Developer: Bungie (“Halo 3”)
Available on: Xbox 360
Nine years after it began with 2001’s “Halo: Combat Evolved,” this sci-fi shooter series is coming full circle with “Reach.” Set just before the events of the first game, this prequel shows what happened when a human colony on the titular planet was invaded by the Covenant, with you as an elite soldier trying to save the day.
In many ways, “Reach” is a typical “Halo” game. The controls are smooth and responsive, with a variety of missions putting them, and your mastery of them, to the test. That’s not to say this is the same old game rehashed. For much of it, you’re accompanied by a fellow Spartan warrior, with missions varying from sneak attacks to all-out assaults. There’s even one where you jump into a space ship for some rather gripping dogfighting. You also have new armor that, depending on which option you go for, can give you a Boba Fett-like jetpack or a cloaking device straight out of “Star Trek.”
As with all Halo games, Reach is more than just a gripping story told with engaging shooting action. Competitive online multiplayer is a big part of this series, and Reach has it in spades. While many of the variations from earlier games are returning, they’re joined by such fun new ones as “Headhunter.” In it, your skull pops from your head when you die, and your enemies can pick them up and run them into a goal for points. They’ve also brought back “Race,” a mode from the original “Halo” that lets you drive in point-to-point races across the planet’s hilly terrain.
For those more interested in co-operation than competition, Reach also features the “Firefight” mode first introduced in last year’s “Halo 3: ODST.” Much like the “Horde” mode in “Gears of War 2,” “Firefight” has you and your friends working together to survive sixteen waves of enemies, except now you can play “Firefight” with random strangers as well. You can also now customize these matches to such a degree that you could end up with a whole new game. To illustrate this, the Bungie folks included a number of different “Firefight” variations they made in-game, such as “Versus” in which two people face waves of enemies while two other people play as the enemy.
As solid as all those modes may be, “Reach” does have some failings. You still can’t look down the barrel of your gun for more accurate targeting like in almost every other shooter of note, which makes this feel slightly dated. It also doesn’t help that running fast is only available as a special armor ability, while the series’ usually evocative score—which in other games has struck a fine balance between film score-esque classical and Trans-Siberian Orchestra-ish prog/symphonic-metal—here occasionally veers too far into the latter territory to the point of being distracting and cheesy.
These minor issues aside, “Halo: Reach” is an exceptional, and exceptionally deep, sci-fi shooter. This may not be the best game of the year (“Mass Effect 2” still has it beat), nor is the best game in the series (“Halo” and “Halo 3” have a slight edge), but “Reach” is still a worthy chapter in this ongoing space saga.
'Halo: Reach' video game review
See where the saga began with this prequel
By Paul SemelSpecial to Metromix
September 13, 2010