|System: X360||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Bungie Studios||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Microsoft||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Sept. 14 2010||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-16||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Mature||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by J. Matthew Zoss
March 17, 2010 - The developers at Bungie Studios want to be done with Halo. Okay, it's probably overstating it to say that Bungie is sick of the franchise - after all, it's the studio's best-known creation and it made the developer one of the most well-known studios in the world. But, when the studio left Microsoft to go off on its own, it made no secret of the fact that one of the reasons it craved independence was that the teams wanted to work on non-Halo projects.
When it was announced at E3, the prequel Halo: Reach was sold as Bungie's "final" Halo game. Whether or not the developer returns to its signature series in the future remains to be seen, but for now it appears that Bungie is preparing to leave the Halo series with a bang.
Most rabid Halo fans already know the setup for Halo: Reach. Set prior to the events of Halo: Combat Evolved, Reach will tell the story of humanity's first encounter with the villainous aliens of The Covenant. Anyone who has read the Halo: Fall of Reach novel knows that this is a story that ends badly. But, just because the game and the book cover the same time period doesn't mean that the events of the game will exactly mirror the story you know. This is Bungie's version of the tale, and it will surprise even the most well-read Halo fans.
Don't expect to see Master Chief in this game. Reach is the story of Noble Team, a squad of Spartans that find themselves deep in the conflict with the mysterious alien invaders. The player takes on the role of Noble 6, a replacement for a fallen member of the squad. As in Halo 3: ODST, the player's character will be more of a blank slate than the rest of the characters in the team, so the player can feel like he or she is personally a part of this elite squad. Each of the members of the team has his or her own role to play. There's squad leader Carter-259, heavy weapons specialist Jorge-052, sniper Jun-266, and two other Spartans who will each fulfill a specific purpose on the team. Bungie has many of the specifics of gameplay under wraps, but all signs point to some degree of squad-based combat.
As tight-lipped as Bungie can be, the studio has shared a few details on what we can expect to see in Reach. The Halo engine has been rebuilt from the ground up, and can now produce better graphics than ever before. The new engine is capable of generating more on-screen characters than ever before, which means bigger battles with both more enemies and allies at the same time. Bungie claims that the campaign will also be less scripted than previous games, and that gameplay will often feel more like an open-world "sandbox" game than a linear shooter.
With new challenges comes new gameplay tools. Not only will old favorite weapons be met by new and upgraded guns, the Spartans of Noble Team have some all-new gear. The one-time use equipment of Halo 3 has been replaced by armor upgrades; multi-use tools that grant incredible new abilities. Early trailers for Reach have shown off Spartans with jetpacks, and we can only imagine what other armor upgrades Bungie might have in store.
Of course, the campaign mode is only half of the appeal of a Halo game. Like the campaign, Bungie has only shared bits and pieces of what we can expect in Reach's multiplayer mode. The huge suite of features from Halo 3 are supposedly all set to return, including popular features like Forge and saved films. Hopefully, Halo 3: ODST's best feature, Firefight, will be included as well. Fortunately, Halo fans won't have to wait too much longer to get some answers about Reach's multiplayer first-hand; the Reach multiplayer Beta is scheduled for May 3 and will be open to anyone who purchased ODST.
There's still a lot we don't know about Halo: Reach, but a few things are certain. Reach isn't an expansion, as some players derisively called OSDT. It isn't a lazy, phoned in sequel from a developer eager to move on to new things, either. Everything that Bungie has shown off about Reach points to the biggest, baddest, most polished Halo title ever, and it looks destined to be one of the biggest games of 2010. And even though the developer claims to be moving on after Reach, the Halo franchise will continue on for years. Let's hope that Halo: Reach sets a high bar for the post-Bungie chapter of the Halo franchise's story.
J. Matthew Zoss
CCC Freelance Writer