Why Halo: Reach's multiplayer is better than Halo 3's

Headhunter and Stockpile aren't even the craziest and most complicated modes I played during my hands-on hours with Halo: Reach's multiplayer. They're frantic, but the goals are relatively simple and straightforward. Not so with Generator Defense and Invasion, two additional match types that will be available in the multiplayer beta.

Both are objective-based and both pit Spartans versus Elites, demanding a great deal of planning, thinking and coordinating from the teams involved. In Generator Defense, for example, the faster and more powerful Covenant attempt to destroy three power generators while the weaker and slower Spartans work to protect them. The twist is that the defending humans can temporarily lock down a generator, making it invincible for half a minute. After that period is over, however, it can't be locked down again for several seconds and the aliens are free to bombard.

Invasion, on the other hand, is a multi-objective mode with three separate tiers of offense and defense. When played on the Boneyard map, for example, Spartans start off protecting a high ground wall. If they succeed for the duration of the match, they win. If the Elites break through, round two begins and the Spartans must watch over three additional security points. If any of those fall to the Covenant, the final objective – a data core hidden inside the Spartan's base – is revealed. If the Elites can grab that and carry it to a waiting ship, they win. Complicated enough? That's not all – as each tier unlocks, more of the map opens up and more weapons or vehicles become available. As you can guess, Invasion is rather epic.

Bungie was the first to make online multiplayer really work – and really popular – on home videogame consoles. Despite this distinction, the developer isn't too proud to borrow ideas from the competition. Especially when the competition is as good as Call of Duty: Modern Warfare and the idea is as good as experience points.

Therefore, Halo will now reward you with "credits" and increased "military ranks" for completing "challenges" during your multiplayer career. Sound familiar? Unlike Infinity Ward's franchise, however, these points are not allocated automatically and upgrades are not handed out in a predictable pattern. Instead, you'll be able to access Reach's "Armory" and spend the credits on whatever new armor you like. Plus, your customized appearance will carry over into the single player campaign.

If you're like me, you'll play a new Halo's multiplayer online for the first few months after release, but eventually give up and stick to custom matches with friends. I can't devote enough time to the game to keep pace with all the expert kids out there, and with the way most of them talk, I don't really have the interest either.

Bungie is hoping to solve that problem with Halo: Reach. New connection options and social settings enable you to decide what kind of Xbox Live groups you're thrown into by the servers. Players with the best connection, or fastest speed? Who speak the same language as you, or share the same level of skill? Teams that tend to talk a lot and get "rowdy"? Or prefer to stay quiet and be "polite"?

You choose. Whether Bungie can actually deliver what you ask for, though, remains to be judged.

The Halo: Reach beta begins on May 3. Stay with GamesRadar for continuing coverage, as next week we'll be posting some of the best gameplay footage you're likely to find anywhere. Also, watch for upcoming news on when you can play Halo: Reach with some of your favorite GR editors.

Apr 21, 2010