We’re closing in now. Just twenty-four days until the Beta drops. 576 hours, give or take. And with another full week of waiting behind us, we’re ready to uncover more juicy details surrounding the multiplayer maps you’ll be throwing down on come May 3rd. IGN may have got this party started
, but now it’s our turn.
The Beta will grant you access to a total of four multiplayer maps, half of which are what our multiplayer gurus consider “all purpose” play spaces. Powerhouse and Sword Base in particular are both great battlegrounds featuring game types you already know and love, but they’re also set up real nice for more than a few you don’t even know you don’t know about yet.
Let’s take the tour.
The map formerly known as Settlement is set amidst one of Reach’s more desolate regions. Look up and you’ll catch a glorious glimpse of some majestically mountainous outcroppings. Across the way – jagged, primordial spires emblematic of this region’s rugged terrain. Peer down and you’ll see the rerouted river spilling into the canyon below.
This installation might have once merely bent that meandering river in an effort to serve Reach’s rural settlers with much needed hydroelectric power, but now it’s been rerouted to provide fodder for a full scale war effort. Most rounds begin with a knockdown, drag out fight between players thirsting for the Rocket Launcher. If you’re looking to join the fray, you’ll find it resting in the spillway below. When you go in after it, be prepared to claw, scratch, and bite your way through some stiff opposition.
Good thing Powerhouse features a multitude of routes to facilitate plenty of unpredictable approaches. Stay low and wade through the water, cut through the buildings and drop down from the path above, or sprint your way in from the Rock Garden side of Powerhouse to pounce on unsuspecting fools salivating over the prospect of explosive kills.
And of course, you’ll probably be contending with adrenaline junkies dropping in from above via Jet Packs, overshielded opponents baiting you to waste one of your freshly acquired rockets by firing it straight into their locked armor, and predatory players cloaked up at the end of the gulley, patiently waiting for you to take the bait and step into their deadly web.
Which brings up a tangentially related point of contention.
There’s been a lot of discussion about Armor Abilities in the community over these past few days. It seems we might have gone a little too far in dispelling the myth that the Jet Pack would trump everything else to become the one and only Armor Ability worth breaking out. That notion is far from the truth, but it doesn’t mean that the Jet Pack isn’t a worthwhile Armor Ability. It is.
And if I were to guess, I’d posit that when the Beta moves into full swing we’ll simultaneously field complaints in one ear about how each and every Armor Ability is far too powerful while the other is regaled with tales of their total impotence and abject ineffectiveness. The truth, as always, will lie somewhere in the middle. But we'll definitely be watching the Beta to make sure everything's on the level.
Ultimately, the impact of all the different Armor Abilities will be measured by how well you employ them. Their effectiveness will hinge upon a number of dynamic variables – using the right Ability for the right job, coordinating with your team to counter your opposition’s current selections, and mastering the nuances of each across the full spectrum of game modes.
Personally, on Powerhouse, I tend to start things off with Sprint. Not only is it an effective way to collect power weapons and attain advantageous positions quickly, it’ll also save your hide if you come under fire and need to get anywhere else fast (run away!). Powerhouse is packed with a wealth of terrain to facilitate a myriad of combat situations in both interior and exterior spaces, so it’s always a good plan to stay on your toes.
During the internal Beta I’ve been using my inertia to get in close and melee unsuspecting players to great effect. The force of the blow, coupled with the burst of speed provided by Sprint actually lifts the target off the ground, sending them reeling backwards after the impact. The first few times I saw it I was too amazed to do much of anything about it, but after the initial shock wore off I found it fun (and effective) to switch to my sidearm and put a round into their face after sending a unsuspecting sucker a-flying.
Other folks have their own preferences, of course. There are a lot of stories being told around the office now that the internal Beta is in full swing, and plenty of them have a lot to do with Armor Abilities. We’ll likely dig into the nuance of each one sometime later on so you can get a better idea of how you might make the most of ‘em. Like maybe next week or later “later.”
For now, let’s stick to the plan and take a look at the current default palette of weapons you’ll find placed about Powerhouse.
- DMR x 5
- Focus Rifle x 1
- Gravity Hammer x 1
- Grenade Launcher x 1
- Magnum x 3
- Needle Rifle x 2
- Needler x 2
- Plasma Pistol x 3
- Plasma Repeater x 1
- Rocket Launcher x 1
- Shotgun x 1
- Frag Grenade x 6
- Plasma Grenade x 6
It’s a base…for Longswords, right? Nah, not exactly, but you’ll definitely wanna do some flying once you get inside. The atrium you’ll be fighting over is five, maybe six layers deep. Depends on whether or not you count the upper air vent (if you happen to have the Sniper Rifle in your hot little hands, you probably will).
So yep, it’s well suited for Jet Packs. But that doesn’t mean it’s not set up to take advantage of all the other delectable tools of destruction Halo: Reach has on offer – turns out, Sword Base is a complex and layered arena ripe for all modes of play.
