Previews// Halo: Reach

Posted 30 Jul 2010 17:00 by
Halo is a blockbuster franchise. There's no doubt about that. While the effortlessly cinematic set-pieces and engaging single-player campaigns have propelled the series into a realm of acceptance more suited to Hollywood movies, the real genius behind Bungie's space opera has always been in its multiplayer modes. The studio's swansong, Halo: Reach, looks every bit as inviting an experience as its forebears.

While millions of people were reinforcing that point by running the online Beta some months ago, Bungie was hard at work tweaking another element of the multiplayer experience: Firefight. A mode first introduced in Halo: ODST, it's essentially a first-person adaptation of Gears of War 2's Horde – tackle waves of increasingly difficult enemies and survive to the end.

Players work in a co-operative fashion, and must also avoid the heavy fire of massive dropships as they deposit reinforcements at the start of each wave. With only a limited number of lives to share between them, it means teamwork and solid tactics are a basic requirement. In Halo: Reach, Bungie has taken the core of Firefight and created ways for users to practically create their own game modes.

Community Manager Brian Jarrard said to me that what the studio found lacking in ODST's introduction of the multiplayer mode was that “the experience was generally the same no matter what you did. There was a fixed progression – it was simply the same type of game, but on different maps.” The new and improved Firefight options in Reach feature parameters that control almost every aspect of the gameplay.

Things you can tweak range from the enemies you face and the types of weapons and ammo available, to more complex parameters such as player movement speed, jump height, weapons damage, respawn time and available loadouts. You'll also be able to set the length of the match itself and, of course, set skull modifiers that change the gameplay on a wave-by-wave basis.

Skulls such as 'Tough Luck' (which allows enemies to dodge rockets more effectively), 'Catch' (which gives Covenant troops more grenades), and 'Grunt Birthday Party' (headshots of Grunts cause confetti to pop out) are all present from ODST, although now if these don't achieve what you're looking for in a modifier then Reach gives you the ability to create up to three custom skulls defining traits.

These either affect Spartan players or the Covenant enemy AI, and you can alter parameters such as shielding, health and movement, to enemy damage and headshot immunity. My favourite one has to be 'Shootiness,' which affects how trigger-happy the enemy is.

The best part about creating a custom Firefight game is that you can then share it with your friends, who will pass on the game to their friends and their friends' friends. On the other hand, you will experience modes that other people have made that your friends have deemed cool. I'm told that Bungie has thrown in a shedload of matchmaking support into Reach as well, so you'll be able to use Active Roster, queue-joining and all kinds of other expected connection options.
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