Halo: Reach Review

I was sick of Halo. Don’t get me wrong. I loved it, ever since the beginning. But in the gaming world, everywhere you go, there’s Halo. Halo 3 is still the #1 most played game on Xbox Live, and it’s been three years since release. “The Fall of Reach,” a novel inspired by the Halo universe, is a New York Times Bestseller. There are six novels. There’s a “Halo Legends” anime. There are action figures galore. The internet is flooded with Halo machinima.

It’s not just that Halo has permeated pop culture. It’s knocked big holes in it. I’d followed and loved the series, but I was overloaded.


Halo: Reach (XBox360 [Reviewed])
Developer: Bungie
Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
Release Date: September 14, 2010
MSRP: $59.99

That is, until I played Halo: Reach. It did what I cynically doubted it could do: it brought me back like a prodigal son, and gave me exactly what I was looking for. Halo: Reach is the best Halo game by far, a giant, feature-rich Halo party celebrating the series in all its glory.

I am seriously at a loss for where to start with this review. There’s a lot going on in Halo: Reach. I’ll attempt a summary.

Sweeping summary attempt:
Halo: Reach includes: a solid single-player campaign with a new story, 9 new weapons, new vehicles, new combat abilities and a full cast of characters; there’s Firefight 2.0, with all-new game types and a huge array of customization options; there’s a revamped matchmaking system, allowing you to quickly hop into matches with friends or strangers alike, as well as filter out the types of folks you’d like to play with; there’s a bunch of new multiplayer game types; there’s an “Armory,” where you’ll spend credits you earn on sweet armor, and there’s Forge 2.0, the revamped level editing system allowing way more control over objects.

Single-Player Campaign

Halo: Reach is set in the year 2552, and serves as a prequel to the original 2001 game Halo: Combat Evolved.

The player assumes the role of “Noble 6,” a mysterious and powerful Spartan soldier joining the ranks of “Team Noble.” The special forces unit is deployed to the planet of Reach, where the Covenant are waging a brutal war.

The planet of Reach is a superbly realized setting for the campaign. Reach is a young planet, lush and beautiful in places–but it’s falling apart, pockmarked with crater holes and ravaged by the war around it.

Your first mission (of 11 total) is to investigate a distress signal at an outpost, and eliminate any Covenant forces.

You’ll find signs of the Covenant’s brutality at the outpost. UNSC carcasses lay scattered about, and it appears they were tortured. Reach definitely starts out on a darker note than you would expect for a Halo game, but it serves to get you right into the story.

You’ll move deeper and deeper into the planet of Reach, gathering intel on the Covenant’s weapons capabilities, and work on a big (awesome) heist-like plan with Team Noble to take down the main Covenant base.

There’s some welcome variety in each of the missions. The 4th mission, Nightfall, is a dark recon mission in which you sneak through Covenant bases at night with a Sniper Rifle. In mission 7, Exodus, you’ll get a hold of the Jet Pack “Armor Ability,” and use it to fly through a base built on treacherous cliffs. There’s “Long Night of Solace,” the 6th mission which takes you up into outer space where you pilot the new Sabre spacecraft and fight through waves of Covenant.

It’s a solid campaign, for sure, and it’s on par with the previous games.

It kind of loses some steam in the middle, though. The story becomes less focused, the missions objectives more scattershot and almost disjointed in terms of the narrative. Things pick right back up for the final act, but there is that dip there.

Also, I’m thankful that Halo: Reach has a full cast of characters in the form of Team Noble. They add some emotion and drama to the story, and they contrast with Noble 6′s (very) silent ways. They also add some cheesy one-liners in there, and their personalities can verge on cliche.

None of this ruins the experience or anything. There is still a great, 8-10 hour game here. Now, on to some of the new features in the game.

Armor Abilities:
Armor Abilities are reusable powerups, each with a separate special ability. You can equip one Armor Ability at a time, and they can be reused after a brief cooldown period.

These superpowers add a surprisingly deep new layer to combat strategy. There are 7 total Armor Abilities, which you’ll find scattered around throughout the campaign.

They are: Sprint, Active Camo, Evade (activates a super fast diving roll), Jet Pack, Armor Lock (locks you in one position, but you’re invincible), Drop Shield (the Bubble Shield you know and love, but it also heals), and finally Hologram.

