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The Aftermath - Halo: Reach Multiplayer Beta

Bungie, First person shooter, FPS games, Games articles, Games previews, Halo Reach, Xbox 360 games
Halo: Reach | Xbox 360

The Aftermath - Halo: Reach Multiplayer Beta

Having stuck, sniped and stormed our way through two weeks of Spartan testing, it's time for a few of us to kick back and divulge our personal impressions of the Halo: Reach multiplayer beta. We've already  introduced you to the new gameplay mechanics and given insight into the new modes Invasion and Generator Defence, so here's our conclusive take on the test. We've listed what we loved, what we hated, what we think needs changing and what needs to go completely. As with all unfinished articles there have been a few bumps along the way, but it's still been an absolute blast in more ways than one. Read on for more.


I'm a big fan of Halo, but for the past few years I've found my interest in the series waning. I barely touch the multiplayer anymore, and I had to convince myself I bought ODST on its merits as a game, not a vessel for the beta. So I was skeptical of Halo Reach. Jetpacks? Reticule-bloom? A Spartan-Elite dichotomy? Since Combat Evolved, Halo has slowly but surely begun to decline. I expected Reach to be the last nail in the coffin.

But like all cynics, I downloaded the beta the minute it was unlocked. I waited, patiently at first, then with vocal frustration, as the servers groaned and I struggled to find even one match. I managed to slip into one game, on Powerhouse. And I loved it. I soared into the sky on a Jetpack, rattled a clip into a sprinting Spartan below, hurled a grenade, then plummeted to the ground and died. The Halo I loved was back.

The Aftermath - Halo: Reach Multiplayer Beta

The beta is an all-round improvement in almost every area. Controls feel perfect, and the thunderous sounds mean it finally feels like you're handling and firing an actual gun, rather than a toy. The inclusion of 'Loadouts' adds some much-needed excitement to the Halo formula. A lot of fans seem upset by the decision to automatically equip power-ups such as Invisibility, but I feel it takes the established tradition of 'run-gun-melee', and introduces further caveats, like 'run-fly-gun', or 'hide-pounce-assassinate'. I'd love to go into detail about how much I love assassinations, but I'd probably ramble on for too long!

The new modes on offer add to the fun. Headhunter is an insane, hectic game-type that left me literally breathless at the end. Stockpile made me like flag-based modes again. And the Arena is a very promising addition. Invasion is perhaps the best new addition to the Halo formula, and you can read about how much I enjoyed this mode here. I enjoyed Generator Defence, but the latency issues dampen the fun.

The Aftermath - Halo: Reach Multiplayer Beta

The beta isn't perfect, however. Some weapons feel under and overpowered. Elite's could do with better weaponry, and Armor Lock, in my opinion, should be removed or severely altered. The biggest issue is the 'double-tap' epidemic. Up close, gun-play is redundant. It devolves into a mad, button-bashing race for who can land two melees first.

A lot of these issues are easily rectified, and I look forward to the final release. I haven't even spoke about the improvements to the graphics or the animation. Simply put, if Reach is Bungie's last Halo game, they're going out on a high.


As an unapologetic and self-professed Halo fan, I was ready for the Reach Beta to deliver a refreshing new multiplayer experience that still feels like classic Halo... and for the most part, it did. The weapon selection and maps feel comforting and familiar, yet the new gametypes and armour abilities make for a whole new take on the Bungie FPS formula that brings it in line with more recent online shooters. The frenzied and insane Headhunter and Arena modes gave me a great new way to throw down on random players in lone wolf matches , and Invasion/Generator Defense delivers one of the most teamwork-oriented multiplayer experiences I've ever played.

The Aftermath - Halo: Reach Multiplayer Beta

Having said that, these two weeks have only been a Beta, not a polished article. There are a whole mess of buffs, nerfs and networking issues that need to be ironed out...you know, a few more seconds of sprint here, weakened Plasma Launcher homing ability there...but these are little niggles that belong on the Bungie.net forums (and believe me, they are). To that end, I've tried to pick out a selection of my favourite (and least favourite) aspects of the last fortnight.

