Bungie, the developer of the successful series, has said that “Halo: Reach” will be their last game with the franchise. While it is unknown if another developer will pick up the plasma rifle, publisher Microsoft should be pleased with the result.
Microsoft announced that the game generated $200 million in the first 24 hours, making it the biggest entertainment release in the United States so far this year. By contrast, the movie “Alice in Wonderland” made $116 million in its first U.S. weekend, but the “Modern Warfare 2” video game had just over $401 million in U.S. sales in its initial weekend in 2009.
“Halo: Reach” was definitely one of the most anticipated releases of the year after a playable multiplayer demo was available to those who purchased “Halo 3: ODST.”
Players control Noble 6, a member of an elite squad of soldiers known as Spartans, and quickly find themselves trying to defend a planet from an oncoming Covenant invasion. Along with the rest of the Noble team members, they move from one mission to another, uncovering the reason for the alien invasion and doing their best to survive under many different scenarios.
The solo campaign is well thought out and tells the story from Noble 6’s perspective well. Players will immediately identify and relate to the other Noble team members since they have distinct personalities that come out during firefights and in between missions.
The tale of brutality and sacrifice winds its way through the forests of Reach, into the cold reaches of outer space above and into deep caverns holding secrets long buried. While the thrill of blasting more Covenant will be enough for some, the story pulls the player through 11 levels with enough flow to keep it interesting without dragging them through needless scenes.
Armor is customizable, but doesn’t add anything to game play other than looking good. There are armor packs found in the field that do the actual work and add abilities to the player like jet packs, sprinting and camouflage.
Weapons are familiar to Halo players and ordinance packs are readily available. However, attempting to make a stand in the middle of a jungle might not be the best idea unless the player gets familiar with using alien weaponry as well.
The environments are beautifully rendered and majestic in their scope. Animations and effects seem life-like, but nothing less would be expected from Bungie.
Driving is still wonky, with vehicles handing like a go-cart with four different sized wheels. And whatever you do, don’t let the AI drive because you’ll never know how long it will take to get from point A to B and trying to fire at enemies is really an exercise in futility as you lurch in the passenger seat.
Multiplayer action has been a staple of the Halo franchise and “Halo: Reach” offers more choices for co-op and competitive play than its predecessors.
Along with the familiar Deathmatch and Capture the Flag, more choices about how to play, objectives, and scenarios are offered in new multiplayer modes. Players can choose parameters on what type of teammates and opponents they want to battle against.
Firefight puts the players in a game of survival as they face ever increasing waves of enemies who also get stronger as the game progresses. Generator Defense put teams of 3 against one another in a battle of attack and defense. The Invasion scenario pits 6 against 6 in a fight for territory control.
Each mode is customizable and players can earn credits (they can also be earned in the solo campaign) that unlock features to change the look of Noble 6 throughout the game. There are also challenges from Bungie that will help players improve their skills.
Despite all the in-game success, there have been a few glitches along the way. Some players were getting a disc read error and Microsoft is addressing those concerns on a case-by-case basis.
The gaming site Kotaku also reported that the 4GB Xbox 360 Slim is not capable of online co-op. Apparently one of the requirements for online co-op is a HDD (hard disc drive) and the Slim’s Memory Unit is not enough. The only recourse for those users is to purchase a slim hard drive or a 250GB Xbox 360.
Bungie definitely emptied their Halo basket of ideas and put together a fitting ending (or is it a beginning?) for a franchise that has thrilled millions of fans since 2001. Great storytelling, awesome environments and an expanded co-op system should keep players awake into the wee hours of the morning defending humanity from the Covenant scourge.