Notes before I begin
All images are taken from actual in-game footage of myself playing, using Reach's File Share and Theatre Mode.
Any TL;DR posts will result in the poster being hunted down by me with a spoon, talcum powder and many cacti.
Thanks to JulianKing for the proof read, as well as everyone who offered to proof read for me.
I know, I'm about a year and a bit late to reviewing this game but I didn't pick this game to review. Blame the wonders of social networking for that. I did give my followers on Twitter the choice of Modern Warfare 3, Gears of War 3 and Hitman: Blood Money, amongst many others but they insisted on Halo: Reach for this month's review. Admittedly, yes, this might be being read in 2012, not December 2011 as planned but that's because I am first and foremost a sloth. Also, blame the fact that I can pick up four games for £10, now meaning my time has been absorbed by cheap new games. Anyway, time to start rambling about Halo: Reach, a futuristic FPS from Bungie, which is why you clicked on this review. Or at least I hope that's why.
Halo: Reach is set in the year 2552 on the planet Reach, just before the events of Halo: Combat Evolved unfold. You play the role of Nobel Six, a partly voiceless protagonist who joins Nobel Team to take the place of an unnamed former Noble Team member, whose death we're not told about in extensive detail, and you join up with the rest of Noble to check out a communications relay. As you explore the apparent rebel threat, you soon realise this is a much bigger problem than simple renegades. This is where things pretty much begin to unravel, descend into hell and never really come back up from the sixth circle of hell, to put it vaguely and not ruin the proper story for those of you who have not yet played it. Now, if you're a Halo fan, you'll already know what happens to Reach before the game has even started as it's brought up a few times in Halo's 1 through to ODST, if I'm remembering correctly. Plus the first cut-scene pretty much spells it out to you. Despite this obvious spoiler, Halo: Reach still has a pretty good delivery for a story that comes from the FPS genre. No, it's not going to win awards and yes, some key plot points feel shoe-horned in for emotional value and pure shock value especially towards the end of the game, but I feel that the story in Halo: Reach does well to document the story of Noble Team and the plight that soon befalls Reach and its inhabitants. It highlights the desperate struggle of the UNSC as they're caught off-guard and try as hard as they might to protect the planet from the danger that is revealed to the player.
To address the core campaign mode's gameplay, we have the normal Halo shooting mechanics which haven't really changed all that much in my eyes. Although whoever changed the location of the melee button deserves a punch in the face, but that's personal preference and it can be easily changed, thanks to the many controller schemes Halo: Reach provides the player. A new addition to the gameplay however, is armour effects. These are activated using LB in the default control scheme and while there are too many to list here, the most used ones I see are Jet-Pack, which is pretty obvious, Armour Lock, which makes your character a solid rock that cannot move for about 10 to 15 seconds and Hologram, which allows you to send out a mirror image of yourself for me to shoot at like a numpty. They are a bit like the equipment from Halo 3 but these are reusable after a small cool-down session. Another small addition is the inclusion of assassination animations. You simply hold down your melee button and you'll get these animations, which are picked depending on the situation you and your enemy are in.
Now, whilst the assassinations are fun, you better be careful where you use them as you can't stop them and they do leave you very vulnerable from every angle you can think of, from both your team-mates, who can "yoink" the kill, and the enemy team can also "show-stop" the kill, which normally means you've just been shot in the face or spine by a sneakier enemy. It really feels like it has been added in as a humiliation tactic for online play, although the risk does certainly make the reward worth it. Getting close enough to an enemy to pull these off is pretty much a testament to your skill and also your luck. It's also a sure fire way to make the guy you did It to online pretty much spend the rest of the game hunting you down and trying to give you a taste of your own medicine. Overall though, I'd say the gameplay in Halo: Reach is pretty solid. It's functional, it's smooth as silk and once you've gotten used to how it handles, no matter how long you're away from the game, the moment you go back to it, it'll all come back to you. It's like riding a bike; you never forget how to do so.
To further add some life into Halo: Reach, we have the wonders of the multiplayer, which is divided into three sections. We have your traditional Matchmaking with pre-set playlists, Custom Games that allow personal tweaks to the settings of the game to suit your tastes and the awesome Firefight mode. Firefight Mode is basically the following; enemies attack you in waves, with some modifiers being thrown in to mix things up, like the removal of the HUD or enemies that spam grenades at your feet. By yourself, this is good fun and a great way to kill twenty minutes or so. However, get online with a partner and the twenty minutes soon vanish and turn into a good few hours. It's a challenging yet fun game mode, promoting teamwork so you don't get over-run and scattered by the ever growing Covenant horde. And with certain modifications to the pre-game settings, specific enemy types can be fought in specific waves. For instance, if you prefer a breeze, you can set it up to spawn just Grunts, which are the cannon fodder enemy of Halo. Or, if you're want your privates hammered back into your body, you can set it to spawn just Hunters, which are bullet sponges that can also pack one hell of a punch. Firefight can be as easy or challenging as you wish to make it, which adds to the appeal of Halo: Reach.
