Home > Gaming, Opinions (Gaming) > Gaming: Halo: Reach’s Noble campaign

Gaming: Halo: Reach’s Noble campaign

I’ve not played Halo: Reach online yet so this just covers the campaign mode itself. I also still haven’t upgraded to an Xbox Live Gold account, which stops me from using my own screenshots as I originally intended. I might update it later if I ever convince myself to upgrade.

Shopping!

The game features a new credits system to purchase cosmetic armour pieces. The custom Spartan shows up in the campaign's cutscenes, which is a nice touch for solo gamers who otherwise wouldn't benefit.

Reach’s story was never going to have a happy ending, the planet having long since been established in the series canon as being entirely lost to the alien Covenant. Reach is Halo’s Titanic; no matter what happens, no matter how valiantly the people struggle or how they develop across the story, the ship will always sink and Reach will always fall.

Still playing their tune as the ship goes down are the members of Noble Team, a group of Spartans who are among the first to discover the Covenant have invaded Reach, initially leading the attempts to drive them off the planet and then assisting the evacuation when it becomes clear that all is lost. Other than the player’s character, new team member Noble Six (who is deliberately even less of a defined character than Master Chief), the remaining five members of Noble Team all have distinct personalities and roles within the team, and there is almost always at least one accompanying Six through each level.

A Sabre

The Sabre section is the biggest new addition to the game and fits surprisingly well. It's one of several brief elements that almost feels like Bungie are trying to introduce new concepts that Microsoft could expand upon in future shooters or even make into standalone games.

Halo: Reach is the last title in the series that will be developed by Bungie, and combined with the finality of the planet’s story it means the developer was free to treat the game as a big farewell. Characters from other games are mostly confined to brief appearances, the game focusing instead on new ones who have no future, limiting the situations where survival is guaranteed. There is a lot of tragedy in Reach’s story and its cutscenes, and while the overall tone of the game isn’t different enough to other entries to alienate existing fans it does play things a little darker.

However, that sense of imminent defeat doesn’t often carry over into the gameplay or mission structure itself. Noble Six and his squad are for the most part just as capable as Master Chief ever was at getting things done, achieving what they’re ordered to do and killing plenty of Covenant along the way. It’s only really in the cutscenes that the game reinforces the futility of it all, showing how the enemy were one step ahead or just have such overwhelming numbers that it doesn’t matter how often Noble Team win their battles as the war can only go one way.

A flying Spartan.

Replacing the one-shot equipment items of Halo 3 are equippable armour abilities, some of which have similar functions but can be used over and over.

Along with the other Halo games Reach sits in its own little corner of the FPS market, somewhere between the classic run and gun shooters of the genre’s infancy and the modern, cover-heavy ‘mature’ ones of today. Rather than make any radical departures from the previous games Bungie have elected to make their final Halo game a tour of all the best elements of the series, more so even than last year’s Halo 3: ODST.

There are a couple of notable exceptions to that thanks to this game being a prequel, with certain enemies and vehicles not present. Perhaps to offset possible disappointment at those absences Bungie have added several new weapons, vehicles and even a new type of Covenant, in addition to the equipment abilities mentioned above. Though they don’t explain why these things disappear from the series in future games it’s probably the right choice to prioritise making the game more fun over sticking rigidly to canon. It’s not a game that feels like it’s lacking for content or that’s taking a step back.

The most noticeable change to the game is the heavily upgraded engine. For Halo 3 Bungie prioritised impressive lighting effects over high resolution and received some mockery for that, with people referring to the game as “Halo 2.5” because of the relatively small amount of improvements. There are no similar complaints that could be thrown at Halo: Reach‘s visuals as the developer has seemingly overhauled everything, improving both how the game looks and how it plays, thanks to supporting more enemies on screen, more detailed textures, more light sources and better character models. Bungie are likely leaving behind an engine that 343 Industries (the new stewards of the franchise) can use for the remainder of the generation in new Halo games without it feeling dated.

Halo: Reach‘s campaign sees Bungie going out on a high note, telling the last piece of the story they started a decade ago before they hand the franchise over to somebody else. While it’s a fairly safe game with few surprises it’s still Halo at its best and the strongest campaign to date. Halo has never been better and possibly never will be again.

Game of the Year status (click here to view the list): This was a difficult one. I love Halo so it was almost automatically destined for a spot near the top and Reach didn’t disappoint. Trying to judge it against the current number one, Bioshock 2, was very tricky. Reach is the better shooter but inherits most of that from the original game released almost a decade ago, while Bioshock 2 took a game with okay combat and improved on it immensely as well as building upon a lot of what didn’t quite work in the original, ultimately telling a story and reaching a conclusion that I really did enjoy a little more than Reach’s. Bioshock 2 has a few weaker levels in the beginning where Reach only has one I didn’t much enjoy, so I think at the moment I have to go with Reach. I may go back and forth on that though.

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  1. December 19, 2010 at 07:10

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