Halo 3 beta impressions (Part 1): The second coming or just another FPS?

By Dan Zuccarelli . May 21, 2007 . 12:40pm

halo3.jpgI actually feel like I’m in a good place to give an honest opinion about the Halo 3 beta. See I like Halo, but I don’t LOVE it. So you’re not going to be getting any fanboy type reactions here. Can a game with some much riding on it possibly live up to the expectations placed on it?


So we all know Bungie had some issues with the beta’s release on day one. We don’t need to re-tread on it suffice to say that some people lost their minds about it and the rest of us rational people let Bungie do their thing. Some of us even found the humor in the whole thing. The beta itself is a test of the matchmaking system (thus the large amount of people they let in), but that really doesn’t matter to the people playing. For us it’s all about the gameplay, and getting a taste of the final game set to ship September. So after all the nonsense died down, how does it play?


9 times out of 10 I can’t play these types of games online because I’m simply not good enough. I don’t have the time or inclination to memorize each map and know exactly where every weapon is. To this end, I can usually hang online for a week or two after a game is released. Then people get their strategies down, every exploit and glitch memorized. At this point, I usually just retire to the single player campaign and call it a day. So since everyone is somewhat new to the maps, I can still play and have fun.


First up is the much discussed "X button" additions. These items, like portable grav lifts and the bubble shield, are tied to the X button and add a much welcome twist to the gameplay and are a ton of fun. And staying off the triggers allows simple dual weilding of weaponry. I personally enjoyed using the grav lift to vault over walls to find unsuspecting soldiers guarding doorways and other points of entry, never thinking of a man making his own entry way!


The bubble shield works just like we saw in that commercial so long ago, guarding you from any and all damage. This is unless the person you’re fighting steps inside the bubble with you. This was a lesson that, shall we say, I learned the hard way. But when used well it can be a last second lifesaver, and I felt a huge rush when I threw it down at the right instant to see a rocket explode harmlessly in front of me.


The weaponry is largely unchanged but has been tweaked here and there to account for imbalance in Halo 2. Most notably the assault rifle makes it’s triumphant return, and everyone I talk to seems overjoyed. I too was a fan of this Halo 1 weapon and I was very happy to see it back in the mix. 



But perhaps the biggest element that can make or break the playing experience is the field you’re playing on. And it’s in this area that Halo 3 has everything I could ask plus some. While there are only 3 areas to choose from, they’re all fantastically designed and fun to play. There’s Snowbound, which is circular and contains numerous shielded areas, which seemed to emphasize close range combat. Valhalla was pretty open and really reminded me of the old Sidewinder board. Far and away the best in the beta (and one of my favorite boards ever) was High Ground, a bombed out base at the top of a hill. It combines both close range and sniper fighting, and even makes use of the ATV-like mongoose vehicle. The level is intricate but laid out in a logical way, making it easy to make your way around without having everything memorized.


I hope to get some more time in with Snowbound and Valhalla, but I’m enjoying High Ground so much I just keep going back. So far I’m more fun than I anticipated, so that’s saying something. Of course at the end of the day deathmatch type games tend to get old. So like anything in life there’s a bit of give and take. How’s that for a way to wrap this thing up?


That’s it for now but I’ll have a follow-up in the next few days with more impressions. If anyone has anything they’d like me to focus on or try out, leave a comment and I’ll be my best.

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