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CB Games Beta Diaries: Halo 3, The Rocky Start

(Editor's Note: All right folks, here it is: Bungie's premier Halo 3 Multiplayer Beta has begun and CB Games will bring you up-to-date coverage of it in the form of Beta Diaries. Don't let me keep you from getting in on all the juicy details of this game. Andrew Groen will have every aspect of Halo 3 covered, from top to bottom, in this daily special. So strap in and read about how it all went down for Day 1. Enjoy.)

Well it’s finally here my old chaps. The Halo 3 beta has arrived and let me tell you I simply could not be more thrilled about it. Sure we got off to a rocky start. Ok it was an extremely rocky start, no one knows that better than me. I actually stayed up all night to download that sucker at 7 AM (central standard represent!) only to find that I would have to sift through the forums for fifteen hours (ok I admit it I took a nap in there somewhere) trying to find a fix for the problem – waiting and waiting for someone to stumble upon the secret. Then when the fix did come around 10 PM I got it all downloaded and was literally...literally...giggling out loud and jumping up and down on my roommates bed.

But then tragedy struck, I got into the beta launch screen, called an Xbox 360-less buddy of mine to make him listen to the Halo theme song as I logged in for the first time. What can I say? I’m a heartless tease. Then, like a sign from above that I was being a dick, a message appeared on-screen. It was a haunting message, lingering there like a drunk uncle's bad breath, telling me that the beta was no longer available. I was so depressed that I just let my face sag into a lump of fleshy, expressionless dolor. I slouched on the couch and mashed buttons for around ten minutes straight.

Truth be told, after the tenth minute a miracle happened; something that seemed like it could only happen in a sappy Disney movie where the characters over-gesticulate every event. And yet I have no idea why, but sooner or later one of those buttons made the beta work…yeah I’ve got no idea, true story though. Really.

The story ends well though, and I was even able to get in a couple solid hours before I passed out for the night. I’ve since logged some rather spectacular hours though and I’ve come away with rather favorable impressions.

The entire experience feels very much like Halo 2. The jump in gameplay styles is no where near as vast as it was going from Halo to H2. No, Halo 3 as it is in beta form, is very similar to H2. Except it takes that [Halo 2] formula and tightens the screws a bunch and throws in a host of new elements that really liven up the experience. I’m going to be writing individual features for all of the elements featured in the beta (weapons, levels, equipment etc.) in the coming days so I won’t go into detail here.

My first day in the beta was pretty wonderful though. I wasn’t given much of an opportunity to really jump in and play strategic team-based games because I really just wanted to get my bearings back – get myself into the spectacular form I was in a few months after H2 launched. I also wanted to make my rounds a bit and check out every weapon, just so I didn’t end up wasting my time using a bunch of junk weapons when I could be using something better.

A big surprise I found though, is that there are no junk weapons. None. Not even the Needler, which is actually a little disappointing because the Needler (being crappy) has become so much a part of the culture of Halo. And now it is far from crap, that thing has destructified me at least a half dozen times in only a limited amount of play time. I still despise the Covenant Carbine, although I chalk that up to my own shortcomings, because I seem to die every single time I’m matched up against one. I get the feeling the Carbine is effective if you can land headshots, and shite if you can’t.

The greatest thing that is new in H3 is a bunch of instances of amazingly solid game design. Not just map design – game design. For instance, the two bases on the snow level, Snowbound, are accessible by five or six openings. All of these openings are guarded by energy shields. This may not sound like much, but this changes the entire way that the base is assaulted and defended. You must play it to understand how vastly it changes your entering strategies, but believe me when I say that it’ll rock your world (OK maybe that’s a bit hyperbolic.)

The bubble shield produces much of the same effect, and similarly changes the strategy of anyone holding it. It doesn’t seem like much at first, but soon enough you’ll devise your own strategy as to how to deploy it. My favorite technique thus far is to grab a shotgun and the bubble shield and wait for some overly eager n00b to charge me. Then once I’ve baited him sufficiently by letting him get a few good licks in, I plant the shield. By this time he’s already set on getting me fraggerized so he’ll charge into the shield assuming he still has the advantage -- because of how much of my shield he drained before. It becomes clear that he was wrong soon enough, though, when his face disintegrates in the midst of my concealed shotgun.

I’ll be bringing you updates and impressions daily for the next week or so. So check back often to catch up on the latest trends and strategies developing in the beta-space. Also if you’re not in on the fun, you’re going to want to be here at CB Games to find out what everybody is going to be talking about!