Reviews and studies of games in the interest of advancing our favorite entertainment medium.

Halo: Reach

Noble Team

Halo: Reach uses an arbitrary points system to reward you for completing games.  If you earn enough points you rank up and unlock more armor pieces that you can spend your points on.  So, in honor of this, I am going to do the same thing for this review.  The total score Bungie receives for Halo: Reach will be broken down into Game Completion, Performance Bonus, Commendations, Challenges and a randomly generated Jackpot Bonus.

Halo: Reach is unique in the series in that you play as a super-soldier Spartan trying to save the human race from annihilation at the hands of the evil alien alliance known as the Covenant… wait… that’s just like every other Halo game.  Well this time there’s a multi-colored cast of other spartans to trade snarky quips with your faceless persona.  And there’s no flood this time, but you get cool new armor abilities that almost make up for this.

For those who don’t know what Halo is all about, I’ll give you the run-down.  Humans have been colonizing the galaxy, they run into a religion-based alliance of aliens known as the Covenant that launch a holy war against the humans.  The Covenant vary in species, from the galactic noobs known as Grunts (which can’t do anything without their heads exploding in a burst of rainbow confetti), to the Elites (alien counterparts to the Spartans), to the Brutes (which I guess are some kind of space-gorilla).  The Covenant are more technologically advanced, so the humans develop the Spartan super-soldier to help fight them (basing much of the technology on the Elites).  You play as one of these Spartans, and you fight the Covenant, all over the place.  Forever.  At some point the humans stumble upon an ancient space station in the shape of a giant ring (hence the name: Halo) and they accidentally release the Flood (sort of a Space Zombie infection thing).  So when you are not fighting the Covenant, you are fighting the Flood.  Oh, and sometimes you fight other spartans, they kill you, and you get T-bagged.

I have a long history with Halo.  It’s sort of like that clingy girl I dated in high-school and I kept breaking up with her because she wants me to come by her place every night after work to watch boring tv sitcoms, but then when she’s gone I miss the good times when we actually had fun together, plus I find out that her little brother has an xbox, so I start to leave notes in her locker until I’m right back on the couch watching late-season x-files reruns again and listening to her complain about how much money I spend on video games.  I spent a lot of time playing the original Halo on the original Xbox via split-screen back in the day (you were looking at my screen again, weren’t you?!).  I spent too much time playing Halo 2, mostly because it was online, but also because it followed the successful sequel equation and it used a skill-based ranking system so that you could easily see how you measured up with complete strangers.  Upon meeting someone for the first time, such as a school teacher, police officer, or potential employer, I would politely ask them what their rank in Halo 2 was, and then I would scoff at their inadequacy because I was rank 33 and they were only rank 12.

Halo 3, kinda like last night, was sort of a blur.  It was the same game but much better graphics.  I suppose dual-wielding guns was fun (but apparently not fun enough to make it into Reach).  Halo: ODST was “meh”, didn’t play it that much, had better things to do.  I guess I couldn’t get over the fact that the ODST soldiers were technologically better than the Spartans.  And now we’re on Reach which is a step in the right direction for the series.  +2214 c’s for making another Halo game and tickling my nostalgia bone a little bit (that sounded dirty).

Rocket Man

"They wont be able to t-bag me up here!"

Halo: Reach takes place before the other Halo FPS games but there’s a few things about the continuity that are not explained.  First of all, who forgot about the Spartan Laser?  And the DMRs?  These weapons are all over the place in Reach, but the laser doesn’t “resurface” until Halo 3.  And the DMR is never seen again, until Halo 2 when the Battle Rifle shows up filling in as it’s spiritual successor.  I guess the guys that were assigned to load all the weapons ran out of time and had to leave all the lasers/dmrs behind… -50 c’s for incomplete continuity.

It is also suspicious that the Spartans in Halo:Reach are the most technologically advanced, despite being an older model of the armor.  So we are supposed to believe that a small flashlight on an extremely limited battery is BETTER than light amplification?  And what about the armor abilities?  I guess a Spartan doesn’t really need to run faster or have active camoflage available to use on a whim?  I’m not buying it.  -144 c’s for terrible continuity.

But I suppose you could argue that these are improvements to gameplay, and I would have to agree with you, because making a prequel less fun for the sake of continuity is just stupid (if you don’t believe me just ask George Lucas).  +202 c’s for ignoring continuity for the sake of making a good game.

Light amplification

What's more advanced? Light amplification or...

Flashlight

Flashlight with rechargeable battery.

