NOTE: This article contains plot spoilers for Halo: Reach.
For better or worse I’m sure we all remember Halo: Reach. It was to be Bungie’s swansong, their final Halo game – and while it may have divided the series’ loyal fan base, as well as the gaming population in general, I still firmly believe it deserves its place as one of the top games of the generation. Don’t get me wrong, Reach had its fair share of issues and overall probably wasn’t as good a game as Halo 3 was but that didn’t stop it from being one of the most fun games I’ve ever played, as well as the game I’ve probably played more hours of than any other with about 4,500 games (about 650 hours) played over two profiles.
We all knew how the campaign was going to end and Bungie knew that we knew. They led their marketing campaign with “Remember Reach” and “from the beginning, you know the end”. This wasn’t a campaign about where the story was going to end up but rather about how we were going to get there. Reach follows a group of Spartan III’s known as Noble Team as they fight to save Reach from the biggest Covenant invasion humanity has ever seen – a fight we all know is futile. You are Noble 6, the newest addition to the squad after the previous Noble 6 was KIA. Many didn’t like the story and correctly claimed that it broke canon with the books. When taken as a stand-alone story however, separate from the books and other games it was a great journey in its own right. It had epic battles on land, air, and in space, a memorable cast of characters and some fantastic story moments. The futility of Noble Team’s fight was really shown in the final mission, known as Lone Wolf, where the sole object of the mission – as the last surviving member of Noble Team – was for you to simply survive as long as possible against an endless horde of Covenant. The mission and game would only end once you died, something we all knew was inevitable from the beginning.
The multiplayer was – in my eyes – the most fun Halo multiplayer to date. It’s not the most balanced or the most competitive one but I’ve never enjoyed a game so much, or kept coming back to a game for as long. I played it almost exclusively for about a year after it launched. It had a massively diverse range of playlists, ranging from 4v4 Team Slayer to 8v8 Big Team Battle to Invasion, a 6v6 progressive objective game type, and everything in between. There was even fun random game types in a playlist called Action Sack, for those times when you just wanted to kick back and have some fun. There was skee ball, hockey, dino blasters and more besides. To keep things fresh, Bungie used their own game type scripting engine called Megalo which allowed them to add new game types, tweak spawns, weapon locations/timers and other things whenever they wanted, all without a title update. You would simply turn on the game and all the changes would have been made on the back-end.
This was also the first Halo to move even slightly away from the Quake-style arena gameplay by adding the controversial armor abilities and load-outs. This allowed a degree of choice to players when a game started by allowing them to choose from 5 pre-set loud-outs. This was a drastic change to the long standing tradition of everyone starting on an equal footing and also introduced a new element – armor abilities – to the so-called “golden triangle” of Halo gameplay; guns, grenades, and melee. While not necessarily a good decision, it was good to see Bungie were willing to try something new and mix things up a little.
On top of the campaign and multiplayer. there was of course the hugely popular wave defence mode called Firefight, first introduced in ODST. This was a game type where you and up to three other friends had to survive for as long as possible against increasingly difficult waves of Covenant opposition. Then there was the much improved Forge mode which allowed players to place items within a pre-built map or build their own original map in a huge level – I mean friggin’ massive – know as Forge World. This allowed for almost unlimited creativity when it came to map-making and led to some really amazing maps being created. Many of which were added to online matchmaking for free by Bungie. This kept things interesting as on top of all the paid DLC maps you were getting free community-made maps being introduced at a decent rate.
Bungie may not have left Halo at the absolute peak of the series but they sure as hell left on a very strong note. Reach was an excellent entry in the series and it’s hard to see 343 Industries ever living up to the Bungie era of Halo games. So while we may never get to play another Bungie made Halo game I’m sure you’ll eagerly join me in looking forward to their next game – Destiny. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to cry in a corner because I traded in my 360 and all my games including my Halo‘s to buy an Xbox One and now I want to play some Reach.