Countdown To Halo Reach: Multiplayer

By Adam Ma on September 8, 2010, 9:15PM EDT

The original Halo game changed the face of console FPS. This is a fact, impossible to deny or ignore. When Halo first began sweeping through college dorms and group LAN parties it was impossible to tell that the future of competitive gaming was being shaped. Yet here we are, years later, with the final chapter in one of gaming's most influential (and recognized) FPS titles coming to a close. Halo: Reach has some monumental shoes to fill, particularly since it may be a long time until we see another entry in the franchise. What exactly we have to look forward to, and how long will it hold our interest, is the key question here. Fortunately Bungie has done quite a lot of thinking on this subject, and I doubt anyone looking to join the fun will be disappointed on any level. Unofficial Halo Week continues, with an in-depth look into the multiplayer scene.

The first, and most obvious, change to the game would be the armor abilities. Multiple use, role defining moves that will enable players to better define exactly what type of combatant they are. It will also help to break down the 'snipe war' that Halo has become of the years. This new element of strategy isn't just great for single player either, though it will make for quite a different kind of free-for-all setting. On the grand scale of things it will also help the team-based multiplayer modes as well, as players' unique abilities will be able to contribute to the battlefield in very different and unique ways.

Being able to soar across the battlefield using the jetpack, or alternatively stop a tank in its tracks with the armor lock will make or break a lot of objective scenarios as much as a well placed bullet would. Though those two abilities are mildly situational, the game will also feature sprinting (for Spartans only), active camouflage, and evade, which provides a quick dive/dodge away for any Elite (the race not the skill level) player. Each skill comes with its own positives and unique, situational uses, and naturally has its own limitations. Armor lock for example will make the user invincible at the cost of all movement, while a player not paying attention to their armor ability meter while flying may find themselves at risk of a free fall.

These new abilities of course, are only one of the many features that will be defining online play. Kits and load outs bring their own unique focus to the game, further pressing the idea that Halo: Reach isn't as simple as its predecessors. Being able to carefully select what type of abilities you start with is new to the Halo series, and it'll no doubt play a huge role in shifting the competitive perspective of the game. Knowing where to scavenge for a decent weapon is just as important now as the tools you start with, which should be a massive boon to anyone experienced in FPS games but not quite familiar with the Halo series. Or, alternatively, for anyone who hasn't memorized every single level in the game.

Game modes in Reach will also be receiving a face lift, as old classics like King of the Hill will meet new race-based battles and objective-locked maps. It's strange to consider how far the series has come, as solo-dominating an entire map is something that even the more recent Halo 3 hasn't been able to prevent. Bungie may not have found a complete solution in these new maps, or the objective-dropship modes, but it's leaps and bounds away from the type of gameplay the older titles encouraged.

Most notable amongst these changes is the Spartan vs Elites game modes, which pits one race against another in a series of objective based scenarios. Generator defence lets a small team of Spartans hold off against a team of Elites, while Invasion features multiple phase missions that test the strategy and teamwork of each race. Coupled with Headhunter, Stockpile, Arena, and the other classic modes, there's more variety in Halo Reach than any of the previous titles was able to think about providing.

Level design is another big factor to consider here, as where you fight matters just as much as why, and although it's impossible to say if these maps will stand the test of time Bungie certainly has a lot of experience in mapmaking. After-game players will also be able to interact with Reach, being able to use currency earned to customize their character down to the finer armor details. Anyone particularly driven could even change their characters gender, which is great for anyone who's ever wanted to make a Power Puff Spartan.

So while Halo's story mode certainly has a lot to offer players, multiplayer is where most fans are expecting to deliver and multiplayer is where Bungie has clearly put their most work in. They've included just about every single thing that's made their series classic from start to finish, and that's quite a bit. From ODST's Firefight mode to Halo 2's maps, Reach really is a culmination of everything that the Halo universe has to offer the multiplayer scene. Considering how much time and energy has gone into the final chapter, I've no doubt in my mind it'll be a staple of FPS gaming for years to come.

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