Why Halo Reach Lacks Class, And Is Better For It

Bungie says it's never been a follower, preferring instead to forge its own way. So when Reach doesn't follow the typical class-based shooter template for its multiplayer, it's no great surprise.

"We certainly aren’t blind to what’s going on in the community and what’s going on in the market," says Reach executive producer Joseph Tung when asked about his series being eclipsed in Xbox Live popularity by Call of Duty. "At the same time we absolutely do not look at that game and go, well, what do we need to do to be like that game."

Instead, Tung says the bar to which Bungie hold themselves comes from their previous games: "We’re really quite self-critical internally. It’s much less about, hey, we need to have these ten features because title X has these features; it’s much more about do we really think the game is fun yet? Are we going to be proud of this game? Are we going to enjoy playing this game? Honestly those are the questions that drive Bungie internally."

Tung was the multiplayer producer on Halo 3. So when it came time to raise that bar for Reach's multiplayer, the broad goal was to keep everything that works - the "Halo magic" to use Tung's phrase - and then push it as far as possible without it breaking.

"It’s a balancing act," says Tung. "You know, you decrement the number of bullets in the assault rifle by one and there’s one player out there who thought that that was the most important thing about the assault rifle. So it’s always a real challenge for us, and I think that this time around we’ve pushed it pretty far."

Along with customisable load-outs, the new Spartans versus Elites mode in Invasion, and all the ways you can tweak your Firefight experience, one of the biggest changes to Halo multiplayer comes with the armour abilities. These are reusable items, equipped whenever you respawn, that allow you to turn invisible, boost your shield and heal, fly with a jet pack and even create a decoy hologram of yourself, amongst other abilities.

Just don't call them classes.

"Choice is one of those things [the team believes is core and sacred]to Halo multiplayer," says Tung. "We don’t want to lock you into the sniper for the entire round if you don’t want to play as the sniper for the entire round.

"We wanted to make [armour abilities]more meaningful and make it a choice that you stick with and has more long-term impact, as opposed to Halo 3 where you used the equipment and it was gone. At the same time, we didn’t want to make a class-based game. So in Reach you have the ability to switch between load-outs once you die."

In a nutshell, the armour abilities don't define your role, but instead they supplement it and expand the palette of options the player has at any one moment.

"Certainly there are guys at Bungie who the armour abilities do give an opportunity to play a different role in a multiplayer game than they’ve been able to do in the past," says Tung. "Because they’re not the best sniper, they’re not the best headshot guy with the DMR, but now they can pick the load-out with drop shield and they can sort of function as a medic for the team. We saw that happening a lot in the studio. It’s more of a lightweight role that still allows you to change if you want, or to adapt to certain situations - you know, in a particular CTF map, you might start out wanting the jet pack and then on defence you might want to switch to armour lock, for example."

My experience with Reach's multiplayer suggests this is absolutely true. Being naturally inclined towards stealth play, I frequently opted for the active camo armour ability that turns you practically invisible while motionless. Useful for a sniper, you might think, but also remarkably effective when lurking in a thoroughfare ready for a melee attack. It's great for sneaking into the enemy's base undetected, yet at the same time highly useful when defending your own base - the enemy thinks he's got your flag all to himself until you deliver a headshot while stealthed.

With Halo Reach due next month, and hopefully many of you having had time with the beta a couple of months back, what are you most looking forward to with Reach's multiplayer? Do you think Bungie is on the right track?


    I had a blast in the Beta. The tweaks to movement speed and jumping, along with the armour abilities and weapons made the game feel fresh (if that's possible) and a lot of fun.

    I'm looking forward to the eventual size of Reach's overall scope. Invasion is an interesting gametype, and I can't wait to see what the forgers start pulling off. Very hyped for the game, but I can see why people are nonplussed about it too.

    Have you had a play with a near final build David? Or were the media days only available in the States?

      I had a quick look at the latest build last week, but time was short and I spent most of it chatting with Joseph and browsing Forge, so I'm not in a position to fully comment. Forge looks incredible, I have to say.

    Yes I think they are on the right track

    So what you are saying is that the "Armour System" is basically the "Backpack System" from Red Faction : Guerrilla.


      er, no... in red faction, you find them lying around the map. in reach, you pick them at spawn, and you keep it until you die. it's more like chosing classes in TF2.

