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Halo: Reach on X-box 360

On September 14th, 2010, the much anticipated Halo: Reach was released to an eager crowd. Breaking 200 million dollars in sales on the first day, Halo: Reach set numerous records for the video game franchise… and for very good reasons. Halo: Reach is the final installment of the Halo series that will be produced by Bungie, giving the producers extra incentive to make it as perfect as possible. And that they did, every part of the game is detailed and refined, and the storyline is as immersing as it is enjoyable. As Bungie’s swansong to the Halo franchise, they sent the series out, to quote the much beloved Sergeant Johnson, “with a bang.”

The Best:

Multiplayer: What would a Halo game be without multiplayer? The studio that brought you the award winning multiplayers of Halo 1, 2, and 3 again delivers an immensely satisfying online experience. While remaining true to the gametypes such as Slayer (basically a deathmatch) that made Halo famous, they have also included a huge variety of gametypes such as Infection (humans vs. zombies), Stockpile (two teams fight to collect flags), and Race (completing laps around a track), all of which could be played for hours without so much as a hint of boredom.

Campaign: The producers at Bungie have outdone themselves with this one, and to be honest it makes the storylines of past games look like they were written by ten year olds. The storyline is immersing, and the inclusion of little things like wildlife and civilian interaction made the story seem that much more real. The graphics themselves are absolutely incredible. As you progress through a level, you never see a repetition in the landscape. Even better, not a single level repeats elements of a previous one. The game takes you from pine forests, to a snowy mountain range to deep within a Covenant starship. Players who cringe to remember the level “Cortana” from Halo 3 can particularly enjoy this aspect of the game. The fact that the same landscapes are not repeated over and over allows you to truly feel like you're defending a planet under siege instead of a bunch of pixels on a screen.

Audio: It appears that the audio of this game has undergone a complete overhaul since Halo 3. Every sound in the game has been changed, all for the better. Weapons fire now sounds deeper and more powerful, and character dialogue just seems a bit more clear. Explosions are of particular note, a nearby detonation will cause a “ringing,” while other sounds will be muffled for a short time afterwards. All in all, the audio component of Halo: Reach sounds more like a multi-million dollar Hollywood film than a video game.

Characters: Each member of your squad is a fully developed character, unlike past Halo titles where you were allied with a bunch of unnamed marines. Each has a special personality, skill, and appearance which make them easily recognizable at a glance. In order to integrate you more with the characters, this game also contains a major departure from the traditional Halo formula. Instead of being the almighty “lone wolf” of Spartan-117 or the Rookie, you are now the 6th member of Noble Team. As such, you are with at least one of these soldiers in nearly every single level of the campaign. This is a welcome change in the Halo formula, and heightens the sense of a united military in desperate defense humanities last stronghold.

Enemy AI: Bungie made the enemy AI in this game highly intelligent. There were many points in this game where I would hear an elite major (a type of enemy officer) warble something, point in my direction, and I would suddenly have an elite and his entire squad of soldiers all throwing grenades in my direction. There were also times that a squad of enemies would force me to take cover, then one group would keep me pinned down while the rest would break off and flank me. Enemies consciously use cover, dodge weapons fire and grenades, and act as an organized squad. Each playthrough is different, as the game is programmed to have a dynamic AI. This makes for an interesting and refreshing gameplay experience, where one must tactically advance through a level instead of bashing through it with your all powerful machine gun.

Special Praise-Game Immersion: Of all the amazing things I could say about Halo: Reach, I would say the best is how well the game integrates you into it. First off, the game allows you to choose if you want your character to be male or female, which will change your characters dialogue for the rest of the game. What I liked the most, however, was the fact that your armor is completely customizable. The amount of armor permutations Bungie has included in this game is astounding, and unlike in Halo 3, changes in your armor not only affect your multiplayer character, but the campaign character of Noble Six as well. I went through half the game thinking that my multiplayer character looked oddly like Noble Six, without realizing that my character literally was Noble Six. This customization personalizes the experience, integrating you into the story. This, along with all of the above, makes you feel like you are part of the mission, placing you into the boots of a soldier on the planet Reach. Ultimately, this makes the final scene in the game have that much more power. I will not spoil this shocking ending, but I will say that it carries more emotion than any video game level I have yet played, and powerfully brings the Halo series to a full circle.

What needs improvement:

Allied AI: The biggest drawback this game faces is its allied AI. You would think that a squad of humanities most elite soldiers, all selected because of their intelligence, cunning, and physical prowess would have at least a lick of common sense. This is not the case. There was a point in the game where, after single handedly decimating a platoon of covenant, I looked back and observed my fellow Spartan standing idly by while an elite zealot cut him to pieces with an energy sword. Their driving is especially horrible, riding with one makes you feel like an instructor with A+ driving. While your ally figures out the intricate workings of the stick shift, the dullest enemy grunts drive circles around them in their anti-gravity ghosts.

Frame rate: Occasionally, the intense action on the screen will cause the frame rate on screen to slow down drastically. While this does not happen much on my console, it happens with a much higher frequency on my friends’. While this is not a huge problem, the minor glitches and deaths that result from it can be frustrating at times.

Difficulty Bursts: There are seemingly random moments during the campaign where the difficulty will suddenly jump one or two levels. Two I particularly hated were the Triple Zealot Room in “Winter Contingency” and the Tank and Sniper covered Brute Platoon in “The Pillar of Autumn.” However, while these moments are absolutely maddening to pass, the game is overall quite balanced.

The Bottom Line: All of this combined, I give Halo: Reach a perfect score of 10/10, a score I do not hand out lightly. Halo: Reach is a game I can see myself playing for quite some time. The level diversity and dynamic enemy AI gives its campaign a great deal of replay value, and its multiplayer is simply unbeatable. The minor flaws of frame rate and difficulty jumps are just that, minor. This game is a triumph of more than a decades worth of hard-earned success, and is a fitting end to the Halo legacy.



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