by Keaton Arksey
reviewed on X360
Returning from ODST is Firefight mode, Halo's answer to Gears of War's Horde mode. Up to four players team up to face increasingly difficult waves of Covenant forces. The most notable change is the addition of matchmaking, meaning it will always be possible to find someone to team up with. Unfortunately, there is a slight lag problem in matchmaking. It is not consistent enough to make it unplayable, but it can hurt the experience.
After addressing the major complaint from ODST, Bungie has decided to go the extra mile and include several different variations of Firefight. Firefight is broken down into five waves to a round, three rounds to a set. After every round, a weapon drop is made delivering some form of mass destruction for your use. The default Firefight now only lasts a set, meaning that it will take an hour to play a game which is a welcome addition. Firefight classic is for those who want to keep playing until they lose all of their lives, so games can easily go beyond an hour.
Generator Defense is a co-operative Firefight affair. Rocket Fight gives you rocket launchers and unlimited ammo (meaning your screen will be popping with explosions every five seconds), while Gruntacolypse is like the bonus rounds between sets in that the only enemy you fight is Grunts. Score Attack is a single round of Firefight in which you try and attain as high a score as possible, which you can compare with friends on leaderboards. Finally, Firefight Versus is the crown jewel of the Firefight set, pitting two teams against each other. One side plays as the Spartans, who try and rack up points by killing Covenant. The other plays as the Elites, and must try and kill the Spartans. If a Spartan kills an Elite, they get an extra life. Once all of the Spartan lives are gone, the teams switch sides and do it again. As always, it is definitely more fun to play these kinds of games with friends, but even with strangers they are all enjoyable.
Forge has received the biggest overhaul, as Bungie has thrown everything and the kitchen sink in. Forge 2.0 is a major improvement over the clunky and slow Forge of Halo 3. Objects can now hang in midair without the block trick, and objects can phase through solid objects to create some unique maps. You can also snap objects to create neat and even lines. It does not necessarily work 100% of the time, but when it does, the frustration factor is severely reduced. Bungie is promoting Forge through Forge World, the largest map ever in a Halo game. Bungie has used Forge to create five maps on disc, the most notable being Hemorrhage (a Blood Gulch remake) and Pinnacle (an Ascension remake). It might not be for everyone, but those who put time into it will be creating some truly amazing works. There are various other new tricks, like making it easier to distinguish which side a base or object belongs to, and streamlining the process of removing all of the objects on a pre-made map to start with a blank slate. It is not hard to imagine that in a year Forge will be the most important addition to Halo Reach with hundreds if not thousands of new maps.
Finally, there is the multiplayer; the bread and butter of the Halo experience. Additions like armour abilities and an improved party system make an already sweet matchmaking experience even better and keep the experience fresh. Before every game players can vote on the map and game mode they wish to play. While certainly more democratic, some of the less popular modes can be pushed aside when going up against the SWATS and Classic Slayer. The classic modes like Slayer and Capture the Flag are still around and play exactly as they should. New game modes are fun and frantic, from Headhunter and Stockpile to Invasion, a Battlefield-esque mode where two teams of Elites and Spartans compete to complete objectives (or keep them from being completed). There are only two maps that support the mode, which is kind of a bummer considering it is one of the stronger team based modes. As usual, the major customization options are there from speed and gravity to starting weapons, vehicle use, shield strength, and even more.
Scratching the surface
2,200 words in, and I have only scratched the surface of Reach. There is so much to go left to talk about, from Theater mode to Arena to Co-op campaign. It has been said over and over again, but the amount of game Bungie can cram into a single disc is simply astounding. With the classic gameplay we know and love, addictive multiplayer and new and improved versions of Forge and Firefight, Halo Reach is simply huge. It is only fitting that one of Bungie`s biggest games is also one of their best.
Updated graphics, phenomenal soundtrack, additions to gameplay that retain the Halo gameplay and are fun, and an amazing amount of content.
Some lag issues in Firefight mode, some visual choppiness.