Halo: Reach is the ultimate parting gift from Bungie.
Halo has always been the jewel crown in the overwhelming genre of First person shooters as the first Halo: Combat Evolved would eventually blossom into a phenomenon with its innovative gameplay, epic storyline, awesome multiplayer sweet and flashes of brilliance that has yet to be mastered. These are all elements that have been spilled over into its two sequels which has taken the series into cool new directions. Halo: Reach however treads the earliest ground in the Halo loar as it is chronologically a prequel that sets up the events leading into the Halo trilogy. We have donned the green armor of the Spartan super soldier John-117 for three games now, but rest asure that there is still some wetwork to be done behind the visor of these super soldiers.
Halo: Reach tells the fall of the planet of Reach. A human colony home to billions of people and its also the birth of the Spartan program, and multiple UNSC installations. Anyone familiar with the Halo series shouldnt be to suprised to learn that the planet will be glassed by the ancient alien alliance known as The Covenant and this pivotal moment have triggered the adventures of Master Chief. This time around, you assume the role of Noble Six, be it a male or female. Being the newest member of Noble team you will try to repel the enemy invaders and split up to complete objectives and do your best to thwart The Covenants reckless assaults. The story is fantastic since newcomers to the series wont have a hard time to get involved in the brilliant character drama. Your squadmates are charismatic and personal beings that arent to relucant to reveal their faces during cutscenes. Noble Six is also a vocal protagonist and the cosmetic armor upgrades that you´ll buy are reflected within the cutscenes. Halo fanatics will also be in for a few major plot twists and the ending, is absolutetly incredible. Safe to say, Reach is one of the most memorable installments in the Halo franchise when it comes to story.
From a gameplay perspective, Halo: Reach alludes more to that of Combat Evolved rather than to its sequels. The locales are detailed and expansive, the Elites are back and more oppressive than ever and some of the campaign missions can be really long, though they never drag to the point that they become tedious. The pacing is all about moving you from one challenging skirmish to the next but punctuating this rhythm are bits of vehicle portions, subdued stealth encounters and also a space combat sequence, which is a shame that there isnt more of since its and absolute blast to afterburn above the atmosphere of Reach. All told you will spend around ten hours in the campaign mode and it also sports all the four player co-op and skull shenanigans that you would come to expect at this point. Its also a campaign of an epic scale as there are many wide open battles and beautiful sights to take in. However, if there is one ding against the campaign then that is the pacing could have been more varied. You get to shoot covenants in the face and ram them over with vehicles a heck of alot which is great fun. But save for space combat, there arent a whole lot of gameplay suprises.
But if you know Halo then you´ll know that its the mulitplayer modes where its at. 13 maps have been slapped onto the disc with nine of them designed for the competitive multiplayer, while the rest has been reservered for the cooperative Firefight mode. There are dozens of modes to choose from here, ranging from your typical Slayer mode where you have to gun down the opposition, be it free for all or team based. The best ones comes in the form of modes like Stockpile, where neutral flags needs to be secured at your home base for a certain amount of time before you can score. Invasion also pits Spartans versus Elites in a multi tiered attack and defend style mode. On one occasion, the spartans need to punch a hole in the Elite´s defense, steal a datacore and take it to an evac point and the whole thing revolves around an enormous spire tower stationed in the center. Modes and maps alike can be tweaked or rebuilded from scratch via the game options menu and the forge capabilities. The latter however makes a grandiose return in form of Forge world, an enourmous map comprised of six individual spaces for you to forge on. New tools and pieces makes it a whole lot easier than before and like Halo 3, game and map variants aswell as film clips and screen shots taken from the theater mode can be uploaded to your file share for others to use and you can also browse, download and rate similar content via Bungie.net or on Xbox live. Halo 3 might have been bursting with content but Reach brings everything up an equal level. The campaign is a thrill ride from start to finish, the multiplayer will keep you busy for months on end and all the crazy tools and options will ensure alot of mileage from your cash.
However, from a gameplay standpoint Halo: Reach has received many tweaks and additions from past titles. Aside from the usual weapons and vehicles offering that we have come to expect at this point, Reach´s primary gameplay hook comes from the new armor abilities. While you can only carry one at a time these perk bonuses allows players to take it to the skies with a jetpack, zoom around the map with the sprint feature or turn you completetly invincible at the cost of your mobility. These abilites work on a cooldown timer and while you can exchange armor abilities on the fly in the campaign if you happen to find them, you´ll have to pick a loadout in the multiplayer modes as these loadouts are comprised of two weapons, a grenade type and a single armor ability. But of course, racing for that shotgun on Swordbase, one of the new kickass maps, is still a good choice.
When its all said and done Halo Reach may very well be the last game that you will need to buy this year. The campaign is on par with the first two games and everything from the excellent story to the outstanding co-op support means that Halo reach packs plenty of thrills for everyone who is craving a sci-fi shooter epic. The competitive multiplayer also has enough longevity for it to be a seperate game and the possibilities with the Forge and the many hours that are laid waste watching your most glorious moments from the battlefield, ensures that all sorts of Halo goodness will always be within reach. If you´ve been holding out on Halo for all of these years now couldnt possibly be a better time to join the fray. The story ties the whole Halo loar together in an explosive fashion so there is no more loose threads or anti climactic endings in store for you. Haters be damned, Halo Reach is one of the biggest bombshells on consoles around. Its also, one of the best.