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Halo: Reach was Bungie’s final Halo game before the franchise was handed over to 343 Industries for good. The story is actually set during the events of The Fall of Reach which was a novel released in October, 2001. It’s a prequel to Halo: Combat Evolved and leads directly into that game. I remember when this came out. Jeremy and I had pre-order the Legendary Edition and went to the midnight launch to pick up our copies. By the time this game released, I had played every preceding Halo game, minus Halo Wars, and I was ready and excited to take on Covenant forces once more. Developed by Bungie and published by Microsoft Game Studios, Halo: Reach was released in September, 2010 for Xbox 360. This entry was not included in The Master Chief Collection but thanks to backwards compatibility, Jeremy and I played through the game cooperatively on a standard Xbox One and I played through the game solo on an Xbox One X. Halo: Reach retains the same Halo gameplay as previous games yet manages to feel a bit different thanks to a redesigned game engine.
I think Halo 4 and 5 were criticized because their storylines were better understood if you had knowledge of the Halo extended universe. I would say Halo: Reach follows this mold as well, although, not to the same extent. It’s easy to understand what’s going on here but if you read The Fall of Reach, you’ll obviously have a good understanding of the events preceding the campaign. I’ll be honest, I’m not really a book person, so I never read The Fall of Reach but because I enjoy Halo Lore, I did read through a large portion of the Halo Mythos guidebook which covers the events preceding Reach’s story, among other things. Most of the campaign is set on the planet Reach, itself, which is a human colony world housing the UNSC’s largest naval base and strategic headquarters. The story is set during the Human-Covenant war and follows Noble Team, a UNSC special operations unit composed of Spartans. You play the role of Noble Six, the newest addition to the team. The Covenant discovered the location of Reach and proceeded to invade the planet in search of a Forerunner artifact. Noble Team is dispatched on several missions throughout the campaign to combat the invading Covenant forces and it’s made clear that the humans are on the losing side of the war. During the campaign, you meet Catherine Halsey, a scientist and creator of the Spartan program. She is a mother figure to the Spartans and more importantly, she created the AI Cortana in her image which proved to be an extremely valuable resource for the UNSC. Yes, this is the same Cortana who would go on to aid Master Chief. Anybody who has read The Fall of Reach or knows what happens in the story should know that the story here isn’t exactly a happy tale. It’s a sad, even tragic story. The voice acting isn’t too bad, although I can’t say any of the performances are particularly memorable. What I like most about the story is that it’s set during the Human-Covenant war and the war, itself, is a big focus here. There’s no Covenant politics on display nor is there any Flood to worry about. It’s a tale of how the UNSC tries to fend off a massive Covenant invasion and how Noble Team’s actions turned the tide of the war and set in motion the events that would earn humanity victory over the Covenant. And it’s balls-to-the-wall action from beginning to end.
There’s four difficulty modes – Easy, Normal, Heroic, and Legendary – and both playthroughs were completed on Legendary. The Legendary difficulty is no joke here and I would say this is easily the most challenging game in the series, or at least out of all the Bungie Halo titles. However, it does border on frustration but playing cooperatively with a buddy does alleviate the challenge quite a bit. The difficulty really spikes during several sequences and there’s many areas where the Covenant can easily have you pinned, making it seem almost impossible to survive. When playing cooperatively, if one player dies, they will respawn when the other player enters a safe area. And you can use this to your advantage like dying on purpose whether it be to spawn back in with preferred weapons and ammo, to sacrifice yourself to kill a tough enemy, or to just scout ahead to see where shots are coming from, and you won’t have to worry about restarting from a checkpoint. As long as one player stays alive you can be as reckless as you want, enabling you to push through some of the more challenging areas a lot quicker and easier, possibly alleviating the frustration normally experienced when