Halo: Reach Multiplayer Beta

Cool your jets.

Hello! Like a lot of concerned citizens, for the past few weeks I've been very worried about jetpacks. How worried? Well, if I was writing about it in a text, I would write, "I'm *very worried* about all these jetpacks. (LOL)."

I don't mean I've been fretting about jetpacks because of their awful carbon footprint, or that I've been panicking over whether or not they'll spoil the nation's youth with idleness. No, I've been worrying about something far more serious: I've been worrying about how they're going to fit into Halo.

I've been worrying that they'll bust multiplayer right open, turning matches into nasty little bee storms filled with buzzing annoyances, that they'll break the game's tight convergence of weapons, environments and tactics, and that, really, they're only there as a gimmick to tempt people back from Modern Warfare 2.

I shouldn't have worried. A chance to play Reach's forthcoming multiplayer beta reveals that jetpacks in Halo are brilliant. They're not something to fear, they're something to arrange a national holiday around. They're seamlessly integrated (a squeeze of the left bumper is all it takes to shove you into the air, and you can control your pitch rather beautifully with little taps), the recharge time seems fair, and you don't even have to fret about being swamped by them: plenty of the people I play against choose to ignore jetpacks entirely in favour of different perks.

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No expense is too great for the men and women of Bungie: if they need a person to blow down a cardboard tube to simulate a realistic jetpack sound, they're just going to go out and hire somebody.

Most importantly, though, jetpacks really fit in. Spartans have always been a bit like superheroes, and so the sight of one dropping down out of the clouds to land on a nearby ledge only heightens existing similarities between the Man of Steel and the Men of MJOLNIR.

Halo already has a long tradition of fairly airy multiplayer maps, too, which means the skymindedness you get from having a rocket on your back as well as on your arm has merely opened up the design even further. Outdoors environments are now filled with unobtrusive little ledges to flit yourself up towards, while indoor spaces now have lofty atriums to blast around in, and corridors to bring you back down to earth again.

Because you won't always have a jetpack with you, they haven't been allowed to take over the maps. At the very least, however, they'll give you a reason to play some of them in dramatically different ways.

But enough about jetpacks (a line you only ever get to write in a select handful of situations). Jetpacks are just a single piece of a far more significant change. While the multiplayer beta has a handful of new maps, weapons, and game types for you to enjoy, the biggest difference is the addition of loadouts.

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