“Halo Reach” – Game Review

First-person Shooter Game.
Available for Xbox 360.

Halo Reach is the sixth game in the Halo series for Xbox 360, developed by Bungie. It prequels the first game in the series Halo: Combat evolved. The player controls the new and sixth member of the “Noble” team, a small group of elite soldiers known as Spartans. You are locked in a war with the “Covenant”, a faction of Aliens, and the battle for the planet of Reach wages on.

To begin your character is brought into the Noble team, and begins to investigate communication problems with a rural area of Reach. You soon find out that the Covenant is here and the battle for Reach begins. After you fight your way through a reasonable amount of covenant forces, your team is deployed to the “Sword Base” where you meet a scientist, Catherine Halsey, whose work later becomes relevant to the plot and more ultimately links this game as the prequel to the first Halo. During the game you attempt to rid Reach of Covenant forces, although it soon becomes apparent that this is an ‘un-winnable’ fight, a fact made worse since Reach is one of the few human colonies left.

Your small team of six, and the scientist, form most of the conversations. Cut scenes in the game are made up of Carter, your by-the-book commander, Kat (the second in command and your team’s military intelligence), Jorge the weapons specialist, Emile the assault specialist and Jun the marksman. The characters seem to have reasonably interesting back stories, although it’s just that – they “seem” to; actually the back stories are slightly implied or hinted at, barely referenced at best. These back stories are more apparent in Halo novels, but would have been well placed in the Halo Reach game; for example the characters Jorge and the scientist have a past that is implied but not explained. Kat has a bionic arm, but I never even noticed this fact whilst playing the game. Emile and Jun, in particular, seem like nice enough characters, but the game explains very little about them.

The plot is a much more impressive aspect. I expected a dry, forced and unnecessary plot, but the battles fought on Reach and the relevance of the scientist and her contribution to the war effort links up well to the first Halo game. Not to mention the efforts of your team members are significant and heartfelt.

One of the best aspects of the game  is probably the graphics and game mechanics; the Halo series has been on an increasing learning curve since the first game with each one promising better graphics, improved user interface, better abilities, and more impressive weaponry – Halo Reach does not disappoint here. The shooting aspect is quite different, although on par to mainstream games like the Call of Duty series. The weapons are a great improvement; including weaponry like the Plasma Repeater, Plasma Launcher, Focus Rifle, DMR, Needle Rifle and more. Not to mention the new abilities like Jet Pack, Drop shield, Camouflage, etc.

These enhancements massively increase the experience of multiplayer and fire fight modes. Multiplayer mode consists of a large selection of new maps, some huge and containing new vehicles. Small maps and 10+ online players make for fast paced explosive close range brawls and large maps make for well thought out vehicle, long range and stealth based fights. If you don’t have Xbox Live, or if you want to play alone, you can always play a fire fight map; the player takes on waves and rounds of covenant forces, in varying degrees of difficulty, in an effort to earn Credits and high scores.

There is a small level of player customisation, not usually seen in Halo. Players earn credits and spend them on new armour appearances and character voices. Also, gaining credits increases the player’s rank which allows new armours to be unlocked and players online to see how good their opponent might be. The downside of this credit system is that if you don’t have xbox live, credits are extremely difficult to earn after the campaign is finished, making new armours and voices too difficult to obtain. The credit and rank system also has a feel of unimportance to the game.

In spite of the few bad things, I have said to say I was still extremely impressed with this game and the good far outweighed the bad. My only pet peeve was the game length. The prequel idea of how Halo all started sounded like a good idea, but the story of Reach just shows the fall of a single planet in the Human empire and the deployment of the Covenant forces to previous and further worlds. The importance and back story of the Halo rings are all ignored by the plot of this game. Emphasising less on the planet Reach and more on how the Covenant came closer to Earth and the Halo rings would have made, in my opinion, for a lengthier and more in depth story.



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