‘Halo: Reach’ sends Bungie out with a bang

jheeter@macon.comOctober 8, 2010 

Very few video games have pop culture crossover appeal.

Recent games like “Grand Theft Auto” and “Guitar Hero” have resonated with both hardcore and casual gamers while drawing attention from non-gamers.

“Halo” also certainly belongs in that category. The game essentially launched the Xbox, and helped Microsoft grab a foothold in console sales and legitimately compete with Sony and Nintendo. The game became a huge hit and the series became a household name.

A friend of mine, who would be considered a casual gamer, told me the other day that she hated “Halo” because the game garnered so much attention from her college friends that it became a social buzz kill for her.

The game’s impact on society should be credited to developer Bungie, which helped bring online multiplayer gaming to the forefront with the “Halo” series.

Well, Bungie’s run with “Halo” is now over with the release of “Halo: Reach,” the final game in the series from the Seattle-area developer.

Microsoft will reportedly continue on with the series with another developer, while Bungie is working on an unnamed game with Activision.

Bungie has indeed gone out with a bang with “Halo: Reach.”

The final outing for Bungie is actually a prequel to the original “Halo” game, set before series protagonist Master Chief took up the fight against the alien Covenant forces. In this new game, the protagonist is a Spartan soldier — sort of like a gun-toting Jedi — who is part of a crew trying to defend the planet Reach during a Covenant invasion.

The campaign mode is stellar, but I wouldn’t expect anything else. Every game in the series (except maybe “Halo: ODST”) delivers a solid campaign with an engaging storyline. Even without Master Chief, “Halo: Reach” continues the tradition of building a strong campaign mode around a good story.

This game also ties together nicely with the original “Halo,” with the timelines of both games coming close to each other.

From a story mode perspective, I’m not sure “Halo: Reach” is as good as “Halo 2” or “Halo 3.” Both previous games benefited from the inclusion of Master Chief, with whom gamers have built up an emotional attachment through three games.

Your character in “Halo: Reach” is little more than a number.

But where “Halo: Reach” sets itself apart is in its multiplayer mode, which is the best so far in the series.

It makes sense that the franchise, which helped define multiplayer gaming for this generation, has its best effort yet in online gaming.

The options are robust, as always. Firefight, a mode from “Halo: ODST,” is back and pits you against as many enemies as you can handle.

One of the online options includes a level editor. You can customize just about anything, and the developers took everything that has worked in four games and tweaked it for the better.

“Halo: Reach” will likely sell more than any other game this year. The game grossed $200 million on its first day in stores. The mark broke the franchise record, and deservedly so, as it’s probably the most complete game in the series.

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