This evening I played a little over an hour of the Reach beta with my roommate and friend. What's different? Not much, but I'll touch on what I noticed and then add color with a blast from my filthy opinius.
Fewer Cocks. For now, that is. Another friend, account name "Authorities," suggested a reason: many of the real dickheads aren't there yet because they don't have codes. They didn't buy ODST because they don't play Halo for the story. They play Halo to feel like they're good at "sports." They'll be there for the major release. But for now, it's pretty quiet.
Hard to read. Whoever their graphic designer is, I should send him/her/it a graphic design book that explains why you don't decrease your leading to -15 and use sans serif, bright white fonts on a dark textured background. Text is really freaking hard to read. I know it's supposed to look all futuristic/sterile, but really guys, I want to be able to read my teammates' tags on the map. And navigate the menus without squinting.
Character classes. Like battlefield, or Modern Warfare, or whatever. Four for the Spartan, two for the elites. These have some effect on starting equipment (for the elites) and provide one of the following to the Spartans: The rocket pack, the invincibility pose (it's about Tai Chi, after all), Invisibility with the hearing impairment that happens when you're underwater, or...the ability to run. Which was usually what I chose, because I figured out the maps faster than the other players and would sprint to a good position off the bat. Kind of like paintball.
Graphics look like ODST. Which is to say, not as good as Halo 3. A little rough, even. This is probably a beta thang.
Fewer shots to die. When you're caught out in the open, you're more or less screwed this time. Which makes the power weapons less powerful in the scheme of things.
Grenade blast radius is increased. Maybe not to original Halo range, but it's there. Know what else is back?
Insurance. Not sure anybody else uses this term, but it's the tactic of throwing a grenade as you die. In Halo 3, the grenade would magically disappear, so this went away. But it's back in the beta.
Assassinations. You get stabbed in the back and stuff. I only found this irritating. A KICK ME sign would be more fun. Oh yeah, and I found myself given more time to kill enemy players when they were busy in the assassination animation. I usually left a friendly grenade at their feet.
I'm excited to find out what others think. All in all, it's not terribly "innovative," but as Xyzliac pointed out in her excellent blog on that topic, that's not always necessary. I, for one, had a pretty awesome time playing tonight. Looking forward to more of this good thing, even if it's largely the same thing.