Halo Reach Impressions

Halo Reach is out and I like it.  It's a pretty sweet game.  I don't think it's the be-all end-all of first person shooters like a lot of reviews have made it out to be, but I certainly can't bash Bungie for the level of polish they put into their games.  Overall, Reach is Halo refined, with a few new features thrown in for good measure.  It doesn't revolutionize the Halo series but I can say for sure that if you liked any of the previous entries in the Halo series you will like Halo Reach.

The first thing I noticed when I started the campaign is that I got to play as my own Spartan.  Since the main character doesn't have to be Master Chief the player is free to create their very own Noble 6.  The armory options lead to a lot of personal touches on your Spartan.  I felt that I was more connected to my character as I played through the game simply because he was mine and not some pre-determined entity.  Many of the cutscenes play out through the eyes of your character as well.  This is just another aspect that actually makes you feel connected to your Spartan instead of feeling like an outside audience.

The armory unlocks that let you customize your Spartan and armory points carry across all game types too. This is an understated feature but would have been sorely missed if it wasn't present.  I would have been pissed if I had to start from scratch when I booted up the multiplayer component of the game, but Bungie planned well and let all the modes play well with one another.  Even playing in Forge mode adds points towards unlocks.

My favorite improvements in Reach are the changes in the enemies.  AI is vastly improved which is really fun if you're looking for a challenge in Heroic or Legendary mode.  There are more enemy types than in previous Halo games and each enemy type has multiple skins and colorings that help add to the variety.  Elites feel like bad asses once again and Brutes take a back seat, especially compared to their prominence in Halo 3. Expect to feel fear when a handful of Elites charge you.

There were a few interesting additions to Reach that haven't been in previous Halo games.  Armor abilities, space combat and assassinations are the new features that stick out in my mind.  Armor abilities work like equipment did in Halo 3 except they aren't single use, instead they recharge and can be used over and over again.  Space combat is more of a gimmick than a feature.  There's a mission in the campaign where you get to fly a prototype space vehicle while defending a space station in orbit.  It provides a nice distraction from the main campaign, but it reminded me more of Star Fox than Halo.  Assassinations happen when you melee an enemy from behind and hold down the melee button.  They have sweet animations and are earn you some bragging rights if you can pull them off in multiplayer.

The multiplayer in Halo Reach hasn't noticeably changed from the beta so I won't spend much time on it, except to say that if you loved Halo 3 multiplayer you'll love Halo Reach multiplayer, if you hated Halo 3 multiplayer then you'll hate Reach multiplayer.  Two new modes to join the matchmaking roster are Invasion and Firefight.  Both are fun, but neither is a huge departure from what's been done in the past.  Check out my beta impressions if you want to read more on the matchmaking.

Would I recommend this game?  Well, that depends.  If you're a fan of the Halo franchise and have all the other games then you should go ahead and buy Reach.  You'll be happy with it.  If you're burned out on Halo or never really liked it in the first place then I would highly suggest renting Reach before making a purchase.  It doesn't necessarily do enough new things to warrant spending $60.  But compared to the rest of the first person shooter market Halo Reach stands high above the majority of games out there.


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