Conceptually, Halo: Reach is almost a spin-off as it takes you away from Master Chief’s struggle and places you onto Reach before the story we all know actually began. The stage was clear for Bungie to try something different. In reality, though, Reach is just another Halo game and a weaker one at that. It is plagued by problems dating back to Combat Evolved and it fails at the scant few new things it tries to pull off. It is a testament of a developer out of ideas, out of creativity and with no willingness to improve.
Firstly, Reach could’ve been really interesting due to its already sealed fate. It is known from previous Halo games that Reach eventually fell to the Covenant. Bungie could have capitalized on this and delivered a meaningful story. However, Reach once again exposes Bungie as a developer unwilling to improve and expand on its storytelling. In complete amateurish fashion, you are treated to prolonged and overly dramatic scenes of your squad mates’ deaths and the planet being ravaged by the Covenant. But none of it succeeds to make an impact as Reach simply doesn’t establish compelling characters or a compelling world.
One of the new things Reach tried to do was to emphasize that you’re in a squad. In fact, your commander tells you right at the start that your lone wolf days are over. Of course, you never manage to relate to any of your squad mates thanks to their complete lack of personality or charisma and poor voice acting with cringe-worthy fake accents. More importantly, this fails from a gameplay perspective as well seeing as how the friendly AI is completely worthless and yes, you are a lone wolf expected to do pretty much everything.
Reach briefly introduces space combat and while these segments aren’t bad, they really don’t bring much to the table. They fail to engage the player and simply lack any kind of excitement. The core gameplay is as good–and as bad–as ever. It just hasn’t changed one bit, this is the biggest problem. The combat is satisfying, the controls are good, but you are fighting the same enemies with the same weapons. You have the on-foot segment, then the vehicle segment, it’s just so predictable. And the setpieces simply aren’t nearly as memorable as in previous installments. Actually, none of it feels particularly memorable at all. And then you have Halo’s age-old issues such as the laughably bad driving AI which is simply inexcusable.
Halo: Reach is a complacent, by-the-numbers game from a developer that has clearly stopped trying a long time ago. It showcases the same strengths and the same weaknesses in a very predictable yet somewhat enjoyable package. The very few new things it does try are either underdeveloped or complete failures, but there’s no mistaking these poor efforts as failures driven by wild ambition. Reach even fails at being good fan service as it takes away a number of fan favorites such as Master Chief, dual-wield and ironically enough – halo itself.