Sunday, September 19, 2010

Halo: Reach - Review

Score 9.25/10

Halo: Reach
Developer: Bungie
Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
Release Date: Sept 14, 2010







Pros: Halo multiplayer has been perfected, Customizable Spartan armor lets yours stand out from the rest, Slew of challenges and modes keep you coming back for more, New loadouts and abilities fit nicely in combat, Story blends with stellar soundtrack for a moving fight for Reach

Cons: Friendly AI is still as horrible as ever, Campaign left a little to be desired, new Multiplayer maps border on the "meh" side




Halo: Reach pre-dates the Halo games story-wise, but acts as the "final" installment in the Halo series. With four games before it, Reach had a lot to live up to. Bungie delivers once again, providing one of the best entries in the series with a perfected multiplayer to top it all off.

Remember Reach

The Campaign is usually the first thing I dive into, and I came out ultimately satisfied with what was given. You play the part of "Noble Six" of Noble Team, a group of Spartans fending off the Covenant invasion. Each member of noble team has their own unique look and personality to distinguish them apart, which unfortunately was a wasted opportunity to establish some cool franchise characters. You never spend enough time with each of them for any real "character development", and as a result never become attached to any.

Ultimately, the campaign "felt" the way it should have. The game's textures and colors are as rich as ever, with each environment containing something new to set it apart from the rest. The backdrops look like they came straight out of a painting, bringing a sense of beauty out of all the destruction going on around you. The soundtrack adds to each moment, donning the typical Halo theme upon battle with a somber symphony playing as a reminder of the ultimate fate of Reach. Any Halo fan knows that Reach falls, and with every action you accomplish it seems like the Covenant come back stronger. With an opening cinematic displaying a war torn field and a bullet through a Spartan helmet, you can't help but feel a sense of helplessness.


The enemy AI has significantly increased. Covenant are faster and a hell of a lot more brutal. Jackals now dip and dodge all around you, Elites are harder to take down and more brutal then ever, and even Grunts will sacrifice themselves to thin your ranks. This made combat much more intense, even with a team. While the enemies are smarter, the friendly AI is incredibly, incredibly stupid. They will stand still as enemies pummel you in the face 2 feet away, drive as slow as possible INTO enemy fire, shoot at a grunt instead of an Elite with a sword; you get the idea. At least with Master Chief they had the excuse of just being soldiers, with 3 Spartans there is no excuse; and certainly 4 games in, we should not be having this problem. If you play Campaign, Co-op is the way to get the best experience.

While the Campaign is fun, no real mission left a mark with me as previous Halo games did. I still remember jumping on and destroying the Spider Walker in 2, the daring escape from the ring on 3, and the first encounter with Flood in the first installment. With this game, no mission really stuck with me. They tried something new with the space combat, which is entertaining; but in the end felt a little lacking. There are even a few "set pieces", that you ultimately know are coming as the game fades to white for 10 seconds before occurring. Two years ago, this would have "wow"ed me, but with epic campaigns that Modern Warfare and Uncharted set in place, this campaign became forgetful.

Combat Evolved

While the combat in Halo ultimately remains the same, a few things have changed. Dual wielding is ditched for new "abilities". Now the Left Bar will trigger one of various new armor abilites that can be exchanged in Campaign or set in a Loadout on Matchmaking.


These goodies fit nicely in the typical Halo combat, and each has its own use. The Jetpack is the most welcome addition, allowing various death from above scenarios and quick movement along rooftops. The Sprint ability is surprisingly useful for moving quickly to cover or dashing to assassinate an enemy. The Armor Lock ability grants temporary invulnerability, which I found incredibly satisfying to use when a warthog tries to run you over.

While I wish there was a way to customize loadouts for various abilities in multiplayer, each set is still useful and all are a great way to mix the gameplay up.


There are also new "assassinations", in which you hold down the melee button while hitting someone from behind to showcase a nice animation of their timely demise. They never get old, but can really get you killed if you try to show it off in matchmaking.

My Spartan and Me

When you aren't battling the Covenant or teabagging noobs, you are typically spending your credits. Every action in the game earns you credits. Playing Campaign, mutiplayer, firefight; basically spending time on the game earns you credits to use. These credits are spent on armor upgrades.

The upgrades do not affect your ability at all. Equipping one helmet will not increase how much damage you can take compared to the other. These simply act as decorative items, and man are there plenty. Dozens of helmets, shoulder pads, chest pieces, and more are available to fully customize your Spartan the way you want. This appearance transfers over to the Campaign, giving more of a feeling that you are Noble Six. Some of the equipment is available right off the bat, and some you need to meet certain prerequisites to unlock; such as the rank of Captain. Some are cheap, some are incredibly expensive.

Bungie took this into consideration and has established "daily" and "weekly" challenges to boost your credits. Complete a set of parameters and you unlock bonus credits. Some come easy enough like "Get 'x' amount of kills in multiplayer", while others are more specific like "Complete one set of Firefight without dying". The weekly challenges border on the parameters of "Complete the Campaign on Heroic", but yield big rewards. Each of these not only provide some fun things to do in-game, but will continually bring people back to see what they can unlock the next day.
 

Mutliplayer Perfection

Halo truly shines in its multiplayer. It's no surprise, and Bungie proves once again why Halo remains such a force online.


The playlists have been revamped. You still have your typical Big Team Battle, Rumble Pit, and Team Slayer options. Once you pick the initial option, a vote commences of three additional options as to what you feel like playing. The options vary so much that anything is possible once you enter Matchmaking. Sometimes people want to play Sniper Wars (most popular choice), Headhunter, or Capture the Flag. Every option has something to offer.

Typical modes like Slayer and Capture the Flag make their return, but the new modes prove equally enjoyable. Headhunter pits teams/solos against each other collecting skulls and turning them into a set point, but upon death all of your skulls are dropped. Invasion pits Spartans against Elites in a fight to protect a core drive. Tiers of classes unlock as you progress through the game, promising more chaos as the fight goes on. Then of course there is a Mongoose Racing option, which speaks for itself as a hilarious endeavor.

While the new modes and types are great, the maps at your disposal are a bit less memorable than before. More than half of the maps are simply rehashes of the old-school maps like Blood Gulch. The newer ones occasionally shine with their layout, but some feel a bit lacking in enjoyment. It's always fun to go back and play the classics, but some really new, enjoyable maps would have been nicer. Not to mention that most of the new multiplayer maps were pulled straight from sections of the campaign. However, let's face facts; we all know a map pack will come along to fix this.

Overall

With a strong multiplayer and enjoyable co-operative experience, Halo: Reach is a fine addition to the series. The game offers plenty to do and is well worth the purchase price. As a final entry for the series, I was expecting a little more from the Campaign, but nothing swayed me so far as to take away any fun I was having. This is a must-have for any 360 owner.

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