Review by neonreaper

"Best Halo campaign yet, but multiplayer needs tweaks and better maps - a classic feel with modern annoyances."

Halo Reach serves as a prequel to the Halo series, and it's the end of the line for planned Halo games from Bungie. I don't remember exactly what material the Marathon games on the old Apple computers covered, as they are ancestors of the Halo series, but for 99.9% of the people playing Halo games, Halo: Reach will be the beginning of the story, an unavoidable tragedy that would see to the events that occur in the numbered Halo series games.

For being a prequel, you will have to realize that Halo Reach goes back in time with some mechanics, such as the life meter. Your shield will replenish, but the underlying life meter won't regenerate, unless you find some healing items. This will bring us back to Halo Combat Evolved days, and it feels comfortable despite being a step backwards in time. Weaponry and armor designs are peeled back a little bit as well, but not to the detriment of the game. It has a classic feel, yet the polish remains from years of updates.

The campaign is possibly the best yet, adding more of a human element to cutscenes and battles, with extra NPCs accompanying you at times, and a better attention to voice acting and direction. Some battle areas are really opened up, which may seem odd at lower difficulties, but you'll appreciate the space in Legendary or solo Heroic. Enemy AI is vastly improved - I hid behind a rock to reload, and the enemy elite engaged in a strafing method of trying to get to the edge of where he could shoot me and then be out of my line of sight. Other times, enemies would turn attention away from me and fire on teammates and then turn back to me, prepared for my return fire after regenerating my shield and reloading. Enemies just seemed smarter, and harder. I don't feel like Halo approaches the tactical appeal of other shooters like Gears or Call of Duty, but you will need proper teamwork at times.

Multiplayer is chock full of modes - you have all of the classic styles that you would want, it's easy to hop in and out of various gameplay modes, and Firefight is back. Firefight is essentially the World at War zombie mode or the Gears of War horde mode. You saw it in ODST, and it returns and could probably be a top tier game and million copy seller all on it's own. At this point though, you know what Halo multiplayer is and what it's all about and if you liked previous versions, you will like this one. You also start off many game modes with a choice between starting weapon kits, which is nice if you're not a fan of certain weapons. There are also abilities which are defaulted to the left bumper, typically sprint is what you'll start with, but plenty of times there are moves like Armor Lock or jetpacks, etc. I'll get into that a bit more later, at first it's nice to have a few ways to start, but after a day or two, not really.

Then you have horrible game modes like Snipers or SWAT, which much be great for people who have lived and breathed Halo since CE came out, but for people that have tried other gaming experiences in between Halo games, they just suck and don't feel like Halo. You look at a franchise like Call of Duty, and you can pick the types of games you want to play a bit more easily. People voting and not having better control of your game mode means you will have to challenge yourself a bit more, but it also means you will be stuck in games that you don't like. And there's no reason this couldn't be an easy selection.

There are little perks for doing well, as you unlock armor upgrades that you can buy to customize your look, as well avatar achievements, normal XBL achievements, commendations, and daily challenges. Even if you're tired of Halo, there's enough to keep you going for a few weeks. The ranking system feels a bit more old school as well, you just accrue points towards ranks ahead of yourself, as opposed to ranking up and down. The matchmaking system seems to be more in the background than as the leading rank system like it did in Halo 3, if that makes sense. Forge mode is back and amazing with Forge World. This is already heavily polished compared to Halo 3, it's much better, and after I play with it more I will update the review with expanded thoughts. Halo 3's Forge was fun to mess around with, but not great for making actual levels, but that's not how Forge World feels at all. Sure, you can mess around a little bit, but that's not really how the approach to it comes across.

Halo: Reach is the definitive Halo game, it takes the strongest gameplay elements from the original Halo game, and adds the polish and refinement from the rest of the series. If there was one true negative I'd put out there, it's that the maps aren't quite as good as previous Halo games for Slayer/CTF modes. There just aren't very many maps, and you find yourself in the same 1-2 for each game mode over and over. So you sign up for Big Team Battle and you're on Spire a lot, and people always camp out at the top or snipe around the bottom, or just chug around with vehicles - lack of map variety and creativity is something that will drive map pack sales, I guess. Or good Forge World creations.

Each map in Halo: Reach that seems like a spiritual successor to prior maps in the series, is simply outright worse. The grassy area with the base on either side? Here the bases are boring and uneventful, the terrain in the middile is very boring, and there's no little stream and so forth. The big outdoor areas don't feel well designed - a map like Sandtrap in Halo 3 felt like a very cohesive design yet chock full of various things to do. I felt like the action, strategies and weapons really meant something in those maps, and those map designs did their best to work in the game's favor. Not so much here.

I feel like perks such as armor lock detract from gameplay, all it takes is one pair/group of players running around and armor locking as cover fire to really centralize a single game around that. It's easy enough to figure out, but cheap centralizing mechanics aren'y very good. Jetpacks are a little too slow, most people should be able to pick you out of the sky. Sprint is nice, you can tell they decided to follow Call of Duty by keeping this around. I'd prefer these abilities to be a bit rarer, items you have to get on the map, and then you could make the jetpack a bit better.

Another issue with the multiplayer is the boot system. You accidentally (or purposely) kill a teammate, he can boot you. The problem with this, is you can have a positive kill/death spread, and accidentally get someone with a grenade or rocket while taking out enemy vehicles, and they can boot you. Most people on XBL aren't going to say "wait, this guy has a positive k/d and I shouldn't have trying to solo an enemy Warthog, I won't boot him". There really needs to be more to the system, one betrayal is too few, especially when the person is an asset to the team. I've seen a team's best player kicked off by the worst, and lose by 2 points as a result. The amount of bad boots is completely lopsided here - we need a system that takes away points for betrayals and then allows players to boot someone after multiple betrayals, or boot bad players who betray (bad k/d + chucking grenades or shooting poorly, you probably didn't want to finish that game anyway). The booting tool doesn't really match any problems, it's just some dumb thing that makes multiplayer more annoying than it needs to be. I usually hate analogies, but you're essentially shooting people to make sure they don't get a cold here.

Finally, if your team quits on you, tough luck. You're penalized for leaving early, you might even get negative XBL feedback, and it's not fun to try and fight 1v4 for 8 minutes. If you've played almost any other game online, you feel like there's a better system that tosses people into games, even when hopelessly behind. But not here. Between voting for lame modes, quitters, booters and centralized gameplay mechanics that aren't fun, it seems like this classic feeling Halo has been updated with too many 'modern' features in order to make it seem like a proper mainline title, yet they just distract from the Halo experience.


Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 09/16/10, Updated 09/22/10


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