Halo: Reach User Review
- Just Right
- Time Spent:
- 10 to 20 Hours
- The Bottom Line:
- "Been there, done that"
An elaborately crafted false history surrounding it, making it out to be the very game that created the FPS genre?
Support from millions of fan around the globe that take it to the point of making one think they'd give their lives for the series and its creators?
Games that promise the world and end up being utterly crushed under their own weight through a combination of highly stylized trailers that show absolutely nothing relevant with clever cinematography that makes them seem larger than life and most importantly; underwhelming end results?
Now just to at least marginally defuse the tidal wave of backlash I can already hear coming at me like a horde of angry elephants; I don't entirely hate this franchise. The first game, despite the fact that I've disproved every claim this game has to being innovate and revolutionary, still remains a child-hood favorite of mine and I'm quite looking forward to the release of Anniversary. I also enjoyed Halo Wars and ODST, despite the fact that I consider those two games to be the turning point of the public's opinion of the franchise. I just feel as though these games receive far too much credit and praise where other games deserve it. Games like Doom, Duke Nukem 3D, Quake II, even a little game called Iron Angel of the Apocalypse on the 3DO have everything this game claims to have invented and they were all released years before this game was even thought of.
Don't get me wrong, the level of support is nowhere near as over-zealous and insane as Call of Duty but it's still enough to irk me every-time someone says that Halo is one of the most innovative, revolutionary shooters of all time. Let's also not forget Halo's 2 and 3, the former being one of the biggest POS sequels I've ever played and the latter being one of my greatest disappointments ever in gaming.
But enough of that, let's fast-forward to September 2010. It's a time where excitement and religious sacrificial support for Halo has cooled off to almost normal levels and it shows with the reviews. Not the score, but the content of the reviews greatly surprised me. For the first time ever, the self-proclaimed "professionals" weren't getting down and opening their mouths for another Halo game. Many of them actually gave the game some serious, legitimate criticism(s). However, I don't feel as though they were being harsh enough because trust me, the game has far more issues than they let on and that's where I thankfully step in to correct this.
The story for one is my biggest issue with the game. Yes, the game is all about the Fall of Reach but despite that there's a perfectly good book Bungie could have followed, it was decided to completely shut it out of even the likes of consideration and instead go with the typical style of Halo story-telling, i.e. Hardly any. You see, Bungie always liked to go with a minimalist approach throughout the course of the Halo series. They would cleverly lay out small tid-bits of information to the player whilst keeping the fiction that there lay a deep, rich story buried somewhere down the line, perfectly preserved. What spawned from this was the belief that the Halo universe held just that but when the time to reveal this deep, rich universe dawned upon them…nothing. This worked in the first game only because the series was new and there was much story to be told. What I didn't realize though is that what Bungie laid out in the first game was all there was to the story. Granted, we got a good game…then we got Halo 2, the game that made me hate sequels to begin with.
As for Halo 3, we were promised vast improvements across the board but what we got was quite possibly the most anti-climactic ending ever. By the end of the game, I was left with these questions on my mind:
What just happened?
Did I miss something?
Is it over?
When I killed truth, did all the covenant just magically disappear?
Were all the flood on that last Halo ring?
Are there any surviving bad guys left out there or was every.last.one on that ring?
Wait a minute, if all the bad guys are dead, how come Halo Legends says otherwise and takes place after Halo 3?
How did anything survive the last Halo firing?
Can someone explain to me exactly what I just played?
Now I admit, Bungie had me fooled for a good while there. They actually had me thinking that there actually was a story to this mess and that the franchise wasn't just floating on hot air. By the time Halo 3's release was imminent, they had me thinking that earth would be hanging in the balance, the covenant would be inches away from eradicating the human race once and for all and the only way that there could be any hope and salvation for all that is good and right in the universe, would be for the Master Chief to go on a journey stretching from the slums of Venezuela all the way to the furthest galaxy beyond the stars, where he would find the "Save the day key" whatever that may be and he would return with the grace and awe of a god and save the universe!!! Parts would fly, flames would flail and there would be many many bodies as we wrapped up what would essentially be the return of Jesus Christ, all wrapped up in one little DVD while the soundtrack from god's ipod played in the background.
What's even sadder about all this is that tsunami's of people actually believe this to this date, due to the fact that they were so lobotomized by the hype that their brains had completely melted and seeped out through their ears. Instead we get some lame cutscene or two that's supposed to symbolize everything with a few pieces of imagery despite the fact that they only really show a whole lot of nothing in a very stylized manner. No, don't show us any of the other battles that are taking place. Don't tell us what's going on whatsoever. Just show us a couple oil paintings and let us all imagine that something cool just happened. Bungie was always exceedingly efficient at that.
