Earlier this year I took part in the Beta for the latest addition to the Halo franchise, Halo: Reach.
The beta was good; so good that I pre-ordered Reach on Amazon, who rewarded me by delivering a whole day early! Granted, this is likely to be Royal Mail delivering ahead of expectation but I was still glad to receive my copy Monday morning.
The early delivery was a double edged sword. I enjoyed playing through 50% of the single player campaign whilst some fans were freezing their Bradfords off in the midnight queues for Game; I did receive an in game message thanking me for playing pre-release and alerting me to certain features being disabled until release.
The things disabled pre-release were mainly to do with online play and the accrual of Commendations and Credits.
Commendations are a multi-tier medal system, where players are rewarded for certain actions during play. These are divided into the three core gameplay modes: Campaign, Matchmaking and Firefight.
Credits appear to be a kind of reward currency that can be spent on customizations to your Spartan armour. Some customizations can be unlocked by redeeming Marketplace codes or meeting set criteria in Halo: Waypoint.
Your credit accrual also boosts your progression through ranks; the path from Sergeant to Sergeant First Class seems rather arduous at the moment.
I have always preferred single player modes to online multiplayer and so always try to complete the main campaign before venturing online; in this case I may have made a mistake.
Even on the normal difficulty setting, the Campaign is slow to start and tough. Persistence is the key to satisfaction. Taking out two Hunters with a DMR, whilst my AI colleague ran interference was a highlight yesterday evening.
By far the best part of Reach is the matchmaking. I haven’t enjoyed myself this much online since matchmaking in Halo 3.
The “psych” settings allow you to specify your game style and lobby preferences and the majority of game modes are intuitive and easy to master. I especially enjoy the “pro” modes that disable your motion tracker. I also enjoy sticking people with plasma grenades, always guaranteed to raise a smile.
The only disappointments came with the server lag and the “Infection” modes, which are fairly yawn-worthy. Despite this they appear to be popular, often winning votes in the lobby; unfortunately this leads players like me to spend the next few rounds of matchmaking hiding from zombies in a corner and occasionally shotgunning them in the face. The server lag was probably just down to it being release day; every man and his dog logging in to stick fools with plasma grenades.
One final item of note is the issuing of daily and weekly challenges. Without knowing it, I completed a couple of these last night. The challenges are along similar lines to some of the commendations, with a view to encouraging game play. I even managed to unlock some helmets for my Avatar, which is nice.
All in all, I was concerned over the longevity of the game, as the single player campaign appears to be a little short. Bungie have countered this with the inclusion of several forms of reward system to encourage replay and variety in players individual gaming activity.