Reviews// Halo: Reach

Posted 13 Sep 2010 18:38 by
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.
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Comments

Jimmer 14 Sep 2010 09:30
1/11
If it's really that good, why am I spending this week's dole money on a scooter for my son's third birthday, rather than buying this?

I am still struggling to purge the memory of the "sphincter" level towards the end of Halol 3. An abomination of game design.
Cfan 14 Sep 2010 10:36
2/11
Bitter.......
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Jimmer 14 Sep 2010 12:41
3/11
Obviously...

Jordanian 14 Sep 2010 18:34
4/11
@Jimmer you could always get a job
Jimmer 15 Sep 2010 09:32
5/11
Jordanian wrote:
@Jimmer you could always get a job


What? And have no time to play games????
Tim Smith 15 Sep 2010 10:34
6/11
Jimmer wrote:
If it's really that good, why am I spending this week's dole money on a scooter for my son's third birthday, rather than buying this?


Still no joy with the job? You should do some game reviewing...

Cheers

Tim - heading down south in October for beer and PES - Smith
Jimmer 15 Sep 2010 10:37
7/11
Tim Smith wrote:
Jimmer wrote:
If it's really that good, why am I spending this week's dole money on a scooter for my son's third birthday, rather than buying this?


Still no joy with the job? You should do some game reviewing...

Cheers

Tim - heading down south in October for beer and PES - Smith


Starting uni full-time in 12 days!

I would have some spare time to review games but the pay is awful and I can earn a lot more doing web design.

Let me know when you are down - would be ace to see you.

Captainpugwash 16 Sep 2010 16:04
8/11
The solo game is as good as it ever was(which is great), but the multiplayer game has an unfair matchmaking system, as it puts you in with extremly good players and not players of your level. they should base their multiplayer stats on you kill/death ratio and head shots instead of where you have ranked up in the game, as this only indicates how much time you have played the game and not how you where during these games. head hunter can be extremely frustrating, in one game I got one skull to 25 skulls for the winner, aaarrrgh.(still love the game)
Matthew O'Donnell 17 Sep 2010 17:42
9/11
@Tim_Smith Long time no see. Hows things going? Never heard back so couldnt even get any feedback which is sad.
Halo:Reach is a good game but nothing id go overboard with. I eventualy got fed up of the pure run and gun gameplay and jumped to sonic adventures :(
Tim Smith 17 Sep 2010 21:08
10/11
Matthew O'Donnell wrote:
@Tim_Smith Long time no see. Hows things going? Never heard back so couldnt even get any feedback which is sad.


Sorry Matthew, I still have your work and half of my feedback on it, which I've not sent back given that it's not 100%. I'm going to plead busy on this one. And I mean it, getting Joypod onboard as well as a great deal of other SPOnG-related work has meant that I've... let's be honest, I've been plain discourteous.

I'll make time next week. I appreciate the time you took.

For everybody else, Matthew has a very, very interesting take on game reviewing, which treats the reader as a gamer and is highly detailed. I hope to bring you some of his work, when I stop bleating about being busy.

Cheers, as ever,

Tim - from home, you really don't want to see that!
Matthew O'Donnell 17 Sep 2010 21:30
11/11
Wow that is stunning news as I thought I did such a disastrous job or email system marked me as spam (curse of iphone emailing). As you can properly tell I have little confidence in my skills even though people tell me to push forward. I have had to be extremely careful with time due to balancing main work and my website development. I have been trying to search for answers but hard to predict if payoff is worth it. Apologies for emails as might seem abit pushy in which I again apologise. Work as been tense and I have been focusing too much energy into projects. I still highly envy your job so glad you are busy. There are worst jobs to be in that is for sure.

*on Topic* I have specifically bypassed Halo: Reach as a review possibility due to the hype and energy used to just market it vastly feeds off the over loyal fan boy/girl base backing it.
In short it is a risky thing to review if you break down the flaws to their core; sadly that is what I do...
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