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Halo: Reach Multiplayer Beta

Reach for the Stars

Other new modes which have been made available for Halo: Reach’s multiplayer beta include some slightly eclectic choices – the most unusual of which is labelled as ‘Headhunter’.

Appearing to be a straight-up deathmatch at first glance, Headhunter doesn’t actually give you points for killing your enemies – only for collecting their skulls and returning them to deposit zones. Every time you kill someone they drop all the skulls they were carrying, which means that you’re constantly on the look-out for whoever is at the top of the leaderboard because bringing down the best player just once means you can usually collect a whole load of points at once. Well, provided you can make it back to the deposit point anyway…

Headhunter is by far the most unusual mode in Halo: Reach though – most of the others are iterations of established deathmatch ideas, especially Capture the Flag and Domination. The new Stockpile mode, for example, is built around the CTF template, but only counts points based on how many flags are in your base at the end of the game. Everything before that is just a power struggle. It’s inventive, but hardly revolutionary.

Halo: Reach Beta Impressions Halo: Reach Multiplayer Beta
Shoot the one in the Hello Kitty armour!

There have been other adjustments to Halo: Reach’s multiplayer too, but we’ll admit that it’s hard to get truly excited about most of them. Some, like the changes to the veto system which enable all players in a lobby to have an equal say over the next round, are certainly appreciable but don’t really feel big enough to justify much attention. Bungie has talked lots about these tweaks to the lobbies, but that just makes us wonder if that’s because there’s not much else to talk about yet.

Other changes, such as the chance to customise the appearance of your armour, are definitely substantial new features but they don’t exactly drive us into a frenzy. It’s nice that it’s there and all, but do we honestly care that we can now kit our Mjolnir armour out with pink shoulder pads? No, we don’t and once the novelty of making the soldiers look like a Hello Kitty reject has worn off then we doubt we’ll ever give it a second look.

In truth, the impression we got of Halo: Reach’s multiplayer was that much of it was based on me-too features. Pre-defined weapon load-outs and armour customisation options that are bought with game credits earned by playing well? These features are everywhere in multiplayer shooters nowadays, so the overall impression is that Bungie may have finally run out of ideas for Microsoft’s flagship franchise.

Halo: Reach Beta Impressions Halo: Reach Multiplayer Beta
Hand over the pretzels, or else!

That really is our biggest concern – that the series is finally running out of steam and that Reach doesn’t have anything wholly new to bring to the table other than UI tweaks and a few new game modes. We’ve not seen the singleplayer campaign at all yet, but there’s potentially a lot to be inferred from Bungie’s choice to revisit a story and setting that’s already been told rather venturing into new pastures. I mean, we all already know what happens to Reach, don’t we?

There’s going to be no shortage of new content and we’re sure Bungie will present it with usual aplomb. New maps and modes are always welcome, but we can’t deny that we were a bit underwhelmed with Reach; it simply feels like we’ve seen everything it has to offer before and that Bungie isn’t sure how to push the series forward now. In the coming months Bungie and Microsoft will have to prove that there’s more to the next Halo instalment than the chance to decorate your armour and use jetpacks.

Halo: Reach is set for release on Xbox 360 towards the end of 2010, when it will be published by Microsoft.

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