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Halo: Reach Review

Blake_Morse By:
Blake_Morse
09/13/10
PRINTER FRIENDLY VERSION
EMAIL TO A FRIEND
GENRE Action 
PLAYERS 1- 16 
PUBLISHER Microsoft Game Studios 
DEVELOPER Bungie Software 
RELEASE DATE  
M Contains Blood, Violence

What do these ratings mean?

Kingdom Come.


When you go to see a film based off tragic historical events such as Titanic or Pearl Harbor, you already know how it's going to end. At some point in the movie, things are going to take a turn for the worst and everyone is going to end up royally screwed. Leo is going to drown and it's going to be one bad day for Hawaii. It's just the way it is, because that's how it happened.

click to enlargeNow in the world of video games, you usually don't run into this issue, because there's no real history involved. But when it comes to Halo, there is a history - one that's been laid out in an unhealthy healthy number of spin-off novels, comic books, and direct sequels. As the last game that Bungie plans on making in the series, Halo: Reach has a lot of hype and expectations that it has to live up to, especially when everyone knows how it's going to end: badly.

But does it live up to your hopes and dreams of what it should be? The short answer: Yes.

That's all you wanted to know, right? You can now go buy the game in complete confidence because you totally didn't pre-order this thing a year ago and aren't waiting in line at a midnight launch and I can go take a nap instead of writing a long-winded review about how cool everything in Reach is. Sounds good to me.

What's that? Some of you are actually skeptics and want me to make a convincing argument? *sigh* All right, I'll do it. But then I'm going to sleep play it until my eyes burn.

We'll start at the core of any exceptional Halo game: the combat. What impressed me most about the way Reach plays is that it's a perfect combination of all the previous Halo titles. It's hard not to get nostalgic for Halo 1 and 2 while playing through Halo: Reach. And while the lack of dual-wielding weapons will divide some fans, it's much more balanced without it.

click to enlargeThat being said, this game is tough. I can usually beat a Halo game at the very least on Heroic difficulty, but I found myself struggling to get through just the first major firefight. I had to give up and set the difficulty to “Normal” after dying twenty-some-odd times at the beginning of level two. Even seasoned veterans will find this to be no walk in the park.

You play as regular old Spartan, not an 8-foot-tall Master Chief stomping on grunts like they were ants. As such, enemies are much tougher to defeat, just like they were in last year's ODST. Only this time you've got new skills to augment your personal playing style. Jet packs, hologram decoys, and healing bubble shields lend a new balance and adds more depth to the strategy, especially in competitive multiplayer matches. (The jet pack totally makes me jones for Tribes 2.)

And of course, there's a ton of multiplayer features. Much like a Christmas goose, as much as is humanly possibly has been crammed into every nook and cranny of Reach. And then they made almost everything completely customizable to the point of ridiculousness. If you want a low gravity, hammers-only King of the Hill match, go right ahead and have one, or if you'd prefer to do a one-hit kills Team Deathmatch, do that instead.

The Forge is back as well for those bold and patient enough to create the ultimate map. Firefight mode has also been greatly improved upon since its last appearance, allowing for massive 4-on-4 fights to the death. It's a cross between Left 4 Dead's Versus mode and Gears of War 2's Horde mode, but with Elites and Spartans instead of zombies and subterranean terrorists.

click to enlargeEqually as impressive is the immersive plot supporting the campaign mode. The Noble Squad, of which you play its newest member, the faceless Noble 6, did not know what they were in for when they woke up today. Without giving too much away, the trials and tribulations that you will face in Noble Squad are nothing short of epic and that there's a face behind all those masks (except yours, of course) endears them to you.

This is the big push, the one last hurrah - not just for you, but for Bungie as well. They knew they had to go out in style and the campaign mode succeeds triumphantly. Not a single telepathic plant that looks like something out of the Little Shop of Horrors, or any odd religious convolution, can be seen here. It's just a group of soldiers who are stuck in the proverbial crap and trying to climb their way out. You could almost equate it to Saving Private Ryan, but that might be giving it just a little too much credit.

Visually, everything has been reworked from the ground up for a vivid experience. Nor does it suffer from the paradox of technology being better in the past than in the future, like the Star Wars prequel movies did, by keeping the tech in line with what we're already used to. And being able to unlock armor upgrades and customize your character is awesome. I totally made my dude look like the most teched-out stormtrooper in the world.

On a minor note, it would have been nice to see the armory have some actual upgrades that aren't just cosmetic. It didn't have to be anything big, maybe more ammo capacity or a slight boost to shields. After I save enough credits to make my Spartan sound like Cortana, there's really nothing more that I feel driven to unlock.

While no game will ever be perfect, Halo: Reach is as close as Bungie is going to get with the series, and I think they knew that going in. So they did their damndest to make sure it lived up to its namesake, probably even more so than Halo 3 did. So pick up your needler, or sniper rifle, or plasma rifle, or 9mm, and lock and load for one last mission. It's going to be one hell of a day for you and the rest of Noble Team. Let's see who makes it out alive.
A Revolution report card
  • Perfect franchise fusion
  • Challenging
  • New abilities and technology
  • Improved Firefight mode
  • Deathmatch heaven
  • Custom Spartans
  • +/- Lack of dual-wield

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Also known as: Halo Reach


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