The name “Halo” has become a readily understood and accepted buzz word in the realms of pop culture just as Mario or Luigi have become well known names even to those not typically associated with gaming. With its first release on the original Xbox all those years ago, Halo has been a staple of the Xbox Live gaming community and by all accounts is set to reclaim its “King of Multiplayer” back from Modern Warfare 2 in the fall.
One of the latest bits of Intel coming out of Bungie’s previously darkened studio is that they have completely overhauled the multiplayer component of their latest game, and are bringing forward new features which aim to bring all types of gamers into the fold. Now gone from the mix are Halo 3’s True Skill and Military ranking replaced by various other means of evaluating how someone plays. One of the key changes the developers wish to highlight is that gamers who typically had a more unique way of playing Halo online will now be recognized for their own personal style. In example, Halo 3 tracked kills and wins in order to give the player a ranking which was then used to place them according to their skill against other players of similar caliber. The negative to this system was that if someone proved to be an efficient wheelman and drove the warthog in such a way as to help their team score kills, their contribution to the victory wasn’t noted. In Halo:Reach the developers promise that such oversights will be corrected.
Another way of getting gamers interested and invested into the game of Halo:Reach is the revamped armor permutation system. In Halo 3 players could perform a variety of set actions, most typically associated with achievements which would unlock either a new helmet, shoulder pieces, and/or chest pieces. The system returns but has taken on a bit more of a dynamic approach. Instead of arbitrary achievements, the various armor pieces now cost “credits” which the player earns by performing well in games, completing games, or performing challenges from the daily or weekly category (more on this in a second.) The armor pieces themselves hold no game related edge like weapons loadouts or another similar feature which could change how a person plays the game. These armor pieces are cosmetic upgrades only, but that being said doesn’t discount the number of gamers who will be frothing at the mouth to earn credits and unlock their armor sets as the beta nears closer. The idea behind these armor pieces is that the permutation will show across the whole of Halo:Reach, so the spartan you create to play multiplayer will also be the same spartan you watch in the cutscenes while playing the campaign even down to the symbols you choose for your spartan will be present.
The last interesting feature that I want to touch on, is the upcoming challenges that Bungie plans to roll out. This feature won’t likely be present in the Beta of the game, but is going to be included with the game release in the fall. Challenges will focus on a variety of tasks that a player will complete in order to earn credits and commendations (medals used to give a snapshot image of player game style) and will most likely be grouped by daily and weekly categories. The daily category will most likely feature more easily obtained goals such as “kill X number of grunts” or the such while Weekly categories will be much more difficult to complete most likely taking a week to complete.
These latest announcements interest and excite me, the inclusion of RPG like elements into a game give the player more to work towards than an arbitrary number next to their name, and finds ways to reward players who may not have a certain skill in one area but are very skilled in another. Another interesting feature is the breakdown of borders between multiplayer and campaign games. The inclusion of your own personalized spartan throughout keeps the player invested and also gives a variety of game options to keep the player coming back for more. Bungie has promised that from now til release they will be rolling out new information and other goodies for our consumption and I will strive to get as much of it up as I can.