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Submitted by Gwynne Dixon on September 16 2010 - 18:38

Bungie takes a bow with its fifth and final Halo game as fans the world over shed a tear...

There's nothing quite like the launch of a new Halo game and Halo: Reach has proven that all over again during the past week (however much it was thrown into doubt with Halo 3: ODST). Microsoft's lofty claims that Halo: Reach is "Halo 4 in all but name" were backed up by a jetpack flying Spartan in Trafalgar Square, the presence of numerous C-list celebrities at the game's launch party, and reports of the game's significance on 10 O'clock news shows. Sure, Halo has tough competitors these days in the over-hyped game stakes - Activision's Call of Duty being the most notable - but it was Bungie's shooter that started it all. Halo 2 was the first game to break day-one sales records for the entire entertainment industry back in 2004, making the cool kids in school (movies and music) turn around and take notice of this suddenly threatening nerd.

Separating the game from its hype has always been a challenge then, and perhaps Halo 3 didn't wow us as much as we'd hoped back in 2007. TVG's 8/10 score, due mostly to underwhelming visuals and a campaign that lacked panache, certainly riled fanboys at the time and went against the grain of a 94 on Metacritic. Nonetheless, Halo: Reach now shows just how much room for improvement there was on Halo 3. Visually, Reach is a Halo game that finally looks like a first-person shooter should on the current crop of consoles. It's not the best looking shooter on the Xbox 360 by any means, but it's certainly a cut above the majority of its competitors and more than fitting of the quality you'd expect from a game series that's been so highly rated.

These graphical improvements make Bungie's rich Halo universe all the more vivid, bringing it to life in ways that were just beyond the studio's grasp previously. It's perhaps testament to the original Halo: Combat Evolved that we remember the beauty of Reach through rose tinted spectacles. A retrospective playthrough of the game reveals just how much our minds have filled in the gaps over the last nine years. As good as Combat Evolved's graphics were at the time, recollection of them does become romanticised over time as your memory is all too happy to forget the jaggies and idolise the vision underpinning it all. Returning to Reach had the potential to be something of a disappointment for some gamers then, such is the level of reverence for the hallowed turf of Reach.

But Bungie's Halo swansong fails to disappoint in this sense, not only graphically, but in the grandiosity applied to the Covenant's mass invasion of the planet as well. Reach's campaign goes everywhere from hundreds of metres below the planet's surface to, quite literally, in orbit around it. Inevitably, the conclusion to Reach's prequel storyline has to meet somewhere alongside the start of Combat Evolved, which it achieves both seamlessly and effortlessly, almost as if Halo: Reach had been written before Combat Evolved was even storyboarded. Noble Team's journey is not only an engagingly sharp one throughout but a genuinely touching one at times as well.

It's the sheer scale of the action that pulls you in as well. Even during some of the more pedantry land battles you'll see Corvette class Covenant warships looming ominously on the horizon with Banshees buzzing around them like midges. There's not one moment during the campaign where you doubt the invasion's megalodonic weight, whether you're engaging in orbital dogfights above the planet's atmosphere or providing supporting fire from a UNSC Falcon to pinned-down soldiers on the ground, this is war at its most brutal. Halo: Reach shines just as brightly when Bungie minimises the action down to small-scale engagements though, ensuring that Halo's bread and butter raises the bar just as much as the epic setting of Reach.

There are times when all you need is a dropship filled with half a dozen grunts, a few shield-cladded Jackals, and a couple of Elites. Given Halo's success, it's remarkable that so few developers have managed to successfully copy Bungie's AI style with its widely differentiated enemy classes that keep you running-and-gunning so frantically that cover is rarely an option. Halo: Reach's assortment of enemies is very much what you'd expect from its predecessors, although we can't help but feel like an Elite's sharpness with its evasive rolls or a Brute's out-and-out aggression haven't taken on significant improvements since Halo 3 and ODST. There's no standing still for long in Halo: Reach as enemies will sniff you out quicker than a pungent French cheese and it's this that sets Bungie's AI apart from the vast majority of shooters out there today.