      It's a combination of both what you said and susetost. In general you will pick them at the beginning of a round, and won't be able to change, but it is possible to put them around the map to pick up and change.

    "Do you think Bungie is on the right track?"

    No. What they need to do is make a sequel to Oni.

      Hells yes.

        Agreed. I was holding out some hope that this might be their next project until they said it was a new ip. Oh well, another dream that will have to wait. I have heard there was a bit of a modding base for Oni, anyone know if they ever made anything out of it?

      If there is any good left in this world Bungie will make us an Oni sequel. All this time I've longed for them to be free of Halo for that very reason.

    The armour system? .....huh?

      meant to be in reply to oggob

    They are definitely on the right track! I was not a huge fan of Halo 3 MP, I think I played under 500 games online, when in comparison I played about 4000 games of Halo 2.

    The new modes and abilities are fantasitic and a a result, I played around 200 games during the beta period! I can't imagine how addicted I will become to Halo Reach, it's scary to think about really...

    When I played the Reach Beta it had completly different controls from Halo 3 / ODST, for no obvious reason. I'll be pretty shitty if the proper controls aren't restored as an option for the full game.

      I found Bumper Jumper pretty much the same save for the abilities. I'm not sure how you found them so drastically different.

      I agree with the controls.
      I was not happy with the melee and granade throw options and never like click zoom with my meathooks. The pre-set contoller layouts were limited.
      I'd really like to be able to personally customize my buttons.

      The new controls generally make it easier to play using the new armor abilities. Since there is no more duel wielding (I think) they no longer required the dual reload buttons, one of the main changes for the Halo 3 control scheme. It's actually quite a good setup, just takes a bit of time to get used to.

        Yeah, I think reloading and picking up weapons with the bumpers is idiotic. Just for the pure and simple fact that the way the Xbox 360 controllers are designed so that the bumpers give quick and decisive actions in game, and since the act of reloading doesn't usually need to be quick and decisive; since most of the time when your reloading your taking cover, in makes much more sense to map reload to on of the action buttons. The same thing goes for picking up a weapon, an action that is far better suited for the bumpers are melee and armor abilities. Strictly speaking, a person using melee controls on the bumpers is going to have a better chance at killing someone, purely because their response time is going to be slightly quicker. The same goes for quickly fleeing from danger with sprint, or activating armor lock at the right time.

          zero, you took the words out of my head and put them in an order that makes sense! I had a blasty playing the beta with the default controls, I was actually able to win a lot:P The Halo3 controls I've never liked, I always had to think about what I wanted to do but then it was too late... the controls for all the other Halos always seemed more intuitive to me, when I started the beta I was able to adjusted super well after the first game. See you all out there!

            Yeah, well I like bumper jumper control layout on Halo 3, essentially the same idea of melee being on the bumpers for fast response, jump being on LB is okay, but it does make sense in the H3 control scheme. Most game developers don't understand the reasoning for the design behind the bumpers, well at least not like bungie does anyway. I kinda wish more game developers would implement controls better, and using the bumpers more efficiently. Melee and other survival and quick attack functions, in my opinion should always be mapped to the bumpers.

      Actually, one of the control schemes (Recon) is almost identical to Halo 3, except X and LB are switched (LB is Ability, X is grenade switch). It's the one I used during the beta and it was a bit awkward at first, but I was happy.

      I hated the controller layout too, but a quick search found that Bungie had included a controller layout that was very similar to the Halo 3 controls (with small changes due to armor abilities). I forget what it's called, but the layout was there.

    Yeah i'm very hyped for Halo: Reach too!!

    I think the Controller Layout is perfectly fine though... I don't see anything wrong with it.

    It's the year 2010, why dont they just let us map our own damn controls like in Fallout 3. How long will devs persist with this crap?. It infuriates me in games like Mass Effect 2 where BOTH thumbstick click buttons are wasted on some useless objective indicator, when the player should be able to map them to special powers. ME1 had separate X/Y thumb sensitivity sliders for both combat and exploration scenarios, yet ME2 only had a single Low/Mid/High toggle. Why does that happen?

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