reviews\ Sep 11, 2010 at 8:00 pm

Halo: Reach review


Everyone loves Halo, right? It may be the most popular science-fiction first-person shooter of the past decade, but that doesn’t mean everyone is on the bandwagon to call each and every release in the Microsoft-published franchise the next coming. Many detractors have labeled the series as running itself into a rut with the same ole’, same ole’. Cynics picked apart Halo Wars - the only non-developed Bungie title - with great ease and many straddled the fence for Halo 3: ODST. It’s only natural that doubts have crept into the minds of gamers with the release of Halo: Reach when the star of the franchise, Master Chief, is nowhere to be seen.

While Bungie didn’t exactly go back to the drawing board – and why would they after bringing in $170 million on Halo 3’s first day of availability – they infused Halo: Reach with so much polish that it’s hard not to recognize their prowess when they’re behind the steering wheel of the series. The additions, improvements, and removal of previously questionable features, such as dual wielding, has put the series back on track for a fresh start with new and old fans alike.

Beginning with the most obvious change, the addition of Armor Abilities, Halo: Reach takes the multiplayer and campaign to new heights. There are seven Armor Abilities and each one of them serves its purpose. More often than not, the Sprint ability became the favorite in many of our multiplayer matches, but the Jet Pack, Holographic Decoy and Active Camouflage had their supporters who found unique uses to puts the odds in their favor. Many individuals with the Jet Pack would fly to the top of the level with a sniper and rain down headshots. Some snipers opted for Active Camouflage to stay out of the limelight. When in tight groups or being overwhelmed by foes, the Holographic Decoy helped with quick distractions for an easy exit via stage left. Undoubtedly, the Armor Abilities are the most dynamic changes to the gameplay.

Pre-game voting for online matchmaking is a clear improvement. In the past, players were able to veto match types in hope of calling up another. Players were ultimately stuck with the latter no matter how lame it was; unless, of course, they pulled a rage-quit. In Reach, players are presented with three maps and game types to checkmark. The map and game type with the most votes is then offered. In short, the democratic voting process is fantastic to keep players inundated in the multiplayer rather than quitting out with unpopular maps and/or game types.

Dual wielding has been thrown in the trash bin. After more than 30 hours of gameplay, it’s forgotten with ease. Instead, the new weapons, such as the Plasma Repeater or Targeted Locator, fill the hole that nicely. For the most part, the Designated Marksman Rifle (DMR) and Magnumhappened to be the favorite weapons in online encounters with human opponents, so it is recommended players fully grasp their strengths and aiming reticules to stay competitive online. On the other hand, spamming grenades never became an issue and overuse of melee weapons never hampered the enjoyment of any matches. For now, the exhilaration of Halo's multiplayer is alive in full glory.

Every weapon in Halo: Reach looks superb with the upgrade in graphics. From the space battles that feature waves of banshees and seraphs to the introduction of the agile skirmishers, Halo: Reach is a step in the right direction. Even the presentation and menus are beautiful. It may not win any awards after the 2010 season is done, but compared to previous iterations, the jump in graphics is a large one.

The single-player campaign is hands-down the most complete and thorough out of the collection of Halo titles. Having more than one Spartan show their face in the story arc definitely paved way for a vibrant story that never let up on the pedal as it sped ahead with full force against the Covenant. The dialogue never came off as fluff, the characters leaped off the screen with charisma, and the overall length of the campaign never dragged on too long to the point of irrelevance.

Although the campaign was much better than expected, it wasn’t without its shortcomings. The space battles were packed into the middle of the campaign, which came and went without much flare. The deaths of some integral characters flew by without so much as of a blink. On top of all that, the purpose of the mission of Noble Team wasn’t entirely spelled out clearly beyond a few scenes that beat around the bush. While I understood the nature and importance of their mission, it didn’t leave a lasting effect that resonated hours afterward.

It goes without saying that Bungie’s devotion and investment has paid off, exponentially. For the past six years – since the release of Halo 2 – many publishers and developers have been playing catch-up while attempting to emulate the brilliance of online matchmaking that Bungie has perfected. With Halo: Reach, Bungie has gone above and beyond expectations and delivered the standout title of the year that caps off Bungie’s nine-year journey that began on the original Xbox with Halo: Combat Evolved. Halo: Reach is 2010’s multiplayer title of the year.

As Bungie says goodbye to Halo, fans from across the world welcome back the king of console multiplayer.


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