Wednesday, September 22, 2010

A Decade of Bungie

Game: Halo: Reach

System: Xbox 360

Release: September 2009

Halo: Reach is the last game in the franchise developed by Bungie. In 2001, one of the best independent studios released Halo: Combat Evolved. Since then there has been Halo 2, Halo 3, and Halo: ODST. Each successor added new features and a new story, but they all felt very similar. Halo Reach, however, is an entirely new experience unlike any FPS on the market. Bungie utilized the best from games like Unreal Tournament, Tribes, Call of Duty, and of course older Halo's. The end product is a well polished game with hours upon hours of fun content.

Halo Reach is divided up into three game modes: Campaign, Firefight, and Multiplayer. All three can be played on or off line. They also come with a ton of options to customize your experience as you see fit.

Snerts in action!
The Campaign tells the story of Noble Team a group of Spartans on Reach. Any fan of the Halo universe knows Reach is a doomed planet. The Covenant destroys Reach and leaves few survivors as they make their way towards Earth. Knowing that the ending wouldn't be happy gave the game an Empire's Strikes Back feeling. The colors are more subtle with less bloom effects. The characters display a sense of desperation as the invading aliens decimate their planet. By the end just about everyone you have met dies. Bungie also does a great job of tying Noble's story to the events in Halo 1-3. Finally they break up the FPS action with a few turret rail gun segments, and a outer space dog fight mission that is reminiscent of the N64 game Rogue Squadron.

Like previous Campaigns, there are dozens of options to keep things fresh. Skulls from Halo 3 make a return, and so does Scoring Mode. These features, however, are nothing compared to what Firefight has to offer. (Firefight is a cooperative game mode where a team fights wave after wave of enemy AI.) You can customize just about everything for this cooperative game type. You can tweak: damage output, shields, health, weapons, infinite ammo, what enemies appear each wave, how the enemies appear, AI damage and shields, etc. etc. etc. I literally spent an hour just thumbing through all the options. I also enjoyed the different Firefight modes like Gruntpocalypse--all Grunts all the time. Firefight as sure come a long way since ODST.

Multiplayer is also full of new features. Most notably Invasion. This game mode pits Elites vs. Spartans. The objective is defense for the later, and offense for the former. There are three sections per round, and completing a section unlocks more load outs, weapons, and vehicles. The game ends when time runs out, or the Elites have completed all three objectives. This game mode is unlike anything I've seen before. It has all the chaos of a Big Team Battle with a hint of Assault and King of the Hill.

As I mentioned in my review of Halo Reach Beta, there are other new game modes like Headhunter and Stockpile. So far the additions have been very enjoyable, and supplement the traditional game modes nicely. The armor abilities, however, are what really distinguish Reach from other Halo's. Being able to sprint, use a jet back, become invisible or invincible, etc. adds a new layer to the tasty gameplay cake. Check out my Beta review for more details about armor abilities.

Rocket Hog FTW!
Do you think I'm done writing about new features? Well guess again buddy. Reach also has a leveling system that unlocks new armor for your Spartan. The system is cumulative, and is very similar to the recent Call of Duty tittles. The unlockables are for functionality and aesthetics. Some pieces will allow you to carry more ammo, health, or grenades.  In addition to armor you can unlock character voices for Firefight, and other surprises that I won't ruin in this review.

Halo: Reach is what fans of Halo: Combat Evolved have been waiting for. A truly new experience that feels more complete then the rehashes of Halo 2, 3, and ODST. Bungie has stepped their game up, and illustrated why they are one of the best FPS developers in the business. Reach has more game modes, features, and options then any other title on the market. Snerts Snazzy Score is a 6 out of 5---yes it's that good! So go ahead and buy yourself a copy. Then say goodbye to all non-gamer friends and family.

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