GSY PREVIEW | X360 Thursday, April 22, 2010 | 7:00 PM

Gamersyde Preview : Halo Reach Beta

Gamersyde Preview : Halo Reach Beta

It was in a sunny late afternoon that Driftwood and I went to the French Halo Reach Beta presentation in Paris. It wasn't long before the weather turned stormy and it started to rain. A bad omen for a highly-anticipated game?



On time as usual, we are among the first to arrive. A cybercafe had been turned into a game room for the occasion. No presentation, no speech, we take a seat in front of one of the huge, freshly unpacked LED TVs.

First contact

Beginning with the classy lobby menus, we notice the efforts made by Bungie. The matchmaking options are numerous and the different screens are clearly displayed. But let’s focus on the new customization features. Similar to Halo 3 we are able to change some of the armour parts: the helmet, the chest, and shoulders. But now, you’ll have to unlock them by reaching higher grades and earning credits to buy them. Therefore, you'll need to get more and more frags in the different multiplayer modes. Of course you can still choose your armour colors and customize your emblem.

After having made a beautiful but not really discreet Spartan, the first game starts with classic team CTF in a spatial complex called Sword Base. You begin by choosing a class :

• The Expert Markman can run
• The Stalker becomes quite invisible
• The Operator generates a surrounding shield by hiting the ground
• The Airborne can fly by using a jetpack

Of course these capabilities are temporary and you’ll have to use them cleverly. Please note that you can switch to another class any time you get killed.

The game finally ends with a one thing being certain : we definitely don't measure up to Halo fans!



We finally try a new mode called "Headhunter" on the new Powerhouse map. Each player collects skulls spread all over the map, and then he has to drop it in one of the dropzones whose location is constantly changing. The first one who manages to drop 10 skulls at the same time, wins the game, otherwise the winner will be the player who has brought the most skulls at the end of the allotted time. Of course, don’t expect it to be as simple as picking flowers, and the other Spartans will shoot you with pleasure to retrieve the skulls you are carrying.

After some frenetic frags - and on organizers demand - we vote for the new Boneyard map, associated with a new mode: Invasion. And surprisingly, it's a futuristic quad race, reminiscent of the race mode in GTAIV. Indeed it's a checkpoint race and you can step out of your vehicle and spread chaos. I may as well tell you right away that the fans were in trance state!



A reach gameplay?

A new episode doesn't necessarily mean new features, but Bungie has undeniably worked hard to deliver just that! First, your Spartan moves slower and doesn't jump as high. Moreover you'll get fall damage if you drop from too high. Let's also note that it takes more time to get your shield and your energy regenerated.

About melee attacks, you'll first need to break down your enemy shield before killing him. But the key feature is the new Assassination move. To use it, you'll have to get close to your enemy from behind and press the melee button. It will result in a nice and humiliating animation!

The class choice also adds a strategic touch and should be decisive, depending on the game mode and the map. Moreover the powers are limited enough, and quite restrictive, keeping the balance of the game intact.

Regarding weapons, the beta includes two new ones that we unfortunately didn't have the chance to try: the grenade laucher and the plasma laucher. Some slight changes have been made to previously existing ones, in order to balance gameplay (reload time, range, rate, damages, etc ...).

Finally, in addition to Halo 3 modes, there are four new ones. The first two ones are detailled above, and the others are:

Stockpile where each team have to drop four flags which appear randomly in random zones.
Generator Defense which takes place in the Overlook map where three Elites have to destroy three generators defended by three Spartans.

The maximum number of players is still 16 (depending on mode), and the Theater Mode will still be present.



A luminous Halo?

Before considering the technical part, it's important to mention that the huge TVs with factory settings clearly didn't emphasize Halo Reach graphics. Some of them even had the 100Hz option activated (with image ghosting and other artefacts), and it seems that the consoles were badly configurated (bad resolution and bad cables).

Obviously, in these conditions it was really difficult to evaluate the efforts made by Bungie, and the game seemed quite close to Halo 3, with a better lightning model. Some textures are blurry, and the aliasing is very noticable (certainly increased by the TVs size). We cautiously blame the bad settings and the fact that it's only a beta version.

Nevertheless, in addition to lightning, the other nice touches regard character and weapon animations, which are more detailled and realistic. For example, Assassinations are really great.



