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You've heard the haters: "Halo never changes." Halo 2 was just Halo 1 moved online. And Halo 3 is just Halo 2 with slightly prettier graphics. And ODST is just Halo 3, minus Master Chief and plus a smoky saxophone solo.
While this complaint ignores some major, game-altering additions over the years – like Forge, Theater, Service Record and Firefight – you can't say it's entirely wrong. The basic Halo multiplayer formula hasn't evolved that much since 2001, for better or worse.
Until now. Halo: Reach is different… in many ways, drastically so. Here are the 11 improvements that will shock and surprise you most when the online beta begins May 3.
Yes, fly. Through the air. Up, down, left, right, anywhere. With a goddamn jetpack pulled straight out of The Rocketeer and strapped to your back. As you simultaneously shoot, snipe, scout, toss grenades, reload, recover your health or whatever else you feel like doing while soaring dozens of feet above the ground.
Sound fun? Trust me, it is. Easy and intuitive, too. Once you've chosen the correct flight-enabled class, or "loadout," all you need to do is hold down the LB button and wait a half-second for the engine to kick in. Suddenly, you're launching smoothly into the sky, with a staggering 360 degree bird's eye view and all the other players scampering like tiny ants below your feet.
The advantages and entertainment value are obvious, but don't think you're invulnerable up there. Jetpacks require cool down, gravity still hurts and shooting players out of the air is equally as satisfying as shooting them from the air.
"You could do that before!" Yes, know-it-all reader, but not like this. Although earlier Halos included a camouflage power-up that made your shimmering, see-through form difficult to see, the effect was a temporary perk and not something you could plan an entire strategy around.
By choosing one of the stealth classes in Halo: Reach, however, you can play entire matches as a silent and deadly ghost. The power does require occasional recharging, but otherwise, you can use it as often as you like. Plus – unlike previous games – the invisibility can be switched on or off, increases as you move more slowly and jams nearby players' motion radar.
Yet the coolest thing about Reach's camouflage has to be the immersive sound effects… or complete lack thereof. Whenever the power is activated, the surrounding world is muffled and drained of noise, so that you feel almost like a shark swimming underwater, secretly stalking your unsuspecting prey.
Flight and invisibility are merely two of five "armor abilities" you select at the start of every match or between every respawn. The other three powers may not seem as spectacular on the surface, but they go just as far in rewriting Halo's overly familiar multiplayer formula: