Right, straight off the bat, if you’re a Halo fan, who’s been playing it for the best part of a decade, look away now. This review is not for you. You know whether you’ll like Reach better than we will. Of course, the Microsoft marketing drive will probably have made it look like the best game ever made, and suggested a finesse that it just doesn’t have, but since you’re not reading this, we don’t care. No, this review is for the gamers out there that haven’t dipped their toes into Halo since the first couple of titles. For you lot, you’ll find that Reach is not only colder and far less inviting, but also somewhat stagnant.
Of course, we’ve kept a professional interest in the Halo franchise from the start, and lost interest once the realisation struck that Bungie was concentrating on the multiplayer aspect. No, Halo for us has always been about narrative and co-op campaign mode more than anything. Some might say that misses the point of the later half of the franchise, but you can read a thousand multiplayer reviews that sing its praises. The simple fact is that if you’re not a multiplayer Halo fan of some considerable pedigree, you won’t enjoy this from a multiplayer competitive perspective.
Don’t get us wrong, it’s well constructed, and aside from some incredibly lame maps, it’s a very professional piece of work. You earn points competitively to spend on gear and add-ons, the lobbies are quick and efficient as well as being easy to use, and the game modes are as diverse as they’ve ever been. Our issue comes in the fact that the multiplayer hasn’t changed enough.
Imagine if Joel Schumacher were still making Batman films. In essence, that’s what Reach feels like. The gameplay is so rooted in the past that almost everything has passed it by. It’s simple, twitch-based and relies on little more than your understanding and comfort with the weapons and modes. There’s little by way of tactics to get to grips with. This does seem a dreadful misfire on Bungie’s part given the nature of the storyline.
So, what about that storyline? Disappointing would be about as accurate as you could get in one word. There’s plenty of potential that hasn’t even been given a cursory nod by Bungie, so you’re left wandering down the dullest street in town, looking down all the interesting side streets filled with flashing neon and inviting things like cupcake stands and strip joints. You take control of Noble 6, the newest addition to the Noble squad of Spartans. As the story progresses, your team mates are picked off in ever more banal ways until you’re left. Then you die. Yaaawwwwn. At no point do you take control of the other members of the squad who all have different attributes and weapons. No, you’re left as Johnny Nobody for the entire game, which gets boring. This team of Nobles has been sent to take out the alien invasion force and recover alien technology to help them deal with the Covenant. It’s sturdy enough in itself, but by golly it’s predictable.
This is something, paradoxically, that we weren’t expecting from a Halo storyline. You’re usually offered some kind of game changing moment, or a little nugget of interest at least; something that might be worth a fifteen-minute chat around the water cooler. Reach offers nothing. Indeed, while the story of Halo and the Covenant’s invasion is an interesting one with plenty of flesh to pad it out, the most interesting thing about Reach is the live action short films that were dished out prior to the game’s release. It’s just about heading to a spot and blowing the crap out of some aliens. You head up to space and blow crap out of aliens for a bit, but then it’s back down to Reach to blow the crap out of aliens.
In short, don’t buy this for the campaign mode. It’s weak, and genuinely unfulfilling. So, we can’t recommend Reach to anyone new to or curious about where the series has gone, either for multiplayer or single player. What are you left with then? Fanboys mainly. Halo: Reach is a fanboy title. The last hurrah of the franchise, tidied up so that any complaints and niggles made by the Halo community have been dealt with. As we said, it offers nothing new, but things like the removal of dual wielding and all new armour types makes small but important steps to appeasing the existing community who would, let’s face it, play it anyway.
The real issue with Halo: Reach is that it’s so very, very old. It used to be a spectacular title full of innovation. Not so any longer. Regardless of how much you love or hate the franchise, you have to admit that while it was once great, it’s now just a little bit boring. Games like Gears Of War and COD are the ones making the biggest strides in the Xbox 360 world, and without that kind of progressive thinking, Halo doesn’t stand up too well as any kind of contender in the white trash gaming arena.
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