Few games enjoy the kind of fan following that the Halo series does. Launched back in 2001 on the Xbox console, the series spawned two more games that went on to become huge successes. With the third game, the story of the game ended, which had started with the first game. So then what is Halo: Reach? The events in Halo: Reach take place shortly before the events of the first game, when humanity is at war with the Covenant on planet Reach. And as anyone who has played the first three Halo games would know, you end up losing that battle.
In Halo: Reach, you play as Noble 6, the newest member of Noble Team. Very little is known about Noble 6, and apart from his or voice, you never see his/her face. Yes, that's right, Noble 6 can either be a man or a woman, depending upon what setting you choose at the start of the game. With the rest of the Nobile Team, you fight against the Covenant who want to take over planet Reach. The story of the game is compelling enough for you to play even though you know that eventually you would end up on the losing side. You are playing with the knowledge that at least you are the good guy and did your best to thwart the enemies right till the end. The members of the Noble Team are great companions and through the course of the game you tend to connect with them emotionally.
The single player mode of Halo: Reach is an absolute blast. The game initially starts off slow but eventually you will find yourself in one epic battle after other. You will find a good variety of enemies in the game. Some of them are pretty easy while others take some serious effort to take down. The game often throws a variety of hardships at you, which can result in some frantic battles that you will remember long after you finish the game. You also get a good variety of weapons, from the standard assault rifle and hand guns to shot guns and sniper rifles. You can also pick up Covenant weapons after you put them to sleep, and they are the ones that I found more fun to use. You also get grenades, some of which can stick to your enemies when you lob them. Of course, the enemies can do the same, so you need to be careful.
A cool new addition to the series are the special power-ups that you can pick up in the game. These grant you special abilities that last for a short period of time, giving you an advantage over your enemies. It can be a quick burst of speed, ability to create a force field around you, create a duplicate of you, make you invisible or my personal favourite, jet packs, which grant you the ability to fly short distances. Halo: Reach is pretty fun till the point you get your first jet packs but after that it goes to a whole new level of awesomeness. Using the jet packs to reach higher levels or launching an aerial attack over your enemies is extremely satisfying. Too bad the jet packs are only available in certain locations in the game and not throughout.
With these abilities you can gain an advantage over your enemies. However, you will often come across enemies using these power-ups themselves, which make the battles even more interesting.
Occasionally you will also be driving vehicles in the game. You can choose to drive yourself or let your team member take the wheel. Unfortunately, in either case things don't work out too well. If you choose to drive yourself, you will notice that handling the vehicles is quite a chore; the controls are a bit messed up and not very intuitive. If you let your team member drive then you will find that they tend to get the vehicle stuck in weird places and the only option out is to abandon the vehicle.
There are a couple of flying sequences as well and thankfully the aircrafts are far better at handling than their terrestrial counterparts. They are fun initially but then you realize you are doing the same thing again and again for a bit longer than you would like.
Multiplayer has always been a strong suite of Halo games and on Halo: Reach it has been taken to a whole new level altogether. You can choose to play the campaign with up to four player. There is also a mode called 'Firefight' in which players can fight against hordes of enemies that keep coming one after another. Other modes include 'Headhunter' in which you collect skulls from fallen enemies and then deposit them at special zones for points. In 'Stockpile' players have to collect flags and hold them at capture points. Then there are 'General Defense' and 'Invasion' in which players form two groups, Spartans and Elites and fight against each other. Then there are other modes as well, such as 'Slayer' and 'King of the Hill'. In each mode you get credits for playing, which you can then use to customize the appearance of your character. And then there is Forge, which lets you create and customize your own maps, if you are into that kind of stuff.
The environments in Halo: Reach are beautiful to look at. The levels, from the farms to the city streets or in outer space, are wonderfully designed. Having said that I did notice a lot of jagged edges, low textures in certain areas and a frame rate that dropped occasionally, although never while playing, but mostly in cut scenes. What I did not like about the visuals, however, was the motion blurring that was over-the-top and annoying. The audio, however, was very impressive with a nice engaging soundtrack and powerful sounding weapons that brings battles to life and makes them more enjoyable. The voice acting is impressive as well.
Halo: Reach is a wonderful all-round package that anyone would thoroughly enjoy regardless of whether they have played the previous Halo games or not. There is something for everyone here; from the excellent campaign to the exciting multi-player, Halo: Reach manages to cover all bases very well and is one of the must-play games on any platform right now. Halo: Reach is the last game in the Halo series and even though it is technically not the end of the story it is an excellent end to an epic series.