It’s been many years since I first picked up a controller and played Halo at a friends house. A short time later and I had my own Xbox, putting in more hours than could be considered healthy. Since then the Halo series has taken a sharp decline (in my own humble opinion). While Halo 3 was better than the others, none have captured the original Halo feeling. Bungie have tried very hard to go back to their roots with Reach before moving on to other licenses, and is easily their best shot at recapturing glory.
Before we begin I have to make something clear; I am a massive Halo fan. I’ve got all the books, participate in the mailing lists and generally know way too much about a fictional universe to be healthy. So setting a game on Reach, something that has been detailed very well in the books (heck one is called The Fall of Reach) could have been a massive risk. Luckily Bungie have managed to work around their own official canon to create something fresh without breaking old rules.
Reach is set before Halo 1 (I’m keeping this simple as technically there’s a whole time-continium thing going on) and follows the members of Noble team. As usual you’re the latest recruit and as such get nannied about by the other members. Following a distress call you get your first Covenant action and are straight into the thick of it. And this is where you truly remember the good old Halo days.
Firstly, Elites are back! I hate Brutes, nobody likes to play against a dumb opponent and that’s all they were. Elites offer a more challenging foe and I love the game alone for that. Secondly, the graphics have been toned down from the candy-coloured hues the games were becoming known for to something more believable and ultimately more faithful to the first. Everything just feels sharper and less blurred.
Unfortunately it appears these graphics come at a price, and a pretty big one. This game jerks, a lot. Don’t let the reviews fool you, it’s not occasionally, it’s every five minutes. Switch to co-op and it’s twice as bad. I would happily trade some of the vistas for a smoother framerate.
Graphics aside however there is one massive shortcoming with Reach; you can finish it in five hours on Heroic easy. Seriously, the entire game just blurs by with no clear separation between missions except for the last few. The “plot” that ties the acts together is poorly defined and ultimately doesn’t matter. A lot of reviewers have gone into how the ultimate knowledge that Noble team is doomed from the off adds a morbid tone. It would except a) most gamers don’t care and b) that should be reason to have a better stand off than Reach does. The ending is a massive anti-climax. Bungie should have followed their old tradition of having a timed run in a Warthog, blasting through the scenery to escape. Instead it just whittles and dies.
This isn’t the end of Halo ultimately. While the multiplayer will continue to go strong for years to come (of which I’ll play for a few weeks before getting bored of the average 11-year-racist comments and move) Microsoft will undoubtedly have plans to monetize the franchise now they own it body and soul.
Halo: Reach is enjoyable good fun and easily the best since the original. However for all of it’s final glory it’s many faults easily hold it back from the mythical 10/10s it seems to be accruing at every corner.
My rating: 60%