Friday, October 15, 2010

Halo: Reach Review – “It’s Time To ‘Reach’ Reach”


I’ve played Halo for years and I can safely say that the series has had a huge effect on my life. I’ll never forget the LAN parties me and my friends had on half days in high school – these were truly awesome times. When I think back about Halo 2 and 3 I wonder if I was caught up in Microsoft’s hype machine. I’m not saying they we’re bad games, they we’re actually great games but like I’ve said before I feel like that with each subsequent Halo release Bungie slowly took away what made the franchise so special – Simplicity.

With Reach Bungie has changed all this, they’ve removed most of the features that over complicated the series and added new features that make the tried and true Halo formula feel fresh. Halo: Reach is the result of Bungie spending ten years perfecting the Halo franchise.

The single player campaign’s plot line is very simple, you follow Noble Team as they deal with the Covenant assault on one of the UNSC’s most important outposts, the planet Reach. The story is engaging and it is caped off by one of the best endings I have ever experienced in a video game – the final chapter is a truly moving experience and I’m very pleased that Bungie chose to keep it in the game. I’ve read interviews where Bungie’s creative director, Marcus Lehto, explained how including the ending was a subject of debate among the development team. I’m glad it wasn’t left on the cutting room floor.

The more linear plot line keeps the game focused and moving a long at a break neck pace. Every single player level is engaging and exciting, none of them cause the game to drag or get boring unlike other iterations in the Halo franchise. One particular level and my personal favorite Halo level ever, The Long Night Of Solace, is perhaps the single best level I have ever played in a first person shooter. I was quick to criticize the space combat Bungie showed off at this years E3 but it was great and definitely didn’t feel tacked on at all. Bungie managed to integrate this mini-game like feature in such a seamless fashion that it fit perfectly into the games overall feel. The anti-gravity space portion of the levels were also ridiculously fun and fresh.

The campaign is dark, realistic, fresh and most importantly a whole lot of fun – it’s an experience no Halo fan or gamer for that matter should miss.

Bungie made the right decision by creating an entirely new graphics engine for Reach, Halo 3′s was starting to look seriously dated. The result is possibly one of the best looking games on the Xbox 360. Reach does lag occasional when there are multiple enemies and vehicles on the screen, especially when your playing with multiple people on one Xbox. This is disappointing but it doesn’t really damage the game’s overall experience and it doesn’t occur that often. It would have been nice if Bungie spent a few more months polishing the game off but I imagine that’s difficult when Microsoft is probably breathing down your neck to get the game out the door. Overall the graphics have a much more realistic feel when compared to Halo 3 and this perfectly compliments the game’s darker tone.

The inclusion of new vehicles that are actually fun to drive, the Falcon, Sabre, and Revenant are also welcome additions to the franchise. Unlike past new weapons each new inclusion fits perfectly into the Halo universe and is expertly balanced.

The new armor abilities also simplify Halo 3′s item system and make the game generally much more balanced than past Halo games. The hologram ability, the only ability not included in the Reach Beta, seems rather stupid at first but it is extremely useful in sniper matches. Even though I’m a seasoned Halo veteran I often fall for this silly ploy – sometimes it’s hard to tell who’s the actual player and who’s the hologram. Fall damage has also been drastically toned down from the beta, it was difficult to avoid killing your self when jet packing across maps – I died numerous times because of this.

I’m also a fan of the new health pack system, maybe it’s just nostalgia speaking but it reminds me of Halo: CE and ads a sense of urgency to the single player. I don’t bother rushing in to a swarm of elites because I know that my health won’t fully regenerate unless I find a health kit. Martin O’Donnell’s music is once again amazing, he manages to capture the monk like Halo theme of older games but also still gives Reach’s music a fresh and engaging sound. The title music is particularly breath taking.

One of my main complaints about Reach’s multiplayer mode is the lack of map variety. A few of the multiplayer maps are remakes from Halo 3 and Halo 2 which is great for gamers looking to replay them but it’s also lazy on Bungie’s part. I would have liked to see these remakes included in the game but also a lot more new maps. A few of the remakes from matchmaking are Forge World maps so they all look very similar, this is also somewhat disappointing. I’m sure Bungie will release multiple map packs during the games life span and I can almost guarantee that one will appear on the Xbox Live marketplace very soon.

Another complaint I have about multiplayer is the game’s matchmaking mode. The removal a visible ranking system and social playlists irks me quite a bit. Rankings gave me something to work towards every time I played Halo 3 and social playlists we’re perfect for when I wanted to play games with my girlfriend who isn’t that great at Halo. I realize why bungie did this, to try to keep the community in one single playlist and decrease the amount of time it takes to find games, but that doesn’t mean I really like it. The new arena is Bungie’s new playlist for competitive ranked gaming but it’s a somewhat confusing method and is rather time consuming. Apparently you need to play three games a day for six days until you are assigned a division. Then after that you play other gamers in your division and are given the opportunity to move to a higher level. It sounds cool and gives you something to work towards on a monthly basis because it resets every season.

The inclusion of Halo: ODST’s firefight mode is also great, there’s nothing like jumping into a game with a few friends and blindly blasting away at the Covenant. The fact that it supports matchmaking now to is also great, if your down one friend you can still create a four person team. I still wish Bungie included a server list in Reach, Forge World is an amazing tool and the ability to share maps with other users is a great feature but without a server or game list you can only play your creations with people on your friends list. With all the content included in Reach I find it strange that Bungie still didn’t add this feature in their swan song to the Halo franchise.

As soon as you start playing it’s very easy to tell that Halo: Reach is culmination of 10 years of game design. As someone who’s been playing Halo since the franchise began I can safely say that this is by far the best game in the series. It even surpassed Halo: Combat evolved – for a nostalgic person like my self this is not an easy feat for a game developer to accomplish.

Game Judgment’s Christopher Goodchild will also be reviewing Reach so be on the look out for his opinion on Bungie’s latest epic over the next few days.


-Great single player experience

-Possibly one of the most content rich games ever released on the Xbox

-Great multiplayer experience


-The game lags when there are too many enemies on the screen

-Lack of multiplayer map variety

- No game or server list for custom games

Overall Rating 9.5/10

Reccomendation: Buy it!

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