Halo: Reach Review for Xbox 360

Halo: Reach Review for Xbox 360

The End is in the Beginning

The Halo series, ever since it burst on the scene in 2001, has become a staple franchise in gaming. Every entry in the series seems to outperform its predecessor and improve upon the franchise’s format and gameplay. Playing through Halo: Reach, one cannot help but feel a little bittersweet. Though we all know the Halo series will continue on in some form, Halo: Reach marks the departure of series creator Bungie. However, don’t be too depressed. The series ends on a high note, and Halo: Reach is easily the best title in the Halo series. With a solid campaign mode, multiplayer modes that can conservatively be described as robust, and plenty of new design elements, Halo: Reach is a title that begs to be played by anyone with anything more than a passing interest in the shooter genre.

Halo: Reach screenshot

Although it is tempting to dive right into talking about Halo: Reach’s excellent multiplayer mode, it would be remiss to leave out the story mode, as that is one of the most surprising elements of Halo: Reach. Put simply, the story mode is the best to come out of a Halo video game. Although Halo 3 challenged us to “Finish the Fight” in 2007, the story was predictable and didn’t give series icon Master Chief the send off many fans thought he deserved. Halo: Reach, on the other hand, takes a rag-tag bunch of characters that are new to the videogame series and puts them in a story of epic scope and scale.

The planet Reach, which has enjoyed an existence free from Covenant interference, suddenly finds itself in the middle of a slash-and-burn style invasion that seems all but hopeless. You play the game from the perspective of a member of the Noble Six, a UNSC special operations team. The character introductions are short, but over time, you grow to really know your team, and the story unfolds in a way that endears them to you. The campaign is memorable and must be experienced. Though it is tempting to run home with the game in hand and boot up the multiplayer immediately, you simply must make time for the campaign in between hours-long sessions of slayers variations and improving your online character’s rank.

I have nothing but praise for the game’s campaign, but even though it is quite the enjoyable experience, the multiplayer is what gives this game its legs. Though this comes as no surprise to longtime Halo fans, the multiplayer modes in Halo: Reach give the online modes a scope that is much larger than any other Halo game we’ve played previously. One of the most-touted features of the online mode is the loadout menu, which is nothing short of an online game changer. While prior Halo games have featured one-off power-ups, the persistent loadouts allow characters to fly (with jetpacks), disappear, sprint, defend, and even project a doppelganger during multiplayer matches. This dynamic changes how multiplayer matches are played, and even something as simple as Team Slayer becomes more complex as players find new and interesting ways to use these loadouts to their advantage.

Halo: Reach screenshot

But speaking of multiplayer modes, another area in which Halo: Reach succeeds masterfully is in its depth and range of multiplayer modes. Of course, all your favorites are back, from Classic Capture the Flag to ODST’s Firefight, but there are plenty of new modes to check out. One of the most intricate new modes is Invasion mode, which allows you to play as either a Spartan or a member of the Covenant and tasks you (and your team) with a series of sub-tasks, with the ultimate goal being the invasion (or defense) of a Reach base. This mode is teamwork intensive, and I found when players tried to go it alone, they were normally met with pretty substantial failure.

However, if you don’t feel like getting your strategy on, there are plenty of new modes that allow you to put your raw skills to the test. One of these modes is headhunter, which tasks you to take skulls from fallen opponents and pile them in a special “goal” area. Stockpile is another mode that is similar, but instead of collecting the skulls of fallen players, you instead collect flags scattered around the map and have to bring them back to a team-specific goal. A lot of these modes are improved and tweaked versions of old classics, but that doesn’t stop them from feeling fresh again. The familiarity actually helps ease players who have been away from Halo for awhile get used to the new modes quickly and stay competitive with those who have been playing longer.

Halo: Reach screenshot

If the loadouts and new modes weren’t enough for you, Halo: Reach also has additional weekly challenges that are built into a specific challenge menu. These challenges (at least at the present time) mainly deal with the game’s multiplayer modes, but there was one that specifically dealt with the campaign mode, so we can be assured these challenges will be drawing from all of the game’s content instead of just one type of mode or aspect of the game’s multiplayer.

