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Jeremy Jastrzab
27 Sep, 2010

Halo: Reach Review

360 Review | Reaching for the limits.
At the recent Microsoft Open House event, Microsoft’s Australia and New Zealand Regional Director for the Entertainment and Devices division, David Mclean, mentioned in the face of failed expectations such as Nightcaster and Blinx, that without Halo brand Microsoft had no idea how the Xbox would have fared over the last decade. Regardless of what floats your boat, the success of the association between Microsoft, Bungie and Halo in driving the Xbox into the mainstream is irrefutable. However, this association now comes to an end, as Bungie releases their Halo opus, Halo: Reach.

Prior to the release, Bungie had been keen to express their desire to go all out in their final franchise effort with Halo: Reach. To say that this is the definitive Halo title, you wouldn’t be far off. However, Halo has arguably been driving the console shooter genre for the last decade. And if Halo: Reach is meant to be the culmination of a decade’s worth of experience, then it’s hard to see too much forward momentum for the genre in the near future. The moniker ‘Combat Evolved’ has long worn off. So the definitive Halo this may be, but that isn’t saying as much as it should, nor as much as many of the overexcited critics would lead you to believe.

Halo: Reach is a prequel to the original Master Chief trilogy. Set on the Planet Reach, a humanised colony that acts as the main military hub of the UNSC, the game recalls the events leading up to the original game, Halo: Combat Evolved. You play as a member of the Noble team (you’re simply dubbed ‘Noble Six’) who are a group of Spartan IIIs (an inferior model to Master Chief) that have been called in to quell a supposed rebellion. Unfortunately, you soon realise that it’s actually the Covenant that have been causing the problems, and are thrown into a full scale war engulfing the entire planet.

It's all happening on Planet Reach!

It's all happening on Planet Reach!
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Halo actually has some fantastic lore and background that very rarely gets utilised to the best extent in the games. Halo: Reach probably does the best job so far of actually delivering a story in terms of presentation and pacing, and actually works well as a series entry point. Unfortunately though, there is a distinct standard military feel to it, punctuated by emotional detachment and lack of lore utilisation. It’s a real shame because all the games represent a missed opportunity to provide the definitive sci-fi gaming saga, though at least in Reach it’s not due to a lack of effort. Sure, there are a few moments that will have the fanboys squealing, but they’ll be the only ones changing their pants.

While RPGs have been doing the whole customisable protagonist for sometime now, playing as the customised Spartan is an interesting twist. You don’t have a lot of options to start off with, but you will eventually earn a whole bunch of aesthetic trinkets that will allow you to customise just about every segment of your armour, as well as your colours and emblem. You unlock items by completing in-game objectives and advancing player ranks, then buying them with the credits that you earn with everything that you do in the game. While this is nothing new, Halo: Reach does do a commendable job of integrating this into both single and multiplayer – your Noble Six, is yours in everything that you do with Halo: Reach.

The best that can be said of the campaign is that it’s probably the most complete and varied experience so far. As mentioned though, there really hasn’t been that much evolution since the original 2001 release. As such, a lot of the flaws have carried through the entire cannon. Overall, the Reach campaign is difficult to judge. Just like all the Halo titles before it, what’s there is good but could have been done better from a number of perspectives. Still, at least the minimum courtesy of fixing the save system from Halo: ODST has been covered.

This actually came out nicely.

This actually came out nicely.
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Across the game’s nine missions, you’re taken for quite a ride. You cover a lot, and get to do just about all the things that made Halo enjoyable and as mentioned, Halo: Reach is probably the most varied experience so far. Not only do you get to cover a huge portion of the planet Reach, but the atmosphere above it too, as the game takes you for the first time into space combat. This much anticipated sequence actually plays quite well and fits in with the grand scheme of things. Outside of this, you actually have a nice mix of battles; be they up-close, mass scale or vehicular in nature. Throw in some assaults, assassinations and base defences and you’ve got liquorice allsorts. There is some minor retreading, but to a bearable level.

