Bungie’s swan-song has finally arrived. This probably won’t be the last Halo game we ever see, but is it the best one that we’ve seen so far?
Get me a 24-pack of beer and Reach, and I’ll survive for a week
It’s finally arrived and Xbox 360 owners across the globe are rejoicing while PS3 owners are flaming away on the forums. It truly is a momentous occasion. You probably already have the game in your hands and have clocked hundreds of hours of multiplayer. I mean, the games already been out for a few weeks. So why put a review up now? With a game like Reach, I think it takes a little more than one run through of the campaign on Normal and a few hours of Team Slayer matches to get a good sense of the game. There are so many features to explore here and I wanted to make sure I had a good handle on them all before I passed any judgment. In that regard, instead of spending half the review explaining things that you already know about, we can get right into the nitty-gritty. I’ve broken the review up into four sections (Campaign, Firefight, Forge, Multiplayer) and I’ll give a brief summary of my thoughts at the end. Here we go!
Campaign - All’s well that ends well
Since Halo 2, the campaign has been something I rush through to get it over with so I can move onto multiplayer and never bother with it again. Nothing has really compared to the fantastic campaign found in the first game in the series. I don’t think Reach hits that mark but it only falls short by a very tiny margin.
This game is much more personal than the others - giving a good insight into the life of a group of Spartans as they try to keep the planet from falling to enemy hands. Although we know for certain that Reach will fall, its fascinating to see how it all plays out. The ability to customize your Noble and see your creation throughout the games cut-scenes further adds to the idea that you’re really part of it. This game looks sensational. Although its not the best game ever when it comes to graphics, it’s a big improvement over Halo 3. On top of that, load times are lightning quick - especially if you put it on your hard drive. If you die - you’re pretty much zapped right back into the game. There are a few issues here though. The frame rate definitely drops when there are a lot of enemies present, which seems to be a first for a Halo game. Another thing that really bugged me was that although the cut-scenes use the in-game engine, there was still a flash or a fade out between the cut-scene and playing the game. Couldn’t that have been seamless?
The new vehicle levels are a great addition to the campaign and really break up the game play. Although the controls were a little weird at first, once I got the hang of them I was having a blast. I wish they would have done a few more things to break up the monotony of killing waves of Covenant forces over and over again. However, on Heroic and Legendary, it can take a while to get through a big group. The last few levels seemed to drag on a bit. I can understand why there were so many groups of guys to kill - they are supposed to be annihilating the planet and all, but they could have added some more interesting gameplay mechanics to make it more enjoyable. I’ve heard a lot of people complaining about the guns and the lack of ammo in this game. I actually didn’t find that to be an issue. It makes sense that it would be hard to find munitions while your planet is slowly being over run. I also think the designers most likely wanted you to be picking up and making use of as many different guns as possible throughout your journey. Otherwise, why even put them in there?
The last thing I need to mention is the quality of the A.I. in this game. Play on Heroic or Legendary and you’ll see just how improved the enemy A.I. is over the last game. You’ll get cornered, flanked, teamed up on, and beat down real quick if you don’t get a strategy going to take them all down. On the other hand, the allied A.I. is as dumb as bricks. They constantly ran into stuff, stayed in one area even though I had advanced way past it, stood out in the open, and a multitude of other issues. You don’t want them to be too good or you could just crouch behind a rock the whole time, but it would be nice if they showed some faint glimmer of intelligence.
Firefight - I’ll take EASY ACHIEVEMENTS for $100
Firefight was pretty much the only thing I liked about Halo: ODST and I’m glad to see it brought back and improved upon. This is a great mode for those of you who hate facing off against other humans. The cool thing is that it also has a competitive aspect to it if you want to enable it. Everything about Firefight is fantastic. I actually like it quite a bit more than Gears of War’s Horde mode.
The amount of customization that’s available here is unprecedented. Just about every aspect of the gameplay can be edited - from what enemies will show up to how powerful your bullets are. The ability to play Firefight with friends or with complete strangers via matchmaking only adds to the appeal of this fantastic game mode. If you want some easy achievements, download one of the “1,000,000 points in ten minutes” files and blast away. You’ll be able to easily get every Firefight achievement except for one by doing this.
Forge - Sick of Bungie’s map and game types?
In Halo 3 the Forge was just a fun area where my friends and I would play gravity hammer baseball and goof around. It was certainly capable of much more than this, but I never really had a desire to dig into it. This time around the forge is more robust that ever, allowing you to build full multiplayer maps. The maps are bigger than ever and you can even create maps with a friend online and constantly test out your creation throughout the process. I have nothing bad to say at all. I encourage you to at least try it out for 20 or 30 minutes, even if you think you’re going to hate it. I think you will be surprised.
Multiplayer - It doesn’t get better than this
In my opinion there isn’t a better online experience than Halo: Reach. If I was rating this game solely on the multiplayer component it would get a perfect 10. I’m really happy to be back to only using one gun at a time. It feels like the Halo 1 LAN parties I used to throw all over again. The thing I’ve always loved about Halo multiplayer above anything else is the level of strategy involved.
Unlike Call of Duty or other such titles, it isn’t simply a matter of who sees the other person first. You really have to factor in the distance between you and your enemy, the gun you are both using, whether or not to melee, and what armor abilities could he/she potentially use right now. The armor abilities are much better than the items from Halo 3, and although I really only ever use 2 of them (Sprint, Armor Lock), I’ve never been in a match where there wasn’t a ton of variety. The persistent leveling and daily challenges just add to the fun by making me want to constantly turn on my Xbox and fire up a game. On top of that, the level of customization they’ve added combined with the Forge means that there will be maps and modes to try out to months, if not years to come.
Almost everything about Halo: Reach is perfect. The campaign feels great other than a few slow spots and stupid AI - and the multiplayer and matchmaking set a standard that all FPS games should be following. On top of that, the customization that Bungie has given players access to is second to none. Its like Little Big Planet: Halo Edition. Pick this one up and do it now.
Reviewed by Mike Baggley| 09.28.10
- Fantastic character customization
- It's great to see your custom character throughout cut-scenes
- The best multiplayer in the business
- More features and options than you can shake a stick at
- Challenges are a great way to keep you engaged
- Matchmaking for Firefight and Campaign? Yes please!
- Forge is like Little Big Planet: Halo Edition
Campaign feels slow at times
- There’s too much of the same fight over and over again
- Your AI partners seem to frequent the short-bus
- I wish there were a few more multiplayer maps, but that's what Forge is for!
Similar Games: Halo: ODST (9.0) | Halo Wars (9.0) | Halo 3 (9.5) | Halo 4 (9.8) | Halo 2 (10)
Related Features: Halo: Reach Multiplayer Beta Impressions