playing solo. The enemy AI is once again phenomenal and knowing what weapons to use and when is crucial for survival. There are several areas where you are up against an overwhelming number of Elites or Brutes and these segments can be insanely hard, to the point you feel as if your back is against the wall and you have nowhere to go. Enemies can easily drop you in a matter of seconds, and by seconds I mean just in the time it takes to switch weapons or reload. If the enemies spot you, a barrage of projectiles will usually be aimed right at your face so you really need to be careful. There’s a lot of times where I would break the shield of an enemy and die because instead of firing the fatal headshot, I had to reload, just leaving me exposed for a few seconds which is all the time enemies need to kill you. You really need to be aware of your surroundings, ammunition, and watch out for enemies flanking your position. Some of these encounters really border on unfair because plasma, explosive blasts, and grenades will be zipping past you from almost every direction and because enemies have what feels like pinpoint accuracy. It can be a challenge just trying to move from cover to cover. I ended up in several positions where I felt as if I was helpless because the moment I would pop out from cover, I was assaulted by attacks and couldn’t even move two feet. If you’re out in the open too long, you’re almost guaranteed to die and if you’re in a small room with four or five Elites or Brutes, I can guarantee you that success will require a lot of trial-and-error. The Elites and Brutes jump around, can easily dodge your weapons fire and grenades, and some of the higher ranking types can even withstand being stuck by plasma grenades. Every encounter will feel fast-paced and intense with bullets, plasma shots, and explosions surrounding you. The Legendary difficulty does not fuck around. If you’re a masochist, you can make things even harder by activating skulls. As opposed to Halo 3 where you must find skulls throughout the environments to unlock them, skulls are already unlocked from the get-go here and can be activated from the main menu. Gold skulls make the game harder like increasing enemy health, less ammo from dropped weapons, enemies throw more grenades, and stuff like that. The silver skulls change other aspects like rare dialogue heard more often and an explosion of confetti around the head of any Grunt killed with a headshot, among other things. The campaign scoring system also makes a return where you can play through the campaign and try for a high score. Each kill rewards you with points, killing tougher enemy types rewards you with more points, and unique kills and kill streaks reward you with bonus points and medals. The difficulty and skulls determine the multiplier so the more challenging you make things, the more points you can earn.
In Halo: Reach you play as a Spartan that you can actually customize. You decide the gender and armor color and you can also change your Spartan’s appearance by equipping different armor permutations which are all cosmetic. You can change your Spartan’s helmet, chest, shoulder, wrist, and knee guard pieces, among other things, and you can even choose what type of voice you want for the Firefight mode. You can buy all of the different armor permutations from the Armory which is accessed from the main menu and to purchase the items you must spend credits. Credits are earned by playing through the campaign, Firefight, or multiplayer, and by completing challenges and earning commendations. Credits also determine your rank. Challenges are objectives you must complete like killing a specific amount of enemies for example. There was weekly and daily challenges and players could create their own challenges through the Halo Waypoint app. Commendations are similar to achievements and are awarded for performing certain feats throughout the campaign. Some permutations require you to meet certain conditions before you can purchase them and some are just really expensive so it can feel like a grind if you want to buy everything. But it’s actually not that bad considering you can earn credits across each game mode and acquiring all of the armor permutations does give you some incentive to replay through the campaign. Specific armor permutations are locked behind achievements earned in the original Halo 3 and ODST and others are unlocked by meeting the requirements detailed in the Halo Waypoint app. Unfortunately, I don’t think you can unlock some of these armor permutations anymore due to changes made to the app over time.
