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September 20, 2010 | 9:29 p.m. CST
Although Reach is Bungie’s final Halo installment, it serves as a prequel to the entire trilogy. The story follows Noble Team, a division of troops serving the United Nation Space Command in 2552 as they fight off an alien force known as the Covenant on planet Reach. Fans of the series probably already know that planet Reach doesn’t survive the Covenant onslaught. Knowing this while playing the game makes some of the mystery surrounding the finale more intriguing.
The story of Noble Team is well told, but it doesn’t quite match the darker, investigative, lone-wolf tale of 2009’s Halo: ODST. The game play has been tweaked to perfection in Reach. It’s all standard sci-fi, first-person shooting but Bungie has turned the dial up passed 10. Stealthy skirmishes in the opening chapters pave the way for frantic, large-scale firefights later on. One highlight is a high-pressure, low-gravity shoot-out inside a futuristic, colorful space vessel, miles above planet Reach. New armor abilities that let the player sprint, use a jet-pack and cloak, among other things, are excellent tactical additions to the Halo formula, both in campaign and in competitive multi-player.
Developer: Bungie Software
Platform: Xbox 360
Rating: M for Mature
Bungie completely revamped the graphical presentation for Reach and it is gorgeous. Environments are vast and more richly detailed than in any other Halo. The campaign roves through various set pieces, including rainy industrial grounds, lush mountainsides, nightclubs in modern skyscrapers and even aircraft space fights among the stars. The campaign is a little on the short side, clocking in between 6 to 10 hours of game play but it never gets dull.
Along with the satisfying campaign, there are competitive multi-player modes galore; ODST’s Firefight mode and an option to play though the campaign cooperatively with other human players. Because Halo’s online multi-player is so popular, it will undoubtedly give Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2’s fan base a run for its money, if it doesn’t take over as the greatest online community outright.
It’s obvious the developers at Bungie have taken everything they’ve learned from their experience with the Halo series and polished it all into Reach. There are nostalgic specks of each Halo installment present in Reach and everything is finely tuned to near perfection. Despite not having the best story in the series and some wonky difficulty spikes, Halo: Reach is, as it should be, the best this series has to offer.