Review: Halo: Reach (Xbox 360)September 18th, 2010 | Written by Alex Quevedo | Topic: Reviews, Xbox 360
Well this is the way it finally ends. No, not the way it did with Halo 3. Not with any sense of uncertainty. Not with a chance of a spin-off focusing on a side group of soldiers. No, it ends with a cracked helmet dug halfway into the sand with a beautifully war-torn landscape adorning the background. Well, it ends only to start it all back again. Bungie’s final act of its Halo series is the end that begins a series so many of us have been connected to for the better part of a decade. And how do they start things off? With a cracked helmet halfway dug into the sand.
We focus on the helmet because of the feeling it brings with it. The Halo series has been generally exciting, with plenty of memorable moments such as storming the beach in the original Halo. And while fans may have been connected to Master Chief to a certain degree, was there really a deep story to it all? The one super-soldier leading the charge, doing whatever it took to smash the alien foes. It had depth in its own respect, but you certainly would never even think to mention its story next to games like Mass Effect or BioShock. Halo: Reach doesn’t quite get to those levels, but it certainly has much more depth than its predecessors.
A lot of it seems like it has to do with being surrounded by a tighter-knit group. Master Chief was the lone wolf. Noble 6, on the other hand, is reminded he is part of a team within the first several minutes of the game. And with these other Spartans on your side, you fight through hell with doom constantly lingering above your head. If you’ve read the Halo books, you’re already familiar with what’s going on. Noble team is fighting to save the planet Reach, which is falling under Covenant control. Reach is more or less humanity’s last stand. It’s one of the few remaining planets that haven’t been annihilated and serves as the UNSC’s main hub. You’re tasked with trying to save it, knowing full well its nearly impossible.
The main issue with all of this is the assumption factor. You are briefed to what the current mission is at the start of the game. You get the sense that everything will start to get worse, but you aren’t really told anything. This may cause some problems with the casual gamer picking up the game. They’ll figure out what’s going on eventually, but there is a definite possibility of alienation resulting from this. There could have been some sort of readable briefing of the situation for those gamers.
Beyond this, what we get with Reach is your standard, fast-paced Halo experience with some notable advancements. You’ll notice almost immediately that the Covenant adapt to battles much easier than before. Grunts run as always, but advanced Jackals and Elites bounce around significantly more (Jackals even more so, especially when they start jumping across rooftops). What it provides is a much more engaging battle. You’ll need to rethink any guns-blazin’ attitude and start to pick your positions wisely the deeper you get into the game. Unfortunately the same can’t quite be said for your Marine counterparts. Once again your exploits may be foiled by their ineptitude. Driving is by far the worst since a majority of the time they look like a 15-year old attempting to drive a stick-shift.
Despite this, you’ll more than likely want to return to the campaign. It is thoroughly enjoyable and the use of challenges, scoring and co-op makes it all the better. Although we had reservations going in about it, we were pleased how the flying missions ended up turning out. You’ll only have one mission in space but it doesn’t take very long getting used to the controls. It was much weirder watching this mission during an E3 demo than it is playing it, so kudos to Bungie for making it work. A later mission gives you a much heavier ship to move around in, but you don’t feel too much more clinky.
The real jewel, as always, is the multiplayer. It’s what Halo fans are used to but with more customization this time around. You are able to essentially customize every aspect to maximize your enjoyment levels. Don’t want to play with the super-competitive freaks? Put yourself in the just for play section. It may not completely cut out the slurs that were frequently found while playing, but it will certainly boost your enjoyment of the matchmaking.
The matchmaking also extends over to Firefight as well. This makes it a vast improvement over the already enjoyable version included with Halo 3: ODST. There is much more depth to it as well in terms of modes and customization. For example, you could clutter a map with hazards and make the enemies nothing but grunts. And of course, Forge has beefed up again as well. And moving up in the ranks will provide more and more challenges to gain credits. There are even daily and weekly challenges to complete. So in the event that you were worried about not draining enough hours into video games, you won’t need to worry any more. You’ll probably spend plenty of time wasting away playing matchmaking.
Of course, all of this happens in a great looking environment. The graphics and sound come across smooth. We did notice some degrees of lag when there was a massive amount of activity on the screen but it never slowed down too much. And we’re not sure if you’ll see this, but early on in the game we noticed some “wiping” across the screen. It wasn’t quite lag, but when we were moving around in the air some of the images looked a bit distorted. This very well could have been due to heavy details since the images were directly behind a ship engine, but we can’t be too sure. It’s something to look out for though.
Halo: Reach winds up being a fantastic way to end the series. Obviously this isn’t the last we’ll see of Halo. It’s too much of a money maker for Microsoft to end it, which is exactly why they created 343 Studios. But this is a great send off for Bungie. The closer you get to the end, the more “nostalgic” it gets, if you want to call it that. There’s really no question about this one. Just get it.