Halo Reach review Halo Reach review

We love
Solid campaign, comprehensive multiplayer. JETPACKS
We hate
Spaceship dogfights are boring
A fitting Halo send off for Bungie, and Halo 4 in all but name
Launch Price
10 Pages

Halo Reach review

Halo Reach marks the end of an era. It’s developer Bungie’s swan song for the franchise, as it embarks on pastures and titles new. And with no true whole new first person shooter in the series since 2007′s Halo 3, it’s got a lot to live up to. Thousands still play Halo 3 daily online, and Microsoft even had to force gamers off the six year old Halo 2 to close its Live service for the original Xbox earlier this year. Does it meet expectations? Find out in our full Halo Reach review, right here.

Read the rest of our Halo Reach coverage now:
Halo Reach in depth preview
Halo Reach: New live action trailer revealed!
Halo Reach image bonanza
Halo Reach special edition Xbox 360 outed
Halo Reach announced at E3

Don’t be fooled by the name: Halo Reach is to all intents and purposes Halo 4. While we’re not sure last year’s Halo 3 ODST ever should have been released as a stand alone game, this is a fully fledged solo title, bursting to the brim with multiplayer modes, and a single player campaign that’s more fun and just out and out longer than that of Halo 3.

The only reason it’s not called Halo 4? Halo Reach is set before the previous games in the series, at the fall of Reach to the Covenant. And you’re not playing as Master Chief, but another stacked Spartan soldier, known only as Noble 6.

Single player
We’ve had the opportunity to play through the entire single player campaign of Halo Reach (On normal, we have to confess), and we’re happy to say that it’s a solid offering for even those without Xbox Live Gold subscriptions. With so much buzz around multiplayer, Bungie could easily have slacked off and delivered another half baked solo experience like it did with Halo 3 ODST.

But Halo Reach’s campaign mode is enthralling, and if anything longer than Halo 3′s. We blasted our way through it in around seven hours: certainly on harder modes it’ll take much longer, and we’d say difficulty level is pitched identically to Halo 3′s.

We’re not going to pretend that the story is complex, or that the characters aren’t cliched grunts. Noble 6 is part of a squad that slowly gets whittled down as they fight their way through, with various valiant sacrifices on the way. “Go on without me!”, etc etc etc. You know the drill by now. But when Bungie’s already nailed the controls perfectly, and improved the graphics (most visible when you’re up close with enemies in melee), no one is complaining.

A few of the mechanics have changed in Halo Reach, the most noticeable element being a shift in powerups. Instead of single use items, you get permanent skills (Running, stationary invincibility, invisibility, JETPACKS) which can only be used for a burst before waiting a few seconds to recharge, and they can be changed at stations dotted through levels. Dual weapon holding is out too, but we can’t say it’s hugely missed.

The only real gripes we have are with the brief aerial sections you have to endure. The dogfights-in-space routine has been done many times before, and Bungie brings nothing new here. We were left wishing the sections would end: this type of gameplay’s been mastered elsewhere, and all the Rogue Squadron-esque titles are more enjoyable than flying in Halo Reach. Luckily, there are only two stages where it’s required.

As for the ending? We’re not going to spoil anything for you (You can do that yourself on YouTube thanks to the game leaking out early online), but it’s a fitting final salute. Just be sure to sit through until after the credits: you’ll be surprised.

Halo Reach multiplayer
It’s the multiplayer modes on Xbox Live that have had fans most excited since Halo Reached was first announced at E3 2009. If you did buy Halo 3 ODST last year, the chances are you got an early look at said Halo Reach multiplayer with the public beta test in May, and got to grips with a few of the levels.

Not a great deal of core gameplay has changed since then (though purists will be relieved to know you can now customise the controls and map them how you like). But of course there are plenty more modes and levels to play on: an endless amount, in fact, thanks to the Forge level editor on Halo Reach, which makes map construction as simple as LittleBigPlanet (More details in our Halo Reach preview).

There are nine (vast) maps included on the disc with Halo Reach, but it’s the variety of modes, and modes within modes, that makes Halo Reach multiplayer so fun to play. You’ll know what to expect from plenty of the modes (Capture The Flag, Juggernaut, Assault and more), and the tinkering options you have within them give plenty of depth. But the new modes Halo Reach adds throw in some exciting spins, particularly Headhunter.

In this mode, every time someone dies, a fiery skull token is dropped. If you can pick them up, and get to the moving score zone, you score, and it’s a race to the most. But you can win instantly by dunking ten at once – the trouble is, with the number of skulls you’re holding floating above your head, everyone will be after you. It makes for incredibly fraught battles as you try to judge just how many skulls you can grab before the heat turns on you.

Race is still boring though, in case you were wondering. Has no one at Bungie ever played Carmageddon?

Power ups work a little differently in Halo Reach multiplayer: you can’t switch mid-level, but instead you choose which one you want on the menu screen before you spawn (“loadouts”). Which ones are allowed can be tweaked beforehand so you can ban jetpacks if you like. But when you do have jetpacks? Oh boy. Have you ever met someone who doesn’t like jetpacks? No, you haven’t. Only a few brief levels give you a blast with this blaster backpack in the solo game, but it can completely change the mechanics of open and tiered multiplayer levels, as everyone rockets into the air, guns blazing.

Microsoft and Bungie have also been making a big deal out of the Firefight mode in Halo Reach. The Halo equivalent of Gears Of War’s Horde mode that first appeared in ODST, it’s a challenge for you and your team to stay alive as wave after relentless wave of enemies come at you. You can read more about the mode, and the in depth editing options you have for it, in our Halo Reach preview, but honestly, we’ve never found the mode very appealing. Much better to pit your skills against human opponents, rather than with, we reckon. But if you loved Firefight before, you’ll love it even more now.

Regardless of what modes you play, Bungie’s stuffed an extra incentive to keep playing by way of credits you rack up over time. Kill more, collect these and tweak every aspect of your character, from the voice and helmet right down to the emblems adorning your armour. If people were willing to play Halo 2 for six years, we suspect Halo Reach may last even longer with all these customisation options thrown in.

It’s testament to Bungie’s skill and devotion to its active community that Halo Reach still manages to feel fresh and exciting, even while the core gameplay has barely changed in a decade. If you’re got this far, it’s pretty safe to say you’re going to want Halo Reach. You’re a Halo fan and you love solid gameplay over a riveting storyline above all else. All you need now is our reassurance. You have it.

Go buy it.

Read the rest of our Halo Reach coverage now:
Halo Reach in depth preview
Halo Reach: New live action trailer revealed!
Halo Reach image bonanza
Halo Reach special edition Xbox 360 outed
Halo Reach announced at E3

  • Dakotajwilson

    i played the space fights on noramal too and ya they were boring beent here done that but i think on a higher difficulty the game gets a lil more interestiong also different things happen in legendary then any other. like diff. dialouge from the charecters?

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