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Posted on May 13, 2007 in Electronic Games, Front Page Features

Halo 3 Beta Hands-On

By James Pikover

At about 10am on the morning of May 11, anyone who was on Bungie’s Friends and Family list received a personal message with a download code and instructions to post any and every bug’s noted in the game. For the next several hours, the few people online turned into a hundred, then two, until it reached 400 at about 5pm, when the press was given entry. Luckily, and thankfully, Bungie has a friend at Armchair General.

The beta, a large one-gig download, has been tremendous fun over the last seven hours. With newcomers strolling in, finding a match did take a bit of time, but the multiplayer beta was more of a demo, to tell the truth.

With three maps and five different forms of matchmaking, there really is something for everyone. Bungie must have anticipated a large number of people playing, especially with the Rule of 3 participants. Anyone with a specially marked disc of Crackdown can play the beta on May 16th.

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The biggest change to the game really is the controls. Unlike its two prequels, Halo 3′s controls differ in only one real way: the X button. Its function is now to be solely an ‘item’ trigger, which deploys an assortment of items. In the beta, these items included a bubble shield, energy drainer and trip mines. This may all seem a little new considering there is no entering a vehicle with X anymore.

To enter a vehicle or pick up a primary or secondary weapon the bumpers are used. Just as in Halo 2, the left bumper still changes the grenade type, but when standing over a dual-wieldable weapon, it acts as your left hand and picks it up, instead of X. To get in a vehicle, all that’s needed is to hold down the right bumper. The same goes for reloading, for each weapon, use the appropriate bumper.

Other than that, the controls are exactly the same, with some added features. Holding the back button, as it did previously, shows the players in the game, but now it is easy to mute any undesirables that players don’t want to talk to. With the simple push of a button all your troubles can be ended.

Additional weapons have been added, as well as older and improved ones. The assault rifle from Halo: CE makes a glorious return as the main weapon in the game. Any match played for the beta will start with the assault rifle, which is not simply suited for close combat as the SMG was and is. The SMG is still present, but it’s best reserved for close quarters combat, not starting.

Other weapons include the updated Brute Shot, which now has an extra two shots per reload. The Brute Spiker is basically the Covenant version of the SMG. Spike grenades are an absolute treasure, and act just like the Plasma grenades, except that they stick to anything. Something known only as a "missile pod" is a giant weapon that puts the Point of view into third person and, as its name states, fires missiles straight into vehicles and people.
The Spartan Laser is a new favorite, and so far everyone who’s played has enjoyed it. After a five second charge, the laser fires like a sniper rifle and eliminates whatever it hits, especially vehicles.

Something done away with from the previous titles is teleporters, and in their place have come the man cannons. These human launchers shoot characters across the field of play into whichever direction it is facing. On Valhalla, the one map including the man cannon, two were located on each base, one shooting straight ahead for a great distance, and one to the side over a short distance. They leave players vulnerable to laser and sniper fire, but when vehicles aren’t available it’s the best and easiest way across the map.

The Mongoose, a fan favorite from even before Halo 2′s release, finally appears and is still loved by all. Fast and maneuverable, the Mongoose seats two players, one to drive and one to hold on and shoot from the rear. It makes a great quick-assault vehicle, but provides little cover from the dangers outside.

Let us not forget the new and improved Warthog. Not including the glossier finish, the turret on the back is much more accurate and isn’t difficult to negotiate around targets. Previous games in the series saw a turret that was difficult to operate because of the slow turn radius and mediocre accuracy. With the improvements it’s now possible to easily and efficiently take out an enemy target.

Turrets in general have had the same issue solved, as well as a bonus feature, one which was also planned for Halo 2: detachable turrets. Yes, now it is possible to carry a turret and fire it for a short period, although the rate of fire is slower and it will run out of ammunition to fire. It also uses the third person POV.

The real tickler though for the beta are the three maps. Valhalla, High Ground, and Snowbound really bring to life the surroundings beyond any other multiplayer game around. The landscapes are textured beautifully and just from looking at the beta, it looks like a finished project.

Another huge improvement is the matchmaking screen, which allows players to do basically whatever they want without returning to the main screen. They can stay in a room and change their settings, colors, and do whatever they like. It’s possible to even use a room as a theater and play saved games for those in the room.

The theater itself is lacking many things, most likely because the functionality just wasn’t put in yet, but it is still possible to save games completely and upload them to other people. Currently, it isn’t possible to upload recorded games to the 360 dashboard, but the full game is expected to have that functionality.

There are some issues to deal with though, all of which should be posted on the Halo 3 beta forum on Bungie.net. It is expected that thousands of people will be participating in the beta in the following week, so please make sure that anything you see wrong is documented somewhere on that forum. It isn’t often that such a large group of people get to beta test a game, and even though there isn’t payment for this, there really is. Playing in itself is enough. So make sure to keep a pad and paper nearby to help make Halo 3 the best it possibly can.

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