The Final Nail in the Coffin
Halo: Reach is the final Halo game that will be developed by Bungie and it acts as the end of Halo as we know it, even as it represents the beginning of the Halo storyline. The game puts you in the boots of new Noble Team member: Noble Six as the first reports of the Covenant attack on the planet Reach are being confirmed. As Noble Six, you’ll explore Reach with a squad of spartans as you attempt to fend off a massive invasion.
Noble Team is a stunning departure from the usual cast of characters in a Halo game. The focus on each of the individual members of the team is immediately apparent from the moment that you become a part of the team. Although brief, each of the moments you spend with your fellow spartans is memorable and significant.
Bungie’s attention to the cast of Halo: Reach isn’t wasted as the game also features some epic storytelling. Despite having an ending that is already known to most players of the game, Halo: Reach still manages to provide an exciting and usually unpredictable story which is only helped by the stellar characters.
Reach is an incredibly immersive environment which is established mainly by its variety. With stunning graphics that really sharpen up the dated veneer from previous games, the world of Reach seems real and is definitely believable. The environments that you’ll travel through are varied and different with areas that are unlike those found in previous games. There is also a profound sense of scale in many of the missions and locales in Halo: Reach as battles seem to be happening everywhere and at all times, even without the involvement of a spartan.
The wide variety of missions is well arranged as the game manages to stay fresh and interesting despite the familiar feel and controls. With missions that range from standard ground skirmishes to battles in space with ships that have surprisingly good controls. The game still manages to pack in familiar missions such as driving sequences involving warthogs and mongooses as well as a scorpion in one of the later levels.
Multiplayer is predictably, also a major part of the game and it definitely does not disappoint. Although largely similar to the multiplayer of Halo 3, Halo: Reach mixes up the action by establishing a class system which grants different load-outs and armor powers. This provides much needed variety to the multiplayer which is also supplemented by a much improved lobby and matchmaking system which features better map and mode selection. Along with standard multiplayer modes that have become a staple of the franchise (Rumble Pit, Team Slayer etc.), Bungie has included new game-types such as Invasion which pits spartans against elites in large-scale skirmishes along with the return of the Firefight mode from Halo: ODST.
The soundtrack that backs the game is simply incredible. Marty O’Donnell has created his best work yet, and his music actually plays a noticeably significant effect this time around. With a score that is as uplifting as it is somber, the soundtrack of Halo: Reach is perfectly fitting and provides a strong backbone to the story of the game along with actual gameplay.
The pacing of the game becomes problematic in the latter parts of the story as Halo: Reach seems to constantly draw you into combat despite important story events. Combat becomes tiring and more of a chore than fun when waves of enemies are thrown at you out of context. The placement of some of the heavier battles almost seems to merely attempt to extend the length of the game rather than to provide meaningful experiences. There are simply too many random combat sequences towards the end of the game to match up with the closing story.
AI is still a major disappointment as the members of Noble Team are little more than marines in spartan armor. Despite their developed personas, Noble Team’s AI is basic and substandard. They frequently get caught behind doors, barricades and corners, in their attempts to follow you. Interaction between Noble Six and his fellow spartans is similarly absent, aside from a few words spoken every once in a while.
This game is unmistakably a Halo title and it’s hard to imagine it being mistaken for anything else. The gameplay remains mostly the same as previous incarnations with the addition of some small changes such as armor powers and new vehicles. Regardless, Bungie has managed to polish and mix the things that make the Halo franchise popular into what is undoubtedly the best Halo game yet. At the same time, this game represents the last stand of Halo as we know it, and that’s a good thing as the gameplay is finally starting to grow old.