19th September 2010 - Does this game really need an introduction? The last game by Bungie in Microsoft’s biggest gaming series on the biggest selling console in the world right now? The prequel to the Xbox flagship Halo series? Of course not. We all know Halo, and if sales figures are anything to go by, we all love Halo. But Halo: Reach, while at the surface is like any other Halo game, its also so much more. More than Halo, more than any other shooter too. We’ve waited a long time for this game, so not only does it have a hell of a lot of hype to live up to, but it also has the weight of a legacy to uphold. A legacy which wont soon be forgotten. So does Halo: Reach send the Bungie-fronted series out with a bang? You’d better believe it…
Essentially everyone with an Xbox has played Halo, that’s a given. And a lot of people who never owned an Xbox have played Halo too. Its just that game that practically every modern-day gamer is familiar with in one way or another. So why change the formula that has proved to be so successful? Bungie must have thought this way too, as Halo: Reach simply feels - at its core - like any other Halo game. But that’s not a bad thing. The game is so playable that its almost a crime to give it a miss. The controls are tweaked a little from Halo 3, and the game has a few new gameplay mechanics, but all up, it works wonders and plays so efficiently that everyone can pick up and play, and no-one will want to put it down. And that’s a ticket to success right there.
Spartans never die…
As for the game itself, it’s the first major installation in the series that doesn’t feature Master Chief as the playable character. This time, you’re stepping into the boots of Noble 6, a highly secretive Spartan soldier who’s transferred to the Noble team to fill a gap left by a recently deceased Spartan. The story itself in this game is probably the best we’ve seen in a Halo game, too. Its full of intensity and drama unlike anything we know from Halo, made all the more believable by the great characters. But what really makes the story stand out, is that from the very beginning of the game, we know what’s going to happen. We don’t know what part our Noble Squad plays in it all, but we know its going to be important, because right now, we’re experiencing the last moments of the sprawling planet of Reach. Its what keeps you peeled to the screen till the climax and what will make you want to give it one more shot.
All of the games enemies in Campaign have undergone what appears to be a major upgrade in AI, leaving the many Elites and Brutes true competitors, and on the harder difficulty, leaves you feeling like you’re up against human-controlled players - probably with aimbots, too, as the difficulty is vamped up from what we’re accustomed to. It furthers the quality of the campaign for sure, but something which doesn’t is surely the fact that while the enemy AI may be something of a charm, the Ally AI isn’t. Team mates still stand around aimlessly and dopey, shooting a few bullets here to make it look like they’re doing something useful, but they really aren’t. They rarely get any kills, die quicker than they should and pretty much just leave you feeling like you are actually on your own. All they’re good for is soaking up some fire, so make sure to get in and get some kills before they all die.
The Halo Legacy
But Halo has never really been about the campaign has it? Sure, it has an amazing storyline and some great lore, but at its very centre, Halo is really about the Multiplayer. Halo 3 had one of the most played online Multiplayer for almost 3 years, and with the updates and new modes, Reach will surely top that. Some of you may come for the story and campaign, but Multiplayer is what Halo will be remembered for.
Taking on a new ranking system which see’s you earning ‘Credits’ for everything - firefight, matchmaking, forge, custom games, and even campaign - which also double as money to buy armour upgrades and new visual abilities, Reach’s online multiplayer is second to none. There is so many different game modes and game types that no one match feels the same. One new mode - and one of the most popular - is Invasion. This see’s one team play as Elites and the other as Spartans as they work against each other to complete objectives and earn kills, all relative to certain maps like the great new Spire and Boneyard maps.
Halo 3: ODST introduced a little mode called Firefight, which proved to be very popular. Reach now allows players to create custom Firefight matches with over 150 possible changeable options like changing all enemies to Grunts or Hunters, or giving everyone a Magnum and unlimited ammo. The possibilities are endless and you can even use the Matchmaking system to find other players to Firefight with you if you lack online friends, which is a major positive in my books.
