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Game Review: Halo: Reach
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Halo: Reach
PLATFORM: Xbox 360
DEVELOPED BY: Bungie
PUBLISHED BY: Microsoft
RELEASE DATE: September 14, 2010

And then there was Reach…

After three world-renown games and two spinoff titles, the world of Halo was set to end with not a sequel but a prequel in Halo: Reach. The new game takes place a short time before the events of the very first game, Halo: Combat Evolved, when some lad named Master Chief was not the only remaining Spartan super-soldier.

The first three games were never praised for their story so much as the wondrous worlds, creatures, and futuristic campaigns and technologies they presented. Oh, and let us not forget the fact that they’re basically a godfather to modern day online console multiplayer gaming as it’s popular today. In Halo 3: ODST — which was set just before the start of Halo 3 — story was focused on a little more carefully, and now with Reach, they’ve brought the story full-circle by returning to the start.

The game begins with your character, Noble 6 — who you customize at the beginning as either man or woman and with whichever color scheme you prefer — joining Noble Team. They welcome in your skills, but make it clear that you’re filling the shoes of someone most of them did not want to see filled. Before formal introductions can be made, you’re out the door for your first mission. Things don’t start out light, and you quickly realize that efforts are not going well on Reach; the Covenant have arrived, and the Winter Contingency is now in effect.

After that initial set up, you’ll mainly be fighting your way through a whole lot of Covenant forces in hopes of saving Reach. The game focuses more on action than story like previous entries in the franchise, but the story is still solid for what they’re giving you. Instead of just being Master Chief, saving the galaxy all by your lonesome, this time you are working with a team, and Bungie did a great job of making you feel like part of their little warrior family.

Halo: Reach only took me about 7 1/2 hours to beat (playing the campaign on co-op), which will vary depending upon player and how you play. Many seem to be angered by such a short game, but I praise it. While I think games with shorter lengths shouldn’t cost as much as a game that can take you 20, 50, 100+ hours, they do serve a purpose. Being the fan of movies I am, a video game that makes me feel like I’m playing a movie is perfect at the 8-10 hour length. A game that you can play in one epic game night always appeals to me, especially with replayability; sometimes I don’t feel like starting a massive game over, and so I would throw something like Reach in.

The game does have insane amounts of online multiplayer modes, which is where it being the same cost as longer games is justified. For those who do play online, the gameplay length is endless, and you’ll get your money’s worth many times over with modes like Firefight and Invasion constantly forcing you to challenge yourself and achieve that next rank. Being someone who doesn’t play online, I put all my eggs in the campaign basket, and again, while it is short, it’s worth buying if you like Halo. I’m already well at work on a second play through, if that says anything.

As with most things I review, there were a few things I wasn’t big on, and I always like to make a note of them just in case they sway you. As someone who loves a good shooter, I’m used to and adore two important things: a cover system and quick aiming capabilities. Reach doesn’t have a cover system, and though they never have, taking cover is something soldiers do, and adding one here would have done so much to improve combat when things got really intense. As for aiming, you are able to click your right analog stick with certain guns and aim, but most of us are used to holding the left trigger to zoom and shooting with the right trigger. If you try that here, you’ll likely find yourself committing suicide via grenade…as I may have done once or twice.

I haven’t played the other Halo games in a while, but I remember the first time I played Mass Effect thinking “I hate driving this Mako, I wish it were as smooth as the Warthog in Halo!” This time around I found myself missing the Mako as the Warthog is really hard to get used to. I could swear in the other games you pushed a button to accelerate while steering with the analog, but this time it’s all analog based. Other vehicles like the Banshee are great, but it will take time to get used to driving.

These small things aside, I had a great time playing through. The worlds are massive and beautiful, the action is insane, and the music is an enchanting and inspirational accompaniment. Bungie also added some interesting levels to mix things up, such as one that takes place out in space and requires you to fight off the enemy while flying your own ship, and another that sees you piloting a helicopter and making your way around a massive city to complete some small missions.

Without giving any spoilers away, if you’re familiar with this series as a whole you’ll know that this campaign will not be an easy one, and this is so very true. Many times throughout I found myself shocked or saddened by something happening, and this has to be one of the top praises I have for the game. Anything that attaches you to its world and characters is a job well-done in these eyes.

One of the interesting things I thought about while playing is how similar this game might be to the book Halo: The Fall of Reach. All of the talks of a Halo movie were said to be based on this book, and I’m curious to know if playing the game offers up a similar story to scripts that have been written for a possible film. If this were the case, yes, you’d have to do without Master Chief, who is one of the main draws. On the other hand, ol’ Chief might not be considered as compelling as this group of six characters. And hey, there’s always sequels. If you’ve read the book and played the game, by all means, note how similar or different they are. Speaking of, as with each of the past few titles, a live-action trailer was made. All of them are great. All of them prove a movie, if done well, would probably pretty amazing, as you can see below.

Overall, Halo: Reach is a game that no Halo fan can ignore. If you’ve played the others, you need to play this one immediately. For the rest of you, the great thing is that this game is set before all of the other games, so even if you’ve never touched a Halo game you can pick this up and go for it. It would probably be wise to play at least Combat Evolved and Halo 2 first considering they were released on the original Xbox, but the options are all there.

In closing, all that’s left to ask is…is this really the final Halo game? It’s been said that this is the last that Bungie will make, sure, but with every game breaking sales records, it would be insanely hard for Microsoft to ignore their temptations to keep going. Do not be shocked if at some point down the road you hear the announcement of a new developer creating a little something called Halo 4. I for one would be thrilled to get back to the Master Chief storyline.

Trailer

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