Bottom floor is 1a or 1b, depending on which side you happen to be hanging out on. A-side features red ambient lighting, B-side rocks the blue. You’ll have to figure out the rest as you go. Like Boarding Action or Prisoner, the overhead probably just leaves you scratching your head in wonder and confusion. Best way to get acclimated is to dive right in, mandibles first.
One of Sword Base’s defining visual features sits in a small pool of water, right smack in the middle of the marble ensconced lower level. This curiously goniochromatic Covenant mechanism not only looks a bit out of place here, it actually displaces anything that happens to wander into its electric blue upward energy thrust. Savvy players will learn to utilize this oddity to quickly maneuver to a number of vertical perches. Others will lift off only to flounder about in midair, eventually falling back down to the ground floor, exposing themselves to a hail of enemy fire.
If they’re really unfortunate, they’ll find themselves a victim of an air-to-air assassination, which is just about the most awesomest thing I have ever laid eyes on. Maybe even more awesomer than the air-to-ground assassination, but I haven’t made up my mind just yet.
Anyway, how’d this sweet, alien technology end up in the care of the Office of Naval Intelligence, you may wonder? Read the placard. Not everything in this sector has been classified.
Those looking for more shortcuts should be aware that there’s also a chilly updraft in one of the lower ventilations shafts on 1a and one crazy, radiological ride that’ll whisk you quickly from 1b to 5b (where the player with the Shotgun or the Sword will probably be waiting to guide you face first into the afterlife).
Sword Base also features blow-uppable computer monitors, smashable wall-mounted screens, and knee-high destructible glass on some of the small balcony perches. (Sometimes I like to just run around and break stuff. Like after Sketch jumps into one of the online forums and scoops the update. Turns out I find the sound of glass shards tinkling to the floor somewhat soothing.)
And since there are plenty of perches, you certainly should expect to see a significant measure of traversal by way of Jet Pack. But even though there’s plenty of vertical play going on, Jet Pack isn’t the only Armor Ability you’ll want to load out with. Again, I find Sprint really useful, but plenty of players use both Armor Lock and Active Camo to great effect on Sword Base. Though the central atrium is nice and open, the interior spaces are somewhat labyrinthine and you’ll find that remaining unseen or invincible for a brief spell is a particularly nasty tactic if you want to keep it close quarters or snag some of the exposed power weapons without exposing your face to too much enemy fire.
The Sniper Rifle is beneath the bamboo on the ground floor and the Plasma Launcher is on the upper catwalk. You’ll want to keep tabs on ‘em. Here’s the rest of the stuff you should know about on Sword Base:
- DMR x 6
- Energy Sword x 1
- Magnum x 3
- Needle Rifle x 3
- Needler x 2
- Plasma Launcher x 1
- Plasma Pistol x 3
- Plasma Repeater x 3
- Shotgun x 1
- Sniper Rifle x 1
- Frag Grenade x 4
- Plasma Grenade x 4
We’re gonna stay pretty tight-lipped on the Overlook front and let the pair of images below do the talking this week. There are some really interesting wrinkles in the way you’ll acquire weapons in this space, but all those intricate details bleed over into the game type you’ll be playing on Overlook in the Beta. We’ll get to all the ooey-gooey Generator Defense stuff soon enough. All in due time.
But Overlook’s aesthetics give us a good reason to talk about a couple of other topics that have been up for discussion in recent weeks.
You might have noticed that in some of the previous images we snapped from this space, the weather was a bit more dreary. The sun wasn’t shining and the ground was being soaked by a drizzling downpour. You’re not seeing things. In order to ensure that there are some visual distinctions between these spaces when you play them in either multiplayer or campaign, the team will often employ weather or time of day effects to make sure the spaces look and feel quite different.
So, in the Beta, Overlook will be bright and sunny. In campaign? Not so much. You shouldn’t be surprised when you see other maps getting the same treatment, either.
This is also a good opportunity to touch on a new multiplayer mechanic that Lars briefly mentioned in his IGN interview. In previous Halo titles, the stable of multiplayer maps relied heavily on a system of invisible barriers and volumes to keep players corralled within the playable space. While we’re not scrapping those methods altogether, we’ve devised a new way to keep players hemmed in without being as overtly restrictive.
In plenty of cases, you can actually step outside what we’ll consider the playable space, going beyond the barrier. While you’re out there feel free to explore the space, but don’t dawdle for too long – you’re only given ten seconds to smell any roses you happen to come across. And if, in that limited window of time, you fail to comply with our polite reminder to “Return to the Battlefield,” we’ll just drop you dead right in your tracks, sending you straight into respawn.
But since it’s a little more liberal than a kill volume or a soft ceiling, we won’t mind if you actually use it to your advantage. Stepping outside the zone will not kill you instantly, so if you find a roost or a quick shortcut you can make use of, you should go for it. Just make sure you’re quick about it.
