Ryan’s Halo:Reach Review

Posted: September 24, 2010 by ryanlecocq in Reviews

The hammer is my penis.

I should start by saying I have never been a huge shooter fan.  Yes I stayed up late playing Halo when it first came out, but I didn’t buy an Xbox just to play it.  When I hear the choir singing the Halo theme at the title screen of a Halo game I don’t get even the slightest little flutter in my stomach.  So when each successive game after the first Halo featured increasingly short and boring campaigns, I didn’t really feel a sense of betrayal.  I just thought of Bungie as another developer that blew their load early and then rode the coattails of their own success.  I didn’t expect much from Reach.  I expected it to follow the trend of a shorter campaign than the last and considering ODST only took about 3 hours to finish, I was expecting Reach to feature a 2 hour campaign and the same repetitive multiplayer that mouth-breathers have been raging about for a decade.  So I am very pleasantly surprised to report that Halo:Reach is a fantastic game that stands beside any PC shooter in quality, visuals and multiplayer features and the campaign is 8-9 hours long.  Above all that, this game is FUN.  I found myself staying up til the wee hours not just to play, but to watch and edit videos of gameplay and finish challenges at the 11th hour before the day is up.  Halo:Reach brings back that old feeling of sitting around with your buddies laughing, screaming and cheering until the sun comes up.

Touching on the excellent campaign, I would like to start by saying that Bungie has completely redeemed themselves for the dialed in plots of the recent Halo games.  They made the right decision in dialing back the dramatic choir music and the ridiculous feats of valor performed by the Master Chief and replacing it with a gritty narrative of a doomed squad of Spartans.  Don’t get me wrong, you are still a superhuman badass, the game just doesn’t pander to you by playing a dramatic bar of music every time you let slip a fart.  Whereas the Master Chief can single-handedly turn the tide of battle with his sheer awesomeness, I love the feel that in this fight, you are doing your superhuman best, more than could be expected of any mortal and it still isn’t enough. I know every other review has mentioned how convincing the sense of gallant hopelessness is in the campaign, but just to reiterate, it feel just right for the last game in the series.  Return cameos from Nathan Fillion, Michelle Rodriguez and the rest of the phenomenal Halo voice cast combined with the best Halo soundtrack yet (yes, including Halo:Combat Evolved) really drives this finale home with a grand slam.

The presentation is excellent, even when compared with cutting edge PC shooters.  Even though the Xbox 360 is starting to lack features that newer PC graphics cards have, Bungie has combined maximizing the ability of the hardware with keen visual design that makes up the difference in shine.  Distance draw is respectable, anti-aliasing is low but good enough for smooth picture on a TV and the textures are very well engineered.  Bungie has finally mastered in this console generation the perfect balance of performance they attained out the gate on the original Xbox.  The graphics and game engine have the perfect combination of shine, functionality and smooth performance that truly an impressive game makes.  The sound quality and foley work are unmatched as per Bungie standard.  This game has a sound effect for every conceivable situation or physics interaction.  In digital surround sound you can generally tell exactly what is happening in your periphery just from the accurate sound reproduction and depth.

The multiplayer does not disappoint (well only on one small thing).  Every imaginable mode is included and if it isn’t, you can create it.  There are different playlists for almost everything (SWAT is coming) so you don’t have to argue about game type, everyone is there for the same thing.  The new levels and remade levels alike are focused and well balanced.  For the most part, the gun balance is the best compromise of the series.  I would gripe a little that if you’re going to bring back fan favorites like the Halo 1 pistol and plasma pistol, why make them handle the same but keep the damage nerfed like later games?  Overall though the balance is back, like it should be, like Halo:CE.  No more overpowered needlers and the n00b combo has reached a pretty reasonable balance of ease and speed vs. vulnerability.  My one gripe here is WHERE THE FLYING F%@K IS MULTIPLAYER DOGFIGHTING?  Were we all crazy to assume that since you do it in the campaign it would be a no-brainer for multiplayer?  I realize it would be mostly a novelty and get a lot less play that Invasion or Big Team Battle, but the omission is glaring and obvious.  If it’s in the campaign it should be in the multiplayer.  That’s always been Bungie’s standard, so kind of a disappointing surprise.

In conclusion I would say that Halo:Reach is the rare example of a nearly perfect game.  Not because it excels in every area, that’s impossible.  Because they knew exactly how much to polish every individual part to make a whole that is not lacking in anything and often goes well above the bar.  That’s how you make a perfect game in the real world (take note Lionhead).  Most reviewers seem to start with a perfect score and then dock points based on perceived flaws, or they get paid to give games 10s even though the review text cites obvious flaws (here’s looking at you Game Informer).  In that case I would have to give the game a less than perfect score for the omission of space dogfighting in multiplayer.  But I think it makes more sense to compare a game to it’s competition and the general state of the industry.  When considered across the board for fun and value, Halo:Reach is far superior to all competition and that makes it a perfect game for your budget and expectations.


  1. lagunawsu2 says:

    Halo was in its original concept a sandbox game. Its funny that now, in the end, they’ve actually created one of the greatest FPS gaming experiences.

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