By TOM DELLAFERA
“Halo: Reach” is the most fun I’ve had playing a video game in a very long time.
That said, in the interest of full-disclosure, I’ve been playing the “Halo” games for approximately six years. To say that I have something of a bias may be an understatement.
In “Halo: Reach,” you’ll control “Six,” the newest member of Noble Team, an elite group of Spartan supersoldiers about to witness the fall of the human colony on the planet Reach, leading up to the events of the first game in the series, “Halo: Combat Evolved.”
“Reach” doesn’t play quite like its predecessors, having made some meaningful improvements to the “Halo” formula. While many other first-person shooters have adhered to the standard set by “Call of Duty,” complicating things with customizable weapon and skill loadouts, the “Halo” franchise has always resisted conforming. Until now, anyway.
In a big departure from franchise tradition, “Reach” allows players to choose from a few different abilities before each respawn. These “armor abilities” range from jetpacks to sprinting to dropping a blue bubble shield, among others. They absolutely spice up the multiplayer and provide a much-needed refresh for the series. Somehow, all the abilities are balanced, worthwhile additions that are fun to use.
Unlike most of the previous games in the series, you won’t be filling Master Chief’s shoes. In “Reach,” you make your own character who appears in both the campaign and multiplayer. As you play the game, you earn credits that boost your rank and allow you to further customize your character.
Online multiplayer has been completely rehauled. For casual play, there are plenty of social, unranked game modes. Whether you’re just in the mood to kill guys or want to work together to achieve a common goal, “Reach” has a playlist for you.
On the competitive side, there have been more significant changes. The old leveling system is gone and in its place are the Arena modes. These modes rate your skill after each game and use those ratings to match you up with similarly skilled, competitive gamers.
But “Reach” is no slouch with its single-player campaign either, though. It tells a dark tale of memorable characters, all doomed to fail from the start. There’s a mounting feeling of dread as the game goes on, and it is hands-down the best “Halo” storyline since the first game.
Diehard series fans probably already own “Halo: Reach” by now, but if you’re on the fence, consider this: It’s already the most popular game on Xbox Live, and it’s only been out for two weeks. It’s certainly crippled my life since I got it, and I’ve enjoyed every second of it.
5 out of 5 stars