Saturday, September 18, 2010

Second Opinions On Halo Reach

Remember Reach
Halo: Reach is Bungie's final Halo game. And judging by the reviews from all three IGN regions (US, UK, and Australia), it's a worthy sendoff. But why trust the opinion of three of IGN's most notable editors? We've got plenty of other editors who have played Reach and are ready to offer their thoughts. You want multiple opinions? Oh, you're gonna get 'em.

Halo Reach ?Has The Best Gametypes Of Any Online Game

It's the ending that won me over. Oh, I had some great fun with Halo: Reach, which builds to its finish better than any previous Halo game, but it wasn't the conclusion that put this over the top. This is my favorite Halo campaign.

The bonus level that comes after the lengthy credits perfectly closes out Reach and emphasizes the hopelessness of the situation. Coming into this, Bungie's last Halo title, it was already known that Reach was doomed. Being witness to the planet's demise is a bittersweet reward for nearly a decade of loyalty to the franchise. I've got to admit, the minute Reach ended, I popped in the original Halo and started playing it again. I couldn't help myself.

Multiplayer maps

Some of my favorite Halo missions are in Reach. Including a mission, "Long Night of Solace," which introduces space combat into the series. And while battling above Reach is awesome, the best part comes afterwards, when you board a Covenant Corvette and experience some low-G combat. The sound alone makes this level worth playing.

Then, of course, there's the multiplayer, which is the real bread and butter of Halo. Bungie has been tweaking Halo multiplayer over the years and this seems like the best balance to appease the broadest number of fans. Firefight, for me, is where it's at, and the ability to fully customize this mode is going to have me playing Halo: Reach for months.

I'm a Halo fan. I've loved every game. So it's probably not a shock that I love Halo: Reach. I won't apologize for digging another Halo game. Bungie knows how to make a great first-person shooter. It's a fitting finale for Bungie and hopefully the start of something new and exciting as the series continues under 343 Industries' stewardship.

I've always had a love/hate relationship with the Halo franchise. The universe is extensive and the storytelling is fantastic, but the gameplay is also extremely linear and the graphics always seem behind the curve. Still, I've picked up every Halo game on launch day and played the hell out of it in the months to follow. For me, it's about the experience Bungie works so diligently to create, the epic nature of the story, and the hype and fan culture surrounding Halo games. Halo games are an event, and Halo: Reach has been the greatest thus far.

As I write this, I'm sitting at my desk, and at the back of my mind I'm thinking about how I want to get home as quickly as possible to finish the campaign and see how the story ends. I spent hour after hour last night trying to fight my way to the finish, but before I knew it, it was 1 a.m. and I realized my eyes could no longer bear to gaze upon the screen. So, I reluctantly retired despite being right on the cusp of the crescendo of the story.

Halo in Five Minutes

Few games ever have this type of effect. Usually it's because I can't get invested in the story, but I'm rarely up into all hours of the night playing a game feverishly. But for me, Halo: Reach is all about the story. I love how references and characters of the previous games are interwoven, and how well Bungie has created the drama of a planet under attack. In the Halo universe, the fall of Reach is huge, and Bungie has told the story exceptionally well.

Still, I also found plenty of issues with Halo: Reach. The updated engine looks good, but I wouldn't say it is a staggering improvement over Halo 3, nor does it really hold up against other recent titles, like Uncharted 2. The frame rate drops are also an issue, and they took me out of the experience at times. I also appreciate that Bungie wanted to make Reach a bit more challenging than the previous games, but the relentless waves of foes can be a bit of an annoyance.

But at the end of the day, I'm loving Halo: Reach. Bungie is sending themselves out in style, and there is no question that this is their greatest effort yet. I'm sad to see the end of Bungie's Halo, but I'm sure Microsoft will leave the universe in able hands.

While I could probably gush about Halo: Reach for a few pages, I'd like to instead focus on one of its missions, "Long Night of Solace," which is my favorite mission in the Halo series. This is the space dogfight mission that was revealed at E3 2010, but it doesn't start in space. You begin this mission pushing through waves of Covenant forces on a beach with a full complement of Spartans that can essentially clear the way for you if you just sit back -- although I prefer to sprint ahead and jack a Wraith to flank the enemy. All standard Halo fare. But at the end of the beach, a launch pad awaits, and, as you hop into the Sabre and launch into space, the battlefields of Reach fade as you slip silently into the upper atmosphere.

In space you assume control of the agile Sabre fighter. As different Covenant ships jump into view, the gun batteries of Anchor 9 space station begin to blaze and sounds of radio chatter and dull explosions fill the cockpit, you realize you aren't really playing Halo anymore, but the best Battlestar Galactica episode ever. Few games have tackled space combat as well as Bungie in this brief interlude in Reach -- although Star Wars: Rogue Squadron II for Gamecube immediately springs to mind. It's a game-within-a-game, but it's executed so well that a standalone space shooter from Bungie is now higher than an HD Zelda on my fantasy game list.

Eventually you must disable a large Covenant ship by swooping in and taking shots at its massive engines. This concludes the dogfight, but not the mission. You then land on the disabled ship where you are tasked with clearing out the Covenant forces in low gravity. Space jumps and dull, zero atmosphere sound effects make this battle unique -- and difficult. Halo: Reach has a few more surprises in store after this mission, but I feel like this campaign is both the height of the game and of the series since it highlights many of the series best qualities: scale, variety and, of course, combat (evolved).

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