While not having much by way of personality, being part of the Noble Team helps the experience. When they’re around, that is. With the majority of the team is assembled together, you make a powerful and united force. It manages to add some scope to the battle, as you can now have AI partners that can put up a fight alongside you. Enemies will target them, as well as you, making the experience feel much more like an actual battlefield, more so than previous titles. Your environments encourage a variety of tactics too. From one area early on that will allow you to flank from two sides with rising pylons in the middle that can be used as impromptu cover for both sides, to the complex bases with a heap of hidden goodies lying about later on, Halo: Reach boasts genuine tactical options. And despite some scripting, nothing is guaranteed to work twice.

Despite being a prequel and playing as the lower ranked Spartan III model, there are a few new weapons and power-ups to play with. The weapons don’t really add much more than variety for the sake of variety, especially the ‘Hammer of Dawn’ type weapon which we got to use once. Rather than being deployable, you now equip your power-up of choice, such as sprint, armour lock-up and the much anticipated jetpack. In the least, the jetpack actually feels like it should and does add some dimension to the game when you actually use it. Finally, there are a number of subtle gameplay ‘challenges’ that will earn you credits and ranks as you play through and complete them.

Surprise assassination!

Surprise assassination!
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While Bungie often seems to be proud to show off the innovations in Halo, they seem to do it with scant regard of the fact that a lot have been already done (duel-wielding anyone?). However, it’s the continual disregard for the flaws that really holds the game back. Aside from the seeming unwillingness to get back in front of the curve, the same mistakes and idiosyncrasies are made throughout. Even though having your whole Noble team makes you a force to be reckoned with, this is a rare luxury. Friendly AI is still flaky and lacking in survival or combat instinct. While you sometimes get helped by normal soldiers, they rarely survive without a major leg-up from you. And don’t bother taking the gun turret on a vehicle, unless you like seeing the twat driver go around in circles while the enemies camp behind a building.

Enemy AI on the other hand is ruthless on anything higher than normal, though it doesn’t help that Elites can take 18 shots to the head before gunning you down with a solitary pistol shot. It’s almost as if there is no better way to make the game more challenging without making you a sitting duck other than giving you enemies that don’t die and no ammo. It doesn’t help either that the objective and peripheral marking is uselessly backwards. You’re barely ever given more than a cryptic direction over the radio, leaving a lot of potential for getting lost. Furthermore, the scale of the battles in Reach make your 25 metre radar stone motherless useless. You’re dead before anything gets in the range. And there is still no way to know that there is a bullet/projectile/grenade coming from anywhere outside of your vision range until you’re back at the last checkpoint.

All this reinforces one solid fact; Halo: Reach is a multiplayer game. If you want to get the best out of the campaign, do so with a friend. The difficulty will scale, meaning more enemies with more people, but the upshot from this is you actually have someone competent to help you and get a true battlefield feeling from it. Introduced in ODST, Firefight has been given an upgrade, with a huge number of customisable options having been added to the mode as well as matchmaking and options to export any user created modes.

If you're not prepared to get owned, stay out of Reach.

If you're not prepared to get owned, stay out of Reach.
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Matchmaking in the general multiplayer mode works quite well too. All our games so far have been played out with minimal lag and a maximum amount of Australian voices. There are a bunch of new modes as well, including Invasion and *sigh* Infection - with a Halo twist. It’s hardly anything new but the variety is appreciated. Finally, Forge has been given an upgrade, both in size and content, and is now known as 'Forge World'. There doesn’t seem to be any explicit control explanation, but a bit of experimentation will allow you to make a heap of varied creations, as long as you have the patience and desire to sit through it. At the end, Reach cannot be accused of lacking communal options.

While Halo: Reach is the best looking of the series, that was never going to be a huge task. Reach definitely wins out in terms of variety and mass scale of the environments. Each mission looks significantly different from the last and watching battles from afar will give you some appreciation of the scale, as does the space combat sequence. At the end of the day though, Halo Reach is still behind the curve. Commonly criticised areas such as animation haven’t really gone anywhere, aliasing issues are prevalent and the occasional performance hiccup is disturbing. While usually the stand-out of any Halo title, the sound track is a bit more sombre and subdued this time around. While it successfully conveys the impending doom that you are facing, it isn’t as memorable as the ‘march to victory’ in Halo 3. The remaining sounds reverberates what you’ve heard over the last decade.