You’ll often find a few of them clustered together, and you’ll need to choose. How you use them really depends on the needs of battle, but also the player’s style.

Personally, I found the Drop Shield insanely useful. It pops up a Bubble Shield, which is great for when you’re surrounded. The Drop Shield can also heal you if you kneel inside of it, even if you’r down into the red.

But really, everyone needs to get a taste of firing up a Jet Pack and raining hellfire down on Covenant forces below. It’s the Armor Ability, and it’s a blast.

These aren’t just “god weapons” that make the game easier. Halo: Reach packs a fierce challenge. You’ll feel naked without an Armor Ability, particularly if you go up against any of the super-tough Elites, like the Zealots.


Here we have the “Hologram” Armor Upgrade.

They also work in multiplayer matches (more on those later). Hologram–which creates a double version of yourself that runs into battle–while not my favorite in single-player, is a brutal powerup in a multiplayer game. It’s extremely deceptive, and can cause the enemy to waste ammo and walk into trouble.

Assassination Moves:
In addition to the standard melee attacks, you can now execute insta-kill assassination moves. Sneaking up behind an enemy and pushing “B” will trigger an extended, brutal kill animation. These also work in multiplayer. Yup. They make you feel like a ninja, and rightfully so.

New Weapons:
Of course you’ll have standards like the Assault Rifle, Needler, Sniper Rifle, and so on–but Halo: Reachs adds 9 new wonderful weapons with a variety of uses:

They are: Designated Marksman Rifle (DMR for short), Grenade Launcher, Covenant Focus Rifle, Needle Rifle, Plasma Launcher, Target Locator, Concussion Rifle, and the Fuel Rod Gun.

The DMR is an instant hit. It has the zoom-in capabilities of a sniper rifle, but with a much quicker rate of fire. It’s a headshot weapon, to be sure. In the right hands, this thing is going to be deadly in multiplayer.

The Grenade Launcher is a blast to use. It works like you would expect with one twist: you can manually trigger the detonation, based on how long you hold RT. This takes some skill, but it’s very useful for annihilating clusters of Covenant.

My one complaint with these weapons in the campaign, is you just won’t see them very often. The DMR is basically a regular drop, but some of the higher grade ordinance only appears a handful of times in the campaign. It would have been nice if Bungie let us have a little more fun with these.

Next Page (2/2) – Multiplayer

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7 Comments on Halo: Reach Review

LightAce

On September 9, 2010 at 10:19 am

Better be as awesome as everyone says it will be

Emperorzhang66

On September 12, 2010 at 2:30 am

Those Cons don’t make any sense. Their so small that they really don’t have any effect on the Games perception.

Since when is Too many features a bad thing, its a Pro if your “overwhelmed” by them isn’t it? Thats what will keep you discovering new things for years to come :)

Good Review none the less, the Cons are pretty pathetic though.

Brian

On September 14, 2010 at 1:28 pm

Too many options is a “con” when it makes you not even want to attempt the level editor or try making your own matches.
Good review, thanks Mark!

Stephen Dixon

On September 20, 2010 at 12:14 pm

The game was fun to play until you get to the end and realize you are not the master chief.In Halo 3 she said I chose you from the beginning!They tell you in this game she chose you!They lead you to believe you are and that sucks.I have talked to others who thought the same thing.Then you watch your self get killed?? They could have shown them comming back to pick you up and went from there .Kids today feel hopeless that no matter what they do life is going to get you anyways.when I play its to escape reality and to have fun.this world does not need more loosers they need winners and this game does not make you that!I took it to game stop sold it for $20 bucks and wont play it again.This game with just a little better writing could have been a winner but in stead its a weiner !Thats my opinion

JR

On September 23, 2010 at 7:23 am

@Stephen Dixon
If you read the novel, or even did a little researching before you bought the game you would have known what was going to happen. The world of Halo has a history and that’s what Bungie followed.

Jx4

On October 7, 2010 at 7:55 am

Auntie Dot chose Noble 6, Cortana chose the chief. and we all know the Chief isn’t as badass as Six anyways. One more thing, we already knew that EVERYONE dies, so how could it be the Chief?

josiahMuskrat

On October 9, 2010 at 9:59 pm

“The chief isn’t as bad ass as six, anyway” Now i haven’t played the game yet, but how oculd that even be possible??