What we're likely to see in Halo: Reach

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With the announcement of Halo: Reach at today's Microsoft press conference, I figured I'd run down what we're likely to see, as I have quite a lot of experience with the Halo series. So let's get started. First off:

What is Reach?

Reach was a UNSC fortress world, the most heavily guarded human world outside of Earth. It was a major UNSC military base and also the training ground for the SPARTAN-II program, which the Master Chief was a member of. It was viewed as almost impenetrable by the Covenant, heavily guarded by UNSC military fleets and orbital guns. However, Reach was destroyed by the Covenant in a surprise attack immediately prior to the events of Halo: Combat Evolved. In fact, if you remember all the way back to 2001, Halo: CE begins with The UNSC Pillar of Autumn coming out of a blind jump into the Halo system- they were fleeing form the rout at Reach. Reach's orbital defenses and fleet were completely overwhelmed, and the planet was bombarded from orbit. There was also heavy action on the ground before the UNSC was routed in space, which is likely what the game will focus on.

Wait... Spartans?

Yes, Reach was the base for the Spartan-II project, as detailed in Eric Nylund's novel, The Fall of Reach (Which has been out since 2002, so this is not a new story whatsoever). The novel actually deals with the entire Spartan-II program, following their training from children. Reach will likely just focus on the battle of Reach as opposed to the story of the younger Spartans. During the battle, most all of the Spartans were deployed to the surface of Reach to protect power generators for the orbital gun platforms orbiting Reach (Cairo station from Halo 2 is one of these gun platforms).  A few select Spartans (including the Master Chief) stayed in orbit to destroy a piece of human wreckage which contained the coordinates to Earth. The Spartan force on the ground faced some heavy action before they were routed by superior Covenant numbers; they lost the power generators and were trapped on-planet while Reach was glassed from orbit. A few Spartans survived by retreating into the UNSC bases under the surface of the planet, but the majority were lost in the bombardment.

Who Are We Likely To See?

This being a prequel to the original Halo, Bungie has a lot of options. We'll likely see these faces though, as they're fairly integral to the story of Reach:
  • Dr. Catherine Halsey: The scientist who created and ran the Spartan-II projet, Dr Halsey was on Reach at the time of the attack. She will likely show up in some capacity, as she's a key figure to the Spartan program, which Reach will likely go into more depth on.
  • Captain Keyes: Keyes was at Reach and involved in the fighting before the planet was lost. He will probbly at least show up over the com as a voice giving you orders.
  • Cortana: Cortana was at Reach during the battle, she may or may not have a role in Halo: Reach
  • The Arbiter: The Arbiter was in charge of one of the fleets, or the primary fleet that attacked Reach. He took his ships and followed the Pillar of Autumn to the Halo ring, which he failed to protect, leading to his disgrace in Halo 2. However, it is quite likely we will see him fighting at Reach before he takes off in pursuit of the Autumn.
  • We likely won't see Master Chief, as he was in orbit while the fighting was taking place on the surface of Reach.

What's Going To Differentiate This?

This one is a bit less clear from what we know right now. The trailer made specific mention of Spartans, which implies that we will be playing as them, or they will at least play a major role. The rumors about a squad-based and third-person Halo game have been quite persistent, and as ODST did not deliver on that, I find it highly likely that Halo: Reach will. A large force of Spartans is on-planet and engaged in group fighting, so it would be the perfect opportunity to explore squad-based gameplay. Spartans are ruthlessly effective teams, going back to Reach allows Bungie to explore this dynamic by having more than one Spartan (Bungie had nothing to do with Halo Wars, remember).

Reach also presents an opportunity to go back to Elites as the primary enemies, as opposed to the Brutes we fought in Halo 3 and will be fighting in ODST. However, portraying the elites as good guys in Halo 3 then making them be villains again in Reach is a bit of a mixed message, something Bungie surely is aware of. Purely story-wise, however, we could be fighting Elites again.

Falls 2010? What The Hell Does That Mean?

It's a play on words. The battle at Reach was a devastating loss for the humans, and they lost the planet. Reach falls 2010- the planet is lost in fall 2010.

And if you think you've never heard or seen Reach before, it was actually mentioned at the start of Halo 2, briefly. Here's a picture of it after being glassed.

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