The Halo: Reach single-player review for people who haven't already made their minds up. Actually it's the Halo: Reach review for people who've never even played Halo. You read that right. I've made the decision to hand-over the multi-player review, which will come later this week after our reviewer has had the chance to under-go the heat of battle with other real-life users, while I review the single-player.
Why? Simple really, I've got no Halo
baggage. So this enables me to play this as a video game rather than the monolithic icon that it obviously is in the world of gaming. It really doesn't matter to me that Bungie may have gone all George Lucas and produced a prequel that is not only awful but that makes those entertainments that chronologically preceded it seems somehow worse.
From the start, I've got to say that my comparison is Modern Warfare 2
. Two major FPSs set in very different worlds in totally different styles, I admit, but nevertheless, two major FPSs.
So, new kids: Halo: Reach
the game is set before the events of Halo: Combat Evolved
, the initial 2001 release that kicked off the series. Reach is the name of a planet. But not just any planet. This planet is the last great hope of humanity in its war against the terrifyingly evil, mixed-species, religiously mental 'The Covenant'.
Where I was able to polish off the single-player campaign in Modern Warfare 2
in the short period of time available between receiving a review copy and getting it live on SPOnG, and the get some sleep... and eat, Halo: Reach's
campaign presented far more of a challenge.
One of the reasons for this is that there is almost zero recognisable tutoring. This is an exceptionally good thing. Following the highly impressive opening sequences, well, basically it's meet the team and get on with it. Although, the reality is that while a newcomer like me feels as if it's a ?get on with it?, you are in fact lead gently into the defence of planet Reach from the quite definitely evilly inclined Covenant.
You know that The Covenant is not merely the bad set of species in this saga, you know this because they torture folks. As we're all aware, only evil-doers torture folks. You don't see them torturing, you see the aftermath. What struck me when I stumbled on that very early post-torture scene was how much more effective it is in highlighting the fact that you're fighting against evil than, say, having a scene in which you walk through an airport slaughtering civilians.
Despite Halo: Reach's
utterly fantastical ? and beautifully rendered ? environment the people over at Bungie managed a very real piece of plotting, very early on. Evil-doers simply do not walk through airports slaughtering innocents unless they're on suicide missions. Watching the finesse in this post-torture scene immediately made me more inclined to approach Halo: Reach
as a game of rather more elegance than your average FPS.
The Convenant also have a 'Zealot' class of warriors with which to drive their vile and immoral religious views ? which includes wiping out the ungodliness that is humanity. Yup, we've got ourselves an actual real-world analogy hiding beneath the armour, helmets and general gung-honess of the initial Starship Troopers
There is no Starship Troopers
-like, ?We humans are the monsters! We're the invaders!? nonsense in the Halo
though. This is a war of good against evil. Thankfully, I've got Halo 2
to look forward to, in which I get to play as 'a Covenant'.
Back to matters in hand, though. You play the character, or rather the cipher, of the sixth member of the six-person, hardcore attack force: Noble Team of the United Nations Space Command (UNSC). Unsurprisingly, you're called Nobel Six. Your colleagues have names. You don't. I like it. The whole ?Pick a name, you'll feel more 'into' the game' schtick from games like Fallout 3
leaves me cold given that your name is never used again. It's a small detail, but it does enable you to dive straight into things.
Okay, so you can pick your gender (Noble Team is equal ops when it comes to gender... in fact the female team member is as scarred of face, hardcore and whip-smart as the rest of the guys).
You can also tart-up your look slightly before starting the plot. There is a damned sight more of that later when visiting 'the Armoury' (Armory actually) enables you to pick up new gear.
Being the head-strong sort, who got the review copy with hardly time to think, however, I simply ploughed straight in. The team doesn't really conjure anything too complicated in terms of rich and original story-telling. Commander Carter-259 (hard but fair). Chief Warrant Officer Jorge-052 (a little bit political but basically a good guy). Lieutenant Commander Katherine 'Kat'-320 (hard, brilliantly clever but fair). Warrant Officer Grenadier- Emile 239 (aggressive, but fair). Warrant Officer-Jun 266 (the sniper.. you get the idea).
Although there is absolutely reams and reams of background story and mythology supporting Halo: Reach
, which I'm sure I'll get around to, taking lessons on lore is not what I look to in a video game.