You may or may not know that I’ve always been in the camp that can’t see what all the fuss is about the Halo games. Sure the first one was a milestone in FPS gaming on the Xbox but I found the Covenant not at all foreboding enough and the weapons really flimsy. Since then, in my opinion other games have eclipsed the series in the FPS market but Halo: Reach is Bungie’s final game of the series so they’ve pulled out all the stops to deliver something that feels like the finale of a game throughout this entire title.
Playing as a Noble 6, one of a team of Spartans, you have to join the fight to save the planet Reach from invasion by the Covenant and you don’t just spend all of your time looking at your gun through your helmet this time. Sure you get to ride shotgun and drive Warthogs and Ghosts around but there are also entire sections where you look through the sights of a mounted gun on a Falcon helicopter and even pilot it. You even get a whole mission in Reach’s orbit as you play what feels like Wing Commander in a space fighter before boarding a Covenant spaceship and blowing it to hell.
Bungie have actually used a brand new game engine for this game and it shows. The game is far more detailed than ever before and the weapons also feel a lot meatier when you unload a salvo of lead or laser beams from either human or alien weapons. You have the usual assault rifles, shotguns and pistols at your disposal but also bigger weaponry like grenade launchers and even a gun to mark targets for air assaults. When it comes to picking up weapons from your fallen enemies there’s also a whole selection of laser-based pistols and rifles to use.
One cool new addition is the use of suit powers. Instead of just having a run button, you can also pick up new powers such as the ability to drop a temporary shield, clone yourself using a hologram decoy and in some missions even make use of a jetpack. These missions are really great fun as you jump and fly from platform to platform to flank your enemies whilst your squad mates attack from the front.
Oh, I haven’t mentioned the squad-based gameplay yet have I? You can choose to play through the campaign either with friends or on your own. Play solo and the squad AI is actually rather good – apart from when they decide to drive you in the Warthog and other vehicles. It’s best you do that yourself because your AI buddies seem to have been down the pub before getting behind the wheel.
You’ll complete the campaign in about 7 or 8 hours in normal mode but then you’ve got a very comprehensive multiplayer mode to try out either locally, over a LAN or over Xbox Live. In fact, it’s all a little overwhelming at first. You can gather party together or jump into a matchmaking lobby that pits you against other people of a similar skill set – although as usual everyone still seems to be better than me. Maybe they’re all diehard Halo fans who’ve honed their skills over the past nine years or so! There are many game types to choose from which range from standard deathmatches to capture the flag, king of the hill and many more. Then there’s Firefight mode which is basically a survival mode as waves of Covenant attack and you have to last as long as possible. On top of that you also have Forge mode which lets you customise maps to the point of it almost being a level editor. You can then share these new maps with friends. As you play you earn credits and your rank increases. You can then spend these credits on customising your character with new armour, voices and even fun things that can happen when you die! It’s a shame you don’t get upgrades to your health, armour and weapons as this dynamic in Call of Duty is one of the things which definitely keeps me coming back for more.
Bungie have definitely provided the definitive Halo experience with Halo: Reach. I actually played it to the end this time which I can honestly say I have never been compelled to do with any of the other games of the series. It still left me cold though – I think that’s still party to do with an enemy I can’t take seriously and a lack of pacing. Sure there are some brief moments where you may have to be stealthy or there’s a surprise round the corner but mostly you just move and shoot until you get to your next objective with you and your clichéd buddies all running about with masks on – obscuring any emotion they may have in their faces.
Halo fans will probably give this game 9 and a half out of 10. I’m not a fan but it still gets an excellent 8 out of 10.
Get Halo Reach now
New: Buy Halo Reach from Amazon.com