‘Halo: Reach’ worth grabbing for


This video game image released by Bungie Studios shows a scene from “Halo Reach.” (AP Photo/Bungie Studios)

By Joshua Michaelson

Rating: 4.5/5.0

“Halo” is a series that could be considered just as big as “Madden” in terms of hype and appreciation from the general masses.

So, it’s only natural that “Halo: Reach” would be an incredibly big deal. This importance of the game is only heightened by the fact that it is the final game that the series developer Bungie will be working on, essentially making it their swan song for the franchise. Fortunately, it is a beautiful song, unlike their previous effort with “Halo 3: ODST.”

“Halo: Reach” takes place right before “Halo: Combat Evolved,” and recalls the events leading up to the destruction of the planet Reach. The game is pretty bittersweet in its storytelling, especially since it obviously will not end well. Because of this, every mission ends with the player thinking they did a good job, only to see that greater enemy forces are just over the horizon. This makes for a surprisingly well-told, heart-wrenching tale that may be the best story told through the “Halo” games yet.

Gameplay for “Reach” is thankfully very fresh and new. Many old weapons from the previous games such as the Brute Shot are gone and have been replaced by a more balanced selection, making for a far more enjoyable multiplayer mode. Another great addition/subtraction to the game is the inclusion of special armor power-ups and removal of special items. Basically, instead of getting a one-time-only bubble shield, players can equip a bubble shield armor power-up which allows them to repeatedly use a weaker bubble shield that must recharge whenever used. These useful power-ups-which include a wonderful sprinting ability-make the game very different from previous “Halo” affairs, both in the multiplayer and the single-player campaigns.

This shouldn’t scare off fans of the previous games, though, as this is how progress works. “Halo 2,” “Halo 3” and “Halo: ODST” were all essentially the same game, so it’s about time that the series moved forward with its gameplay mechanics. Bungie also updated the level-creating “Forge” experience with an enormous world and more detailed creation tools that can essentially allow players to recreate any of the older “Halo” multiplayer maps, as well as create amazing new ones. The hoard-defense game “Firefight” also received an upgrade, allowing for more level variations that can make things incredibly entertaining.

There are some other smaller tweaks such as smarter enemy AI that also make “Halo: Reach” a greater game than its predecessors. In fact, if “Halo 3” ended up being what this game was, then “Reach” might have been even more impressive.

Sadly, that’s not the case, but it doesn’t tarnish the great experience that can be had with the game-which everyone with an Xbox 360 should definitely pick up.