Now just like Master Chief, these Spartans can walk, run, jump, crouch, perform a melee attack, man turrets and detach them from their emplacements, hijack vehicles, and sabotage Wraiths to destroy them. For some reason, these Spartans cannot dual wield weapons. You have a motion tracker on your HUD to easily identify allies and foes and instead of a flashlight, your Spartan is equipped with night vision that can be toggled on and off at any time. With night vision active, everything is highlighted in green, making it easy to see in dark areas. Your Spartan is also equipped with a shield which drains when you’re attacked and when fully drained, you’ll start to lose health represented by health bars on your HUD. Once you lose all of your health, you die. It’s similar to how it worked in the original Halo, however, the difference here is your health has limited regeneration. If you stay out of harm’s way long enough, your shield recharges and then your health will regenerate up to a certain point. You can restore your health fully by acquiring health kits scattered throughout the environments. Equipment items are absent but Reach does introduce Armor Abilities. You can only equip one ability at a time and they can be swapped out with others found throughout the environments. Once activated, they remain active for a brief time before they need to recharge. Each ability provides a benefit and many of them also have a small downside so it’s kind of like a risk versus reward system in some ways. Armor Lockup locks you in place, making you invincible, and it unleashes an EMP blast, pushing nearby enemies away upon deactivation. The Drop Shield is similar to the Bubble Shield from Halo 3 in that it’s a spherical shield that protects you from incoming attacks but projectiles will not leave from within the shield. But when you are within the shield, your health will regenerate making this a very useful ability. The Hologram produces and identical holographic copy of your Spartan that marches straight forward upon activation. The Hologram is great for distracting enemies but will disappear after several seconds or if it’s damaged. The Jet Pack enables you to propel upward and maneuver in mid-air but you need to be aware of fall damage and try not to deactivate it unless you’re close to the ground or anything you can land on. The Sprint ability enables you to sprint which can be helpful if you need to get somewhere quickly on-foot. The Active Camouflage ability should be familiar if you’ve played prior games. When activated, you turn invisible and this time all sound will be muffled as well. It also serves as a radar jammer. The final ability is Evade and it’s not featured in the campaign. It is available in multiplayer and Firefight and allows you to quickly roll in any direction which will break enemy lock-ons. You should be aware that the enemies, too, can use some armor abilities. Sometimes you’ll come up against enemies in active camouflage and they frequently like to use the Armor Lockup ability. Engineer’s also make a return providing overshields to all enemies within their vicinity and they are no longer bullet sponges, or in other words, they are much easier to kill here.
The Halo series has always included a wide array of UNSC and Covenant weapons, each with their own strengths and weaknesses and Halo: Reach is no exception. Once again you can only carry two weapons at a time, forcing you to think about what weapons you should equip and what weapons are best for specific situations. Most of the weapons from prior games make a return. The assault rifle has been redesigned, the rocket launcher can only lock onto enemy aircraft, and the heavy machine gun and plasma turrets including the ones mounted on vehicles can now overheat. Some weapons were omitted from this entry including the battle rifle, beam rifle, mauler, Covenant Carbine, and submachine gun, among others, but several new weapons are introduced here. I have always preferred the UNSC weapons to most of the Covenant weapons just because of how they look and feel but I have to say I love the new Covenant weapons in Reach. The Plasma Repeater is an awesome looking weapon that rapidly fires plasma shots but the rate of fire will decrease as the weapon is fired and heats up. You can manually vent the weapon by pressing the reload button. The Plasma Launcher is an extremely deadly weapon that can lock onto enemies and can fire up to four plasma grenades. The Concussion Rifle fires explosive bolts of superheated plasma. The Needle Rifle is a Covenant sniper rifle of sorts that fires sharp projectiles, or needles, that explode several seconds after impact. It’s like a long ranged Needler, but unlike the Needler, the projectiles don’t home in on enemies. The Focus Rifle is another long range Covenant weapon that fires a continuous laser beam and it can overheat. The UNSC arsenal only contains a few new weapons including the Designated Marksman Rifle, abbreviated DMR, which is a medium-to-long-range single-shot weapon equipped with a scope. A plasma pistol/DMR combo is one of the best weapon combinations you can have equipped because one fully charged shot from a plasma pistol can destroy and enemy’s shield and then you can quickly drop the enemy with a well placed headshot from the DMR. The Grenade Launcher fires grenades and the alternate fire is an EMP grenade that you can detonate manually and it will disable most vehicles and shields in the blast radius. The other new addition is the Target Locator which I guess you could say is a weapon since you have to equip it to use it. It’s a compact, handheld laser emitter designed to designate targets for rocket artillery support, perfect for destroying enemy vehicles like Wraiths. All of these weapons have their ups and downs and on Legendary, I would say it’s best to have at least one medium-to-long-range weapon equipped at all times. Trying to run into battles head-on with an assault rifle or shotgun, for example, will most likely get you killed so hanging back and picking off enemies from a distance is usually the best approach. Now I should mention that the weapon crosshairs have been redone and now include a bloom which indicates the accuracy of your fire.
