Latest ‘Halo’ installment offers multitude of new features

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Though many of us have been studying this week, many other have been spending a lot of time playing the “Halo: Reach” beta that was released to the public May 3. If you’re one of those who have been sudying, then you’re really missing out.

On May 3, video game developer Bungie opened the download door for individuals who purchased their last game, “Halo 3: ODST,” to play-test the beta version of the next Halo game.

“Halo: Reach” is a prequel to the best-selling Halo franchise on Xbox and Xbox 360. It takes place on the planet of Reach, home to the SPARTAN-II program, and the new release is set prior to the first Halo game.

But the iconic hero of Halo, Master Chief, will not be making an appearance. Instead, the protagonists will be a group of Spartan-IIIs called Noble Team. The action takes place during the last days of the battle for Reach before the planet is rendered uninhabitable by the alien armada known as the Covenant.

It’s still unclear whether the game will follow any of the storyline from Eric Nylund’s book “Halo: Fall of Reach,” but the final game is scheduled for release in fall 2010.

Like all Halo games, “Reach” consists of a single player/cooperative campaign and online multiplayer. The current beta is the online multiplayer. Bungie plans to gathering data from all beta matches played to work out the glitches. Users have already found and posted video of several visual and functional glitches on Youtube.com, but for the most part, gameplay is fairly solid. The servers for “Halo: Reach” were shaky at best on May 3; they constantly crashed because so many people were trying to play, but now the problem has been fixed.

So what should you look for in “Halo: Reach”? A multitude of things have changed from “Halo 3.” First, the Spartans are different. Their armor doesn’t look anything like Master Chief or the ODST armor. The new armors are much more customizable. They have updated the emblem creation system, adding new emblem icons and making the process much faster. You still have plenty of colors to choose from as well. Additionally, credits will allow players to unlock new equipment to customize their Spartan. Every game you play earns credits as you acquire medals and kills, along with credits for playing the game all the way through and victory bonus points.

New ranks also unlock new items to be bought with credits. Another cool item to return to Halo is the health pack which was taken out after “Halo: Combat Evolved.” But good luck finding one when you need it.

The next big change, and probably the most challenging, is the controls. The controller layout for “Halo: Reach” is very different from “Halo 3,” and is almost reminiscent of the original Halo, “Halo: Combat Evolved.” You can still customize your controls, but the defaults are still different. I am just grateful that the A-button is still jump. I can survive if I can jump, even if I don’t know what the other buttons do.

ARMOR ABILITIES

One of the main reasons for the changing the buttons is new armor abilities. Armor abilities are divided into classes or “loadouts” including Scout, which has a sprinting ability, Stalker, which utilizes active camouflage and jams radars, Guard which has an armor lock that holds you in place but makes you invincible for the duration of the power up and the very awesome jetpack-capable Airborne class.

Be warned: you can receive damage from the jetpack if you go too high and fall. Personally, every time I see people using jetpacks, I just giggle and wonder which Star Wars nerd at Bungie begged to have a Boba Fett-type ability.

Additionally, every time you spawn, you can change your class. In the beta it is also possible to play as the Elites, but only in very limited Covy (Covenant) Slayer matches. The Elites have a rolling dodge in place of armor abilities and also have more shields and health than their Spartan counterparts.

GAMEPLAY

Other changes include new game types in online matchmaking. Anyone familiar with Private Jimmy or the skulls from previous Halo games will enjoy Headhunter. In Headhunter, you collect the skulls of fallen enemies. Stockpile, on the other hand, is a capture-the-flag based game where two teams must collect as many neutral flags from the surrounding area, bring them to their designated base, and guard them until collected, then rinse and repeat until the game is over. First to collect 10 wins. Of course Team Slayer is still available, where you can continue fighting over who is better, Reds or Blues. Two other game types which I have not played in the beta are General Defense and Invasion. These games pit Spartans against Elites. Also new is the Arena, where it’s basically a more competitively minded free-for-all-let’s-kill-everybody match where all the people who had Hayabusa armor in “Halo 3” will be hanging out, thinking they’re better than everyone else.

