Having crammed as many hours as I could into Halo: Reach before the review embargo, and written up my family gaming thoughts, I realized my take on the game would probably be a little different. It comes down to one thing – the lack of game time you have with a young family.
What I want from games is very different these days, andHalo: Reach is no different. I’m much more willing to focus on what I want, rather than having to play through every mode or setting. So here’s my first thoughts of Halo: Reach for you family gamers:
Halo: Reach dances around the perfect formula without stepping on too many toes. Halo remains Halo — which, for me, is a string of knife-edge encounters with enemies that seem as alive as me. For family gamers short on time, Halo: Reach‘s quality makes it all worthwhile.
I didn’t realize how much fun Halo: Reach was until after I had finished my first play session. Bouncing through the campaign from one 30 second encounter to the next didn’t give me time to breathe. It wasn’t until I had run out of play time for the evening, and I reflected on the way I’d spent the last few hours, I could rehearse the classic Halo moments that Reach had thrown up. Dancing around architecture to recharge my shields. Edging forwards as I determined who exactly I was facing. Heading into a firefight with the Gregorian tones giving way to Indie rock.
This is all to say that Reach is still Halo through and through. Special abilities, health and new weapons all bear the hand of their creator — and that has stayed steady since the first game launched the original Xbox.
That may sound a little derisory, to not have move beyond the Bungie’s 2002 opus. But if you have spent time here already, you will know that this is exactly what Halo: Reach had to do. A last hurrah for all that is wonderfully Halo, for everything Bungie.
The game still bulges in over delivery. An impressive campaign, where newcomers can learn to play and old hands reacquaint themselves. This can be played alone or with another player locally, and with up to four players online. Multiplayer returns, refreshed with new modes and improved matchmaking. The Forge game editor is more powerful than ever.
Reach innovates around Halo‘s strengths with impressive restraint and imagination. The simpler single wield system perpetuates from ODST, and takes a little getting used to on the first encounter. But it’s the special abilities that are the biggest departure. In place of the equipment from previous games, you can now choose one time limited ability. Armor grants invulnerability. A Jetpack endows you with flight. The Hologram projects a fake ‘you’ to lure out enemies. And Invisibility and Speed round out the choices.
For all these bells and whistles though, it is still the nuanced intelligent enemies that steal the show. Although it’s too frantic to really appreciate at the time, I came away from each session with a handful of classic Halo memories. Being out-foxed by an Elite’s strategy, playing cat and mouse trying to trick a Brute or simply underestimating a Grunt’s sticky grenade.
Ironically, I think I would have been as happy with Halo: Reach if it had just been a new adventure for Halo 3 — and in some ways I guess it kind of is. My limited time, and inability to compete online, keeps me focused on the campaign. And the campaign is all about those moments of engagement that stick in my brain and make me buzz with excitement afterward.
Halo: Reach is of course much much more than this. I’ve only dipped my toe into the quality to be found in one small corner. But this extends throughout. Bungie have ensured they cater for people like me, as well as those who want the full meal deal.
For gamers with young families and limited time, it’s quality like this that you look for. Although I know I’m not maximizing the value I get from Halo: Reach, I’m so impressed by my small corner of it that I really don’t mind.
I can’t wait to read the other Halo: Reach reviews and hear about people’s different experiences with the game.