After reading everything there is online about the much anticipated multiplayer Beta for Halo 3, I finally got to play it yesterday. The three level Beta was an absolute blast to play and should rejuvenate even the most grizzled of Halo 2 veterans.
The folks over at Bungie seemed to have thought about every angle, tweaking and changing things enough to keep the game fresh, but not too much as to alienate hardcore Halo 2 fans. There are new weapons, maps grenades and vehicles. There are modified old guns, the new equipment system, adjusted controls and shiner graphics.
I could easily see myself wasting tons of time playing this slice of the game, thankfully, I don't have a 360. Yet.
For those who don't relentlessly hound the Internet for info on Halo 3, the biggest change in the game if the equipment. Reloads (and all subsequent commands for X) have been mapped to the left and right bumpers on the 360 controller. The X button now uses any equipment you have, to a variety of satisfying results.
The bubble shield was by far the most enjoyable and interesting equipment available in the Beta. Upon use, the bubble shield expands around your character in, well a big bubble. This bubble is impervious to bullets and grenades, but can be passed through freely by allies and enemies alike. This causes some very entertaining situations. The first time I used the shield, I tried to walk out of it and throw a grenade, only to not run far out enough, dropping the frag into the shield and killing myself.
From protecting teammates who are holding the Oddball to getting those precious seconds while your health recharges, the bubble shield will be a welcome addition to the Halo arsenal.
The other equips weren't as exciting as the bubble shield, but should prove to be useful once the full game is released. The portable grav lift has some deep strategic uses, particularly in CTF and Assault variants. You can drop it anywhere, either to find some place high to snipe or to avoid using doors or other easily defending positions.
I had very limited experience with the trip mine, mostly killing myself the few times I acquired it. It seems like a nice lat ditch effort weapon and should be adept at racking up that new medal for getting a kill after you've died. The power drainer seemed the worst of the equipments, acting as a sort of inverted bubble shield. Instead of protecting you, the power drainer lowers the shields of anyone within its radius, eventually killing them. It also disables vehicles, which is a nice option for those without rockets/Spartan lasers.
As cool as the equipment are, weapons are the lifeblood of the Halo franchise. It is clear that some weapons needed nerfing (sword, sniper auto-aim, plasma pistol, battle rifle) and others needed a shot in the arm (brute shot, needler, pistol, SMG) from the previous game. Thus far Bungie seems to have done a good job addressing these needs.
The needler is now more powerful, reloads faster and seems overall a better gun. It cannot be dual wielded anymore for "purple rain," but it's for the better. New kids on the block, the Spartan laser, brute pistols and assault rifle (of Halo 1 fame) seem balanced and are fun to use. The laser is the only gun I am worried about as it is essentially a sniper that eats vehicles for breakfast, but time will tell.
There is just so much to talk about this relatively small sample of Halo 3. The maps are good, the guns are fun to use and balanced, the equipment adds a layer of strategy, the vehicles are a blast and seem like they may actually be useful and best of all - it still feels like Halo.
1UP has a great strategy guide on all things Halo 3 Beta which anyone who's interested should check out.
One thing I know for sure, I am probably going to be about $458.99 dollars poorer come November.