So what makes Halo Reach worth playing?  Well it’s a solid First Person Shooter that has a more traditional feel since it avoids the common chest-high-cover and aim-down-sights mechanics that plague modern shooters (+100 c’s).  The singleplayer campaign is an adequate length (+100 c’s), but the plot is booring and irrelevant.  I’m still not sure what happened and I really couldn’t care less about the supporting cast (-200 c’s for being too confusing to be bothered with).  Also there’s a terribly lonely hole in my heart in the shape of the flood, one of the coolest things about every other halo game (-1000 c’s for failing to work those Space Zombies in somehow).  However the game ends with the alleged death of your hero, and just about everyone dies.  I’m a big fan of tragedies, so +1500 c’s for being “edgy”.

The multiplayer game is well balanced.  There’s dozens of game types and the professionally made maps are very well designed.  The weapons, vehicles, and armor abilities all go together to make for an interesting rock/paper/scissors dynamic that is critical to good multiplayer gameplay.  +2000 c’s for maintaining a tradition of good multiplayer.

Multiplayer gameplay

But despite all of their best efforts to make a good multiplayer experience, the people that play halo will still do their best to ruin it for you.  There are plenty of mature players out there, but they are few and far between.  The majority fall into one or more of the following catagories:

  1. Mic-abusers.  Shouting profanities into their mic like a drunken sailor with terrets syndrome.  Or just playing their music and setting the mic into the speaker (which simply creates a lot of feedback and noise because the mics suck).  Offenders can be muted, so this is a minor and temporary annoyance. -2 c’s because it sucks but what can you do about it.
  2. T-baggers.  Almost every player online will come and hump the leg of your corpse after you’ve died.  It doesn’t matter if they killed you or not.  Sometimes it doesn’t even matter if they’re on the same team as you or not!  One time I became one with my shotgun and cleared out 4 guys in the enemy base only to have the 5th guy kill me with a grenade and a 6th guy that didn’t have anything to do with my death came and humped my leg.  Gee, you sure showed me!  -1000 c’s for T-bagging me 30 times in an online multiplayer match.  Although it is really funny when a T-bagger get’s shot in the head mid-bagging, so +100 c’s for making me laugh.
  3. Weapon and vehicle brats.  At the start of every game there’s a mad dash as you race your team mates for your favorite weapon or vehicle.  Your spawn location is somewhat random so nobody has any advantage over anyone else, unless you’ve got experience and skill racing to that particular assett.  But this isn’t enough for some people, and if you beat them to it, they will let you know their displeasure by at least shooting you, if not throwing grenades and/or quitting the game entirely.  This is particularly annoying if it’s a vehicle because they take damage and one grenade is enough to seriously screw up your shiny new tank.  Thus you are going to have a significantly reduced lifespan in that vehicle all because some brat lost the race.  -681 c’s for failing to find a way to avoid this in every Halo game you’ve ever made.
  4. Accidental Betrayal Booting.  If you kill your own team it’s called a betrayal.  When you betray somebody, there’s a random chance that they will be given the option to either forgive you or boot you from the game forever.  Most people, if given the chance, will choose to boot.  Strangely enough if you betray someone on purpose they will rarely be given the chance to boot.  If you obviously betray someone on accident (like they chase your grenade into the enemy base) then they are almost always given the chance to boot.  -320 c’s for having an inconsistent and non-democratic system for handling team-killers.
  5. Quitting.  I believe this is the worst thing about Halo Reach.  Often, soon after a game starts, someone will quit.  Wether it’s because they didn’t get the map/gametype they wanted, they didn’t get the vehicle/weapon they wanted, their team wasn’t obviously going to win, or perhaps their friend sent them a game invite, someone almost always will quit in the first 30 seconds of gameplay.  That’s it.  The rest of the game one team is short a player or two because nobody can join in the middle of a game and, in objective game types, that team will probably lose.  Bungie was even aware that this might be a problem because they try to punish people for quitting games.  If you quit games you are not eligible for the higher credit Jackpots at the end of games.  If you quit too many games then they can temporarily ban your account.  This is unacceptable!  DO NOT EVER PUNISH YOUR PLAYERS FOR YOUR LACK OF WISDOM!  If people really want to quit, let them AND let other players join mid-game to take their place.  -3000 c’s because quitters suck, but the way Bungie handled it just adds to the problem.
Multiplayer Lobby

"Is this the lobby?" For every 10 minute multiplayer game, you'll spend 5 minutes waiting for it to start.

There’s a number of weapons in multiplayer that are just about useless.  These should’ve been replaced with other more useful weapons:

  • The Focus Rifle is supposed to be the Covenants version of the Sniper Rifle except that it fires an energy beam that you have to continually hit the target with for several seconds.  It’s less like sniping and more like playing that carnival game where you shoot the clown in the mouth with a squirt gun to fill up your baloon.
  • The Assault Rifle is your default weapon in most game types.  It only works at short range, and a full clip is just barely enough to kill one opponent.  If you’re close enough to use an Assault Rifle, just go in for the melee attack.  The only time the Assault Rifle is effective is when there are 2-3 people focusing their fire on one target.
  • The Plasma Repeater and the Plasma Rifle are Covenant versions of the Assault Rifle.  The Plasma Repeater fires faster but will overheat faster.  So why does it need to exist?  What role does it fill that hasn’t already been filled by the Plasma Rifle for every other Halo game ever made?
  • Grenades suck.  When a grenade goes off under someone’s feet they should die but they don’t.  Can someone explain this to me?
  • Why can’t we use the Target Locater in multiplayer?  It would be awesome to put an artillery strike on an enemy base before rushing in to grab the flag.

