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Halo Reach Review
By THAT WONDERFUL PIXY GUY!
Console: XBOX 360
Release Date: September 14, 2010
Developer: Bungie LLC
Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
To be perfectly honest, I have never, ever played a Halo game before. Yes, I did occasionally play the multi-player with my friends and I can readily identify Master Chief, but I've never known about the narrative that much and never could understand all the hate it gets and all the stigma it carries. I know that this series is the flagship for 'GAMES R HARMING OUR CHILDREN' argument and basically invented tea-bagging and the online multi-player BOOM, as well as bringing in a butt-load of copycats, and because everyone wants to compete with it and take some of its money pie, the FPS genre has gotten a bit crowded. What I'm trying to say is, good or bad, Halo has definitely made a foot print on the industry. This you can not deny. And I want to know, is it a good series? Should I believe the people who say this is corrupting the industry into a painful, horrible stereotype that everyone swears over their headsets, or that this series is like nothing you've ever played before and the online is unbelievable. Are people getting worked up over nothing? Now that I've sat down and played through Halo Reach, which is conveniently, the first game in the series chronologically, I can give it a fair review looking at it and possibly the whole series if I like it enough. This is, an outsider looking in, review of Halo Reach.
In other words, I have the Halo Wiki open in the other tab.
Is there anyway I can write anything here without it being spoilers? I'll just assume you people have two functioning brain cells. And yes, this is in the OPENING CUTSCENE.
We begin with a large, pan around the titular planet...
The second word, not the first, Reach. The panning goes on and cuts a few times until one last pan to what is your helmet with the visor cracked. The screen fades to white and the title shows up.
We then cut to a United Nations Space Command (UNSC) base on Reach, where your team mates are. You are Noble Six, the Sixth member Spec Ops groups called 'Noble Team'. The old Noble Six was killed and you are sent to fill the gap. You have five other team mates, each with their own personalities and chances are there's one your going to like. I keep hearing Master Chief is a soulless, heartless, personality deficient type guy, and is more of a gun than a person. But Noble Team doesn't have this problem. Everything about the characters feels as organic as six walking mech suits can get. You have Noble One, Carter, a fearless leader, willing to do what needs to be done. Noble Two, Kat, the brains of the operation. Noble Three, Jun, a possibly insane chatter-box. Noble Four, Emile, the head strong badass of Noble Team. Noble Five, Jorge, a rather large guy with a heart of pure, 24k gold. And finally, you, Noble Six.
You are sent to investigate Visegrad, a continent on Reach, to investigate a problem with the communications relay. An army troop was sent there before you, but they've gone MIA. Carter quickly briefs you on how Noble Team is just that, a team and that you need to understand that. And the opening cutscene, Noble Actual, ends with you and the rest of Noble Team flying off to Visegrad as Jun says: Welcome to Reach.
The Story is a rollercoaster. With hope being the rising part and painful realization being the 90 degree drop. You keep getting this sense that you'll be able to stop the big bad villains from doing their evil things and then you get your hopes brutally crushed only for you to find a new one, rinse repeat. Although, I always felt like I needed to grab onto that ray of hope, even if it faded away. Of course, the game doesn't last long enough for story repetition to kick in too hard, but it could be a bit better. Like I said before, the members of Noble Team are an organic bunch. They all bounce off each other and all of it felt natural. They might seem like a rather generic team of army soldiers, but the characters are still likeable and enjoyable. Although, we don't get to see much of Noble Team, due to the short size of the campaign. Overall, I liked the story, its characters and the underlying message.
Graphics & Music:
Pretty, isn't it?
Considering this is one of the 360's biggest titles of this year, I assumed it had sky-high production standards. My expectations were met and exceeded. All of the big, clunky Spartans move in an incredibly organic manner. The game is either bright and colourful or dark and dingy when it fits the mood. When you're in space, the game becomes pure Scenery Porn. I remember looking at a far off nebula, stopping right there and spacing-out at just how pretty it was. And that doesn't mean they skimped on the details. Explosions and plasma effects last barely a second but look really nice. Overall, this game just looks nice.
That's aesthetically, technically the game is also a marvel. I can only recall slowdown on one mission for several seconds. Glitches are rare and when they do happen, it just means the Grunt you just shot fell through a wall. Draw distances are really good for an FPS, and because of that, the levels are MASSIVE. Models of enemies and your team mates never so much as twitch in an odd way. The game. Looks. Good.
As for music, the game is one big orchestral score. And because of this, the music is dynamic. Although not many tunes are memorable, there aren't many I can hum right now and I noticed a severe lack of the old Halo theme, but, ultimately, they all reinforce the gameplay and that, my good reader, is a crowning achievement. Seeing something sad happen is sad, seeing something sad happen with sad music playing is tear-jerking. It's basic stuff but the fundamentals are a big part right? On their own, the music is nice, played with the game, the music helps the immersion and truly makes you feel what the game wants you to feel. The game sounds wonderful too.
