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Halo: Reach super review

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Reviewing Halo games is hard.

See, you aren't judging just one experience – this is the rare franchise in which campaign and multiplayer are equally popular, and must be considered with equal weight. You aren't judging for just one audience, either – the franchise is too popular for too many unique reasons. There are those who only want an epic solo saga, and those who only care about online competition. There are those who enjoy a Halo game once every couple years, and those who devour the entire Halo universe through comics, novelizations, anime and more.

And you know what? Each type of fan will have a very different reaction to Halo: Reach. Some will be thrilled. Some will be disappointed. To help you predict which end of the spectrum your opinion will fall, therefore, we're splitting this review into two parts. On this page, our review – and score – for the single player campaign. On the next page, our review – and score – for the multiplayer. On the third page – closure.


Halo: Reach – The Campaign

This is it. This is the beginning of a story, but more importantly, this is the end of an era. This is the last Halo game from Bungie. This is the developers' final contribution to a series that, over the past decade, made them legend.

As such, we were expecting a true epic. A true evolution. A go-for-broke, no-holds-barred, don't-look-back curtain call for the ages. Instead, we get…

ODST 2.0

Now hold on – that description isn't meant as an insult. We liked Halo 3: ODST. We enjoyed playing as protagonists with faces and personalities for once. We appreciated the more intimate scale, the more evocative mood and the more conclusive, comprehensible narrative. ODST was a refreshing change of pace from the familiar Master Chief formula. And as we'll describe later, that "2.0" is no joke, either. This is a much grander adventure than last year's semi-expansion pack.

Still, you can't escape the feeling that Reach is a sequel to ODST and not a prequel to Halo. Again, you take control of an elite insertion squad, tasked with entering a hopeless battle as everyone else is exiting. Again, the hero is a quiet rookie with zero characterization. Again, the teammates are defined entirely by their roles and accents: the American-sounding leader, the Russian-sounding heavy, the Asian-sounding sniper. Again, you meet a mysterious female scientist who provides you with controversial new orders. Again, the story has a single, fan-servicing connection to the previous Halo trilogy and, again, everything until that point is spinoff – exciting yet ultimately non-essential to the larger saga. Again, you will miss Master Chief.

What should have been

We could forgive this sense of deja vu if Halo: Reach didn't promise – within its very concept – such obvious, franchise-changing potential. Remember when you first heard that you would play as another Spartan? And, because the game took place before the training program was destroyed, that you would be assisted by a whole team of Spartans? Our imaginations soared, and we pictured a sci-fi shooter version of the Justice League or X-Men, a gallery of multi-talented superheroes kicking alien ass across the doomed planet until they were finally brought down by sheer numbers or overwhelming bosses. Or perhaps a campaign take on Team Fortress, with different Spartan skills being required at different moments.

Alas, no. You can still die easily at the glowing hands of a kamikaze Grunt, your toughest opponents are still Hunters or Wraiths and your armored, specialized friends – outside of cut scenes – don't offer that much more help than the Marines or ODSTs. In fact, the only time we saw any of them utilize the new Armor Abilities was when we accidentally drove a Warthog in their direction, forcing the automatically programmed use of an Armor Lock shield.

Flashes of the future

Like we hinted at earlier, however, Reach's campaign is better than ODST's. Not as much as we all had hoped, and not as good as the campaigns in the main Halo trilogy, but definitely an improvement over last year's installment. The story is a bit more meaningful. The characters are a tad more memorable. The scale is a lot more impressive. Most importantly, the levels are longer… you could finish ODST in 5-7 hours. Reach will last you the usual 8-10.

And every once in awhile – maybe three or four times during the entire campaign – Reach will surprise you. Show you something you haven't seen in a Halo game before. Show you what a real evolution to the series could be. Show you the possibility of a Halo 4. The highly anticipated Sabre battle – a brief yet beautiful starfighter battle through outer space, with dogfights and carrier defense worthy of Wing Commander – is one example. An almost open-world mission later in the game – in which you fly a Falcon across a neon-soaked city, taking out enemies in the sky, then repeatedly landing on different rooftops for intense, interior combat – is another.

Overall, then?