Perhaps those who aren’t fans of Halo would appreciate it more if it wasn’t held up as the supposed pinnacle of the shooter genre on consoles. Even as glorified but successful fan service, Halo Reach is without a doubt the most complete and varied title of the series, with a vast number of communal options that can make it a thoroughly enjoyable game with friends. As a complete single and multiplayer package, it’s difficult to fault. But for a title that supposedly represents the forefront of the genre, its alarming place behind the innovation curve and failure to live up to the original’s evolution moniker signal a desperate need for change. It is good, but maybe now it can finally get better.
The Score
While it hardly represents the pinnacle of the genre, as a complete package and fan service, Halo: Reach is just about the pinnacle of the Halo series. 8
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

Related Halo: Reach Content

Halo: Reach Defiant map pack announced
15 Feb, 2011 Rebel without a cause.
Halo: Reach Noble map pack trailer
26 Oct, 2010 Some classic Halo theme goodness.
Halo: Reach Noble map pack announced
15 Oct, 2010 Reaching out to your wallet.
34 Comments
3 years ago
I found the game decidedly underwhelming. Its core components are rock-solid, but Bungie seem to be stuck in a rut when it comes to Halo. Let's hope 343 can give the series the shot in the arm it so desperately deserves.
3 years ago
Quote
Halo actually has some fantastic lore and background that very rarely gets utilised to the best extent in the games. Halo: Reach probably does the best job so far of actually delivering a story in terms of presentation and pacing, and actually works well as a series entry point. Unfortunately though, there is a distinct standard military feel to it, punctuated by emotional detachment and lack of lore utilisation.
I couldn't agree more with this point. The planet Reach is supposedly the most significant military strong-hold humanity had left outside Earth, but Bungie really didn't deliver the sense of chaos, despair and desperation the covenant invasion would have presented. They did a fantastic job capturing the final hours of the doomed Noble Team but it's hard to escape the feeling that something more significant is taking place somewhere else and that someone is making bigger, tougher decisions than those which concern you.
3 years ago
Agreed, my main gripe was the awful narrative for the game, perhaps people who haven't read the book wouldn't feel this way, but I felt pretty hard done by once beating the game and comparing it to the book. Ahh well.
3 years ago
The game is a masterpiece in every way. The amount of content here is incredible. It is the complete FPS package. singeplayer, co-op, matchmaking online, level creation....

Innovation? How about the AI? It's brutal on heroic but in a good way. It rewards you for playing smart. No set piece ever ends up the same. If you do something dumb you die. If you stay stationary, you get flanked. I found it incredibly rewarding and the best single player experience of the year yet (and probably in the last couple of years for shooters). I remember one of the set pieces where you find yourself with a few bullets after a tough battle and then a bunch of elites stream to your location; and suddenly they are all bearing down on you. I love games where you feel like you have no hope, hiding in a corner trying to work out how to approach the situation ... and that feeling of relief when you win.

Sure it's an evolution or even 'perfection' more then an revolution, but you could say the same thing about any good game franchise. And the shooters have been pretty stale of late and I felt this game was a breathe of fresh air.

Flip side of this, I am looking forward to a new developer taking it in another direction. I do agree Halo has run it's course from Bungie. But make no mistake, this is the ultimate game for a send off. I'm personally hoping for a really dark saga in the next iteration (probably won't happen though).

If anything, ODST probably tainted Reach's appeal. It was a game that probably shouldn't have never have happened.
3 years ago
LeonJ wrote
The game is a masterpiece in every way.
I'm not doubting that this is probably the best Halo game in the series, but the word 'masterpiece' should be used sparingly. And this sure as hell doesn't fall into that category.

Great review btw.
3 years ago
LeonJ wrote
The game is a masterpiece in every way.
That's not possible. It's not a PC game.