So all up, you sorta get the point, right? If not, let me put like this; Halo: Reach has more modes, game types and possible matching options than any other online game currently on a console. It has the console worlds best community, complete with so many unique feature it shakes more than just a fist at its competitors, it shakes the very foundations of what can be possible for a game of this magnitude. Top it off with the games new features and updates from Halo 3, and I believe we have here the best online shooter of this generation.
Halo 3’s forge mode was a massive success. And with Reach, everything about it has been improved. The tools available are indefinitely powerful for a console map editing software, allowing for some truly immaculate designs. Along with this, we now have Forge World, a massive map of unbeatable proportions that is designed purely for your wildest imaginations to come forth in the form of new maps and game types. I look forward to seeing what some of the community members come up with over the next few weeks. What can you make?
The gameplay has been left much the same with just a few decent tweaks, and the same could be said about the graphics of Reach. Much like the other Halo’s, Reach doesn’t have the worlds best graphics. Its textures are all top-notch, but the modelling is blocky at times. But for the overall package, that doesn’t take anything away from the complete look of Reach. It’s a little more dark than previous titles, and the enemies are even no longer so bright and colourful. This is a welcome sight, and as the environment is more desolate and destroyed for the majority of the game, very fitting. All of the characters, from your Noble team to the enemy Grunts that little the battlefield, the animation is all wonderful. The models move with such fluent accuracy and realism it completely draws you in.
The environment itself is very reminiscent of that of Halo: Combat Evolved. Not the scenery per se, but the general layout. The majority of the scenery and environments are very large, providing some great playing advantages and options mixed with some of the most detailed set pieces and interiors ever seen in a First Person Shooter. It all adds up to deliver the Halo experience we love, and gives off good amounts of nostalgia of the epic levels of the original Halo game.
One thing missing from this title is the signature Halo theme song, or a variation of it. Instead, Bungie have opted to give the game its own unique score and boy does it set the mood. As I mention with the story, the game is very dark and dramatic given what’s drawing increasingly closer as the game progresses, and as a turn for the best, the music perfectly complements this. Its very dark for an orchestral piece, and for every battle and narrative driven cutscene or moment, there is a suiting piece of music to go along with it. It simply piles more quality on the game’s campaign, defining this as Halo’s greatest single-player adventure.
Musical expertise aside, Reach follows suit from what we expect from a game of this magnitude in terms of quality voice acting and ambient sounds. The diversity and quality of the actors all make their characters personalities and skills prominent, which is no easy feat, and they all seem very believable and sincere.
Thinking of the entire package, there really is a lot here for what you pay for. Lets do the math; you get one of finest single-player shooter experience I can think of, some of the greatest Multiplayer communities and features on the market, you get the great Firefight modes and you get Forge, complete with Forge World and endless possibilities - all tied together with a great new ranking and upgrade system that works to make every player unique yet still all equal. All that for the price of any other game? That’s a good deal right there. I think Reach has more content and possible playtime that any 5 or 6 other games I can pick out of my collection without a doubt.
Of course, there will always be haters, as people simply love to have a problem with something, for whatever reason it be. And it seems they are out in full force for any Halo title, and Reach is no exception. I was even told by a friend who was actually playing it that “It would be good if they make a good Halo game”, so whatever people think about the series, if you don’t like it then don’t buy it, but at least give it a try by renting it or borrowing it off a friend, because Reach really appeals to a larger than normal audience and is a far more mature affair than the previous titles and you never know, you may just fall in love.
Halo: Reach and the definition of Epic are one in the same. Undeniably the best Halo game in the series - Arguably the best shooting game of this generation - And without a doubt one of the finest game’s I’ve ever had the pleasure of playing. Halo: Reach is a phenomenal way to send Bungie’s home grown series out with a bang before they move onto other things, and is definitely one game that will be plastered into your console for months, if not years to come.
Whatever stance you take on the Halo series, Reach will blow your mind!
AAG SCORE: 10/10
+ Gripping narrative coupled with pitch-perfect gameplay
+ Many different and enjoyable game modes
+ Updated graphics and animations
+ Forge World is in a league of its own
- Minor AI issues
- Still hasn’t stopped the haters
Reviewed and Written By John Elliott