Halo Wins ?


Before being jumped by Halo Fanboys, please keep in mind that I've never really enjoyed the Halo multiplayer experience, but I have to admit that the Bungie guys have outdone themselves to consolidate the Halo fundamentals while bringing some fresh new features. Concerning the technical side, it's quite difficult to judge, especially considering these bad conditions. But in my opinion, it won't be a graphical masterpiece, and it might even disappoint some of you (again). However, that didn't prevent Halo 3 from becoming one of the most played games on the Xbox Live service. So let's wait until May 3rd for those who has purchased Halo ODST !

All comments

Commented on 2010-04-22 19:28:29
i cant see it disappointing all that much with the visuals. The latest footage of it looked nice, sharp, and clean. Halo has a unique art style..it was never going to divert too far away from that.
The ones that cry the loudest about graphics will more than likely be the ones that wont have the option in playing the game (retail) offered to them anyway...as is usually the case with exclusives.
Commented on 2010-04-22 19:31:35
The embargo is already lifted? Nice, I'll dig into it now.

Edit: Done.
You didn't seem to have played any Invasion on Boneyard, that's really the only new mode worth talking about. Too bad. Hopefully it really was the TVs that made it look ugly, the Vidoc got me quite hyped for the gfx to say the least.

Small error at the end of the article: it's "lighting" not "lightning"
Commented on 2010-04-22 19:31:42
You just listed what's in the game, but what did you feel about it?
Commented on 2010-04-22 19:44:19
Looks like I'll have to get me a copy of Halo ODST soon. Looking forward to MP beta. How long does the beta last again, a month or so?
Commented on 2010-04-22 19:47:29
ouch at the texture-seam in pic 2 of the first set. You'd think that a developer like bungie would be able to avoid stuff like that :P
Commented on 2010-04-22 20:11:08
It's only the Beta, so I think it's harsh to fully judge the visuals when it's still some time off from release.
Commented on 2010-04-22 20:16:23
This game will sell billions of trillions!!!!
Commented on 2010-04-22 20:55:22
So is he saying the beta looks slightly better than halo 3's multiplayer or halo 3's campaign?
Commented on 2010-04-22 21:39:13
One thing people fail to realise about halo's graphics is just how much more dam vibrant and colourful the game is compared to most other games and to me it makes it that much more pleasing to the eyes. Halo has also done lighting very well in my eyes. I'm more looking forward to the sp to myself, halo 3 mp i do enjoy every no wn again but I tend to love the sp alot more. But I just love the halo universe/story etc.
Commented on 2010-04-22 23:19:31
I'd have to agree with Blue Eagle, the Halo Universe is just entertaining and it'll be the reason why i'll be getting this game. Glad they've made changes though cause I never could really get into the MP.
Commented on 2010-04-22 23:32:40
Well, I'm a little confused by the way he described the visuals. From the look of those still images, it's very clear that the game has taken a graphical leap, especially considering that those are multiplayer images. He mentioned that he also saw a lot of aliasing. So are these images just bullshots, or are they from a newer build of the game. I'm skeptical. Bungie left a bad taste in my mouth because of Halo3. I remember that Halo3 also had early images that looked pretty good but weren't indicative of the final product. In fact these screenshots may be similar to the photo mode seen in Forza games, which always looked better. Hmm... I dunno, guess I'll keep my fingers crossed until Fall.
Commented on 2010-04-23 00:37:23
Just download the new beta video of Reach on XBL if you wanna judge the graphics for yourselves, it shows TONS of new footage of the beta, all gameplay, and it looks very nice when in first person perspective. So after seeing that I'm not worried at all about the visuals.

I'm still nervous about the new armor perks but Bungie being Bungie it should be really a great new mechanic to the gameplay. Lets hope.

I just hope this time they don't pull the BS move of blocking people out of certain gametypes by not buying the new maps that come out. That's still my biggest gripe with the whole Halo thing.

