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Halo: Reach Review
|ESRB rating: M
release date: Sep 14, 10 (released)
|» All About Halo: Reach on ActionTrip|
After Halo 3 and Halo 3: ODST Bungie Software set out to make Halo: Reach, which apparently marks the development studio's last contribution to top shooter license. Whatever Microsoft decides to do with the franchise from here on it won't involve the folks at Bungie. The talented developer is finally waving goodbye to the shooter series, turning its attention to a new original IP.
Anyway, a huge audience has been waiting for a new Halo game with suitably high expectations I might add. Bungie knows this and they vowed to make a worthy successor of the previous titles. Now, let's find out if they succeeded.
In this game players are introduced to the planet Reach. The story is set in the year 2552, shortly prior to the events of the Halo: Combat Evolved. The entire human race, under the leadership the United Nations Space Command (UNSC), is beset by an extremely powerful alien race known as the Covenant. For many, many years Reach has been what you might call a safe-haven for humanity. Out of all the human worlds and colonies, Reach remained untouched by the invasion force of the Covenant. Apart from being UNSC's primary stronghold, the enormous colony is home to over 700 million civilians. Joining Noble Team, you arrive as the newest member of an elite group of Spartan warriors, who are sent to investigate a distress call on one of the colonies on Reach. Before long, the Covenant reveal their presence and all hell breaks loose, as Noble Team quickly finds itself at the helm humanity's last line of defense.
If only this grass would stop tickling me.
Staying true to Halo roots, Bungie lures you into the main story with perfect direction, crammed with suspense, an atmospheric setting and a variety of interesting characters. Halo: Reach brings five new characters along for the ride - Carter, the dominant noble leader, a gadget and communication specialist named Kat (don't mess with her), the heavy weapons expert Jorge, the quick and (not-so-silent) sniper Jun and a versatile commando named Emile. The sixth character (i.e. you) is the latest addition to Noble Team. Bungie made a smart decision to turn this one into a faceless character, making up for the absence of Halo's ever-worshipped hero, the Master Chief.
While I'm almost certain the introduction and the course of the main story is going to appeal to wide audiences, I'm not entirely confident if true-hearted Halo fans will find what they are looking for. Speaking as someone who's been a fan from the very first Halo game, I did expect Bungie to offer a bit more eye-openers. As it is, Halo: Reach still leaves a lot of things unexplained and that may disappoint players who expected to learn a bit more about the characters, as well as the lore.
Playing the campaign in Halo: Reach is challenging enough on 'Normal' difficulty. However, I recommend you give it a try on 'Heroic' if you are familiar with the gameplay mechanics and are looking to get some extra time out of the campaign. The 'Legendary' difficulty is for Halo nuts exclusively. I managed to last about half-way through the story mode and let me tell you, it's insane! In a positive way, of course. If you really want to face damn-near impossible odds, 'Legendary' should be right up your alley.
The AI is one of the aspects of Halo Bungie improved greatly, making it by far the best in the entire series. In fact, I don't think there's a FPS out there that can compete with what was done in this game. Seriously, the way enemies react and fight in Halo: Reach should serve as an example for other developers. Foes use battle tactics, weapons and armor abilities skillfully, making for diverse exciting combat situations throughout the campaign (particularly on higher difficulty settings). The development team has once again shown its knack for creating superb levels and each opponent uses the terrain to gain advantage in battle. Covenant 'Elites' in particular are exceptionally resilient and fast and can give you a pretty wild ride. They easily avoid gunfire and grenade explosions, while adeptly re-positioning themselves on the battlefield to get a better shot at their human rivals.
This is probably why I think Halo: Reach deserves every credit and praise it gets. The single-player campaign almost feels like you're tackling human-controlled opponents, thanks to the well-polished AI.
The mission structure is generally simple and at the same time challenging. Tasks involve Noble Team assaulting Covenant positions to those that have you protecting UNSC's key structures. Granted, it would have been nice to see more stealth-based missions (apart from the one where you sneak up on a Covenant stronghold with a sniper ally), but this clearly isn't the point of Halo: Reach. Working as a team is how things are done this time around. As such, you're gonna want to rely on your friends be they AI or human-operated. Once again, the friendly AI is decent; if not perfect - at times, your teammates refuse to follow you into the next area and can even get stuck on certain objects in the environment. While this didn't happen too often, it looked dreadful when it did. Otherwise, when things get hairy, you can definitely rely on AI teammates to handle pretty well against persistent Covenant forces.
One of the most welcome innovations is the customizable armor. Not only are players able to change the appearance and various features of the Spartan armor, but it's also possible to employ different abilities of the armor such as cloaking (makes you invisible when you're sneaking), extra speed, armor lock (makes you invincible for a short while) and the handy new jet-pack addition. The jet-pack opens up a whole new array of tactical possibilities both in single-player and multiplayer.
A truly fine, perfectly balanced and gorgeous-looking shooter, with enough content to guarantee hours and hours of fun, accompanied by an excellent soundtrack and solid voice acting;
Friendly AI gets confused sometimes (though rarely) in the single-player campaign, expected to see more stuff explained and a bit more eye-openers, the space combat bit feel somewhat unneeded.