As for the Custom Games option, the amount of stuff you can do here is incredible. Fancy making a game that allows you to spawn with no shields and pistols only? You can do that here. Fancy a quick competitive drive around a map, racing each other to checkpoints? You can do that as well. I could go on and on about how many things you could do in custom games but I'd be here for a good page or two more. The sheer flexibility in Reach's custom games is staggering, allowing for many game type variations for you and your friends to play through offline, system link and private online matches. Add to the mix custom created maps in Forge Mode, which I'll cover more in a little bit, and you pretty much have a game that allows you to create your own game. It's a wonderful addition and it allows for the creativity of the Halo community to come out. For better and for worse, I might add. Some content the community makes is, for lack of a better word, questionable. Furry yuri porn is something I don't want to know about but yet, I somehow do.
The aforementioned Forge Mode allows a great deal of customisation as well. What Forge Mode is meant to be used for is creating your own custom maps, both using the pre-made maps and adding stuff like guns, spawns, objective points and general scenery to them, making them different form the maps that you start with. Or, you could go to Forge World, which is a huge blank canvas which gives you free reign to create whatever map you please. Or, if you so desire, a huge statue, a questionable picture of a naked girl, an obstacle course map where you have to get to the end without dying and much, much more. Forge Mode is pretty much another way for the Halo community to let their hair down and their minds run rampant with ideas. I've seen racer maps, maps that make use of the games psychics and maps that accurately recreate the mansion from Resident Evil.
Now, I've left the Matchmaking because it is going to be the shortest part of this review as there isn't really much to say about it. You have a few playlists to choose from, which include basic Slayer with many variants on that, such as sniper rifles only or Slayer Pro, which takes away your motion detector, to game-types like Hockey, which as the name suggests, puts players four on four in a giant Halo Hockey rink. There's enough variation in the available game-types in Matchmaking to keep you coming back for more, despite how troublesome games can be to play. The only real problems I can bring up with Halo: Reach and its online multiplayer are mostly player related, such as rage-quitters screwing over balanced teams or one guy betraying his own team mates to grab the power weapons, like the sniper rifle and rocket launcher. Another issue is the ungodly amount of time it sometimes takes to find a game. Normally it takes about 30 seconds to find a game and put you in to a lobby, other times it takes 3 minutes, which is frustrating if you've put Halo: Reach in your 360 for a quick spin.
One thing that can be very problematic however, is the Noble Team's AI. The enemy AI is perfectly fine. They flank you, keep you pinned down and on the harder difficulties, punish you for even the smallest of mistakes. However, at times, Noble Team's AI is appalling. AI drivers will drive into walls, over cliffs, into friendlies. When on foot, some of the AI get caught on things so they are running on the spot and, on the rare occasion, decide to shoot at the enemy you were behind, which kills the enemy and also you. They are reliable though, they will help you take down enemies and at least pull some of the fire away from yourself, but this stops becoming noticeable after a few hours of play as that's what they are programmed to do. The issues don't happen too much, but they do happen more than they should do.
There is also the odd bug now and then too. While these are nothing major and actually at times quite funny, I've had a couple of experiences in my 100 plus hours play online where I'm driving along in a vehicle and then, out of nowhere, that vehicle decides to launch itself at light speed into the nearest rock, killing the player in the process. Weirdly, this seems to be a problem related to online play only, as I've yet to experience this bug in the campaign, nor in offline Firefight or Custom Games. There is also a bug where, upon being melee'd to death, you teleport back to your teams spawn point. Again, not a game breaker and it's more of an amusing bug than anything but it's a little weird as to why it happens. Still, I guess a few small bugs can be allowed in an otherwise perfectly programmed game.
So, would I recommend Halo: Reach to you? Well, if you're a Halo fan, you've already bought this, played the campaign to death and played the multi-player to death so it doesn't matter. However, to outsiders who have never really touched a Halo game, this would be a good game to start your Halo adventure with, seeing as it's technically the start of the trilogy as it sets up the events of Halo: CE all the way to Halo 3. And for anyone else, I'd recommend it as it has something for everyone to enjoy. And seeing as it's pretty cheap right now and still active online with a few game types for everyone to play, there's plenty to choose from and hopefully enjoy. Halo: Reach is a great FPS and worth a place in your games collection. It isn't ground breaking, but it is fun and has a lot of things that help keep it fresh, something most other FPS's don't have nowadays.
Sassafrass is adrenaline filled like a kid named Ritalin, gotta get away from this bullshit middleman, pushed to the max, no time to relax, cuz if we ain't swift, we're facing the axe, but I ain't tryin' to her it, float like a spirit, finish line comin', I feel us getting' near it, can't stop now, yo, we almost there, unaware of what awaits us in the air.