Friday, 17 September 2010

Review: Halo Reach

Years ago, I posted an angry review about Halo 3. I didn't like it much but saw hope and potential in what was achieved by Bungie. Halo 3 was technically incredible but lacked the Halo feel and omitted a lot of features we all wanted to see at the time in 2007.

So, years later and here we are with Halo Reach. This is Bungie's final Halo game and you get the sense that they wanted to go out with a bang. For my money, this is the greatest Halo game I've played. It feels like the original Halo (which is good) and adds many new features to the mix. My favourite is Firefight mode. I'm a stickler for co-op and survival based co-op in particular. Firefight mode, which was first devised in last year's Halo: ODST, is insanely fun and addictive. I don't feel like I've even touched the surface of it either. You can alter any option you like and pretty much define the rules and content of your game to a precise idea in your head. Customisation, in every respect, is the key with Halo Reach.

Beyond Firefight, Reach delivers in all other areas. Matchmaking based Multiplayer feels even more polished and responsive than it did with Halo 3 and I suspect Halo: ODST (although I never played that one). It's fast at finding games but is still not quite as fast as the Call of Duty system. However, it's more sophisticated and essentially better. Any game mode you can think of is available and some you probably can't. Combined with the infinite potential for custom games, I'm going to go as far as to say that this is probably the most complete Multiplayer package I've ever seen in all my years of gaming online.

If the online side is not your bag then fear not. The Single Player (or 4 player co-op) Campaign mode is truly an incredible achievement by Bungie. I'm actually only half way through it, attempting Legendary (the toughest difficulty) in my first play through. However, I've seen enough to know this is the greatest Campaign of any Halo game. The word epic comes to mind. Every level is epic. There are no boring stages and you feel as if you could replay every moment again and again. I even loved the space combat mission.

The level design is excellent and the AI seems to be even more polished than before. No Halo game has ever suffered from bad AI though. Taking on an Elite in a one on one confrontation has always been the bread and butter of Halo for me. They are tough and always seem like a formidable, intelligent, adversary. So many games fail to achieve this sense of worthiness when it comes to the enemy's they throw at you. Even bosses in most games are nothing compared to just a standard grunt in this game. Bungie are simply the masters of AI coding.

Reach also offers the same Theatre mode and Forge mode we saw in Halo 3. Forge is improved and now allows for insane levels of design. You can essentially now make your own level. Your only limitation is the vast canvas of a map you get to use as your template for placing things down.

There really is nothing to fault with Reach (unless you're simply not into the Halo mechanic that is). Some have argued that the graphics could be better. Although this game is no Killzone 2 in the graphics department, the visuals are still excellent in my opinion. It's not until you go into Theatre mode and start zooming in on characters and vehicles that you realise quite how good the graphics actually are. Sound is also top notch, although I'm at odds about why Bungie decided to assign the sound of your weapon firing to a front 5.1 channel instead of the centre. It's no biggie though and you won't even notice this if you don't have 5.1 surround sound rigged up. 

In summary, this game is as close to a flawless product as a gamer is ever going to see. 2010 hasn't seen much in the way of particularly memorable titles so far but Halo Reach has changed that. For my money, this is not only game of the year but also one of the greatest games I've ever played.