Unpopular Opinion: Reach's Campaign is Overrated

Disclaimer: campaign was played on PC on Legendary and is being compared to Halo 1-3 campaigns on the same platform. I’ve played each campaign through on Legendary multiple times, attempted to speed run a few titles but by no means am I an expert.

Halo Reach is possibly the most contentious title released in the series. Despite the myriad of issues plaguing the mutliplayer and retconned story of Reach, I will ignore these aspects in my critique. Reach’s campaign is overrated for the following reasons:

-Poor weapon balance: Reach easily has the worse weapon/vehicle sandbox of all bungie era games. Halo 2 gets a lot of trash for being insanely difficult on legendary but its gameplay lends itself much more high stakes kill or be killed gameplay. Its weapons are insanely powerful in the hands of the player and the AI, though this is not the case for all weapons. Its issues are amplified on legendary. Every recurring weapon is an inferior incarnation of weapons in previous titles either through lowered damage, decreased fire rate, bloom, removal of dual wielding or a combination of these. Weapons like the plasma rifle, which is statistically a worse variant of its halo 3 incarnation were seemingly ported to Reach and were not rebalanced to accommodate the removal of dual wielding. The magnum, while superior to its h2/h3 counterparts, is much worse than its CE counterpart. While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as the CE magnum is OP, the Reach magnum had heavy bloom which slowed down the game significantly. Some weapons are terrible, i.e. the plasma launcher, which is awful against infantry and a worse version of the rocket launcher/spartan laser/fuel rod cannon against vehicles. Grenades are noticeably the weakest in the series. A common theme in Reach is that the weapons are very inaccurate if shot in quick succession which slows down encounters significantly and promotes hiding and slowly picking off enemies in just about every encounter. Gameplay is a crawl vs original trilogy.

-Too many explosives. Dropship (Phantom/Spectre) projectiles are extremely irritating. In combination with the lower movement speed, these projectiles are difficult to dodge unless cover is taken to completely block the explosive radius/line of sight. Attempting to dodge dropship projectiles for easier kills on spawning enemies is largely punished by difficult to dodge projectiles. Slight annoyance but noticeable compared to other titles and serves to slow the game down. The real issue arrives against concussion rifle enemies. This weapon is pretty bad in the player’s hands but incredibly annoying considering that enemies tend to spam it and it tend to be difficult to dodge with the lower movespeed in Reach. Of course, staying at longer ranges is an option to combat this, but the neutered weapon sandbox and limited power weapons makes this a chore.

-Limited options: Reach loves giving you an assault rifle with about 600 rounds. Cool. I’d argue the AR in this game is worse than the CE AR. Regardless, its bad on Legendary. This is just about all of the ammo reserve the player is ever given. Ammo is sparse for precision weapons and is typically hard to come by in general. Power weapons are not only weaker than they were in previous games but have less ammo. Intense fights typically require much more power weapon ammo than is given. This means the player is forced to use incredibly suboptimal weapons for a lot of engagements. Halo CE,2 and 3 have both deliberately placed weapons as well as harder to find weapons/options (especially in 2) to aid the player. Reach basically did away with less obvious weapon placements and often has the player use bad weapons or just entirely run by fights.

-Armor lock: typical pvp complaint is more applicable in pve. With the weak sandbox of Reach and the limited ammo available, every time the AI decides to armor lock the player is put at a noticeable disadvantage. Wasting already incredibly precious power weapon ammo to no fault of your own is unfair and losing grenades or things like needler ammo to random armor lock is super detrimental as well. If the previous points were not an issue, armor lock would be laughable.

-Friendly AI: Hands down the worst in the series. No contest. They are pretty much all armed with the AR, which is comparably as bad (noticeably worse imo) as CE’s AR and tend to also fire in 3 round bursts every few seconds. Unlike in CE, the enemy AI seems to know how useless anything beyond the invincible noble team is and often completely ignores groups of them to shoot you instead regardless of how many friendly AIs are shooting them or how far away you are. Noble team is only useful because they are invincible and don’t “die” like arbiter in halo 3. Vehicle sections can also be a chore as friendly AIs in turrets have noticeably less sight range than enemy AI. In other words, expect to get shot a lot by enemy vehicles before your teammates respond.

