There was an abundance of speculation when details of Halo: Reach started to weave across the information superhighway, with one of the more common thoughts being the belief Bungie were going to shake up the formula with the addition of class-based combat. They have, sort of.
There's new bits and bobs, naturally, including some large-scale objective modes, an obligatory set of new weapons and a greater focus on customisation, but upon entering your first game it's immediately noticeable how everything looks, feels, sounds and plays like Halo.
This is because, no matter which way you try and cut it, Reach is very much a traditional Halo game, complete with a bevy of Spartans decked out in impossibly colourful, shiny armour and doing big floaty jumps and going bloop boop boop boop bloop boop etc.
Halo's always been about heavy guitar riffs, with Reach no exception in this regard. And the multiplayer is also pretty popular, too. While the single-player campaign is off dealing with boring old things like human genocide and the destruction of an entire planet, over in multiplayer we're still gurning away whilst teabagging the corpses of our fallen foes. It's going to take more than a swish of Listerine to get the taste of that out of your mouth, blue team.
There are four maps included in the Beta, with two - Powerhouse and Swordbase - available for any of the traditional gametypes and two - Overlook and Boneyard - for the larger objective-based scenario modes.
All four manage to feel like traditional Halo maps, with the indoor bits often featuring an abundance of man cannons and the outdoorsy bits serving as wide-open sniper arenas. In classic Bungie tradition, each map seems draw its inspiration from a previous Halo map - Powerhouse felt more than a little similar to Halo 3's High Ground, for instance.
Returning modes include, somewhat expectedly, Slayer, Team Slayer and 1 Flag CTF. Slotting nicely into the rotation is Headhunter, my personal favourite of the new modes, which plays a lot like a wackier version of Oddball. The objective is to hoover up as many skulls as you can, with one dropping out of every killed player, and to deposit them in a marked zone that refuses to stay in one place. It's made a bit more difficult by the fact everyone holding one or more skulls is lit up on everyone else's screen, turning the whole affair into a manic scramble with the same kind of demented random element that's made Mario Kart such an enduring party title for over a decade.
Oh, and the skulls are now on fire, adding a wholly unnecessary but entirely enjoyable bit of visual flourish to the proceedings. It also makes them look like the decapitated head of Ghost Rider.
Another new mode is Stockpile, which drops a bounty of neutral flags into each level and makes the red and blue team scurry about trying to take as many of them back to a designed zone which only capture the flags once every sixty seconds. It's a bit more skill-based than Headhunter but manages to evoke similar feelings of mad panic.
The biggest new mode on offer, in terms of both scope and map size, is Invasion, which puts six teams of two into two groups - Spartans and Elites. The Elites, and their quadruple-hinged jaws, must systematically capture points across Boneyard, eventually dragging a chuffing massive generator all the way back to a Phantom to win the game. The Spartans try and stop them, with both teams getting access to bigger vehicles and more explosive weaponry as the game progresses.
One of the cleverer bits of Invasion is how the capture zones are all very svelte and compact: if a gaggle of Elites bunch up in one they'll capture the points faster, but a couple of grenades will give a crafty Spartan the easiest killstreak of their military career.