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Halo: Reach review

In Videogames on October 7, 2010 at 4:45 PM

Halo: Reach – Xbox 360

Before this review begins, there are a few things you should know to put this into perspective.  I do not play Halo games.  I have never owned one.  I never planned on owning one.  In fact, I don’t particularly enjoy first-person-shooters on home consoles, despite it being one of my favorite genres on PC.  I’ve played Halo and Halo 2, both on Xbox and PC, and neither particularly impressed me.  I don’t have an Xbox Live Gold account, and therefore do not competitively play Halo online, though I have on many occasions played local multiplayer.

Halo: Reach grabbed me somehow.  As a fan of triumphant last stands and full-scale military epics, Reach seemed like the perfect setting to tell such a story.  From my basic understanding of the series and its backstory, Reach could offer an enormous scale invasion in the outer reaches of space on the same measure Star Wars brought to life on the big screen.  But after completing Reach’s solo campaign, I was left with nothing but a yearning for more.  Halo: Reach offers the same typical action of every previous Halo title.  Endless close quarters battles, vehicle interludes, rapidly updating objectives and a hackneyed, confusing story all plague Reach’s campaign.  Medal of Honor: Allied Assault achieved a more convincing sense of magnitude and urgency than Reach.

Despite finishing the solo campaign, the actual events of Reach remain elusive.  This, in large part, has to do with the awkward pacing of the game’s narrative.  Action starts within seconds of taking control of Noble Six, the nameless and faceless character you control during the campaign.  What little backstory is given of Noble Team’s five members and the planet Reach deals in unspecific or unnecessary information.  The events of Reach hardly play out like the Spartan’s last stand on an invaded planet against insurmountable foes.  Instead, it feels like any other Halo game as your one-man-army goes on an offensive rampage against various waves of bug-like aliens enemies.  Even the inclusion of a six person team, whom you rarely accompany, can’t erase Halo’s one-man-army gameplay.  This made sense for a character like Master Chief, a unique soldier among countless non-Spartans.  But as the freshest member of a six person squad, Noble Six should hardly be destroying the swarms of Covenant troops he does practically by his lonesome.

Though you're part of a six person Spartan unit, don't expect your partners to help.

Every mission begins with Noble team being placed into some situation that’s insufficiently explained, where Six and any number of Noble Team will move from objective to objective to secure the area.  While this works in the context of a Halo title, it hardly gives Reach the feeling of doom and invasion that an apocalyptic story such as this warrants.  Only in the game’s final moments did I feel overwhelmed or outnumbered.  The game tries to variate gameplay with a large portion of vehicle missions, including a space shootout which makes as little sense narratively as it does functionally.  The controls for these vehicle portions are absurd, and the space firefight marks the lowest of these missions, an exercise in button mashing and constant readjustment to the three-dimensional spacescape.  In whole, the solo campaign is a largely forgettable experience, hardly the last hurrah and culmination of greatness Bungie and many previews promised.

Reach tries to variate gameplay with vehicle portions, including a space fighter battle.

But most people don’t play Halo exclusively for its solo campaign, and that’s where Reach shines.  Multiplayer manages to entertain as much as can be expected, and provides constant close quartered firefights and skirmishes that keep play exciting and up-tempo.  However, the varying game types don’t offer much diversity, masking as an attempt rather than actual delivery.  However, the various gametypes and options do enough to make each individual match unique in comparison to the typical CTF or deathmatch laden multiplayer affairs most games offer.  Player matching and map voting also allows the action to happen quickly and frequently, removing most of the hassle of joining servers and setting up games.  Fans of the traditional Halo multiplayer experience will love the offerings Reach has to offer, handedly providing the series’ best multiplayer since Halo 2.

The best part of Reach is the suit upgrades, including stealth and jetpacks.

Since Halo’s Xbox exclusive release in 2001, the FPS genre has evolved in leaps and bounds, leaving series’ like Medal of Honor, Soldier of Fortune, and Quake in its dust.  Games like Killzone 2, Half Life 2, STALKER, Rainbow Six Vegas and more have redefined what first person action can achieve, both in immersion and gameplay.  Halo: Reach just hasn’t evolved with the times.  While its original launch ten years ago may have been a revolution for console shooters, Halo: Reach seems to add nothing to the table.  The scale of STALKER, the strategy of Rainbow Six Vegas, the storytelling of Half Life 2 all stand leaps and bounds above the generic point to point free-for-all combat found in Halo Reach.

Presentation – 7.5
The design and setup of the game is pretty frustrating for the most part and geared heavily towards a multiplayer experience, which made my single player desires more difficult than should have.

Graphics – 7.5
Reach’s visuals are extremely dissapointing, featuring bland character and level design.  Only in few instances does the game show any real visual gusto, and just as soon as those moments happen it goes right back to barren, boring nothingness.

Sound – 8.5
Bungie thinks this game has a much better soundtrack than it actually does.  Voice acting also ranges from decent to ridiculous.  However, the in game sound does a pretty great job at creating a realistic sounding battlefield.

Gameplay – 8.0
This is standard FPS fare dating all the way back to Quake and Unreal with very little new to the table.  The only really awesome tweaks to gameplay come in the multiplayer portion with player specific powerups and a careful balancing of weaponry and cover.

Lasting Appeal – 9.0
I can’t see anyone wanting to play the campaign more than once for anything other than unlockables.  The multiplayer, however, seems to offer an endless foray of nonstop action that’s sure to quench the thirst of all deathmatch afficiandos out there.

Overall – 7.8

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