If there are criticisms of the main campaign, perhaps it's that the Noble Team isn't as much a part of the gameplay as it could've been. Your five squad mates are wrapped into the storyline pretty well but there are rarely moments where you'll notice their significance during combat. While it's understandable that Noble 6 (your playable character) doesn't call out squad orders because he/she is effectively a new recruit to the team, the squad system could still have benefitted from team leaders who were a bit more vocal or dynamically involved in the gameplay rather than merely the cut-scenes. As it is, Noble Team just seems to constantly fire at enemies and waste a lot of ammo by racking up a disappointingly low body count. Yes, we know that you can level this criticism at most FPS squad systems these days, but that doesn't mean there isn't space for some new ideas or innovation in a relatively static area of gameplay.

As far as additional content goes, it's hard to think of an FPS with more modes and features than Halo: Reach. It's the culmination of a lot of fan demand that's then been loyally translated into the series by Bungie, such as the Forge and Firefight modes from Halo 3 and ODST respectively, but this time iterated through more customisation options and improved user-interfaces. And then, of course, there's the competitive multiplayer: Reach's biggest addition to the tried and tested Halo formula is undoubtedly its Invasion mode, which offers an almost Battlefield-esque format that puts the new Armour Abilities (essentially character classes) to good use amongst some objective based team games and more spacious maps than we've become used to in the Halo series.

Invasion is certainly a welcome change of pace to Halo's traditional fare of skull games, capture the flag, Slayer, Swat and alike. Pitting the Covenant against Spartans in the mode has also allowed Bungie to try out some neat ideas with the Armour Abilities, such as an evasive roll manoeuvre unique to the Covenant Elites. These abilities, which include the now famous jetpack, a Predator-esque invisibility cloak, and an enemy-duping holographic version of your character, all seem to be fairly well balanced throughout the multiplayer at large and definitely add to the single-player experience as well. Our particular favourite is the hologram for its originality and how stupid it can make enemies look, but each Armour Ability has its benefits to be honest. It really depends on your style more than anything else.

Elsewhere in the multiplayer, Bungie appears to have readdressed the balancing of weapons in Reach to deliver a slower pace to the combat than Halo 3. The absence of dual-wielding is one of the main reasons for this but seasoned players will also notice a weaker Needler and Assault Rifle, for example, or the DMR (which replaces the old Battle Rifle) that fires in single shots rather than the traditional triple-shot bursts. These factors can make it more of a challenge to ratchet up a 'Killing Spree' in Reach, which may make the transition uneasy for some veterans at first. Nonetheless, it's only logical that Bungie would look to reformat the gameplay slightly to make the keys to success different in Halo: Reach to what they were in Halo 3, otherwise what would be the point?

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  • Graphics: 90%
     
  • Sound: 98%
     
  • Gameplay: 94%
     
  • Originality: 89%
     
  • Longevity: 97%
     
Overall Score: 10/10
Halo: Reach marks the end of an era and the game itself can stand up to that billing. It's a fitting swansong for Bungie, setting a beautiful end that takes you right back to the very beginning. In that way, the Halo saga is not unlike the actual Halo itself - how's that for circularity?

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By: Anonymous

Added:Wed 17th Nov 2010 00:45, Post No: 42

lol for an 18 rated game this website just proves just how many underage kids play game's rated 18, dont there parent give a SH** and wonder why there kids are so violent !!!.


