Get ready Halo junkies, the Beta is just about upon us all. Starting May 3rd, the Halo Reach Beta will be live for all owners of a copy of ODST. The Beta will feature four maps and five game modes. There are a ton of new features in Halo Reach multiplayer, and we're gonna try to cover it all. Let's get started shall we.
Assassination moves can be performed by approaching an enemy from behind and hold the melee button down. You are completely susceptible to damage and even an Assassination while performing the move. Different instances result in different animations. These animation look cool, but also leave you open to attack -- so skip them if you mean business!
Melee attacks are a bit weaker than before in Halo: Reach. It can take three hits to fully kill a foe making frontal assaults much less advantageous than any previous Halo game. Luckily, melee attacks from the rear still result in an instant kill. Hold down the melee button to perform an Assassination.
The Radar system is improved and can now reveal enemies below and above you: Enemies below your level will appear as a blip that's a darker shade of red or maroon. The blips tracking enemies above you appear with a dark rim or "shadow" below them. The Active Camo ability will jam the radar or anyone around you including your own -- multiple blips will appear.
Health and Sheilds
Health and shields operate in a new way in Halo: Reach. While your shield will recharge, your health is finite. Once your health is depleted, you die. You can refill your health at wall-mounted Health Stations (a white panel with a red "H") by approaching them and pressing the button shown.
Certain things, like the Plasma Pistol and the electromagnetic pulse from the Armor Lock, disable shields.
Most of the Abilities listed below are tied to the "Class" you choose at the outset of a level and every time you respawn. Select the Ability you want on the right side of the screen as the timer ticks down. Class-based Abilities are all toggled via one button -- even the Jetpack (it's different from JUMP). You can toggle abilities on and off, and a meter in the lower left corner shows the recharge time needed for each. Monitor this closely until you get a feel for each Ability's duration.
This is an old Halo favorite, and it's back in the Halo: Reach beta. This time you'll have a lot more control over how you use it, though. Tap the Armor Ability button and your character will become invisible, distinguishable only by a faint shimmering. Stay perfectly still, and you'll go completely unnoticed. But once you start moving, you'll become more and more visible. Definitely a trade-off here between stealth and mobility. And Active Camo has another trick up its sleeve. Turning it on sends out radar jamming signals to everyone in the vicinity -- including you. So unless your target isn't paying attention to his radar, he'll know something is afoot once you start creeping.
You can toggle it on and off at will to conserve energy.
If you kneel, you can immediately disappear entirely AND move around while invisible.
Firing makes you visible -- carry a powerful weapon or wait until your enemy's back is turned.
Scramble radar means an invisible foe is near, so be on the lookout.
One of the Halo: Reach beta's most complex abilities, Armor Lock is a defensive maneuver that can be used to great tactical advantage if you know how to use it. Activate it by holding down the ability button. As long as it's active, you'll stay locked in a crouch pose and completely invincible. No matter what is leveled at you -- rockets, Banshees, grav hammers -- you'll stay unscathed in your protective shell. The longer you hold that ability button down, the longer you'll be protected. And when you release the button, you'll throw off an electromagnetic pulse that can pop the shields of nearby enemies. Armor Lock is a nasty little tool, but it has its drawbacks. Like all sustained abilities, it only lasts so long before its power runs out and it needs to recharge. So if you Armor Lock while exposed, you can bet some sniper will have you in her sights, just waiting for you to pop up.
Armor Lock can make you a walking bomb -- that won't kill you! Leap into tight spots and activate it to clear out campers.
The pulse charges up while you crouch. You'll release a large burst if you charge it all the way, but you can surprise the enemy by coming out early. Just make sure your foe is nearby.
The pulse only affects shields, so you'll need to finish off your enemy with additional damage.
A group of Armor Lockers can alternate the ability to stave off the toughest assaults.
Armor lock is impervious to vehicles.
The Jet Pack is the crown jewel of the Halo: Reach beta. It's flashy, it's over-the-top and it looks great in screenshots. In reality, though, it's a bit of a strange bird (see what I did? Because of the flying?). Not really defensive or offensive, this power just gets you from place to place. And it makes doing so a lot of fun. But the Jet Pack is also noisy and slow, and it leaves you fairly exposed. The next time you go outside, take a look at the sky. Not a lot of cover up there. If you can learn to use it right, the Jet Pack can be a powerful mobility tool in combat, and it lets you get to places other players can't reach. But it's definitely a tradeoff.
