Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Halo: Reach offers fitting end to storied series


Halo: Reach
Developed by Bungie
Published by Microsoft Game Studios
Available on Xbox 360
Rated M for Mature
Price: $59.99 Standard Edition, $79.99 Limited Edition, $149.99 Legendary Edition

THERE are many video games out there that try hard to win gamers over, often dangling cliffhangers over our heads to keep our attention. They offer all sorts of perks to keep us coming back to the franchise, time and time again, even after the gravy train has stopped rolling. Then, just like a tired athlete still trying to hang onto to their glory days (see: fellow Gulf Coastian Brett Favre, Dan Marino, boxer Johnny Tapia and even Nolan Ryan), the series bombs and pushes gamers away in droves. It’s a sad sight. And for video games, for every success story, you have an old, tired series trying hard to stay relevant in today’s world of gaming (see: Tekken, Devil May Cry, Final Fantasy, to name a few).

The folks at Bungie knew when to walk away – at the top of their game. The Halo series, which has been around since 1999, has been a driving force behind the Xbox’s success. Bungie’s first offering, Halo: Combat Evolved, redefining the shooter genre on modern consoles. And just as Bungie hit the Xbox with a bang with C.E., they have scored another hit with Reach, released today.

There are parts of the shooter that are fun yet repetitive. There are parts that are recycled at least two, three times during the game. And the pace is good, not great. Yet, despite those flaws, Reach has set the stage for the shooter genre one more time.

I couldn’t help but think the entire time I played the game that I knew how it was going to end. I hate watching “Titanic” because I know what’s going to happen. I know – big ship, big honkin’ piece of ice – and a lot of water. You do the math. If you know anything about the Halo series, which is very, painfully similar to “Aliens” (think Sigourney Weaver as Master Chief), you know that Master Chief is the last of his kind – a Spartan who is awaken from his cybersleep and immediately has to bring the pain on the Covenant.

The graphics are on par with ODST, and occasionally stutter, but if you have played Halo, you are used to that trait. The environments feel large, though if you wonder out of bounds, a warning will pop up on screen and warn you to return to the field of play. The addition of NVGs – also an ODST feature – is a welcome addition. However, this leads me down another path – keeping the story consistent with C.E. The technology wasn’t there in C.E., so as much as Bungie wanted to add features in ODST and also in Reach, the lack of NVGs, and the ability to upgrade and enhance your armor with customizations would have been left OUT of the campaign. Online and local multiplayer, sure. Bungie has always allow customization in MP. But to really keep the story continuous, it’s best to not add features, especially if a player feels the compelling need to revisit C.E. and realize half of the features in Reach are nowhere to be found in C.E.

That leads me down another path, Bungie – a remake of C.E. in full HD? Pretty please?


Game play is solid. First, the bad. Controls on the Warthog, the Sabres and the Falcons, as well as Covenant vehicles are still cumbersome and difficult at times to control. There’s still no cover system, unless you press a button to stay in control. While you can recruit additional Marines, there’s no real way to tell them to take cover. Maybe I missed it, but it seems like the Marines are chosen by the AI and you can’t uninvited them (I know, I should like I am talking about Facebook LOL) and recruit other victims. There’s no way, on foot, to lock onto an enemy, unless you have a rocket launcher and the enemy is a vehicle. The space battle scenes are way short, but a thrill to take part in.

Now, the good. Your team AI is a lot smarter – mostly you are rolling with a few Spartans from Noble team on your missions, so they can take a serious beating and dish out some serious pain. The missions are a lot of scout this, help these civilians, turn these generators on, or defend this area, but it’s spaced out enough to not bore you. The new vehicles and the space missions are awesome! They remind me of the days of Rogue Squadron, especially when you are taking on the massive Covenant ships. The space missions offer a fresh departure from the FPS part of Reach, and let you channel your Top Gun emotions and whack the Covenant.

The audio is stirring and memorable. It’s haunting at times, especially when you look around the area, see the mass carnage, and think in the back of your mind that you too will likely end up with them.


The story is the best part of the game and makes it worthy of accolades. Yes, the character development is horrible. Yes, the character conversations are annoying at times and weak. But … what makes this story really shine is this – sacrifice. The Spartans are the super workhorses of the United Nations Space Command. They are the ones to do the dirty work, jump into hell and fight their way out. However, unlike the rest of the Halo series, they never really went deep into the backgrounds or personalities of any of the characters. Reach does. It is the first Halo game to give players the choice of being a female Spartan (she can move, let me tell you!). Reach also puts a human element to the Spartans that other games didn’t. And even in ODST, you still didn’t understand the real sacrifices the Spartans did to save humanity.

The end is the most touching (and tragic) part of the game. No spoilers here, but I’d recommend watching all of the credits. Trust me.

The verdict? 3.85 stars (out of 4). The only other Halo that is in the same league of Reach is C.E. ODST gave us a preview – this is the main course. And even though you know how it’s going to end, the ride to the end of the line is a memorable one. I have only played one Halo more than once – C.E. Reach, welcome to an elusive club.

The editions:

There are actually four different flavors of Reach for you to consume.

“Halo:®: Reach” Standard Edition - $59.99

This version includes the game and the manual.

“Halo:®: Reach” Limited Edition - $79.99

In addition to the game disc and manual, this edition also includes:

Game disc housed in recovered ONI “black box”

An exclusive Elite armor set for use in multiplayer modes

Artifact bag containing Dr. Halsey’s personal journal and other classified documents and effects that unravel long held secrets from the “Halo” universe

“Halo:®: Reach” Legendary Edition - $149.99

The complete “Halo: Reach” collection. In addition to the game disc, manual, and the complete contents of the Limited Edition, the Legendary Edition includes:

Noble Team statue expertly crafted by the artisans at McFarlane Toys. Individually molded and hand-painted, this statue is a must-have for any serious “Halo” fan

UNSC-themed custom packaging

An exclusive multiplayer Spartan armor effect

The fourth version, available only to select press outlets, is the “Halo: Reach” Briefcase Edition – no price available

It comes in a slick silver briefcase with the words “Halo: REACH” on it. It also comes with a Halo: Reach Xbox 360 controller, the game, the novel ‘Fall of Reach’ and the graphic artbook, Halo Overture.

You can see videos of the editions of Halo: Reach I received below.

Here's the unboxing of Halo: Reach Briefcase Edition - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sw-_G65f0RM

And here's the unboxing of Halo: Reach Legendary Edition - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8vzEv6oQ7n0

The Legendary edition needs a lot of real estate, especially with the Noble Team statue. The box alone is about the size of cooler but needs it to house the statue. The extras, most of which are available with the limited edition of the game, as sweet, but the statue alone is worth the price of admission on this version.

M4dski11z received the “Halo:®: Reach” Legendary Edition and Briefcase Edition from Microsoft for review purposes before the game’s retail release. I played through single player mode on easy and completed the game before this review was posted.

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