Beta beta beta

Remember that robot on Buck Rogers? I don’t think it ever said anything else or my brain remembers nothing other than that — which is true of the entire show really — and yes, it wasn’t quite “beta” but more likely “bitta.”

Don’t worry, this post isn’t about that robot or betta fish or math or physics or fraternities or the Greek alphabet. It is about the Halo 3 Multiplayer Beta test. The one I mentioned a bit in my Crackalackin post.

For the uninitiated — I’m willing to bet you didn’t get this far — “beta” is a term attached to software that isn’t quite finished and tested, but needs some wider end-user abuse and use. It comes after an “alpha” test, which is usually a really rough build that the developers muck around with. Google and Yahoo users may be familiar with the term as all their products seem to be forever in beta while everyone is using them.

Oh, and should you wonder what the heck “beta” really is, you aren’t Greek or a math/science prodigy and don’t know it is the second letter in the Greek alphabet after — wait for it — Alpha.

Anyway, none of that has anything to do with Halo 3 per se, I’m just stalling for time because I don’t necessarily know that I’m going to like what comes out the rest of the way…

To say that most of the gaming world is waiting for September 25th like a kid for Christmas is an understatement. This is the most anticipated game since the Xbox 360 launched… unless you count when you got to the end of the Halo 2 campaign and got what I guess you can call a cliffhanger, but what I call not finishing the planned story so they could get it out the door. I don’t know that that’s what really happened, but boy it sure felt like it.

So, I was going to write this post after playing just one game. One game!

Statements like that can make you think two things, right? It was either incredible or it… sucked. Hard.

Yup, I was going to go with that last one. This morning, or rather, this afternoon — I was Crackalackin until the wee morning hours… it’s an addiction and a problem — I decided to give it another shot when I saw that Poe Ghostal was playing.

He (Jason/Poe) has been posting a lot on Halo 3 over the last few months and to say that he’s excited is an understatement. He’s been begging, pleading and (dare I say) whining for Ed and I to play with him, so this morning I figured I’d do just that and see if the game were better with someone I know. We played a good mix (I guess) of games across the different options available for the six games we shared. I played one on my own before we could sync up.

Anyway, that brings the total count to eight and while I don’t think that’s enough to make a good call on it, that’s probably not going to rise much unless I get bored with or finish Crackdown. I don’t see either happening before the June 10th beta end, but we’ll see.

While I feel like I didn’t suck as hard as I did the first game, I didn’t get any sense of enjoyment out of the games either. Feel free to laugh at my stats and see the games played on my Bungie Halo 3 stats page. I think it has a lot to do with the 506 multiplayer Halo 2 games I played.

Rampant cheating, screaming children, racist rednecks and stupidity and/or ignorance sapped the will and enjoyment of playing out of me. I haven’t played any non-Friend co-op games over XBL since Halo 2. I don’t think Halo 3 will be any better. Sure, you have to push-to-talk in-game, and then only to teammates (apparently), it doesn’t keep from getting non-team-players or asshats on your team. Out of the eight games, one featured a racist homophobe and another just screaming during the load. I’m an old man, I don’t need that crap.

I could go on and on about the poor on-line experience of multiplayer, but I don’t care to even document it enough to do it proper justice. Everyone has a tolerance and mine is pretty low when it comes to this. So, yeah, I’ll probably miss out on a lot of great games that could happen, but it doesn’t balance out with all the bad ones that I know will happen.

As for the game itself, Jason does a good (and lengthy) write up over at BBn. I have a few quibbles on the post that I’ll likely touch on as a comment, but overall, I echo his thoughts on things like the visuals and the sound. My gawd… the sound is very well done. I had it cranked today and it was immersive.

For other stuff, here’s a short list:

  • First thing I noticed in the first game I played was the grass and flowers in the fields of Valhalla. Amazing. Then you notice the water, which is also well done. These maybe Halo 2.5 graphics and not what we might have wanted, but they are excellent nonetheless. Of course, I’ve never booted up Halo 2 on my HD set either, but imagine that won’t improve things that much to get near this. I imagine there will be even more polish in the final version, plus maybe even a little more improved, finer details within the campaign.
  • The visual effects for the weapon’s fire were also really cool, as well as their new 3-D-ness.
  • The only exception is that grenades are now sometimes hard to spot with their new coloring.
  • Another new effect that I like and don’t like is the Chief’s in-helmet HUD (heads up display… aw, who am I kidding, you know what that means if you read this far). The data is at the edges and warps a little due to the curve of the glass, which is way cool, but sometimes I couldn’t read stuff depending on the outside scenery.
  • Hate the controller changes from H2 to H3. I’m sure I’ll get used to it, but it is no longer what we are used to from the first two games, which was perfect.
  • Driving feels different to me… can’t put my finger on why.
  • Character physics seem different too. Perhaps on both of these two I am just so messed up from Crackdown.

I’m sure I forgot a thing or two here. That’s okay, it can save until the actual game is out, yeah?

Speaking of that, I can’t wait for it, but I’ll take the single player (and a co-op over XBL this time around please) campaign. The story is half this game and the multiplayer fragfests the beta provided obviously give us no hints on how that will go.

T-minus four months…