Halo Reach Review
A culmination of the Halo experience packed into one game
With a series that has sold over 20 million copies of Halo games, one wouldn’t suspect anything less than a “grade A” game for this final installment from Bungie to the Halo franchise. For most of the ride, we’ve followed the silent, battle-hardened Spartan, Master Chief. In the Halo games, other Spartans are sparsely seen or talked about. Halo: Reach sheds some light on the Spartan culture and why Master Chief is seemingly the only Spartan throughout the series.
Halo: Reach focuses on events leading up to the first Halo game, Halo: Combat Evolved. The story follows an elite squad of Spartan soldiers known as Noble Team and you play as the sixth, and newest, member of that team. The alien intruders, known as the Covenant, have infiltrated and begun attacking a human-claimed world called Reach. Noble Team heads up multiple high priority missions attempting to stint the Covenant’s onslaught.
Throughout most of the campaign levels, you (playing as Noble Team’s number six) run from point “A” to point “B” through hordes of enemy crossfire, constantly backing up your team with return fire. There is very little down time in the campaign mode which means your trigger finger’s lust for battle is constantly being fed.
Those who have played, and loved, each of the Halo games will undoubtedly feel a constant pang of nostalgia while playing through Reach since Bungie has reported that this is the closing game for the Halo series. If you haven’t played a Halo title before, you’ll not be left out of Reach’s storyline since this is a prequel to the series.
The campaign mode is quite the shuffle from previous Halo games as you’ll be hesitant to select the “Legendary” difficulty mode every time. Bungie has improved the enemy’s AI and instead of just making the enemies have more health or tougher shields, they predict flight paths of slower moving projectiles (like rockets and grenades) and are harder to hit. When switching from Halo 3 or Halo: ODST’s brute-filled enemyscape, it becomes all the more difficult when having to deal with “jumpy” Elites.
The tone of speech and character dialog is something games are striving for cinema quality on, and Halo: Reach, succeeds in a number of ways in this area, but occasionally friendly soldiers can throw off the dramatic effect of the game with repeated tacky one-liners. Overall though, the jargon and tone of casual, and military, conversations help to support the main characters in Reach’s Campaign mode.
The music composition in Halo: Reach has some of the best scores in the Halo franchise. At times the music pumps you through a tough firefight, and at others, is somber enough to make you appreciate the unfortunate turn of events.
The visuals in Halo games have always been similar in style, yet different in atmosphere and setting. This slight change helps the player to have a fresh experience while still having the feeling that they’re playing a Halo game. Halo: Reach has slightly better graphics than previous Halo games, but overall, the change in scenery and character will be more noticeable than the improved graphics which still struggle to keep up with today’s standards (such as Battlefield: Bad Company 2, or Final Fantasy 13 and 14).
There are some new vehicles to ride in Halo: Reach. A couple stand out, like the mini twin-seater Covenant tank called the Revenant, or the spaceship Sabre you get to fly for a level, but most aren’t anything too special (unless you’ve really been aching to finally ride those forklifts you blew up in Halo 3).
As far as an arsenal goes, the members of Team Noble have usage of a slightly different breed of guns than Master Chief had. Although most of the guns are tweaked variations of previous Halo weaponry, there are a few completely new creations. There’s a good variety between the new additional weapons. On the precision end of firepower, there’s the Needle Rifle, Focus Rifle, and DMR, while on the explosive end there’s the Grenade Launcher, Concussion Rifle, Plasma Launcher, and the most devastating portable weapon in the game, the Target Locator.
Last, but not least, in the new additions to Halo: Reach is the armor abilities. Armor abilities are somewhat similar to the equipment items in Halo 3—they allow you to briefly perform a special action (such as sprint, become invulnerable in place, or jetpack into the air). Unlike equipment from Halo 3, the armor abilities are reusable after a cool down period, to use again and again until you switch out that armor ability for another. These armor abilities definitely add a lot to the game and change things up in campaign mode and particularly in multiplayer matchmaking mode.
After you finish the game’s campaign mode, the end of this game’s play value hardly diminishes. There are multiple game modes that offer an extensive replay value to the game. Depending on the mode you choose to play you will be allowed to play with friends, others online, or alone.
Match making allows you to play against other players online, known friends, or strangers. The maps are quite large and there are plenty of game types that give you certain objectives to accomplish in order to win. Modes found in Halo 3 are all here, like “Slayer”, “Capture the Flag”, and “King of the Hill”, but there are also new game modes like “Head Hunter” (where you pick up flaming skulls from players killed), “Stock Pile” (capture as many opposing team flags as you can to gain your team points), Firefight (a four player cooperative survival challenge), Invasion (two teams where you can play as Spartans or Elites), and a host of other game types.
A variety of armor add-ons as well as aesthetic effects for your playable character can be purchased with points from a point system earned from accomplishing daily, weekly, and standard challenges and just by playing any mode in Reach. These upgrades, even though they’re just for looks, are very cool and are a great incentive to play for hours on end.
Much like Halo 3, Reach comes with a Forge mode where you’re able to create your own levels to play with your friends. If you’re thinking about comparing Reach’s Forge mode to Halo 3’s Forge mode—don’t, since you’ll never go back to Halo 3 to use Forge again. Forge in Reach has been improved in a few important areas. The main change being that larger items (such as walls, doors, floors, and pillars) remain stationary when placed in the level and can float in the air if not attached to anything. When using Reach’s Forge, you’ll also notice that moving objects around is a much smoother process as there is now an added coordinates option to select in order to move objects on a set grid to “snap” pieces into perfect placement. The only drawback to Reach’s Forge is that there is still no “undo” option for when you accidently delete an object or move it in a wrong direction which, if you use Forge much, you’ll find yourself openly questioning Bungie what caused this oversight.
With a high expectation to live up to being the last Halo game, Halo: Reach soars above the bar delivering an impressive campaign experience and endless hours of online game play.