Halo: Reach (Xbox 360) Review
Title: Halo: Reach
Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
Genre: First Person Shooter
Players: 2-4 (2-16 online)
Rated: M for Mature
It’s finally here, the last entry in the Halo series from Bungie. Halo: Reach, the prelude to the original game that ties up some loose ends and shows the first conflict with the Covenant, has been touted throughout this year by Microsoft as being the most awaited game this year. But, does it live up to all this hype?
This review is going to be done a bit different than most. Because of the variety of modes, it will be divided into Campaign, Firefight, Competitive Multiplayer, Forge and General sections before tying everything together in The 411. So, let’s get this review started.
The campaign features 10 missions with various objectives to do like in past games. It focuses mainly on the first skirmishes between Spartans and the Covenant on Reach, and, for once, has nothing to do with the Flood whatsoever. However, there have been some new additions to the campaign that are worth making note of.
The biggest change that was shown off during E3 is the space flying mission. While this isn’t the full mission, it’s a decent part of the mission it’s in, and one of the most talked about since it was shown off.
Bungie did a great part with the controls while flying around, and made it easy to track what enemy troops to fire at and how to destroy them. Probably the only problem with the space mission is that it’s the only one in the game. It would have been great to have had another section with this, or even to have included it as a multiplayer mode or as part of an Invasion map.
Something that I noticed is that it seems the difficulty has been bumped up a bit. Enemies react better to shots fired at them, and enemies can be seen using armor lock or other armor abilities as you go through the campaign. Players will start off with the sprint armor ability on each level, but can pick various other abilities up as the level goes on.
Another thing that helps to increase the difficulty of levels is that it seems less ammo drops from guns that enemies leave behind. On some levels I found myself constantly picking up new guns while trying to find an ammo cache somewhere.
Like in previous games, there are skulls you can equip to change the games feel, but all skulls are unlocked from the beginning this time. There is also a sniper level like in previous games. However, unlike Halo 1 and 3, there is no driving level to end the game. However, the ending is nicely done, and is a good ending to the series. Just make sure to watch after the credits.
There seems to be more cut-scenes in the game, but they help to build the back story on the team and flesh out more of the story. Marty O’Donnell also makes probably the best soundtrack for the campaign, and probably one of the better game soundtracks out there.
One other thing to note about the campaign is that a matchmaking mode for it will be available in October for players to team up with friends or other random people. The mode is already ready to release, but Bungie held it back so that players wouldn’t have key points of the campaign spoiled already.
Finally, as a quick aside, I like that you can use your own Spartan in the campaign. It gives a bit of a unique feeling that you’re actually a part of the team and not just a stock Spartan like Master Chief with armor that can never change.
This fun little mode from Halo 3: ODST has been completely fleshed out now. Instead of just having a few options for what levels to play, Bungie has added new levels, tons of customization and even some matchmaking features.
There are now eight maps to play on, each based off of somewhere from the campaign. The maps are all fun and offer a good variety, but the ability to make custom maps for firefight would have been a great extra feature.
Probably the biggest change for firefight is the ability to make your own custom settings. You want infinite rockets against waves of grunts? You can have it. You want a pure melee brawl of sword Elites against sword Spartans? Sure, why not.
The new settings lets you customize the waves, what weapons they start with, what you start with, damage modifiers and more. You can also change what skulls are on, along with having three skulls you can set custom settings for.
If you don’t want to make your own type, there are also various premade types as well. These types range from regular firefight, to defending a generator, to versus (where two people control Spartans and two control Elites that get help from other Covenant) to even Gruntpocalypse, which is wave upon wave of Grunts.
The other addition for fans that wanted it is matchmaking for firefight. You can join up with three other players in firefight online, or you can try Score Attack alone to see how high your score can get and compare to other friends on your list. Both modes are fun and allow for whatever a player feels like playing. Plus, there are rumors of versus firefight being added to the playlist in the October update.
Like always, one of the biggest selling points of the series is back with some new additions and one reoccurring problem.
First, let’s touch on the new additions. The game has a few new game modes to play. Headhunter has players kill each other for skulls to score, with the game automatically ending if a play scores 10 skulls at once. However, if you get killed, you lose all skulls currently being carried. Stockpile has players capturing neutral flags by scoring them at certain times in their base.
Invasion has a team of Elites trying to capture objectives and data cores from Spartans, who are trying to fend them off. As the game goes on, more powerful weapons and vehicles are put on map, and the game type can lead to some good, close matches.
