Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary is out, and it’s time to go back to the beginning and remember the trilogy’s origin as a game changing experience that spanned over a decade and influenced the modern games of today. But before we do so, I wish to honor the franchises most recent release; Halo: Reach. Halo: Reach released last year on Tuesday, September 14th as the sixth title in the franchise, earning over $200 million on its launch day and gaining critical acclaim as some would dare call the “Best Halo title yet”. Is this true? Is this the best Halo title yet? Others have spoken, and now well over a year after its release, its time for MP1st’s retrospective review of this great game.
Come with me and look upon the Fall of Reach.
Halo: Reach is set in the year 2552, detailing the exploits of the Noble Team, and its latest member, Noble 6. You and your squad are genetically engineered super soldiers, but your different from your SPARTAN II brothers; you are SPARTAN III’s, and you’re expendable. It’s time to see if that will hold true in what will be the fight of your life. The second you step foot onto Reach, the planet is already under attack by the vicious Covenant. Your job is to stop them, and for those who have already played the game, or read the book Fall of Reach, you know how it ends. The truth of the matter is simple: You will fail. But you better make damn sure you take as many of those split-jawed bastards with you. This you do over the span of 10 levels (and an extra one after the credits). For me the campaign is different and unique, not as different as say ODST, but it still holds up. It’s a great campaign, but for me, it lacks some of the other games’ gravitas. It’s not bad by any means, but the other games had a certain weight to it when it came to the campaign, this one seems to lack that weight up until the last act when your squad is whittled down to almost nothing. Things really start to kick it in gear then, as the stakes rise, and its a race against time to save humanity’s last, best hope. Once you’ve completed your mission, all that’s left to do is fight. To the death. And the ending for me brought a newfound light on Master Chief’s adventure on the first Halo (Installation 04), and in my opinion, one of the saddest and emotional scenes in the franchise’s history. It works, and the final act alone cements this as an ending I would dare call back to The Empire Strikes Back, in which a rarity occurs among the eternal struggle of Good vs Evil: The bad guys win. But any Halo fan knows that this ending is just the beginning of the end for the victors (the Covenant), and that the next couple months after the fall of Reach are the sweetest yet for the UNSC.
Now on to what you’ve all been waiting for:
As you know, Bungie has offered substantial content for both those who play competitive, and co-op multiplayer. Competitive takes the regular form of multiplayer, which consists of Slayer (Deathmatch), Team Slayer (Team Deathmatch), Capture the Flag, King of The Hill, Oddball, and even some new modes like Headhunter, plus my personal favorite, Invasion. Multiplayer is completely redone, and retooled for the game, adding new and devastating weapons such as the DMR (Designated Marksman Rifle), Needle Rifle, Plasma Launcher, and Grenade Launcher, and also adding a new edition to the game called Armor Abilities.
Armor Abilities are exclusive armor enhancements to the SPARTAN’s MJONIR armor. These are upgraded (or downgraded in canon terms) versions of Halo 3‘s Equipment. One of the biggest differences between the two now is that they are no longer pickups (although they can be if you enable them to). Instead, they come equipped in your armor ready to go and are reusable at any time, although you can only use one at a time. They dynamically change the way the game is played by giving the player the ability to Sprint down the battlefield, use an Armor Lock that makes you invincible, but also unable to move, deploy a Hologram that, when used correctly, can fool anyone whose not paying attention, and even deploy a Dropshield that creates a giant temporary bubble shield around a player (or players) that both protects them and heals them. The Armor Abilities are in most cases balanced, but two of them, in my opinion, have been a bit problematic since launch. They are Armor Lock, and Active Camoflauge (Invisibility). Armor Lock immobilizers the player, but makes them invincible for a period of 5 to 10 seconds. While I initially saw no problems with this AA (Armor Ability), I did farther down the line start to see some faults in it. In a way, it gives the player who activates it more Pros, than Cons, and doesn’t seem to balance both out. For example, when activated, the player kneels down to become invincible, if they are stuck with a Sticky Grenade before the activation of Armor Lock and activate it milliseconds before detonation, they survive, making that a wasted grenade you just threw. Also, if activated before a speeding vehicle such as a Ghost or Warthog ram into them, they can switch it on at the last second to cause said vehicle to explode from the impact of ramming into you. Then theres the EMP that releases when you come out of Armor Lock, which also increases in radius the longer your in Armor Lock up until it’s deactivation.
Ranking up is also redone, making it faster, and more streamlined in the form of Credits (money). Instead of just ranking up military ranks, players now gain Credits for each match completion, and their performance during each match, whether that be medals which players earn through certain feats, winning a match, or even just completing a match. You earn Credits, and you rank up levels in what is, in my opinion, the easiest, and most satisfying way yet for Halo. What do you do with these Credits you might ask? You have the ability to buy new armor for your SPARTAN (purely cosmetic), which in turn, you can buy smaller parts to go with it as well. Along with those permutations, you can also obtain different colored visors, helmet effects (fire, lightning, or even Grunt Birthday Party), different voices for yourself in Firefight, and even unlock Covenant Elite armor which, fortunately, you won’t have to buy, but must rather earn through ranking up in the game. I will say it is fairly easy to unlock them all early on, however. All of these things you can buy, and they contribute to the overall longevity to the game.
In usual Halo fashion, the gameplay is top notch. Headshots are easier than ever to pull off, and getting a multi-kill is just as fun as ever. With a little aim assist in multiplayer, things go much faster in Reach, and all-in-all, thats a very good thing. It makes the rewards for that HELL’S JANITOR all the more sweeter.