Now I'm no stranger to using my imagination and I even encourage those around me to use it more. Hell, I'm a guy who, back in the day, played Runescape to the point where I was ready to write my own novel based around the adventures of me and my companions, the only thing stopping me was that I forgot most of what had happened.
However, sometimes I don't want to utilize my imagination. I simply want to be entertained by someone else's. Yet Halo ODST fixed this. I got to play out some of the battles on earth. The story was good, the characters decent and I actually got some hint as to what the f--- was going on in the Halo universe.
Yet, here we are, back to the ways of Halo's 2 and 3 with the release of Reach. The story does elaborate somewhat on the book but mostly goes with its own version. It starts off ok pertaining to how the covenant are found on reach but by the time it gets to the nitty gritty, again, nothing happens. The game shows some potential in the first few levels and by the time level five comes into play, we're treated with an absolutely engrossing cutscene that depicts a huge battle is about to occur and that we're going to be part of it. That turns up fruitless but in the very next mission we're treated to space combat where we can actually fully control our ship, along with boarding and destroying a covenant super-carrier. Then, just when all hell is about to break loose, we got right back to the 'Use your imagination' scenario that Bungie is so famous for, effectively smashing any remaining hope the story had left.
I got an idea Bungie, why not pull a Call of Duty? Actually let us be part of the major battles. Let us play from the perspectives of multiple soldiers. Tell us the state of affairs every step of the way. Show us short CGI movies of the major battles even, y'know, some Metal Gear length FMV's. You started the game out with some momentum but then went right back to the old ways. Why you feel the need to do this, I may never know but in case you haven't noticed, you kinda butchered a series that had the potential to be great in the process.
Characters aren't any better. All are hollow as ever, even more so than Halo 2 and 3 and when any of them do show signs of personality, they typically devolve into one or more stereotypes. We got the bad-boy renegade, the big teddy bear giant, the gruff cookie cutter commander, the tech-girl, the silent but deadly, etc. One particular character named Kat was so utterly annoying and misused (She the tech of the team yet she goes with you head-first into every major battle?) that I actually cheered when she was killed.
Moving on…Audio/Visual presentation thankfully is actually pretty darn good. Bungie finally brought in a full motion capture camera (Nothing wrong with hand-drawn animations) resulting in more life-like animations and the new overall look gives the game a much more metal look/feel in comparison to the plastic-like nature of the previous two games. It's quite appropriate too, given the location and the game looks on par with modern titles overall. The new soundtrack isn't bad, the new sound effects are decent in their own right and the voice acting is just there.
Gameplay is a mixed bag. Thankfully, Halo isn't like Call of Duty where every new release is the exact same gameplay from the previous ten iterations. No, Bungie actually tweaks gunplay mechanics, grenade physics, vehicle handling, etc. It's not always for the better though and has many times spelled disaster for the series.
The game starts off good. At first, Bungie accomplished what they set out to do: Make the covenant seem like a superior, more resilient fighting force. Human weapons do far less damage than covenant weapons and even then, it takes a considerable effort to take down even a single Sangheili, never-mind when they attack in teams. The appropriate attributes extend to all the other covenant races; Grunts are cannon fodder, Jackals are scavengers, fast and agile but fall easily if hit right and hunters are walking tanks. This continues for about five levels until we're treated to space combat which is a nice little treat. It's not fantastic, but it's entertaining nonetheless. Then, we board a covenant ship, get to see a human frigate taken out at close range, which was spectacular by the way, and we end up destroying the ship. Bungie also added the ability to use your custom avatar in the campaign mode which I had been hoping for ever since Halo 3 so that's definitely a plus.
All in all: Save for the false promises of being able to take part in the massive battle at the beginning of tip of the spear and the rather weak level that follows, not a bad first half of the game.
Then, the brutes come into play. I'll be straightforward: I hate these things.
They're un-original, uncreative and flat-out boring to fight. They serve no other purpose but to disrupt the balance and continuity of the game. They're stupidly strong, you waste all your ammo on them due to them being almost super-absorbent to anything and everything and they're just an irritating mess. What Bungie also failed to remember is that the Brutes gained no dominant fighting role until the events of Halo 2. Coupled with the fact that they are no brutes in the original (and this is supposed to be a prequel of all things) and you've got a helluva contradiction on hand. Sadly, they're also the main fighting force for the second half of the game. Even after the Sangheili are reinstated, it doesn't fix anything, the damage is already done.
