Halo Reach Review
I realise it is a reviewing faux pas to start any article about a game or series by saying you never liked it, but I’m doing it. I’m not, and have never been the biggest fan of Halo.
I played the original on the PC in the back of most of my psychology classes a couple of years back. ODST I got purely to play the Reach demo with a few friends and Halo 3 I brought for £6 in my local bargain bin and never played it. The lack of aim and sprint buttons, especially after experiencing the, at one time at least, masterful Infinity Ward and their Call Of Duty, just didn’t click with me. I’ve also never been a fan of space. Sure, you have to love Star Wars, but a blue thing with seven arms and five genitals beaming up someplace has never interested me. When I found out I was getting Halo Reach for review I figured I better pop back a few years and get myself caught up with Master Chief, the token black guy and that hot purpley thing I see in bad cosplay.
So picture the scene. It’s a rainy Saturday evening and I’m sitting 4 feet from my TV, cuppa in one hand, controller in the other and I have an epiphany. About halfway through the Halo 3 campaign just clicks. Like caveman around fire, I gasp and grunt in awe at how amazing and majestic it is. I realised it’s not all about the controls, about the space setting, about seven armed, five balled creatures from another world. Halo is about matching weapons to the enemy you face, about building a tense and pressure filled atmosphere, about amazing customisation, about the imminent destruction and about a hot piece of purple ass. And this is what Halo: Reach does; and it does it spectacularly.
The starting point for most is the campaign. In word one amazing; in five, amazing but lacking in spots. The game starts you out investigating a crashed beacon in the hilly farmlands of the planet Reach as Noble Six, new recruit into the ranks of élite group of Spartans, Soon enough the Covenant are discovered, the action begins and never lets up over the campaign. For total FPS n00bs the campaign can take longer but an average player will mop up the covenant problem in 7 hours; 5 in co-op. While this may seem short, the addition of skulls, 4 player co-op which scales the difficulty depending the amount of players and one exceedingly painful 150g achievement, the variety of options in the campaign are almost limitless.
Now we all know how Halo: Reach ends right? You know. BANG! From the moment you start out as Noble Six, a Spartan with a mysterious back story, you know where you’re going to end up. The pace and in mission cut scenes do a fantastic job of building you up to the inevitable start of the Halo trilogy. Whether it be flying around a crumbling metropolis, watching your comrades be picked apart from a far or having a hundred grunts, elites and wraiths storm at you at once, you truly get the feeling that Reach is doomed and the game builds the atmosphere and tension perfectly, making you feel angry, sad and motivated at the right moments. As for the missions themselves, they mix up the objectives and locations wonderfully. Sniping, assaults, aerial escorts and a star fox style space battle are peppered throughout the game. Although at times you seem to spending all you time taking down some sort of AA cannon, spire thing with a bubble shield over it. That gets stale, fast.
Only 3 years after its release, Halo 3 looks like garbage. Reach, on the over hand, one of the best looking exclusives on the 360. There are some strange, flat looking textures, especially when it comes to the walls, floors and cliff edges. I’m not saying their particularly bad, just not great. One of the instantly impressive things was the battles you’re not involved in, either below you or off the side of a cliff edge. At first they seem real-time and in engine. Upon closer inspection they seem to be 2.5D sprites fighting using the same repeated animations.
As always, Martin O’Donnell never fails to disappoint with the halo soundtrack taking a change from the operatic AAAAAHHHHSSS to a more guitar based gruff sounds to match the style and tone of the game. O’Donnell also directs the voice acting and it is magnificent and along with a couple of fan service cameos, it’s some of the best in the business.
The AI in the game is just as wondrous. Although I’ve been told it’s the easiest of the Halo games, that doesn’t stop the higher ranked covenant try to flank you or takeout the biggest threat on your team whilst at the same time cutting out your similar basic military moves. They do, however fall prey to your flanking with the all new armour abilities and changing up of your weapons dependant of the enemy you’re facing. That, with the re-addition of the Elites as bad guys instead of good guys, with regulars Brutes, Grunts and Jackals, makes the game full of variety. . The game does get lazy when the substitutes a sheer mass of alien scum to make the game harder rather than turn the AI up to 11.
Now for the multiplayer. Even though I’m more likely to get insulted over Xbox Live than walking down the street parade, I still loved playing multiplayer Halo. It is exactly as you know it from previous entries in series, but with a few great changes. . The game type veto system that happens before every match is a great addition as it allows for more variation in the specifics of the games you play in your chosen playlist, rather than the Call of Duty approach of team deathmatch after team deathmatch after team deathmatch. The armour abilities, from your basic sprint, to jetpacks, to an instant bubble shield add a lot of variety to games and a lot of depth to the tactics you or your team can use. Firefight is also as you remember it from ODST but with the addition of matchmaking. All the multiplayer modes have unlimited customisability with user made custom types, all of which are upload able to the trusty Bungie.net servers and recommendable to your friends. Forge world also allows for a huge amount of customisation, letting you either change-up pre-made levels or create your own brand new modes all of which are, again, uploadable and recommendable to Bungie.net and your friends.
All in all, Halo: Reach is one hell of an experience. It’s the perfect swansong for Bungie to bow out to and hand over their baby to the new Halo studio. While possibly old for legendary pro Halo players, it provides enough new experiences and enough fantastic customisation to keep players hooked for many years to come. And I even got through 1,190 words without mentioning a reach around.