Halo Reach- A Review
Boy have we come a long way since Combat Evolved. The Microsoft money maker Halo, has been a genre defining first person shooter since 2001. Developer Bungie bids farewell to it's beloved series with their newest release, Halo Reach. The events in this game take place on the main military installation for the UNSC, planet Reach. It also takes place during the events prior to Halo 1, and is the first time in the series that players have had the chance to fill the boots of other Spartans, other than Master Chief. With a new graphics engine and a new cast, Halo Reach has been the most anticipated Xbox 360 exclusive of 2010.
Straying away from the control of Master Chief, players take control of mysterious Noble 6, one of the members of Noble Team. They are a group of Spartans III's along side a Spartan II by the name of George. Among them are Kat, Jun, Emile, 6 (your character, basically has no name, which is left up to the player to decide) and leader Carter are on planet Reach during the first aggressive contact with the alien race known as the Covenant. This game is the first to give us the perspective on this planet, which any fan of the series knows, will fail. (See The Fall of Reach)
By the time the first mission is over, players will see the gravity of the situation. The Covenant have invaded a human planet and destruction is about to begin. As the first Spartans on the scene, you have to take up refuge on the planet and try to defend it. Elites are back as enemies for the first time since Halo 2 and this time they are stronger than ever. (Playing against them on Legendary difficulty is quite the chore) Just like in previous games, were we have had experiences with wave after wave of enemies, this game sets off in full invasion. Larger scale battles and destruction are commonplace on planet Reach and it's a very welcome addition to the Halo world. The lone wolf style gameplay is still present, but with the help of Noble Team, you fell like you aren't on your own the entire time.
I felt the campaign was a strong point of the series and was a great bid farewell by Bungie. Giving players the opportunity to experience exactly what happened before the previous titles, and what exactly the entire series is based upon was a great idea. A strong campaign with a story that will keep you replaying it, is what the dev team has achieved with this one. I will say there are a lot of twists and turns with the characters and just when you think you're out the woods you aren't. The game does a great job of keeping you on your toes and with the help of an amazing score ( Martin O' Donnell), the music helps set the mood for each mission. I can't stop saying how much I enjoyed the soundtrack.
Cutscenes and graphics are the best I have scene in any Halo game so far. All cutscenes are in engine, so your customized Noble 6 will appear in the scenes just as he/she will in multiplayer. I thought this was a great way of letting players feel like they are really in the game, not just a faceless character. The landscapes are the most detailed up to date. Just seeing a Covenant cruiser start glassing the planet gives me the chills. Also the voice work is some of the best I have heard in a Halo game before as well. Each Spartan in your team has unique personalities and reacts to each situation differently. I really enjoyed how the team interacted with one another. Just don't get too attached.
Aside from the main campaign, firefight mode has returned from Halo ODST, but this time with customized options. Turn on skulls for extra difficulties, set the waves, rounds and time limits, as well as customizable voices (purchased from the armory.) This is a nice addition to Firefight, allowing players to play it their own way and change settings to their liking. Firefight has also received online support, previously unavailable to us. You and up to 3 others can go online together and take on waves of Covenant together earning credits (cR) and commendations.
The multiplayer has received a complete overhaul. Bungie has put the fan favorite Battle Rifle away and replaced it with a semi-automatic DMR (Designated Marksman Rifle.) All weapons are now enhanced with a reticle bloom that requires much more precise aiming than the others. I found that the change in weaponry was a good idea, by adding more variety to a players arsenal and changes up play styles a good bit. You still have the trusty Assault Rifle, but will soon realize you have better options in your arsenal, including the famous Halo 1 pistol, which speaks for itself. Along side new weapons, we now have assassination animations. Simply go right behind an enemy and hold your melee button for a surprise, unescapable assassination. These are great, but just be careful none of your enemies buddies are around when you do it. It is an animation and you cannot control your player during it.
The customization part of your multiplayer experience has been highly upgraded. Players now have the option to customize almost every part of their Spartans. New armors and attachments have been added as well as armor effects. For example, one player may have once previously Bungie exclusive flaming head effect, while some may have spent their cR on Grunt Birthday Party confetti splash for when they die in a match. The amount of customization is huge and a lot of items require a lot of cR, so expect to play quite a while if you want to reach your desired armors. One problem I do have is the fact that it takes so long to rank up. Literally hundreds of thousands of cR are needed just to progress through the ranks. The trek from Warrant Officer to Warrant Officer grade 3 was quite a tedious process. Although Bungie has added daily and weekly challenges to the mix to help aid you in the cR hunting experience, it still feel like it will take forever to reach the rank cap, although this does not take away from the fun factor or overall Matchmaking experience.
Matchmaking has been changed a bit with the addition of armor abilities and loadouts. Now players can jump into the action with specific abilities ranging from armor lock, sprint, jet pack, evade, active camo, and even holograms. Each ability has a different style and some are not available in each playlist. This changes Halo from the ground up, requiring competitive players to adapt to the new play style. I enjoy the fact that we have these new options but at times I feel some of the abilities when over used, slow the game down and make it almost impossible to make it out of some situations. Along side the abilities, Spartans and Elites are not equal in this multiplayer. Elites are not bigger and faster with changes everything. Elites are mostly playable only in the new Invasion mode, requiring either the Spartans defending and Elites attacking, and vice versa. Don't worry about balance issues. Elites still can be taken down by Spartans, they are just a little faster and bigger.
Maps are some of the worst I have seen in the series. Almost all of them have been ripped straight out of campaign, which really do not give it a unique feel or flow. I have enjoyed the Forge World maps the best so far because they have been specifically made for multiplayer. The maps are not unplayable, but I feel some more effort could have went into them. It just seems lazy to just take a portion of a campaign mission, and feel that it is a suitable map.
Forge fans will have their hands full for quite some time with the newly made Forge World. Forge world is basically one enormous map that the player can go into and pretty much make whatever their heart desires. Inside of this world, fans will find a favorite from the old days, Blood Gulch now renamed Hemorrhage. Along side that you will find cliffs, fields, an ocean, and beaches, all ready to be forged. I have had the most fun I have ever had with forge in this one, and can't wait to see what the community gets made and puts out for us to play in matchmaking.
All in all, I think this was a great way to send off the Halo series. Sure we haven't seen the last of it, but no longer will Bungie be behind the wheel. It's been a good run and it's clear that Bungie has pulled out all of the stops with this one. A solid campaign and story, a new revamped multiplayer mode, firefight, forge, and new customization options, players will have a hard time keeping this one off the TV for a quite some time.