It’s been a long and glorious road for the now battle-hardened team over at Bungie Studios. Over the team’s nine-year stint with the Halo franchise, the names of Master Chief, Cortana, and The Covenant became household names just like Wonderbread and Hot Pockets. Streaking in like a plasma shot from a Wraith Tank, the latest (and final) game in the Halo series from the studio delivers what players have come to expect: compelling story, hauntingly beautiful melody, and a multiplayer system that redefines what they have already revolutionized. There should be no other way for a company to go out, than on such a high note as Halo: Reach.
To look at Halo: Reach is to look at a history that we already know about, but have never truly looked at. Going from Halo: Combat Evolved to Halo 3 you have a progressive and gripping storyline, delving deeping into the multiple layers of the Covenant-Human War. Although we may wish it, gaming has never been perfect with bringing the full story, thus books and Halo: ODST came in to help fill in the gaps, and further expand an already extraordinary world.
So with Reach we go back to before the Master Chief was ever on the spinning world that became so famous, and instead look at the world that ceased to be. Reach is the vastly expansive second Earth: the world that is home to all that wish to help in the expansion outward. It’s also home to some of the most important projects in the UNSC military, such as the SPARTAN-II project, of whom our beloved Master Chief will one day command.
You however, are not to be apart of select force of legendary soldiers: you’re something different. Playing as Six (a replacement for Noble Team) you become one of a secret group of SPARTAN-III’s – the successors to the SPARTAN-II’s – and have set up shop to covertly handle possible Insurrectionists. On route to the site, you begin to feel a slip of tension on your neck as things don’t add up. As you go past the flocks of birds and stacks of hay, you start wondering when something will pop up on your all-too-recognizable HUD.
This is where part of the game becomes surreal, in that Bungie has done an incredible job of working a consistent pace into the game. The musical stylings of Marty O’Donnell accompany this expanded world gives it a haunting dirge as you walk along Reach’s streets and through its forests. Couple that with a maps that lets you see the battle as it unfolds across the landscape, and then travel over to that area you saw, for an objective. The immensity of Reach is nothing that you’ve seen in a Halo game before.
So as you and your team of Spartans pass into a clearing, the sputtering and guttural cries of Elites and Grunts are just a scope’s click away. Working with your AI to take on enemy Covenant, you see the Grunts dodge and dip while the Elites scream orders as the roll behind a burning car for cover. Here the game’s AI both work in unison to provide you cover-fire and support against the enemy while continuously hounding your defenses in every possible manner. These aren’t your Grandma’s Covenant, and it becomes a love/hate relationship because of it.