Game Review - Halo:Reach

Bungie's last Halo is out, offering everything we've come to expect from a Halo game. Full-fledged multiplayer, added and upgraded game types, as well as a solid campaign. Bungie hasn't been sitting idle in a vacuum of their own ideas, they've obviously been taking notes to improve the game we love, , Halo, but is Halo: Reach the best?

While the conclusion of Halo: Reach is known before hand, it doesn't mean the game is incapable of packing a wallop. If you're familiar with the Halo universe then you should already know what happens on Reach, the humans fail to defend it. The Covenant's invasion of Reach is successful. The narrative backdrop keeps the game consuming, the future grim, and the battles constant.

Since the outcome is known, Bungie had to focus on the delivery and making it compelling despite that. In Halo: Reach you play as Nobel Six, the sixth member of Nobel Team, a group of Spartans that work in unison of a larger army. The game makes that clear in the campaign's opening when your squad leader welcomes you. "Were glad to have your skill set, but we're a team. That lone wolf stuff, stays behind." It's an odd meta moment referencing previous Halo games that haven't occurred in the time line of Reach, but it sets a pace that's felt throughout the campaign. You always feel apart of something bigger.

The campaign sets you in a variety of gameplay scenarios, attacking Covenant installments, pushing back Covenant advancements, and vehicle segments that feel like breathers from the rest of the action. War skirmishes also look and feel more intense then they have in the past. Halo encounters have always had a particular style, they occur in large open areas giving you the option of taking down enemies in the order and manner in which you please. Halo: Reach maintains that, but has modified the games aesthetic to match the intensity of the doomed climate. The grunts no longer look as cartoony as they have in the past while the brutes look significantly tougher and more intimidating. The pacing has a slow start, but quickly ramps up as the rest of Nobel Team become familiar comrades, and Reach's demise becomes evident.

Reach's Multiplayer is really where most fans of the series will spend the bulk of their time and it definitely offers everything you'd expect from a Halo game, but not without improvements. Halo: Reach has added custom loadouts to multiplayer that can be selected before the match and after every death. This allows players to make slight alterations to their strategy depending on their specific circumstance. The loadouts are specific skills like: sprint, jetpack, or the ability to drop a shield. Your loadout also allows you to choose your starting weapons. Nothing game changing, but rather helpful in accomplishing specific objectives. This definitely reinforces creativity and makes those painful massacres a little more bearable.

Matchmaking is now available not only in multiplayer, but for the campaign as well as for cooperative game modes like Firefight. Bungie is definitely predicting that Halo 3 fans will migrate over to Halo: Reach's multiplayer and with good reason. Halo's multiplayer has never offered as many game types and specific game mode alterations as Halo: Reach. The system allows extremely customizable game types. If you want everyone to have jetpacks and use Rocket launchers, no problem. If you love the new game, but dislike the new loadouts, turn them off in the menu. You can then share your game types and playlists with other people on Xbox Live. Not only keeping players happy, but encouraging players to play around with all of the options by give them the resources to share their ideas.

The game isn't perfect, the frame rate drops every now and then and the game's campaign suffers from a slow start, but the ultimate package is solid. With all of the features offered through multiplayer, the bar is set ridiculously high for future shooters. The number of hours one could spend with this title is practically limitless and rewarded with in game currency. While the currency is used to unlock only audio and cosmetic changes to your specific character, it definitely makes playing another round a little more justifiable. The one negative thing Halo has been known for is an obnoxious online community, but even for that, Bungie created a solution. The "Psych Profile" feature promises to keep like minded gamers playing together. If you've never liked the Halo games, this one won't change your mind, but if you've been a fan of any of them, there isn't a reason to avoid this one.

Definitely a Must Buy