Review — Halo: Reach (Xbox 360)

Halo: Reach” signifies both a beginning and an end. In the timeline of the Halo games, the events of “Reach” begin the story that all the previously released games are based upon. Bungie, the developer of Halo, has announced that this is the last Halo title they will develop, a motion that is mirrored in the bittersweet events of “Halo: Reach.”

WARNING: Text beyond this point may contain spoilers!

Reach is a planet being overrun by hordes of aliens known as the Covenant. You’re one of the few soldiers selected to fight back against this tide of unrelenting monsters as the doomed fate of Reach becomes poignantly clear.

The Best:
If you’ve played any of the previous Halo titles, then the graphics will most likely be the first aspect of the game to impress you. Boasting a new game engine, “Reach” pulls off the most immersive graphical experience of any Halo game. Dynamic lighting, realistic color palettes and sprawling vistas are just a few of the elements that Bungie employed to create the sense of being part of an overwhelmingly large-scale battle.

Halo: Reach Vista

Each dot in the sky of this scene is a maneuvering alien spaceship taking part in the battle.

Gameplay, however, is where “Reach” truly shines. Due to the amount of diversity in level design, you’ll find yourself blasting open the skull of an alien one minute and then literally racing through a gauntlet of alien gunfire the next. The first-person shooting you’ve come to expect from Bungie is certainly present, but they’ve added an incredibly fun, albeit extremely short, diversion as well: space combat. Unique suit upgrades, like jetpacks and invisibility cloaks, are also spread throughout the levels, each of which provides a different play experience.

Halo: Reach Space

Part of the way-too-short 20-minute space combat segment.

While the typical player will probably spend about six hours with their initial campaign playthrough, the multiplayer proponent will keep gamers playing “Reach” for months and possibly years to come. With over 30 variations of multiplayer modes to choose from and the ability to play the campaign with up to four teammates, there’s enough content to excite even the most veteran Halo players.

The Worst:
My biggest gripe with the game is its lack of volume control. In most games you can turn down individual components of the sound like effects, music, voices, etc. In “Reach,” however, you cannot adjust any portion of the audio. That can become a real pain if you want to play online and have your teammates voices come through your speakers. The sound effects are so much louder than the voices that they wash them out almost entirely.

While the graphics were impressive, they might have been a little too intensive for the hardware. During the more heated firefights in the campaign, I noticed severe frame rate instability. However, most people won’t even notice this issue since it happens in almost every single Xbox 360 game.

While the story is decently crafted, the voice acting can be a bit melodramatic at times. This, and the aforementioned issues, is a rather small blight on the surface of a very polished and highly entertaining shooter.

Overall Score: 90

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