User avatar
By: braidy

Added:Tue 16th Nov 2010 19:27, Post No: 41

halo is my live becase its rilly fun and exiting

 


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By: braidy

Added:Tue 16th Nov 2010 19:25, Post No: 40

i think that halo is brilent

 


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By: braidy

Added:Tue 16th Nov 2010 19:24, Post No: 39

halo is my favret game. i think its better than black ops. my faret halo game is reach fanks for reading my bangers (braidy.b)


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By: Anonymous

Added:Wed 29th Sep 2010 14:59, Post No: 38

lol pride originality whats so original about halo "its an FPS just like all FPS games" and dont bring that jet pack as an original feature as that was dont on the psx "po'ed" there is absolutly noting original about halo so take your pride and swallow it.


By: SegaBoy

Added:Tue 28th Sep 2010 10:06, Post No: 37

I think you'll find GT5 will probably be a 10 given what we've seen so far...

And also we pride originality very highly, hence Heavy Rain scoring a 10.

 


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By: Anonymous

Added:Tue 28th Sep 2010 02:02, Post No: 36

no matter what anyone says halo reach doesnt deserve 10/10 and how can halo reach have such a high Originality score "its an FPS like it or not its not an origonal idea" lol and Longevity again such a high score but that only applys to people that play online multiplayer games constantly all the time like COD4 or MW2 for anyone else that actually wants to play any of the other games comming out later this year the campagn is just too short so no Longevity shouldnt have scored 97% and originality 89% is also way too high.

for someone to claim "i dont think anyone here is a halo fanboy" and stand by the review score with such stupidity as "we were all unimpressed by halo 3" yet several months before reaches release almost every 360 and halo fanboy were constnly trying to outdo any rival console game with halo 3 (if halo 3 really want that impressive why did hords of you go out and buy it SEVERAL MONTHS/YEARS AFTER RELEASE).

to be fair id have given halo reach 7/10 (in fact there are only a very small amount of new games that have any kind of originality THAT'S NOT BEEN DONE BEFORE) just adding a few new features doesnt make it any more origonal ie GT5 on ps3 and guranteed if gwynne reviews it, it wont score 10/10 with comments like "lacks originality" but it does or at least should provide plenty of variety between racing genres.

if anyone realy wants a game that guranteed to take ages to complete yet is great fun to play try the orange box (half life 2) now theres a game worthy of 9/10 and caters for both online multiplayer and a huge story based game.


By: SegaBoy

Added:Mon 27th Sep 2010 15:39, Post No: 35

I dont think anybody here is a Halo fanboy, we were all pretty unimpressed by Halo 3 and didn't touch ODST.  But there can be little doubting that Reach is finally the Halo for the Xbox 360 - anybody who can't see that clearly needs to check their specs.


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By: Anonymous

Added:Mon 27th Sep 2010 12:49, Post No: 34

lol gwynne why dont you just say your a fanboy of halo "armour abilitys lol fallout 3 did that miles better" ooh new invasion mode and no game quite like it lol your a f****ng joke, try quake or doom in fact what if doom had never been made your halo franchise wouldnt be what it is today, halo takes so many ideas from other developers just like microsoft has taken every idea for windows from MAC OS, halo is the most unorigonal franchise you fanboys like to call innovative.

Halo wont ever stand above any COD game FACT, Halo is totally unorigonal FACT, Halo might have a realy good story but the game is just too short "on all Halo games" FACT All Halo has is multiplayer as the supposedly "great story" mode will take a pathetic 3-4 hours to complete, sorry but 10/10 this game is not worthy of a score that high.


By: freeradical

Added:Mon 27th Sep 2010 10:34, Post No: 33

Nothing innovative? Let's start with the Armour Abilities, they're pretty innovative, and then there's the new Invasion mode which is a fresh take on Halo multiplayer.

As far as the story is concerned, I couldn't disagree with you more. It's a brilliant story, so strong in its links to the Master Chief trilogy that it's almost as if Bungie had it planned before Combat Evolved had even shipped.

Also, consider the fact that despite Halo's huge successes in its nine year lifetime, there's still no other game quite like it. No other publisher or developer has got anywhere near the Halo formula with a different game, which really illustrates that its still a highly original experience after all this time.


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