Halo Reach is still my favorite Halo game, even, despite the latest Halo. There are a number of reasons to this…but if only Reach integrated the more advanced HUD-link system that Halo 5 utilizes and pulls from Halo lore. I’ve often wondered why the way a Spartan, or Marine aims their weapon was never really portrayed in the games. It’s always painted the impression that Master Chief, like Ramboo, shoots from his hip. In the Halo books, weapons are never described as having sights, but, instead, what is deemed “HUD-Link.” Not too unlike today’s gun camera technology…or better still, how fighter pilot’s lock-on system works for guns and missiles…but enough on that.
So why Halo Reach is still the best?
1.) Art direction - Like all Halo games before and after it, Reach’s story is told/ shown from “a human’s perspective.” As such, the game used a more realistic color pallet, with effective use of grain and more of a rustic and human technological look. Let’s face it, humanity’s technology is inferior to Covenant or Forerunner. Halo games before and after Reach have always been vivid and cartoony. Reach is the way I would prefer all Halo games to feel…since, well, our protagonist has never not been human, with exception to the missions where you played as the Arbiter. Also, Spartan armor felt true to the original artwork and more “human Jugger-battle suit” and not “Cyborg Ninja,” like Locke’s armor, or any of those found in multiplayer…especially, that stupid peacock helmet and armor. They got way too gimmicky over the armor and art designs. Everyone running around Multiplayer now looks like Raiden from MGS. It does not feel like Halo, but rather plays like Halo.
2.) Campaign - I don’t know if anyone else has realized this, but we never got that game where Chief was legitimately with blue team. Halo Reach is the closest we get up to this very day. We got to play as Chief and blue team for a little in Halo 5, but it didn’t feel like Chief and Blue Team. From the time the very first Halo game released, all of that was already in Master Chief’s recent past. Halo CE literally took place right after he involuntarily separated with blue team. Since then, the whole subject has been avoided, though the books referenced blue team quite often, even events that took place after Halo CE’s storyline(Halo, First Strike). For instance, we never got a blue team oriented Ghost of Onyx cross-over game. Bungie had just completely axed out blue team and only focused on MC. So where is all this going? Well, if you read the books, you’ll know that Bungie released Halo Reach as an analog to The Fall of Reach book. Meaning, you aren’t playing as blue team, nor Chief…in fact, you aren’t even Spartan II…yet, you are mirroring events not unlike those found in the Fall of Reach book, but as an analogous crew…albeit, a bit more of a lively bunch. Spartan II’s are more boring and tamed in personality. Their sense of humor, dry…but they are effective. Halo Reach absolutely remains the most true and realistic feeling Halo game of all time. It told us a story from human eyes, showed us what the covenant is like from human eyes…but you also felt more vulnerable and covert and not as “Jason Statham,” starring as Master Chief…which is what every Halo titles tends to aim for. Even in the books, there were very mortal aspects, near deaths, suit breaches etc. You also genuinely cared for those in your Spartan squad. I don’t think I felt like that in ANY Halo game.
3.) Powerups/ and Sprint - Armor lock was a lovely concept, pulled from Halo lore. When a brief and sudden impact is detected, the Spartan’s suit should lock to protect its inhabitant from damage. Though, with the way Master Chief employs it, it would technically mean that they cannot be destroyed by anything short of a missile…and Finally! you can sprint in a Halo game!
4.) It was the last game to feature the lovely-most up to date Firefight co-op mode
5.) The needle rifle…the all time best covenant weapon. Enough said.
6.) Customizability - You can pair any chest piece with your selection of shoulder pads, gauntlets, knee pads/ boots etc. You can unlock and equip tactical accessories on your helmet, remove the blast shields from certain helmets, equip varying tactical vests to select from…you name it. You could even go as far as to equip a different shoulder pad on each arm…not unlike Spartan Carter’s setup. Armor colors were more realistic and less loud and obnoxious.
7.) Assassinations - Finally, you could assassinate another player! I don’t remember assassinations in Halo 3, but maybe it was there(?)
8.) Space flight - I will not forget the feel when, in the campaign we were racing to takeover the Longsword launch facility to bust into orbit. Very Neil Blomkamp…beautifully done.
9.) Someone pointed out the “invasion” aspect of Reach. Playing as an Elite was great fun. I believe you did also do this in Halo 3, however.
How Reach touched me is indescribable, but there are those I can point out. Really, it just worked out to be Bungies formula to an evolved Halo experience, and that’s why it received so much flame, at first. As time passed by, Halo 4 and 5 helped to make Reach more appreciable(sorry Bungie, we let you down in our appreciation for such a masterpiece). Simply put, Halo purists were rough on Reach and its reputation is still tainted as a result. Perhaps it was too much, too soon. Also, the fact that you did not play as Chief did not set well with many Halo fans…particularly those unfamiliar with the books and got used to there only being one Spartan in their life. Many did not like ODST for this reason. But mostly, many who played and enjoyed earlier Halo games were avid arena shooters…not unlike those who support Quake and Unreal…but Halo needed to evolve and get away from some of that simplistic “bounce and shoot” appeal and ground itself a bit more to appeal to a modern generation. To me, bounching and jumping has become an old fashion gimmicky mechanic that hailed from a day where games weren’t advanced enough to be exciting, so what did you do to make them more exciting? Add lots of anti-gravity and firepower and eventually, the anti-grav rail gun sniping player is born. Guys, there will always be the classics.