(http://halo.xbox.com/en-us/intel/titles/haloreach) Rated M for Mature by ESRB. Are you ready Halo fans? Because here comes Halo: Reach, the last Halo game that game developer Bungie will be making. And it’s very fitting that their final game takes place before the events in the original Halo: Combat Evolved. With their latest game, Bungie has decided to wrap everything up by making a prequel that shows people the events that led to the destruction and glassing of the planet Reach by the vicious aliens, the Covenant. 

(http://halo.xbox.com/en-us/intel/titles/haloreach) Rated M for Mature by ESRB. Are you ready Halo fans? Because here comes Halo: Reach, the last Halo game that game developer Bungie will be making. And it’s very fitting that their final game takes place before the events in the original Halo: Combat Evolved. With their latest game, Bungie has decided to wrap everything up by making a prequel that shows people the events that led to the destruction and glassing of the planet Reach by the vicious aliens, the Covenant. 

Presentation:
The Halo franchise has always had a knack for presentation. It’s such a rich atmosphere, full of intriguing plot, epic battles, and interesting characters. Halo: Reach is no exception. The entire game takes place on the fictional planet Reach, the birthplace of the Spartan II project. You follow the path of a curiously unnamed Spartan (designated Noble Six) that is brought in to replace a team member on the Spartan squad, Noble Team. The 5 other Spartans on your team each have distinct personalities, as opposed to the iconic Master Chief of the series, and you really gain a connection with each one. The voice acting is far from being overdramatic, it’s just perfect and there is never once a moment that a character seems insincere. 

One of the most notable features is that during cutscenes, your character appears as he does in multiplayer. That is to say that your character is wearing your custom armor and colors not only in multiplayer, but during the campaign as well, even during the cinematic scenes. Details like that make you feel that you really are a part of the action.

I will try not to spoil anything in the way of plot, but the game follows Noble Team as you travel around the planet Reach as the covenant steadily invade and destroy it. Your team has various objectives to ensure the survival of civilians, as well as making sure vital equipment doesn’t fall into enemy hands. Your missions will take you all over the planet, and even into outer space. 

       

Graphics:
The graphics in Reach are absolutely phenomenal. Attention has been paid to absolutely every single element. Each and every gun has been completely redrawn with twice the detail of any previous Halo game, and your armor is so detailed that it boggles the mind sometimes. Every time that you begin to really pay attention to the small details, you’ll discover some little animation or effect that just really blows your mind. For example, I was driving a new covenant vehicle, and I noticed that there was a display console on the interior on which you could see what was in front of the vehicle. There are hundreds of examples like that in Reach; details that weren’t necessary, but the fact that they thought of them and put them in the game make it amazing.

And of course, it wouldn’t be a Halo game without the absolutely stunning vistas. Great amount of time has been put into making the most beautiful landscapes for your battles as well as off into the distance. So much content has been created for the planet that it actually feels like Reach is a real planet, not some fictitious battlefield. And the method by which they control the camera seems to have been reworked as well. Camera shots during cutscenes feel much more real and organic, less like you are watching from some camera, but that you yourself are in the world, watching through someone else’s eyes. 

       

Sounds:
The sound effects are top notch. The sounds of plasma and bullet fire flying across the battlefield are unmistakable and distinct. And the vehicles roar to life as you ride them across a war zone. The enemy’s and your own squad mates’  chatter makes each and every firefight intense and unique. And for you fans of the original Halo, the covenant no longer speak English, they have gone back to speaking an unintelligible language. 

As for music, Martin O’Donnell has outdone himself yet again. The man behind all of the grandiose scores in the Halo franchise has once again made a magnificent set of music to blow up aliens to. The music in Halo games has always been notorious for being unbelievably epic, but somehow it never fails to blow your mind to hear O’Donnell’s beautiful music. While a great musical score isn’t necessary for a great game, Bungie has once again shown that if they’re going to do something, they’re going to do it right. 
 
Gameplay:
At its core, Halo’s gameplay is a generic FPS experience. But Bungie would never settle for generic, so they always find ways to shake up the typical gameplay equation. There is an array of both Human and Covenant weapons. You also have a rechargeable energy shield that absorbs most damage you take. Once your shields fail, you’ll take direct damage, and you’ll have to find a med pack to heal once your shield recharge. Covenant plasma weapons deal high damage to shields with little damage to health, while conventional human firearms act vice versa. Several typical Halo weapons have been replaced or removed and of course, new weapons have been added. The addition of the Needle Rifle for example, has replaced Halo 3’s Covenant Carbine. 

The biggest change however, is the addition of armor abilities. In campaign you can now pick up (and in multiplayer you just spawn with) special equipment for your armor that makes you capable of activating special powers. Some examples of these abilities are: the Jet Pack, Sprinting, and Armor Lock. These powers are a major game changer and are extremely exciting, especially during multiplayer. 

       

Longevity:
The campaign length is the only downfall of Halo: Reach. A regular play through on Heroic (the second highest difficulty) will take about 6 to 10 hours. But beating the game through on Legendary will take considerably longer. But all the extra features, especially multiplayer, will keep you playing Halo for years. During campaign, you have the opportunity to add difficulty increasing skulls, which produce interesting effects to increase the challenge as well as the score. In addition, there are hidden easter eggs all over the game. 

As for multiplayer, you can play through the campaign cooperatively, fight endless waves of covenant in Firefight mode, or go head to head with your friends over Xbox Live or split-screen. In Firefight mode, you will fight wave after wave of aliens, as you progress further and further, the game adds skulls to up the difficulty and challenge. Eventually, it’s a struggle to survive. This mode is very intense and is available over Xbox Live’s matchmaking service as well as on a single console. 

But good old player vs. player multiplayer is probably the best part of all. With over 10 base game types, and hundreds of modified variants able to be created from each, multiplayer should never get boring. Using Xbox Live Matchmaking, you can play for hours upon hours. Rather than the veto system used to decide the game type like in Halo 3, players are given 3 choices to vote from and the type with the most votes will be the next game. 

Throughout the entire game, you will earn experience and credits for your character. Using credits, you can unlock special armor to customize your character. And while it doesn’t affect gameplay at all, it carries a certain amount of pride to wear the super expensive armor that takes a lot of experience to unlock.

Of course, for you creative gamers out there, there is the new revamped forge mode. Players are given control of a base map and can move and modify any game object to create brand new maps with almost no limitation to what they can do. Bungie even made a special map made just for forging, called Forge World, that is larger than any other map before. Look forward to seeing hundreds of downloadable forged maps in the future. 
 
Conclusion:
Halo: Reach may just be Bungie’s masterpiece. No matter your opinion of the franchise as a whole, I highly recommend it to both Halo fans and nonfans alike. It’s a fantastic example of a great first person shooter. Bungie has truly left a glorious legacy behind as they move on to something new, and I can’t wait to see what they will release in the future.

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