Review by MarcOfWill

"Combat Evolved. Again."

I have a divide in my friends - the ones who love them some Halo and those that say they don't like it. When questioned the latter always seem to respond with "It's too hard! I keep getting killed." And I believe this sums up Halo's biggest flaw as a series - the difficulty curve can seem punishing.

If you're like me (MarcOfWill) and have played all the Halo games and gradually evolved your skills then chances are you will be relatively familiar with this. The control system has been tweaked and now more resembles the 'Bumper Jumper' setup from Halo 3 which puts melee on the right bumper. Gone is the ability to dual wield though and in it's place is an Armour Ability which I'll discuss later.

First impressions for a seasoned player, for me, was the significant increase in movement speed and range of the enemies. Sure, there was other changes which deviate from the Halo norm, but none which had such a profound impact on the nature of the combat. I enjoyed this immensely as I feel the re-balancing of the weapons was reflective of the enhanced enemy movement speed - many weapons seemed to fire quicker, be a little stronger or now have a slight homing ability. Not only faster, the multiplayer now is more diverse - teammates and enemies alike can sprint roll, fly, go invisible, go invincible or heal. This adds a great new edge to tactical thinking where you now can't really on your usual tricks! Overall I feel the battle system feels solid and I think all good Halo players will appreciate the subtle (and over the top) differences.

I then passed the controller over to my rookie Halo player flatmate who I asked to comment on it. He immediately liked the team dynamic of Noble Team - said it felt like he was changing roles to suit the game which, in turn, was exposing him to more ways of playing and better prepared him for going online, which we did later. We both agreed that the soundtrack, which I found reminiscent of Halo 3, was excellent. The short sharp chords of the electric guitar during the night mission heightened the tension as you tried to stealth kill a grunt scout as well as the energetic score accompanying the beach invasion made you want to sprint up the beach and take out everything in your path.

The Armour Abilities mentioned earlier were something we agreed were fun, however, he noticed that I didn't use them nearly as often as him. This is what made me think - after playing with these abilities he immediately went online and scored a few kills. Not a game winner by any means but not the big fat zero his few Halo 3 games had netted him in the past. I saw my flatmate and others using the jetpack to reach a sniper's nest and take out said sniper or (a low tactic I think) standing still with a sword and camo, I even got caught out myself occasionally.

The weapons have changed too - gone are the beam rifle, battle rifle, covenant carbine and most of the brute weapons but say hello hello to the new! The Designated Marksman Rifle or DMR becomes the new medium range weapon of choice, sort of like a one shot battle rifle. The focus rifle is like the sentinel beam from Halo 3 combined with the zoom of the beam rifle. The concussion rifle is the covenant version of the brute shot and packs a punch. The plasma repeater is like the assault rifle with a greater damage potential and rips shields to shreds. The needle rifle is good on non-shielded targets and explodes any non-shielded target after shooting it three times in quick succession. And the best of the new weapons - they have added a grenade launcher! Decent splash damage, potential to shoot round corners, hit multiple enemies as well as a secondary fire mode which disables shields much like the overcharged plasma pistol. That means this baby stops tanks moving as well as everything else. Truly a masterstroke of a weapon in my opinion.

Also worthy of note is the Firefight mode which is similar to Gears Of Wars Horde mode. Arcade style waves of enemies arrive in ships and drop pods to kill you with the only objective being survival. This is great fun as a group as you can gloat over being the highest points earner and chastise anyone who dies. Heavy weapon drops are also available every set to help you stay alive. On some of the bigger maps vehicles are air-dropped to instigate your demise which up the tension quite substantially!

Overall, I feel this paradigm shift could mean Reach is the best way to ingratiate new players into the Halo universe since Combat Evolved. As a long time player the game felt familiar yet faster and I enjoy it immensely. I can see myself playing this for a long time to come. To a new player it was fun and quite different, and as a result has attracted more friends to convert to my cause.

Ultimately, I can't ask for much more in a game. Except more maps, game modes and stuff, Which no doubt will be coming soon! Good luck to Bungie and if this review persuades one undecided potential to buy it and experience this smashing game then the time spent writing this will be time well spent! Enjoy!

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 09/22/10

Game Release: Halo: Reach (EU, 09/14/10)

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