Halo 3 Multiplayer Beta Hands-On

We've got all the information you need on the much-anticipated Halo 3 multiplayer beta.

Microsoft showed off the much-anticipated Halo 3 multiplayer beta in London this evening. The beta will be opened to a much larger audience later this month to let fans test the game, but this was the media's opportunity to check out the game ahead of time. The reaction thus far? Halo 3 looks and plays like a much-prettier version of Halo 2, and that's sure to please the game's millions of fans worldwide.

Six high-definition Samsung televisions were lined up and running the beta that will go on general release next Wednesday, and the Xbox 360 consoles were connected to each other via Xbox Live. The collected media were invited to enter the killing fields, and because it was the first time that one of the year's most anticipated games has been widely shown outside of the Bungie and Halo offices, there was no shortage of volunteers.

The first thing that strikes you about the Halo 3 beta is just how polished it feels. It's not like the beta is a hint of things to come and that you have to brush aside bugs, long loading times, and a number of other issues to enjoy the game--the beta runs at a solid frame rate, is graphically impressive, and feels well on its way to being the code that fans have every right to expect from the finished game. The player models in the beta are the same blue and red Master Chief variants that will be familiar to Halo players, albeit with new bells and whistles. The models themselves now feature rag-doll physics, meaning that dead bodies will bend and buckle according to the environment around them. When you're alive and you look down, you can now see your legs.

There are three levels in the beta: Snowbound, High Ground, and Valhalla. While the beta is limited to these levels, there are a number of gameplay modes. Rumble pit is the typical slayer, or deathmatch, mode, where it's every player for himself. Team slayer lets you team up with a maximum of three others to battle against another team of up to four. Team skirmish is an objective-based mode that can feature single-flag capture-the-flag, territories, and more. And then there's big team battle, which takes place only on the largest map in the beta, Valhalla. That's because Valhalla is the only one that can accommodate the 12 to 16 players in big team battle.

Halo 3 might still be a work in progress, but the beta is already looking great.

The matchmaking and party functionality in Halo 2 have been improved in Halo 3, but the one thing that remains the same is the ease of getting into a game. Halo 3 will sort through the games taking place and assign you and your opponents based on connection speed, preferences, and more. As before, there is a playlist of different games that Halo 3 cycles through, to provide a huge variety of different gameplay experiences. One match featured nothing but rocket launchers on the Snowbound map, which resulted in the predictable amount of chaos as players blew one another up. One of the nice new additions to matchmaking is the ability to "party up" at the end of the match. Let's say you meet some cool new teammates during a match. Using "party up," they can join your party (or you can join theirs), so the good times can keep on going. There's also an ability for the majority of players to "veto" a map or a game mode if they don't like it.

There are a variety of weapons, new and familiar, available in the beta to try--the trusty assault rifle, the brute shot, new spike grenades, the Spartan laser, machine gun turrets, missile pods, and more. We've noticed that returning weapons such as the needler and the brute shot have been tweaked for balance purposes. They now seem a bit more powerful.

We saw only a couple of the vehicles that will ship in the final game. The first was the familiar Covenant Ghost, the one-man (or one-alien) hover vehicle. And then there's the new Mongoose, the human two-man all-terrain vehicle that doesn't pack any weaponry but can transport you across the battlefield in a hurry. And while the Mongoose lacks weapons, the passenger is free to use whatever weapons he's carrying.

The new brute spiker handgun fires razor-sharp projectiles at a rapid rate.

The controls should seem immediately familiar to any Halo fan, but there is a key difference. The right bumper on the gamepad is now used to mount and dismount vehicles, a necessary change because the X button is now reserved to deploy equipment, such as the shield grenade. Equipment is a brand-new addition to Halo 3 and adds a layer of depth and strategy to multiplayer games. There's the bubble shield, the portable grav lift, the trip mine, and the energy drainer. Another key change is that when you're not next to a vehicle, the left and right bumpers allow for the independent reloading of any weapons that you're holding in your hands. This lets you reload one weapon in your hands while you're firing with another, which will be incredibly valuable in a desperate fight.

Visually, the Halo 3 beta looks impressive. Yes, it looks like a higher-resolution version of Halo 2, but the textures and details are razor sharp, and there's a lush quality to the world that wasn't there before. You'll run through fields of flowers or your body will float in a tranquil pond. The high dynamic range lighting in the game also provides a realistic look to the lighting and the world. Meanwhile, there's a smoothness and fluidity to everything now that makes battles fun to watch.

Finally, the fun doesn't end when you stop playing. The beta does include the ability to film all your games. After the match is complete, you can save the film and watch it later or upload it to share with others. However, for the beta the saved film functionality is limited to first-person-only playback. In the final game, players will have full control over the camera, including fast-forward, reverse, pause, and slow-motion controls.

