Review by no500

"Reach is less of a sendoff for fans than it is a reworking of old material to attract the CoD demographic"

While I consider myself a huge fan of both the Halo and Call of Duty franchises, with a lot of respect for what their development teams have accomplished over the years, I can't say I've ever had a "chocolate and peanut butter" type of moment when thinking of the two. Bungie apparently did, however, and thus Reach was born. Unfortunately I don't think this combination tastes nearly as sweet as a peanut butter cup.

I'll start with the mundane here, the campaign. Gameplay is mostly fine and close to what you'd expect to be perfectly honest (in my opinion a little too close), but it seems Bungie has learned almost nothing since ODST in storytelling. The only improvement is that the members of Noble 6, your unit of Spartans, have more easily distinguishable armor. In a game where you know the basics of what happens to this planet from the beginning, the character progression that takes place before then has to be more compelling than this. 2010 has been a great year for video game storytelling with Red Dead Redemption and Alan Wake, but Reach comes no where close to meeting that standard.

Because this is as good a place as any to put it, I also want to comment that this is by far the worst soundtrack in a Halo game. ODST was very moody and stands out when compared to the first three, but in a good way. I don't know how one year later they could have created such an apathetic score for Reach. You hear the same tired military theme with little variation constantly.

Sadly it goes from mediocre to simply boring when talking about multiplayer.

Only about a third of the multiplayer maps that shipped with the game feel special in any particular way. While the complaint that a ridiculous amount of Halo 2 remakes are on the disc would be legitimate, these maps do manage to offer more variety than any of the new stuff, so you can't blame them for putting those in. It just means they're really scrapping for creative ideas.

I've noticed on the new stages that you very rarely see novelty weapons like the Spartan Laser, Focus Rifle, Rocket Launcher, Energy Sword. The mindset of rushing to the "power weapons", a Halo staple, has been transformed into something closer to playing defensively with the starting weapons - For instance the DMR which is basically a battle rifle with sniper-like range. Bungie also adds weapon loadouts and perks to the mix, all in an attempt to totally spell the words "Call of Duty." Slayer games often go down to the time limit rather than the score limit due to defensive play. Again, it's just boring.

The Forge modes are well built but the entire concept leaves something to be desired, and I've felt this way since Halo 3. There's no point to creating some epic battleground for capture the flag when I know I'll never get 15 other people to actually play on it in a custom game. I'm guessing Bungie weighed the options here and decided so many players would be creating mindless garbage or unbalanced maps in Forge, a matchmaking system for customs would be a waste of resources. I definitely see Forge as catering to a small niche of players and people that just like to screw around between matches.

One legitimate spot where Bungie showed improvement was in the options given to Firefight. Crazy infinite weapons? Check. Matchmaking support? Done. The latter is currently swamped with quitters but it's better than anything ODST offered. If only the rest of the developers working on Reach could have taken such an approach. It can be difficult to ignore the hype for the so-called Halo sendoff, but even from an objective standpoint this game isn't worthy of the logos on its case.


Reviewer's Score: 4/10 | Originally Posted: 09/20/10


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