Review by Syko_666
It's definitely a Halo game, whether or not that is a good thing is up to you.
Before I start, I would like to point out that 6/10 means "Fair - game is okay, but there are many better" according to this website, so keep in mind that 6/10 is not a bad rating despite the fact that I've seen numerous negative reviews with this rating.
The last Halo game. I'm somewhat glad that this is the last game in the franchise. Don't take that statement the wrong way, I don't hate the Halo games, I find them to be extremely overrated and have never understood the fascination with them. A mainstream reviewer (like IGN) will most likely say that you either love or hate the Halo series which is entirely untrue. I neither love nor hate Halo, in my opinion Halo games are usually competently made but nothing entirely special in this day and age where first person shooters are being made all of the time due to the success of franchises like the early Medal of Honour games, the Battlefield series, Call of Duty and of course, Halo. So with all that said, you ought to take my somewhat balanced opinion of Halo into consideration when reading this review. Now let's move on to the better part of the review....
Now if I were to say that gameplay was the most important thing when it comes to reviewing a game I would be preaching to the choir for the most part and this is where the Halo series has felt somewhat lacking at least for me and Halo: Reach falls into this category. First of all, it's a fairly basic first person shooter, not that that is a bad thing but it's hardly anything to write home about. Of course that's just me talking about the control scheme and the abilities that the player has, what about the missions? Well each level is unique in it's own regard, but it is nothing we haven't seen before. That's not to say that Halo: Reach has terrible level design, in terms of it's design it's adequate and at times it's even great. But it all boils down to, clear this area, plant explosives here, destroy this piece of technology, kill that guy, do this because the plot says so. But there have been new additions made to the game, make no mistake about that. One is the special ability which allows the player to perform a particular action like sprint or use a jetpack. Now the latter IS as cool as it sounds but the former is just really stupid. First of all, you play as a trained soldier, sprinting does not qualify as a special ability for a soldier, being able to walk on water would qualify as a special ability, being able to jump up to 130 feet in the air (which is more or less made possible with the jetpack) is a special ability but sprinting? And it's not like you sprint like The Flash from DC Comics, in fact you sprint about as fast as you would in Call of Duty which makes this decision even more questionable. But in fairness that is just a nitpick but you have to admit that it is pretty stupid all the same. Also outside of the main campaign the Firefight mode from Halo 3: ODST makes it's return and this time we are given a whole new selection of different match types to choose from which makes the mode all the more fun. Either solo or co-op, Firefight is bloody good fun. There are also space battles in Halo: Reach which was a wise decision considering that we've spent the past few games in the series fighting an interstellar conflict but we've never had a chance to take the fight to the final frontier and participate in dog-fights. There was potential there and it seems that finally Bungie realized this too. But how does it play? Well pretty good, the fighters handle well, the battles are pretty big and most importantly it's fun. Definitely the best addition to the game.
I won't comment on the multiplayer as I haven't went near it yet.
One thing that Bungie excel at is making a game with beautiful visuals and Halo: Reach is no exception to this. The textures look great, the environments are extremely well detailed and being able to see battles going on in the distance truly immerses you into this mythology that they have created. The character models on the other hand are, well, okay. They aren't badly designed but they really are nothing special, not that that's a bad thing, I don't expect a game like this to have visuals like Heavy Rain or MGS4 and I'm pretty sure that if Bungie tried to reach the same visual level as those games Halo: Reach wouldn't run as smoothly as it does and boy does it run well. I haven't experienced any issues with framerate or pop-in. The game has run perfectly for me so far. The space battles also look awesome.
I've always enjoyed the scores to these games and Halo: Reach has the best so far. The scores in Halo games have always cconveyed this grand mood and in the case of ODST, it's pretty thematic. But this game is about how the war against the Covenant started and the soundtrack reflects that. And it's important to note that this is before the time of Master Chief so you don't have genetically enhanced soldiers running around yet which makes the Covenant seem all the more threatening. If only the voice acting reflected this. In my review of ODST I made comments about how the voices provided for the enemies were goofy and Halo: Reach hasn't made much of an improvement in this regard. The lines are silly, the voices themselves sound extremely forced and it feels like another one of the million Star Trek parodies that have been done in the past several decades. The voice work for the humans is so-so. There is no real stand out and it's fairly generic voice work and it's too casual for my liking. This has always been my biggest problem with the Halo series, the score always gives us the impression that we're supposed to take this seriously, but the voice work is extremely casual and in the case of the enemy voice work it sounds like one of those action movies from the '80s. It's inconsistent and confuses me with what Bungie's goals are when it comes to the mood and the story which is coming up next.
Let's face it, the story in the Halo series has always been the weakest link and in Halo: Reach this is even more apparent. With the inconsistent audio and the fairly generic plot of "evil aliens are building an empire, humans are fighting back, stuff happens, cataclysmic weapon must be stopped blah blah blah" it makes me wonder if Bungie really know how to structure a story. And the characterization is practically non-existent by the time I reached the middle point of the game I didn't care who died all I cared about was getting a new horde of aliens to blast. That's not exactly a good reception for your storytelling. I'm not expecting them to come up with an Oscar-worthy storyline but they could at least try to make it interesting or at least make me care about the characters I spend the entire campaign with. In fact I don't remember any of their names, that's how much I didn't care.
Whether or not you like the Halo series will influence what you think of this game. If you hate Halo then it would be wise to skip this one, if you like Halo then you'll like Reach. If you love Halo then you already know how you feel about it because you probably already bought it. Anyway, my personal opinion is that Halo: Reach is a fairly well-made game that has it's fun factors but it's plot is the weakest point and anyone looking for a good story with this game should look elsewhere because there is nothing here.
+ Fun gameplay.
+ Space battles are a welcome addition.
+ You get a jetpack.
+ Firefight has been vastly improved.
+ Fantastic visuals.
+ Well-composed score.
- A shoddy plot.
- Bad voice acting.
- According to Bungie sprinting qualifies as a special ability for a trained soldier.
Rating: 3.0 - Fair
Product Release: Halo: Reach (EU, 09/14/10)
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