I completely forgot I had started to write this. Bit late now but upping it anyway.
I’m going to keep this short. Other people will say it better, I hope.
Halo Reach was average. Really average.
Reach was meant to be the culmination of everything that has happened in the Halo Universe over 9 glorious years of games from the Bungie studios. It was meant to complete the loop and make the world feel whole but for me it failed.
From the offset it’s a disappointment. Investigating reports of an attack on what seems to be some Mexican farm you know what is coming but it’s as if the protagonists do as well. There’s such little fanfare when you discover the Covenant – ‘Sir, it’s the Covenant’ ‘I know’ –
It’s all too knowing. When one key character saying ‘when Reach falls, and it WILL fall’ you think ‘ah, sod it, I won’t bother then’. The members of noble Team, a band of elite Spartan warriors including yourself, get picked off one by inevitable one in the most mundane of fashions. One minute they’re there with full shields up with armor that can withstand the best part of an entire enemy clip, and the next – kaput, shot in the back with one bullet. And it’s this inevitability that leads to the tedium, especially as Noble Team are such a bunch of feckless metal that you couldn’t care less. They’re far less interesting than the brilliantly written members of ODST and the game really could have benefited from at least some kind of introduction to them. Also, as with most games involving indispensable AI friendlies, they are rendered utterly redundant on the field of battle as they can’t die. Anything gets close to killing them and ‘pow’ they suddenly have the shield lock power-up, an ability that renders you temporarily invulnerable. BORING.
The main trick that’s missed with Halo Reach though is in the cinematics. So seemingly aware of the impending destruction of the planet are all of the main characters that Bungie didn’t see cause to give us any form of invasion cutscene. Nope, you just emerge from the cabbage patch of level one to discover a mass invasion with alien ships all over the planet. Where are the slip space ruptures? Where are the orbital defense networks? How on Ear…Reach did the Covenant suddenly just ‘pop up’ on the home planet and why the Hell does nobody care?
Also, where the FUCK is Sarge? His boisterous voice acting bolstered the whole of the series and chronologically there’s absolutely no reason for his absence, in fact there’s the perfect excuse for his presence in the last mission.
In the frequent Bungie Videodocs we’re told of the return of the Elites but they sit on the back burner far more than in Halo 1, 2 or 3. They, as with the whole armada of Covenant ships turning Reach to glass, needed better introduction.
And, as for the ending, and by which I mean the final controllable aspect before the credits roll, who the hell’s idea was it to put you in a situation completely abstract from the usual Halo run and gun or vehicle race scene? Basically, without giving too much away, you play some rezzed up version of space duck hunt.
Since starting this article, the day after Reach was released, I have spent an entirely boring weekend minding my Mum’s spasticated dogs, and during that time I completed Reach on Legendary. It does certainly add a further dimension to the game with a large amount of the scenes turning into more of a puzzle game than a first person shooter. However, it also just magnifies the aforementioned problems. Being stuck for hours at one bottle neck, ducking and diving, chucking shield bubbles just to act as a deflection whilst you dive for a new weapon… awesome. Except, well, you don’t care about winning as much as in previous incarnations. The point is made utterly horrible when you see your Noble Team member fighting in the open against a tank, 5 Elites, a swathe of grunts and sniping Jackals… and not dying. EVER. In fact, I went and took the dogs for a 2 mile walk and left it running. Noble 2 (or whatever, I stopped caring) was still going, still had ammo, no sign of injury and also no sign of victim. Nope. EVERYONE was still alive.
Balance, beauty, immersion, magnificence? Bungie, you’ve utterly fucked up.