3 years ago
I had two gripes with this game. One, the friendly AI is bleeding useless. Noble Team itself is perfectly fine, but your little grunt buddies die like flies anytime you get yourself into a situation when there's bullets, and seem determined to run straight at the obstacles most likely to cause them to die.
The other grip is the objective system, which I've seen mentioned in more than one review. Try playing this game without sound, and you're in deep trouble. Sometimes the objective is clearly marked on your map. Sometimes, they just tell you to 'head east'. At one point, they tell you to 'head back to base', but they fail to tell you that they actually want you to head back to the part of the base you haven't explored yet.
All in all, though, an enjoyable experience. Multiplayer is brilliant, and I've rarely enjoyed a melee kill more than I have with the new assassination system.
3 years ago
more maps and i would give it a 9.5 apart from that a game that keeps you going back for more lots of fun icon_smile.gif
3 years ago
LeonJ wrote
The game is a masterpiece in every way.
That comment right there pretty much confirms every suspicion I've ever had about you. icon_razz.gif
3 years ago
Yeah its a fun game, its not a masterpiece by any stretch.

Had a good time co-oping legendary anyway. Thought it was a decent length too, some people say its too short.
3 years ago
In regards to LeonJ's comment;
Actually, I loved ODST, I thought that was the best Halo. I doubt I'll play Reach, I'm all Halo'ed out... but you never know.
3 years ago
fatpizza wrote
LeonJ wrote
The game is a masterpiece in every way.
That comment right there pretty much confirms every suspicion I've ever had about you. icon_razz.gif
And that comment the same for you.
3 years ago
LeonJ wrote
fatpizza wrote
LeonJ wrote
The game is a masterpiece in every way.
That comment right there pretty much confirms every suspicion I've ever had about you. icon_razz.gif
And that comment the same for you.
I'd ask you to prove it, but since you can't we may as well end this here. Have fun with your masterpiece. icon_wink.gif
3 years ago
fatpizza wrote
I'd ask you to prove it, but since you can't we may as well end this here. Have fun with your masterpiece. icon_wink.gif
Yeah, posting purely to flame bait LeonJ again means a one day ban. Think on what you've done one too many times now on your break.
3 years ago
Cyph wrote
In regards to LeonJ's comment;
Actually, I loved ODST, I thought that was the best Halo. I doubt I'll play Reach, I'm all Halo'ed out... but you never know.
Yeah I hear ya While good, I think ODST was a bit of a money spinner and did damage to the whole feel of Halo (i.e. too much). M$ is cashing in a bit (Halo Wars etc).

It's worth picking up though down the track if you see if cheap. I think you can import it for around $50?
3 years ago
LeonJ wrote
Yeah I hear ya While good, I think ODST was a bit of a money spinner and did damage to the whole feel of Halo (i.e. too much). M$ is cashing in a bit (Halo Wars etc).
That's probably what hurt ODST the most, the price tag. It didn't feel like a full game (because it wasn't), but it was good for what it was. Expect more Halo greed in the coming future.
3 years ago
So the review says that forge is now bigger etc with forge world. What are the actual differences?
3 years ago
Shadow Wave wrote
Agreed, my main gripe was the awful narrative for the game, perhaps people who haven't read the book wouldn't feel this way, but I felt pretty hard done by once beating the game and comparing it to the book. Ahh well.
Bungie never could handle story very well, they are kinda like the Michael Bay of videogame developers. The writers there are atrocious, the Halo universe Bungie created is embarrassing compared to the brilliant work done by people like Eric Nylund.

Reach was the best Halo I've played since the original and kinda revived my interest in the series after the huge disappointment of Halo 3, I'm even going to pick up ODST and see if I get some enjoyment out of it (aside from the hundreds of hours I will playing in firefight). This is definitely the next gen Halo I was expecting for the 360.
3 years ago
@ Benza: Check out this vid doc on it, pretty impressive!
3 years ago
"It's worth picking up though down the track if you see if cheap. I think you can import it for around $50?"

I got ODST in a "dual-pack" with Forza 3 for around $AU30 a while back. It should still be quite cheap now that it's a "pack-in" game with some consoles.

---

I've never gotten why people love Halo so much personally. The first game had some great innovations (regenerating health, great enemy AI etc.) for sure. When it comes to other claims like an awesome story line all I can do is shrug my shoulders though *shrugs*icon_razz.gif.