Not only will you be engaging enemies on-foot and in vehicles but also in the skies above and even in space. Many of the vehicles and aircraft seen previous games make a return including the Warthog, Mongoose, Ghost, Banshee, Scorpion Tank, and Wraith. You can drive trucks and forklifts now which have no mounted weapons. Warthogs can come equipped with standard turrets, a gauss cannon, and now you can even drive one equipped with a multiple launch rocket system on the back. It can fire multiple rockets at once making it quite useful. New to the Covenant vehicle roster is the Revenant which is armed with a plasma mortar that’s less powerful than the Wraith’s mortar but still deadly in its own right. One of the standout missions puts you in space and has you flying a Sabre which is a UNSC fighter equipped with cannons and missiles. It can also thrust for more speed, flip, and even roll which is helpful for evading incoming attacks. Another mission has you piloting a UNSC Falcon which is a transport helicopter equipped with a powerful autocannon. You can also lock its altitude which is an awesome mechanic and allows you to engage enemies without having to fumble around with controls trying to keep it at the same elevation. In my opinion, the Banshee could seriously benefit from an altitude lock mechanic. I find that the vehicle and aircraft sequences in these games are great for breaking up the pacing and usually make things a little bit easier. Any missions where you’re provided a tank is always nice because as long as you take it slow, you can easily blast your way to your destination which is a nice contrast to the usual onslaught of enemy attacks and frequent deaths experienced during the on-foot areas, at least on Legendary. The vehicle handling can here still be a pain in the ass and ground vehicles flipping over could be the difference between life and death. The vehicle flips over, maybe because you ran over a rock or misjudged an incline, forcing you out, and because you’re normally surrounded by enemies, they can and will easily close in on your position to kill you or a Wraith’s plasma mortar will simply blast you to hell. Some vehicle sequences in this game are just trial-and-error, bordering on luck, making these sequences feel frustrating at times. There’s usually an obvious path among multiple you can take but it doesn’t always guarantee a safe ride. One mission late in the game encourages you to use a Warthog or Mongoose but on the Legendary difficulty I found it much easier to proceed on foot. You’re up against multiple squads of enemies and also have to deal with Wraiths and Ghosts and the moment you’re exposed, the enemies will let you know. No matter how well I would drive, I would always end up dying from the loss of health or because my vehicle exploded whether it be from the constant barrage of Wraith plasma mortars, Ghost plasma shots, or from the onslaught of enemy weapons fire consisting of plasma shots or explosive plasma bolts from concussion rifles coming from multiple locations. The enemies also throw grenades quite frequently so keeping your vehicle parked for an extended period of time could mean it will easily get stuck with a plasma grenade. The Halo series has always offered situations where you might not feel safe no matter what you do, especially on Legendary and even more so in Reach, and the vehicles in this game don’t always feel like the saviors they used to be.
In my opinion, it’s the Covenant enemies, multiple enemy types, and the incredible enemy AI that make these games, or at the least the campaigns, as fun as they are. The Flood is a different story but, thankfully, they don’t make an appearance in Halo: Reach and that fact alone puts this game high on my list of favorite Halo games. As of this review, whenever I play a major entry in the series that succeeds Halo 3, in the back of my mind I always think that no matter what I like or don’t like about the game, it could be worse, it could include The Flood. The Covenant is the primary enemy faction here and the entire roster of Covenant enemies make an appearance. Grunts, Jackals, Elites, Brutes, Hunters, and Drones are all here and I couldn’t be happier. If you really enjoy engaging Covenant enemies, this may be the perfect game for you. And because this game is a prequel to the original Halo, Elites also make a return as enemies which I welcome with open arms. Elites are one of my favorite character designs in video games. But besides that, they’re agile, quick, accurate, equipped with shields, and are extremely deadly in combat. Just like in Halo one and 2, one Elite can be more dangerous than a squad made up of most of the other enemy types in the game. They’ll wield plasma rifles, plasma repeaters, concussion rifles, and some will snipe you with focus rifles. Some of them can even dual wield plasma rifles and every now and then you’ll have to deal with Elites equipped with jet packs. Brutes make an appearance a little after the half-way point and many of them resemble their appearance in Halo 2. The lower ranking Brutes wear some kind of headgear but aren’t equipped with shields. They usually wield spikers, plasma repeaters, even concussion rifles. Some of the tougher Brute enemy types wear gold armor resembling the appearance of Brute Captain Majors from Halo 3, and the high ranking Brutes like Chieftans are equipped with a shield. These ones usually carry a