Halo Reach is quite possibly the highest profile release game of the year up alongside Starcraft II and Call of Duty: Black Ops. This is Bungie’s last Halo game before they hand the IP off to Microsoft’s 343 Studios. Intended as a love letter to fans, Halo Reach is a farewell, but is it a tearful one?
If you’ve played Halo at all before, then you will be instantly familiar with Reach. It is essentially the same Halo game that has been around since the original Xbox launched. There are a few minor changes in the form of new weapons and, most notably, armor abilities. Armor Abilities include sprinting, armor lock and a jet pack among others. These are a nice addition and they play well with the traditional elements of shields, guns, grenades and melee. Dual-wielding is gone and the change is for the best.
As far as the single-player campaign is concerned, the game is on the short side. As a prequel, there is an ominous sense of futility and the story is a journey to an inevitable end. As such, it is far more character-centric than previous titles. Where the title fails is in building a relationship between your avatar (Noble Six) and the rest of Noble team. As a result, I found myself unmoved by the story, save for the final climactic sequence. On the whole, the story feels like just one more Halo campaign and the formula seems to be well-worn. Don’t get me wrong, Halo is still a pretty unique experience and if you love Halo you’ll still enjoy the campaign, but there’s no denying the awe of the original series is far gone. All in all, the campaign could have been longer but it didn’t feel too short like its predecessor ODST.
The multiplayer component is what you’d expect from any Halo game: exceptional. Armor abilities create a welcome change in tactics and make you think longer and harder about how you play Halo than in the past. Armor lock is perfect for the team members who work together, providing you a chance to save your teammates and cause an excellent distraction at the same time. Jet packs are often utilized to get a good perch for sniping and can be good for scouting the enemy team as well. Whatever your play style, the armor abilities will enhance your experience. The multiplayer options are broad and, as is typical with Halo, there’s a playlist for everyone. Invasion mode is more like a typical Battlefield match with objectives. Campaign now has a co-op matchmaking feature, which is great for when you have no friends online. Firefight also has a matchmaking mode which means that the feature will be getting far more use. The replay system is still unmatched. The ability to replay any match and save screenshots to Bungie.net just like Halo 3 is still amazing and frankly I can’t understand why no other FPS games, not even COD, have managed to incorporate similar features. Throw in a completely revamped armor customization and ranking system, and you’ve got the most comprehensive multiplayer suite on a console.
So where are the shortcomings? Well, first off, the numerical Rankings that tell you your skill have been completely dropped in favor of Arena divisions. In theory you will be placed into a division based on your skill and that division is your bragging rights; Onyx being the highest and Iron being the worst. The problem is that the arena divisions don’t seem to be assigned based on skill, and players who have significantly lower statistics will be placed in divisions far above your own. In practice, the system has left many gamers frustrated and abandoning the arena all together. The population decrease then leads to the divisions being even more skewed. The new weapons are also a bit unbalanced. The Needle Rifle just isn’t as efficient as the DMR and the Focus Rifle is more or less a Frustration Rifle. The Spartan Laser seems to have disappeared from multiplayer and, sadly, rockets are on every single dang map making rocket camping a necessary evil. It would be nice to see more variety in the weapon distribution for multiplayer.
Bungie took their time with Halo Reach and there is a sense of sadness which colors the whole package. It permeates the atmosphere almost as if the game itself was a metaphor for the divorce of Bungie and Halo. That being said, there is nothing quite like Halo and it’s still the most complete multiplayer experience on the Xbox.
Genre: First Person Shooter
Time: Single Player 6-10 hours depending on your difficulty and pace. Multi-player: Pretty much unlimited. I’m sure I’ll be spending countless hours here.
Gripes: Armor abilities tend to be a love it/hate it feature. Halo purists may be turned off by the re-balancing that armor abilities bring. It’s still Halo. If you’re not a Halo fan, you’re not going to find anything new here.
Get it for the: Sweet Halo action you know and love.