Campaign Verdict: 7/10 ("Good")


Next page: Our review of Halo: Reach's multiplayer

Halo: Reach – The Multiplayer

This is it. This is the final draft. This is the last time Bungie, who revolutionized console multiplayer with Halo, will have a chance to edit, hone and perfect that multiplayer. As such, we were expecting big changes, big improvements, big risk taking and big callbacks to the past. We were expecting the developer to try something majorly new, while simultaneously staying true to the formula that's worked since 2001.

Perhaps we expected too much… but Bungie delivered. This is the most fun Halo's multiplayer has ever been.

New ways to play

If you participated in the Reach beta earlier this year, you already understand why the multiplayer is so satisfying… and so refreshing. Bungie didn't merely add more maps or more modes this time around. With the debut of "Armor Abilities," they added some more of everything.

Halo move too slow for you? You want extra speed? Choose the Sprint ability in your pre-match loadout, and your Spartan can blast forward like a Call of Duty: Modern Warfare soldier, escaping dangerous situations with doubly quick ease. Or choose the Evade ability if you're controlling an Elite, and you can leap or roll in any direction to dodge incoming fire. Still not enough freedom? The jetpack is the most exhilarating addition to Halo multiplayer since the man cannon, lifting you off the ground and enabling you to not only snipe (or be sniped) from hundreds of feet in the air, but also to reach useful, hard-to-find areas and weapons.

Or maybe Halo is too straightforward for you? You wish the multiplayer required and rewarded more strategy? Select the Active Camo ability, which makes you invisible and gives you the chance to sneak up on unsuspecting foes. Or the Armor Lock, which can temporarily protect you from any attack and, with its electromagnetic pulse, instantly destroy a charging vehicle. Or the Drop Shield, which is a healing version of Halo 3's bubble. Or the Hologram, which sends forward a doppelganger of your avatar to bait and confuse the other players. Each of these armor abilities encourages a different style of play and complements a different type of player. Each, in its own way, transforms Halo: Reach multiplayer into a new (enough) experience.

New ways to create

What really sets Halo games apart from the competition – and what really secured Halo 3 a "10/10" review from us – is the open-source nature of the multiplayer. Other shooters let you shorten a match, or switch a weapon location, or change the color of your armor. Halo does all that, then adds Custom Games for players to invent their own modes, Forge for players to construct their own map variants and Saved Films for players to direct their own stories.

Halo: Reach goes even further. Before, Forge was merely a tool for placing and moving around objects on existing maps. Now, with the spectacular and sprawling new Forge World – a map that is five times larger than normal and infinitely more customizable – you can more or less create your own multiplayer environment from scratch. The Rube Goldberg suicide machines that come out of this thing are guaranteed to blow all of our minds.

If the latest modes aren't to your liking – personally, we can't get enough of the frantic skull collecting in Headhunter, the constant ebb and flow of flags in Stockpile or the epic three-tiered mini-campaign that is Invasion – you have new options for editing your own. Want the Spartans to have Elite powers? Possible. Wish you could turn back time, lose the armor abilities and play a round of Classic Slayer on Blood Gulch? Done.

The little stuff

Then there are the less publicized touches and tweaks that may not catch your attention at first, but have a surprising impact on your overall enjoyment of the multiplayer. Like the option to request opponents who speak the same language as you… or prefer "polite" trash talking… or have the securest online connection. Like the improved Firefight co-op, which automatically scales the number and difficulty of enemies to match your party. Like the nooks and crannies of the new Armory shop, where you won't just find fancy helmets and shoulder pads to purchase, but also avatar voices (Steve Downes as Master Chief, anyone? Jen Taylor as Cortana?) and special death animations (we're saving up for the valentine heart explosion!)

Overall, then?


Multiplayer Verdict: 9/10 ("Awesome")


Next page: Is Halo: Reach better than Halo 3 and ODST?

Final Judgment

So the Halo: Reach campaign is "good." And the Halo: Reach multiplayer is "awesome." What does that make the game as a whole? Well, scroll down and see – since both halves are of equal importance, but not of equal quality, we've split the difference on the score.

Please use the structure of this review, however, to gauge your own personal score. If you're in search of an amazing single player adventure this fall, and don't plan to spend that much time competing online, then you'll probably be somewhat disappointed with Halo: Reach and want to subtract a point. If the campaign is usually nothing more than an appetizer to you before devoting endless days, weeks, months and possibly years to the multiplayer, you should go ahead and add a point. This is the Halo game you've waited for since 2007.


Is it better than… ?