gravity hammer or fuel rod gun. The Brutes don’t seem to go berserk this time around which, in my opinion, is neither good or bad. Grunts, Jackals, Hunters, and Drones still act the same for the most part. Drones only pose a real threat because they can fly and appear in large numbers. Kamikaze Grunts will run at you while holding two active plasma grenades. Most Jackals are equipped with a shield that can deflect human ballistics and due the absence of the beam rifle Jackal snipers will either snipe you with a needle rifle or focus rifle, neither of which can insta-kill you. As for Hunters, avoid their projectiles and melee attacks at all costs. On Legendary, one strike from their melee attack can kill you instantly. Elites and Brutes prove to be the most dangerous enemies in the game. They normally lead a squad of Grunts, they’ll take cover from your attacks and to recharge their shields, and underestimating them usually leads to death so it’s always wise to be careful and take your time. Enemies will suppress and flank you, you’re normally always outnumbered, and sticking some of the tougher enemy types with a plasma grenade doesn’t always guarantee their death which may be responsible for a lot of “oh fuck” moments. The enemies usually have the advantages in combat whether it be more powerful weapons, the high ground, or simply their overwhelming numbers.
Just like all of the previous entries in the series, all of the missions are pretty straightforward and have you going from point A to B to complete objectives. Whether it be engaging enemies on the ground or taking the fight to the skies, there’s always going to be something to shoot. Many objectives have you defending areas, sometimes you just need to push back enemy forces, you’ll have to disable anti-aircraft guns, and you’ll even destroy Covenant Jammers, among other things. Most encounters take place in wide open areas providing you plenty of options when it comes to approaching situations. There’s usually multiple paths you can take and different objects and structures to use as cover with a lot of room to maneuver. One standout mission has you flying a Sabre in space defending Anchor 9, which is a vessel refit station, from attacking Banshees, Seraphs, and Phantoms. Right after this, you must attack a large Covenant Corvette, board it, and then wipe out the crew. As cool as this mission is, on Legendary, it can prove to be excessively difficult. Infiltrating it involves you jumping down through a shield of some kind but then you’re immediately surrounded by several Elites that can kill you before you even touch the ground. You can land on the platforms but there’s almost nowhere to hide, leaving you exposed the moment you drop. It’s insane. If you do manage to infiltrate the Corvette successfully, you’ll work your way through the Corvette, mostly by yourself, and will engage enemies in rooms smaller than the areas seen in the outdoor locations on the planet Reach. I think I died more times in this mission than during any other mission in the game. In addition to the sometimes ludicrous challenge, the checkpoint system is truly fucked. I really don’t know how it works but it seems that the game will auto-save after completing objectives and sometimes after encounters. “Sometimes” being the key word because there’s nothing more frustrating than spending ten to fifteen minutes battling tough enemies, barely making it out alive, and then proceeding forward and getting killed only to realize the last checkpoint was before the lengthy battle you just won. Sadly, this happens often in Halo: Reach and it can really be infuriating. Most missions are set on the planet Reach and the environments are quite varied. Bungie has come a long way since the first game in terms of level design and I’m happy to report that I saw no real signs of level design repetition. You’ll traverse through destroyed buildings, farms and fields, a communications outpost, the city of New Alexandria, a mining facility, and the UNSC Sword Base, among other areas. A few areas present opportunities for you to sneak up on enemies and kill them quietly with melee attacks but most of the time you’ll engage them head-on. Many areas require you to clear out enemies or waves of enemies before you can proceed. Enemy waves usually come pouring out from various locations or they’re deployed from Phantoms or Spirit dropships. One mission in particular includes a cool segment where Covenant drop pods housing Elites are crashing to the ground as you fight your way across a beach. There’s one mission where you encounter these massive creatures called Cutas. I remember being thrown off by these things when I first played this. They only appear in the one mission and seem random as hell. Fighting alongside you throughout several missions are the other Noble Team Spartans. Just like in ODST, these allies are invincible and usually helpful in some way during combat. They’ll engage and kill enemies but you usually have to do most of the work. The other standard UNSC Marine allies that accompany you here and there aren’t the brightest bulbs and usually die not long after they join you. This is unfortunate but not surprising considering the friendly Marine AI in previous games was always dumb as shit. As expected, they get in your way but are great for diverting enemy attacks away from you as well as using the mounted weapons in vehicles as you drive.
