Halo: Reach Campaign Hands-On

After playing through three of Reach's campaign missions, we walk away with a different picture than what we've seen before.

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So much of the discussion around Halo: Reach has been focused on the darkness of the game. We've seen trailers depicting weary-eyed Spartans amidst a muted gray color palette. We've pulled off bloody stealth executions in the multiplayer beta. Go on and take your pick--there's no shortage of indications that Reach will be a grimmer experience than previous Halos. But if there's one thing we came away with after a recent hands-on outing with a few of the game's early campaign missions, it's that Reach--while certainly dark in many respects--isn't all doom and gloom.

Consider a few scenes from our play-through. In one tense shoot-out, we popped out from behind cover in a last-ditch effort to kill a group of Elites that had drained nearly all of our health. Only, the first thing we saw was a comically adorable ostrich native to the planet Reach staring blankly back at us. There's nothing like the sudden appearance of a bird resembling Kevin from Up to break the tension. In another big battle, we tried desperately to flee from a pair of hunters when it became clear there was no option left but to resupply and recharge our health. So naturally, we hastily jumped into the first vehicle we spotted. What we didn't notice until too late was that we hopped into a forklift, of all things. Not a space-age, 26th-century UNSC infantry transport; just a hilariously slow-moving forklift that puttered along at speeds that would make a golf cart seem exotic. We could practically hear the hunter growl, "Are you kidding?" as he smashed us to death.

Yes, Halo: Reach is darker than previous games. But every so often, you'll find a reason to crack a smile, giggle to yourself, and remember that Bungie is a developer that knows how to have fun. (We're talking about the studio that brought us Rocket Race, after all.) The result, it seems, is a game of contrasts. Halo: Reach does more to mix things up--and buck labels--than previous games in the series, which is a trait that includes environments, pacing, and mood. The two new campaign missions we played were a prime example of this contrast. Nightfall, the campaign's third mission, took us on a nighttime, rain-soaked hike through Reach's rugged geography of mountain ridges and dry river beds. This mission was all about making stealthy approaches, using sniper rifles, and trying to get a jump on the Covenant forces we encountered along the way. Then, there was Tip of the Spear, the game's fourth mission, which turned the lights back on and painted the screen with the glowing orange hues of distant suns and purple/pink alien foliage. But beyond the more saturated colors, Tip of the Spear also ratcheted up the scale exponentially, with big set piece battles and long vehicle sequences.

Nightfall is definitely one of the more subdued Halo missions we've played. At least, that's how it starts. The mission kicks off with a select few members of Noble Team--the game's central cast of Spartans to which you belong--prowling through the darkness exchanging communications chatter along the way. You mainly play alongside Jun, a soft-spoken sharpshooter who seems to prefer methodical approaches over going in guns blazing. With Reach being the first Halo game to show Spartans minus helmets, there's clearly an effort on Bungie's part to build and explore these Noble Team personalities.

A tip of the hat to Bungie's environment artists. The titular planet Reach is like a character unto itself.

The basic gameplay in Nightfall was familiar Halo, with a few notable exceptions. In our experience, the biggest change came from the ability to use the armor abilities we saw in the multiplayer beta. (Remember jetpacks? Sprinting? Those abilities.) However, one of the new ones we didn't see in the beta was hologram. With this one, hitting the left bumper on the controller sends out a hologram version of yourself running in a straight line, directly where your crosshair is aimed. It's fantastic for drawing the attention of enemies. Imagine being pinned behind a rock with jackal snipers and grunts on turrets eager to put a few dozen holes in you and then tricking them by sending a flickering hologram of yourself running off to the right while you take the left path and sneak up behind them. Hologram was far and away our favorite new gameplay feature in this mission, adding some mental gamesmanship to Halo's familiar brand of straightforward shooting action.

