What We Know: Halo: Reach is poised to launch on September 14, which means people will be either rushing into the campaign, or immediately jumping into the 16-player multiplayer levels. Even more people will try building their own maps inside Forge World. We just let you know about two of the campaign levels. Now we're checking out the multiplayer flipside.
What We're Seeing Now: Everyone knows that the single-player campaign in a Halo game is just the tip of the iceberg, and that the real action is the countless hours of multiplayer action that you'll be getting. If you need a reminder of how much time you might have milked out of one of Halo's past titles, just check out your stats on Bungie.net. That's where I just learned that I've played over 6,000 games in the Halo 2, Halo 3, and Halo 3: ODST flavors.
I'm sure that's just a drop in the bucket for many of you hardcore Halo fans out there, Halo: Reach looks to trump everything that has come before in the world of multiplayer. While Halo 2 might have seen more matches than there are grains of sand on all of the world's beaches combined (a stat I just made up myself,) Halo: Reach comes armed with three things in its arsenal to top that: lots of multiplayer modes, vastly improved Firefight, and Forge World.
Firefight, first introduced in Halo 3: ODST, has received a huge shot in the arm this time around, with more maps and an incredibly robust customization option. There are enough different things to tweak, toggle, and turn on or off that you'll be experimenting for days with different ways to change up the Firefight experience. Rather than reiterate how much Bungie has poured into the new Firefight, I'm going to pimp our own Jake Gaskill's preview of all things new.
What's that, you say? Not enough for you? Well, aren't you demanding. Fine. We're in the habit of giving our readers what they want as much as we can, so since you demanded it I'm going to give you ... a Firefight match in its entirety! That's right, watch as myself, one of the Bungie developers, and a PR third gun end up getting pwned in Outpost. And yes, that's my handy work with the Target Locator early on that nets up a Killpocalypse. Yes, I'm bragging. But enough of my yakkin', get watching!
That's just your basic Firefight, and with the umpteen different options and loads of maps, you'll have a near-limitless variety of paces to put this through. As with most things in Halo: Reach (even the campaign), this is best experienced with others, although you can feel free to test your luck solo. If you're going to do that, I recommend the Rocketfight Firefight option, which gives you a rocket launcher with infinite ammo. Couple that with a jetpack, and you're nearly invincible.
Outside of Firefight, there's a very robust normal multiplayer experience, chock full of game modes you've come to love in your Haloverse: Assault, Capture the Flag, Juggernaut, King of the Hill, Oddball, and many more. Each one of those also has several varieties within, so you'll be able to launch plenty of custom games, or tweak your search options for exactly what you're looking to play. Feel like some Headhunter in Reflection? You'll find it.
While there are going to be plenty of maps to choose from at launch, Bungie let us share with you a few details about eleven of the different multiplayer maps. Eight of them are normal maps: Boardwalk, Boneyard, Countdown, Powerhouse, Reflection, Spire, Sword Base, and Zealot, three of them come from within Forge World: Cage, Hemorrhage, and Pinnacle. These three were all built using Forge World itself, which is a testament to how powerful Forge is this time around. More on that in a minute. For now, check out our brief tour through these maps. We'll be bringing you in-depth looks at all of the maps near launch.
Of course, what's a multiplayer tease without showing some actual gameplay? I squared off against a Bungie developer and another foe in a 1 on 1 on 1 multiplayer match in Cage, which looks to be the spiritual heir to Lockout and Blackout from Halo 2 and Halo 3. Players familiar with those maps will get the gist of things right away: multiple towers around a central square, suspended high in the atmosphere. This version also sports a man cannon, and I quickly discovered that jetpacks do well here.
Luckily, the Bungie dev may have just downed an entire bottle of cough syrup, because somehow I managed to kick butt and win the match, when I expect to be seriously schooled. And yes, I that's me teabagging in there. It's hard to resist when you're trumping someone who made the game! Although this alone has probably gotten me banned from any future Bungie events. Curses. Check out the full Slayer match in the video below.
Halo's map-editor creation tool Forge first appeared in Halo 3, where people created some truly imaginative maps. But, there were limitations. Bungie has removed a lot of these, and you can now design levels with some of the same tools the team used to build multiplayer maps. Forge World is a massive world that contains several different play "areas": a hangar in the side of a vast mountain, islands, hidden tunnels, plateaus, small, flat areas, and so on. They exist as part of Forge World, and several players can gather together in here and construct things at the same time. Cue the A-Team montage music.
Forge now contains a lot more building blocks that you can play with, many of which are pictured above. Besides new toys, you can now change the physics of most items, making them phased, fixed, or normal. Normal treats an item with normal physics, i.e. you can knock it over or make it fall. Fixed keeps it in place, and phased, the coolest of all, lets you merge two objects together. For instance, you can bury a ramp in a wall to make it shorter, or fuse several rocks together to build a makeshift wall. It's not quite on the level of LittleBigPlanet, but I imagine there will be many wonderful and weird levels coming out of here. We stuck a few items down and toured around Forge World a bit to give you a brief overview. Take a look.