If you’re a fan of the Halo series, specifically engaging the Covenant enemies, then the Firefight mode in Reach is literally the greatest thing ever. Not only does it showcase the smart enemy AI but you can customize every little thing about it to the point of creating your own custom Firefight game type. You can even share your custom game types with friends over Xbox Live. Just like in ODST, you still choose the difficulty and mission which are just maps ripped straight from the campaign. If you acquired the DLC you could get extra Firefight maps including Unearthed and Installation 04 which is a location from the original Halo game. This map is also the only one that includes Marine AI allies. The Spartan you created for the Campaign carries over into Firefight and you can also set your preference to Elite if you prefer to play as an Elite, depending on the game type. However, if you’re playing solo and play as an Elite, there’s not going to be enemies to fight. Humans won’t spawn in. So unless unless you’re playing with people, you’re stuck playing as a Spartan. Firefight comes with several default game types including Firefight, Firefight Classic, Generator Defense, Gruntpocalypse, Rocketfight, Score Attack, and Versus. They’re all unique in their own way but the real highlight of this mode is the fact that you can use any of these game types as a base and change up the game options to customize the experience to your liking. You don’t want to play with skulls activated, you don’t have to. You want to play with infinite ammo, you can do that. You can change everything from the squads of enemies that spawn to individual wave properties. There’s even three custom skulls – Blue, Yellow, and Red – that allow you to define their properties. You can adjust various things for Spartan and Elite players like damage resistance, shield multiplier, melee modifier, equipment usage, infinite ammo, and even enemy wave traits like shootiness, vision, grenades, damage modifier, and all kinds of stuff like that. Firefight is still designed for co-op but now you’re given tons of control that you can design a game type to play by yourself. I would still recommend you tone down the difficulty to Heroic or Normal unless you’re really good, because Legendary can easily kick your ass. However, if you make some adjustments to give yourself a slight edge, Legendary may seem more appealing since you’ll probably last longer than two minutes. When you first start a match, you can pick from one of several loadouts that include two weapons and a unique armor ability. Each time you die, you have the option to choose a loadout before respawning. The scoring system is always in place so besides trying to survive the onslaught of enemies, you also want to try for the best possible score. You’re provided lives which can be adjusted, you can set a time limit, you may have to deal with enemy vehicles, depending on the map, and lives are added in between rounds.
The vanilla Firefight game type consists of a set of rounds with multiple waves. Each wave consists of progressively more difficult enemies. Depending on the game type, skulls may automatically activate which depends on the round or set. Firefight Classic is just like the Firefight mode in ODST. Gruntpocalypse is all about surviving hordes of grunts. Versus is a 2v2 matchmaking game type, similar to the team-slayer multiplayer mode. Players will either be Spartans or Elites and each team is trying to rack up as many points as possible. This mode is obviously designed for multiple players and if you try to play it solo, it just turns into basic Firefight. In Score Attack, the idea is to go for the highest possible score which I believe was fully tracked on Bungie’s website back in the day. Rocketfight is a fun little mode if you feel like going on a power trip. It’s like basic Firefight but you’re provided a rocket and magnum, both with infinite ammo and any weapon you acquire throughout the match has infinite ammo as well. Generator Defense requires you and your allies to defend one or multiple generators on the map. This mode is best played with some friends and I would recommend you lower the generator count to one if you want to play solo because trying to run between each and protect them all for a significant time is almost an impossible task by yourself, depending on the difficulty. You can lock each generator down so they’re better protected but they will eventually need to cool off which will make them vulnerable again. These default game types are all fun in their own right but I found creating my own game type to be the way to go.
