It’s almost uncool to admit it these days, but I’m quite a fan of the Halo games. I wasn’t always — in my earlier years I was quite the GameCube fanboy, so I hated Halo with a passion — but when I got my 360 I found the first two games on eBay and finally discovered what all the fuss was about. When Bungie announced that it was working on one last Halo game before partnering with
the devil Activision, I hoped for something great, and I’m glad to say that Reach delivers; it may even be the finest of the Halo games.
Reach certainly feels epic, from its opening through to its necessary, and expected, bittersweet ending, but the magic that makes it so special is really the classic Halo formula: it makes killing things incredibly fun. Of course, it’s not the killing as such, but what you’re killing — the Covenant forces, and the Elites in particular, are fast, tough, and amazingly bright. You may be a badass Spartan warrior, but the Elites are definitely your equal, and if you’re going to beat them, the usual video game tactics of simply outgunning, outrunning, or outlasting them isn’t going to work. Reflexes and skill will help, but to gain a real advantage, you’ll need to think through your tactics and really work the battlefield. You’ll have plenty of scope for both, too, with the variety of environments, weapons, and abilities on offer.
Some of the usual Halo complains apply — while there’s a solid enough story here, Reach does a lousy job of telling it — and you could argue that without the Flood there’s not a great variety of enemies on offer. I’ll be happy to never again see the Flood, though, especially after Halo 3’s penultimate chapter, and I never felt the campaign lacked variety during my two complete play-throughs. That’s perhaps a testament to Reach’s level design, which is varied and interesting throughout; there are no areas that feel like they was thrown in during a crunch to pad out the experience.
I haven’t spent a tonne of time online, but the time I have spent has been fun — the revamped matchmaking system is brilliant, and the variety of game modes on offer, including the Horde-style Firefight, is huge. What I’m most looking forward to, though, is a four-player co-op campaign run on Legendary difficulty.