Tuesday, June 25, 2013
Top 10 Games of the Seventh Generation Consoles - #6: Halo: Reach
The first-person shooter is generally one of my least favorite genres in video gaming, due to the sheer number of FPS titles that are released each year with minimal effort or inspiration. As much as I have enjoyed the Halo series over the years, it is still rather surprising to me that Bungie’s swansong to their monumentally successful series landed a spot this high on my top ten list. While I will always consider the story, gameplay, and multiplayer offerings of Halo 2 to be the best in the series, Halo: Reach follows not far behind the title that essentially shaped online gaming for consoles into what it is today.
The tale of Noble Team is really a side story to the main tale of Master Chief and Cortana. While the fall of planet Reach is one of the most pivotal events in the Human-Covenant War, it’s content that is largely unfamiliar to anyone who has not read the Halo novels, and NPCs only make brief mention of the battle in any of the three main games or spin-off title ODST. Witnessing an earlier conflict in the Human-Covenant War firsthand is entertaining and does well to separate the story from the all-too familiar routine of Master Chief blowing away every Covenant and Flood foe that stands in his way. But throwing five squadmates into the equation, giving them each a unique and interesting personality, and showing players just what is at stake with the loss of a planet so critical to UNSC operations lends to Halo: Reach an atmosphere notably different from previous Halo titles.
While dual-wielding was done away with, the balance of weapons Reach offered up was darn near perfect and plenty of fun to experiment with. The armor abilities were a much more intelligent implementation of the rather awkward equipment introduced in Halo 3. The Vehicles were largely familiar, though a couple of new additions felt right at home in the UNSC and Covenant squadrons respectively. The campaign is decently lengthy, and the highest difficulty setting offers up a genuinely challenging trek that requires a far more careful and tactical approach without feeling the least bit aggravating or unfair.
As for the multiplayer side of things, Halo: Reach’s offerings may not be as consistently high caliber as Halo 2’s maps, but many of them return in the form of remakes (whether full-fledged, or variations in the make-whatever-your-heart-so-desires expanse of Forge World). Classic game modes like Slayer and Infection return, while a few new modes like Headhunter and Invasion may be drastically different in their implementation (the former being silly and frenetic, the latter requiring finesse and teamwork) but are a blast to partake in. Add in Firefight, a team-based mode where waves of Grunts, Jackals, Brutes, Elites, and the occasional Hunters advance toward your location, and you have the most complete package a Halo title has ever offered.
When it all boils down to it, the story of Noble Team’s last stand on Reach is basically a countdown to extinction. But the presentation is damn good, from Marty O’Donell’s masterful soundtrack, to the oddly gorgeous decay of a planet ravaged by battle. Though chronologically Halo: Reach takes place prior to the original Halo, there’s little more I could ask for from Bungie in bringing a conclusion to their long-running series. Nobody knows the Halo property quite like Bungie.