Review: Halo: Reach

A long goodbye
By MADDY MYERS  |  September 21, 2010
4.0 4.0 Stars

 

Throughout Halo: Reach's campaign, you are haunted by the thought that, at the end, you will die — and that with your death, the Halo empire will come to an end. The story in Reach precedes the series's first game, Halo: Combat Evolved; you play as a nameless Spartan locked in humanity's war against aliens, and if you've played the other Halos, you know that every Spartan but Master Chief dies in this fight. One by one, you watch your teammates fall, until it is your turn to meet your maker in a magnificent closing cutscene.

Halo: Reach | For The Xbox 360 | Rated M for Mature | Developed by Bungie | Published by Microsoft
It's a somber way to end the series, and Bungie has risen to the occasion by showing how much Halo has grown up. Halo: Reach is devoid of goofy alien wisecracks; your opponents grunt and roar, but you can no longer understand their language. The characters and cutscenes have matured as well, with the help of well-written dialogue and slow, sweeping shots of intergalactic battles and war-torn landscapes.

Despite the funereal solemnity of its campaign, Reach seems designed to live on for years to come. The multi-player modes represent the culmination of a decade of Halo development, and the results include a little something for everyone. The classic "Slayer" mode (every man for himself) remains, along with variations that include Capture-the-Flag, Headhunter, Invasion, and Infection — this last being Bungie's tribute to zombie games. If you don't like playing against real people, you can face off with AI aliens in the various Firefight modes, like Rocketfight (rocket launchers galore) and Gruntpocalypse (waves of alien grunts).

When it comes to co-op play, Reach bars no door. In both the multi-player and the campaign, you can play co-op on the couch with friends, or co-op online with your Xbox Live friends, or set up matchmaking to play with strangers online.

Endless customization options — which include your character's gender, abilities, and armor pieces — only add to Reach's replay value. The game includes an experience-point system, as well as ways to earn credits to buy better armor, so the longer you play, the stronger you get.

You can even alter the gameplay itself. Besides the standard difficulty settings (Easy, Normal, Heroic, and Legendary), each mode has a collection of "skull" buttons, and each of those beefs up a particular mechanic, like explosion size or enemy strength.

Unfortunately, character customization carries over into multi-player only if you have an Xbox Live Gold membership. And speaking of giving Microsoft your money: the online co-op play for the campaign and Firefight modes won't work unless your 360 has a built-in hard drive. If you don't have that, or the membership, go play Reach at a friend's house and hope that Microsoft will take the hint and make the game more accessible to poorer players.

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