Halo’s final Reach

Halo: Reach is the newest Halo title on Microsoft’s Xbox platform, and the final one made by Bungie Studios. From here on in, new Halo titles will be developed by Microsoft. Since this is the case, Bungie went the extralong mile to make this the best Halo experience you can play, and in my view, they pretty much succeeded.

The Single player campaign is loads of fun. You play as an unnamed SPARTAN-III soldier known only as “Noble Six”. This is because the player can select the main character’s gender, in addition to fully customizing their armor colors (and later on, after earning “credits” from multiplayer games, appearance of the armor as well). You’re the sixth member of an elite squad called Noble Team, based on the human colony world of Reach. Reach is one of jewels in the crown of humanity. You start off investigating reports of a downed radio tower, believed to be the work of rebel colonists. It’s not. It’s the alien invaders familiar to all Halo fans, the Covenant. They’ve come in force looking to eradicate Reach. You spend pretty much the rest of the game trying to fight back against their unstoppable advance, and when that fight becomes hopeless, to save the citizens as they evacuate.

Reach has some different modes of play beyond the usual first person shooter they do so well. You spend the entirety of one level in space, piloting an experimental starfighter, defending a space station. There’s plenty of atmospheric aerial combat as well, one level has you piloting a tiltrotor helicopter called the Falcon that is very much inspired by the Bell V-22 Osprey. (On a side note, as someone who works for Bell, I was extremely amused to find out the Falcon, unlike her real world counterpart, has several gun emplacements, something the V-22 lacks and has taken criticism for)

The storyline takes immediately prior to the first Halo game. In fact, as you watch the ending, you immediately lead right up to the opening scene of Halo 1. Having said that, if you’ve played the Halo series or know the storyline at all, you’re very much aware of what to expect at Reach’s conclusion. It’s difficult to expect any real surprises in that state, yet you never feel like you’re off the edge of your seat. The game feels like a combination of really great disaster and war films. There is a constant feeling of tension, that you and your team are so close to escaping Reach, that you will survive. When one of your teammates dies, it hurts like a gutpunch. The writing, animation, and voice acting are all that spectacular.

The real star of the game, however, is the multiplayer modes. The hit mode from Halo 3: ODST known as “Firefight” makes a return here. In Firefight, you (with potentially some friends) go up against waves of increasingly difficult Covenant enemies, with the intent of trying to survive as long as possible. All the other familiar modes of games are present from past Halo titles, along with some new ones like Headhunter, Invasion, or Stockpile.

All told, the game is incredible. It’s extremely deep, and the replay value means it will be on gamer’s play rotations for a long time to come.

I’ve only played through the campaign (on easy mode, had to relearn how to play the game again!), and done some Firefight matches thus far. My next objective is to try and beat it on normal, then hopefully play some rounds with my friends online! Back in the ol’ KSG days of Halo 2, I was never one of the group’s better players, but hopefully I can learn to hold my own, at least.

If you’ve got the game, I’m on Xbox Live as TheBmatt, so add me as a friend and let’s wreck some Covie fools!

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