The Halo 3 beta is pretty impressive in terms of content, and Halo fans everywhere will surely put the beta through its paces when it's released next week. But the news for now is that everything looks great, and we can't wait for the hordes of players to arrive so we can get some big battles going.

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Discussion

911 comments
deanch1
deanch1

PLEASE!!! CALL OF DUTY 4 MODERN WARFARE WILL BEAT THIS IN A LANDSLIDE VICTORY

GETAGIRLFRIEND
GETAGIRLFRIEND

GREETINGS FROM MY GEFORCE 8800 GTX, AND A "HOW DO YOU DO" FROM MY MOUSE AND KEYBOARD.

DooshBIGELOW
DooshBIGELOW

Awsome Beta to bad its over now..and WOW they need to tweeks some things fo sho!! I wanna hit the dude who thought it would be a good Idea to make the worthog alot imossible to blow up while ppl are drivin and shooting!!

DuDisNow
DuDisNow

The game will be the Game of the Year, I bet you anything!

Smoolander
Smoolander

Quick, let's all get into a Halo is great, no Halo sucks argument. Frankly I don't care. Each Halo game brought something to the mix that made it great to play, and I'm hoping Bungie deliver in the third one (more earth battles maybe?). I like the story of Halo, and the games, so I'll be getting this the day it comes out.

kevy619
kevy619

it might not be as good as halo 1, but it will rock and definately be worth the purchase

ALARMVIRUS
ALARMVIRUS

you see people like "321mambo123" is wrong never in history well ut3 will be a halo killer, cause for this fact the story is so intacted, the dialog sucks balls, dont get me wrong ut3 will probley be kickass but by no means in any shape or form be a halo killer, just wanted to say.

GameCrook
GameCrook

They do look better but not by alot but microsoft did say its beta and the final game will look much better then beta

lilromeo0606
lilromeo0606

i have to say that i played Halo like ten times, and Halo 2 maybe 3 times but the only reason i still play Halo 2 is because of its rich multiplayer content. The graphics on Halo 3 don't look very different than Halo 2 albeit a little sharper images but they only got like 3 months to polish this up and that aint much time. I hope that this game does not get overrated and that the reviews should focus on the actual game rather than the Halo franchise. Bungie has to play it smart and really bring out the full power of the 360 and make the graphics compareable to a game using a Unreal 3D Engine.

PhilElsen
PhilElsen

I love halo finisheed the second one 5 times but the first one was more fun. cant wait till the 3rd one comes out.

conquesto
conquesto

The beta would be near perfect if bungie sorted out a proper hosting system so you dont allways have an american kiddie running round taking 100 shots to kill. Apart from that though the beta is quality, not looking forward to having to go back to halo 2 now im used to hi def.

Plaxconium17
Plaxconium17

lol, if you really think the graphics suck get a better tv, :P anyways, its pretty awesome, the weapons have been tuned much better, the sniper isnt easy mode any more and theres way more satisfaction to pulling off that sick jumping headshot =D

321mambo123
321mambo123

i'm guessing alot of halo 3 fans would get offended by this: i think that unreal tournament 3 might be better than this game , my opinion tho..... i think that people will just think that halo3 is good because its "HALO" the first one was good but it doesnt mean the other halo games are as good as it, in my opinion resistance fall of man and gears of war look like they can match up to this but unreal tournament 3 looks like a halo killer

rosh37
rosh37

For all of you out there that want to play the beta but do not want to shell out the cash for crackdown just run to the nearest rental store and pick up crackdown for 5 to 10 bucks. Rented titles do allow you to download and play the beta. Just a thought

Bond007dude
Bond007dude

I haven't played this, as I have not a 360 or Crackdown or friend that has so. Given the competence of the game industry though, they should have let me right the review...OF THE FINAL VERSION! QUOTE "The models themselves now feature RAG_DOLL PHYSICS [woot], meaning that dead bodies will bend and buckle according to the environment around them. When you're alive and you look down, you can now see your legs." UNQUOTE wow...out of all the people in the entire world...they get some guy who hasn't even played Halo 2 (even though he says here ("Halo 3 looks and plays like a much-prettier version of Halo 2") that he has) to write the review...way to go game industry! yeah man for your next review you should get some 8 year old kid that thinks the word "Mario" is a brand of pizza to write your reviews

ShadeShadow
ShadeShadow

The beta is the sh*t. graphics awsome and new controls not that hard to get use to. I notice that team training turn into BTB training after the first week. Will bungie Change things in the beta every week to keep it new and fresh. maybe they'll add a new map or new vehicle or weapons. Hear me out they added the banshee and maybe the wraith or scorpion. That would be awsome.