Halo 3? No. While Reach excels at multiplayer, the campaign surprises – and soars – only occasionally. Halo 3, meanwhile, was the entire package. Epic missions, filled with a ton of epic moments, and the best, most robust multiplayer we'd seen so far this console generation. In fact, some of the most innovative stuff in Halo: Reach, like Forge World, has just been built on the foundation of what Halo 3 already innovated.

 


Halo 3: ODST? Yes. Okay, so Reach feels a lot more like ODST 2.0 than Halo 4, but trust us, that "2.0" is not awarded lightly. The single player is at least two to three hours longer, with meatier missions that are far more memorable. The story is still a spinoff, but the connection to Halo's original trilogy is stronger. And the multiplayer is way, way better. Armor abilities, experience credits, Invasion, a full set of brand new maps and modes. Even if you really liked Firefight… well, that's been improved here, too.

 

Battlefield: Bad Company 2? Depends. The two franchises are now surprisingly similar, with single player that is good, yet instantly forgettable compared to the outstanding multiplayer. Both offer specialized classes. Both include a fleet of diverse vehicles. Both reward you with experience points. You could always choose based on your preference for realistic modern warfare or escapist sci-fi slaughter… or based on how much you like coordinated team combat. That's all Battlefield offers, but it's near-perfect. Halo: Reach is a little less polished in that department, but has plenty of new and old deathmatch modes as well.


Just for you, Metacritic!

Do you buy Halo mostly for the multiplayer? Then Reach is everything you'd want and expect from Bungie's final contribution to the franchise – perfectly polished familiarity with exactly the right amount of fresh features and bold risk-taking. If you're counting on an epic, sweeping and satisfying campaign story, however, you might want to keep waiting for Halo 4.

Sep 11, 2010

More Info

Release date: Sep 14 2010 - Xbox 360 (US)
Sep 14 2010 - Xbox 360 (UK)
Available Platforms: Xbox 360
Genre: Shooter
Published by: Microsoft
Developed by: Bungie
Franchise: Halo
ESRB Rating:
Mature: Blood, Violence
PEGI Rating:
16+

We Recommend

326 comments

  • ZeeCaptain - September 18, 2013 9:31 p.m.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-jWMtsdz3tE All of my lolz
  • TheDigitalG - July 30, 2011 9:25 a.m.

    @D0CCON Yeah man, the forums are packed with anger, it's unreal how bad it is compared to various other FPS forums! I played 3 more then any other, and could easily play it for hours and hours. I got to General on Reach, and found myself getting really angry every game I played, AA's, Bloom, AFCers, the slooooow kill times, I just personally hated every minute of it, but weirdly played it more then 3.
  • fatguy19 - July 21, 2011 3:31 p.m.

    When I first played this game I thought it was great, but after completeing the campaigns in both Black Ops and Killzone 3 I have since realized this game to ok. For a start after trying the new call of duty control scheme in Killzone 3. I have realized the control scheme in Halo is awful. Who decided it was a good idea to assigning zoom the the right stick? Also why do only certain weapons allow you to zoom, and who decided that the zoom would cancel if you got shot? Thats just awful design. Also why is it if you are crouching and you get shot you automatically stand. I beleive these were designed like this to artificially increase the difficulty to make up for the fact that compared to KIllzone and CODs chaotic, realistic feeling battlefields the Halo games fell like a game of paint ball. Before all the alo fanboys start bitching and moaning I am not a sony fan boy and I do like it. Another thing that pissed me off is that this game kind of subverts the original trilogy. In the first Halo Cortana is nothing more then A shipa A.I who helps Master Chief out and yet in true Star Wars fashion we Find out in this game That she is some ancient prothercy That they find in a temple on Reach. Why did they feel the need to do that. Finally has anyone rlse Noticed that Halo Reach Gears of War and Killzone 2 have exactly the same plot. The Whole rugged band of heoes have to lead a female scientist to some sought of lab or temple in order to find the way to save humanity. In These immersive universes with infinite story possibilties thes three games have the excat same plot? At least mass effect tried to do somthing different.
  • ThePrivateer - August 31, 2011 7:02 p.m.

