9 of 13 people found the following review helpful
Welcome and Farewell to Noble Team,
This review is from: Halo Reach (Video Game)Anyone who has read Eric Nylund's novel "Halo: The Fall of Reach," or actually listened to the in game dialog from Halo: Combat Evolved knows the fate of the planet Reach as well as all of the Spartans save for Master Chief. If anything, the advertising campaign of Halo: Reach makes the game out to be a memorial to those who were lost in the fictional world of Halo with the moniker "Remember Reach."
It is truly ironic that Bungie would decide to end the Halo franchise by going back to the beginning, just before the events of Halo: Combat Evolved.
However, with this in mind Halo fans, like myself, felt compelled to see the story end and begin anew similar to watching the end of Episode III of the Star Wars saga. We know Reach fell and that Master Chief was the last of the Spartans hinting that all others perished, but fans want to know who the past Spartans were and how they met their end. Halo Reach provides such closure by showing the Halo universe, more specifically humanity's war with the Covenant, in the most gritty and desperate way possible.
First, the story. Halo fans have been somewhat cheated in recent years with the unanswered questions generated at the end of Halo 3, an almost campy story from Halo: ODST, and the completely unrelated one from Halo Wars. While both games had their strong points, and believe me I still play ODST with my buds online, their stories proved very lacking in the end.
Reach redeems the franchise with a gritty portrayal of a desperate battle in an even more desperate war. The player follows the not-so-silent protagonist Noble 6, the newest addition to Noble Team, a group of Spartans tasked to investigating and later defending the planetary hub of Reach. Each mission getting more and more desperate than the last as the team struggles to survive knowing full well that they are losing the war and death is getting ever so closer. Imagine WWII in space, the Allies are losing, and the Nazis want to kill everyone and I do mean everyone in the name of a psychotic belief; THAT is how desperate humanity is just at the beginning of the game. The extinction of humanity is a very possible outcome should Reach fall.
With this in mind I can safely say that I was generally moved by the flow of the story. It was not complicated, boring, overly-emotional, or just downright campy. It was tough, gritty, and downright nasty, but compelling at the same time.
The characters themselves were unique and easy to get along with without getting into the traditional racial and cultural stereotypes that typically accompany military-style games. While Noble Team is diverse in race, gender, and culture, there are no clear stereotypes, which has really been a big nuisance in recent games such as Final Fantasy 13.
To amplify the story and atmosphere the player is treated to beautiful visuals as well as wonderfully composed music that doesn't seem out of place. If I can credit ODST for one thing it was well-placed music that helped move the story along. Halo composer Martin O'Donnell certainly has come of age since he made the interesting compilation of Halo: Combat Evolved almost 10 years ago. The music isn't exotic and abstract but, like the story, gritty and mean. Select guitar riffs combined with O'Donnell's love for African drums really intensifies the player's attitude to something akin to, "I'm gonna kill all of you" when you assault nearby Covenant forces.
The visuals are very stunning. In one of the earlier missions when I was dangling my feet out of a VTOL craft, bored out of my mind while waiting to be inserted in a very hot landing zone, my buddy Tom told me to look out over the horizon and "enjoy the view." I panned the camera upwards to be treated to a very beautiful landscape of grasslands and forests. The more I took the time to admire the landscapes the more I realized just hot well it looked. To make it more realistic, the landscape becomes more charred at the battle goes on from a lush world to something the resembled photos I've seen of battle-sites from World War 1.
As for other visuals the character and weapons details are astonishing. The weapons no longer look like smooth plastic toys but something you can beat a Brute to death should you run out of ammo. The character graphics were not as impressive, but still better than most FPS games that have been cranked out in recent years (Save for Modern Warfare 2). My only beef with the graphics is that there is so much going on that it causes the frame rate to seriously slow down. Limitations of the XBox360, there are greater tragedies in life such as Justin Bieber and Alpha Protocol.
The game play itself is very smooth and surprisingly well balanced. It took me some time to get used to the new controller scheme (right bumper is melee and not reload like in Halo 3 and ODST) although this is fairly adjustable. Unlike other Halo releases, players cannot simply skate through Legendary, the hardest difficulty setting, by having a 4-player online co-op as done so in Halo 3 and ODST. Surprisingly, Reach has the hardest campaign I've played to date and actually adjusts for difficulty if co-op is used. I do not know if the game utilizes an AI Director, but it sure seems that way at times.
One vast improvement to enemy AI is their ability to utilize your own vehicles against you. It caught my by surprise when I was trying to retrieve my warthog to find myself being shot at by it. It took me two seconds to realize that elites LOVE to steal cars and pummel you to death with them. Next time I'll use The Club.
One of the things I liked best about Reach is the complete customization of your own character. In previous Halo games, you can only adjust color and maybe a few other details but such changes are only available in multiplayer. In Reach not only can you customize EVERYTHING from helmets to knee pads to voice, but it is shown in campaign mode and even in cut scenes. When I first started a campaign and noticed Noble 5 in the cut scenes was wearing an ODST helmet with a crimson on gray color scheme I'd picked out when I first booted up I knew that Bungie had done something REALLY right.
Another one of my favorites is Firefight. In a word; perfected. In ODST firefight was a novel idea but only good for gaining achievements and gamer score in the end since it was overly repetitive and lacked any real customization. In Reach you can choose everything from rounds to kind of shields used. Hell, we had a blast for over an hour by enabling infinite ammo, shields and seeing who could get the 10-kill combo or "Killionare" achievement first... I lost.
From what we fidgeted around with in Forge, the map creator, it seems as though Bungie fixed most of the problems that plagued Halo 3 and ODST. It is easier to place objects and have a LOT more control over features. This is good given a good percentage of the 12 maps are classic Halo maps or remakes. While I'm not a true fan of user made content, I think this is a step in the right direction.
Lastly is online play. I'm not a true fan of online multiplayer since I don't have as much time to practice as your average hardcore gamer. What I did like was the matchmaking ability that allows you to find online co-op games with certain difficulties similar to what designers did in Left 4 Dead 2. What really impressed me, however, is how the servers did not spaz out even when I had a 4-player co-op going with people from around the US and on opening night no less. Kudos.
All in all, Reach is an excellent game, a truly good way to end the franchise... assuming they will. Halo Fans will be delighted while casual gamers may find the ideal FPS game albeit with a little more difficulty than they're used to.
All in all, a 9.5/10. Solid A! Kudos Bungie!!
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Showing 1-3 of 3 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Sep 16, 2010 9:11:49 AM PDT
T. Todd says:
Nice review Kyle!
Posted on Sep 22, 2010 3:34:52 PM PDT
Clemente L. E. says:
Just read story paragraph, and there is no mention of Halo 2 in there. So, what's your take on that game, Halo 2?
In reply to an earlier post on Sep 23, 2010 9:11:55 AM PDT
Kyle Slayzar says:
It was OK. I typically buy these games for the campaign mode up until I got ODST a year ago so I was disappointed with Halo 2's campaign and never really got into the multiplayer. Halo 2 just doesn't really stand out in my opinion and I've even got the special edition.
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