As stated earlier, Tip of the Spear took that somber nighttime expedition and turned it on its ear. This mission was a bright, colorful series of vehicle chases and large-scale shoot-outs. We bounced among gunning from the back of a speeding Warthog, cruising around in the new Revenant (a two-seater version of the Ghost), and launching grenades from on high while in a UNSC Pelican. But what really grabbed us about Tip of the Spear was the sense of scale. You'll be driving near a mountain cliffside, and off in the distance, a swarm of Covenant and UNSC airships will be doing battle, somehow looking like flies compared to the gigantic UNSC ship that flies overhead and practically blocks out the sky. Later in the mission, you're tasked with destroying a towering spire powering the electromagnetic shield around a Covenant base. To give you an idea of how big it is, this base is used in a Reach multiplayer map, and according to Bungie, it's the tallest vertical play space it has done in a traditional map.

We weren't kidding about that forklift.

After all this, we had the opportunity to go hands-on with the E3 demo, which, if you'll recall, ends with a flight combat sequence in which you're piloting a ship called the Sabre in outer space. (Click here to see the video from our E3 stage show.) This seemed an appropriate way to cap off the demo. The two missions preceding it did a good job of taking familiar Halo gameplay and mixing up the pacing enough to make it feel fresh--why not finish off with a glimpse of something entirely new? That was our hands-on time in a nutshell: the contrast between the grim and the lighthearted, the new and old, the stealthy and the bombastic. We'll see if the entire game maintains such variety when Halo: Reach is released on September 14.

Discussion

322 comments
ebookerd1
ebookerd1

dude the legendary comes with the flaming Helmet Geeze I am pissed!!!

casualthrasher
casualthrasher

If you have xbox, you'll buy another iteration of halo. For everyone else, its business as usual. Comparing or bashing games is just a way of amusing each other while waiting for our favourite titles to release.

-Fable-
-Fable-

@ adamwhytey - how about just buy the game - don't worry about all that other stuff.

shafe-man
shafe-man

@adamwhytey Your sad... you have another account called aiw24 on IGN... and what your doing is spamming. I dont care if what you're saying is true or not, you're freaking spamming. Don't go around every website pasting what you have just to get free publicity. Anyway, loving the ostriches. Ima gonna go around protecting them, then guard em whenever I see covenant. I don't care which way they go; every human has an instinct to protect alien ostriches! DON'T DENY IT! Embrace the urge to BECOME THE BODYGUARD!

Keirnzyboy
Keirnzyboy

@Link_2007 COD came out after the first halo actually, not saying they did copy halo at all... but if someone were to copy a game formula it would have been I.W. snatching the halo formula, because lets face it, other than the online, rankings, ext... halo's Mp is not a whole lot different from Halo: CE to halo 3. I'm not trying to bash your game knowledge, I just feel it needs to be put out there that Halo: CE's mp was put in place before COD.

Infinite_Access
Infinite_Access

@link_2007 Thats not skill.. thats "who saw the other person first" in halo.. I can be shot first... but if my SKILL is better than theirs... I can turn the tables around and beat them. In COD the best you can hope for is a completely unrealistic knife lunge to save your tail.

Link_2007
Link_2007

first of all you have to have skill if you play cod. and there would be no halo multilplayer if the first call of duty didnt start multiplayer first person shooters. just play hardcore call of duty where you die with one shot compared to a regenergating sheild

TheTHCGamer
TheTHCGamer

@uga898 unfortunately i agree with you to many people who dont want to acutally take to time to learn a game that takes skill will just end up getting black ops. its unfortunate because reach will be better than anything COD but the kids lover there easy to play COD games that have gameplay which revolvles around camping (killstreaks).

santinegrete
santinegrete

Lol Gamestop phones are saturated with calls regarding Halo reach preorders. I think they put a temporal section in the lines to answer the callings. I can assure you: this game is gonna kick ass... in selling therms.

hahamanin
hahamanin

@ghostryder371 lunatic musta pirate the game so he probably hs played it by nw @uga898 black opps???really... thts the game dey milk out every year

uga898
uga898

my only problem is that Black Opps is going to totally overshadow this.I wish it would come out next april

Col-Struckin
Col-Struckin

This game series is the best because it is developed by one of the few developers that actually care about their community and the community itself

Ghostryder371
Ghostryder371

@ Lunatic420s Have you played it? Didn't think so. Don't put your foot in your mouth until you've played it. Plus, the multiplayer is what a lot of people (including myself) really care about, and whilst the campaign will be epic, multiplayer will top it easily. See you online punk

Lunatic420s
Lunatic420s

reach is great, really great but the campaign is too short it just let me feeling like something was missing, youll see what i mean in a couple of days

RaZ3R_269
RaZ3R_269

The Campaign's gotta be hell awesome and i will probably spend a lot of time on it as well as firefight.

shiny5
shiny5

@Covin, you dumby

hoff2007
hoff2007

Covin did u even play the beta? way more balanced than 3, weapon wise and jusst all around a better game.