-Story: I think most levels tend to be designed well enough in gameplay terms (though I don’t think any stand out like TandR, Delta Halo, the Covenant for example) but basically none of them (bar the last few levels) have any relevance in the grand scheme of the narrative. I understand it is difficult to make a compelling story where the ending is already well established. This doesn’t excuse the fact that the majority of the levels boil down to: fix one problem (possibly inconsequential) and have more of the same problem immediately happen afterwards. There is little continuity and makes the story seem like a lot of busy work. The noble team mainly exists to give orders to 6. They all die because they need to propel the story and it often feels artificial. Especially Carter lmao. Some claim that is the point. I think that, despite the gameplay incongruities, Kat’s death had some weight. While the suddenness of death may be intended, this does not make the story any better. Also, why does Jun disappear? Its like bungie forgot there were 6 spartans in the game.

All of this being said, I think Reach had some great enemy/Elite AI (the field marshal ‘bossfight’ was actually a great idea and I’m completely surprised the concept was never used again), interesting new vehicles, interesting levels that offered different experiences, a lot of the story telling within levels tended to be decent to impressively memorable and of course the soundtrack was incredible. There was a lot of good in the campaign but I think the bad made the overall experience a slog. I’m sure some of these issues are compounded via porting to PC and there is no doubt that Reach being the least friendly PC Halo released so far (especially compared to the super accurate h2 weapons and fast gunplay in h2 even on console) has influenced my opinion. I struggle to complete more than a mission at a time because the game plays so much differently than the other titles in the series in a manner that largely slows down the game and makes it unfun to play.

From my experience playing Halo Reach solo on legendary I enjoyed it thoroughly.

-Weapon Balance
Like the other Halo games on Legendary most weapons are worthless or a risk to use like Halo CE the only four things you could really use was the Pistol, Shotgun, Sniper, Plasma rifle (melts shields) H2 basically anything other than a precision weapon and the plasma pistol was worthless, H3 you could use more in that sandbox without getting severely punished. As for reach’s AR I still used it since it had a tendency to stun enemies but would drop it for a precision weapon or a power weapon. Also in Reach’s sandbox I can’t think of a weapon I didn’t use or I had to drop immediately especially the plasma launcher which was a dollar general fuel rod it still did it’s job as AT.

Explosive spam-
I agree the amount of explosives can be jarring but the drop ships never really bothered me only the ultras with concussion rifles and generals with fuel rods due to them being able to spam a one shot projectile endlessly but found it easier to just sneak up on them for a quick melee succession which usually worked.

Armor lock-

I always hated when brutes would armor lock spam especially when using the needler or needler rifle but was probably added for balancing so you couldn’t walk through a brute level easily with a needler based weapon.

Friendly AI-
Yeah they are pretty bad in some parts but I’ve seen them pull their weight at times except driving sections that include warthogs since their range is awful while the enemy AI is pretty good about the same level as Halo 2, Halo CE AI.

Story
The gameplay for the levels were pretty good and exodus and tip of the spear stood out to me probably due to exodus showing the inevitable fall of reach while tip of the spear showed retaliation. With the fix one problem for another to happen my opinion for it being that way is showing the inevitable fall of reach and what humanity would do to fight for it’s survival. While yeah Noble team would give orders to 6 a lot it’s probably because he’s the new guy and is the best option to send to suicidal missions because of his lethality and noble team dying was a bit of plot progression I was fine with it although some are laughable especially Kat’s.
But yeah it can seem overrated at times.

> 2533274858472546;1:
> - Every recurring weapon is an inferior incarnation of weapons in previous titles either through lowered damage, decreased fire rate, bloom, removal of dual wielding or a combination of these. Weapons like the plasma rifle, which is statistically a worse variant of its halo 3 incarnation were seemingly ported to Reach and were not rebalanced to accommodate the removal of dual wielding.

This is absolutely true. Every. Single. Weapon. Is worse in Reach as opposed to Halo 3. The only improvement is possibly the Needle Rifle’s ability to supercombine as opposed to the Carbine. I think this was Bungie’s intent to give the game a “prequel” feel, but it also really wasn’t necessary.

> 2533274858472546;1:
> Some weapons are terrible, i.e. the plasma launcher, which is awful against infantry and a worse version of the rocket launcher/spartan laser/fuel rod cannon against vehicles. Grenades are noticeably the weakest in the series.

I disagree with the singling out of the plasma launcher, I think it’s incredibly effective against vehicles from a range, which is its intent. The lock-on is also far more effective, and with the nerfing of the Splaser, it provides decent balance. Grenades I can’t say I noticed a difference, for the most part on Legendary they’re just a distraction or for taking out light infantry. Not effective against heavy infantry.