In addition to the game’s multiplayer mode, Halo: Reach also sees the return of Forge mode, which allows you to create your own variations on Halo levels. Forge mode is even more robust in Halo: Reach than it was previously, and has a total of nine different maps you can mod out using the drop-in tools in Forge. Among these maps is a particularly impressive “Forge World,” which is incredibly expansive and gives the creative gamer ample room to make anything from a level made of crates to a demolition derby with Halo’s signature vehicles within its confines.

Halo: Reach screenshot

Once you get your hands on Halo: Reach, it is easy to feel almost overwhelmed by the amount of content in this game. Although I doubt anyone would complain about there being too much content in a game, there is just so much to explore that it can be daunting at first. However, the menus in Halo: Reach are expertly designed, and everything from the campaign to the specific multiplayer modes and your personal character stats are all accessible directly from the main menu. The menu screen also acts as your own personal game hub as it gives you information about your friends without ever needing to leave the main screen. Jumping into whatever multiplayer or campaign level you want has never been easier, and Halo: Reach’s menu system does a great job of getting you where you want to go with as little fuss as possible.

As far as production values go, Halo: Reach is expectedly solid. The feel and look of the world of Reach is remarkably different from other locales in the series, and features plenty of Earthy, almost rugged landscapes. The color palette is also a lot more rustic, which helps to set this title apart graphically from its predecessors. Aside from the changes in landscape, most of the graphical content in Halo: Reach will look familiar to series veterans, albeit with a few new coats of polish.

The sound in Halo: Reach is one area where the game absolutely exceeds expectations. The music in the game moves sublimely through fast-faced action themes to moody dramatic themes with a deftness that is rarely seen outside the upper echelon of the film industry. Likewise, the voiceover work is handled expertly, and all of the voice actors do an excellent job of bringing the Noble Six team, as well as the people around them, to life brilliantly. Even the audio in the multiplayer modes is expertly done, and the balance between background music and sound effects works perfectly to create just enough sound to be interesting, but not enough to break your concentration or distract you (we all know how that is).

Halo: Reach is the closest thing I’ve seen to a perfect shooter. Though I’ve experienced the odd graphical glitch or framerate slowdown, the game’s massive amount of content and truly worthwhile campaign mode make this the apex of the Halo franchise, and perhaps the shooting genre too (at least on the Xbox 360). It is somewhat ironic that the end of the Halo franchise (as helmed by Bungie) is taking place at the beginning of the Halo mythos, and the best game the franchise has produced to date doesn’t feature the character so many had come to associate with the series. Perhaps, in the end, this is further proof that while some will always express a preference for sameness between iterations of a beloved franchise, sometimes change is what makes a great series into something truly epic. 343 Industries, you’ve got some big shoes to fill.

The game’s aesthetic seems to have done a lot of growing up since Halo 3, and the world of Reach seems more rugged and fleshed out than prior locales. 4.7 Control
Though some changes have been made from Halo 3: ODST, the controls are easy to use and get into. 5.0 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Both music and voiceover performances are top-notch. 4.9 Play Value
The campaign isn’t terribly long, but with new multiplayer modes, a revamped Forge mode, and weekly challenges from Bungie, there is plenty to explore beyond the game’s story mode. 4.9 Overall Rating – Must Buy
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.

Game Features:

  • Meet Noble Team: For the first time, players fight alongside a squad of iconic Spartan soldiers, each with deadly talents as unique as their individual personalities and customized gear.
  • An intense campaign: Live the events that set the stage for the Halo trilogy as the UNSC and Covenant clash at the height of their military power. New weapons and abilities complement the familiar Halo arsenal for the largest-scale battles ever witnessed in the Halo universe. Fiercely cunning artificial intelligence adds depth and complexity to each encounter, helping make every playthrough a unique and epic experience.
  • Stunning technical advancements:Halo: Reach takes a massive leap forward through all-new engine technology designed to take full advantage of next-generation graphics, audio, special effects, A.I., and animation while continuing to expand on the campaign, cooperative, and multiplayer sandbox in a way that only Halo can.
  • The definitive multiplayer experience: Halo: Reach builds on the success of its predecessors, setting a new standard for competitive gameplay, customization, variety and community integration.
  • Unparalleled feature suite: Halo: Reach expands on the industry-leading suite of features found in Halo 3, including four-player cooperative campaign play, splitscreen support, saved films, screenshots, and exciting new surprises that have yet to be revealed.

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