Halo: Reach

by Angela Simpson
author awarded score: 90/100

Halo: Reach Review
Developer:Bungie Software
Publisher: Microsoft
Format Reviewed: Xbox360
Reviewed by: Angela Simpson

And so it ends, at its beginning. It’s September 2010 and time for another Halo review, this time in the form of Halo: Reach, a game set chronologically as a prequel to the first Halo game, Halo: Combat Evolved. In some bittersweet twist Halo: Reach is also the swan-song title for Bungie. The story follows Noble Team, a kick ass group of Spartans dealing with the Covenant invasion of the UNSC outpost on Reach. You play a member of this team known as “Noble Six” aka Spartan-B312.

You can customize your Spartan from the get go, once you’re good to go, you’re introduced to your fellow protagonists: Noble Team, a UNSC special operations unit. Each member of Noble Team has a specific skill set and each is fleshed out just enough for you to form a little attachment to them. Noble Six consists of: Carter-A259 tough ass leader, Kat-B320 second-in-command and a lady who dings the gaydar, Jorge-052 heavy weapons specialist, Emile-A239 cool dude and assault specialist and Jun-A266 the marksman.

Halo: Reach female gamer review

So to the gameplay
It could be argued that the on foot gameplay of Halo really hasn’t evolved that much over the years, but if it ain’t broke, why fix it. The run and gun sections are exactly what the Halo fan expects and Halo: Reach doesn’t disappoint, though the more cynical may well argue it lacks originality. The only notable difference to the on foot sections is the lack of dual-wielding (which isn’t missed) and the addition of the different armor add-ons, like the rather cool Jet Pack for short range leaps and the Armor Lockdown. The only issue with these was accidental usage, though I suspect that was more down to user incompetence than any actual controller layout problems. Where Bungie has excelled is in mixing up the gameplay so it isn’t only run and gun, Noble Team take part in heroic last stand battles, including space battles and the usual array of land vehicle shenanigans.

Graphics and Sound
Halo: Reach features graphics that have definitely evolved. Environments are lush, character models emote and this is all whilst keeping in with the overall feel of the Halo franchise. As usual the audio in Halo is superlative, with an orchestral soundtrack that kicks in at the right moments and never fails to raise a smile as that well known Halo riff begins. The voice work in Halo: Reach too is top notch, featuring the likes of Jen Taylor, Alona Tal, Jamie Hector and Sunil Malhotra. Add to this secondary characters voiced by the likes of Zachary Levi, Greg Grunberg and Nathan Fillion and you’re speaking voice acting first class.

Halo: Reach female gamer review

Female Gamer Angle
You may recall I made the unmitigated error of – shock horror – suggesting the female character of Veronica Dare in the last Halo title was sub-par, a suggestion that warranted death threats according to some Bungie forum good ole boys. Well that was a year ago and this is a new game that once more features some female character input from Bungie, but did they drop the plasma grenade again like they did with Dare?

In short, not they didn’t, so let’s say it, thank you Bungie. The first screen on Halo: Reach states “First things first: Male or Female” and this is for the player character in the campaign, yes, finally Bungie gets it right and was it really that hard? Did the world crack asunder swallowing us all, no. This addition truly made this game my favorite Halo title and that’s saying something. Running around wiping out covenant scum as a kick ass female spartan is amazing, sure it doesn’t change anything in the gameplay, it’s just the character model and at times a few bits of voice work, but this addition is about so much more than that, this addition is about fairness and choice.

The addition of this choice changes nothing in the game and this is something other developers need to take note of. These are fantastical worlds and should not be based on our own social norming. Female Spartans exist in the Halo universe and therefore should be playable and this should change nothing in the overall game, other than the aforementioned character model to a degree and voicework. Well done Bungie for ‘getting’ it.

As well as getting to play Noble Six, or just Six (which is a hoot for a BSG fan of course), Halo: Reach is awash with female goodness, not least of all in the form of Lieutenant Commander Kat (Catherine-B320) a female spartan who more than dings the gaydar (well we can dream can’t we?). Kat is a great female character because she falls away from that semi-naked, overly feminized version of the female games character we so often see. Kat is a hard ass and the only downside of the character is the silly ass-wiggle she sports, other than that, she’s a cracker!

Halo: Reach female gamer review

So what’s the upshot?
The upshot is Halo: Reach gets almost everything right. The addition of gender choice is merely the icing on the cake of an otherwise wonderful game. At around 9 hours long in campaign mode, Halo: Reach features a great story that brings to light some sweet detail from the Halo universe all wrapped up in plenty of the firefights Halo fans have come to love. If you’re a fan of multiplayer, needless to say the campaign is merely the beginning of things, given Halo: Reach features fully fleshed out multiplayer that fans will no doubt be playing for years to come. All in all Halo: Reach has taken the original Halo formula and added just enough spice to make it feel fresh and new.

This review originally appeared at our partner site Lesbian Gamers