Instead of borrowing assets from Halo 3, Halo: Reach includes a redesigned game engine which is noticeable from the moment you start playing. Things look different, things feel different, and it’s all for the better in my opinion. Reach does look significantly better than the previous games. The developers increased the polygon counts for models and I read that the redesigned assault rifle contains more polygons than an entire Marine character from Halo 3. Explosions look cooler, particle effects look better, blood splatter looks more realistic, and the animations look pretty great thanks to motion capture technology. There is a motion blur effect that’s very noticeable, especially during cut scenes. It’s not a huge problem for us but it is noticeable and doesn’t always look good. There’s plenty of details that make the environments feel realistic and war-torn. Animals may roam the fields, buildings may be partially destroyed or on fire, you’ll encounter dead bodies littered throughout the environments, and every now and then you’ll see UNSC and Covenant aircraft engaged in a fierce battle in the skies overhead. Now the sound work is definitely an improvement over the previous games. Whether it’s the sound of projectiles whizzing past your head, booming explosions, or the sounds of combat in general, Halo: Reach provides some excellent audio, and really manages to capture that feeling of a human-alien war. The assault rifle sounds a lot more powerful than it did in Halo 3 and ODST although it still could benefit from being a bit louder. Martin O’Donnell and Michael Salvatori returned to compose the music and the soundtrack is of the same quality as previous games. Most of the music here is very somber and dramatic which matches the tone of the story perfectly, although, I still prefer the music heard in the original trilogy. As for the technical aspects, there is some pop-in here and there, the frame rate dipped a few times during our co-op experience but the game ran smooth for my solo playthrough, and we experienced no real bugs or crashes. When playing in local co-op, the gameplay is displayed in the 4:3 aspect ratio, actually it may be a little wider, and it can be hard to see things sometimes. I do question why Bungie could never configure this to fill the screen appropriately, I’m guessing it’s because of technical reasons, but it is what it is.
Despite some frustrations playing on the Legendary difficulty, we had a blast with Halo: Reach and it’s easily my favorite Halo game from Bungie. As a fan of the Halo series, I really enjoyed the story here but I do feel that players who have knowledge of the extended universe will get a lot more out of it. It’s a story about war and the game does a great job at making you feel like you’re just a small part of a major conflict. And if you’ve played the other games, you’ll know just how important Noble Team’s actions are. Regardless, the fun is derived from the gameplay and Bungie really nailed it here. It basically feels like previous games but the refinements breathe new life into the gameplay. The weapons feel more satisfying, the enemy AI is as smart as ever, the game is action packed and full of intense moments, and there’s no Flood. All Covenant enemies seen in prior games make an appearance and this really does feel like Bungie’s swan song of the series. The difficulty on Legendary seems noticeably more difficult than anything we experienced in previous games. Legendary is supposed to be hard but I do think it borders on frustration here. There are some segments that just feel impossible. There’s a lot of getting surrounded by tough enemy types and using trial-and-error to survive which can go on for hours if you’re having serious trouble. I would say the Heroic difficulty has a better balance.
Ultimately, I would say Halo: Reach is the best game in the series that I’ve played so far. It’s also sad to know it was Bungie’s last entry in the franchise because I don’t remember the story in Halo 4 being that memorable nor do I remember that game living up to any of the prior titles. I haven’t played Halo 5 yet but I’ve heard many say the gameplay is top notch. Regardless, I would definitely recommend Halo: Reach to fans of the Halo franchise and first-person shooters. It’s got aliens, action, and tons of replay value thanks to multiple difficulty modes, the scoring system, and the amazing Firefight mode. Of course there’s multiplayer which I did not try and the famous Forge mode as well. Not only is this one of my favorite games in the Halo series, but it’s also one of my favorite first-person shooters for the Xbox 360. If there’s any game in this series that truly deserves to be remastered and enhanced, it’s Halo: Reach. I would even love to see it ported to PC at some point just for mods. After Reach, Bungie handed over the franchise to 343 Industries but not before going out with a bang. Halo: Reach is one hell of ride so definitely check it out if you haven’t already.