> 2533274858472546;1:
> -Limited options: Reach loves giving you an assault rifle with about 600 rounds. Cool. I’d argue the AR in this game is worse than the CE AR. Regardless, its bad on Legendary. This is just about all of the ammo reserve the player is ever given. Ammo is sparse for precision weapons and is typically hard to come by in general. Power weapons are not only weaker than they were in previous games but have less ammo. Intense fights typically require much more power weapon ammo than is given. This means the player is forced to use incredibly suboptimal weapons for a lot of engagements. Halo CE,2 and 3 have both deliberately placed weapons as well as harder to find weapons/options (especially in 2) to aid the player. Reach basically did away with less obvious weapon placements and often has the player use bad weapons or just entirely run by fights.

AR is absolute hot garbage, and the worst implemented in the Halo series. Other than the Splaser, I think all the power weapons have the same ammo carrying capacity, and there are more of them like the grenade launcher. Maybe it’s because I know where all the “secretly placed” power weapons and ammo stashes are, but I never had an issue with finding guns and ammo while playing Reach.

> 2533274858472546;1:
> -Story: I think most levels tend to be designed well enough in gameplay terms (though I don’t think any stand out like TandR, Delta Halo, the Covenant for example) but basically none of them (bar the last few levels) have any relevance in the grand scheme of the narrative. I understand it is difficult to make a compelling story where the ending is already well established. This doesn’t excuse the fact that the majority of the levels boil down to: fix one problem (possibly inconsequential) and have more of the same problem immediately happen afterwards. There is little continuity and makes the story seem like a lot of busy work. The noble team mainly exists to give orders to 6. They all die because they need to propel the story and it often feels artificial. Especially Carter lmao. Some claim that is the point. I think that, despite the gameplay incongruities, Kat’s death had some weight. While the suddenness of death may be intended, this does not make the story any better. Also, why does Jun disappear? Its like bungie forgot there were 6 spartans in the game.
>
> All of this being said, I think Reach had some great enemy/Elite AI (the field marshal ‘bossfight’ was actually a great idea and I’m completely surprised the concept was never used again), interesting new vehicles, interesting levels that offered different experiences, a lot of the story telling within levels tended to be decent to impressively memorable and of course the soundtrack was incredible. There was a lot of good in the campaign but I think the bad made the overall experience a slog. I’m sure some of these issues are compounded via porting to PC and there is no doubt that Reach being the least friendly PC Halo released so far (especially compared to the super accurate h2 weapons and fast gunplay in h2 even on console) has influenced my opinion. I struggle to complete more than a mission at a time because the game plays so much differently than the other titles in the series in a manner that largely slows down the game and makes it unfun to play.

I’d agree on the story, I think it was good but not great. Long Night of Solace I would argue has the closest scale to match any of the great classic Halo missions as well as having a good driven story and objective - I also enjoyed seeing Noble Team all together and working as a unit in that mission, something we hadn’t seen since the game’s open. Exodus is my personal favorite, just because of the varying landscape of the level, as well as the sense of loneliness and simultaneous hope and hopelessness, as you try and aid in evacuating the planet. New Alexandria additionally gave more of an open world ODST style feel, and showcased the glassing of the city.

Reach is a very middle of the pack game for me - I enjoyed it more than ODST and Halo 5, but less than CE/2/3/4.

I wished the book and the game were in line with each other

Reach is probably the most polarizing campaign in the series apart from Halo 5, with Halo 4 being a solid runner up to it. Reach was my introduction to Halo, personally, and I loved the campaign enough to retroactively play every title that preceded it within six months of having played through it. Tonally, it’s a sore thumb when compared to the OT, as well as the Reclaimer games. It exists in its own, grittier bubble of Halo.

Gameplay wise, though? I suppose a lot of it comes down to personal taste. As far as bloom on the reticles and other mechanical shake-ups from Halo 3, I can certainly understand why these were and are polarizing. I enjoyed these elements as an added dose of realism/immersion (particularly with the AR, in which the reticle bloom really helped me master accurate burst fire with that thing), but I certainly love the older Halo games that didn’t feature any of these also. I think the campaign had some really fun variety in terms of level design, although I will concede that the designs often left the player with abundant ammunition for the starter weapons (AR, DMR, Magnum) and less than a ton of incentive to pick up and use Covenant arms.

Still, there were a lot of choice vehicular segments and some diverse playspaces that I believe are absolutely gorgeous (Nightfall, The Package, Exodus, New Alexandria, etc.). Overall, I just love the “Alamo in Space,” story and mood that this campaign conveys. Just my take, though.