Tombackman_5
Tombackman_5

This beta is sick as hell, and the final game is gonna be even better. So why even discuss its non-existent shortcomings? It was a beta, and the game will be better! Try to understand that! And If you would have made it better, go do it, haters!

True_Blu3
True_Blu3

Devious, IT IS A BETA! Shocking isn't it? Such an awesome BETA will have an actual game that will have better visuals and awesome-er visuals.

xchannelsx
xchannelsx

Yup, i just bought crackdown, i thought the game would suck, but after playing, i gotta say thats some insane **** right there, crackdown rocks dude, and as a plus it comes with the beta, wich is also veeeery good, the perfect package!!!

hchir
hchir

Please die Halo!

devious122799
devious122799

THIS IS A BETA?????? It plays better than ALL of the betas I have played in my life. It is "DEMO" quality,...not beta. The beta is fantastic,...I mean tens of thousands of gamers playing a beta 6,7,8 hours straight! Thats finished game numbers there. I dont care if there are no more improvments made from the beta,....I'll pay $60 for the way it looks and sounds right now. As limited as the beta is,.....3 maps and such I still piss off my wife with a 9.5 hour killing spree. Thats quality! Ihave bought many games and been disappointed, I play a free beta and forget my $500 worth of games. Unreal. Thanx Bungie

creolbuay
creolbuay

Yeah the demo is awesome this is the best marketing hype for Halo3, nothing like hearing people say, I played the demo and it is SICK.... Anyway, I played it for about an hour then it fried my 360. Can't do anything other than watch the startup animation and browse the panel pages. I called Microsoft and they will get it taken care of for me. I was also told by the CS Rep that in the next couple of months that there may be an upgrade program to allow current 360 owners upgrade to the elite, nothing concrete as yet tho. He said that they were getting huge amounts of requests for such an option and the marketing people are seriously looking in to it. Lets cross our fingers people.

cash_sf
cash_sf

The graphics are not so good as promised, but I believe that the single player campaign will be mutch mutch better than that. Remember that Rainbow 6 has an absoluthly sh*t graphics in multiplayer, and it's one of the most played game online. So Halo3 can be the best of ever, and will be the best for sure. Thanks Bungie to this awesome playable beta thing they figured out! HALO RULZ FOREVA! :)

PyroX4414
PyroX4414

I don't have the BETA but my reservation is in. I have been looking at screens and footage and am totally amped for the release! And may I add a thank you to those who have made these images and movies available as coverage of the BETA hasn't been all that extensive.

wertyall
wertyall

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

ALARMVIRUS
ALARMVIRUS

even though its a beta its still feels solid and vastly improved over the other two games, fun modes, improved match making system, new weapons balances out the amount of cheapness the other players can have, the strategy of choosing your weapons right is pure genious, graphic keep in mind a beta are crisp and nice, they do a good job of keeping the polygon count low, but all in all halo 3 is just gonna be amazing bar none, so people dont set your standards high cause by doing so your just gonna let yourself down.

Mush_Mouth
Mush_Mouth

I think I'd like this game a lot more if I didn't end up hating basically every kid who talks trash over their headset...thank god for mute. anyways, I have yet to be impressed with a halo game when compared to all the pc shooters out there.

steve1016
steve1016

first of all,i believe that this is just the beta version,there are much more things can be improve before the final release.But just don't forget,the game will launch on sept 25,do u really think that Bungies can do much more improvement for the graphics?In this short period of 4 more months?At least,i really don't think so. I cannot defy that the graphics of HALO 3 Beta are good enough,but if we compare it with those trailer on E3,its actually not good enough.

Sacif
Sacif

Try playing the first 2 halos before writing about a third one plz. rofl

kevy619
kevy619

the game is fun as hell

bigpjdog69
bigpjdog69

I have played the beta for about a total of 9 hours, and I came across very impressed. The controls are very polished at this point, as are the graphiics. Can somebody tell me how to jump as high as the other players on-line?

joeyfine
joeyfine

played the beta. impressed by what i saw. good controls, graphics.. im sorry for all my bad feels.

Lane_McNair
Lane_McNair

I'm not sure the writers of this artical have ever played Halo 2... "The models themselves now feature rag-doll physics, meaning that dead bodies will bend and buckle according to the environment around them. When you're alive and you look down, you can now see your legs." Umm... Last time I checked, Halo 2 had both of these things.

Team666
Team666

Never been a huge HALO fan... I enjoy playing it but don't get all hot and bothered for it... mostly because I'm not that good... and many of you take this game way to seriously. I tried the beta... and it looks and plays really good... but HALO has always been a great game... so the enhancements will make it that much better. Not sure what the complainers are looking for... do you want it to look life-like... do you want even more weapons... more things to fly and drive... I’m just not sure what else would make you people happy... what more do you want?