Finally, Arena mode has players competing in multiple games a day to get a ranking. Get enough rankings and you’ll get a season ranking, and placed into a group at the end of the season. It’s a nice mode for hardcore players to stack up and see how they compare against the rest of the world.
Other new features include the ability to vote what map and game type to play on out of three choices. If no maps sound good, you can veto and get three new choices. You can also change social settings to try and get paired up with a group of similar people. So, if you don’t like trash talking, you can change your settings to try and find more of a quiet group to play with.
Most game types, except classic, also give you various loadouts to choose to start with. You can change your loadout whenever you die if you want to go from a jetpack to a hologram or armor lock. The Elite characters also have loadouts, but are called different names and start with different weapons.
One thing I noticed about the maps being played online are that a lot are from Halo 2, such as Reflection (Ivory Tower), Zealot (Midship) and quite a few and Forge World. While this isn’t my problem, what happens inside the levels is.
Spawn killing. Its back and it can happen often. I don’t know how many times I found myself spawning and getting sniped at immediately. While I can’t really complain a lot, as most multiplayer games have this, it can get annoying. However, you can do it just as much to the other team, so at least it’s not one-sided.
Forge is just as great as it was in Halo 3, but it’s been fleshed out a bit more now. Besides being able to customize any of the eight available maps in game, you can also customize the ninth map, Forge World, as either one of six individual maps or as one huge map.
All the lighting effects and toys and other items from the previous game have been included to use here. Now, however, you can change their physics settings to let anything float where you want it, and can customize a bit more settings as well. Things you can customize include the object’s boundary shape, spawn sequence, spare clips for weapons and even color on some objects.
As in the last game, what you can do in Forge is only limited by your imagination. Within the first week, there’s been some great maps made, including some fun racing maps, along with some great recreations of old maps such as Hang ‘Em High. I’ve also found a fun riddle series a gamer has started making that has you completing levels by thinking outside the box.
Personally, if I get some time, I’d love to make a full golf course in Forge World using the tin cups, golf club and golf ball. Whether that will get done or not remains to be seen.
No matter which mode you play now, you can earn Credits that help increase your overall ranking, as well as get you new items to buy for Spartans. The items are purely aesthetic, but some of them are interesting, such as custom voices in firefight or armor effects when spawning in. There’s also some connectivity with Halo Waypoint to get you new helmets and chest pieces.
The reason I added Spartans up top is because you can’t customize Elites. Elites have seven armor types you can choose from, and that’s it. However, you can customize the emblems for both groups, and there’s been quite a bit more emblems and backgrounds to use.
There are some new weapons and vehicles to try, most of which you’ll find in campaign mode or on the ground during matchmaking, as well as the assassination move which has been talked about quite a bit since first seen in the beta. While I won’t get into a lot of what’s been added, I do want to say one thing about the Scorpion tank, the control seems to have been worsened. It just seems a lot more sluggish and prone to getting stuck on more things.
Theater and file sharing are also back, but the file sharing has been updated. Now, besides seeing the most downloaded and most recommended files, you can do custom searches by searching for certain tags or things made in certain levels.
Finally, Bungie is keeping things interested by giving daily and weekly challenges. These range from completing so many games in a mode to getting a certain number of kills or assists. They offer a decent number of Credits as a reward, which is nice to help get to some of the bigger armory objects quicker.
Whether you like playing by yourself, with friends or with random people, Reach has something to offer for everyone. The gameplay has been polished throughout the years into what it is now, and the story is one of the best the series has seen. Add in some great multiplayer modes and the forge mode and you have a lot of game to play for a long time.
We still have a few months left before the end of the year, but Halo: Reach could easily end up being the best game of the year for the 360. Shooter fans, even those that dislike the series, should check this out to see what a great game that is supported by its developers looks like.
|Graphics||9.5||The levels look great and vary quite a bit in campaign and multiplayer. The armory also helps players give their Spartans a unique feel with whatever armor they want to equip.|
|Gameplay||9.5||The Halo formula has been polished throughout the years into what it is now. Add new weapons, armor abilities and some new matchmaking and the gameplay becomes that much better.|
|Sound||10.0||This is O’Donnell’s best work. An amazing soundtrack complete with good voice acting for the Noble team.|
|Lasting Appeal||10.0||Once you beat the campaign, you have plenty of firefight and matchmaking to keep you busy. If that’s not enough, there’s always making your own creations in Forge or doing daily challenges.|
|Fun Factor||9.5||The only time I didn’t have fun were a few games that had quite a bit of spawn killing. Besides that, I was always enjoying myself.|
|Overall||9.7 [ Amazing ] legend|