Halo: Reach is by far the best and most compelling Halo game yet.
That is the simplest statement to illustrate what you'll get when you pick up the eagerly-anticipated prequel this week. This is definitely a Halo game, with many of the standards you expect from the franchise, and it allows developer Bungie to go out on top.
There are gameplay differences, which we'll get to in a moment, but first, the story. Fans of the franchise already know the basics of the story of the Fall of Reach. It's right there in that title, "FALL of Reach," meaning this story, this game, isn't going to end well. That sense of immediacy to the end of the story is also present throughout the entire game. Following the Noble team of Spartan warriors (think an entire squad of Master Chiefs, all with a little more personality), Reach has real danger, real emotion, real tension; all things that have been difficult for the Halo franchise to achieve in the past, at least to this level. Remember the utter shock and world-turned-upside down feeling of the reveal of the Flood? Reach has at least one of those moments in every single mission. It packs so much story and so many gut-wrenching or awe-inspiring (sometimes both simultaneously) moments into the campaign, you'll be anxious to play again as soon as you put down the controller some 12-14 hours after picking it up.
That's right… when you start playing this game, just call it a day, because you won't stop playing until it ends.
The campaign also introduces you to some new gameplay that will make the Halo: Reach multiplayer experience at once remind people of how fun Halo MP can be and forget that any other Halo MP has ever existed. The new armor abilities add a depth and strategy missing in previous games. Are you a run-and gunner? Do you have an accurate long-range shot? Do you prefer to sit and lure your enemies in? Maybe you want to sneak around and assassinate. All of these things are possible in Reach through new pickups that you gather at strategic points in the campaign, and they make many sections of the game uniquely repayable. You'll need these strategies to get through the campaign as well. Apparently war made the Covenant tired, because these are smarter and more brutal warriors than you have ever faced in a Halo adventure, something you will feel from the very first mission.
In Multiplayer, the armor abilities add depth as well. Now you can rain death from above with the jetpack or run directly at a vehicle, dropping into armor lock at the last second. With the infinitely customizable Forge World, amateur game designers can (and will) spend days making the perfect map, while less experienced players team-up with friends or strangers in firefight, defending Reach against endless waves of enemies. Fancy yourself more of the bad-boy type? Well, you can also crawl into the armor of the baddies in firefight now, leading the charge against those Spartan punks.
All of this comes in a more-customizable-than-ever package. Expressing your individuality through tons of unlockable armor parts, colors, and designs is allowed not just in multiplayer, but in your single-player character as well. With all the cut scenes sticking to the in-game engine, Bungie has actually placed your custom character into these epic and unforgettable moments.
For latecomers to the Halo franchise, you can feel absolutely comfortable jumping into Reach as your first game. It will make a Halo fan out of even the biggest skeptic. For dedicated fans of the series, you are in for the surprise of your life; any hype, any excitement you have felt, is absolutely nothing to the finished product. This is the best Halo game yet, and Bungie is going out with as perfect a first person shooter experience as has ever seen consoles.Remember Reach