Halo 3 Beta: Let the Carnage Continue


Having missed every opportunity to get into the Halo 3 beta for free, I – like many others – opted to purchase my beta key for $60 in the form of Crackdown. Now Crackdown isn’t a bad game, in fact it’s pretty good, but we all know I only bought it for Halo 3. Thank god it’s finally here.

The public beta was launched this past Wednesday, unfortunately a minor glitch kept the players with the Crackdown key from downloading and playing the game until late Wednesday and even then errors persisted. At first I couldn’t join a game because the list of people you can play with is restricted to friends and recent players. Not having any friends with the beta nor having played anyone recently who has the beta I was forced to scour my recent players list for those who were playing Halo 3 and add them as friends in order for me to get into matchmaking. Unfortunately after that another error arose that said the beta test was now over and thanks for participating.

Thankfully Bungie and company got their acts together and aside from some minor nit-picks everything is working fine for now.

The gameplay is faithful to the previous Halo titles. For now there are three maps – Valhalla, Snowbound and High Ground – and three ranked game types – Rumble Pit, Team Slayer and Team Skirmish. Rumble Pit is you against the world. I’ve managed to play in the traditional Slayer mode (first to twenty five kills) and my favorite: King of the Hill where you have to occupy a moving piece of ground for two minutes. The team games have you working together to either get the most kills, as in Slayer, or complete objectives such as in the Capture the Flag game type.

The maps are well designed with lots of high ground to snipe from, plenty of cover to hide in and extensive structures to move through and get lost in. Valhalla is currently my favorite map. It’s a large outdoor map with two bases on each end with launchers on the top that propel you into the center of the map. Snowbound is fairly self explanatory. The odd thing about the Snowbound level is the map isn’t entirely enclosed but there are a perimeter of guns and turrets that will annihilate anyone who trespasses too far past them. High Ground is my least favorite but only because I get slaughtered on it. It consists of a military compound with towers and bunkers.

The graphics are a marked improvement over Halo 2. It’s hard to notice at first, especially if you’ve played a lot of Halo, because the action and mechanics of the game have changed so little. Despite the entirely familiar feel of it all, the textures are much deeper and details are more highly resolved.


Of course everyone wants to know about the new weapons available. Honestly you can find a much more detailed explanation from the Bungie website but I’m going to break down my favorites for you. The battle rifle is back from Halo 2 which I couldn’t be happier about. It’s got the accuracy of a long range gun but is also good for close combat. The submachine gun is back from the first Halo which is extremely effective in close quarters but sucks at a distance. My favorite new weapon is the laser. While it takes a bit to charge up and completely gives away your position it more than makes up for this with its raw power and the fact that you get a medal for killing someone with it.

I also have to bring up the X button. For months the internet was speculating what the functionality of the X button would be. In previous Halo titles this was your reload button. Now it’s used for item deployment. Everyone remembers the bubble shield from the early teasers for the game but you can also find items like the gravity lift which propels you into the air and the energy drain which depletes the energy shield of anyone standing too close. Used properly these are very powerful but it does take a bit of practice to use them effectively.

When it comes to the user interface I have only one complaint. It’s very difficult to intuitively find the settings to control look inversion and color schemes. Even the second time I tried to find it, it still took me two minutes to figure it out. Aside from that I’m happy with the look of and information included in the UI. The matchmaking screen now tells you the number of players online in your particular game type and the range of skill levels you’ll be playing against.


The Carnage Report has been tweaked as well. While some details have been added such as your favorite way to kill other players, others details like seeing how many times you killed a particular player have been lost. Halo 3 also makes it much clearer what medals you earned and how exactly you earned them. My favorite new medal is Death From the Grave. (Since I’m so good at dying it only makes sense)

One of the coolest features of the Carnage Report is the ability to save a movie of the game you just played. Simply push X and it’s on your hard drive. I haven’t been able to find a way to get it on my PC but sharing it with other Halo 3 beta testers is a breeze. Simply select which video you want to upload and it’s done in about a minute. Personally, I like watching myself kick a lot of ass, especially after getting mine handed to me. I expect to see a lot of machinima using this in the future if it hasn’t already been done.

If you simply must play Halo 3 before it’s released on September 26, then you’re going to have to drop the $60 for Crackdown if it’s still available with the beta key. Unfortunately there’s no other way in. The Halo 3 beta and Crackdown are well worth the money as a package though, so go out there and get your pwnage on.