-1200 c’s total for having some of the most useless weapons in any multiplayer game ever.

Facepalm

"Why didn't I think of this sooner?!"

Theatre and Forge are some kind of divinely inspired idea (for console games).  Theatre let’s you go back and watch previously played games that you’ve saved onto your hard drive.  You can even watch the action from other player’s point of views, or from an entirely free camera.  Did you suddenly explode and couldn’t figure out why?  Go back and watch that part to see just how they got you.  You can even record short film clips so that you can impress your mom with how many noobs you t-bagged.  You can also take screenshots and upload them to the interwebs (although this uploading feature is broken for a lot of people, including myself, and Bungie’s official response is, “well it SHOULD work”).  Sans large feature-breaking bugs, theatre should be standard in any game that wants to consider itself “Triple A”. +4500 c’s for completing my “Raise the Bar” challenge.

Forge is a sort of level editing function within the game.  From the console’s point of view, it’s a limitless sandbox of possibilities.  From a PC gamer’s point of view it’s a horribly limited and clunky imitation of the dev tools that get released with almost every PC game within the last 15 years  (or Gary’s Mod).  Forge gives you a relatively large variety of walls, blocks, ramps, bridges, man-cannons, weapons, vehicles and decorations that you can populate any of the game’s maps with.  Each item has a quantity limit, and each item costs a certain dollar amount.  You are not spending real money on it, you get a certain budget that you can spend on a map.  I think this is their way of keeping the resources within a reasonable limit, although why they couldn’t just say it that way is beyond me.  So Forge is impressive for those that are easily impressed.  +2000 c’s for trying to make console games more like PC games (for a change).

Forge's tools

A "wide" range of walls, buildings, vehicles and weapons are at your disposal.

Overhang map

You can make new maps.

Nobody steps on a church in my town!

Or make something unbelievably awesome.

I have a lot of complaints about the game, and some of them are so severe that I’m tempted to put Halo away forever.  Yet I continue to play the game and, usually, I have some fun.  Sometimes I go off on some kind of spectacular killing spree or I help my team pull victory out of impossible odds and everyone yells beligerently into their mics.  This feeling of power is hard-earned but very rewarding.  But if you don’t have friends around to gaze awe-struck at your Kill-to-Death ratio then it doesn’t feel so good.  Bottom line is that if I wasn’t playing this game with my friends every week I would probably be playing something else.

POST GAME REPORT:

Game Completion: +1920 c’s

Performance Bonus: -1900 c’s

Commendations: +1500 c’s

Challenges: +4500 c’s

Random Bonus: +79 c’s

TOTAL: +6099 cookies!

Good job Bungie!  Only 113,901 more cookies before you rank up to Sergeant Master Gunnery Commander Captain 3rd Class and unlock the B.A.G. knee pads for your spartan!

BTW:  I heard an uncomfirmed rumor about the next Bungie game.  Since Bungie has passed the Halo torch on to 343 Industries, Bungie’s next game will be called T-bagger evolved (working title) and it will be the bee’s knees.  You get 1 point each time you t-bag someone, 5 points each time you t-bag someone you did not kill, and 10 points each time you t-bag someone on your team that you did kill.  There’s even a T-bag launcher that rapidly fires self propelled bags of Chamomile!  Pre-order your copy now!

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2 responses

  1. Great review. FPSs on consoles have been around for a long time but I do believe it was a Halo player who gave us the first t-bagging. I would have thought it would have started with Counter Strike or Unreal Tournament but no. Thank you, Halo.
    I kind of like the idea of having a locked multiplayer game that others cant just join in and unbalance mid game but sometimes reality calls and you need to bail. Punnishing players for quitting is like trying to keep them from real life, like many other fun video games, only more aggressively. Being able to easily kick players only makes matters worse.

    The same thing can be said about many different games, they are always better when played with your friends.

    October 19, 2011 at 11:58 pm

  2. irefusetoputmynameinthisbox

    i play halo reach, my disc is 1.1 and i can only earn 50 cr at a time, i am sargant yet i have 5198 firefight kills and 213 multiplayer kills, thats 5411 total. nothing is wrong with my reach because my brother uses the same console/disk and can get over 2000 cr from killing me once or twice

    August 25, 2016 at 9:16 am

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