What can I say about the Halo series that isn’t already known? Hugely popular, major exclusive selling unit for Microsoft, massive online community, the list goes on. The latest iteration, Halo: Reach, is no exception either as it shows that Bungie can continue to keep players coming back to the series. This review will consist of both the solo campaign and multiplayer aspects in the same article opposed to normally separating the two, so apologizing now if it goes too long.
Starting with the story; Halo: Reach tells the tale of planet Reach being invaded by the Covenant and a team of ill-fated Spartans ready to protect it. The story does take an interesting turn and ties in nicely with the rest of the Halo storyline but none of that will be spoiled here. You are cast in the role of nameless character referred to as Noble 6. ‘6’ because he or she (yes, you can pick your gender) is the 6th member of the Noble Team just recently added. Throughout the entire game there is a good connection between you and your Noble 6 character plus going in with your squad members adds more comradery. Bungie did another great job putting you in the role as Noble Team’s latest addition.
The mission style is very reminiscent of previous Halo titles having you complete objectives and progress further into a checkpoint system until you’re eventually greeted by a story-based cutscene. It’s really more of the same old thing but it still works in a good way. Also making a comeback is the weaponry. A lot of the familiar guns return along with a slew of new ones, which my favorite is the DMR by a longshot (pun intended). Graphically it’s no different than Halo 3 or ODST but the scenery really stands out as you progress through landscapes and buildings. You’ll find yourself peering over cliffs and ledges to get a closer look at your surroundings quite often.
While some things stay the same, Bungie did add some new features to the gameplay. First and probably the most notable is the armor abilities which allow you to utilize a jetpack, sprint/evade, armor lock, decoy, shield bubble, and camouflage. Each of these are conveniently placed throughout the campaign so you can pick and choose when the time comes. Next newly added feature is the ability to assassinate your enemies from behind but not like before. Holding down your melee button while behind your enemies will cause the camera to zoom out into a 3rd person over the shoulder view showing a quick kill animation. There are a few animations and it’s pretty cool to watch them all. The last thing you’ll notice is the armory and credit system which go hand in hand. Ideally, everything in the armory is used to customization your own unique Spartan look and is purchased via a credit spending system obtained by killing enemies, headshots, using certain weapons, etc. It’s a massive commendation list giving you tons of methods to earn credits.
The campaign stands pretty well on its own. Not overly boring or overdone with extra story and cutscenes; there’s just a right amount of content. There was a few times where I forgot I was playing a Halo game, namely the flying levels, but it doesn’t take away from the game itself. It’s ironic that Reach is Bungie concluding Halo game that’s also the beginning war for mankind in the story. Think of Star Wars, you know how it ends but how did it start?
Let’s be honest, if there wasn’t a multiplayer aspect of Halo: Reach, I doubt it would be flying off the shelves like it is. Multiplayer comes back strong after skipping out on ODST. All your favorite playlists return as well as some new ones adding tons of gameplay for the online community. In addition, Firefight makes a comeback too but it plays and handles a lot better than ODST. Compared to Halo 3, Reach’s multiplayer seems smoother and less confined. There’s something about it that grabs my attention more and makes me want to play it all the time. Maybe it’s the inclusion of the new armor abilities that changes how players used to play in Halo 3. Maybe it’s the way the new credit system and armor purchasing is set up. And just to add, the credit system is set up much like the campaign iteration, just through multiplayer. There is no denying that this is Bungie’s strongest online to date and looks like it will hold its ground for a long time. Stand down Halo 3, Reach is what Halo Multiplayer should have looked like from the beginning.