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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Halo ‘Reaches’ new level: Perfection

    There’s only one problem with “”Halo: Reach”” worth mentioning: It’s Bungie’s last time working with the series. Otherwise “”Reach”” looks to be the most polished installment in the franchise’s history.

    I maintain what I said after the Electronic Entertainment Expo where “”Reach”” made its first major appearance aside from the Multiplayer Beta test: This game just can’t be beat. It’s better than “”Call of Duty,”” “”Medal of Honor”” and whatever other shooter you could name.

    It seemed unlikely without the Master Chief at the center of the story, but that was probably for the best – origin stories never turn out as well as the tales that made them famous to begin with. Besides, the Noble team did a perfectly good job of subbing in for the legendary Spartan.

    While we’re on the subject of our illustrious heroes, now is as good of a time as any to touch on the story. The short explanation is that it kicks ass. But I’ve never been one to be brief, so here’s the long version.

    To start, though the “”fresh blood becoming a valued team member”” is a tired bit, Noble 6 – the character you play as – doesn’t go out of his way to prove himself. He just does a damn good job, and that’s amiable. Not only does it make sympathizing with his situation easier, it also makes the interactions between the entire team much better.

    Bungie really showed their potential as story writers this time around. Not that all of the other Halo games didn’t have good stories, but it certainly wasn’t the strong suit. This time though, I cared about someone besides the Master Chief, and considering the survival of the Noble team was never ensured like the Master Chief’s was, there was a sense of suspense to the campaign.

    Let’s get to what everyone really cares about though … the gameplay. The most jarring and unexpected change was how intelligent your enemies of the Covenant are. It seems that the collection of aliens threw all of their intelligent fighters into the fray on “”Reach”” and lost them before they ever found a Halo ring.

    Even playing on the normal difficulty was a bit tricky at times. In any other Halo game it would be a breeze, but dying wasn’t uncommon during the harder parts of some levels. But don’t get me wrong – it’s a good thing. Before, the struggle to beat the Covenant never made sense because they were so terrible at everything. Now it’s clear to see why humanity had so much trouble.

    Conversely, your team is relatively useless and it makes sense from a gameplay perspective – the game would be no fun if someone else killed all of the enemies – but it certainly doesn’t make sense since Spartans are supposed to be the best warriors humanity has to offer. The handful of new weapons feel plenty fresh and are a welcome addition. They don’t really make much sense chronologically since the time lapse between “”Reach”” and “”Halo 3″” isn’t so long as to justify the development of so many different weapons, but then again I’m no expert on the matter. As long as the gun goes “”pew, pew”” and makes things fall down, I’m happy.

    In addition, Bungie had a stroke of brilliance and decided to break up the constant “”on foot”” action with a space level that was easily one of the most entertaining parts of the game and a helicopter mission that’s almost as good.

    Despite all that the campaign brings to the table, it can’t justify being the best shooter alone. Fortunately, the multiplayer modes help with that.

    Playing online is different than ever before but in a good way. With a slew of abilities that allow you to customize the fight and plenty of fun game modes to play, there’s a lot to do. The match-making is also very streamlined, allowing you to play with people of your skill level if you so desire.

    The popular “”firefight”” mode has returned, and now you can customize it for additional fun. Taking on endless waves of the Covenant has never been better, especially when you can do it with friends. The “”forge,”” which allows you to customize existing maps to your liking, has been simplified, making it more accessible.

    A shortage of maps to play on is the only downside, but Bungie will have plenty of downloadable “”map packs”” coming soon enough, I’m sure. However, the maps that you can play on are large, detailed and fun. Most of the time, you won’t even notice or care that you’ve been on the same map four times in one session.

    When it comes down to it though, it’s just a good game. According to some numbers that Bungie has released, in the game’s first week alone, players logged over 6,000 years of gameplay in over 70 million online matches. It still hasn’t beaten “”Modern Warfare 2″” as the most played Xbox Live game but since it’s been the most popular game online over the past week, it’s only a matter of time.

    What it really comes down to is this: If you’ve ever played a Halo game, you need “”Reach”” and if you’ve never played a Halo game, you’ll still need “”Reach.”” Buy it and thank me later.

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