Admittedly I've never played Halo 2 and only just played a little of Halo 3 & ODST though. I think the world is just a bit too cartoonish for my tastes IMHO.
3 years ago
Enjoyed my co-op play-through on legendary (with friends who are halo fanatics) and the gameplay is extremely polished and fine tuned. The multiplayer is of the same quality as always, so if you like halo multiplayer you'll most likely like this (not my kind multiplayer but I can appreciate it). I liked the game more than Halo 3.

Good review, probably the same score I would give it. I agree that in no way does this game innovate. Not the game of the year but solid.
3 years ago
Here's my piece on Halo.

1 was a friggin masterpiece. Halo 1 is the only Halo story I have given a crap about . The gameplay introduced console shooters. It was the killer app for the xbox and one of the best co-op experiences I had.

Halo 2 is utter crap. It was rushed, the story was a nightmare and it did a few things that screwed the franchise. Mainly dual-weapons that unbalanced all the weapons and in the story the elites becoming allies which is crazy because the Elites are probably the best enemy to fight in halo. But it did have one tiny feature that is worth a bit. Xbox Live enabled. The precursor to the "modern age of gaming" which is online. While Halo 2 wasn't a gameplay innovator it influenced how the next gen of console was going to be played.

Halo 3 was a good game. The story was alright after the failure that 2 was and had a few good moments with a few bad. The gameplay was better than two but there was a few niggles. The graphics were comparatively bad and after 3 halo games the gameplay was getting old. Here's the kicker, in the same year came the release of what I think the most influential game this gen: CoD4:MW which has gone on to become the biggest franchise on consoles and the one in which almost every other shooter copies with the red dot scope, the experience system, the modern setting and the heavy reliance on twitch skills.

ODST was an expansion pack for 3 that got turned into a game. If this had come out as it was designed it would have been a great game. It mixes up the story elements of a halo game and it has a few neat ideas. Unfortunately it was released full price and after Halo Wars I really don't think people wanted another side-project.

Reach is a great game. The story was alright and the sense of inevitability is well done. The graphics are actually "good" and are not just "well designed". The gameplay is in many ways a throw-back to the first Halo which I really love. Yet to check out the multi and I don't thin I will dive in just because I'm hooked onto CoD's gameplay and the way they handle servers.

Also this mainly refers to consoles as PC has always had games through the net and shooters were made on PC way before they were even thought possible on consolea.
3 years ago
Quote
1 was a friggin masterpiece. Halo 1 is the only Halo story I have given a crap about . The gameplay introduced console shooters. It was the killer app for the xbox and one of the best co-op experiences I had.

Halo 2 is utter crap. It was rushed, the story was a nightmare and it did a few things that screwed the franchise. Mainly dual-weapons that unbalanced all the weapons and in the story the elites becoming allies which is crazy because the Elites are probably the best enemy to fight in halo. But it did have one tiny feature that is worth a bit. Xbox Live enabled. The precursor to the "modern age of gaming" which is online. While Halo 2 wasn't a gameplay innovator it influenced how the next gen of console was going to be played.

Halo 3 was a good game. The story was alright after the failure that 2 was and had a few good moments with a few bad. The gameplay was better than two but there was a few niggles. The graphics were comparatively bad and after 3 halo games the gameplay was getting old. Here's the kicker, in the same year came the release of what I think the most influential game this gen: CoD4:MW which has gone on to become the biggest franchise on consoles and the one in which almost every other shooter copies with the red dot scope, the experience system, the modern setting and the heavy reliance on twitch skills.
My thoughts word for word, I could plus this 100 times.

Halo 2 was a MESS, I don't get why people fail to see this.
3 years ago
Thanks, Jahanzeb. I'm just writing from my head so it's nice to know some people read and agree with me
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  Pre-order or buy:
    PALGN recommends: www.Play-Asia.com

Australian Release Date:
  14/9/2010 (Confirmed)
Publisher:
  Microsoft
Genre:
  Shooter
Year Made:
  2010
Players:
  1

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