On Wednesday I was able to download the Halo 3 Mulitplayer Beta and jump into the action – unlike people who were waiting to use Crackdown to download the Beta. Apparently there were problems that led to a 15-hour delay while Bungie and Microsoft came up with a patch to Crackdown that sorted things out. There were also problems with some people that got in via the “Rule of 3” promotion that didn’t receive their codes via email, and Bungie have resent these emails and are dealing with any remaining issues themselves. The Internet nearly melted with the ire flowing from disgruntled players, with Major Nelson seeming to get the brunt of it, bringing down MajorNelson.com. You’d think this was something important 🙂
Thankfully for me the biggest problem was to decide what to delete to make room for the download. I’m considering getting the 120GB drive when it comes out later this year. The game appeared in the “Demos and More” section, and started up no problem – with a simple loading screen that said “Loading”, “Halo 3 Beta”, and “Love, Bungie” 🙂
Once the Beta loads, there’s the familiar Bungie logo screen, then a very simple main menu that allows you to jump into Matchmaking, View Saved Films, and Quit to the Dashboard. The background is a fly-through of Valhalla, one of the three maps included in the Beta. The music is typical Marty fare, with the same music as Halo 2 , but with bits from the Halo 3 Announcement Trailer too.
Personalisation and Settings
The first thing I did was hit the Start button to go into my profile and change my appearance and controls. The options for your appearance now include a greater range of colours, as well as a tertiary colour on your armour for further personalisation. The emblems seem to be the same set as Halo 2, but I didn’t really go through them all to be sure. For the Beta you can only be a Spartan, but the implication is that other character models will be available, such as the Elite from Halo 2. I hope that the full set of characters will be available in the final game.
The other way you personalise your character is with a three character callsign, which is made up of a letter and two digits. This shorthand notation is used in team games particularly, with each team-mates callsign shown hovering over their character in the game. As you get closer to players, including opponents, their Gamertag is shown. The idea of the callsign is to make it easier for team mates to identify each other and issue commands/request help/etc. It’s not clear how the game will handle duplicate callsigns – perhaps this will feed into matchmaking and automatically exclude players with identical callsigns?
The options for the controls are pretty much as found in Halo 2, with presets such as Southpaw, Boxer, and Green Thumb available. I’m currently using Green Thumb, since I have the tendency when going head to head with someone in close combat to press in the right thumbstick by accident, so I’d rather accidentally melee them than accidentally zoom in 🙂 Plus it means I can keep pointing at my opponent as I attempt to melee them, which gives me a better chance of hitting them than taking my thumb off the thumbstick to hit B – during which time they’ve moved away from directly in front of me. This also fits my preference for close combat over ranged, though I think that’s because it’s easier to actually hit the person when closer 🙂 I think I need to improve my accuracy at distance, since I don’t believe I actually am significantly better at close range!
The control system itself is mostly the same as Halo 2, but the XBox 360 controller’s bumper buttons introduce some changes. They are used to reload your left and right weapons independantly when dual-wielding. When holding one weapon, the left bumper cycles through your grenades. You now can carry only two of each type of grenade, though there are now three types with the addition of the Brute Spike grenade. The right bumper is held down to perform actions such as picking up weapons, getting into vehicles, and opening doors, while a quick press performs a reload. This frees up the X button, which is now used to deploy pieces of equipment such as the Bubble Shield. Apart from that it’s pretty much the same, though there is now an option to toggle crouching on and off with the left thumbstick instead of having to keep it pressed in to crouch. That should make it easier to crouch-walk.