    You sir, are an idiot. The control scheme? Been around for ten years. Defined the FPS control scheme for consoles. Why can't every weapon zoom? Why do you need to zoom with a shotgun? It's on the right stick because you should only be zooming with a gun that has a scope. About the zoom canceling when you take damage? Do you keep looking down a scope when you have bullets hitting you? And if you weren't an idiot, you'd know that Cortana is designed to be the most important AI. She wasn't some "simple ship AI". They didn't find her to be a "prophecy in a temple". They went to Dr. Halsey's safety bunker and got her. God, I hate people like you.
  • D0CCON - July 19, 2011 4:57 a.m.

    I take it back, the forums do hate it.
  • D0CCON - July 18, 2011 10:34 p.m.

    @TheDigitalG So I'm not the only one who came back to look at this trainwreck? I myself haven't heard much bad about Reach on the forums (although I don't look for it), but this is still my favorite Halo. Too bad nobody could just say that and play the game instead of acting like dipshits.
  • TheDigitalG - July 17, 2011 6:06 p.m.

    Looking back, it's ironic how much hate there is for reach on the Bungie forums, and how the population seriously declined. Dumb asses, Reach is probably not worth a 5/10 for armour lock alone.
  • WillisTron - April 5, 2011 5:39 a.m.

    I sold my Xbox along with Reach to pay for a speeding ticket... :( Now I have a PS3, but I still miss this game :'(
  • Lando81 - February 17, 2011 4:15 p.m.

    @Servo @FatherTime FFFAAAAGGGGSSSS
  • onewheeled999 - February 1, 2011 6:07 a.m.

    8/10? Cool. I'll buy it later this month, for sure, now that I have moneys. Gotta say, though, the multiplayer portion of the review was a bit iffy, there were absolutely no negative points in the entire thing, yet you marked it down a point. Wait, what?
  • essiy - January 28, 2011 8:57 p.m.

    AHAHA! look at all the Xbox fanboys! An 8/10 is a good score and the fact that you losers pick on Charlie before you even PLAY the damn game just shows your fanboyism even more. And I respect him more for actually putting up a ballzy review where as most of these guys would blindly give it 1000/10 even if it were a total piece of shit. Get over the fact he's just doing his job and go back beneath your bridge.
  • Jamahl - December 31, 2010 7 a.m.

    I know this has been done to death, but I realized he mixed things up. Jorge, the heavy, does NOT sound russian, but rather obviously sounds english. The guy with the Russian accent is actually the sniper. Kinda lame to take shots at something the dev didn't do. (Man, I'm still really bitter about that campaign score) I really think the campaign was an 8 campaign, and that halo 3 should've been a 9.
  • porjos - December 24, 2010 9:07 p.m.

    Servo is the biggest Halo fanboy Ive ever seen...do you jerk off to it dude??? I was bored...wanted to check out what buttnut was making such a big deal about how a game review didn't turn out to be what he wanted...and it's ridiculous. Take down your Master Chief poster and spend a day with a girl...just to put things into perspective.
  • conjabro - December 11, 2010 12:18 a.m.

    I Havent Played this game yet but ive played and completed all the rest of the halos in the series, Halo Reach look epic cant wait to play it.
  • BobberyFan98 - November 12, 2010 2:36 a.m.

    I personally think it deserves atleast a 9, but hey, I am a Halo fanboy, and Reach was when I really got into it. I loved the maps, weapons, customization, campaign, aka pretty much everything. But I know of you extremely h-core Halo fanboys out there, so I can understand if you believe that 3 was better. I personally think their all just plainly: really freaking awesome.
  • Chaoscoolperson - October 26, 2010 11:18 p.m.

    I understand the points they make but to me reach is STILL a 42/10 at least. sure I got more hyped up then needed but Reach still satisfied me in every way shape and form. This is all opinion but Reach is one of the best games of all time to me. Though I do agree it is not Halo 4 and is very similar to ODST I believe it is superior to all.
  • tylerrobbins - October 26, 2010 2:05 a.m.

    Also to everyone hating on Halo and it's fans. I have this to say. Shut the hell up. Don't hate on fans because people are frustrated by a reviewer whose reasons for not liking a game are absurd at best. I see so many people defending Charlie for his review. Saying he is being unique and helpful. Well i would like to remind you all.... http://media.photobucket.com/image/Unique+motivational/jradke138138/unique.jpg
  • tylerrobbins - October 26, 2010 1:48 a.m.

