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Posted by Raine Hutchens on Sep 22, 2010

Review – Halo: Reach (Xbox 360)

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Of course I waited in line, just as a true gamer would, and picked up my very own copy of Halo: Reach. As you can see here, I picked up the Limited Edition that came with the journal. Reach had such high expectations, but for me, honestly it left me a bit disappointed. Here’s my breakdown.

Story

Halo: Reach is set as the first entry into the Halo series, even though it is Bungie’s last in the same series. Players take the role of Noble Six, the newest member of an elite squad of Spartans known as Noble Team. As Noble Six you will embark on a mission to fend off the Covenant who have landed on Reach, which happens to be humanity’s last stand before the Covenant reach Earth. You join forces with Jorge, Emile, Jun, Kat, and Carter in efforts to stop Covenant forces at all costs.

The storyline takes you through epic battles on vastly different parts of the planet Reach, and has several moments where you want to stop and catch your breath at the amazing sights to see. Halo: Reach even thrusts players into space, where they can control their own shuttles to combat the Covenant in the vast beyond.

Throughout the game the story fills in many gaps and answers many questions we have all had about the Halo series. It has a great way of pulling the player in and really making them feel part of something bigger than what we are used to.

Gameplay

Let me start off by saying that the graphics are amazing. Bungie really stepped it up in this new title. They really did stand up to their word with saying that they were pulling out all the stops. The scenery is expertly polished, making every landscape look like it could pull you in with the blink of an eye.

The enemies received a makeover as well. More detail was put into each Covenant infantry, making them appear more violent and menacing than ever before. From the animations of the enemy’s movements to the facial structure making their screams come alive, the new attention to detail was visibly noticed.

Almost double the amount of enemies that we’re used to appeared on screen at any given battle in Halo: Reach. I found myself constantly caught in firefights with bullets and plasma rounds flying all over the place. Many times I didn’t make it out alive, even on normal. There were just so many enemies to handle that I constantly had to rebuild my strategy. This was a bit frustrating, but overall it made the game more interesting. The enemies worked smarter and posed more of a threat. One thing I will say, though, is that the friendly AI was dumbed down.

Even if I went into battle with my full Noble Team and a few marines, I usually ended up fighting alone. In one specific mission it was Kat and myself, and she stayed at the back of the map while I ran in with guns blazing. I constantly got pummeled while she stayed back, only popping off a few shots here and there. This was the case with almost every mission. The enemies were teeming in numbers, with bigger and more destructive weapons, and I was left to fight on my own.

The game’s weapons and armor system has gotten an overhaul, and it has its pros and cons. New weapons were added to the game such as the Plasma Repeater, Needle Rifle, Plasma Grenade Launcher, Concussion rifle (my fave), and Focus Rifle for the Covenant, and the Grenade Launcher, Magnum Pistol, and DMR for the Spartans/Marines. The Covenant were way more menacing and ruthless this time around, and they had the weaponry to back it up. I constantly felt outmatched, but at the same time it forced me to think strategically, and thoughtfully about my tactics. This ultimately lead to better tactics, but still felt annoying.

Halo: Reach introduced in this title something called The Armory. Throughout the game players earn credits which they can use toward the purchase of armor upgrades and Firefight voices. Credits can be earned by completing game challenges, winning matches and defeating players in multiplayer, and by creating maps in Forge. The coolest part about the Armory is that no matter how you customize your Spartan, you take that custom Spartan into the gameplay – campaign and multiplayer.

One thing that I did see is that when a lot of enemies are on screen, or there are a lot of shots being fired, the game would lag a bit visually. Sometimes it would slow to a halt for a split second and pick up again. This didn’t happen frequently, and not so much on multiplayer, so it was mainly just a nuisance. I imagine that it could be something that an update could fix, but the more you play the game, the less you notice it.

Multiplayer

Here’s what you’ve all been waiting for – Halo: Reach multiplayer. I devoted a whole weekend to multiplayer, and it honestly had my stomach in knots. Different than other Halo titles, multiplayer in Reach is set up as a sort of roulette voting system. Players vote from a selection of three maps with three game types, or none of the above. Mostly it looked something like Slayer on Swordbase, Slayer Pro on Spire, and Swat on Powerhouse. Players cast their vote, and the highest vote wins. If no one votes, or all the votes go to none of the above, then the maps and game types shuffle and another vote takes place until something gets voted for. This is a new, dynamic system, but herein lies a problem.

I personally don’t like Swat. It’s a game type for easy kills and (cough) experienced (cough) players. When I jumped in to play some multiplayer it almost always had Swat listed. Now in previous titles if players wanted to play Swat, then they would select a Swat playlist and then play Swat on whatever map was voted. In Halo: Reach everyone has a vote, and the game type is attached to a map. If more players vote Swat, even if you don’t want to play it and you cast your vote for something else, majority wins and you’re thrown into the fray. If you choose to back out and leave, you get docked, so it’s a lose – lose situation. I don’t know how many times I was stuck in a Swat match that I absolutely did horrible on because I don’t like Swat. It made me so frustrated that I had to quit playing.

Now don’t get me wrong, the new armor abilities and maps are amazing. I loved that I could choose a different ability when I died, and jump right back in with changed tactics. You learn to use every class to your advantage, as well as when to use them. Armor abilities are new to the series. They come as a special ability that, depending on the class selected, can change the game up a bit. New abilities include Armor Lock, Active Camo, Jetpack, Hologram, Sprint, and Dodge for the Elite.

Each class had its own perks and weaknesses. I tried out many combinations and situations, and I finally got into the grove. Armor Lock protects you from the Banhammer and being run over by vehicles, Active Camo lets you become invisible so you can get more assassinations, the Jetpack lets you fly to high up sections of the map and lets you escape enemies, the Hologram lets you fool enemies by sending out a running hologram from your position, Sprint lets you avoid sticky situations and helps catch up to enemies when you have the Beam Sword, and Dodge allows you to quickly jump out of the way of pesky sticks or rockets.

I had a lot of fun when playing multiplayer, when I got to play actual Slayer instead of being thrown into a match that I didn’t like. It may merely be a complaint, and it may help me overall gain better skills, but the roulette-style voting system was a big turnoff for me.

Verdict

Overall the game was great. I loved the new scenery, the graphics were amazing, the new additions to the game ramped up the gameplay, and the story fit perfectly into what we fans have been waiting for. The game did disappoint in some spots, like multiplayer and campaign AI, but it ultimately is a fun game that I will continue to play. I imagine that the more play time I contribute to the game, the more I will get used to it. I look forward to future updates that can address the lag problem, and maybe some DLC that will incorporate more time in space. I would definitely say that if you’re a Halo fan like I am, you should pick up this game.

Special thanks to Jayy1148Rocks, Feignedlife, and Caitlyn Muncy for help with testing the multiplayer portion of the game.

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