Staff writer Shawn Vermette put the Halo: Reach beta through its paces. Here are his thoughts.
First off, let me say that I didn’t really expect much out of this beta. I love playing Halo multiplayer, but all of it has felt exactly the same to me through the years, so I was expecting more of the same for the Reach beta. However, while it feels very familiar, just enough has been changed to make it feel fresh all over again.
The single biggest change to Reach from Halo 3 is the addition of different classes of Spartan and Elite. Each class has an armor power-up that differentiates them from the rest, adding more of a tactical shooter feel to what is usually a run and gun experience. The beta includes 4 standard classes you could play, though there are hints from the Invasion playlist that there will be more, or that there could be custom classes available in the full game.
The four classes are Scout, Guard, Stalker, and Airborne. The Scout is able to sprint at great speeds and for a great length of time, allowing you to outpace the enemy when speed is important. The Guard is able to generate an EM shield that not only renders them immobile, but invincible for a short period of time, but will also rob an enemy of their shields if they wander too close. The Stalker is able to cloak and become invisible for a short period of time. While cloaked, they generate a radar jamming signal that interferes with the enemy’s ability to track any of your teammates near them. Finally, the Airborne is equipped with a jet pack that will allow you to soar to great heights and distances while tracking down the enemy.
In the Reach beta, there are three playlists and three maps available to play right now, while a fourth playlist will be added on May 14th. The current playlists are Slayer, Grab Bag, and Invasion.
Slayer is the standard Lone Wolf from Halo 3, an 8-player free-for-all deathmatch.
Grab Bag is a mode where you will vote one of three match types from the following list: 3 Plot, Crazy King, Covy Slayer, Slayer, Stockpile, SWAT, Oddball, and Capture the Flag. None of these modes are new except for Covy Slayer, which is simply Slayer with Elites instead of Spartans, but due to the new gameplay mechanics introduced by having various classes, all of them feel new all over again.
The final playlist is Invasion, where you’ll play either Invasion or Invasion Slayer. These are entirely new match types that focus on teamwork on a larger scale and pit a team of Elites against a team of Spartans. In Invasion, a team of 6 Elites will try to capture marked locations a la King of the Hill. Once those locations are captured, you must steal a data core and take it back to the awaiting Dropship. This part is similar to Capture the Flag. Againt them, 6 Spartans will attempt to defend the marked locations and prevent their capture, along with fighting to protect the data core if all else fails. In order to succeed at this, teamwork and communication are more important than ever. In Invasion Slayer, teams of 6 Elites and 6 Spartans compete in a deathmatch style game with one added bonus. There are marked territories throughout the map that, when captured by your team, will give you battlefield reinforcements in the form of heavy weapons or even vehicles ranging from the Warthog to the Ghost and the Scorpion.
The maps available in the beta are Sword Base, Powerhouse, and Boneyard. Sword Base and Powerhouse are used for the Slayer and Grab Bag playlists, while Boneyard is used for the Invasion playlist. All are more interesting and balanced than previous Halo maps have been. You don’t have to have a map memorized to find some of the super weapons as you used to, though it definitely helps. Additionally, they all require different tactics and classes depending on the match type being played on the map. One map can play completely differently from one match type to another, which I feel is the mark of a well-made map.