Review: Halo Reaches new heights PDF Print E-mail

Halo fans will regale you with fond memories of online battles until all hours of the morning, and talk about the game's main character, Master Chief, in revered tones. 

Of course, for folks who've not been following the Halo franchise, it will all be foreign.
 
For that reason, much of what happens in the single-player campaign for Halo Reach will be a bit overwhelming. It tells the story of an alien invasion on an artificial ring planet known as Reach. As a prequel to the first three games, this helps establish a lot of the plot elements and helps add some background to characters in the earlier games.
 
I won't go into too much detail on the plot, especially since it requires knowledge of the happenings in the first three games. I also don't want to spoil anything. Instead, it can be said that the campaign is the best in any Halo game, and probably one of the best in a game this year, on any platform.
 
Perhaps not for the story (which is still quite solid and doesn't have any frivolous bits) but definitely for its design and progression. There's never a dull moment and, played on the second-hardest Heroic difficulty, always a challenge to be had. Some scenarios are run-and-gun, others require strategy and precision, lest you make liberal use of the 'Restart from checkpoint' option.
 
What makes Reach really awesome is its multiplayer offerings. Of course, with Xbox Live not being officially available in SA (that will change in November), you'll need a 'workaround' account to get the best out of Reach, but it's oh so worth it.
 
The entire campaign is designed for co-operative play with up to four people ganging up against the alien menace. When the story's been completed, there is an 'endless' mode, called Firefight. Here, up to four players can take on wave after wave of enemy AI units, with either a timer or high score being a goal. Last an hour or get to one million points – it's up to you. Everything is configurable. It's even possible to have unlimited ammo and health. You make your own game.
 
This is the big part of Halo's multiplayer appeal. It's possible to jump right into MatchMaking, the system that teams you up with other players of similar skill, and play the regular death matches or objective matches.
 
In fact, the game lets players choose what they want to play, offering three game and map choices which a lobby can vote for. These online hoppers are randomised, and new game types get added all the time. There's a chance of playing for four hours straight and not needing to play the same game type and map combination.
 
Online play also features an improved rank system, along with daily and weekly challenges. These goals can be anything from winning three matches in a row to performing a certain number of kills in a specific manner.
 
Completing the challenges earns players credits which can be used to buy cosmetic add-ons for customising their in-game characters. Earn enough credits to buy a few big-ticket items, and other players will know exactly how pro you are.
 
When you're all gamed out online, you can pop into Forge World, Halo's create-a-map mode, giving you access to roughly the same tools the developers use for creating maps. Create a customised world using the existing maps. Add vehicles, roads, objects, buildings or weapons. Then define some rules for the game type – maybe you want one team to hunt down a lone wolf, or you'd like two teams to have a race using the quad bikes. If you can imagine it, it can be created. This alone is almost worth the R700 price tag.
 
People often throw around the words 'limitless' and 'endless'. The former is probably not true for any game, but the multiplayer in Reach gets close. As for having endless game play possibilities? Damn straight. That's what Reach offers, and then some.
 
It's also a darn pretty piece of interactive entertainment. Bungie has outdone itself, and it'll be sad to see it not do Halo games anymore. Future sequels will be handled by a special new studio at Microsoft, called 343 Industries. Bungie's legacy will not be forgotten, and its new franchise will have a great set of ideas to work from.
 
SUMMARY
 
Good: Endless multiplayer; co-op play; graphics; slick presentation 
Bad: Some slow-down in busy scenes; needs Xbox Live to get the most out of it 
Rating: 9/10 
Price: R699 
Contact: Microsoft – www.xbox.com
Tested on: Xbox 360 
Also available on: None 
Genre: Action, first-person shooter 
Age rating: 16+

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