An improvement over the Veto process in online matchmaking allows players to vote between three different game types, maps or none of the above (which brings up 3 more options, one of which must be played). The map with the most votes is the one you play.

So far, there are only two maps available: Powerhouse and Sword Base. Neither map is a vehicle map. Powerhouse has a similar feel to High Ground from “Halo 3.” Although not as open as High Ground, there is water to play in. Sword Base is very basic, just like it’s name. The name doesn’t really fit this map at all, and I hope they consider changing it before the final release. Additionally, the map is very human, which doesn’t match the Covenant weapon it was named for. This map is essentially divided into two tall white buildings connected by walkways and a narrow plaza on the ground floor. If you enjoy smashing things, this map has plenty of computers to be destroyed.

Another new way to earn kills and medals is through an assassination called “take downs.” Basically, it’s a awesome way to assassinate someone with a cool third-person animation instead of the customary melee strike. From what I’ve seen in game play, it’s just as humiliating as teabagging.

WEAPONS

Most of the weapons in this game have been upgraded from “Halo 3,” which doesn’t make that much sense since it’s supposed to be a prequel. All the weapons have new sounds to give them a more realistic feel. The assault rifle has a new, detailed look and finally packs a real punch on enemies. Although this weapon is still best when used in bursts.

Replacing the battle rifle is the Designated Marksman Rifle. This is a good mid- to long-range weapon that packs a much stronger punch than its predecessor with less recoil. I would recommend headshots over bursting for this weapon.

My least favorite weapon is the Focus Rifle, which replaces the Sentinel Beam and Beam Rifle. This weapon isn’t as unwieldy as the Sentinel Beam and can reach far across a map for those who favor long-distance kills.

Bungie has also debuted human and Covenant grenade launchers. The Covenant’s grenade launcher is called the Plasma Launcher. This weapon shoots plasma grenades and it has a tracking ability to follow targets. This weapon seems very overpowered, and only time and beta testing can tell if Bungie will tone it down. The human Grenade Launcher has two firing modes, one which shoots a group of grenades and another for timed explosions.

The Magnum is back, and has finally regained some of the power that Bungie stripped off after “Halo: Combat Evolved.” The ridiculous melee gun flip has returned from the original Halo as well. The Needler is back and it’s lost some of it’s cuteness. The Needler’s cousin, the Needle Rifle is meant for accuracy, making it essentially a Covenant version of the Designated Marksman Rifle, which makes it a good mid- to long-range weapon. So if you used the Needler because your accuracy isn’t very good, you might need some practice before you use the rifle. But never fear, you can still needle bomb an opponent with the
Needle rifle.

The Plasma Repeater is a better version of the old Plasma Rifle. This weapon doesn’t have the bad recoil from overheating like its predecessor. Instead, this weapon just slows down when it overheats.

Returning weapons that really haven’t changed include the Plasma Pistol, Shotgun, Sniper Rifle, Gravity Hammer, and the Energy Sword.

AT A GLANCE

From my gameplay I found the game to be much faster paced. I know one common complaint is that the characters move too slow. Even without sprint, I felt that the characters moved faster, and battles happened quicker. While I’m still trying to gain experience with all armor types, I have one complaint with the invisibility. While playing splitscreen, my teammate chose to go invisible. When using the invisibility the noise gets muted during and briefly after the effects of the invisibility. Normally that doesn’t seem so bad, but every time he did it, my sound glitched and died, so as a result, my enemies sneaked in and shanked me. I couldn’t hear my enemies coming, and I wasn’t even the one who was invisible. Hopefully, Bungie will fix that glitch; otherwise, I won’t be playing splitscreen very often.

“Halo: Reach” has new games, more customization, and brings back some lost jewels from “Halo: Combat Evolved.” Also worth noting, all medals and ranks will reset when the final game is released. If the beta is anything to go by, the final game is sure to be a best-seller. If you haven’t spent time playing this game, then you owe yourself a study break.

– Ashton Archer is a sophomore in mechanical engineering and political science. Please send comments to edge@spub.ksu.edu.
 

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