Still not sure if I wanna buy ODST just for the beta, but after the newest video I'm getting really damn tempted. Especially since Bad company 2 is starting to really grow old for me. I was hoping that game would last longer.
Commented on 2010-04-23 06:39:11
please,gamersyde, be careful with the specs of the reviewed games.I will not forget who says alan wake is 720p 4AA.
Commented on 2010-04-23 07:14:23
Wow. I'm so done with this series.
Commented on 2010-04-23 09:41:50
Looks like quake or unreal in some cases. lol. I hope the SP will be interesting. The game will lose it's halo'ines without good sp (funny triangle enemies :) and treir language). Graphics are well done.
Commented on 2010-04-23 10:53:13
Glad you guys enjoy it,
but
Boring MP stuff all the time,man..show some SP Campaign clips you guys at Bungie !

These days they always promote each game on MP MP MP,god...guess I belong to the minority who doesen't care much about that,Wanna c some SP media !

Anyway,you guys did a great report on this,thanks.
Commented on 2010-04-23 13:13:02 In reply to iosomewhere
Posted by iosomewhere
Glad you guys enjoy it,
but
Boring MP stuff all the time,man..show some SP Campaign clips you guys at Bungie !

These days they always promote each game on MP MP MP,god...guess I belong to the minority who doesen't care much about that,Wanna c some SP media !

Anyway,you guys did a great report on this,thanks.
...lol well May3rd is the MULTIPLAYER BETA, why would they talk about campaign. Obviously they will talke about it nearer launch, and Bungie has confirmed campaign for E3 this year.
Commented on 2010-04-23 13:21:45
Bungie NEVER talk about the single player in depth they will mention something slight but nothing major, they dont want to spoil it, its how they roll.
Commented on 2010-04-23 18:41:16
Yep, Bungie never gives away much detail about the SP. They prefer to keep their stories as much a surprise as possible. Besides, while a lot of ppl on this site seem to be more into the MP aspect of gaming, the vast majority of ppl that buy games like Halo or CoD etc know that the MP part of the game is what is going to be getting we3ll over 90% of their time when playing the game.

So don't be so surprised that the aspect that gives the game, by far, it's most replay value is the aspect that gets so much attention so often. Maybe Crysis 2 or Reach can be that exception of SP measuring up to the MP?
Commented on 2010-04-25 21:33:35
I can't help but ask the question, what happened to bungie? I won't judge the game quite yet, but I have to admit these are mock up screens and still don't look all that fantastic. I remember when Halo came out in 01, it was without question THE best looking game ever made. It was better looking than all the PC games as well. Quite amazing to say the least, and the bump mapping quality was outstanding, better than what ended up in the PC version of the game. Bungie was unquestionably the graphics king, and it's a big part of what brought the Halo players in. Although this game looks better, and different, I don't see it winning any awards for visuals again unfortunately. And I'll say right now that if this game isn't running in true 720p, that right there is going to break my purchase and turn it into a rental.
Commented on 2010-04-25 23:21:07 In reply to spacemanjupiter
Posted by spacemanjupiter
I remember when Halo came out in 01, it was without question THE best looking game ever made.
No, it really wasn't. The game looks fine, and Halo was never the pinnacle of graphics, even on the Xbox.
Commented on 2010-04-25 23:42:40
I dunno, when Halo was released, I don't remember any games matching it. I was completely blown away by the bump-mapping and what my flashlight did to it. The textures in that game blew my mind.
Posted by spacemanjupiter
And I'll say right now that if this game isn't running in true 720p, that right there is going to break my purchase and turn it into a rental.
lol....I guess you definitely aren't in it for the MP then.
Commented on 2010-04-26 18:56:21 In reply to spacemanjupiter
Posted by spacemanjupiter
I can't help but ask the question, what happened to bungie? I won't judge the game quite yet, but I have to admit these are mock up screens and still don't look all that fantastic. I remember when Halo came out in 01, it was without question THE best looking game ever made. It was better looking than all the PC games as well. Quite amazing to say the least, and the bump mapping quality was outstanding, better than what ended up in the PC version of the game. Bungie was unquestionably the graphics king, and it's a big part of what brought the Halo players in. Although this game looks better, and different, I don't see it winning any awards for visuals again unfortunately. And I'll say right now that if this game isn't running in true 720p, that right there is going to break my purchase and turn it into a rental.
Nice to see that gameplay is a high priority :P It looks really good to me( there is a link to 35 min of gameplay in the main forum). The scale of the MP levels jumped quite a bit, and the detail stomps H3. Does it look like Killzone2? No, but I find myself far more visually stimulated...

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