Following on from Matt's first impressions piece on the Halo: Reach Beta, week two of the test run sees a new game mode: Invasion, Halo’s first truly objective-based multiplayer mode. It’s a multitiered, multi-team game type, where teamwork and strategy trump run-and-gun tactics. You’re split into two-man teams, with three teams of Spartan pairs, and three Elite duos. Elite’s must crack the Spartan defences protecting a valuable date-core, and escort it to a docked Phantom. Spartans must prevent this from happening, at all costs.
Invasion can only be played on Boneyard. But while you’d expect this map to become boring the tenth or twentieth time around, it is so large you’ll constantly be finding new spots to hide, new roosts to snipe from and new avenues of death.
Invasion is comprised of three stages. If you’re an Elite, you must hold highlighted portions of the map to open up the next stage. As a Spartan, you’ll need to prevent the Elites from doing so, simply by removing them from these vital areas.
At Stage 1, each side only has two loadouts to choose from. Spartans can choose from an Assault Rifle or DMR loadout, each with access to the Sprint perk. Elites can either choose a Plasma Repeater with the Evade perk, or a Needler and Invisibility.
Elites spawn on the ground, in the shadow of a colossal frigate being stripped for parts. The area is debris-strewn, so cover is plentiful, but remain in the open for too long and DMR-equipped Spartans on the frigate will pick you off eventually.
The frigate contains the highlighted areas you must unlock. Stairways on either side of the frigate grant the Elites access to its upper layers. Spartans spawn inside the frigate, and their elevated position and superior weaponry mean Elites must be tactical in their approach. It’s often best to organise a split-attack, two teams ascending the frigate on either side, splintering the Spartan ranks.
Once the Elite’s have held the generators for long enough, the next stage opens.
The map reveals itself to be even larger, as the forcefield barriers collapse, and the Elites spill out towards the refinery. Three territories lie in and around the refinery, which the Elites must again capture and the Spartans defend.
New classes allow the Elite’s to wield the deadly Needle Rifle, and grant the Needler and Invisibility loadout extra grenades and a Plasma Pistol. Spartans can now combine the Assault Rifle with the Armour Lock perk, and adds further grenades and a Magnum to the DMR loadout.
Vehicles also enter the fray. Spartans only have a Warthog, although in capable hands it can mop up stray Elites. The Elites have access to a Ghost and a Wraith, although they’re located on the opposite side of the map.
With the added loadouts and vehicles, Stage 2 is far more explosive and widespread. Spartans can find Rocket Launchers, Sniper Rifles and Spartan Lasers inside the refinery, and a crane spread across the map offers a good spot to halt the Elite charge.
Once the Elite’s have locked-down a territory, the defences around the precious data-core inside the refinery fall.
The last stage, and the most important. The Elite’s must carry the data-core out of the refinery, across the barren terrain to a docked Phantom atop some scaffolding. While carrying the data-core, you cannot fire your weapon or melee, and appear on Spartans HUDs as a priority target.
The loadout selection suddenly booms. Spartans can equip Shotguns and Grenade Launchers from the off, with Armour Lock and Sprint respectively, whilst Elite’s can roll out with Plasma Repeaters and Needlers, combined with Evade or Invisibility. Both sides can equip the Jetpack loadout.
Stage 3 is often a mess, with Jetpack-equipped Spartans and Elite swooping from the skies, either keeping enemies away from the data-core, or protecting allies carrying it. Spartans with Shotguns counter Elites carrying Energy Swords, and the former now have access to a Scorpion Tank, lumbering and dangerous.
If the Elite’s reach the phantom with the data-core intact, the round is over and they’re victorious. But if the Spartans can prevent their alien foes from escaping within the time-limit, a squadron of Longswords bombard the map with explosives, and celebrations ensue.
Reaching for the Stars
Invasion, in my opinion, is easily the best new addition to Reach. I love the new loadouts, appreciate the subtle and not-so-subtle gameplay changes. But for me, Invasion brings something original and rewarding to Halo.
You don’t have to be the best shot or know the best sniping spots. Teamwork is vital for succeeding, on either sides. Protect a fellow Spartan as he holds off a wave of Elites, or accompany a fellow split-jaw as he waddles over to the lurking Phantom.
But Invasion is obviously a work-in-progress. The dichotomy between Spartans and Elites could do with tweaking. Spartans, while more fragile than their robust alien foes, have access to far superior weaponry. And the Elites’ Stage 3 loadouts pale in comparison to the Spartans. The objectives could do with some fleshing out, too. Holding territories is tense and fun, but not very rewarding or tactile. Perhaps Elite’s could whittle away at an actual generator, and the Spartans must continually repair it?
Either way, it’ll be sad once the Halo Reach beta ends, and we must wait once again for it to return later this year, hopefully with an array of tweaks and surprises.