|System: X360||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Bungie Studios||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Microsoft||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Sept. 14 2010||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-16||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Mature||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Amanda L. Kondolojy
The Halo series, ever since it burst on the scene in 2001, has become a staple franchise in gaming. Every entry in the series seems to outperform its predecessor and improve upon the franchise's format and gameplay. Playing through Halo: Reach, one cannot help but feel a little bittersweet. Though we all know the Halo series will continue on in some form, Halo: Reach marks the departure of series creator Bungie. However, don't be too depressed. The series ends on a high note, and Halo: Reach is easily the best title in the Halo series. With a solid campaign mode, multiplayer modes that can conservatively be described as robust, and plenty of new design elements, Halo: Reach is a title that begs to be played by anyone with anything more than a passing interest in the shooter genre.
Although it is tempting to dive right into talking about Halo: Reach's excellent multiplayer mode, it would be remiss to leave out the story mode, as that is one of the most surprising elements of Halo: Reach. Put simply, the story mode is the best to come out of a Halo video game. Although Halo 3 challenged us to "Finish the Fight" in 2007, the story was predictable and didn't give series icon Master Chief the send off many fans thought he deserved. Halo: Reach, on the other hand, takes a rag-tag bunch of characters that are new to the videogame series and puts them in a story of epic scope and scale.
The planet Reach, which has enjoyed an existence free from Covenant interference, suddenly finds itself in the middle of a slash-and-burn style invasion that seems all but hopeless. You play the game from the perspective of a member of the Noble Six, a UNSC special operations team. The character introductions are short, but over time, you grow to really know your team, and the story unfolds in a way that endears them to you. The campaign is memorable and must be experienced. Though it is tempting to run home with the game in hand and boot up the multiplayer immediately, you simply must make time for the campaign in between hours-long sessions of slayers variations and improving your online character's rank.
I have nothing but praise for the game's campaign, but even though it is quite the enjoyable experience, the multiplayer is what gives this game its legs. Though this comes as no surprise to longtime Halo fans, the multiplayer modes in Halo: Reach give the online modes a scope that is much larger than any other Halo game we've played previously. One of the most-touted features of the online mode is the loadout menu, which is nothing short of an online game changer. While prior Halo games have featured one-off power-ups, the persistent loadouts allow characters to fly (with jetpacks), disappear, sprint, defend, and even project a doppelganger during multiplayer matches. This dynamic changes how multiplayer matches are played, and even something as simple as Team Slayer becomes more complex as players find new and interesting ways to use these loadouts to their advantage.
But speaking of multiplayer modes, another area in which Halo: Reach succeeds masterfully is in its depth and range of multiplayer modes. Of course, all your favorites are back, from Classic Capture the Flag to ODST's Firefight, but there are plenty of new modes to check out. One of the most intricate new modes is Invasion mode, which allows you to play as either a Spartan or a member of the Covenant and tasks you (and your team) with a series of sub-tasks, with the ultimate goal being the invasion (or defense) of a Reach base. This mode is teamwork intensive, and I found when players tried to go it alone, they were normally met with pretty substantial failure.
However, if you dont feel like getting your strategy on, there are plenty of new modes that allow you to put your raw skills to the test. One of these modes is headhunter, which tasks you to take skulls from fallen opponents and pile them in a special "goal" area. Stockpile is another mode that is similar, but instead of collecting the skulls of fallen players, you instead collect flags scattered around the map and have to bring them back to a team-specific goal. A lot of these modes are improved and tweaked versions of old classics, but that doesn't stop them from feeling fresh again. The familiarity actually helps ease players who have been away from Halo for awhile get used to the new modes quickly and stay competitive with those who have been playing longer.
If the loadouts and new modes weren't enough for you, Halo: Reach also has additional weekly challenges that are built into a specific challenge menu. These challenges (at least at the present time) mainly deal with the game's multiplayer modes, but there was one that specifically dealt with the campaign mode, so we can be assured these challenges will be drawing from all of the game's content instead of just one type of mode or aspect of the game's multiplayer.