Covin
Covin

I'll think about buying or renting it if the campaign is longer than Halo 3's. If not, I can just throw Halo 3 in whenever I want to play MP, so there would be no point to getting this game.

GWA17
GWA17

I'm not that big of a fan of halo's multiplayer (probably because i suck on it haha) but i have always liked the single player and the hologram ability sounds cool.

YoshIsfunky
YoshIsfunky

I hope the single player campaign will be better then ODST's, which I didn't like. Taking away the fully regenerating health was just wrong in my view. But what I saw from Reach, it looks like it's going to be awesome.

ShroudedEagle
ShroudedEagle

All I know is I'm not going to be able to sleep on the night of September 13th.

guitarist1980
guitarist1980

Why do you think the SP will suck? I am looking forward to it and playing on custom maps with my buds... in firefight mode.. gonna be leet.

sonofwar123
sonofwar123

im sure the single player will suck but the multiplayer is going to be awesome

rodr1gues
rodr1gues

@Velvundrgnd: eh pah, CALA-te!!!!

moosesashi
moosesashi

Preordered and attending midnight release! This is gonna be the Halo game I've been waiting ten years for, I can barely wait a few more days!

Velvundrgnd
Velvundrgnd

@cpsobe: does ODST ring a bell? or Halo Wars? They've milked the franchise enough by now.

cpsobe720
cpsobe720

As good as this game is going to be, both in campaign and multiplayer, don't you think that Bungie would be stupid to not come out with Halo off-shoot games? I can see them making more FPS games with the same Halo-type mechanics in the near future.

Gadeos
Gadeos

Man, amazing all the responds I recieved because of a previous comment on this game. OK, when I said this was good for a "in the meantime game", what I meant was that I really wanted to see Masterchief on another Halo game, that's all. I do know Bungie won't develop another Halo game, that Masterchief's future will be told on a new novel, and that Reach is gonna be an awesome game.... but that doesn't take away this kind of wish to see this character on one last game, that's all.

StJimmy15
StJimmy15

This game can't get here soon enough!! I've actually got to work the midnight release at my store n watch ppl pick theirs up first.. T_T

Fajonkel
Fajonkel

@ Cyra ......You CAN run in this game. It's called the spring ability, and it's the same control as running in games like CoD. And I cannot WAIT. I just pre-ordered it, picking it up at midnight.

skrotzki
skrotzki

@feryaiser my parents bought me a wii when it first came out and it was fun and all but i sold it and got an 360 and it was the best move i have ever done so if you can sell your wii and get a 360

Feryraiser
Feryraiser

sigh sometimes I wonder why I bought a wii over this 360

BasicLogic
BasicLogic

@Cyra9 There is the armor ability sprint but I see what you mean. Consider this, Reach is NOT COD. Grenade launchers are a two shot kill AT LEAST. One shot for shields, the other to kill.

korijjo
korijjo

omsg that looks so amazing bcoz of the story nd tha forge nd tha firefight crap amazing :o

Rusty010
Rusty010

Check out my profile blog, i got some good questions on there for Reach and COD vs Reach. Enjoy :-)

Cyra9
Cyra9

I'll buy a Halo game when they include the ability to RUN. If you're going to put n00b cannons, grenades, and vehicles in a game, then WHY can't you include the ability to run? Apparently everyone in the future has severe asthma...

robdar602
robdar602

Soace combat too!! Just pre-ordered!

Col-Struckin
Col-Struckin

I can feel my nerd rage coming on because I want this game soooooooooo badly!

Jman4444
Jman4444

I cant wait for this game

sgtruin
sgtruin

llooll xD it's funny cos it's true!!

KingOfAsia
KingOfAsia

This is gonna be the best halo ever!!!!!!

fable343
fable343

it sucks it's the last halo game