Still some problems persist. Along with the overuse of Armor Lock, and it not being nerfed as much as it should, I do think Cloaking should be a bit more powerful, as it only last for what feels like milliseconds. And while I did say the aim assist helps in Reach, it sometimes works a little too well, and can be a bit overcompensating for those players who have been at it since the original’s release. A future update to patch some of these little misgivings would be nice. It sounds like I’m nitpicking, but hey, the games not perfect, no game is. Still, after a year and four months, I wished either Bungie or 343 Industries had fixed these little discrepincies.
One thing that the game is extremely lacking is maps. Not the quantity, but the quality. Every map, save for the DLC, is ripped straight from campaign. This infuriates me. After Halo 2 & 3, for me, the bar was set pretty high by Bungie to continue with great maps, such as Lockout, Valhalla, Battle Creek, Blood Gulch, and Headlong. With Halo 3, Bungie shipped an excellent amount of maps that were also diverse in their locations and battlefield play outs. This doesn’t seem to be the case with Halo: Reach. It caters to the more enclosed, infantry tactics instead of appealing to both sides with both infantry and vehicles. It seems like a missed opportunity that they failed to execute considering the amount of diverse environments and locations all around Reach. Even its Forge maps that shipped with the game are all clustered around Forge World. While they do mix up some of the gameplay, they lack the originality of an “actual” map and get boring quickly. This, to me, is a disservice, as Bungie is known for listening to fans and appealing to them. They opted out to move away from Reach and focus on their new project, instead of putting the love and support they are usually known for into it. Unlike the DLC of Halo 2 & 3, where they did let out a steady flow DLC, as of this time, there have only been two map packs; The Noble and Defiant map packs, each featuring three maps each, and only one featuring an Invasion, the other a Firefight. More DLC may be on its way, but it’s highly unlikely considering the release of Halo 4 is later this year and 343 Industries is putting all of its efforts into that instead. This was, and still is a major disappointment in a series known for great maps. It is very unfortunate to have a great game not being supported the way it should be.
CO-OP, CUSTOM GAMES, FIREFIGHT, THEATER
Co-op has been refined to make things all the more smooth between you and your friends fragging Grunts. Firefight takes its second foray into the series and is slightly changed up to provide a faster, more streamlined experience with a countdown timer instead of ODST’s wave dispenser. But luckily for those who like the original’s Firefight, it’s only an option away. I do like how Bungie mixed up Firefight a bit with some new modes like Generator Defense (where you defend three generators from the Covenant until the timer runs out), and Versus Firefight (where a team of two Elites with AI buddies take on a team of two Spartans whose simple goal is to survive until the round ends). Unfortunately these two modes don’t make it into Firefight Matchmaking and are instead only accessible in the custom games.
Co-op for the campaign is greatly challenging and can increase in difficulty even at Legendary, which gives an already fun campaign a very tense and frantic feeling that gets better with each play through.
Forge returns from Halo 3, and is just as fun as ever with more Forge options and capabilities. One thing Bungie excelled at with Forge this time around was the inclusion of a Forge World map, which lets you Forge all around the map. Now while the whole map isn’t open to Forging, a vast percentage of it is, and like Halo 3, an insane amount of crazy and creative maps usually ensue, which is usually a sign of a great time. Props to Bungie for thinking outside of the box. Although they did add some improvements to Forge such as Forge World and some new tools, the inclusion makes Forging on other maps seem obsolete, save for a few of the bigger maps, but even they are limited. Bungie made Forge more accessible and fun, but like with the rest of the multiplayer package, they focused on quantity rather than quality. Where as Halo 3’s maps could all have a layer of fun added to them with the inclusion of Forge, most of Reach’s maps are indoors and enclosed, leaving them without the crazier antics of the last game. Theater makes a return from 3 as well and it has some minor improvements, but none worth throughly examining. Although the option to view a game with friends has been axed, a well thought-out community system in which game types, videos, maps, and pictures can all be streamlined through the Bungie Favorites, and your own Bungie Pro. As for Custom Games, they remain the same as Halo 3, but unfortunately lack a custom games matchmaking system, which some fans have clamored for since Halo 3.
Halo:Reach is one of the best games of 2010 and a solid entry in the Halo series. It has some mistakes here and there, but it is an overall great entry in a stellar series. If your new to the series, I would suggest starting out with this one if your in it for the story, and characters. If your here for the multiplayer, and co-op, then I suggest this as well, but be sure to give the others a try as well. Halo: Reach has my thumbs up. With the passing of the torch between Bungie and 343 Industries, I can only hope the transition of 10 years of everything great Bungie has done with the series continues. I also hope that Bungie can go on to create more great games, and that 343 Industries can continue the trend of creating stellar entries in the Halo series. For now, Reach and Anniversary will do, but Halo 4 needs to be a game changer. It needs to change the way we play games like the first three did. It needs to be something we not only can care about, but something that we’ll remember just the same way as we remember storming the beach on the Silent Cartographer in Combat Evolved, our first headshot on Lockout in Halo 2, and our first Forge created map in Sandtrap. Heres to a close on Bungie’s last Halo game, and the hopes of an even better future with 343 and the rest Halo series. Halo: Reach was good. Now let’s hope Halo 4 rocks.
Heres to Halo 4.
End of Line
Let us know your thoughts! What did you enjoy or dislike about Halo: Reach?