By using controlled bursts, you can cross entire maps with the quickly recharging jetpack -- watch the recharge meter in the lower left corner carefully.
Fall damage is back in Halo: Reach, but the Jetpack can negate this entirely. Break your fall by firing the pack just above the ground.
Get the drop on unsuspecting enemies by firing down at them as you fall. Finish them with a melee and they may not even see you.
You can get a totally unique perspective on large brawls around flags and skulls from the air. Use some grenades to clear out the fracas and then drop in for the prize.
Cut the jets as you fall to land stealthily.
A lot of folks have been asking Bungie to put a sprint option in Halo for years. Well, here it is. This one's only available to Spartans, and it gives you a quick burst of speed when you need it. Like all abilities, it needs to recharge, and it only lasts for a short time. But it's probably the most consistently useful addition to the beta. Getting lit up by plasma fire? Hit sprint to cover those last few steps to cover. Need to get to that Spartan Laser before the other guy? Run for it! It's even great for assassinations, making it the natural counterpart to the Elite's Evade power. A sprinter can have his blade in a n00b's back in seconds. Oh so satisfying.
Coupled with a hammer or sword, you can rack up multiple kills easily by dashing head-on into enemies.
You know how Elites used to do those annoying sideways rolls in the Halo campaign modes? Well, now Elites can do that in the Halo: Reach multiplayer beta. This ability isn't available to Spartans, probably because it would look ridiculous. It looks a bit silly when Elites do it, too, but they're aliens so it feels OK. Evade is an avoidance maneuver at heart, as it allows you to dodge attacks and roll into cover in an instant. But don't discount it as an aggressive move. When Evading, you can cover more ground than simply walking, so use it to close the distance between you and an assassination target. That poor fool ahead of you may think you're too far behind to stab him in the back, but if you have Evade in your armor set, you'll be there in two rolls. By the time he realizes what happened, he'll have an energy sword where his guts used to be.
UNSC Weapons Guide
M6G PDWS Magnum
For some, the DMR will remove them a bit too far from the action. In that case, reach for your trusty sidearm. The Magnum is back and better than ever. Give it a quick squeeze and you'll get all weepy with nostalgia for the days of Halo: Combat Evolved. But wipe away that tear. There's no crying in Team Slayer. The Magnum will give you a kill in just five shots ... four to the body, one to the head. It fires faster than the DMR, but it's only really effective at close range, and shooting too quickly will throw off your aim.
It's a bit tricky, but if you can get the pacing down, people will be cursing you for your close-quarters kills. While you're at it, make sure to melee with the Magnum when the opportunity presents itself. In our opinion, it's got the best weapon-melee animation in the entire beta.
M90 CAWS Shotgun
The shotgun is one of the few weapons that's good for a one-shot kill -- the catch? You'll have to meet your enemy face-to-face. The close-range effectiveness of the shotgun is balanced by its complete lack of power at medium and far ranges. A small amount of shells means you should aim well or risk getting capped during a lengthy reload.
M392 Designated Marksman Rifle (New)
We personally have a bit of a love-hate relationship with the Battle Rifle from Halo 3. Basically, we love to hate it. Yeah, yeah, that probably means we don't know how to use it. But we don't know how to use a curling iron either, but that doesn't mean we need to learn how. The BR is a jack of all trades and master of none. Janky up close and lacking at range. Luckily, the BR is out of the Reach Beta in favor of the Designated Marksman Rifle. Oh, yes.
The DMR can be a lean, mean headshot machine if you know what you're doing. It's a bit unwieldy at close range, but at mid-to-long range it's deadly. Like the Magnum, the DMR takes five shots to kill (make sure the last one nails the noggin). And thanks to its dampened recoil, it feels just like shooting womp rats back home. Slow and steady wins the race.
