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Monday May 28, 2007 1:13 pm

Chatlog: The Halo 3 Beta: Two Weeks Later

Halo 3 teaser Master Chief

The Beta has been available to the public for nearly two weeks, and with well over a hundred games between the two of them, editors Chris Pereira and Kyle Ulrich have a discussion about the experience thus far - what they like, what they don’t, what needs to be changed, and more.

Kyle: First off, the graphics. While the beta looks good, it’s absolutely clear that what is there is merely a foundation for what the finished product will become. A lot of people have been quick to criticize the game for looking too similar to Halo 2, without taking into consideration that the majority of the assets that we’re seeing in this beta - the levels, weapons, and character models - have been finished for months, as early as last October. Particle effects are nonexistent - grenades and muzzle fire lack flourish. From my perspective, we’re going to be looking at almost an entirely different game come September. I’d imagine that there are layers and layers of polish that have yet to be implemented. Believe.

Chris: You’re right. is the type of developer that waits until the last moment to slap on that extra layer of gloss that makes everything oh-so-pretty. And unlike many games, gimmicky bloom effects aren’t what make Halo look good. And after all, this beta isn’t a tech demo; don’t expect it to wow you with its graphics.

Kyle: The gameplay is an entirely different story, though. Even in this early, unfinished stage, the balance is remarkable. Nothing feels particularly unusable and the power weapons are exactly what they should be: hard to use, one-hit skill kills. Everything from the recoil of the sniper rifle to the shortening of the Shotgun’s ammo chamber make major strides at leveling the playing field. The even smattering of spray and prays and one-shots coalesce and riff off each other beautifully. For my money, an unfinished product has never played so marvelously. Also, the tweaking of the objective game types shakes things up well. Territories is simply awesome.

Halo 3 third person missile pod

Chris: To expand upon what you said, there are other minor tweaks that drastically change the game, too. The plasma pistol’s new overheat helps to prevent the noob combo (somewhat), as does the constant draining of ammo while you hold it charged up. But to counteract that, the weapon can disable vehicles temporarily. It’s these tweaks that could be passed off as minutiae that actually make a tremendous difference in the overall game. And you’re right; both Territories and bomb games are significantly better and more fun than they were in the past. And VIP rocks.

Kyle: As for what needs to change, I’d like to see the frontend of the matchmaking cleaned up. It needs streamlining. The options are there, but they’re buried. You shouldn’t have to jump through so many hoops just to adjust your sensitivity or invert your aim.

Chris: The Spikers have been complained about as being overpowered, but given that they’re practically worthless at medium to long distance, nothing more than a small tweak is in order. The plasma rifle could use a vehicle-disabling feature like the plasma pistol, because as of now it seems completely worthless to me. One thing I have a particular disdain for is the time it takes for the grav lift to actually deploy - throw it ahead of yourself and immediately run over it, and you’ll be the recipient of only a small boost. And is it just me, or is it a real rarity to get a splatter with anything other than a Ghost?

Kyle: It is if you suck at powersliding with the Mongoose. Protip: use the L trigger…

Mongoose on High Ground

Chris: What’s your one favorite feature so far? For me, it’s gotta be the spike grenades. I love those things—the way they stick to any surface; the satisfying sound when you stick someone; the inevitable destruction of throwing one into the middle of a bubble shield. Sweeeeeeet.

Kyle: SPARTAN LASER. Dual Spikers are really, really hot, too. I also LOVE how Spike Grenades are most effective indoors. Outdoors, they’re not so hot.

Chris: I said one favorite. What’re you most disappointed with?

Kyle: Having to wait so long to match up with other parties. That’s the nature of participating in a beta, I guess.

Chris: Two words: Dedicated servers. I know it’s a beta and all, but if Bungie is stress-testing things, then that doesn’t bode well for the concept of having dedicated servers in Halo 3. Resistance players got them last year. Halo 2 on Vista has support for dedicated servers. So, Bungie, Microsoft: where are they?

Kyle: If they can make it work with minimal lag, they may not be completely necessary. Still, I can imagine that that may be in the pipeline. After all, Sony has upped the ante…

Chris: It better be. Where is my $50 going each year? Into developing dashboard features I can’t even use? But I digress.

Kyle: Still, it can’t be denied how much fun you can have here. The possibilities are endless. In my opinion, this beta, this small taste, is certainly better than anything you could do with Halo 2. And it only represents the tiniest fraction of what’s in store.

Chris: No matter how much complaining, whining and overall poking and prodding everyone does, what it comes down to is this: Halo 3 is as fun as you could have imagined, and it’s been worth the wait. I just can’t wait to take your head off with a sniper in the final game.

Kyle: Not before I run your ass over with the ATV. Dick.

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