by Incubus Folly
The ‘Value Propo$ition’ series of reviews are based on the amount of your hard-earned cash that each attribute earns. All values are tallied in the end, and if the total exceeds the MSRP, the title is wholly recommended. Slightly below indicates a rental and well under equals out to avoiding the game at all costs or purchase at a discount.
The Halo series is something of a mystery. The entire series, as far as video games go, is entirely mediocre: a standard shooter with standard mechanics with an emphasis on a multiplayer that has been copied for generations since Halo’s first appearance. However, great things were born from this mediocrity. Fantastic fictional pieces of literary work, well conceived and executed works of film, and art that depicts great moments of history in the fictional universe better than that of the actual games.
I’ll get off my high horse now, so as for the actual game itself, Reach is a story that focuses around 6 characters. The Noble Six are an elite group of Spartans trained on the planet Reach with the rest of the marines who volunteered for the Spartan program. The planet is a symbol of mankind’s achievements in warfare and holds many, if not all, of its military secrets. Spartans, Reach, and the Human race’s chance of survival will all be tested in the ensuing battle.
“Spartans don’t give up- They don’t fall back.” I love the the blend of realism in this piece of fiction. Spartans, marines, Covenant, civilians… they all have realistic responses to everything that occurs in the story. The game transports you from the front line to the decimated cities and back again, depicting from start to finish what “fighting a losing battle” should feel like. From the beginning, you know Reach is going to fall. It’s not the perfect way to display a good story, but it’s damn near close. 7 bananas for the effort, Bungie.
Building you up, then tearing you down. Normally, I’d hate this in a game, but this Halo does such a great job of making you earn your way through, and then making your achievement feel like nothing but a lonely blade of grass beneath the Covenants plated boot. It’s a true way to make us all remember Reach, because glory is forgotten without the memories of the blood and pain. I believe Lincoln is on the 5 dollar bill.
Making the world. Reach is tangible, and something of great beauty. Bungie goes out of their way to make sure you notice everything from it’s starting natural beauty to it’s defaced end… and beyond. The planet is incredibly attractive, from the native wildlife to the Spartan cities and military bases. Thank you, Bungie, for not making your universe and planet “another background.” I’m pretty sure this is worth at least ten dollars. Environments are incredibly important.
Character Development. Noble 5, you are an amazing supporting cast, and while some of you didn’t let me get to know you well enough, all of you did keep me yearning for more. I hate saying this, as I am horribly against downloadable content, but I want more. You’re a good cast of characters, I just can’t get enough of you. So I’ll pay you hourly, another 5 bones. However, as I said before, I love noble team, they’re great and Kat’s hips will always have my attention. That being said, a lot of Noble Team will leave your company without becoming fully developed or without ever revealing many of their secrets. Underdevelopment costs everyone, but I’ll only subtract 2 dollars from you, making the grand total 3 dollars.
First-person mastery. Bungie, you’ve been making first person shooters for a -very- long time now. It shows. You know how to make every last little bit count in your game, from blind spots created by larger weapons to momentum carrying through to your beat-downs, you’ve got a way of making every last little inch of decision made in combat count. It pleases me. 10 dollars for your effort.
Multiplayer/ Mr. Multiplayer… you have evolved. You have grown from a young man intent on taking over the social gaming empire into an emperor that wields both the hammer of fanboyism and the shield of educated opinion. Not only have you clenched versus gaming and turned eSports into a viable occupation with the help of a few other games (none of which are first-person shooters) but you’ve redefined what it means to be a competitive gamer, and a cooperative gamer. A massive fifteen for such great emphasis. The matchmaking for multiplayer is adequate, but ultimately irritating when you’re playing outside the arena. Sure, once you get ranked after several days of gameplay you can start playing against people with the same modicum of skill, but before that, and in any other matchmaking game type, you will be stuck with whomever you’re randomly generated with. 90% of the time these people will suck. Making a game “un-fun” should detract a lot more, but for the sake of everything else working out so well, that is still worth 5 dollars. Twenty big ones overall.
Customization. I love how in-depth you can get with your Spartan and how much change you can bring to him both through minute changes and through huge ones. I like the different types and models and if there were one thing I would tweak it’s that the changes made to the armor would actually have some effects in-game. Five dollars seems to be accurate for this.
Soundtrack. Wow. Halo has earned the reputation of having some of the best video game music out there, and for good reason. The musical scores go right along with the story line and do a great job of leading up to and out of great sequences in the Halo games. There’s nothing left to be desired here… except perhaps for more. Definitely worth an iTunes price of twelve dollars… if not higher.
Some of us would prefer the shoes just not be filled. There are a few things wrong with Reach, unfortunately, but all games have -something- you could complain about. The few things I don’t like however, remain largely unexplored. I hate that the Halo universe is most expanded in its books and graphic novels. I hate that great pits of fiction will be forever lost to the masses because the universe is so extensive, and the prior games were too poorly made (or remade) to execute story progression well. Reach is Bungie’s last installment of Halo, and it doesn’t answer nearly any of all the questions that have been amassed during the “trilogy”. A measly 3 dollar reduction.
The AI scripts for NPC characters. This is probably one of your biggest weaknesses. When it comes down to it and I’m given the choice to drive or shoot, I actually want to be given the choice to drive or shoot. Not the choice to jump in the gunners seat, watch Kat get into the drivers seat and then drive us immediately off a cliff. Adversely, I do not want the choice (on Legendary) of jumping into a vehicle driving it no more than 20 feet and having to get out and use it for cover solely because the AI isn’t capable of firing at a constant rate. It has taken a bite out of your own game, Bungie… a 7 dollar bite.
I want -more-. I want to see more of the ODST crew, not just a cameo of Buck inviting me to a nice dinner at one of Hell’s best culinary attractions. I want to catch a glimpse of Master Chief in action, even if I don’t get to shake his hand. I want to see Arbitor in chains. I want to fight along side SGT Johnson. For this being Bungie’s last Halo, it’s leaving me with a lot of wants that a final installment should satisfy. Not enough content in your game is a crime against gamers everywhere and is a ticket that will cost you 5 in court.
“I Wish you Would Have Gotten to See it.” Halo: Reach is by no stretch of the imagination a bad game. It’s artfully done with many, if not all of it’s decisions deliberately made. Whether or not I agree with them is the results of this review, and if I were any other person I could say that Halo: Reach is a 60 dollar game- easily. But I am me, and it’s very -very- difficult to sate my desires to their full extent. I recently had the opportunity to give Forge Mode a little test and was oddly disappointed. After fiddling with StarCraft 2’s Map editor and Little Big Planet’s level creator, Forge Mode just seems relatively tacked on by comparison. I won’t deduct points as this has no real effect on the game, but I’m not going to add any either. Reach is a $40 title and falls a few simple steps short of being a true masterpiece.
This game was masterfully made, and chose it’s ending wisely, as the Halo universe has long since been abused for wealth. To end a series with it’s beginning, instead of trying to continue from an already complete an fulfilling end. I’d like to commend you, Bungie, for becoming real developers with this last installment of the franchise. Not only do I think you’re ready to move on to a new series, but also ready to out-do yourselves. I look forward to your next work- I hope it shows all of the skill and mastery that you have developed since your genesis.
- IMMERSION: +$5
- ART DIRECTION: +$10
- CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT: +$3
- CUSTOMIZATION: +5
- MULTIPLAYER: +$20
- SOUNDTRACK: +$12
- NARRATIVE CLOSURE: -$3
- NON-PLAYER CHARACTER AI: -$7
- SOLO CAMPAIGN: -$5