MA37 ICWS Assault Rifle (New)
If the Halo: Reach Beta is a delicious home-cooked meal, than the Assault Rifle is the meat and potatoes. It's the go-to gun when you're in close and don't feel confident about your Magnum skills. Not terribly powerful but not particularly weak, the AR is your best friend in a pinch.
You use controlled bursts with the AR for better accuracy, but if you want to go in with your gun blazing, be our guest. Just be warned that the AR in the Reach beta is tilted more toward accuracy than firepower, so you might come up short when the jumping around and shooting starts. Oh, also, it has a really awesome stripe on it.
Sniper Rifle (System 99D Anti-'Matériel') (New)
The Sniper Rifle has received a tech downgrade in its new iteration -- the mini-screen is gone. Nevertheless, two shots from the Sniper Rifle will kill anyone, period. It has essentially infinite range, but a limited ammo capacity, high recoil and slow load time. That doesn't mean that everyone won't run for it immediately, though, since a well-trained sniper will usually make the most kills in any match.
M319 Grenade Launcher (New)
The Covvies don't get to have all the ridiculous fun, though. The Spartans will be rolling into battle with the Grenade Launcher. This sucker fires standard frag grenades, but with a couple added bonuses. First, just like all frags in the Halo: Reach Beta, they'll do a small amount of contact damage when they hit an enemy. Probably feels like stepping in front of a ball machine at the batting cage. Thump.
But the Grenade Launcher does another trick, too. Fire it normally to launch a 'nade and watch it bounce around before a timed explosion. Or, you can hold the trigger down when you fire. It'll hang out wherever it comes to rest, waiting for you to release the trigger and blow it. This is great for sabotaging vehicle paths or terrorizing teams at score points in games like Stockpile. As if that weren't enough, these little insta-mines also throw off an EMP blast when they detonate, popping shields as they go.
M41 Rocket Launcher
The Rocket Launcher isn't as easy to use effectively as your average n00b may think. It's slow, clunky and full of death-dealing rockets that deal splash-damage to nearby foes (and you!) as well as killing anything they touch. Aim for the feet.
The awesome power of the Spartan Laser is balanced by its three second charge time. Sitting on the trigger and keeping on a bead on your target is tough when you are tracing fast vehicles -- and the Spartan Laser is the best weapon to wield against a vehicle. Many players keep a charge by constantly manning the trigger. Best if you have a good hiding spot or a large gap between you and your prey, the Spartan Laser's pinpoint pulse of death can be widened a bit by turning away just as you fire.
This one's interesting. According to Bungie, the Plasma Repeater is the Covenant answer to the UNSC Assault Rifle and essentially replaces the Covenant Plasma Rifle of old (which never really looked like a rifle to me anyway). Oh, and before you start crabbing at me about "old" and "new," let's get the timeline business out of the way now. The game takes place in 2552, just after the fall of Reach, right before the events of Halo: Combat Evolved. So the weapons we're calling "new" are new to the Halo series and not necessarily to the Halo universe timeline.
Anyway, the mechanics of the Plasma Repeater are simple. Fire it too quickly for too long and it will start to overheat, which slows its rate of fire. Hit the reload button to vent it and get back to full speed. It will never stop completely, no matter how hot it gets, but you'll definitely want it operating at full capacity, so keep your eye on it.
The Energy Sword is a close-range combat staple. Great for stealth kills, you don't want to run up to a firing foe with the sword, despite its crazy-fast kill potential.
You can deal damage to crowds and send people flying with the Hammer, and it's instant death for those pinned under it. That said, the Hammer is slow. Yeah, it doles out death like no other melee weapons, but if you can sneak up on someone you have a much better chance than going all Brute on them.
The Plasma Pistol has some cool hidden uses. When charged, it drains an enemy shield completely and also stalls vehicles -- take advantage of this, it's seriously great for stopping a rampaging Warthog duo. If you hold a charge for too long, you'll lose it and be temporarily stunned. The single-fire shots are extremely lame.
Needle Rifle (New)
The Needler is a classic Halo weapon, and it's back in Reach. But now it has a big brother. The Needle Rifle is a slower, more accurate version of the Covenant sidearm that fires translucent pink shards of crystalline death. The old Needer was a brute-force weapon that was at its most dangerous when it fired full clips of explosiveness into enemies.
