Monday, September 13, 2010

Video game number two hundred and seventy two: Halo Reach

Video game review number two hundred and seventy two in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Halo Reach".

I've been waiting for this game all year long and somehow it still managed to surpass all of the hype surrounding it. Halo Reach might possibly be the best Halo game ever.

Right off the bat, I decided to dive into the campaign. Although I haven't gotten more than a couple of levels in, but I can say that so just "feels" right. The gameplay is no longer the linear "walk down this hallway, kill the aliens" version of the game that we're all used to, it has evolved further, like the ODST campaign did before it. The campaign levels are huge, expansive worlds, and the path through them feels like a sandbox, even though it's still somewhat linear as well.

I will come back to the campaign at a later time, but I need to focus the bulk of this review where it belongs: On the multiplayer.

There have been so many improvements on top of Halo 3 and ODST that it's hard to count them all. I will do my best to highlight the ones I think are the best.

Credit (CR) for everything you do: Call of Duty Modern Warfare is able to keep me addicted because of the constant leveling up of your character in regular multiplayer matches. Want new guns? Custom colors? Kill streak rewards? You have to keep playing, forever and ever. Until now, the Halo universe has never had this, but now they finally do. While you can't get better guns, you can get cooler looking armor (previously only earned by unlocking certain achievements). You can even unlock small amounts of credits by playing custom games, or the campaign. Eventually, I'll be able to have my player explode in a ball of confetti (if I can save up the million credits needed to do so). That will probably take months and months. Pretty awesome stuff.

Matchmaking firefight: When ODST introduced Firefight, it was an AWESOME gametype (much like the Gears of War "Horde" mode they were imitating. Unfortunately, it was fatally flawed, because it had no matchmaking. That meant if you ever wanted to had to play with three friends. With my pals, it's pretty tough to coordinate times and what-not, so in the entire time I had ODST, according to, I've only played about 60 games of it. I've already played almost 50 in Reach, in just the first week. Bravo for matchmaking.

3 choices of Gametype: In Halo 3, there was a "veto" feature if you didn't like the map and gametype in the lobby you joined. Now there are three, and people can vote. This is a cool feature, so long as you have the votes. If it's a bunch of random kids, you're very likely to get SWAT, Snipers or DMR (the one shot kill playlists). These are my least favorite game types, so hopefully they build different playlists so I can avoid them. Still, this new feature makes it democratic instead of random, and I like that. In a Team Slayer match with my friends, that means we'll almost always get to choose, and that's cool.

No more pressing a d-pad button to talk to your buddies in team games. Nuff said.

The equipment: So, the biggest change to Halo Reach is probably the equipment. They've added Jet Packs, armor lock abilities (basically it's like a bubble shield, only you are stuck inside it while it's on). Holograms (send a fake you out into battle), Sprint, Invisibility and more. This stuff adds a whole new dimension to the game, just like dual wielding did in the last one. has been hugely improved: The new tracks almost everything you can possibly do in the game. It was the original, it's still the best. If you want to take a look at your career in a snapshot, this website has everything you need.

Daily and weekly challenges: This is a cool new credit-earning feature where you basically have to complete some small goal (75 kills in one day in multiplayer, etc) and you'll get a credit reward once you've completed them. There was an achievement for completing all five of them in one day, which I managed to do. Every day they change, it's pretty awesome stuff.

Joining your friends in progress: One of my biggest peeves with Halo is that when you pop online and see some friends you'd like to play with, it's sometimes tough to join them. You have to invite them, then they have to accept, or vice versa. Now, (if you have your privacy set to open), you can meet up a lot easier. The only bad thing? Some of my friends haven't figured this out yet, and still try to join me the "old" way.

Update 9/19/10.

This weekend I finished the campaign, and all I can say is "Wow". Not only is this the best Halo campaign ever, it's a perfect setup for everything in the first 3 games and has a ton of throwbacks to the older ones. If you were to skip through the cut-scenes, and just focus on the gameplay, it would still be a fantastic standalone game. It's just that good. Obviously, I still wouldn't recommend playing it that way, because if you watch everything and pay attention to the little clues, you'll realize the entire story of Halo is being set up here. It's pretty amazing.

I don't want to get into spoilers, but gameplay takes you into so many modes (several of them unlike anything you've done in any Halo game before), and each one is a little different than the level before it. Yes, there's a ton of action, and lots of it is unlike anything you've encountered in previous titles...but the awesome stuff for me was the story. If you're a Halo fan, you already have this game, and you already know how awesome it is. If not...this game could convert you.

Overall Score? 10/10. If there was a number higher than perfect, I'd award that number. I've just beaten the campaign, but I know I'll be going back through on Legendary someday to get all those achievements. I've barely scratched the surface of multiplayer, and I know I'll be playing it for years to come. There will be map packs, there will be Halo parties at my house...and I don't suspect I'll be putting this game away on the shelf anytime in the foreseeable future. This isn't just the best game I've played this year, or the best Halo game ever, (although it is both of those things). The compliments I want to give this game span beyond just saying it's the "best" of a year, or of a series. Frankly, I think this is destined to be one of my favorite video games of all time. That's saying a lot. I know I'll play this whenever I get a chance with my buddies online, and even when the new hotness is released....this will now be "Halo", and there will always be a place for that in my gaming time, just like there is for Mario Kart or Rock Band.

Achievements? Here's what I have so far. There will obviously be more (I'd love to 100% this game). I unlocked about 60% of it so far, and here's the list. I expect it to grow weekly. :-)

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