Halo: Reach review
|REVIEWS - VIDEOGAME REVIEWS|
Bungie's sign-off from their world-beating FPS series proves a mere footnote to greater days...
The Halo series may have its detractors, but what can never be denied is that it has revolutionised the first-person shooter genre over the last decade. Having finished the fight in the franchise's last outing (in the reviewer’s opinion, Halo: ODST does not figure in the series' canon) Bungie chose to bring the story full circle with this new grand finale. The question is: is this a fitting send off or a forgettable clone?
Whether this will be the last Halo game to ever be made remains in Microsoft's hands, but for Bungie the series is most certainly finished. As the team move on to pastures new, they should be rightly proud of what they have accomplished with the predominantly Xbox-exclusive title. With sales in excess of 35 million copies, Bungie have managed to cement their place in videogaming history in more ways than one. The expansive storyline, the simple but effective gameplay, epic moments and balanced multiplayer all combined to make an experience that was always worth the money. Halo truly is one of the greatest franchises to grace the videogame industry. With Halo: Reach many waited with bated breath - but for a grandstand swan-song, it ultimately disappointed.
"Enemy AI has been developed to the point that gamers must constantly adapt their playing style in order to survive and progress"
This is not to suggest that Halo: Reach is in any way a bad game; in fact, it’s quite the contrary. The setting is, once again, hugely varied and often breath-taking. The arsenal of weapons is impressive, with enough of a difference to previous iterations to make gameplay feel refreshed. The sweeping story again enthralls and captivates, drawing the player deep into the ever-worsening situation. Enemy AI has been developed to the point that gamers must constantly adapt their playing style in order to survive and progress. There are very few elements within the game that can be easily criticised due to the steady distillation process that Bungie have pursued.
However, there are some if you look hard enough. Your fellow team-mates are surprisingly poor and ineffective considering that the team’s leader tells the player at the very start that “there’ll be no more lone wolf stuff, 6, we’re a team.” In the end, it’s frequently left up to the gamer to push on, kill almost every enemy and take every plasma grenade. This does give the player an inflated sense of ability, but it also undermines the supposed reliance on your team-mates. Moreover, the development of your team-mates as characters seems rushed and ultimately lacking, to the point that their deaths often mean nothing.
"There are also issues with the online content of the game, with Firefight unnaturally laggy and the competitive multiplayer not really developing enough to make an influential dent on its competitors"
The insertion of character customisation and the gathering of experience does add a point of interest, but it doesn’t fundamentally change the playing experience for the better. The ability to buy new armour or effects is merely an exercise in vanity rather than anything meaningful—despite this customisation appearing in cut-scenes—thus begging the question “what’s the point?” The acquiring of experience is normally an addictive process, but in Halo: Reach it feels almost like a footnote that only a small proportion of gamers will ever take interest in.
There are also issues with the online content of the game as well, with Firefight unnaturally laggy and the competitive multiplayer not really developing enough to make an influential dent on its competitors. The addition of various perks does change the balance of the gameplay in a positive manner when playing competitively, but they don’t ultimately change the experience sufficiently to warrant any special praise. Indeed, with recent videos cropping up which show a select few players employing mods that essentially allow them to cheat outrageously, questions must be asked as to the competency of Bungie’s rigorous anti-cheat mechanisms.
It was always going to be a difficult to top what the team achieved with the imperious Halo 3, but by trying to steadily distil their way towards perfection, Halo: Reach feels more akin to Halo 3: ODST rather than an addition to the canon. The fact that there isn’t anything that necessarily differentiates it from its predecessor would be acceptable were it a title in the middle of a franchise, but as it’s meant to be Bungie’s swan song, players feel a little bit underwhelmed by the whole experience. Although it towers above the poor Halo 2 single player, it isn’t as grand as the other two. Although the multiplayer is vaster than Halo: Combat Evolved, it isn’t as revolutionary as the other two.
If Halo: Reach was the precursor to the final instalment of Bungie’s magical franchise, the steady progression would be excused, but for a supposed blockbuster it is found wanting in too many respects. Although an admirable game, it would be a shock if it were to be awarded any Game Of The Year awards, considering the pedigree of other titles released in 2010.
Halo: Reach is out now
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