One of the biggest of 2010 - but the best?
And so it arrives: Halo Reach, Bungie's last game in the massively popular (and some argue way too overrated) franchise concerning mankind's struggle against the alien race known as the Covenant. Huge sales, books comics and action figures litter the stores and young kids everywhere are trash talking you and/or your mom on its addicting multiplayer. You knew Halo Reach was going to sell huge no question but the quality of the game I feel might be up for debate for a small number of folks. I should preface this review by saying that the Halo series probably has my favorite mythology of any sci-fi shooter, or even any shooter for that matter. The war against the Covenant, the use of the Halos and Master Chief and the weird entity known as the Flood, I always found the Halo series to have a way more interesting universe than say Gears of War. This is more or less a no-holds barred review of the game with all my praises as well as the serious gripes I have with it as well.
Pretty much everyone knows the story to Halo Reach by now: prior to the Master Chief's adventures, the planet Reach was being invaded heavily by the Covenant before it was repeatedly glassed. The game tells the story of Noble 6 and other Spartans that try their damnedest to repel the invasion and save as much lives as they can. The story right from the get go portrays a more somber tone and even though the music will kick into its Halo "badass-ness" where it gets all exciting and pulse-pounding, you're always aware that this planet doesn't have long. The game at times feels like a more prettier Halo game from before from certain objectives to the vehicle sections, sometimes the thought will hit you that "I've played this before" but then there will be other times where the storytelling really shines through and one level, the space level seen in trailers, is an incredible highlight.
But there's 2 complaints I have with the story and one is the characters themselves. The game tries to make you care for these Spartans has they go through so much to try and save Reach yet we don't exactly connect or even care about them and aside from Kat, I couldn't even tell who was who unless I saw their name above their character. The tone of the game is spot-on, the characters though are not. My other issue is a big one and considering this is their 5th game, this should've been fixed by now: friendly AI. I wouldn't consider myself cruel if I called them stupid as they're not the greatest shots, they barely shoot and in one mission, they literally, and I mean literally stood there while I fought enemies around them. But the enemy AI is still as ruthless as ever from using grenades to flush you out to flanking to using sheer numbers, they're no joke and yet thanks to Bungie's idea that Halo is best on Heroic and the achievement for completing it on Legendary by yourself is here, I'm sure many might think it'll be too frustrating to even attempt.
Now the multiplayer and first we'll deal with Firefight. Halo's version of Horde mode, the mode's still as fun as ever but I kind of wish you can select the Firefight classic variant in voting (this one has a time limit, classic has round after round after round until you're all dead) but the customizable gametypes is quite frankly staggering and there's so much to alter and change that you can go wild just thinking up endless game modes. Want an entire round with nothing but grunts? Or everyone with rocket launchers> Customizable skulls even? There's so much they offer that it becomes a cool diversion when you're tired of the multiplayer.
As for the multiplayer, well...it's Halo through and through. From the announcer voice, the stats screen and many others, this is pretty much Halo 3's multiplayer with a couple of changes and additions. New free for all gametypes, an objective-based gametype called Invasion, the use of the armor abilities such as jetpack and sprint, Forge World where you can create any map and gametype you want to upload and have people play, the online will last you quite awhile. One cool/cruel thing Bungie added are weekly and daily challenges that act as mini-achievements that nets you more credits and they're rotating so on day one they'll add kill 75 people in matchmaking and then they might change it to kill 15 people by melee the next, it helps keeps the game fresh and helps the ranking up. Only thing I'm not feeling is the mashing of game types as Halo 3 separated SWAT from the other modes yet every time in voting, that or Snipers gets top vote and that's usually the less "fun" gametypes for me.
I personally wouldn't go so far to say that Halo Reach is disappointing, on the contrary in fact since Bungie did decide to end their run at the series with a big bang and go out in style. And then at times I feel like they didn't go far enough and they simply made Halo 3 but with a better engine. I actually appreciated ODST for having a different change of pace from the hub world and the flashback structure but then Reach kind of goes back to the basics, very effective and tightly honed basics sure but this is a Halo game, new look or not.