The Halo: Master Chief Collection will finally begin its journey to personal computers today as HALO: REACH is now available on both Xbox One and PC. It’s the first time that the 2010 title has been re-released, and it’s an interesting title to kick off the series’ return to PC. While not a numbered part of the franchise, it’s still a pivotal title in terms of Halo lore as it sets up the events that are seen in Halo: Combat Evolved. And now is still a great time to check it out if you skipped over it and have ignored it for the last decade or so.
Coming out a year after Halo 3: ODST, Reach wound up being the final release between Halo developer Bungie and Microsoft. Prior to its launch, the studio announced that it was partnering with Activision Blizzard for a 10-year publishing agreement. While that deal led to Destiny, Bungie still got to say goodbye to the series it had spent the last decade working on. Halo: Reach is very much a love letter to the series, and the refinement of all of Bungie’s work to that point. Not only does it deliver a fitting final chapter that closed out its series (although it was picked back up by 343 Industries), but it also brought back all the multiplayer modes that fans had come to expect. Everything from the wave-based survival mode Firefight to an expanded Forge level editor is included.
Halo: Reach is set during an intriguing timeframe as it follows a set of events that fans already knew about thanks to the novel Halo: The Fall of Reach. It takes place on a beautiful planet called Reach that serves as one of the United Nations Space Command’s most populated world alongside being a military powerhouse for them. While players already knew that the planet would face an invasion by the Covenant, and thus the story on a macro level, the game dives into the relationship between the various members of the UNSC’s Noble Team of Spartans and how they valiantly tried to fight off the invasion. Knowing how things end never made the story less compelling, and getting to see the micro level struggle that the team faces (and seeing how it tied into the events of the first Halo) still made it a must-play for fans of Halo lore. Prequels work well when it’s mostly about the journey since you know the general outcome and Reach makes that journey an enthralling one.
Halo: Reach PC will be the best way to play a classic
It shouldn’t be a hard sell to get a Halo fan to check out Halo: Reach because it released to wide critical acclaim in 2010 (GameRevolution wound up giving it a full score in our review), but the PC version makes it even better. Not only does the game feel at home with a mouse and keyboard (even as sacrilegious that might be for the predominately console-first series), but the resolution now goes up to 4K ultra high definition and supports field-of-view customization along with ultra-wide monitor support. Plus, it runs at 60 frames per second at minimum, which is double what it originally ran at on Xbox 360.
While the level editor functionality has been improved upon in recent Halo installments, there were a lot of cool levels made via Forge. It was one of the big selling points of Reach, and it will return in the remastered version on Xbox One and PC. While sadly Forge and Theater modes won’t be fully functional in the PC version until next year (as they have to work on allowing players to securely upload shared files), Xbox One players will be able to enjoy it upon launch. It’s not all bad news, though, as the Master Chief Collection team have made over 6.2 million maps and modes available to Forge, so PC players won’t be able to build just yet but they can find inspiration by checking out old creations.
Showing that this is well and beyond a slapdashed remastering attempt, the team at 343 Industries is creating some new content for Forge World and Tempest. Not only is the studio removing some of the restrictions initially placed upon Xbox 360 players (although there will still be a limit on the number of objects as it could negatively impact performance), but it is also adding a bunch of new object types as well. Players will be able to add forklifts (so you can make Shenmue in space, surely), a number of space vehicles, ammo pickups, scenery props (such as destroyed vehicles), and plenty of new structures (such as Forerunner platforms). The content that was already there was noteworthy so it is remarkable that 343 is adding to it while also spicing up what is already there. Unless it’s all technically borked (which isn’t hard to imagine, given how the Master Chief Collection launched in 2014), 343 is making these two versions the best ways to experience the game.
Halo: Reach is an interesting departure from the norm
Beyond all of the technical additions, Halo: Reach is just a great game to play. Bungie didn’t phone in its last Halo game, and even took the series in some interesting new directions. One memorable campaign level, “Long Night of Solace,” features space combat as players pilot a Sabre spacecraft. Getting to fly in outer space in a beautiful solar system is exhilarating, and players quickly get to enjoy some space dogfights as they fight off banshees. It’s a wholly unique moment that the series hasn’t been able to fully replicate despite a few attempts at space combat.
Reach even feels different from the rest of the series because of how you get to see a planet populated by humans. It’s a lived-in environment rather than a planet that is just being used to fight a war. From seeing and conversing with civilians to watching wildlife react in terror to the armed conflict taking place, the planet of Reach winds up being a very different setting from past titles. In a way, the planet is a character in and of itself, and watching it go from a wondrous beauty to having to see it get destroyed due to warfare leaves quite the impact.
Halo: Reach was the perfect send-off for the Halo series when it released in 2010, and 343 Industries has put a ton of work into making the new PC and Xbox One releases live up to its legacy. It could have faded into obscurity as the last Halo game built by its original creators. And maybe some did slip it into that category, but that’s unfair to Reach because of how incredible it truly is. The new version is an excellent chance to give the game its due because of how well it has aged as well as the new bells and whistles 343 has added for this remaster. Whether you’ve experienced its story before or have never played the prequel, this is a remastered shooter worth checking out.