Bungie continues to do what Bungie does well – but is this the end for the Halo we know?
It’s kind of strange going back to a proper Halo game after having played a bunch of shooters where “aiming down the sights” is integral to the gameplay because that’s not really how Halo rolls. I found it refreshing to be back in the Spartan armor, mixing up vehicular and on-foot combat, and punching grunts in the face. Even knowing how the game ends (poorly for our heroes) didn’t sour the experience for me.
Variation is key to any singleplayer experience and the Halo series has been good at throwing different challenges at the player with regular intervals. On planet Reach you’ll hijack covenant vehicles and drive warthogs but you’ll also fly a space fighter, a helicopter, and man a giant cannon. The core combat is still Halo, with the addition of a sprint function as well as an occasional jetpack power-up. Both work really well and are fun to use. In fact, sprint was probably the one thing Halo was missing. It was always jarring to see the Chief running in cutscenes but being unable to run in-game.
The visual and aural artistry is worth mentioning because it’s truly impressive. The environments are bigger and prettier, the animations seem more fluid, the behaviour of the enemies make them seem like formidable foes, and the music is outstanding throughout.
It’s hard to talk about how games “feel” but that’s often what it boils down to – Halo: Reach “feels” right. It controls like a dream, the pacing of the campaign is close to perfect, you always die because YOU made a mistake and not the game. The story satisfies as well, and doesn’t suffer too much from the prequel syndrome of “who cares, I know how this ends anyway” because the events unfolding are genuinely quite interesting. Especially near the end.
Multiplayer review coming in the next week or so. But the single player is worth the price alone, and the challenges and unlockables add some pretty cool replay options.
It's hard to say where the series can go from here because this pretty much represents a perfected version of the Halo formula. Good luck, 343.