  • Loved: Voting for gametypes. Being able to veto a match is one thing, but being able to choose your next match and gametype out of a wide selection is common sense. It's been a long time coming.
  • Liked: The armour abilities. They're not powerful enough to dominate the game, but when used properly they can turn the tide of a difficult engagement. Call me crazy, but I personally favour the sprint. Sure, your enemies might be airborne or invisible... but it won't do them any good when you beat them to the headhunter score zones and weapon spawns.
  • Disliked: The health bar. Whilst I'm delighted that the classic health bar's back for the singleplayer mode, having an HP system seems a little pointless in multiplayer. Most of the weapons will cut through you in no time flat once your shields are down regardless of your health- and it's just one more little thing to worry about in the heat of battle.
  • Needs work: This is a personal bugbear more than anything, but most of the weapons simply aren't satisfying to fire. Even when played through a beefy sound system, there's no real sense of power and weight behind each shot. Hopefully some beefier SFX and force feedback will help to make the arsenal feel more potent. Why have a huge selection of great guns when they're no fun to use?

The Aftermath - Halo: Reach Multiplayer Beta


A bit of a latecomer to the Halo party, having spent most of my teen years ensconced in front of a Nintendo console or my beloved PS2, I will hold my hand up as being one of those gamers who initially went 'Yeah so it can't be that good' and then capitulated utterly upon playing the games. Addicted, enamoured and still frighteningly mediocre with an assault rifle in my hands, I've got to say that this beta was an enormous amount of fun. It was good to see that they hadn't changed too much since Halo 3 - well if it ain't broke... - but as Jon notes above, the new mechanics catapulted the series into contemporary contention.

I'm a big fan of the new levels and an even bigger fan of the Armour Abilities, each of which have their own pros and cons (personally I nearly always go for either the Sprint or the Active Camo) and they really do bring a whole new dynamic to the game. The weapons I found to be somewhat divisive. I greatly mourned the loss of the Battle Rifle and the Assault Rifle now feels a little like an automatic spud gun. The Scoped Pistol has, understandably, been powered down since Combat Evolved but feelings of offensive inadequacy are rife here. The Needle Cannon, for example, looks absolutely kick-ass, but doesn't feel like it at all.

The Aftermath - Halo: Reach Multiplayer Beta

That said, the whole thing sounds and looks great, and the new game modes are exceptionally good fun. Invasion encourages real teamwork and communication along with Generator Defence, but for me it's the Lone Wolf modes that have really been the revelation. Stockpile and Headhunter, especially, have given me some of the most fun-filled online moments of the past few months.

The Good: Democracy that works! New, varied game modes, weapon and ability loadouts. Assassinations!

The Bad: Unbalanced weapons, fiddly jetpacks.

The Ugly: The melee system is an enormously frustrating mess.

So there you have it - overall a successful test, but certainly room for improvement. We can't wait for the Autumn, but why not let us know what you guys thought of the beta. Drop us a line or two in the box below with your thoughts.

Add a comment7 comments
Sid  May. 21, 2010 at 18:23

Very good Beta, final version should be something special.

John McLaggan  May. 23, 2010 at 01:43

I'm surprised no-one made any mention of the invasion mode - this should have been the highlight of the beta but in the end it was a real let down as it suffered badly from balancing issues. I was hoping it would be tweaked over the course of the beta but it seemed to have been left untouched. Initially it seemed ok because few people knew what they were doing but as the beta progressed it became worse and worse until the last night I never saw the Elites get a single win. I saw well organised Elite teams power through the first two objectives if the Spartan team wasn't up to scratch then fail to get the core to the evac point.

It's not even hard to see why, the core room is right beside the spawn point and the heavy weapons plus it's very easy to defend meaning just a couple of Spartan players who know what they're doing could hold this room against all the Elites coming in at once. Once the core is out of the building it doesn't get any easier as the spartans have another respawn point about halfway along the core's route which has heavy weapons plus they can respawn in with the grenade launcher making it a breeze to take out Elites trying to get the core.

