Review: Halo: Reach

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It's been a while since I've done a video game review, mainly because I've been addicted to Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2 (hereafter CODMW2), so I thought I'd write up some quick thoughts on the last game I wrapped, Halo: Reach. This is the third Halo game I've reviewed (Halo 2, Halo 3, Halo 3: ODST) and is close to being the best. Unfortunately, I don't see myself playing it again. Before I talk about what I consider to be the big disappoint, let me talk about what I really like. First let's talk about the single player experience. I finished that a few days ago. I've heard some folks call it short, but felt about right to me. Maybe shorter than CODMW2's SP game, but I don't think significantly so. I dinged Halo 3 for having a mediocre story with confusing directions (go to X, ok, what direction is X?). To be honest, I don't remember much of the story at all. Halo 2 and ODST had incredible stories. Reach brings back the excitement. Every part of the game was thrilling. It's hard to describe the feeling of Halo but if CODMW2 is like the best action film ever made, Reach is closer to one of the best Spielburg films. Sure there is plenty of action, but the drama is there as well. Maybe it's the music, which has always been good in these games (especially ODST), but the overall mood/atmosphere of Reach really worked for me.

I played the game on medium difficulty (not really the name, but the level above noob) and found it to be just right. I ran into 3 or 4 sections that were pretty tough but for the most part, the difficulty was just right. I did find that you could kind of cheat in some areas by simply running around a tough adversary, but hey, if I was told to get to a point and I can do it by running like a scared little school girl then more power to me.

Speaking of that - I still run into a few places where I had no idea where to go. But it seemed easier this time then in Halo 3. I'm tempted to just blame myself. I've got a horrible sense of direction and I guess it applies to the virtual world as well.

So - single player is awesome. How about multiplayer? I hate it. I don't just dislike it. I despise it. To be fair, I haven't given it a heck of a lot of time. I've played for maybe two hours. I haven't covered all the modes even. But the experience is just plain frustrating. Let me describe a typical MP game for me in Halo Reach (and this isn't just me - most of the guys I play with regularly would describe it the same) - I'm running down a corridor, come across a badie, and then pump 10+ bullets in him only to have him kill me with one shot. Ok, so maybe I'm using the wrong gun. In a typical game you only chose from one of two or so presets. You can't customize your character. So I go pick up another gun and get the same result. In fact, out of all the kills I've gotten in Reach (which isn't much), 90% of them were from melee attacks. I'm sorry - but I thought I was playing a first person shooter?? I've heard others say I should just go for head shots. Well, I get that a head shot will always be better. Fine. I'm not that good of a shot in COD either, and I can still get by well.

As for game advancement - again it feels much shallower than COD. Gaining levels seems much slower. I gained maybe 2 levels over the couple of hours I played. From what I can see I'd probably need 3-4 more hours to finish the level I'm on now. However, from what I can see advancing gets you absolutely nothing at all. You can buy armor, but it's all cosmetic. Woot. I can't wait to spend 10 hours so I can buy new shoulder pads that add absolutely nothing to game. Yeah. To be clear, I don't mind cosmetic changes - they can be kind of cool - but if that's the only thing you gain why should I bother?

Reach's MP isn't all bad. It is much easier for your friends to join your party compared to COD. In COD you have to invite people, and I can't tell you how many times I'll invite friend A at the same time he invites me. Then you have an awkward situation of wondering if you should accept his invite or wait for him to take yours. Reach just plain works. Also - I like the idea of the Firefight mode. I think I tried it once (I'll be honest - I think I played it once a bit inebriated) and the idea is cool - basically see how long you and your friends can survive against waves of enemies.

So do I recommend Reach? Absolutely. I've got multiple games where I enjoyed the SP and never even bothered with the MP. (I'm playing Transformers now too and will write up my thoughts when done - but to be honest I don't see bothering with the MP.) If you enjoyed Halo at all, I think this is easily the best game in the series for SP. While I hate the MP, and some of my friends agree, not all of them. So that being said, I'd definitely recommend picking it up.

