Review by Xade76

"It's kinda the same as Halo 3, and yet it feels refreshing."

Intro
I am a big fan of the first 2 Halo games of the franchise, and I didn't really care for Halo 3 in the long run. However, that all having been clarified, I am now going to try my best to give this prequel to Halo: CE, and Bungie's final Halo game, a fair review.

NOTE: I consider gameplay should be broken up into “online” and “offline” categories these days, so I have done so in this review. I am also giving a detailed review on Firefight and Forge 2.0, as a lot of people were looking forward to those two things.

Offline Gameplay
If you don't have Xbox LIVE, you WILL be missing out on what's considered to be the finest point of the Halo series after Halo 2 was released back in November of 2004. However, there are still many ways to enjoy the game without LIVE if you have friends, similar to how the original Halo received its success.

There are plenty of things to do, like playing Campaign solo or in co-op. The co-op is relatively enjoyable, as always, and the Campaign easily caters to all the players. And yes, there IS 4-player co-op again, just as in Halo 3 and Halo: ODST. Some consider it a letdown that Bungie didn't make it so that the players couldn't play as all members of Noble 6, thus equating to 6-player co-op, but I gotta disagree with them; 4 players should be more than enough to enjoy a game like this. The Campaign is roughly around 6 hours long on your first playthrough if you tackle it on Heroic difficulty; I am unsure of its length on Normal. Before you complain that 6 hours is terrible, keep in mind that stories that are short, sweet, and to the point have always been Halo's style. Is that a good thing? Eh, well it certainly is easy to work around with if you don't play games that much, I'll give it that. Just don't leap into the Campaign expecting the ride of your life…

You can play Firefight offline with up to 3 other friends again, which is always nice. Refer to the Firefight section in my review for more details.

And of course, there's the Custom Games. There are 9 maps right now (there definitely will be more throughout Halo: Reach's lifespan in the form of bought downloadable content), one of which is a huge empty mountain range with a beach and some waterfalls called Forge World, which I'll discuss some more in the Forge 2.0 section of this review. All the maps are pretty decent and have a solid level of detail. As for weapon balance, I haven't really paid too much attention to it, but I can assure you that if there ARE flawed weapon placements, you can easily fix that issue in Forge 2.0. The only maps that I'm personally not too fond of are Countdown and some of Bungie's own Forge World maps, such as their remakes of Ascension and Sanctuary from Halo 2, which I feel were done a bit poorly. As for real remakes, Ivory Tower is back in the form of a more Asian-stylized rendition, and Prisoner and Boarding Action, both from Halo: CE, have KINDA been mixed together to resemble Swordbase. A lot of people believed that Zealot was a Midship remake, but it is not.

As for how you can customize your Custom Games, they're all pretty much the same as they were in Halo 3, only now you can change Spartan and Elite loadouts, Spartan options, Elite options, and, FINALLY, you can disable assassinations if you like the occasional Hide n' Seek games.

And, as in Halo 3 and Halo: ODST, you can access Theater Mode to watch and save your games, or clips and shots of them. However, you need a freaking hard drive to be able to access Theater Mode, which is lame as all hell.

You and your friends can still customize your armor and its primary and second colors, as well as your emblem, but now there are a lot more armor choices that you can purchase and equip with credits, which you earn by doing just about anything in the game, really. A lot of the armor choices are kinda insignificant it seems, and to be honest the only ones that really matter worth a damn and will be noticed are your helmet and torso armor. Some of the helmets from Halo 3 are back, and then there are some new ones. Also, for literally a million (or two million!) credits, you can purchase very unique effects for your character, such as bolts of lightning that shoot off of your body or a random gas cloud that hovers around you. These effects do not offer anything in actual gameplay though – the lightning does not hit people, and the gas does not poison them. To be honest, it's probably best this way.

Also, you can customize how you look whenever you play as an Elite in Covenant themed matches or Invasion matches, and I must say, the elite armor choices are phenomenal. They're all really damn impressive! I still don't have all of them unlocked, but I do know that there is, believe it or not, an Elite armor with a helmet with a visor, kinda like the helmets that Spartans wear! That's pretty cool.

But overall, yeah, offline gameplay is kinda pale in comparison to online… but then again, not a lot of people like playing with strangers masked by internet anonymity…

Online Gameplay

…but then again, a lot of people do.

I've been online in Matchmaking a lot lately, which is pretty much the same as in Halo 3, only now with what seems to be a much more easily understandable and not-so-bull-****y ranking system! Assists now come in the form of medals and actually contribute a lot more to your rank and credits than they did before, which is very nice if you're the kind of person that distracts or flanks enemy players while your teammates do the actual killing. This way, everyone profits, instead of just those who happen to land the final shot. Also, you can bring your splitscreen friend into matchmaking.

You can still use Theater Mode for online matches, but you can't have your buddies in the lobby and watch stuff with them anymore, as Theater lobbies can now only hold just you. Kind of an unnecessary relegation from Halo 3 and Halo: ODST, if you ask me…

As for online Campaign co-op, it's still there for 4 players… only you need a hard drive for online co-op… I personally prefer offline co-op, but I'm sure online co-op is still fun if the game isn't lagging.

Firefight online is pretty cool and fun, but like I said for co-op, the experience is kinda gimped if someone's lagging up the server.

I would say more about the online gameplay, but I pretty much covered the basics of everything in my Offline Gameplay section. Online entertainment in this game is pretty solid, and the only game variant that people seem to hate is SWAT.

Controls

The controls in Halo: Reach are a bit different than they were in previous Halo games. While you can reload with X again, punching is now done with the RB button instead of with B, which is now used for switching between grenade types. The LB button is now used for your armor ability.

