On September 14, gamers worldwide flocked to stores to pick up the latest and final installment of the Halo series, Halo Reach. Since the release of the first game in 2001, the series has revolutionized the first person shooter genre, and what better way to end it than at the beginning.
Welcome to Reach, home planet of the famed Master Chief and headquarters of the Spartan super-soldier program. The game throws players into the shoes of Noble 6, the newest member of a covert squad of Spartans. The first mission has the player investigating a distress call from an isolated region of the planet. Of course, the squad encounters a battalion of invading aliens known as the Covenant. The rest of the game revolves around Noble Team and their struggle to protect humanity against an endless Covenant invasion.
The story is told beautifully, with quality cinematography and stunning visuals, the best of any Halo game so far. The soundtrack is extremely well composed, incorporating themes from the previous games with new refreshing harmonies. The musical tracks are placed within parts of the campaign to flow perfectly with the action taking place. With the music and visuals, the game does an amazing job of delivering intense moments, though at some points the dialogue in the emotional scenes is lacking.
The game plays incredibly well with the upgrades Bungie Studios has made. The computer players are now much more intelligent; the enemies will flank very often and allies will save players seconds before they are impaled by an enemy with a sword. The most game-changing element Bungie added was armor abilities like sprint, jetpack, or camouflage that act as refreshable skills you can use repeatedly and add a completely new element of strategy to the game.
For multiplayer, on top of all the new elements, Bungie incorporated the best features from every previous Halo title. There is a multitude of new game-types like Invasion, a massive attack and defense game, along with all the old favorites like Slayer or Capture the Flag.
Another important element incorporated into the game is Firefight mode. Firefight encourages players to cooperate against endless hordes of enemies in a struggle for survival. Reach provides a level of customization unheard of in most console shooters, and this particular game mode is even more customizable than the competitive multiplayer game modes. Game options can be as detailed as the number and composition of enemies in a single wave out of dozens, and players can even choose to play on the opposing Covenant side.
Not only are the game-types customizable, but so are the maps where games are played. Forge, the map editing system first introduced in Halo 3, has gotten a full upgrade with the latest edition of an editing sandbox known as “Forge World”. This map is a massive canvas where editors have over 200 objects to place in any configuration they want. The tools are now incredibly intuitive and players can create functioning maps from scratch in a matter of minutes. The default multiplayer maps are mediocre, but rest assured that the Halo community will be creating new maps for many years to come.
Halo fans could not have asked for a better way to end this iconic series. Bungie took great care to ensure that people will be playing the game for many years to come. The minor faults in an otherwise perfect game can be easily compensated for and seem almost insignificant in a game with this massive a scope. With this final chapter, gamers have to say goodbye to the Spartans, goodbye to the Covenant, but most certainly not goodbye to Halo.