Game Review: Halo Reach
Release: 14th September
Genre: First-person shooter
Developer: Bungie Studios
Available Platforms: Xbox 360
Players: 1, 1-16 online
ESRB Rating: M
I am not a Halo fan. In fact you could say I am largely unqualified to deal with this review. You could say I’m the biggest idiot who ever lived and you could also say I’m a tramp. Well, I’m Nathan Hardisty and I like Halo Reach. I’m not in bed with it like most game publications are at the moment, but it is the third date right now. We’re going steady, keeping it slow, maybe afterwards we’ll go back to my place for some ‘coffee’. Anyways, enough with the sexual implications and personification of a videogame and lets dive deep into my own take on the reaching business. There’s going to be a lot of wordplay on the word ‘reach’ so you might as well just sit back, relax and remember this will probably be the last review I ever write for Platform Nation
In Halo Reach the gargantuan mystery of Reach (where Mr. Chief was trained, and the first fall to the Covenant began) is revealed in all of its delicious glory. It tells the tale of Noble Team, a team of six Spartans recruited to do specialised missions and basically be awesome. During the invasion of Reach they go on personal journeys and bond together. There’s a chick with a robot arm called Kat and a big massive guy called Jorge. You’re the new guy, Noble Six, a Spartan described as “a lone wolf” – which is unfortunately a dangerous foreshadowing. There are no real spoilers for Halo Reach as any basic fan knows what happens in the end; Snape kills Dumbledore etcetera.
The basic formula of Halo games has stayed the same (perhaps for the worse, we’ll get to that later). Two weapons, regenerating shields and giant set-piece moments between sections of corridor shooting; there’s not an ounce of fresh paint to be seen. That’s not a bad thing, don’t fix what ain’t broken, but Bungie decided to add Armour Abilities. Jetpack, Sprint, Hologram (send out a decoy), Armour Lock (impervious to damage, can’t move) and the returning Bubble Shield. These can be added in Single-player by swapping them out or in multiplayer by putting them into your load-outs. All of these armour abilities feel fresh and new with intruding on the core experience that Halo has always delivered on
The fact is about the Halo series is that from a structural story perspective, they’ve never been too strong. They generally add a lot of elements of horror and science fiction and make it a hybrid of hyper-reality, which has always been alright. Reach differs in that there’s a lot more cut-scenes, the player character talks a lot more and there’s really nothing different. To be perfectly clear, however, Reach tells a good story with great characters and ends on a note that feels powerful but inevitably emotional. It feels earned and deserved for a series to come full circle and end on such a note. I won’t spoil the exact gameplay details of such section other than it’s after the credits.
Halo Reach is an enjoyable rollercoaster in the story department, surprising for a game that employs male empowerment as its core focus, in the gameplay roster there’s little change. Good too, the game plays wonderfully and everything feels more refined. The single-player campaign is short but sweet a la Modern Warfare 2, Firefight (in my opinion, the only good part of ODST apart from Nathan Fillion) returns and is practically a reason on its own to own this game. I’m dead serious when this is some of the most fun you can have with any game, and it can be basically summed up as Halo’s version of Gears of War 2’s Horde mode. The main selling point as it always has been with Halo games, is the multiplayer, which deserves a paragraph on its own.
I’m not an online gamer, I must admit, I did play a damn lot of Call of Duty 4 back in the day but otherwise I just fell into a ditch after Modern Warfare 2. I could never get into Halo 3 at all, it still remains my most disliked of the series, but Reach’s multiplayer is built in such a way that almost has me giggling at the sight of the Matchmaking screen. It’s cleverly designed to be a social experience that rewards party goers and teamwork, both of which were never my forte. I enjoy it though, I really do, but it’s not exactly my type of game. It’s designed to be a massive social and networking experience. Maybe I am the wrong guy to review Halo Reach… but I did enjoy multiplayer for what it was, Halo fans will probably enjoy it a lot more than me given how many hours they’ve sunk into the core experience. Customising your Spartan carries over all across single-player, Firefight and multiplayer; making Halo Reach possibly one of the most personal games ever created. I have to touch briefly on Forge and move on, Forge is diabolical. It is massive, perhaps encapsulating the core concept of LittleBigPlanet in the tiny thread of tools that let you place and change specific objects. Multiplayer will keep me coming back not because I enjoy it, I don’t as much as some people, but because of the massive potential for user created modes, maps and other variety of content. As usual, Bungie outshine themselves in this area.
There are things I have to complain about, it’s my job. As I said, I don’t really ‘get’ Halo that much. I can understand its popularity but I can’t understand the appraisal behind it. Both Halo 3 and ODST took a dip in quality, in my books, but Reach is a definite improvement. It’s not reaching (wordplay!) the heights of Halo 2 but it does it a damn lot more than the past two iterations did. The checkpoint system fails me (I have to travel for thirty seconds before fighting for twenty seconds, dying and repeating the cycle), the story involves a lot of Halo jargon to which I just get confused face at. Oh and my biggest complaint is that the series isn’t exactly stagnating even at its conclusion (by Bungie at least) but we’ve seen all of the same gameplay staples before. At times I did not enjoy myself one bit and at other times, when I was flying up a giant tractor beam into the heart of a Covenant spire, I was back into my ten year old self diving on to the scarab in Halo 2.
Nath’s final say: Halo Reach by no means is a bad game. It is a well-designed effort by Bungie, who clearly put love and care into their community with each release. It’s the most accessible of the Halo games and if you perhaps bailed out at Halo 3 then this may just be your ticket back into the game. It is, as I predicted, clearly overrated and do not believe a word that the publications say. I am evidently the wrong person to be given this review, although I did ask for it, but I enjoyed my time with Halo. It’s not game of the year material in my books, but it might be just for you, pick it up if you just want to have a great time with giant aliens from outer space versus space marines… done right.
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