Oh and let's not forget the "revamping" of the game i.e. going back to the "old" design, back to the Halo 1 pistol, the health bar, no dual wielding, etc once they realized the "new" design sucked big time. It all started with ODST and while I welcome the return to the old-school health system and all, I find Bungie's reasons behind this absolutely laughable. Saying they wanted your character to "feel and play more like a human rather than an unstoppable super soldier" and taking away dual wielding and limiting grenades in reach yet the ODST's could carry MORE grenades than the chief as well as rip a chain gun off its mount no problem and run faster with it than the chief ever could. Again, no ODST hate intended, just the marketing behind it.
I also find the "equipment" downright retarded. Sprinting? Really…you're turning what should be a staple element of FPS games into a "special" ability? Jet-packs are useless, the tweaking of the stealth camo has rendered it useless too and the shield drop is almost as useless. Armor lock's not bad though…
That and the game just isn't fun. Sure, Bungie tweaked a bunch of elements but it doesn't really make a difference in the end. There are no wow moments or anything truly new or diverse to make it attractive or enticing. The game still feels like the same old Halo we've played for years. Between the gameplay here and in Halo 3, I can't find any major difference. Save for the increased amount of ammunition required making a kill, they feel nearly identical and there's simply not enough variety of new features to detract from that.
However, it was mainly the Brutes entry that compromised the campaign. The game wasn't anything new or interesting but it was a challenge. Every enemy has a distinct strength and weakness and there was an effective way to combat and not combat them using every single weapon just like the original and that's what made me love the original. When the brutes were introduced however, the game almost instantly turned in a bullet spraying fest across the board.
As for multiplayer, I don't bother much in general and I certainly didn't with this game but I am fond of the new Battlefield-esque scoring system and armor permutation unlocking system. The gameplay itself isn't anything special but the game offers an insane amount of customization options. Maps aren't half bad either and I am impressed with what the community has created for they serve as great machinima pieces though I will say, forge world isn't nearly as huge or robust as the previews made it out to be. Sure, it's bigger than any other Halo map that came before it, but the maps in many other games, most notably Battlefield 2 easily trump it in size and robustness.
Forge, once a simple, easy to use tool has taken a complete 180 and is now cumbersome, overly-cluttered and flat-out confusing to use. I had to look up and watch an entire series of videos on youtube in order to be able to grasp how to use. Thank the world theater mode remains unchanged.
Halo Reach definitely had potential but somewhere along the development line; it was somehow all shafted and flushed down the toilet. At this point I can't really even begin to make sense of all these games. Each feels like they're their own separate world, sharing nothing in common with one-another except the name. Bungie is one of the most schizophrenic developers I've ever seen in all my years of gaming. None of the Halo games have any continuity or flow with one-another in both story and gameplay elements and every game feels like a hodgepodge of various, dissimilar elements from all the previous games mixed in with new elements that don't help matters at all. I mean, we got Halo anniversary on the rise, hell it may even be released by the time this review is but that game doesn't have any continuity to itself either. The campaign is a direct remake of the original game yet the multiplayer is a modified Reach multiplayer? I rest my case.
The way I see it, Bungie had no long-term plan when they started this series. Combine that with no knowledge of how the gaming times or communities and their tastes worked and a great deal of publisher intervention and that's my best explanation of how this franchise got so screwed up. Nowadays, all they seem to be able to do is generate an aura of epicness and mysticism around their games, when in reality they're generating a mediocre product. Sure, I give Bungie credit for at least trying something new as trying and failing is far better than not even bothering to try but as I said, all the tweaking didn't exactly help the series too much and did more harm than good in the end. I also find the public's view of this series in recent years equally jarring and yet, at the end of the day, entire generations of gamers seem to have nothing but love and infinite praise for this series for reason I will never even begin to remotely comprehend…ah well, must be the hype.
Y'know maybe one day, if I ever have kids (and trust me, I don't want any…ever. They're nothing but trouble 99% of the time) and my kid asks me "Dad, what's Halo?" I'll say to him "Well, it was a popular game back in 2001 when it was released and a pretty darn good one at that but I'm not sure if it ever got a sequel…" Then he'll show me a copy of Halo 2 and say "Oh yeah? Then what's this?" and I'll reply "Haha…that's not a sequel, it's a derivative spiritual sequel of sorts. No, the day that Halo gets a true sequel, that'll be the day…that'll most certainly be the day."
- Player Reviews: 554
- Game Universe:
- Offline Modes:
Competitive, Cooperative, Team Oriented
- Online Modes:
Competitive, Cooperative, Team Oriented
- Number of Players:
- Number of Online Players:
16 Players Online