Halo: Reach Review
This has got to be one of the (if not thee) most feature-rich multiplayer component ever included in a first-person shooter. Its robustness is almost a downfall: it’s difficult to even get a grasp on all of your options, and can be tricky to know even where to start.
When you do finally peel back the layers here, you’ll discover that there are a million ways to have fun playing Halo: Reach online. I’ve highlighted all of the most noteworthy sections below.
Reach makes it very easy to pop right into a match with friends or strangers alike. One genius feature in Reach that helps this is the “Active Roster”–a little sidebar in the main lobby that lists all of your Xbox Live friends currently playing Halo: Reach.
Forget using the “guide” button to send friends Xbox Live invite messages. With this system, you can just select a friend, and “invite” them to your Party. From there, up to 16 players can jump into Firefight (more on that later), the solo campaign, or any Custom Games you can cook up.
Reach really wants you to be able to play with exactly who you want to play with. Before you fire up one of the 6 playlists, you can select a number of player “filters,” based on these parameters: Chattiness, Motivation (Winning, Good Time), Teamwork (Team Player, Lone Wolf), and Tone (Rowdy, Polite).
Want to play with a bunch of chatty, polite folks just looking to have a good time? Halo: Reach lets you do that.
Be advised that when you select Matchmaking filters, it can take a while to find players that match your criteria. You’ll always get in fastest when you leave everything at default.
When you’re ready to jump in and play, you’ll queue up one of 6 multiplayer “playlists.” Each playlist features a separate pool of game types.
The playlists are: Rumble Pit, Team Slayer, Team Objective, Multi Team, Big Team Battle, and Invasion.
Within these playlists you’ll find some Halo mainstays, and also some entirely new game types. Personally, I hung out in Team Objective and Team Slayer–which is currently the most popular playlist (at least among the gaming press who got Reach early…).
Playing “Swat” on the Powerhouse map–a powerhouse factory with lots of open sky space–was super fun, especially with Jet Packs.
Invasion is a brand new playlist in Reach, and it’s a blast. It pits a team of Spartans against a team of Elites, in a multiple-objective blood bath.
If you’re the Elites, you’ll need to defend a series of strongholds, and stop the Spartans from completing all of their objectives. If the Spartans succeed in completing an objective, they’ll advance to the next area on the map.
On The Spire map, the Spartans attempt to take down a series of generators, eventually deactivate the Spire tower’s core, and then run like hell to the extraction point.
Invasion missions have the drama of the campaign, mixed with the tension of a multiplayer match. It’s a winning combination.
I think this is my favorite new game type in Halo: Reach. It’s an every-man-for-himself game of Slayer, but when you kill someone, they drop a flaming skull. Run and pick that bad boy up. The goal is to deposit the skulls into designated, ever-moving skull deposit zones on the map.
If you kill someone carrying multiple skulls, all of them fly all over the place and it turns into a greedy, rabid, bloody race. It’s frantic in the same way you’d imagine throwing candy into a preschool room would be.
You’ll need to decide between quick deposits, or collecting multiple skulls at once. If you manage to deposit 10 skulls in one drop, you win automatically.
Halo 3: ODST’s Firefight mode–in which you teamed up with a group of friends against increasingly difficult waves of Covenent forces–is back in a big, big way.
All of the “Custom Game” options have been baked into the Firefight menu, allowing you micromanage every aspect of play. You can control what enemies appear in what waves, your loadouts, powerups, skull effects, lives, gravity physics, everything basically.
Want to make your own Firefight game where every enemy is a Hunter, you have 300% jumping height, 50% weight, and infite ammo with Spartan Lasers and Grenade Launchers? Do it, then invite your friends currently playing Reach into your party so they can join you.
There are also a bunch of new pre-made custom Firefight modes to tryout, as examples of what you can make. Two standouts are Gruntocalypse, and Rocketfight.
Gruntocalypse is just wave after wave of grunts, who explode into confetti when you score headshots. Wonderful.
Rocketfight pits you against wave after wave of enemies, but gives you infinite Rocket Launcher ammo to help you out.
We weren’t able to try this out in time for the review, since it requires you to spend days getting ranked.
This is for the ultra competitive Halo: Reach player. To get started showing off, play three games in the Arena in one day, and you’ll get a “Daily Rating.” Acquire enough Daily Ratings, and you’ll get a Season Rating, and will be placed into a division with a bunch of other players. The Divisions are: Onyx, Gold, Silver, Bronze or Steel.
At the end of the Season, you’ll get a report detailing your rank among everyone else in your Division. This sounds like a bragging rights machine, and it’s a shame we couldn’t try it out.
The Armory in Halo: Reach is a giant toy store, where you use “credits” earned during single- and multiplayer games to purchase sweet new armor.
You can tweak the living sh#$ out of your character here. Helmet, visor color, shoulders, chest, wrists, etc., all of this stuff can be tweaked with custom parts to make your character look as awesome as possible.
You can even tweak your character’s voice.
At the end of each match, you’ll receive a bunch of credits based on your performence, any challenges completed, and so forth.
The Forge in Halo: Reach is a giant canvas where you can create your own custom maps. It’s similar in concept to Halo 3′s Forge, but (like everything in Reach) it’s been revamped to all hell.
You now have way more control of manipulating objects. You can pivot, tilt and rotate objects to your heart’s content.
Also, thanks to the “Phased” physics mode, you can actually “blend” objects together with other objects. For instance, you can take a giant tower, put it into Phased mode, and then push it halfway into a Pyramid, making one big, weird object. The possibilities are kind of endless, and it’s going to be incredible to see what the community comes up with here.
This is definitely a Halo map maker’s wet dream, but for uninitiated, the Forge is pretty overwhelming, and not exactly intuitive. The Forge would have greatly benefited from a tutorial video in the menu, to give users an overview of all of the new possibilities.
Halo: Reach had a lot to live up to. It was tasked with folding a 10-year-old formula into an attractive package for series diehards, while also offering something new to bring back those who had fallen away–kind of like me.
Well, it worked. Halo: Reach is the send-off the series deserves, a giant, staggering game that serves as a satisfying conclusion to the series.
Absurd level of customization
Armory lets you tweak your character, and will keep you busy for months
Firefight 2.0 is bigger, more fun, and more customizable
Armor Abilities are fun and add new strategy
New weapons rock
Forge is overwhelming, and there’s no tutorial
So feature-rich it can be overwhelming
Campaign is solid, but loses some steam in the middle
Some cheesy lines/characters in the campaign
New weapons don’t show up enough in the campaign