Oh, and yes, you can still switch your control styles, although you still can't change them entirely, something that's been desired in Halo games for quite a while now.

Audio

The musical score is pretty strong in this game, as in every Halo game. I have noticed that the best of Marty O'Donnell's soundtrack in this game is mostly reserved for the cutscenes in the Campaign, while the rest is mostly comprised of recycled tracks it seems. The main menu, the lobbies, even the Campaign's ending credits are dead silent half the time (although some probably consider that a good thing). Otherwise, everything's still there from Halo 3 and Halo: ODST in the sound department. Not much else to be said.

Graphics

The graphics in this game are definitely amazing, and are easily better than Halo 3's and slightly better than Halo: ODST's. The presentation of the cutscenes in the Campaign are very well done, all the characters look better than they ever have (even random marine allies now have much more detail than they ever have, and they even make appropriate facial expressions when shot or stuck with a plasma grenade, etc.). The enemies look great, of course. I heard somewhere that someone from Bungie confirmed that there is now more detail on the Assault Rifle alone than there was on Master Chief himself from Halo 3! Now I'm not sure if that's true, but I can honestly believe it 100%, this game is beautiful. If you try this game out, you MUST go to the map Reflection in Forge and give it the Juicy and Next Gen SFX orbs, it will actually make you grin. Well… I mean, it made ME grin, anyway. >_>

Campaign Story

Master Chief is obviously not in this game, but it IS a prequel, so it only makes sense. In this game, you play as Noble 6, whom is the new addition to Noble Team, and he has been said to have a lot of potential. You will be fighting alongside the likes of Kat, Jorge, Emile, Jun, and Carter. Kat is the short-haired female of the group who specializes in hacking and intel, Jorge is the experienced heavy weapons specialist, Emile is the aggressive shotgunner bad ass with a skull pattern on his visor, Jun is the quiet sniper dude, and Carter is the natural leader. Yeah, well good ol' A-Team here is actually pretty well composed, with you as the “new guy” who ends up becoming the most important member later on in the Campaign… let's just say that Halo wouldn't have happened if it weren't for your character…

The story is pretty linear and a lot of people seem to find it lacking. Basically, you're a member of Noble Team, and Noble Team is pretty much going around doing missions that usually revolve around eliminating Covenant anti-air weapons or eliminating Covenant space ships. As a matter of fact, the latter of which becomes a key point in a mission of the Campaign where you LITERALLY go off into space in a fighter ship and destroy Covenant weapons and board their Cruiser! In the middle of the Campaign, your team meets up with someone very important in the Halo novels, and she is also Jorge's mother… This person gives your character a very valuable data disk later on, and the story becomes a survival and escape mission at that point where you finally deliver the disk to another very important Halo character. So yes, the story is nothing special and the ending seems kinda sudden…

…but just wait ‘til after the credits. It'll be worth it.

Firefight

Firefight has been brought back, and it now has a much more impressive presence than it did in Halo: ODST. However, you NEED a hard drive to be able to play Firefight AT ALL, which is pretty stupid. Anyway, there are now ways to customize your Firefight matches by making it so that only certain types of enemy squads (like Elites with Jackals, Brutes with Skirmishers, Hunters with Grunts, Elite Jetpackers, etc.) can appear, and in any order and in certain waves, as well as giving you the options to disable Wraiths, snipers, and the Phantom dropships that deploy the enemies (if you disable the dropships, the enemies will instead spawn normally across the map). You can also make up to three of your own unique skulls that override pretty much anything you'd want, like enemy intelligence, how durable they are, how good of a shot they are, how much shields you have, how much more damage you do, etc. And believe me, that's just LIGHTLY touching up on what you can do, as I don't wanna drag on. Also, the Firefight maps are unique scenarios not seen in the Multiplayer maps, but from actual places and events in the Campaign. There are 8 maps for Firefight (there will most likely be more as bought downloadable content one day), and yes, it's still 4-player.

Forge 2.0

Forge is back and much better than it was in Halo 3. Placing objects is no longer a pain in the ass as you can freely adjust them in very specific ways, place them in mid-air, fuse them with other objects, and place them inside of things. You can even adjust the coordinates and change their color. There are more scenery related things this time, as well as vehicle launching lifts, teleports that you can make bigger or smaller, shield doors that only certain teams can use, and you can also place land mines. There are now a bunch of buildings that you can mess around with, you can place every weapon and every loadout as pickups, and spawn points are now represented much more easily and can be changed in color to match the team that's intended for them. Oh, and you can finally place invisible guardian boundaries!

The new Forge World map is basically a bigger and greener version of what Sandbox from Halo 3's Mythic Map Pack was; you can do pretty much ANYTHING in here. I'll admit that a lot of Forge World is actually inaccessible, and I remember seeing all the huge forests and mountains in a trailer thinking that all of it was ours… nah, only about 20% of the map is accessible, and none of it includes any of the forests. :(

That being said, it is still a very cool map and I could imagine some pretty epic stuff transpiring on it.

Conclusion
Overall, Halo: Reach didn't quite deliver on EVERYTHING, but it is still certainly a game to pick up and play. It is very fun, in my opinion, and all the new weapons and the 2 new vehicles are cool. I also admire that this game was Bungie's epic farewell to its fans, which they so lovingly address as soon as you boot up the game for the first time or beat the Campaign. Not a lot of things have been changed since the Multiplayer Beta that you may recall seeing or even playing back in May, but I think that's for the better. If you buy, rent, or borrow this game, you WILL have fun. I can only imagine how long it will take me to grow out of my new Halo: Reach phase, now…


Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 09/20/10


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