Halo: Reach feels and plays like any other halo game. There is no looking down of sights, no custom classes. This is still halo. Weapons are scattered throughout the map, and you are still going to get the mad dash for the rocket launcher at the start of every game.
While many complain about the lack of change, I personally like how the game feels. Why change something which had worked so well for Halo? It may be an aged system, but it still works very well. Besides, what would halo be if everyone is able to pick a “sniper class” like in Call of Duty? Halo’s weapons are in no way balanced, and thats not a bad thing- the power weapons can slay enemies, but there are only a small number of them; you will have to fight for it.
Above: Abilities of Halo reach- jetpack, sprint, camo and armor lock)
The biggest new feature of Reach is its ability. They are the equipment you get in Halo 3 except this time, they are reusable and recharge whenever they are not in use. Whenever you spawn, you can change your loadout, and the 4 abilities featured in the beta are sprint, jetpack, active camouflage and amour lock. While the first 2 are self-explanatory, active camouflage (active Camo) is now different — it jams the motion trackers of both yourself and nearby enemies, thus putting them on high alert for translucent shadows. A new addition, armor lock, simply makes you an invincible, unkillable roadblock until you run out of juice. However, your shields do not recharge while in lock, making you a sitting target for your foes.
It is brizzare why hadn’t Bungie implemented a jetpack in previous Halo games because it fits so well with the gameplay and canon. Flying into the sky is satisfying as you fly past obstacles and rain death on your enemies, but remember that you are no cover in the skies- and everyone will shoot at you. Sprinting, taken from the pages of other shooters, also works quite well. It is invaluable when you need to deposit points or if you just need to bug out of a fight. Camo is useful in getting assassinations(read on) or sneaking around, but enemies’ radar will go haywire as soon as you go near them.
The forementioned 3 abilities works so well. They are perfectly balanced — each has its own pros and cons, and they will not cause anyone to become exceptionally powerful. However, armor lock is a tad too powerful. While it will not bail you out of everything, it is constantly abused for its EMP effect. When someone initiates armor lock, people in the immediate area around it will lose their shields. If you get out of armor lock immediately, he will be shieldless in melee range- resulting in an kill. I can’t tell you how many times I lowered a person’s shields, only to get armor locked as I try to melee him, resulting in both of us dying instead of me killing him.
Overall, abilities are great- it adds another dimension to the game without making people overpowered. I could see people mastering abilities so they can counter others (ie. vehicles, rockets).
The grenade spam to lower the enemy’s shield before a fight is back. However, this time, grenades are much more powerful and the spam gets out of control. While Bungie tried to compensate by planting less grenades around the map, they did not put into account the fact you can pick up grenades from corpses. The blast radius and the damage is too high- It can sufficiently lower your shields at quite a distance. While it is true its balanced if everyone has it, you can get frequent double or triple kills just by lobbing a random grenade into a fight. After I win 1 on 1 duels, I need to recuperate my shields. Of course, some ass is going to randomly lob a grenade and no matter how I try to run away, it kills me.
As one of the “pillars of halo”, vehicles are vital to any Halo game. And they are back in Reach- the warthog is as fun to drive as ever. The heavy vehicles (ie. tanks) seem to have tin cans for armor now, it seems. That seem to blow up if anything hits. They are also harder to drive- the scorpion takes forever to turn its around and the Banshee travels at such a speed that most pilots will crash into the ground trying to strafe the enemy. However, the vehicles, if used correctly, can be terrorizing- provided you don’t let yourself get hit too much. The vulnerability of vehicles may be attributed to the fact that the vehicle has their own health now- unlike the past games, your vehicle can blow up with you still alive in it. However, the health is not shown to you, and you do not know how damaged is the warthog.
I have mixed opinions on the vehicles- they seem too weak sometimes, they seem too strong sometimes. One game you are killing everyone, the next game the tank blows up right as it leaves the garage.
Lastly, Invasion. Basically Rush mode from Bad Company 2, Elites try to attack positions Spartans are trying to hold. If they fail to defend, they fall back to the next base until a core is opened. Then Elites must retrieve the core to an extraction point (ie. capture the flag). This mode is the most hyped as it is not the usual halo everyone is accustomed to- every phase of invasion unlocks new loadouts packed with different weapons and abilities.
While the frantic battles of the first few phases are fun, the final phases where you have to extract the core is badly done. The core is placed in such a position is nearly impossible to get the core out of the room. If a just 3 spartans are inside the room, it can be held like an fortress with rockets, snipers and spartan lasers. Even if the Elites manage to get the core by chance, they will have to go through a small room- perfect for shotguns, which are provided to the Spartan as an loadout. So the entire Spartan team will be in that single room camping behind doors with shotguns, which the Elites has practically no counter to. If the Elites finally manage to get the core out, they will have to run through open ground with Spartans raining fire on them from all sides.
Its okay at best- the framework for a more balanced game is there; I am sure the superficial stuff like weapon placement can be edited by Bungie without too much effort.
Reach is fun- its the Halo which millions of copies. To be frank, Halo is perhaps the best “party” game I ever played- Reach is just the same. Nothing beats meeting (real-life) friends online in Halo. I look forward to the same experience this fall. The flaws are there, but it should be fixed by release.