    Ok i know you've already gotten a lot of crap for this review. However I think what people have with this review is that you don't express what exactly is wrong with this game. When you do, your complaints seem to be very picky. Stuff that most people don't even notice. For example. "Again, the hero is a quiet rookie with zero characterization."-I don't understand how this is a flaw. Noble six is supposed to a character that has zero characterization because the player is supposed to characterize him/her. "Again, the teammates are defined entirely by their roles and accents: the American-sounding leader, the Russian-sounding heavy, the Asian-sounding sniper."- Mr Barret. I don't know if you have ever been on a team before, but that's how they are comprised. by role. If you are implying that bungie is somehow using cliché characters that I understand, but a good story can still be told with cliché characters. "Again, the story has a single, fan-servicing connection to the previous Halo trilogy and, again, everything until that point is spinoff – exciting yet ultimately non-essential to the larger saga." -A point well made but this isn't necessarily a bad thing. I think we can all agree that the story from halo 3 was a bit confusing to follow especially if you were new to the series. Halo: Reach doesn't have the problem of having events in previous titles that need explaining, because they haven't happened yet. "Again, you will miss Master Chief."- hahaha....Oh wait your serious....... "Remember when you first heard that you would play as another Spartan? And, because the game took place before the training program was destroyed, that you would be assisted by a whole team of Spartans? Our imaginations soared, and we pictured a sci-fi shooter version of the Justice League or X-Men, a gallery of multi-talented superheroes kicking alien ass across the doomed planet until they were finally brought down by sheer numbers or overwhelming bosses. Or perhaps a campaign take on Team Fortress, with different Spartan skills being required at different moments"-That is a rather stark contrast between expectations Mr Barret. Never the less, I will entertain them. The reason Noble Team isn't like the Justice League or the X-men. Is because they are not the Justice League or the X-men. Did you not just complain about bungie being un-original with their characters in your earlier paragraph? Your just upset that the developer didn't pander to what you wanted. "Alas, no. You can still die easily at the glowing hands of a kamikaze Grunt, your toughest opponents are still Hunters or Wraiths and your armored, specialized friends – outside of cut scenes – don't offer that much more help than the Marines or ODSTs."-Here you are complaining about the difficulty. Which is fine. If a game is so hard it bends you over and beats you with a steak tenderizer then you have every right to cry foul. But don't try and say that the developer has done a bad job when they simply did not pander to your needs. Some of us like high difficulty situations. Where you work harder and die more frequently. It makes the reward that much more worth it. "Reach's campaign is better than ODST's. Not as much as we all had hoped, and not as good as the campaigns in the main Halo trilogy, but definitely an improvement over last year's installment."- There is nothing wrong with this statement the author is giving his opinion and I respect that. I disagree with it immensely because ODST's campaign was ten times better. The story did it's job which was to get me to the next bit of shooting aliens without me having to use halopedia. Multiplayer Verdict: 9/10 ("Awesome")- Ok, I'm sorry but I read your review twice and not once did you mention why you only gave the multiplayer only a nine out of ten. A review is is supposed to tell me how you rank a game, and why you ranked it the way you did. If you praise the multiplayer for the entire review not saying anything negative about it why would you give it a nine out of ten? Nine out of ten explains that you found found something you didn't like. Not saying what it was that you didn't like makes you seem biased. That's why so many people are upset by your review. Let me finish by saying i respect your opinion, and i hope you understand why some people are indifferent to your review.
  • Stridefizzel - October 25, 2010 9:33 p.m.

    Man, finally an honest review about this game. Thanks a lot for this review Gamesradar, IGN's 9.5 out of 10 sounded way too high and retarded for what amounts to halo 3 but without Master Chief (which is like one of the best parts of Halo!) I love this game sight, fuck IGN, they gave Castlevania Lords of Shadow the shittiest, most biased review ever just because Konami didn't give them any advertising money, but Halo Reach they give an awesome score since microsoft paid them off! IGN has sold out, Gamesradar, your my new favorite game site!
  • Derwood - October 15, 2010 5:05 p.m.

    yay. another soulless shooter with huge uninspired locales and cliched helmet wearing meatheads and weightless weapons and oh wait! We got armor abilities now! that everyone else can use! and dont make a shred of difference! because you'll never be as good as the kid who screams halo every day! and cries himself to sleep knowing he will never shtup Cortana. I miss real shooters like Oddworld's Stanger's Wrath, or Timesplitters. Those were inspired, awesome shooters, but because of the mouth breathing population these days, no one gives a shit about a game that has soul. halos and cods are the worst thing to happen to the gaming industry.

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