For those of you unable or unwilling to plop down the money for a copy of Halo: ODST just to play the Reach beta, we took the plasma bullet for you. Now, to be fair, this is not a review. Reviewing a beta would be short-sighted and unfair to the game makers. The beta has glitches, lots of them, but that is what a beta is for. Some of the weapons are slightly unbalanced, the two maps released are somewhat unimpressive, which is likely to keep the gameplay moving faster to help developers with data (campers don’t help beta testing- you know who you are).
But, with that in mind, we sat down with a few dozen cans of Red Bull and played the Halo: Reach beta for several hours for you, the reader. You are welcome.
This is what the beta is all about. Maps change, weapons come and go, but if the gameplay isn’t solid to begin with, everything else becomes a moot point. Gamers familiar with the Halo series will quickly feel right at home. There are some changes to the way you might play, but the control scheme, movement, and feel of the game will be immediately familiar.
Modern Warfare loyalists that prefer the Call-of-Duty-style controls will likely hate the controls, possibly enough to abandon it and claim the game “teh sucks” and is full of weak gamers, while Halo veterans will quickly be pwning noobs with the best of them. Oddly, there is still no option to customize the buttons. When a game’s budget is more than many Hollywood movies, you would think they could spare a few bucks to code customizable controls. Come on guys, we know you are proud of your controller schemes, and maybe it would take some work, but we are big boys and girls that are fully capable of assigning our own keys. It’s not a big issue, but if the SNES could do it, so could Halo.
There are a few gameplay changes that might affect the way you play, but nothing major. The legendary elbow melee attack that was once so powerful that players frequently ignored their guns in favor of dropping an instantly fatal Mississippi soup bone on players’ domes, has been augmented to include an assassination move. When you sneak up on a player and hold the melee attack down, your character will perform an instant kill animation. It varies based on the angle and the type of character you play (Spartan or Elite). They are awesome in theory, but in practice slow and imprecise. That should improve before the actual release. The possibilities of the new attack are fairly impressive, and when combined with a jetpack (more on those in a bit), players can hide in the air and drop down for an instant kill on an unsuspecting gamer for a video capture worthy scene, and bragging rights. It is especially sweet to do this to a mouthy kid who said stuff about our mother, who is a saint! Just for example.
The game plays just as you would expect. The first change you will notice is the inclusion of specific types of equipment loadouts that you select each time you respawn. At first they seem like a small addition, but you soon notice that they will affect the way you play the game.