Released: 1st September 2010
Format(s): Xbox 360
Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
Like countless others, I'm a big fan of the Halo franchise. From its humble beginnings as the dawn of a new era for first-person shooters to the trilogies' epic conclusion and one of the biggest entertainment releases ever with Halo 3. However, the announcement of Halo 3: ODST at Tokyo Game Show 2008, for some reason, didn't interest me in the slightest. I played through it, no doubt, but only months after. For me, it wasn't a case of the storyline, the new setting or the fact that you play as an 'Orbital Drop Shock Trooper' (I ended up quite liking all this!) It just seemed like too much Halo at a time when the series needed to cool down to still be fresh. There's no doubting how accomplished a shooter like Halo really is but since its release in 2001 for the original Xbox, it has done little to keep its head above the crowd of the competition.
Announced at E3 2009 to muted fanfare, Halo: Reach has my attention. To be honest, early footage of the Beta (which is playable on the ODST disc from 3rd May 2010!) has swept away any preconceptions I had that this would be some major leap for the series. It looks much the same, and from what people have said playing it, it feels much the same. But Reach does introduce one major new game play mechanic...
Anyone who has played Halo 3 will be aware of the deployment of particular items with the 'X' button within the game. This could have been anything from a blinding flash of light to a deployable 'bubble shield'. Here, the concept works in much the same way, other than this time they revolve around 'armour abilities' and are reuseable and persistent to the player until they are replaced. Multiplayer will also allow the use of these abilities, meaning the competitive online community will be enlivened with fresh new game play opportunities and an all new experience. Amongst the suit upgrades are; 'active camo', sprinting, 'armour lock' (a protective suit that hinders movement), and a jet pack addition. The latter could really alter the way in which the game is played and it'll only be time that tells whether it'll truly add to the experience.
Other additions to multiplayer include the introduction of weapon 'loadouts' upon spawning, meaning players can choose which weapons to start with, an improved 'veto' system and new game modes. “Headhunter” sees players drop skulls upon death which can then be picked up by enemy players and deposited at drop zones for points. “Stockpile” involves the race for teams to collect neutral flags which then have to be held at capture points for game points. “Generator defense” puts 'Spartans' up against 'Elites' in a game not dissimilar to 'Defend the base' in which three generators have to be attacked/defended depending on the team. Finally, the last new game mode is possibly the most exciting, “Invasion” is a six-versus-six round of 'Spartans' versus 'Elites' once again but one in which as the round progresses, new weapon loadouts, vehicles and areas of the map become available with the opportunity of games really turning on their head a huge possibility. The mode is not too different to Killzone 2's service to the multiplayer scene in which objectives change on the fly for a real diversity in game progression. This type of design into multiplayer marks Bungie being inventive, trying something different, when they could so easily have rested on their laurels once again.
In terms of the single player experience, Reach sees you take control of “Control 6”, a member of an elite squad of supersoliders, set during the world for the human world 'Reach' in 2552. The game's designers have promised a “rich world, with a great fiction surrounding it” and have also detailed their work on the improvement of enemy AI and a more open-world or sandbox approach to combat. Forge, Custom Games and Theater all return with no mention as yet whether these too have any significant improvements.
And yes, this is Bungie's swansong to the Halo universe and if it's going to be a fond farewell, it's no doubt going to be worth getting excited about.