I remember buying the original Xbox to play the game because back then everyone was talking about it and also the TV commercial showed a game that looked like something that hadn’t been done before on a console. So armed with an XBox, complete with giant controller, I dived into the Halo universe for the first time and I loved every minute of it.
The Halo universe was full of interesting things and the combat was like nothing else. I felt for the first time that I had to pay attention to the environment, what enemies were around and the weapons I was carrying. I felt immersed in the location and most importantly I felt like there were options on how I approached each skirmish.
Why am I telling you this? Well, I’ve never felt that feeling in any of the sequels until now.
For me Halo: Reach is the true sequel to Halo 1. You see I think bungie missed a key ingredient in the single player campaigns of Halo 2 and 3; they focused too much on spectacle and throughout those campaigns I felt like I was being herded down a corridor. Halo was never about that for me.
So, if you felt the same then you’ll be pleased to know that Halo: Reach is a return to form; it’s the Silent Cartographer level of Halo 1 throughout, it gives the player options and the combat areas allow you to be versatile. Health and weapon management is the same as Halo 1; there’s no dual wielding, you have to use health packs and what weapons you choose to cary has become important again.
All of this stacks up to be one of the most enjoyable games in the franchise in a long time. Does it capture the feeling I found when I first played Halo? Perhaps not, but then again I can’t see how it ever could as it was all new back then. Ask me which one I’d rather play again? It has to be this one, because Reach is consistently good.
Firstly, the visuals in this game are a bit of a mixed bag if I’m honest. There are certain things Bungie’s engine does very well; the world is vibrant, expansive and consistent. The lighting is as superb as it has always been and the resolution seems to have gone up a notch, this is most apparent in the reduction of jaggies on display compared to previous games and the game generally seems more detailed. Despite this, I can’t say that I was blown away. There’s a strange blur effect used to smooth out frame rate issues, which are quite apparent especially in some of the later scenes, things also occasionally clip through scenery and using the scope sometimes caused scenery to flicker in and out.
I don’t want to bag on this too much because overall it’s a great (sometimes outstanding) looking game, just don’t set your expectations too high; for the most part, think of a higher resolution version of Halo 3 with some blur and framerate drops and you get the idea.
The sound on the other hand is superb. Halo, like Star Wars (the films) pays close attention to sound and like Star Wars almost everything that makes a sound is unique to the franchise. You can tell it’s a Halo game just from the sound alone; guns, doors, shields… everything. I think the only thing that let’s it down a little in the sound department is the sudden termination of teammates quips during battle and perhaps the voice acting still feels a little sub standard.
As for the music score, well this time i felt it resembled the Mass Effect score; a little more reserved and sci-fi, which isn’t a bad thing at all. Don’t worry though, it gets going on some of the bigger battles but perhaps never quite reaches the spine tingling highs of previous compositions nor the elegance found in ODST.
Finally, there’s the actual story. Well, to be honest I’ve never really cared about the story in Halo (or many other games as it happens) so you’ll have to go elsewhere to find out how good it is and whether it all fits with the lore. I’m more about the mechanics of games than the story. Despite this I can however assure you that the narrative is delivered in much the same way as previous Halo games and you’ll be pleased to know that there’s no shocking “what the…” Little Shop of Horrors “feed me Seymore” moments in the game. If anything it takes itself a little too seriously sometimes, which may be a welcome change for some. Overall, the story is slow and methodical to begin with and picks up towards the end with some genuinely cool and moving moments.
So there you have it: my two pence worth. It may not be the best game you ever play but there’s no denying this is a very good game and it’s something any gamer should go into with an open mind, enjoy the freedom offered by the map design, AI, vehicles and weapons. Bungie’s swan song to the franchise still delivers a great and unique experience in the campaign. It’s an excellent playground to play in, with or without friends, and I’m sure it will make a lot of people very happy over the coming months.
Overall Game Rating: 15/16