It’s here. The final Halo game to ever be made… by Bungie. Over the last 10 years, Bungie has given Halo fans exactly what they wanted, and their final farewell game has certainly been no different. Halo: Reach was announced in 2009 at E3, and over a year later, it managed to gross well over $200,000,000 in just a single day, breaking all records set by any Halo game. With this being Bungie’s last Halo game, they certainly wanted to go out with a bang, a “zzztzztzt” and a “vvwarrp”.
Halo: Reach is set way before any of the Halo games, a prequel to Halo: Combat Evolved. You play as Noble Six, and in the year 2552, Humans and spartans of the UNSC (United Nations Space Command), have been fighting an ongoing war with an alien breed known as the Covenant. Planet Reach is what you could call the base of UNSC. When a group of Spartans, or SPARTAN supersoldiers, are sent to investigate the sudden loss of transmission from a communication relay, they soon find out that this is due to the Covenant invading Reach. It is not long before more and more Covenant are dropped onto the planet. All the Spartans can do is fight for their planet, but there are some who believe that there may be no chance to save Reach.
The storyline is short and simple, and it tries to not complicate things for new players, but that can still be a problem. What I don’t think people will get, which is really one of the few problems with this game, is that there’s no backstory new fans will understand. As most Halo players have played the other games, new fans may be baffled by to what exactly is going on. They might think “who are the Covenant?”, “what are they trying to do?” “What’s going on?!”. It does feel like Bungie are just trying to “Reach” out to their existing fans rather than new ones. However, even though the storyline may be a problem, everything else is not.
There are, as usual, four difficulty settings, along with Co-Op play. The levels are Easy, Normal, Hard and Legendary. If you are planning to get achievements, then I would recommend you play on Normal. But for those who wish to play Legendary, think again. When I played just the first level, and with two friends, it took us around two hours to complete. Of course, we weren’t the best players around, obviously, but for those like us, good luck! The game mechanics have improved immensely since ODST, and the way everything has been set out is almost every Halo fans dream. Unlike all of the main Halo games, the first thing you will notice is a health bar and a shield bar. In all the other Halo games, you would only have a shield, and once that ran out, you died. In this case, once you lose your shield health, you will then begin to lose “health health”, and then once that has emptied, then you die, so Bungie tries to make the game a little easier no matter what difficulty you play on, which is nice. If you are on very low health, you would need to find a health pack. Sometimes your health may recharge a tiny bit, but that depends on how much health is lost. The graphics have also improved. Considering the graphics from the first Halo and comparing it to it’s prequel, you can’t help but drool (Yes, I ain’t being serious there). Almost everything you see has been graphically improved, and even if you compared the game to ODST, you can see that. Included in the game are some new abilities. Most people wanted to have a Sprint button included in the game, so Bungie added one. But along the lines, if you didn’t want sprint, you could change it for something else, like the Jetpack ability, drop shield, and Armor lock-up. These helped me a lot when completing the campaign. However, depending on where you are in the campaign depends on when you can change your armor abilities, and what to. Bungie have certainly worked very hard to try and improve the gameplay, which is basically flawless in every way, and I couldn’t name a better game just yet with these.
Something that is rather new is the Armory. This is the place where you can change the colour and look of your emblem and armour [quite obvious], but you can also buy new stuff. In other Halo games, all the stuff would be free and unlocked through completing just objectives. This time, the more you play multiplayer, firefight, and the campaign, the more credits [or points, whatever you want to call them] you would unlock. The amount of credits you receive is also the amount of experience you receive in the ranking system. With those credits, you can buy new armor, such as helmets, shoulder pads, wristguards and the rest of it, which can sometimes have their own little benefits. You can also buy armor effects, which are insanely expensive, ranging from around 200,000 to 2,000,000 credits. The effects are pretty damn awesome all the same. You can also choose your firefight voice as well, some of which you may remember from Halo 3, such as Cortana, and indeed John… (John? I do mean Master Chief for all you nerds!) This is something I believe every game that has multiplayer should have, as it makes you feel unique in your own little way.
With this being a Halo game, it see’s the return of many features. One of them is Firefight, which became a huge hit in ODST. In ODST, achievements required you to get 200,000 points per map. This time, achievements require you to get 50k, 200k, and 1,000,000 points. Impossible you say? Absolutely not! Bungie have added a “sort of” new feature which allows players to add custom game types. Some allow players to be pretty much invincible, where you can get unlimited ammo, unlimited health, and much more, which in time, would not only get you those achievements, but many others too. Something else that has returned is Forge and Theatre. Both have also been improved as well, but what is really interesting in Theatre, which I don’t think they did in other Halo games, is this time, you are able to watch your campaign playthroughs (In a way, I expect there will be a mini-series on Machinima of the campaign). Also returning is the file share, which is where you might send your custom game modes, videos and screenshots. In a way, I do wonder how Bungie could fit all of the game’s contents in this game on one disc, as all this is just a gamer’s dream! Truly outstanding.
And last but not least, we have the main highlight of the entire game. The multiplayer! The multiplayer sees the return of many classic modes, along with some new ones. One of them is known as Invasion, which is a team based mode in which one team is defending, and the other is attacking. There are three phases, and in the first phase, the attacking team needs to shut down one of the two generators located inside the Commonwealth. Phase two is doing the same thing, but the generators are in two different locations. Phase three is where you need to get the data core to the chopper, and the winning team is the one who gets the furthest in the game mode or does it in the quickest time. Returning is the Classic Slayer, where there is no loadouts; just the classic battles we all played. The new slayer is where you can pick from 5 loadouts, all with their own unique weapons and abilities, like Jetpacking, shield, sprint etc. Also something new, which I thoroughly enjoyed was Headhunter. As you kill a person, they will drop a skull which you need to collect and take to an area of the map. In that area will be a round circle. Once you enter that circle, all the skulls you had will be saved to your official skull count. But if you are carrying multiple skulls, someone could kill you and if that happens, you lose all the skulls that you had on you, leaving that player to take the advantage. The multiplayer has never been better, and for once, it’s the only Halo multiplayer I have done very well in, which surprises me.
Halo: Reach is what every Halo fan should own. Almost everything in the game is flawless, and it’s just sad to see that Bungie has decided to no longer make Halo games. It’s funny really. The series started with Halo 1 and ended with Halo 0.5 (technically speaking). All I can say is, Bungie, thank you for making one of the best video game franchises ever made.