Publisher:Microsoft Platform:Xbox 360 Exclusive Release date: Late 2010
Halo is a phenomenon, obviously. Ever since the first title, Combat Evolved, was released the series has been cemented into the collective gaming consciousness thanks to fluid gameplay, an iconic cast and some of the best music ever laid down next to virtual violence. Recent installments have seen Halo stagnate and fall out of touch. The RTS Halo Wars moved players too far from the comfort zone and ODST just wasn’t as gripping without Master Chief in the lead – not even the vocal talents of the second sexiest man we’ve ever seen were enough to buoy it up out of mediocrity.
Halo: Reach is, quite clearly, an attempt to address those issues. The multiplayer focus moves fans back to the type of direct action that Halo Wars eschewed, while the singleplayer gets back to dealing with story elements we really care about – men in green armour and the eponymous Reach military base which was the scene of a turning point in Human/Covenant war.
This is SPARTAN!
Thus, the singleplayer campaign casts you as a member of Noble Team – a Spartan unit stationed at the Reach military base and who are determined to put the hurt on the alien Covenant forces. It’ll all be very epic and bloody, we’re sure, but in the long run it’s the multiplayer portion of the game that most fans are going to be interested in – and that’s definitely the part that Microsoft has been pushing too.
The good news as far as the multiplayer goes is that it’s fundamentally back to the basics of the earlier games. Putting players back in the boots of Spartans, rather than the troopers from ODST, means that some of the less popular tweaks, like health packs, have been done away with. Halo: Reach may not ever make you feel like you’re playing as Master Chief again, but it’s close enough to satisfy us – especially with the new abilities that players have access to; everything from jetpacks to stealth cloaks.
These new powers will doubtlessly play a big part in the singleplayer, but in multiplayer battles they can be the difference between victory and defeat. Players are asked to choose a class every time they spawn, each one getting a different skill and starting weapon. Some classes are very specialised, such as snipers with jetpacks that let them get to the high ground quickly or anti-vehicle forces who carry rocket launchers and an improved shield that lets them shrug off splash damage for short periods. Other classes are better as all-round shock troopers – an invisibility cloak and plasma rifle makes an especially potent combo for those on the front line.
No, this is Patrick
That’s not all either, as Reach’s multiplayer also includes some new Covenant vs. Spartans team modes, with those on the alien team playing as Elites with some handy abilities of their own. It’s an interesting twist that, where Spartans focus on using temporary powers that take time to recharge, the Covenant advantages are all innate – they are faster and tougher than their human rivals, with a roll ability that’s particularly handy for dodging vehicles and grenades. It’s not so good for tight-rope walking though.
It’s reassuring to see that Bungie hasn’t woven these changes throughout the entire game – Spartan vs. Covenant modes are definitely in the minority and the bulk of the multiplayer experience is very much fought on a level, human playing field. Modes such as Invasion, where six Spartans have to fend off an equal number of Elites, make a great addition for those who want a quick change of pace, but there’s plenty of content left for those who prefer the classics.