I haven't written about games and gamers for a while. There really hasn't been much to talk about. I went down the rabbit hole of Mass Effect 2, and I'm not even sure if I wrote a review of that. It has taken up most of my gaming time before Splinter Cell Conviction. Now I finished SCC and am back to run through Mass Effect 2 a second time. Nothing's yawny, nor is anything compelling and I've been having flashbacks to Fallout 3, especially since I worked in DC. But I have to say that Modern Warfare 2 has taken all of my online buds away from me and so gaming is not so much fun any longer. Besides, I have other fish to fry.
Nevertheless, I discovered what I long forgot, that the Halo Reach beta was attached to ODST, and so I downloaded the gig last night and played it with my son until 2 in the morning. It's fairly impressive.
The first thing you will notice about Halo Reach is that it's kinda Halo and kinda not. You have to adjust your reflexes all over again. I'm not sure if that's back to ODST reflexes or Halo 2 or something else, but the layout feels strangely unfamiliar at first. Melee is no longer on the B button, and that's hella strange in Halo. Instead its RB. On the LB you have powers. Yes. These are old school spartans that have more up their sleeve than the Master Chief ever did. Shields, extra speed, and invisibility. Hmm. That makes for some interesting action, but wait. Did I mention that you can fly?
Flying (yuk yuk) adds a new dimension to gameplay that I haven't felt since Crackdown. And it's really smartly done. You are flying with momentum, not like Guilty Spark in build mode. And it works nicely to cushion falls from high places and to sneak up on unsuspecting enemies.
But really, the best thing about Reach is the speed. It is just as fast as Modern Warfare, and when your sprint ability is engaged on the LB you feel as though you're right back in those Clancy trenches. It's immediately familiar. Plus you have an indicator to know when your speed is over - so you can conserve your power. Another subtly brilliant touch from the masters at Bungie. (Or is this Bungie any longer?) Overall, the game is very fast and varied - you don't spend much time running around looking for weapons, you just pick a loadout and start running and gunning.
Additionally, you gain experience points (like MW2) and with those points you can upgrade your armor. Very cool.
There is a new crop of weapons, some of which are brand new, some of which are kinda familiar going back to the original Halo. The needler is old looking but performs like the proper new needler. The standard assault rifle is right on. The same old pistol works predictably. There is a new needle pistol and needle rifle for Covy weapons. The needle rifle is extra cool.
Game modes are new and exciting. Invasion is my favorite. Spartans vs Covenant in a six on six with vehicles with escalating loadouts. You start as something simple and as rounds go by you get more loadout options and more weapons on the map. Arena mode I haven't played, but I think it takes ranking to a new level. Looks very interesting.
The maps are superb as usual. Growing on me as time goes by is a multilevel deally called Sword Bay or some such. Very different flavor of interior spaces, and windows I can tell are kinda optional in the beta. I didn't like it at first. Powerhouse is immediately cool, reminiscent of High Ground and Standoff. Boneyard is great. Open middle with high refineryesque buildings on both sides. Great for sniping OK for vehicles. Great for flying.
This is going to be a very great game, because the Beta is as good as Halo 2 was. I also particularly dig the new Social settings, so I can choose what kind of players to play with. Nicely.