I’m not a Halo guy. At least, I’m not anymore. While I lined up for the first three games, somewhere between the end of Halo 3 and the beginning of ODST; I just got burned out on the series. Still though, there was something about Halo: Reach that intrigued me. Maybe it was the space battles, maybe it was the fact that this is series creators Bungie’s final game in the series before they start their 10 year, multi-platform deal with Activision. Who knows what it was — I just knew that Halo: Reach was something I had to at least experience.
Good thing I did. In a word, Halo: Reach is simply breathtaking. It’s not only everything a fan of the Halo series could want, it’s everything that makes shooters what they are. What’s more; Reach is simply the best Halo game to be released yet, somehow Bungie manages to craft a much larger and epic story that still manages to create a strong lasting emotional connection. Between the beefed up campaign and the surefire multiplayer suite — Halo: Reach is the ultimate Halo experience.
The meat of Halo: Reach is in the game’s campaign mode. Much like ODST before it, series protagonist Master Chief is nowhere to be found. Instead, players assume the role of a Spartan-III soldier, known simply as Noble Six as he’s been reassigned to the Noble Team. His welcome isn’t a warm one though as the team meets their newest member with a bit hostility — seeing as the previous noble member sacrificed his own life against the Covenant (those are the bad guys for those not in the know). Awkward much? Very.
Reach is easily the most well thought out of the Halo series and features some amazing character development. I’ll admit that in previous Halo games, I would shoot my AI controlled comrades if I needed any ammo, but in Reach, I couldn’t bring myself to do it. Yes, you’re going to become attached to your squad mates, be them fellow members of Noble team or simply UNSC soldiers. Being so attached to those around you has an obvious impact on how you play through the game’s story. Reach is undoubtedly the best Halo game in terms of story (read: it’s the easiest to follow). There’s a large section of gamers who play Halo yet never even try the single player, Reach could change that.
Another equally impressive aspect of Reach is just how detailed everything is. While Bungie has never been a slouch in the visual department, everything seems much crisper and much more focused. Take for instance one particular section of the game that features Noble Team attempting to defend a city from the attacking covenant forces. From the fleeing citizens, to the covenant; whose ships and soldiers are shooting at literally everything that moves, there’s a lot going on here at once and reach handles everything exceptionally well. The same can be said for how the game processes the plethora of customization options found within Halo: Reach. While these options, including customized armor and gadgets may not do much (let’s be honest, as much as the game says they’ll help, they’re purely cosmetic) — it’s great to see how fluidly they’re handled.
Long after players have finished Reach’s single player campaign — long after all of the daily and weekly challenges are finished, the game’s legacy will be written, of course by the game’s multiplayer suite. Reach features everything you’d expect from a Halo multiplayer experience, but adds to it everywhere that matters. Whether you’re playing co-op with a friend, or taking onâ€¦ahem..noobs in one of the game’s competitive modes, you’re sure to sink a ton of time in to the suite. Be advised though, if you were part of the much publicized multiplayer beta that was released earlier this year, there have been a few tweaks that may catch you off guard, namely in the headhunter and firefight modes, but none of them make a huge difference, and most gamers won’t even know what’s changed.
Undoubtedly, the game’s biggest time suck will be in the much improved Forge mode. Simply put, Forge is a virtual playground for Halo fans, where they take an empty map and build whatever they can dream up; it’s like Little Big Planet — except you know, with guns and grenade launchers and stuff. In Reach, Bungie has given players the biggest map ever and far more tools to create. The coolest part of Reach’s Forge mode though is definitely the ability to create with other players and create the ultimate Halo experience.
The Blast Factor: Sure, the game has its problems, like a few quirky AI stumbles and the fact that if you want to get anywhere in the game’s vehicle levels, you’re going to have to drive rather than shoot, but these are all minor gripes. Halo: Reach is an incredible experience. It’s almost as if Bungie is outdoing themselves as a challenge to whatever studio Microsoft puts in charge of the next iteration of the series. Halo: Reach is not only the best title in the franchise to date, it’s easily one of the finest Xbox 360 titles to date.