Tuesday, May 22, 2007

DOXOPhobia First Impressions: Halo 3 Beta

Ready the man canon, I've got your first look at the Halo 3 multiplayer beta for this DOXOPhobia feature! New looks, new matchmaking, new weapons, same Halo gameplay!

Without any doubt Halo and Halo 2 defined the first-person shooter genre on a massive scale. On top of that Bungie hit the nail on the head when they decided to put Halo 2 on Xbox Live, which is now held under high regard with games like Counter-Strike, made by Half Life's Valve. Halo 2's matchmaking is one of the best around, the party up system has been copied, but never duplicated. So who else to actually improve on this method then Microsoft's own Bungie Studios, is it possible to make a great thing even better? Let's find out.

I'm going to start with the most important aspect of this beta. Halo 2's matchmaking is one of the greats, developers have tried to use the same method and improve on it, but haven't come close to what Bungie has done. In the Halo 3 beta, Bungie has revamped matchmaking. It's more customizable to make your Halo 3 online experience the best it can possibly be. If you're not to particular about people not being able to speak your language, you can change the settings so only people who can speak your language will be in your game. Want to play a game without having to worry about people pwning you? Change the settings so games can only be set with people at your level or close to it. This doesn't really apply to ranked matches per say, but in a social (training) match, you might want to consider this setting, since a training game will party any player searching for that game in Halo 3. Bungie has gone the extra step by adding in the new (and much awaited) "shut up button". No longer will little 12 year old brats or people who blast their tunes be a nuisance. You can easily mute these players during a game and it's done in less then a few seconds. While in a game, bring up the player's list, select the players' gamertag and press the X button, voila! That player is muted. Subtle things like this, make matchmaking an even better and more enjoyable experience.

Since this is a beta, the games types and the various games available are limited. I won't bore you with what we already know from Halo 2, but some new features in Halo 3 are, for the most part, found in Team Skirmish. The game types like territories, have been reworked to make it more of an attack and defend scenario. In the previous territories game type, a player would go and capture a specific key area on a map and gain time by defending it. Players from the other team can easily come in and take that back by killing player defending it. In Halo 3 this has changed, the attacking team has has 5 specific areas in which to capture. Once the attacking team has taken an area, the defending team can NOT take it back. Each team has two tries at capturing the 5 territories. At the end of the game the winner is judged by tallying how many territories you've captured, total.

A game type new to the Halo universe is VIP. Where one player on each team respawns as the VIP with an over charged shield. The opposing team must kill the VIP to get a point, once the VIP is dead, the next player to die after that is the new VIP. The game's limit is 10 and can only be found in Team Skirmish.

Everything else is pretty similar in the respect of game types. Halo wouldn't be Halo without their "specialty" games. In ranked matches unless it's an original game, meaning if it's a regular Team Slayer game, a game type of "Shotty Snipers" or Team Rockets will only go up to 25, as opposed to 50 in regular Slayer. Another sublte change to the game types is in Rumble Pit is instead of 8 players they reduced the limit by 2, to a total of 6 players. Like in Halo 2 you still cannot bring a party in a ranked Rumble Pit game, that about sums up the changes to Halo 3's matchmaking service. Keep in mind this is only the beat and changes can still be made.

A lot of people have been complaining about the graphics of the beta, saying they look just like Halo 2 and well, they do. Halo 3 wouldn't be true to the Halo universe if it had Gears of War graphics, it still keeps the Halo aesthetics, but at the same time improving on detail on the maps, weapons, explosions and the spartans. Everything in Halo 3 has a new shine to it, maps in the multiplayer, have an immense amount of details put in them. In Halo 2 things were flat and very square. In Halo 3 there's a lot more detail put in each maps from flowers in the grass, to leaves falling from trees. There's added physics to the game making it much more smoother to play, jumping and tossing a grenade never felt so good. A new addition to the physics would be the water in the game, yes I said the water. If you die and your things end up in the water, your guns and equipment along with your body will float down stream. Explosions have added effects to make it look even better, the weapons from the BR to the Rocket Launcher have all new animations for the shooting and reloading.

Sound is the same for the most part, everything sounds a lot beefier, explosions are louder and can be easily heard from across the map. Which brings me to the depth of the sound in H3. In Halo 2 you were able to hear shots being fired and if you were decent enough you were able to find out where it was coming from. In Halo 3, sound has some serious depth to it, you can still hear the gun fire, but pending where you are from the gun fire you can tell it's far away or very close.

There are some new additions specific for Halo 3. A major advancement to this is the equipment. You can pick up things like a Portable Grav-Boost, Bubble Shield, Trip Mine or a Power Drainer. The portable grav-boost is exactly what it says, you pick this up and if you wanna hop over a wall or get to a specific high spot, plop this down and fly high! The bubble shield is my personal favourite new piece of equipment, you drop this grenade into the ground and a shield comes up and protects you from any sort of projectile coming your way. Be warned that players can walk through the shield forcing a hand to hand combat situation. The power drainer will take out a players shield (friend or foe) and temporarily stall vehicles. Lastly, the trip mine is placed on the ground and mainly used against vehicles, if a vehicle goes over this puppy, consider that vehicle destroyed. Careful though, the trip mine goes by proximity. With this new equipment in place the default controls has changed a bit, H2 players will consider this a major change. To drop the equipment you have to press the X button which replaces the reload button. RB is now your button for reloading, entering/exiting vehicles and picking up weapons.

Bungie didn't have much to improve on for Halo 3 except campaign, but that has yet to be seen. For what Bungie has done for this beta has well surpassed what people have said in reference to graphics, if they still say they look EXACTLY like H2 then you know they haven't played or seen the beta on TV. It seems like Bungie has done it again, lets just hope the campaign is just as strong as the multiplayer.

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