Sunday, May 20, 2007

The Review: Halo 3 Beta


You know we're in a gaming drought when the beta version of a game is the hottest thing for the next-gen consoles in the last 4 months. Of course when that beta is for the next Halo game, how can you not get excited. Here are a few things I noticed while playing through 20 multiplayer games in the last two days.
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The matchmaking setup looks new and fresh and has a significantly different functionality than the Halo 2 version. In the beta, the matches are limited to a maximum of six players and the games are Rumble Pit only for right now. Team Slayer, Team Skirmish and Big Team Battle will be available later. Besides looking aesthetically different, the menu offers a new Veto option. If players don't like the map or match type, a majority vote can change it. Once you're ready to play, gamers get matched up just like before but be prepared to wait, the load times were surprisingly long. When the other players have been selected, you can see other gamers rankings (1,7,15, etc.), but new to the ranking system is a military-style ranking ala Battlefield 2 (Corporal, Sargeant, etc). Its a little more accurate way of ranking someone because its two-tiered. The number ranking seems is representative of how many games you've played and done well (like the ranking system now) while the military designation is your skill in each individual game. Basically its the current ranking system done in a little more obvious way so that you and other gamers know how good you really are.
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Alright, alright enough about the menu. How is the game play? In a word - SWEET! The control layout is essentially the same but there are a few changes. The Right Button, and Left Button if you're going to go dual, is what you use to pick up and reload weapons and get into vehicles. The X button is now used for equipment like the Tripmine, Bubble Shield, Power Drain and Grav Lift (more on those in a sec). Its a little odd at first, especially the Equipment button, but once you get used to it its more intuitive than the previous layout.
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There are quite a few new toys to play with. The one new playable vehicle in the beta is the Mongoose, which is like an armored ATV that looks a lot like a one man Warthog. Its a blast to ride around in and gets you to places quickly but it offers no protection. You're a moving target because you can't shoot from it, so its only meant for quick transportation. The other weapons are (mostly) a lot of fun to experiment with. The Spartan Laser is devastating if you can time it right but its 5-second warm up can leave you vulnerable. The Machinegun Turret is very powerful but takes both hands and slows you down. My favorite weapons were the Spike Grenade and the Brute Spiker. As the name implies, when the Spike Grenade blows up metal spikes blast into anything near it. It is absolutely hilarious sticking one onto an unsuspecting gamer and watching them walk or stand around (because they can't see it), then get blown to bits. The Brute Spiker is nasty. It shoots metal spikes and when you dual wield it, you're almost unstoppable. It also has a blade at the end for a strong melee attack. I didn't get to try the MisslePod but I'm looking forward to it. My least favorite weapon is the Assault Rifle, which is what you spawn with. It doesn't do much damage, requires frequent reloading and after shooting the Brute Spiker, feels like shooting a BB gun.
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The equipment is fun to use but takes time to adjust to. The Bubble Shield is very cool and can block firearms and explosions but watch out! Enemies can still walk through it and thump you. The Grav Lift is almost like a homemade elevator. You throw it down like a grenade and it can push you (or a vehicle) straight up over a wall or up to a high ledge. The Power Drain's a little trickier. Its used to wipe out an enemy's shield, allowing you to kill him easier, but its range is pretty limited. The Trip Mine is also new, but I had a hard time finding it and nobody used it on me, so I'm not sure how useful it is yet.
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Three maps are available on the beta. I mostly played Highground (the laser tower is a great place to hole up) and a few times on Snowbound (don't go outside of the boundaries or you get shot by stationary turrets) but for some reason Valhalla never came up. Of the two I played, I enjoyed Highground best because of all the stealthy ways you can get around. Snowbound is much more wide open and has a few tunnels and shields that are fun to play with but sometimes you have to travel a ways to find people, especially in a 6-player only match. All of the weapons from Halo 2 were around (with the exception of the laser sword) but I did the notice cloaking shield didn't seem as effective as before.
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Despite some complaints I've heard about the beta's graphics not quite being next-gen, I was impressed. While the visual effects weren't truly next-gen, especially when compared to the highly touted trailer, the game looked crisp. The weapons, environments and Spartan's all looked more detailed than normal. And considering the game doesn't come out until late September, there's plenty of time too pretty the game up. The audio, however, was exceptional! All of the weapons had their own unique sound and the background noises (it was great hearing gunfire from far away so I could tell where people were) are particularly tight.
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A couple of other quick notes...the Saved Films, where you can save film of your game to watch later or send to friends is awesome. I sent one to my brother and he really got a kick out of it...There was some lag, which really surprised me considering the Halo series NEVER has any lag but hey, this is a Beta so I'm not too concerned.
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So after all of that, does the beta deliver? Absolutely! I'm more stoked than ever about Halo 3. I like the controller layout changes, the new maps are sweet (well, two of them anyway), the new weapons and equipment are fun to use, and the tightened up ranking system is a great improvement. I know you don't need any reminding, but you better reserve this game now. I mean right now...seriously! Get off your couch and put your money down! If you only buy one Xbox 360 game this year, this should be it.
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4 comments:

Eli the Mad Man said...

You're on the way to getting H3 and us PC folk are still waiting for H2.

Then gain... you have to play with those damnable wonky gamepads (mouse and keyboard will pzwn consolers come Live), and oh - "You know we're in a gaming drought when the beta version of a game is the hottest thing for the next-gen consoles in the last 4 months."

PC gamers never have that problem. ;)

Ub3rn00b said...

Yeah he doesn't really do reviews on PC version. Site should be http://springsconsolegamer.blogspot.com but that's ok with me. I play plenty of console games. I wish I could try the Halo 3 beta but I have no intention of ever buying Crackdown so I don't think that'll be happening. I can wait. .

Eli the Mad Man said...

Once Live gets enabled for PCs, which was supposed to happen on May 8 with the release of H2 for PC, but got bumped to the 22nd (TODAY!) because Halo 2 had - issues, we'll all have to find out who pwnz who. ;) 'Cept it will only occur in games developed FOR Live. Like H2 and Shadowrun. DOH!

We've (AOL GameDaily) have been testing Vista with an assortment of games (including H2 which was built FOR Vista)... final verdict? Uber cool for Average Joe PC Guy, uber sucktastic for gamers.

halo 3 wallpapers said...

a long review... good job ;)