Halo is one of my favourite franchises so it is with great excitement that I handle this review for KitGuru gaming. Bungie are also saying this Halo Reach is the last Halo they will ever make which seems to make it all the more poignant. I can already calm your nerves by stating categorically that this is probably one of the best first person shooters of all time.
I will be the first to say that the last Halo didn’t really capture the spirit of the earlier games, in my opinion anyway. This one is a breath of fresh air because you no longer control Master Chief, you travel the world of Reach looking through the eyes of a Spartan on the dramatic ‘Noble Team’. Your job, if you will accept it, is to defend the planet against the Covenant – a battle which proves to be immensely difficult.
The production values are top drawer, the story is epic and the presentation is stellar. All the other Halo games had these core elements to certain levels, but Halo Reach has them dripping from every beautifully rendered pixel. The opening cut scene is dramatically presented and gives you an immediate overview of how bad the situation is for your people. “May God Help Us All” - no statement could better set the tone that this one liner, delivered in a dead pan manner from the commander.
The story immediately engrossed me, right from the first opening scenes, to the last sad farewell to the franchise. Many people had already guessed how the game would turn out, and although it was somewhat predictable it didn’t make it any less effective. The world of Halo is so rich that it is hard to escape the pull … this is exactly why there are so many fan sites across the net, detailing the characters, the planets and the races. Believe me when I say, if you have any heart and are a fan of Sci Fi settings, then Halo Reach will just blow you away. I hate reading reviews with story ruining information so just trust me on this.
The gameplay elements are fantastic and Bungie, under pressure from their fan base have decided to do away with the dual wielding weapon system and have instead replaced it with a variety of pick up items from jetpacks to various armor materials. Dual wielding may be missed by some fans of the last game, but I am in the group who feel it ruined the overall combat, making ammunition much too easily expended without consequences.
The Jet Pack makes a welcome addition to the plethora of items on offer and they are a great twist in multiplayer games when you can vault down from a higher platform raining in a wall of bullets to take out an unsuspecting victim. Other extras include Hologram, Sprint and Active Camo, which while sounding very like a Crysis addon, works much better. These are all used in single player, but multiplayer is the place to be to see these in full force.
Thankfully the gameplay elements remain untouched, Bungie haven’t taken the whole franchise to the drawing board to create a new genre, it remains true to the Halo world while fixing a few niggling issues. Guns are now more accurate and there is a great feeling of holding a real weapon in your hand as heavier weapons will cause a kickback down a shoulder, making your character move involuntarily. Enemy Artificial Intelligence is also formidable, especially on the highest level, if you can stomach it (I couldn’t!).
There are no issues with stupid camera positions, or a crap checkpoint system that forces you back several hours if you die. Everything has been well tested and you can tell that playtesting played a big part in this game as it all just falls perfectly into place.
The game lasts a long time, with ten chapters in total for around 6-8 hours of gameplay. That might not sound like a long game, but every scene has been designed to remain in your memory, this isnt 8 hours of running down corridors aka Doom 3. Bungie have spent a hell of a lot of time developing the sectors, the settings and the battle scenes. The word ‘Epic‘, just doesn’t do it justice. I have already replayed it twice and am enjoying multiplayer, so there is much more than a single player run through.
Graphically the game is fantastic with sweeping vistas and detailed backgrounds forming the hunting grounds for your teams. Frame rates are always kept high and there are a lack of glitches throughout, such as falling through the environments or getting your character stuck in a wall. This has been properly tested before release.
Online matchmaking is back in full force and there are new modes, new weapons and new maps. You are tied into a credit system which lets the player unlock new armor and other items to aid the battle. Online there are a lot of people using the Jetpacks, so the games feel fully 3D, no longer do you just need to pick a place with good back cover, but you need to pay attention to the sky and ledges above. Sniper rifles are a great way to take out an airbourne enemy and it means that jet packing around the environment is not a sure way for victory. The credit system is proving really popular as it really enhances the overall enjoyment of the title. Buying new armor and even new effects for your online character is a great idea.
Halo Reach is a game you need to make sure you don’t miss this year. It is possibly the best game on the Xbox 360 right now and I am positive it is going to sell millions of copies. Who knows, maybe in the future Bungie will be in a position to produce another Halo title. Yep, my fingers are crossed.