Retro Review: Halo: Reach (Xbox 360 and Xbox One)

The Halo series was everywhere a few years ago. However, developer Bungie was moving on to new ventures and the franchise would later fall into the hands of 343 Industries. Before they left, Bungie made Halo: Reach and with it, showcased how a Halo story campaign is perfectly done.

“The enemies will use cover, grenades and every other tool available to take you down. When overpowered you’ll even see them run or use their allies as shields”

Yes, right from the get-go I’ll tell you that out of all the Halo games it is Halo: Reach that perfected the single player experience. Previous entries in the franchise suffered from either long, linear corridors or really big, expansive maps that were too confusing and easy to get lost in. Here the maps offer just the right amount of exploration while still keeping the player in the right general path to advance the story and reach the next main set piece.

Every turn and every exit lead to a unique battle with varying objectives and obstacles ensuring you can’t just go in, guns blazing. There are times when you’ll have to go between multiple turret towers to keep them activated and defend your position. At other times you’ll have to sneak around because the enemies are using powerful shield barriers. Other times you’ll have to weave through enemy fire just to kill one target.

“It’s no secret that the first Halo game pushed the bar so high and the sequels failed to reach those heights”

Great level design and encounters won’t get you too far if the enemy AI won’t take advantage of it and fortunately Halo: Reach doesn’t suffer from that issue. The enemies will use cover, grenades and every other tool available to take you down. When overpowered you’ll even see them run or use their allies as shields.

Sadly, this level of intelligence doesn’t include your AI allies. At times they do fight back but for the most part, they’re just walking bricks that exist solely to die or make you feel like a powerful hero. This was a problem then and it’s a problem now. It’s kind of sad when you realize FPS games haven’t really fixed this issue after all these years.

“Unfortunately, Halo: Reach has not yet seen an HD remaster and is not available on PC”

The Halo games have suffered from generic stories despite having such a rich and intriguing lore, world and characters. It’s no secret that the first Halo game pushed the bar so high and the sequels failed to reach those heights. Halo: Reach improves upon this significantly by delivering one of the best stories ever told in an FPS. While veterans who played the first three games will already know how Reach ends the game still pulls it off satisfyingly.

One big reason for its success is the cast of characters. All of the members of Noble Team are fleshed out and each one gets a moment to shine during the main campaign. Their effort to succeed and help humanity survive against the alien Covenant invasion weighs more than it ever did in the main trilogy.

Multiplayer is still a key aspect here but the online community for Halo: Reach has shrunk in recent years. What you get was amazing for the time but there’s no denying that Halo 4 and Halo 5: Guardians did improve on this mode. Halo: Reach’s multiplayer is fine but the game truly shines with its single player campaign.

Unfortunately, Halo: Reach has not yet seen an HD remaster and is not available on PC. Fortunately, though you can get it on the Xbox One now thanks to the Backwards Compatibility feature and can be purchased digitally on the Xbox Marketplace.