Over the past decade, Bungie made a name for itself with the Halo franchise. With the first game, it gave the Xbox credibility and brought about the shift in first person shooters away from the PC to consoles. Halo 2 basically popularized console online play as we know it. 2007’s Halo 3 gave us a satisfying conclusion to Master Chief’s saga, while setting the standard for the robust feature set modern games can offer. Then they went back to do a side-story to Halo 2, featuring the cast of Firefly, called Halo O.D.S.T. Now they bid farewell to the franchise by telling a story that took place just before the first game.
Halo: Reach is set on the planet Reach, one of humanity’s most important worlds. You play as Noble Six, the newest member in a team of SPARTANs. While on your first mission, you find a Covenant invasion force and things go downhill from there. The campaign has a great feeling of dread and futility to it, and while you might already know where it’s going, I found it very enjoyable to see it get there.
As a prequel to Halo: Combat Evolved, Reach tries to bridge between the innovations from later in the franchise and the technology in the first game. So pistols with scopes are back and some of the guns from later games appear as prototypes, slightly changed. Health packs are back, which is a little annoying, but health packs usually seemed plentiful. Perhaps most controversially, you cannot dual wield again. That also did not really bother me, since the guns that you would dual wield have been altered to be more interesting on their own. Ultimately, Bungie did an amazing job making Reach play like a new Halo, while creating a sense of nostalgia too.
Of course the main attraction to a Halo game is the multiplayer, and Reach is easily the best yet. There’s a seemingly endless variety of modes available, and each of them is interesting; surely you’ll find something you like to play. At the forefront is Invasion, a new SPARTANs vs. Elites mode involving capturing objectives. It’s pretty cool. Firefight is back from O.D.S.T, and is still a lot of fun. Then there’s all the other modes you’d expect, Slayer, Team Slayer, Capture the Flag, King of the Hill, and so on. You could be playing this for years, especially with the powerful new Forge mode allowing for all sorts of player-created map variants and game modes.
The ending of Reach is really well done, it was an excellent send-off for Bungie. By going back and finishing “their story” instead of starting off the new adventures of Master Chief, they were able to fill the game with nostalgia. Ultimately, it made me sad that they had to move on, something I was not expecting at all. But they’ve left us the most complete Halo experience yet, one that I’m sure any series fan will love.