Skip navigation

Halo: Reach


One More Time...For The Fans.
Just under nine years ago, Halo: Combat Evolved hit store shelves for the first Xbox, much to the delight of fans looking for must-own title to go with their new console. Fast forward though many years of playing Halo 2, Halo 3 and even a Halo Legends movie, we have returned to the events that started the first Halo game. Halo: Reach is a prequel to Halo: Combat Evolved and is the last Halo game to come out of Bungie Studios. (They signed a publishing deal with Activision rather than renewing with Microsoft) Reach follows the events around the actions of the Noble Team, a special operations squad totally comprised of Spartans. While the playerís character is almost silent, the squad does talk to each other during cutscenes and battle. Sadly, Bungie doesnít put much effort in making the characters very interesting and the story suffers because of it. If Halo: Combat Evolved felt like an epic blockbuster movie that unraveled the mysteries of the Halo universe, Reach is more like a re-run of Star Trek. You already know all the clichťs and whatís inevitably going to happen.



It also doesnít stray far from the Halo formula for combat and weapons load-out, namely because it works and the timeline is set before the first game. You push forward against hordes of Covenant forces and make your way to the next checkpoint. What has changed is in the inclusion of friendly soldiers fighting with you controlled by the A.I. With several Spartan soldiers at your side, you would think that the team would annihilate the enemy forces. Unfortunately, the friendly A.I. is often stupid, disproportionate to the intelligence of the Covenant troops. Reach still plays like you are an army of one rather than a squad of hardened troops. Of course, playing 4 player online co-op alleviates this problem and allows the entire squad to move seamlessly through levels.

Reach did introduce a new element into the game, new abilities that tie into the suit of armor. The abilities are slotted into the suit and can be changed out via the left bumper button. You will be able to take advantage of abilities like active camo, armor lock, jetpacks and finally the ability to sprint. I found sprinting to be the most useful ability, both in single and multiplayer. Sprinters often get the best weapons early in multiplayer matches because they can get there first. Jetpacks were the least impressive to me, specifically it paints a bulls-eye on you due to the slow movement. Bungie also introduced a new vehicle into Reach, the Sabre. Sabre is a low-profile starfighter that allows for speedy launches, a full range of multi-directional movement and rapid firing cannons as well as heat seeking rockets to take out vehicles. Itís tremendously fun to pilot, but I wish there were more opportunities to use it during the single player campaign.



Of course, what would a Halo game be without a substantial multiplayer component? Reach takes all the fun modes in Halo 3, jacks up the amount of customization options and adds Invasion into the mix. Invasion puts one team on attack and one team on defense, each with objectives to complete or territories to take in succession. Itís similar to a mode made popular in the Return to Castle Wolfenstein multiplayer and is just as fun. As the match rolls on, the more deadly weapons are unlocked and it becomes progressively more difficult to defend or attack (based on your teamís progress). I also appreciated the customization options included for the Firefight co-op team survival mode. I was able to play in several matches with teams that really knew how to work together and hold their own against the onslaught of Covenant forces.

If you really want to customize your Spartan, Bungie has included player credits in the game. These are racked up simply by playing either the single player campaign or the multiplayer modes. Similar to Dead Rising, characters will have all of those armor modifications in the cutscenes of the game as well. The achievement set is pretty solid and thereís something in there for the rookies all the way up to the hardcore elite (finishing the campaign on Legendary alone for instance). One caveat is that Bungie didnít put many restrictions on the multiplayer achievements, thus allowing for easy settings in the match setup to complete the achievements. Beyond achievements, Bungie will be throwing player challenges your way each week over Xbox. These are designed to be competitive among your friends and keep you coming back to Halo: Reach long after the next FPS takes the 360 by storm.



Graphics

  • Just like Halo games before it, you are going to run into slowdown framerate issues on the battlefield or when operating vehicles. The level design is mostly identical to the games of the past as well; lush countryside and gray interiors. The majority of the backgrounds look great, but there are pockets of low-res textures occasionally. Player models are more detailed in this go-around, especially with all the custom armor options that can be added to deck out your Spartan.

Audio

  • Marty OíDonnelís work on the soundtrack is still phenomenal and you will hear a new set of tunes to go with the squad in Halo: Reach, as well as the classic theme that you know and love. You will also recognize all the sound effects like exploding plasma grenades and the squeal of little grunts. The voicework in the cutscenes is top notch as well, even if the characters have little personality due to the nature of the narrative.



Conclusion

When played on Normal difficulty, the single player campaign takes about 4 to 6 hours; on Heroic, about 8 to 10 hours. Add some incredibly stupid, friendly A.I. along with a weak narrative and the single player experience doesnít offer the level of entertainment that was found in previous Halo titles. You should really play the single player campaign via the 4 player Co-op to get the maximum amount of difficulty out of the game, preferably on Legendary.

On the flip side, the multiplayer component is obviously fantastic. The sheer amount of customization options for creating / joining matches is truly incredible, specifically the additions made to the survival Firefight mode. While you will still run into a vast array of foul mouthed brats tea-bagging your rotting corpse on multiplayer, itís still the most impressive online multiplayer experience on Xbox Live for first person shooter fans.

If you loved all the other Halo games, thereís little I can say to dissuade you from purchasing Bungieís last creation in the Halo series. That being said, the game is far superior for multiplayer matches than it is for the single player campaign. If you are only playing it to unravel more of the Halo story, Iíd stick with renting the title. Otherwise, pick it up and play Capture the Flag until your heart explodes with Spartan goodness.

Discuss This Game on Our Official VGT Forum