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About Raymond Camden

Raymond is a senior developer evangelist for Adobe. He focuses on document services, JavaScript, and enterprise cat demos. If you like this article, please consider visiting my Amazon Wishlist or donating via PayPal to show your support. You can even buy me a coffee!

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Archived Comments

Comment 1 by Ryan Vikander posted on 10/10/2010 at 9:23 PM

I think the problem is you went from playing CODMW2 MP and jumped into Reach's MP. CODMW2's MP is one shot kill with almost every weapon. I have always thought Halo is more skillful than COD for this reason you have to have well placed shots to take down their shield and then finish them off with another well placed shot. If you just use the assault rifle and spray you are probably not going to get a kill. Or get lucky and finish off someone else's kill. The DMR is where it is at a couple head shots from that will take the shields down and then one shot to the head once shields are down will be an instant kill. As for ranking up you should complete the daily and weekly challenges to rank up faster. You can't just solely play games and expect to rank up. Especially if you don't do well in the games you won't get a lot of credits. Yes rank doesn't really add anything but does it really ever? In CODMW2 you rank up unlock guns and then prestige and lose them. Understandably there are more guns in CODMW2 so unlocking them isn't that big of a deal. There isn't enough guns to unlock in Reach so it doesn't make sense to unlock as you go. Firefight is really fun for multiplayer if regular matchmaking frustrates you. Get 3 friends and play that can be fun since enemies aren't hard to kill.

Comment 2 by Emmet posted on 10/11/2010 at 6:06 PM

You fell into the n00b trap. When you first start multiplayer you are at the lowest rank which is fine, but... You are also at the same rank as everyone else who just started. This includes the generals of Halo 3. People who are just THAT good. They will eventually boost past your level. Your rank won't level out to playing with people your skill in only 2 hours of play.

Your arguments against Halo are my arguments against COD. Getting the jump on someone doesn't equate to skill in a one shot one kill game. Weapons combos, head shots, strafing and using your load out specials brings a lot more to a game then just running and gunning.

Comment 3 by Raymond Camden posted on 10/11/2010 at 11:14 PM

Fair points all - and I want to try Firefight more. But to be honest, if I'm just not good enough for Halo MP, I'd rather not waste time on it and just do COD. ;)

Comment 4 by Hooloovoo posted on 10/22/2010 at 7:45 PM

If CODMW2 is like the best action film, and Reach is like one of the best Spielburg films, I wonder what Mass Effect 2 would compare to...?? Maybe like playing through an excellent action-packed SciFi novel? :P

I had a blast with Reach! :) My favorite part of Reach is playing cooperatively through the missions though. Nothing like taking down a horde of the Covenant with a buddy!! I am not much of a solo shooter player...unless we are talking about Mass Effect, but then, that is not *just* a shooter.

Comment 5 by Raymond Camden posted on 10/22/2010 at 7:48 PM

I thought Mass Effect 1 was -very- well done. I played ME2 for about 5 hours or so and dropped it. Not forever - certainly. But I'm kinda unsure if I like it. I felt like they kinda dumbed down some things a bit too much. Especially the whole "when the quest is done, you are done, period, no looking around for items you may have missed" part.

Comment 6 by Hooloovoo posted on 10/22/2010 at 10:43 PM

That is what I hear a lot. No, you can't run around after a quest and look for items, and it kinda sucks that some areas are inaccessible unless you're on a mission there. You also can't spend hours customizing your guns and armor. I loved ME1, but in my opinion ME2 is a better overall game.

In my opinion, the gameplay is more fun (a lot less glitchy), the character development is better and the characters themselves are much more interesting. The level design is much much better - if you remember most side quests in ME1 looked kinda the same. Even the missions themselves are just as, if not more interesting and I am excited to see how some of them tie into ME3!

In fact, one of my buddies complained about the changes a lot when he first started playing ME2...he ended up playing it 3 times in a row. But I think for the third time he just wanted all of his teammates to survive.

It's worth the gameplay, they just shifted the focus to have fewer RPG elements and more shooter elements. And planet scanning is boring too - but you can still find bonus missions by doing it.