Game Night, Video Games

Halo Reach: The Final Peak of a Franchise

Yes, I know it’s been over a month since the PC port came out. I was too busy playing it to get around to reviewing it. But after twenty-four hours of play, I’m finally ready to give it a proper shakedown!

Halo: Reach is considered by many to be the greatest Halo game of all time. Sure, it doesn’t have duel-wielding anymore (which is still a fucking sin). But the gameplay is so refined that we all could forgive it! As the last Bungie-made Halo game (and the last good Bungie game, fight me), this game was a solid home run!

Or at the very least a three-baser. Is that a thing? Maybe I shouldn’t make sports analogies…

Plot: Worst. First Day. Ever.

Jesus Christ and I thought Leon Kennedy had it bad!

You play as Noble 6, your own customizable Spartan with a past covered in black ink. On your first mission with your new team, Noble squad, you’re sent to investigate what is thought to be rebel activity in a mountain village on planet Reach. But things quickly take a turn for the worse when 6 and the team discover something even more terrible: the Covenant, a powerful alien race hell-bent on destroying humanity, are on Reach. It’s up to you and the rest of Noble team to stop them and save humanity’s future!

This story is a masterclass in dark storytelling for video games. If you’ve played the first Halo games, then you’ll be well aware of what happens to Reach when you go into this one. Even if you don’t know it, the game makes that reality painfully clear through each mission. Just when you think you’ve finally pushed the Covenant back, they come swinging even harder than before. But even still, your actions never feel pointless. There’s always that feeling that humanity can be saved, even if Reach can’t. The story’s tension is practically ball-busting, especially in the last few missions. Everything around you is on fire, but you’re too damn close to give up!

The pacing is also excellent! Each mission slowly builds up in scale, which makes it super easy to stay engaged in the conflict and to follow along. Some missions are certainly longer than others, but none of them overstay their welcome. The story always has a sense of progression. The buildup to the finale is excellent and the payoff is tragic and satisfying.

Unless you’re playing on Legendary. In this case, the story’s pacing will be more than a little slow. But that’s your fault.

Now, it is worth noting that the characters in this story are all pretty weak. They each have a memorable design, sure, but they offer little in the way of depth or personality. None of them are bad characters, but they are forgettable, which makes each of their respective deaths feel kind of weak. It does help solidify the tone, emphasizing the high likelihood that you won’t survive as you watch your comrades slowly bite it one by one. But I would’ve liked the cast to have a bit more depth.

Maybe they do in one of the books, I dunno. I’ll be fucked to do homework to enjoy a story.

It’s also worth noting that this game has the single strongest final mission in Halo history! After all is said and done and humanity is sent away, you return to your character. They stand alone on the now barren Reach, surrounded by corpses and enemies. Your HUD disappears, leaving only the bare essentials for gameplay. The mission objective: survive.

Guys. I cannot stress enough how much I love this fucking mission! It is the perfect final act for this story! You know you can’t win. Nothing can change that. But if you have to go down, may as well do it with a fight! It’s an incredible piece of interactive storytelling! It is easily my favorite mission in the entire Halo series!

This game has a pretty strong plot. The characters are a bit weak, yes. But if you were expecting a compelling character drama out of Halo, then you’ll be disappointed. It’s not an especially amazing story, but it isn’t a bad one either. It’s the strongest Halo game in terms of narrative.

And that’s before we get to the rest!

Visuals: Original Graphics or Nothing

I refuse to play this game with the ‘enhanced’ graphics. Nothing you can say will convince me to do it.

For a game that came out in 2010, this game still looks pretty good! The environments are all visually striking and distinct, with highly detailed and lively skyboxes and tons of moving parts that make them feel alive, such as NPCs engaged in battle with each other. The character/alien designs are all amazing and memorable, especially all the Covenant Elites and vehicles. There are a few muddy textures here and there, but they’re never poor enough to take you out of the game.

The game also runs at a consistent 60 fps, which is a delight. The only frame drops I ever had were in multiplayer when the connection was rough. But even then, it was short-lived. The game would almost immediately go back to running smoothly.

Do I really need to say the music was great? I feel like I don’t. It’s Halo music. Each piece is absolutely incredible and catchy as hell. But praising Halo for its music is as easy as pulling the trigger.

