Review: Halo: Reach
With Halo: Reach being the finale to a most beloved series, many wonder if it holds up as the perfect send off for Bungie. Not being privy to sitting down and playing Halo and Halo 2, I never understood why people loved Halo so much. Then again, the same can be said about the millions (including me) who love the Call of Duty franchise. Halo 3, for me, was my introduction and I had mixed emotions about it. On one hand I loved the level design and climatic music at the right moments. Also 4 player co-op was a joy to be a part of. I disliked the pacing of the story and lack of engagement the overall game gave me. Moving on to Halo 3: ODST, I was surprised and excited as Nathan Fillion was one of the voice actors in ODST. Although the game felt more like an expansion more so than a full game, the story was better than my previous jaunt through Halo 3. Of course not being a Spartan made for different tactics while destroying the Covenant, making for a refreshing change of pace for me. The voice acting was pretty well done (of course) and I was pulled into the story from the start. Firefight mode was a surprise on how amazingly fun it was. Up to four of your buddies holding out as long as you can against wave after wave of enemies made for some long yet spectacular sessions.
Halo: Reach bookends in what I feel is an above average series, from what I have played, and my hopes were high for this final sendoff from Bungie and I was not led astray. Halo: Reach is a prequel to all that comes to pass in the previous Halo games. The Covenant sneaks upon the planet in search of something of great importance. A group of Spartans called Noble Team runs into the Covenant on a recon mission and tries all that they can to help fight back the enemies by carrying out missions that only the baddest of space marines can. Although we all know what happens in the end, the ramp up to the ending doesn't disappoint. Not to ruin the ending but stay after the credits roll for a sweet surprise. The story in Reach never slows down for you to catch your breath, thus this could be a bad thing as well as a good thing. Although I wish I had time to stop and digest all the things that were going on around me, I enjoyed the urgency the story and gameplay presented to me.
Controls are what you would expect from a Halo game with no need to change them, thankfully. I set my settings to Recon which has the reload button on the right bumper and the melee button mapped to the 'B' button. I found that aim assist in Reach feels more prominent and most times I had to fight with it in order to shoot where I wanted to. I really wish the option to turn off aim assist was added by Bungie in their last endeavor. New abilities are introduced in Reach with Noble Team able to sprint, use a bubble shield that heals, use a hologram to confuse enemies, active camo to sneak around like a Predator and kill from behind, armor lock that protects you for a short period of time but renders you unable to move, and jet packs. Out of all of the new abilities, I favor the active camo and hologram. Sneaking around an Elite to pull off an assassination move or using a hologram to have the enemy run and shoot after it while you find a better position to launch your attack from is so satisfying.
Multiplayer is where Halo shines for the hardcore players out there and this time around, Bungie made sure there was a lot of diversity in what you can do. Between the usual game types brought over from Halo 3, Firefight makes its way into Reach much to my delight. Firefight was my favorite thing about ODST and this time around Bungie added matchmaking to make it even easier to get a game going. Playing with some strangers and a buddy of mine in Rocket Firefight was pure chaos, yet amazingly fun. Having someone say "My bad bro" over the mic after killing you with a rocket for the 7th time didn't bother me instead it made me laugh every time it happened. Leveling up in Reach seems to take the easier approach with credits you earn during matches and campaign play attributing to ranking up. I like this better than the old way of having to win a lot of matches to rank up. Even someone that is terrible at Halo online such as myself can feel like they are accomplishing something even if they lose. Matchmaking seems better at matching players up with evenly skilled players. So far, only once was I put in a match where my team was dominated by an amazing opposing team.
Not being the biggest Halo fan, I can wholeheartedly recommend Halo: Reach to newcomers to the series. The story is easy to follow for the unfamiliar as well as having enough action set pieces to please just about anyone. It's saddening to see Bungie leave the series behind, but at least they can say they went out with one hell of a bang!