Xbox 360 Review: Halo Reach

How is Bungie’s swan song to Halo? Quite good, actually…

Ah, Halo. It’s been a splendid decade of killing the Covenant, blowing up the Pillar of Autumn, kicking some Flood back to where it came from and beating each other online. Halo isn’t just a game, it’s a gaming institution and now Bungie’s final entry, Halo Reach is now out for all to enjoy. But just how good is Reach and does it deserve the praise it’s getting?

To be honest, that’s an answer of two halves and I’ll explain why later. The campaign is set before Combat Evolved and follows a group of Spartans called Noble Squad, who are set on Reach as the Covenant invade. We all know the Reach story and the plot is quite sad…you see some moments that you think that Reach will survive, only to have them dashed. But it’s no secret or surprise that Master Chief is the last Spartan for a reason…

The campaign is quite lengthy in comparison to ODST and Halo 3, but that’s mainly because the difficulty has been raised dramatically. Veterans will be stunned that melee attacks do about half the usual damage, and the AI is more aggressive and brutal. I got my arse handed to me many times, even on Normal. So, how they expect me to go through Legendary alone is a real headscratcher.

Weapons are oddly more advanced than in past games, which is weird since it’s a prequel. That aside, there are some great ones that are perhaps too powerful in some cases. I also didn’t get why they made their own version of the Hammer of Dawn from Gears, there are also abilities you can gather for your suit like being able to sprint, lock your armour, create a hologram and so on. I personally thought the campaign had some strong points, but it’s pretty forgettable compared to past Halo campaigns. There’s also the lack of anything relating to Master Chief, only a quick glimpse of Cortana and Captain Keyes.

Besides the campaign are the return of Firefight from ODST, Forge and your typical multiplayer matches like Slayer, CTF, Invasion and so on. You earn credits from everything you do in the game, which goes towards your rank and items you can buy from the armory. There are also daily and weekly challenges that you can complete to earn extra credits and achievements. The achievement list is pretty demanding, even for a Halo game and only the truest veterans will get every one.

Reach has had a visual upgrade from Halo 3 and ODST, but sometimes at the cost of framerate. It’s rare, but it can be a problem. There are some great moments to look at, but I personally could have done without the space fights, they just felt out of place in the Halo universe. The voice acting is superb and the soundtrack is sombre and emotional thanks to Martin O’Donnell.

The Verdict

Halo Reach does exactly what it was meant to, be a fond farewell to the series from Bungie and it doesn’t disappoint. I might have done a few things differently, but it’s classic Halo from start to finish. It has all the modes, moves and weapons that you could ask for…and I think we’ll all be playing it for quite a while yet. Thanks for a great decade of Halo and here’s to another decade with whoever takes up the reins.