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Posted by drew10 on Sep 20, 2010
Review – Halo: Reach – Microsoft Game Studios – Xbox 360

Review – Halo: Reach – Microsoft Game Studios – Xbox 360

Reach For The Stars

So here it is, nine years after the phenomena began Bungie bow out of the Halo franchise they created with the fifth game in the series. Well that is of course if you include ODST as a proper Halo game. Lets call it the fourth game in the ‘trilogy’.

Halo: Reach takes the series back to its roots and delivers the most complete Halo to date. No, it will never be as ground-breaking or as inspiring as the original all that time ago but Reach turns up everything you love about the series to eleven.

Set as a prequel to the original game you play ‘six’ the newest member of Team Noble, an elite group of Spartan Soldiers. Noble find themselves in the middle of a full-scale invasion of planet Reach by the Covenant.

This setting allows Bungie to throw the player into the most intensive and frantic combat yet seen in a Halo game and the breathtaking action continues at a relentless pace until the very last moments and exponentially builds to a frenetic climax.

With Halo: Reach, Bungie has taken all the good things from the previous games and listened to the fans and delivered a game that has all the elements every fan wanted and tons of new features too. From the moment you enter the game, the menu system has been overhauled to allow you to see how your friends are getting on with their rank and points. A neat touch if you are thinking of inviting them into a skirmish.

The gameplay mechanics have been updated introducing new abilities you can be collected and accessed through the LB button. These range from sprint, two shields and the excellent jet packs. You can only have one of these abilities equipped at any one time and although adding a tactical element to the gameplay as to knowing what ability is needed when, not having sprint available at all times can prove annoying.

As for those controls, the new system will have experienced Halo players screaming at the TV at times as you flail about trying to recall where Bungie have now placed the melee button. Once mastered though the new controls work a dream.

Game modes are aplenty with the Campaign being playable in either single player or up to four-player co-op. The co-op mode really comes alive in the more intensive later levels, although no split screen action is available which is a shame. On top of the Campaign mode you have Halo’s near legendary deathmatch options. Taking on players in the various guises of online battle has always been one of the series strongest points. Now with massive customisation options for your characters that not only hone the appearance but also their abilities different style of player will be able to gear their character up toward their playing style.

The ton of customisation does not only apply to the characters though. No now you can customise levels as well editing where weapons appear and what they should be. This user-created content should ensure even more longevity than before.

The one highlight from ODST was the online mode Firefight where online players battled together against waves of increasingly difficult Covenant. Thankfully this also returns in Reach.

So Let’s return to the Campaign mode, Halo’s narrative has always been engrossing and with Reach Bungie have added a support cast of characters that add depth and realism to the proceedings. The other five members of Team Noble all have unique personalities and fighting alongside them builds a real sense of tension and depth as they react to the situation around them.

As a prequel the game works well and whilst not really providing anyone familiar with the Halo canon any real surprises it does show some insights into a few of the characters that appear in the trilogy.

Enemy AI has been greatly improved as they duck, weave and roll away from attacks. Although the AI of your compatriots still leaves a little to be desired. Especially if you let a fellow soldier drive a vehicle for you, they truly are awful. Mentioning the driving, the mechanic still hasn’t been updated and is still as annoying and fiddly as ever.

Reach is by far and away the best looking Halo to date but even then still lags behind many of its contemporaries both in terms of texture and detail. That said there is loads going on, on-screen and the game has the most varied level design in the series so far. You will find yourself in caverns, cities, grassy plains and even space.

Yes, for the first time Halo takes you off the ground and sits you in the pilot’s seat of a space fighter. This section is truly brilliant and criminally short-lived. And it makes us old enough to remember, hanker after a new Colony Wars.

The audio in Halo: Reach is of the same high standards that have been the norm for the series with great voice acting and massive battle sounds set to an emotional backdrop of a brilliant classical score. It all adds to the overall blockbuster cinematic feel of the game.

If Halo: Reach does have a flaw it is all over too quickly, sadly another trait inherited from its predecessors. The campaign can be finished within ten hours but thankfully the addition of the co-op missions means that replay value is greatly increased. Added to the fact that we will all still be playing the multiplayer games online for years to come the value of the package should not be underestimated.

Overall, Bungie bow out on a high and leave us with a legacy of brilliant experiences since we all first set foot on the Halo those nine years ago. It will be interesting to see what they go on to do next and likewise what Microsoft do with Halo the franchise. We hope that they find someone to pick up where Bungie have left off and take the series forward because Game4anything want, no need more Halo.

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