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Halo: Reach - A Halo-hater's hands-on

Yes, Halo: Reach’s improvements are once again a case of the series lifting obvious ideas from other, more forward-thinking games. The levelling system is from CoD4, as are the selectable weapon and kit load-outs. The Invasion mode is pure Battlefield. The rocket packs are from Tribes. But finally, finally, Halo has enough going on to augment its accessibility into something I find fun and worthwhile.

The multi-objective Invasion mode in particular is a massive hoot, giving Halo’s multiplayer more direction than it has ever had. And the way it unlocks bigger and better weapons and load-out options as each objective is taken is a slick – if slightly manipulative – move, making sure that every battlebecomes increasingly frantic and anarchic as it progresses to its climax.

The map we played it on felt a little too small and limited in options to facilitate the truly emergent set-pieces and tactical variety that Battlefield thrives on, and it remains to be seen whether the progressive weapon unlocks will end up stage-managing the action with artificial pacing, but what matters right now is that with a full lobby it was an absolute riot.

The basic run, jump, shoot, lob grenade, drive bouncy comedy vehicle schtick is still at the core of everything, but now it actually has a purpose, and feels like the basis of something bigger and better rather than the be-all and end-all. That jump can launch into a spontaneous flight, letting you reign down surprise deathand break up a tightly contestedskirmish. And that flight can then be sniped down hilariously.

Those grenades can come as silent killers from the hand of a cloaked ninja, creeping slowly and invisibly around the arena edge causing stealthy trouble for shits and giggles. Those vehicles can be unceremoniously bitch-slapped down with the new four-shot sticky ‘nade launcher (sorry Charlie, I did get to use it, and it's awesome), a weapon that’s funny to use against a Warthog or Ghost, but hysterical when used as crowd control.

In short, Halo now feels like a proper game, with meat on its bones and things to do aplenty. Yes, it still doesn’t look amazing despite its improved looks over Halo 3. And yeah, it’s still kind of slow. But now that there’s finally so much going on, you don’t tend to notice as much. I really really, hope that the final game expandsfurther on what I've already seen, particularly in terms of doing the Invasion mode justice with the kind of scale it deserves. But for once with a Halo game, I am actually hopeful. And trust me, coming from me that says quite a lot.

Long-time GR+ writer Dave has been gaming with immense dedication ever since he failed dismally at some '80s arcade racer on a childhood day at the seaside (due to being too small to reach the controls without help). These days he's an enigmatic blend of beard-stroking narrative discussion and hard-hitting Psycho Crushers.