The Halo franchise played a huge part in Xbox’s success since Halo: Combat Evolved dropped in 2001. Halo is still a phenomenon as evidenced by Halo Reach‘s (Xbox 360) huge launch. But it’s grip on the FPS genre has been shaken by the emergence competitors like the Call of Duty games. With that said Reach has some big shoes to fill as Bungie’s, the series’ main developer, swan song. So, is Halo Reach more of the same, inviting to new players, or an all around dud? Take a look and see if Reach is a fitting entry in the Halo series.
Starting off, Halo Reach‘s campaign takes place before the events of Halo CE. You play as a member of the Noble Team in a fight against The Covenant army, the series’s long standing archenemy, as they invade Reach: the last viable human colony in the galaxy. The story unfolds from there as you take part in a roughly 6-10+ hour operation depending on your difficulty settings and skill level. You can go it alone or invite three friends to play with you in person or mostly lag free online over Xbox Live. I’ve found the campaign to be most fun, and challenging, with at least a friend in tow on Legendary: the highest setting. The enemies seem crazy overpowered at times but they’re formidable opponents that try to pick apart your squad. The impressive visuals and fun set pieces with some twists throughout pull everything together and make the campaign well worth playing.
Halo Reach‘s many hallmarks greatly boosts its caliber. Changes like dropping dual wielding as well as the battle-rifle with its “spray and pray” tactics, re-introducing fall damage and health on top of the slow, regenerating shield makes Reach play like Halo CE in a few respects. Then the game touts new weapons, re-balances old ones, daily & weekly challenges, a customizable soldier and simple class based system with novel inventions that flesh it out. Some of my favorite new tricks include armor abilities like the jet pack and the active camo. They let you fly for a limited time and go invisible respectively. But the Holographic Decoy is the front-runner so far. It sends a body double to a location to distract enemies. Then, if you’re cunning enough, you can sneak around and get the drop on the opposition. It’s one of those things that sounds alright in words yet needs to be seen to get full effect.
Multiplayer modes are plenty with the new Invasion mode being a personal favorite. It’s a team based mode where each side takes turns attacking and defending points with a capture the flag-lite objective at the end. But much of the enjoyment online in Reach, like any shooter, depends on who you play with. Fun and tons of laughs aren’t hard to have with a team of friends. But It’s a crap shoot on your lonesome. You’ll end up with teammates that want to work together, a bunch of Ritalin-deficient kids or basement dwellers that could’ve used a hug, or a whupping, from mom & pops. Those types usually don’t play firefight: an enjoyable cooperative mode that pits a team of 4 against increasingly difficult waves of enemies. But, like anything else online, you’re bound to run into your fair share of idiots regardless. Thankfully the mute options are easy to use and robust file sharing system for game types, custom forge maps including the impressive forge world locale, flicks and pictures are compelling to mess around with when matchmaking isn’t enough.
Reach is rife with features and it shines with much needed improvements. I can’t fault it for much outside having few invasion maps, of some brief choppiness during hectic campaign fights, the inability to watch flicks in a party and a community that sometimes acts like they’re a few chromosomes short in the gene pool. You’re probably playing Halo Reach already if you’re a die-hard Halo fan. Shooter aficionados who are on the fence or, in my case, don’t like previous Halo games that much may likely find something entertaining about Reach. It’s worth it to at least rent the game or try it out a friends house to see if it’s right for you. With that said it’s one of the most complete games I’ve played this year and it has extensive replay value.