Platform: Xbox 360
The wait is over, the past is the present. Expectations and anticipation have met reality and the result is a first-person shooter that may not stray far from what is typical for the genre, but which certainly provides an enjoyable ride.
"Halo: Reach" is a trip back to the beginning of the Bungie Studios designed franchise, to the time frame that preceded the first game that launched the license in 2001, "Halo: Combat Evolved." "Combat Evolved" changed shooters and the way epic science-fiction storylines were woven into the framework to create compelling action-fueled entertainment. Three words to describe "Halo: Reach" would be "intense,""compelling" and "expansive," and that is merely the prelude to describe the graphical elements.
The combat is tight and familiar, but there are a few problems in the game, a few moments when the video play flickers subtly, or when the controls – like driving – seem a tad too touchy and verge on a feeling of being out of control, but those moments are rare. Instead, what has been crafted here is a true culmination of the lessons learned in the series. While a prequel in the strictest sense, "Reach" may well be the crowning achievement in the franchise.
The game takes place on the planet Reach (hence the name), and players take on the role of the newest member of the Noble team. It is apparent that Bungie went to great lengths to solidify the immersive elements of the game by making the interactions with other team members feel more alive. Each teammate has a story, as well as behavioral patterns that become predictable as the game progresses. Of course, the enemy is the Covenant and the game moves from minor distress calls to a full-on war scenario flawlessly.
The menu has been revamped and is much slicker than past franchise releases, allowing players to create a friends list and then track their allies, teaming up for cooperative play or venturing into the robust multiplayer scenarios.
From the early first steps onto Reach right up to the ending (and if you have played any Halo games, you know what happens to the Noble team), this game is well paced. The graphics are top drawer, the musical score keeps pace with the action and the dialogue runs the gamut from cliché to fresh, but generally is believable for the setting.
Multiplayer offers the Firefight mode from "Halo: ODST" and players can tweak conditions in multiplayer settings. There are six competitive multiplayer lobbies for those craving the action of fighting either with or against other real-world players.
"Halo: Reach" may not be the definitive FPS title on the market, but it certainly is currently at the top of the class. Franchise vets are certain to rabidly embrace this game while newcomers to the license will get an experience that will likely be the benchmark for any other game in the genre. The menu changes, robust campaign and extensive multiplayer options all add up to a game that scores well in every category.
There are a few flaws, but "Halo: Reach" has taken the franchise to incredible new levels with customization, a slicker menu, compelling story and top-tier action. This was one of the most anticipated 360 releases of the year and this game meets or exceeds expectations.