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Bungie's "community guy " Brian Jarrard and Halo: Reach creative director Marcus Lehto were on-hand at X10 to provide a much deeper look into the workings of Reach, what they are calling "the best Halo yet" and "the most ambitious title Bungie has ever produced." The duo talked us through many of the changes being made to the established Halo formula, and new elements they believe make this "the definitive Halo experience."

Lehto talked about the team's desire to "throw new things at the player," building on the hallmark underpinnings of previous Halos and even changing some things to suit the new game's more serious tone, but said Bungie wouldn't "be pushing it." Another key goal with Reach, according to Lehto, is to "reintroduce the Covenant," by both making them look different -- more alien, more savage -- and giving established enemies new behaviors. It was also mentioned that, to keep with the more realistic tone of Reach, players won't be able to understand what the Covenant are saying.
On the tech front, Lehto confirmed that the game engine has "been entirely re-written" in order to facilitate what Bungie wants to do in Reach. Specifically, its goal is to make the world more expansive, put a lot more on-screen and introduce much more detailed character, environment and weapon models. Addressing the former, Bungie showed a test animation of a battle between Noble Squad, eight marines and 30 Covenant -- it was even more impressive looking than it sounds. We got zoomed-in looks at things like rifle scopes, which are detailed down to small writing and screws.

The game is pushing about four million polygons more than Halo 3 overall, we were told, with a completely re-written animation system and A.I. The result, Bungie hopes, will be a much more realistic world to look at and be involved with. From the stills and footage we saw, it's on track to deliver -- the game looks phenomenal. It promises to sound great, too, as every sound effect has been re-recorded.

Lehto told us the revamped game engine and A.I. will allow Reach to adopt a more "sandbox" style within its levels. They're going to be much less linear, he said, and much less scripted. This will, Bungie hopes, give players more freedom to approach combat in their own way. One thing we saw along these lines: Special kills, which cause the camera to pull out to a third-person perspective in order to show off their intricate animations.

We were shown a live demo of one of the maps being included in the upcoming Reach beta. The cliff-top locale certainly was expansive, with a mix of indoor and outdoor areas. This area will evidently serve dual (duel?) purposes as a campaign setting and multiplayer map. While Jarrard ran through it, we got a good look at the revamped battle rifle and a new Covenant weapon, the Needle Rifle, which allows players to combine ammo for a single, much more explosive shot. It was also revealed that health packs are back, and that equipment you pick up during the single-player campaign (the example shown was an enhanced sprint ability) won't be single-use -- you'll keep it from there on out.

According to Bungie, Halo: Reach is currently in alpha. What it showed today definitely got us excited about the much larger, more detailed world and overall heightened realism.

This article was originally published on Joystiq.

Joystiq @ the Microsoft X10 media event