I can't think of anything to put here, so have some more pretty art.
Now to answer my own question. Is this series, or at least this game, any good? Short answer, yes. Halo Reach is a fun game and I enjoyed playing it. Long answer is as follows. The game is a FPS. Normally, I dislike FPS. I'm not sure why, it's just personal taste. Halo Reach wasn't at all affected by this.
I'm gonna say this now, I didn't play the online multi-player much. I'm sure it's fun but I'm just not into that. Okay? Okay.
You need to get somewhere. There are hordes of aliens in your way. Kill them. That's the gameplay in a nutshell. There are objectives you need to carry out and there are butt-loads of Covenant enemies in the way. Of course, the game doesn't stretch this concept out and the moment something feels like a chore, it ends practically right there. The game is deep, yet still pick-up-and-play. You can play it safe, stay back and pick your enemies off one by one. Or you can go in Rambo-style and kill everything. Sure, once you get to the harder difficulties and levels, you'll have to start making strategies to take down the bigger enemies. The game has manages to squeeze in a lot depth in it's core gameplay. Something which pleasantly surprised me. It always felt fresh, even though it wasn't, probably because the game ends before it can stop feeling fresh.
You have a large arsenal of Weapons and Vehicles, from both the USNC (You) and the Covenant (Them). The USNC weapons are a bit more basic. Pistols, Assault Rifles, Sniper Rifles, Missile Launchers, Helicopters, Jeeps while the Covenant are a bit more situational. A charge pistol that kills armor, a sniper with weak bullets that explode if enough are in an enemy, a laser sword and a Semtex. The weapons you'll use are based on how you play and the current situation your in. This allows for a contrast and you'll want to switch out weapons so you can handle the next threat as quickly and efficiently as possible.
The games actual enemies, the Covenant Army, were an interesting bunch of aliens. They come in the standard flavours for FPS enemies that are aliens. You have the famous 1 metre high Grunts who are defenseless against the cold steel of your fist or your gun. But if they come in pack you might want to hide for a moment. Kill their leader, they'll run giving you ample time to kill them. There are Elites, which can be hard to take down, depending on what weapon you have and how good you are. Sometimes they'll have rifles, sometimes missile launchers. When they come in packs they can pretty tough to beat. The other common enemy would be Jackals, Covenant with the same weaponry as the Grunts but have shields. The other enemies come in for either one level or near the end of the game and only serve to make the game harder and the firefights more active. In fact, that's what this game is trying to be. Active. It's not telling you to run for cover every two seconds, except on the harder difficulties. With other FPS I've played, it's just, hide behind a wall, shoot, get shot a bit, heal, rinse, repeat. With Halo: Reach you have a lot more defensive and offensive choices. For offensive, there are plenty of guns you can use and each have pros and cons. When it comes to defense, the game gives you power ups which can help you do that along with walls.
There's a Jet Pack, which is self-explanatory, Sprint, see prior, Holographic Decoy, see prior, Active Camouflage, which only works when you're still, a Drop Shield, which can heal you, Armor Lock, which makes you impervious to enemy fire but you have to be still and one you can only get in-game if you're lucky. They all help you play the game more instead of hiding behind cover waiting for your armor to regenerate.
Also, in one mission and one mission only, you get to have dogfight IN SPACE. Which is a welcome change of pace as this is around the half-way point in the game and this was more than needed. As for how it actually plays, it works quite well. The flight controls are spot on, and it doesn't take a tutorial. You see the instructions on how to work it on screen and it doesn't over complicate things. In fact, I honestly wish there was at least one more, but on Reach. Through the whole game you see Falcons (Helicopters with jet turbines) and Banshees (Covenant fighter jet) shooting each other down. Every time I saw it I wanted to do that. There is a mission where you do A LOT of flying but it's limited to that mission and even then it doesn't feel like a huge, expansive air-war, just a few Banshees here and there you need to shoot down. It's still fun but I was longing to go back into space. The campaign will last you 8-15 hours, depending on your skill and the difficulty you set it on.
Besides the campaign, the only single-player game mode would be Firefight, something obligatory for FPS, or so I've heard. It's just you against waves of progressively stronger Covenant forces. It's a nice distraction from the campaign and welcome for those who don't have online. LIKE ME.
To sum up everything in a paragraph, Halo: Reach is a great game. The music and the graphics are both top notch. The story was engaging. The gameplay is fun and never truly feels stale. The whole thing feels like a great game all around. I'm hoping Halo: Combat Evolved is just as good as this, if not better.
Story: It was enjoyable and the characters were all human. And, to be honest, that's all I ever ask.
Graphics & Music: Stunning. Music reinforces the gameplay and graphics are technically and aesthetically beautiful.
Gameplay: An enjoyable experience overall that doesn't overstay its welcome and fun and easy to pick-up-and-play.