Speaking of which! Let’s talk about the audio!

Apparently, porting the Halo games to other platforms has proven to be nightmarish due to how Bungie originally constructed everything. So, when 343 decided to port the games to PC, they basically had to build each game from the ground up to make it work! If you ask me, they did a really good job. But there are a few things that slipped through the cracks.

The biggest and most noticeable issue is the audio. The guns just sound wrong. Like someone shoved a tin can around the barrel! It isn’t always that bad, I didn’t even notice most of the time. But when it’s bad? It’s really bad. But they have promised a fix, which will come later down the line.

All in all, the game still looks great! Not amazing, sure, but it holds up! Now, it’s time to talk about the best part!

Gameplay: Same Game, Same Community

I never thought I’d miss Halo trash talk. But I have to admit: I felt a lot of nostalgia when I first heard someone tell me they banged my mom and called me a faggot. Does that say something about me?

The gameplay of Halo is exceptionally simple. You run around and shoot stuff to achieve various objectives; y’know, your typical FPS fare. The game is divided into single-player and multiplayer. The single-player boils down almost entirely to the campaign and its various challenges. Its fun, but it isn’t where the bulk of the gameplay will be found.

The multiplayer, on the other hand? You’ll get a ton of mileage out of that! There are a ton of game modes, each with various rulesets. They are as follows:

  • Get to a certain number of kills before the enemy team does (this includes sniper mode)
  • King of the hill
  • Capture the points (king of the hill with multiple hills)
  • Hold a bomb/skull for a certain period of time
  • Take a bomb to the enemy base (not as fun as it sounds)
  • Capture the flag
  • Zombies except you are the zombies
  • Co-op horde mode

There are probably more that I forgot to mention, but those are the most common game modes. You can specify which you would prefer before leaping into a match and you’ll more than likely find one pretty quickly. As of me writing this review, there are still a fair number of players in PC Reach.

Although a good number of them are more than willing to point out, in very creative ways, just how much you suck.

Unfortunately, not all game modes are created equal. Griffball, for example, is a super underwhelming and tedious mode that boils down to ‘swing a gravity hammer around like a madman until someone finally wins the game’. It’s good for racking up points towards unlocking stuff, sure, but it isn’t fun! Any of the modes that have you holding an item to gain points can be cheated super easily on certain maps, so long as you and your team hunker down in one spot and keep the enemy away until you win. Again; it’s just not an enjoyable experience!

Certain game modes are also much quicker than others. For example, a four-player match of capture-the-flag will go by pretty quickly, whereas an eight-player game of capture-the-flag will often last for way too long, usually going into overtime unless one team is really bad at the game. Whether this will ruin your fun or enhance it is up to you. But personally, I can’t handle more than one overly-long match for extensive periods of play.

Nor can I stand the various vehicles. Some of them are pretty easy to deal with. But when you’ve got that one asshole sitting in the tank and he just so happens to be the only asshole in the match that knows how to make good use of it on that particular map? The fun quickly dies.

They’re fun to drive around in, sure. And it’s incredibly satisfying to get a massive killstreak in one! But when you’re on the receiving end? Hoo boy, get ready to rage!

Still, despite my not-at-all salt-induced criticisms, I can’t deny that this game is a ton of fun to play! The gunplay is excellent; each weapon is distinct and most of them are fun to use (fuck you, plasma pistol)! Most of the maps are super well designed and fun to play on (even if others make me want to die in real life). This game is still a total joy!

Even if I still suck at it. Like, a lot.

Conclusion

Halo has always been a big franchise in my childhood. I grew up playing Halo 1 and 2 (much to my poor mother’s chagrin) and I adored Halo 3 and ODST in my teenage years. But even with all that nostalgia, none of the Halo games are as close to my heart as Reach is. It is easily my favorite Halo game and my favorite first-person shooter of all time!

If you haven’t done it yet, I’d recommend playing Halo: Reach. Go boot up a copy on your old 360 or pick it up on PC! The game is a fuckton of fun, even a decade later! It was the peak of the Halo franchise and the peak of the FPS genre!

And no. I don’t think Halo: Infinite will prove me wrong. But I’d sure like it to do so.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s