Oh, and if you think you’re going to poke in and out of a particularly sweet spot again and again, reminiscent of the good old super-bouncing ups and downs from Halo 2, you might note that your ten second taste of freedom doesn’t reset each and every time you set foot outside the designated boundary. Take five outside the arena proper and the next time you return, you’ll find that you only have five seconds left on the clock.
So, go ahead and push the limits. Just don’t come crying to us if you get yourself killed out there.
You can also stow the bellyaching about “textures” interfering with your grenade tosses from here on out. There’s a new layer of invisible love being applied to all the nooks, crannies, and yup, stairs you’ll find distributed throughout the multiplayer maps you’ll throw down on – a layer that’ll ensure your grenades bounce in the perfectly predictable way you expect them to.
That doesn’t mean the world is flat, though. If there’s a particular piece of geometry we deem worthy to run interference, we’ll make sure there’s just the right bounce to the ounce. Shishka tells me it’s actually based on “biped collision,” which is a fancy way to say that if you don’t get caught up on it, your grenades probably won’t either.
Shortest section evar! Yeah, you might wanna check back next week for some Boneyard lovin’. It’s tied too closely to Invasion to take the lid off just yet. Stay Tuned.
We were so excited to finally dig into the Halo: Reach weapon set last week that we totally forgot to detail the pair of pastel spewing Covenant tools of destruction. Whoops. Looks like last week’s loss is this week’s gain!
The Needler is back and for the most part, you should already know what to do with it. Line up your target, fill ‘em full of crystal, and watch ‘em pop inside a cloud of deadly pink mist. There are some small differences, though. Needles will no longer track your target if your reticule isn’t red and just like the Needle Rifle’s projectiles, you won’t be rewarded with a super-combine until after your opponent’s shields have dropped.
Don’t worry too much, as long as you have someone lined up proper it’s still a quick kill and it works wonders against airborne enemies. Hamrick calls it your own personal SAM site. Six needles to take down a Spartan’s shields (seven for an Elite), six more to make them asplode.
Might sound like a lot, but trust me, it’s nice ‘n’ speedy and you’ll have plenty of pink needles in the clip.
The Needle Rifle is the Covenant’s answer to the DMR. You’ll want to use it at mid to long range and begin by aiming for the body until you see the shields pop. Just like the Needler, it takes six rounds to tear through a Spartan’s shielding and seven to eat through an Elite’s.
Unlike the DMR, you can hold the trigger down if you choose, though you’ll suffer significant bloom with each new shot fired and your ammunition will actually super-combine if you stick just three needles into an unshielded opponent. None of your shots will track, however.
If you go for the brainpan, you won’t need to worry about counting if you’ve already removed the shields from the equation. One needle to the dome will get the job done (and make your foe look like a pretty, pretty unicorn if you pop ‘em right between the eyes).
All good things come to an end and Halo 2’s days are now numbered. If you haven’t yet heard, Xbox LIVE support for Xbox Originals will be a thing of the past on April 15th, 2010. Sad times, but we’re planning on sending our baby out with a bang.
And we want you to be there for the explosive finale.
On the eve of Halo 2’s sunset, April 14th, Bungie will be heading back into Halo 2 in full force for one last Humpday against our beloved, BXR-abusing community. And we fully expect to get our asses royally kicked by the robotic techno-wunderkinds who have made Halo 2 their online home these last five years.
If you’ve yet to come to grips with a world without Halo 2 over Xbox LIVE, make sure you get out all of your frustrations by collectively teabagging our flailing dead corpses. We won’t even demand that you to rinse out your sweaty codpieces first.
As thanks for throwing down, we’re committed to granting everyone who plays with us on the 14th a piece of visual flair for use in Halo: Reach multiplayer as a symbol of our gratitude. We’ll also be collecting a plethora of relevant stats and gifting plenty of other sweet prizes for players who take the time to throw down with us.
So, see you there (be gentle), and if it’s been a while since you’ve played Halo 2, or you’ve recently switched consoles or gamertags, make sure you fire up Halo 2 before you’re ready to play so you can re-download the title updates and free map packs you need to make the most of it. We’re hearing the full process takes a while and we wouldn’t want you stuck downloading while the rest of us are having fun.
No Blame Stosh this week. He was busy prepping all these awesome assets for Powerhouse and Sword Base. Plus, he’s got plenty of work to do on the Bungie.net front and we don't want to distract him too much. We should be showing off the fruits of his labor sometime real soon. They're nice and juicy. I caught a sneak peek last week and these digs are looking pretty swank.
I did see a really great Saved Film he made on Sword Base where his opponent tried to flee by hurling himself over one of the upper floor’s many edges. Stosh wasn’t having it. Just as this poor Spartan made lift off, Stosh initiated an assassination, grabbed him by the nape of the neck, pulled him back up, and put a very violent end to his escape plan.
Had to see it to believe it. Would have made an epic Blame Stosh. Too bad I can’t really show you the evidence quite yet. Maybe another time.
…we’re done here. You should know the deal by now, though. Our dark days are over. More details on the way over the next three weeks. Stay Tuned.