The only thing I don’t like about Invasion is how difficult it is to actually win the game as the Elites. Simply put, if both teams are comprised of equally skilled players, it’s highly likely that the Spartans will win the game because they have such a great advantage over the Elites by the start of the third act in terms of spawn points, weaponry and vehicles available to them. For instance, the Spartans have access to a Spartan Laser, a Rocket Launcher, multiple Sniper Rifles as far as weaponry; they have a spawn point that’s situated very close to the Elites’ drop off point and access to a Scorpion tank and a Warthog. The Elites by comparison have two Plasma Launchers, a Wraith, a Ghost and a Banshee. For the Elites to have so little in the way of brute force seems odd, especially in the context of the game (The Covenant are invading Reach after all) and the context of their roles as attackers.

In terms of balancing, there are some things I would like Bungie to smooth out here and there. In Team SWAT, everyone spawns with the same loadout which includes the DMR, the pistol, the sprint ability and some grenades. One new strategy that people tend to overuse is sprinting directly for you and melee attacking you, which kills you instantly in SWAT. This is a new tactic in Halo: Reach that’s surprisingly hard to circumvent besides shooting them in the face with whatever weapon you may be holding but that’s a lot harder than it sounds because seeing someone sprinting at them often causes people to freeze, much like a deer in headlights and end up dead.

It’s worth noting that, in Generator Defense, the sudden death timer is entirely pointless. Sudden death begins if the match timer runs out while one of the generators is locked and therefore impervious to damage. What makes this pointless is the fact that sudden death, and the round, ends the instant the generator is unlocked.

Thoughts on the New Maps

Four maps were on display during the beta and those maps were Sword Base, Powerhouse, Overlook and Boneyard. Sword Base was a very vertical map, reminiscent in a way of the Boarding Action map from Halo: Combat Evolved except with a bottom area which, in most games, is a death trap due to how exposed you are to everyone else. In my experience, because of this verticality, Sword Base is best suited for free-for-all game modes like Oddball and Headhunter.

Powerhouse is an asymmetrical map and is perhaps the best map displayed in the beta because of its versatility for all kinds of game modes but especially for team-based games. Here, Stockpile, Team SWAT, Team Slayer, Spartans vs Elites and One Flag CTF were an absolute blast to play on Powerhouse and given the choice, Powerhouse was always the map my friends and I preferred to play on.

Boneyard was a map that was only available for Invasion gametypes and was positively massive. This type of map seems like it would only be suited to gametypes such as Invasion and possibly Big Team Battle due to the massive scale of the map itself and I can imagine that full 16 player matches of Team Slayer or Capture the Flag would be incredibly fun and exciting on Boneyard but its true calling is certainly Invasion as it seems almost perfectly tuned for that mode.

The final map, Overlook was available only in the Spartans vs Elites Generator Defense mode. This asymmetrical map featured a large base situated on a hill overlooking a large field with plenty of spots for cover for the advancing Elites. Due to its asymmetrical nature, the map seems as though it would be well suited to games of One Flag CTF and was very well suited to Generator Defense.

Conclusion

Overall, the Halo: Reach beta was a very interesting and highly entertaining, albeit fleeting, look into what is to come when Halo: Reach releases. The diversity of the new game modes combined with great new additions to the Halo armory that do little to upset the delicate balance that Bungie has created thus far and the new armor abilities make for an excellent new style of play that manages to shake up the formula a great deal while still staying true to the excellent gameplay that the Halo series is known for. This beta gave Halo fans a great deal to look forward to and it goes without saying that Halo fans have a great deal to look forward to as, with a bit of polish, this could easily be the best Halo game yet.

About Justin McBride

My name is Justin McBride and I’m a guy who enjoys writing, playing games and writing about playing games. Sound lame enough yet? Well, I have other interests as well such as hanging out with friends, watching TV, going to the movies from time to time, surfing the internet, listen to good music, drive at speeds I shouldn’t be driving at and so on. The problem is, that’s all stuff everyone likes to do, so why write about it? Oh wait, seems I just did. Oops.

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