Decent Ending to an Overrated Series
Bungie's stewardship over their rather profitable Halo series comes to a close with Halo Reach, probably the pinnacle of this series. The storyline is abject crap (space marines repel the Covenant from Reach) and almost seems to contradict the mythos (Reach, if memory serves, went so poorly it got them to wake Master Chief up to fight the Covenant and the UNSC was basically routed and abandoned the planet).
So, this is the prequel involving the Fall of Reach...and things aren't that bad. You are Noble Six, who apparently is not Master Chief. And you are trying to set up the defenses to fight off the Covenant...and, if the story holds true, your efforts were for naught as a massacre follows after you finish apparently. Has nobody realized that prequels are bad ideas, especially in "heroic" games? If things in the storyline start off bad, it does make happy endings in prequels hard...and not many people would play a game to face a final battle they cannot win.
So, you traverse around Reach and Halo gameplay is evident. Enemies are bullet sponges and you can apparently punch harder than most guns fire. Its a weird gameplay decision and not one I adore, but I am apparently in the minority. Space combat makes its debut and is a fun 5 minute diversion, but is way too inconsequential for the mention it got in the hype-a-thon.
The single player is, well, Halo. Lots of colors and explosions. I ignored Bungie's advice to play on Heroic as I don't find masochism fun. Normal is enough for me. Its basically every Halo game you ever played. You have to cover a lot and wait for shields to recharge (health will recharge somewhat, but you will need to use health packs). Its a decent game but has some issues.
Mainly, you can simply run away from A LOT of fighs. If a fight is rough, hauling butt to the checkpoint (which usually isn't that far away) is a workable strategy. In the final full level, I ran away from all but two skirmishes with few problems.
But the game is good and when you beat it, well, the ending feels better than Halo 2. Bungie crafted a well developed story and an enjoyable game.
Halo's biggest shock, though, is technical prowess. I actually TRIED to gum up the framerate (Firefight on Legendary with unlimited rocket launcher ammo and a bottomless clip with invulnerability). Even with the screen full of multi-colored explosions, the frame rate didn't even dip. Its actually really impressive.
The multiplayer is, as always, loaded. Bungie knows how to make a lot of game types. But the gameplay is less, well, visceral than a lot of games. CoD has better online play in my opinion, though both games' online is harmed by lots of jerks who make one weep for humanity. I'd love online gaming more if you didn't have to deal with online morons.
Bungie is now leaving Halo behind and doing a new IP (I have concerns as Microsoft turned it down). So we need to look at their record and, to be honest, the hype these games get dwarf their actual quality. The closest example would be Goldeneye for the N64. Like Halo, it was a ground breaking title (first console FPS that wasn't shit while Halo was the first good console FPS) but one that has the rep of being amazing but isn't that hot.
Halo isn't bad...but not the best out there. I look forward to the next developer (Gearbox?) and their take. And Bungie might be refreshed with something different.