Recently I have found myself returning to the Bungie developed Halo games.
I have incredibly fond memories of playing through missions like Assault on the Control Room, Two Betrayals, New Mombasa, The Quarantine Zone, The Covenant and
The Ark from the mainline games but I when I looked back at Halo Reach I didn’t really have the same fondness.
I think it was a product of where I was in my life at the time, as much as Halo is my all time favourite gaming series I was just starting a new job, had just met my girlfriend (who is now my wife) and was focusing on things other than gaming.
With the game recently being made available on XB1 via backwards compatibility I decided to go back and play through it and BOY am I glad that I did! There is so much love poured into Bungie’s farewell letter to the Halo franchise and so much that I would have missed if I didn’t take the time to play the game again.
Let’s start with the tone of the game. The Halo series is an epic space opera but Reach was a more compact and concise war story. Think “Saving Private Ryan”. Reach had the most (the end of Halo 4 comes close though) character impacts in my opinion. These guys were brothers (and sisters) and every one of their deaths and the reactions of Team Noble in the face of these overwhelming odds hit me like a hammer to the face!
The characters were perfectly rounded, complete and fleshed out. Their motivations were conveyed well and their personalities believable and relatable. There are two scenes that stick out in my mind as two of the very best character moments, in my opinion, in gaming and these were the deaths of Jorge and Kat. Jorge and his humane, almost non confrontational personality and the sacrifice that he made to save Reach and win the war (in his mind anyway) was amazing as was the sudden impact that Kat being sniped by a Needle Rifle by that -Yoink- Jackal when they thought they were safe. As much as the story between John and Cortana was excellent in Halo 4 I still feel like Noble Team is the best portrayal of characters in the series.
Gameplay wise the game went “quasi-COD” with the load out system and the introduction of the Spartan Abilities in an effort to win the ever increasing Call of Duty crowd but it still kept that Bungie/Halo charm. That “30 seconds of fun” that made the series great.
The set pieces were just as epic in Reach as they were in the original three games and the Long Night of Solace mission where Noble Team captures the Longsword launch silo and you then get to pilot a freaking Longsword in a space battle was so freaking cool!
I just wish that I got a proper chance to play the Firefight mode but unfortunately I was unable to get enough people consistently to play it. I bet it would be just as awesome as the campaign ended up being!
I’m really glad I went back and played Reach and since doing so it’s rearranged my Halo rankings slotting in at number four overall (Halo 3, Halo: CE, ODST, Reach, Halo 2, Halo 4, Halo 5). If you haven’t played it for a while and are a big Halo fan like me I really recommend jumping back in!