Halo: Reach Review

(Spoilers Ahead)

Before I get started, let me tell you that I am a hardcore PlayStation gamer. The PS3 was my first console, and I’ve been playing it exclusivity for about five years. However, this past summer, I was finally convinced that an Xbox 360 is worth having, so I spent the money on the Star Wars Kinect bundle.

Although there aren’t as many game on the console I adore compared to the PS3, games like Halo: Reach convince me that I made the right choice in buying an Xbox.

Taking place before Halo: Combat Evolved, the original Xbox game, Reach follows a Spartan called Noble-6, who’s the new addition to a squad of Spartans. After you design the appearance and voice of Noble-6, you’re dropped into the game.

First off, I have to say that I love it when developers give you freedom to design or tweak your character. Noble-6 became an extension of me, and I felt like him for the entirety of the campaign. I bonded with the characters as he did, and felt his pain as his team was killed one by one.

And that’s one of the best aspects of Halo: Reach; it connects you with the world in chaos around you. It takes a bit for that to happen, but once you’re plugged into what’s happening, the game soars.

However, the first few hours aren’t near as fun as the rest of the game. For that time, your basically moved from place to place, fulfilling objectives without any real meaning. Go take over this base, go assist this squad, kill that Covenant force and so on.

Maybe I was just missing something, but for the first two or three hours I really didn’t feel like I was making a difference, nor did I understand what the overall point of it all was.

Perhaps it’s just because I don’t know enough about the Halo lore, but regardless, those first hours weren’t very different from every other shooter out there.

But there’s a point in the game where Noble-6 is sent into space to fend off a Covenant invasion on a UNSC space station; and that is when everything changes. Not only does flying a spaceship feel natural, but it was really, really fun.

Bungie really nailed the feeling of soaring through space, chasing down enemy fighters, and dodging enemy attacks. I was half-expecting to hear someone say “I’m starting my attack run” (if you get that reference leave a comment). That was no doubt a highlight of the game.

After that set-piece, the story, characters, and gameplay all seem to kick into high-gear. While my squad mates didn’t seem to do much outside of hating on me or complaining about something, after the space scene, they start to display depth and emotion, and I bonded with them almost immediately.

The characters in Reach make up one the best aspects of the game.

While the story is both intense and touching, it’s the gameplay that really steals the show. Reach runs as smoothly as it possibly could, and not once did I run into any sort of glitches or framerate problems. Add that on the fact that the game is just absolutely breathtaking, and you have a winner.

Even when the story wasn’t gripping me, the exhilarating, strategic gameplay kept me coming back. While you can succeed by just blowing through tons of ammunition, the real fun comes into how you approach each situation.

Every battle is different, and because of that I often died numerous times during the action. But I don’t count that as a negative; because I died, I learned a way not to do it, and then had the joy of approaching it differently.

And although that did get a little frustrating towards the end, nothing was more satisfying than finally surviving a huge, epic set piece.

Without a doubt, Halo: Reach’s gameplay is some of the best out there. With a smorgasbord of weapons, vehicles, and enemies, things are kept consistently unique and exciting. Although I do wish I had had a clearer sense of my objectives throughout the game.

For some odd reason, there isn’t an on-screen map, nor a constant compass telling you where to go. Instead, you have to kill all the Covenant in a stage, wander around some and then wait to be directed elsewhere.

This got a little irritating, and I really wish that there had been some kind of map so I didn’t have to spend so much time wandering around the giant maps aimlessly.

You won’t find a game with better enemies than in Halo.

Although it takes a bit to get going, Halo: Reach ends on one of the highest, most emotional notes it could’ve. After helping the last UNSC shuttle escape the doomed planet Reach, Noble-6 is left on the planet alone, his whole squad dead. But he had done his job, and had done it well.

As the credits end, the game puts you back into the shoes of Noble-6, the character you’ve become over the six-hour campaign, with just one objective; survive as long as you can. This last, final stand represents everything Reach does so well.

As the enemies swarm, and your ammo count diminishes, you come to the realization that you will die, but also realize you did your job, saved tons of people, and that was worth it.

As the last bit of health slips away, the game triggers a emotionally touching cutscene of your hero heroically fending off dozens of powerful enemies before being eventually overwhelmed. I’d be lying if I wasn’t moved by this final scene, and it left the best, most lasting impression it could have.

The set-pieces are a huge part of Reach, and do not disappoint.

Halo: Reach is a great game, and it has a lot of going for it. It’s one of the most articulately, wonderfully designed games on the market. Even though it’s not perfect, it’s a game definitely worth your time and money, and I couldn’t think of a better way to begin my journey into the Halo franchise.

Story: 8.5/10 – Although it takes a bit to long  to get going, the story of Reach is a powerful one that is both exciting and emotional.

Gameplay: 9/10 – Outside of the lack of on-screen maps and to much aimless wandering, the gameplay here is exhilarating, beautiful, and nearly flawless. Reference quality for the Xbox 360.

Presentation: 9.5/10 – The menus are great and easy to navigate, the locales both unique and beautiful, and the attention to detail is astonishing.

Graphics: 9.5/10 – Halo: Reach is without a doubt one of the best looking games on the Xbox 360, and I was consistently wowed by the sheer beauty magnitude of what was going on around me.

Replay Value: 9/10 – Although I’m not a big multiplayer guy, the addicting Firefight mode, the great story, in-depth multiplayer, and mission designed can keep anyone occupied for a long time.

9.0

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