Well, the servers finally started working again, but not before the collective internet pulled up to cry a salty flood of entitled fanboy woe. We mean it! Don’t go to the Bungie forums unless you want to see six different threads about how this game isn’t Halo 3. For the rest of us, the beta appears to be smoothing out: connections are faster, the matchmaking system is snappier than Halo 3‘s ever was and some of the excellent new game types are showing up with greater frequency in the playlists. Here’s four things I love about the Reach beta.
Grenades Actually Kill People
Back in previous Halo titles you had two kinds of grenade throw: the kind that stuck to someone, and the kind that did about as much damage as a cherry bomb. Reach has given grenades a major buff with even indirect plasma grenades proving a useful source of kills. There are new threads crying out for these things to be nerfed on the Bungie.net forums every minute, but we hope they hold fast and give us explosives that actually explode things.
Elites have always been the co-stars of the Halo series, and Reach has given these mysterious dinosaur-space-ninja their own game type. Slayer Elite/Covy Slayer is faster than the spartan equivalent, with sticky plasma grenades and the dodge armor power at spawn. Bungie might have a real problem with this one: it makes the Spartans seem lead-footed and dull by comparison. Darting around the map in bursts is an intuitive and pure joy I have never felt in first-person shooters before – if anything, it kind of reminded me of the dashing in Capcom fighting games.
No More Veto
Instead, mob rule. Rather than limiting players to one preset gametype or a pot-luck shot in the dark by veto, Reach lets players vote on a choice of three preset gametypes per matchmaking session, with a “none of the above” option triggering a final vote on a further three. This is something Halo 3 was absolutely aching for and it’s really great because you can all vote to play Covy Slayer or…
Team SWAT is an old Halo 3 gametype, but Reach‘s new Designated Marksman Rifle and sprint armor power justify it as an essential gametype. The clunky pace of Halo 3 is gone, which might disappoint people who like to feel like they’re controlling Robocop. Out of the two beta maps, swordbase’s tight quarters and atrium-edged no man’s land are perfect for this paranoid game of cat and mouse. An instinctive flair for headshots and a steely nerve are needed to fill the space where your rechargeable shields used to be.