Like the UNSC's Designated Marksman Rifle, the Needle Rifle can pull off headshots and long-range kills. But it can also use its little brother's explosive capabilities. Bury enough shards in your opponent, and he'll eventually explode, cursing you as he goes. This one's a bit tricky to get the hang of, especially if you're used to the pace and feel of the single-handed Needler. But it's worth playing with, because the accuracy of a rifle combined with the chaos of exploding crystalline shards is just too much fun to ignore.
The slightly-homing, rapid-fire crystals from the Needler do extra damage once they explode in your "stuck" opponent. Keep the crosshairs on target and you'll deal exponential damage. This is the ideal medium-range weapon -- it spreads at a distance and takes too long for close range.
Fuel Rod Cannon
The Fuel Rod cannon is similar to the Rocket Launcher -- slightly weaker, slightly faster. Its projectiles are slow-moving and somewhat easy to dodge at great distances.
Focus Rifle (New)
Just look at that gun for a second. If that doesn't look like a dangerous-ass alien weapon to you, then you are going to be useless in an alien invasion. To us, this is one of the coolest looking guns Bungie has ever designed. It looks like a crocodile snout crossed with one of those Dyson vacuum cleaners. Scary stuff, that. But it's not all looks. This thing backs up its evil exterior with some mean machinery.
You know those Forerunner Sentinel lasers from past Halo games? Well, the Focus Beam crosses one of those with the Covenant Beam Rifle favored by Jackal snipers. So it has the accuracy of a sniper rifle, the searing power of a continuous laser beam and, as an added bonus, a bit of a stun effect when it hits. It's truly terrifying to see this beast burning across the map. Great for picking Jet Packers out of the air, though. Flyboys, you have been warned.
Plasma Launcher (New)
Oh, Plasma Launcher. How have we lived this long without firing you? There are going to be a lot of people who claim that the Plasma Launcher is nothing but a noob tube that breaks the game. And you know what? They might be right. But that's what the Halo: Reach Beta is all about ... finding the right balance for multiplayer. But seriously, this thing is ridiculous.
It launches up to four plasma sticky grenades at once, depending on how you choose to fire it. Shoot them off in quick succession to paint a target-rich environment, or hold down the trigger and release it after all four grenade icons light up on the weapon's HUD to nail some poor enemy or vehicle with your entire payload at once. The grenades track their targets ever so slightly, too, so be very, very careful when you see it pointed at you. Better yet, kill the guy who has it and take it from him.
Weapon locations are bound to change throughout the Beta and there are variations based on the game you are playing (for instance, in Juggernaut, the Gravity Hammer does not appear). Each map features location names that you can read in the lower left of the screen, under the radar. We've used these convenient titles to identify important locations below.
Every multiplayer beta needs a classic all-purpose map, and this is it. Powerhouse is a ton of fun, and it'll probably end up being a fan favorite. It's based on a hydroelectric plant, and there's something for everyone here: lofty heights, tight corridors, sneaky spillways, deadly inclines and more. Jet Packers will have a blast on Powerhouse because the sight lines are tricky, and it's easy to get the jump on people fighting below you, clueless. Like all the Reach beta maps, it's a real looker, and the water effects are a nice touch. Speaking of water, make sure you poke around at the bottom of the dam. There's a rocket launcher down there that's perfect for swatting people out of the sky.
The weapon everyone will be sprinting (or jetpacking) for on the Powerhouse map is the Rocket Launcher. Propped up against a wall in the narrow spillway (right under the bridge leading out of the Powerhouse) is the uber weapon -- toss a few grenades down here at the start of a match for some easy kills.
Health Stations can be found near doors in the Office, Powerhouse (1st floor), Dormitory and in the sniping nook of the Shed.
Between the Dormitory and the Powerhouse is the Yard. Here you can find the Focus Rifle, another super powerful weapon. The Locker area has a shower that's a favorite spot for Skull-holding players to hide out. On the floor here you can find a Grenade Launcher.
Hanging around the ramps by the large gate in the Cliffside area is a shotgun. In the Shack, between the Cliffside and the central Spillway you can find a Gravity Hammer.