Review by Beta_Ace_X

"Campaign in Reach a Good Send-off for the Series"

Halo: Reach is Bungie's last hurrah, a massive “thank you” to all of its loyal fans. They sought to bring back everything players loved about the trilogy, take out all the tedium, and create a more complex and gripping story. They succeeded in and far surpassed this goal. The combination of old and new methods of presenting plot results in an absolutely stunning campaign, worth playing through over and over again; it is only hurt by its short length, not giving nearly enough time to flesh out the squad and the battle raging across the planet. If only we could have seen more, then it may have well been a perfect campaign. As it stands, we have a great and compelling tale of sacrifice and pyrrhic victory that is easily the greatest that Bungie has ever made.

Reach's story is presented the same as any other Halo game is; you go through a dozen or so basically linear levels, kill everything in your path, defend and objective, and then advance to the next stage. It's a cookie-cutter formula that has been criticized (one of the few things diehard critics and Call of Duty fanboys can find wrong with this game), but truly, I challenge people to find many games that stray from such a routine. The basic gameplay does little to be innovative, but it only serves as a backdrop to the plot itself. Customization options new to the series allow for players to buy armor with an in-game credit system which transfers through all the modes of the game. This makes a soldier unique to you as you fulfill the role of your squad's empty spot, Noble Six. This character of yours will appear in every cutscene of the game and even speaks, a break from Halo's long standing tradition of silent protagonists. His or her lines aren't exactly essential or filled with much personality, but I feel like that's to let the player fill in a personality while at the same time making you feel like you do have a role in this war.

Each mission, while generally comprised of run and gun gameplay, is incredibly varied, enough to easily make you forget you're just mashing the fire button and jumping around enemy fire. This serves the plot well, as you literally go all around the planet with your squad, Noble Team. When you play this game, you will feel like you are doing everything possible to save this world. Little things like firing to save a squad pinned down by the enemy as you pass them in a helicopter add an emotional pull. How did those troopers fare? Am I really making a difference? By the end of the game, you'll find out just how much of an impact you did make in the ongoing war against the Covenant, but until then, escalating plot is matched by increasingly frantic, essentially setting you and your squad against an army of baddies by the end of it. It feels incredibly natural to start the game killing only a few enemies at a time but by the end of it fighting through dozens of their strongest.

The largest problem with the campaign, however, is the pacing. I thought the game was half over when in reality I had just finished it. It can be completed in under four hours. And let me tell you, while you'll come to empathize and care for some of your squad, there is no way that they can all be effectively characterized and make you feel attached to them in such a short time. The first mission does a good job, having your full squad present and fighting with you while you actually control your character, throwing back banter and calling out targets, but unfortunately, that mission (with the best pacing and the greatest variety of dialogue amongst your squad) is the shortest in the game. I would have been willing to even do the most vile thing imaginable for gamers, trudge backwards through all the levels if I could just hear my squad talking to each other again.

Halo: Reach is a terrific game, a must buy for any fans of first person shooters. The plot and gameplay complement each other perfectly, and the story is much more complex than previous titles. If it had only been drawn out over a few more hours, then it would have perhaps felt like more of a complete journey. As it is, however, I can definitively say this is the greatest Halo yet, and Bungie, relatively old and small when you consider the modern juggernauts of developers, has again earned the right to stand up proudly amongst them all.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 11/04/10

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

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