I won't bore you with the details of my time with the PSP this weekend. I will however bring you the highlights. Monster Hunter Freedom Unite looks like a dream, but plays like a nightmare. It is a good game, with (potentially) hours of skinning, slaying and strategy, but my word is it brutally hard. I enjoyed little success on my quests, but my Felyne companion, Petunia provided some lols. I also logged a few hours with the portable version of Tekken 6, and while it looks beautiful and all the characters, and most of the modes (the modes worth playing anyway) from the home console version are present, fighting games are only half the fun if you aren't facing human competition. Further to that, some of the more subtle directional inputs possible with a PS3 controller are not possible on even the PSPgo's D-Pad.
This afternoon I managed to fit in a few matches of Halo: Reach, and I am happy to report that it has learned quite a few things from its FPS competitors. After having played Halo 3 with some buddies last weekend, I was afraid that Reach would be as (painstakingly) slow as its predecessor. This is thankfully, not the case. You can sprint (finally!), however only when fighting with a gear load-out which includes that as an armor ability. Not to say that sprint is the only ability worth using, but with it equipped, Halo: Reach does manage to capture the pace and intensity of contemporaries like Modern Warfare 2. There are 5 abilities to be used in the beta, and I imgaine Bungie may add one or two more before the retail release. The jetpack is slow, but fun. I found it especially useful during CTF matches. Evade (exclusive to Elites) is essentially sprint, but it cannot be turned off once activated. Active camouflage is great for sniping but ineffective (not entirely, but still compromised somewhat) when moving. I am yet to use Armor Lock because it sounds pointless. Sure you become invulnerable, but you can't move. Essentially what it means to me is that when in use, armor lock would render me impervious to harm, however my enemies would need only run behind me to assassinate me once the effect has expired. I would not be able to evade my enemies' impending attack from behind. I'll give it a go sometime before the 19th, but I'm sure I won't appreciate it as Bungie intended.
Sprint (and Evade) better enable you to perform assassinations, elaborately (for Halo) animated melee attacks from behind that will kill the unlucky recipient. Since Halo hasn't traditionally seen excessive amounts of blood spattered throughout its online battlefields (and Reach is no exception), the assassinations do not make their intended visual impact. Bungie had indicated that they anticipate the assassination to replace teabagging in the near future. Due to the lack of viscera however, I am sure that we will see young gamers squatting on the faces of the fallen for years to come. So far the assassinations look and feel like a missed opportunity, as hitting an opponent from behind with a melee attack does not necessarily equate to a fancy one hit kill animation. Sometimes it just looks like it always had previously in Halo-land, a king hit to the back of the head.
The two maps I've played on are the usual vertical Halo fare. Powerhouse reminds me an awful lot of High Ground, except slightly more ravine-ish and bereft of vehicles. Sword Base (silly name, ha!) is a winding, multi-level complex with several quality vantage points that are easily accessible. I'm yet to have a match on Boneyard, but it is a long time until Wednesday.
Throughout my matches I have only encountered one new weapon, and I had access to it from my first spawn. The new default Elite weapon, the Needle Rifle is for all intents and purposes, a Covenent version of the Battle Rifle. It looks better than a Battle Rifle, mainly because of the pretty colours, but it is used in the same fashion (hint: aim for the head). Melee hits are quicker, but also weaker. This change has not brought an end to the popular strategy of running at an opponent, showering them with bullets and finishing them off with a melee hit. It has however managed to lower the success rate of this methodology. Even with the Armor Abilites, Halo: Reach plays very similarly to its predecessors, but it does feel as though there has been enough added to warrant interest in the final release.
To those of you who have Halo 3: ODST and a Gold Subscription, I recommend that you jump in and play a few matches just to see what has changed, and as what is most often the case in Halo: Reach, what has stayed the same. So far I've had quite a bit of fun, and I intend to get in quite a few matches more before the end of the beta. The only negative I have to report, which is to be expected, is the unbelievable pettiness, rudeness and puzzling homophobia of the Xbox Live community. After completing my last Stockpile match of the afternoon, a player sent me a message implying I was stealing points from them. To give a little bit more background, Stockpile requires players to deliver flags littered throughout the battlefield to their team's safe zone. After 60 seconds, you are given points for any flags that are in your safe zone. While defending my teams's stockpile, a friendly had been dispatched and a group of enemies began stealing flags. I threw a few grenades to handle the red menace and then quickly returned the stolen flags to the safe zone. So from this I can conclude that my efforts to consolidate the team's victory were not appreciated, and not all the blues were working toward a common goal, rather for their own personal gain. I am yet to encounter this sort of criticism while playing FPS titles over the PSN. I can attribute this to the following: a) Bluetooth headsets are much more expensive than the standard, wired 360 headset, b) A wired headset comes free with Xbox 360 Elite consoles. Whether these are the main reasons the Playstation 3 online community prefer to play silently or not, thank you gouging games retailers for expensive headsets.
Has anyone else had a go at the Halo: Reach Beta? Does anybody play on both Xbox Live and the Playstation Network? If so, which do you prefer?