Yesterday we brought you a hands-on gameplay preview of a Halo Reach mission called Nightfall - a stealthy Recon episode that eased us into Bungie's epic.
Mission 2, Tip of the Spear, was a more intense affair - where we had the chance to reek a little havoc on Reach...
TIP OF THE SPEAR
After the (relatively) peaceful opening to Nightfall, this explosive sortie into Covenant territory simply couldn't be more bombastic. Kicking off with a first person crash sequence, Noble Six drags himself to his feet and... well, all hell breaks loose. Plasma Cannon fire flies about Noble Team's helmets, rock hard Elite Zealots charge us with abandon, Grunts work in teams to isolate us... we died lots, and you will too.
The boulder-strewn tundra this opening salvo kicks off upon is pure sandbox; a distillation of everything Halo into one hell-for-leather Battle Royale. It's electric. Luckily, we're supported by plucky female Spartan Kat.
She may be lacking an arm, but she's anything but harmless - wielding her DMR rifle like a metal Valkyrie. The mission also gives us the chance to test out the M319 Grenade Launcher with its bouncing projectiles - watching them bound towards scarpering Grunts, Dambusters-stylee, before blowing seven to kingdom come guarantees giggles.
Once the Covenant scum have been suppressed and we can finally exhale, we steal a quick glance at our surroundings. There's a markedly different visual aesthetic to this mission - the ominous night having been replaced with a hazy autumnal feel: all golds, reds, purples and browns.
Reach is a hauntingly beautiful planet, and there's a certain sense of tragedy given we've a rough idea of what's eventually going to happen to it. Then we spy it... a trusty Warthog! Leaping in - with Kat in the passenger seat and Jorge on the rocket turret - we skid off towards our next objective: neutralising a pair of colossal anti-aircraft batteries.
Again, this kind of sandbox scenario recalls Halo 3, albeit on a far glossier, wider scale. Gazing into the horizon past a huge reservoir, we spy a terrific battle raging in the background - as Covenant Scarabs clash with UNSC forces. In terms of transmitting the feel of a 'world' war, Reach's graphics engine comes up trumps. It's the culmination of Bungie's decade-long vision, finally made into flesh and steel.
In this freeform battlefield, we soon dump the 'hog for a Covenant Ghost - after all, few thrills in gaming match using its boost ability to ram fleeing foes. The new T52SAR Focus Rifle also eschews laughs - take aim at an Elite, told down the R Trigger for a few seconds to charge the beam, and release to unleash a devastating dose of sustained burning pain. Next stop: an overrun mining facility policed by enemy forces.
It's yet another glorious piece of structural design, crammed with girder-heavy architecture perfect for cheeky Jet Packing sniper types to hide about, giant petrol tanks to detonate in spectacular fashion... and the corpses of unfortunate human miners.
The orchestral accompaniment to this foray recalls a funeral dirge - series soundtrack impresario Marty O'Donnell has outdone himself with Reach; the jazz strains of ODST having been swapped for electro, rock and classical compositions. It's eclectic yet hauntingly evocative - indisputably Halo.