by Keaton Arksey
reviewed on X360
Farewell from Bungie
The year is 2552. Humanity has finally succeeded in travelling faster than the speed of light, and has expanded its boundaries rapidly. Things are going relatively well until we make contact with The Covenant, an alliance of alien species who worship The Forerunners, an ancient civilization who provided the basis for most of their technology. The Covenant view humanity as an affront to their gods, and begin a genocidal war. After most of the outer colonies are destroyed, the last stronghold between the Covenant and Earth is the military planet Reach. The Covenant are coming, and Reach will fall.
Halo Reach is the final game to be developed by series creator Bungie. Since this is the last hurrah as it were, Bungie has gone off the deep end and in doing so have created the penultimate Halo game. Featuring the most story driven game in the series, new gameplay mechanics, revamped Forge and Firefight modes, and the famous multiplayer, Reach is a phenomenal send-off for Bungie to go out on.
Noble Six and his armoury
The first thing you are greeted with when you start Halo Reach is the Armoury. Here you can buy new pieces of equipment with credits, which you obtain through multiplayer matches or completing in-game objectives known as commendations. These range from new helmets and chest pieces to voices for Firefight and armour effects. There is a lot to purchase, and your Spartan can look completely unique through various armour permutations, colour schemes, and logos. Think of it as Call of Duty, where you unlock new perks and weapons as you level up, but here it is simply a visual upgrade so there is no concern of balancing. It makes you feel more invested in your character and helps distinguish you from the pack and is a welcome addition to the franchise.
The Battle of Reach is seen through the eyes of Noble Six, the newest member of the United Nations Space Command (UNSC) special ops team. They are known as Noble Team and are compromised of Spartans, legendary soldiers who are capable of taking on what would be suicidal for anyone else and coming out alive. Most of the members of Noble Six are not Spartan-II's like Master Chief (with the exception of Jorge, the heavy weapons specialist on the team). Instead they are the much cheaper to produce Spartan-III's. While still effective, they are expendable. Because of this, the game plays much more similarly to ODST or Combat Evolved, where running into a group of enemies and blindly firing will only result in a quick death. Reach praises planning and quick thinking above all else. This is especially true on higher difficulties, where death is almost assured without proper planning. Continuing the tradition from ODST and Combat Evolved, Noble Six cannot regenerate health. Shields will recharge, but if your shields are depleted and you take damage you will start to lose health. The only way to regain health is to find a health pack, but thankfully they can be found if you search hard enough.
Since the Spartan-III's are not as expensive to make as their predecessors, they are given access to more high tech, experimental technology such as Armour Abilities. These are natural evolutions of the equipment pickups from Halo 3, but can be used repeatedly. These can be found throughout levels and swapped out for different situations. Each has their own strengths and weaknesses; Armour Lockup makes you invincible, but also a sitting duck. Jet Packs are awesome, and introduce the concept of verticality that has not been in the Halo games before. Other abilities include Active Camo, Sprint, and Hologram. Depending on what kind of player you are, you will naturally gravitate to one of the abilities but all are worthy of consideration.
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.