I really don't get the Halo 1 nostalgia either, while I played the game extensively (local network games every day at lunch) I think the game has improved since then and it's irritating to see them taking steps back. Health feels utterly pointless in this game, I really missed the dual wielding and the heavy weapons (although I guess Jorge-052 needs something to do), I realise you're meant to be controlling 'budget' Spartans but it's still annoying.

On the plus side it's good to see the invasion mode in there as I was a big fan of Enemy Territory, hopefully for the final release they'll ensure there's no balance issues. It's taken far too long to have Spartans vs Elites but it's still great to finally get it. The loadouts while relatively simple are a good addition although it would be good to earn extra skills during battle similar to Enemy Territory. Matchmaking seemed to work extremely well and bizarrely the Halo community seems to have lost of a lot the annoying kids previous games suffered badly from which made the whole experience far better.


Felix Kemp  May. 23, 2010 at 12:03

Personally, I feel that as Halo progressed and got more and more popular, Bungie were forced to shake up the formula by introducing new elements, simply to provide marketing with an extra bullet-point. Dual-wielding didn't fare too well in Halo, as it disrupts the core parts of combat, shoot-melee-grenade.

I agree, though, that Invasion needs work. I think the Elite's need some better classes, as weapon-wise they can nab the Spartans' heavy weaponry if they're sneaky enough. The Banshee could do with an overhaul though, as I'm not a fan of the controls or its general frailty.

John  May. 23, 2010 at 13:58

I disagree, I think dual wielding not only enhances the shoot-melee-grenade but it also added to another core element which was the plasma/shield and projectile armour mechanics. If having recently spawned or out of ammo you couldn't take part in shoot-melee-grenade without dual wielding as you'd normally get ripped apart long before then against a better equipped player. The dozens of low power weapons lying around would be useless because one at a time they simply lacked the punch against the better weaponry and switching between two light weapons was little benefit. Dual wielding allowed you to double up the weak weapons which made them far more potent while keeping melee and grenades just a button switch away.

It also increased the variety of shooting styles and allowed you to mix the strength of plasma weaponry against shielding and the projectile weaponry's superior armour penetration. In Halo 1 you could rather clumsily charge up the plasma pistol to knock out shields then switch to the assault rifle to take out the armour but in Halo 2 you could seemlessly mix the plasma pistol and the SMG or sequence the plasma rifle and SMG to take advantage of their strengths. Halo 3 enhanced this further by offering more choices with the Brute projectile weaponry giving a mix of styles from a slow shotgun style to SMG shooting.

Plus in Halo 1 it looked stupid that a biochemically enhanced human with power armour could only carry a single small weapon and same for the mighty Sanghelli when they could mount carry heavy weapons and throw tanks. The weaker non-powered ODSTs would have been a little more understandable if they couldn't carry support weapons(!) but even for the budget Spartans it still looks daft.


Jonathan Lester  May. 23, 2010 at 16:10

I agree that the lack of dual-wielding and sluggish weapon change animation has severely reduced the effectiveness of certain weapons (notably the Plasma Pistol and Rifle), but I think that Bungie needs to work on giving these guns an distinct edge and purpose rather than bringing back dual wielding. Every gun in Halo 1-3 had its own clear tactical role, and it's up to Bungie to redefine the combat niche of several of the armaments.

I absolutely agree with your last paragraph though. Why can't a Spartan always kill a grunt in one hit or lift ludicrously heavy weapons... when he can throw a tank several feet into the air? Daft indeed.

Jonathan Lester  May. 23, 2010 at 16:18

Maybe the overcharged plasma pistol could force players out of armour lock? That'd kick things up a notch.

Carl  Jun. 10, 2010 at 02:10

Good call on the melee. I think that was my biggest frustration as well. So unpredictable.

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