Spankman
Spankman

hey just reading down the comments and i gotta say that raven2510 has no idea what he's talking about. first of all, duh your looking is slow, so turn up the sensitivity!! And I dual wield, as well as thousands of others, so again, he hasn't played enough. The grenades? in the alpha, the grenade throwing was just like halo 2. but for the beta, which he claims he's played, the grenades can go SO MUCH FARTHER! so raven, you may want to check your sources. and everybody else, ignore his uninformed ranting.

woofiny
woofiny

I Got The Game Last Night And I Was Impressed For a Beta, It Kicked A Lot Of Games -Beeps- Lol, I think It's Gunna Do Well When You Die In Water Your Dead Body Flots Down Stream, Just Lots Of Things. I Think Anyone Who Hasn't Should Go Buy Crackdown And Definatly Get This Beta, IT's Amazing And For 50-60$ I Don't Mind The Halo3 - Crackdown Combo

Kooken58
Kooken58

have the people here talking crap about the graphics and stuff probably never even played a Beta game. MOST beta's are buggy with all kinds of glitches and the graphics are usually not the finished product. Reason why they launch beta's is to get an idea how the game is going to run before they launch it. So stop **** and be glad you get to play the game before many other people...

Alcotamaysees
Alcotamaysees

I'm dissapointed. I have yet to see anyone get sniped while being launced from a man cannon.

kindredmachine
kindredmachine

I just got done playing the BETA and I can tell you for sure that they are definately not the final graphics. Bungie keeps saying that the game WILL look the the original E3 trailer.

akka
akka

raven2510...This is a BETA. It isn't the final game, far from it. If you expected a completly spiff and polished demo you were wrong. If you can't use a PP|BR combo that isn't Bungie's fault. I have seen many people use that combo. It is called balancing. Bungie reduced the homing from the PP to make it more even since Halo 2's PP|BR combo was unbalanced. Think about what you are playing before you say anything. Don't start judging the game months before it even comes out.

raven2510
raven2510

well from what i see and have played on the beta. i might not get H3. the beta is horrible. you look up and down to slow. the weapons are to powerful and nobody duel wields anymore. you cant throw grenades worth a crap and the plasma pistol and BR combo doesn't work anymore. if this is what the final game is going to play like then ill stay with H2

kevy619
kevy619

that youtube video is the stupidest thing ive ever witnessed lol

DoctorFu
DoctorFu

@myster_samz, Hilarious, a Video Game journalist who hasn't played Halo before. Call Guiness Book of World Records.

myster_samz
myster_samz

Has the guy who wrote this ever played halo before? "You can now see your legs." WTF!?

xPaStorTroyx
xPaStorTroyx

http://www.bungie.net/content.aspx?link=h3betaFAQ Q: How close to final is the Beta build? A: The Beta build is a Beta build. There’s a lot of work yet to be done and many things can and will change. These include graphics, performance, features, controls, in short, everything you’re seeing in the Beta is subject to change. Q: Can I play split-screen in the Beta? A: Yes! During the Public Beta, we have chosen to support 2-way splitscreen play. That does not necessarily mean it will perform the same way or feature the same number of players in the final game. Q: In splitscreen on a widescreen HDTV, I have black borders, what gives? A: The black borders are there to maintain a correct (non-stretched) aspect ratio in widescreen splitscreen gameplay. It’s better gameplay-wise, once you get used to it, than the alternatives. Q: Can I play System Link in the Beta? There’s a System Link option, but it tells me this setting is not available when I try to host or find a System Link game. A: This setting, while visible, is not available in the Public Beta. It will of course be available in the retail game this fall. As will the “Local” setting, which is just a fancy term for splitscreen. Q: Is this the final set of weapons vehicles and levels that will ship in Halo 3? A: No. It is Beta software. This is a selection of weapons. It is subject to change. Q: Is this the final quality of the graphics and audio? A: No. It is Beta software. Q: How many/what maps/game types/weapons/vehicles are you going to ship with? A: More than the ones you are seeing in the Beta. Q: I know how to make Halo 3 better. How do I tell you guys? A: Use the forums on http://www.bungie.net/forums/halo3Beta to give us your feedback. Q: Why can’t I play custom games? A: The primary goal of the Beta is to test networking and matchmaking, so we want you to play as many matchmade games as possible! Sorry! Q: I am having trouble with networking on Xbox Live. Is there any advice you can give me? A: Yes. Networking is complicated. Here’s a brief guide to problems and you might encounter and some of their solutions.