‘Halo’ reaches for the stars

The behemoth of the console first person shooter is finally complete with the release of “Halo Reach.”

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By Garth Pullen / Staff Writer

By Garth Pullen / Staff Writer

The behemoth of the console first person shooter is finally complete with the release of “Halo Reach.”

The true swan song of the saga; this installment concludes Bungie’s involvement in the series’ development and, though hope was always a very real concept in the Halo universe, “Halo Reach” succeeds in evoking a much more visceral side of hope: destruction.

Stepping into “Reach,” Bungie makes you immediately aware of the improved and seamlessly fluid menu design.

There were a few moments where I felt a little unsettled when traversing the new customizable armory store but nothing a strict “Halo” fan wouldn’t welcome with open arms.

After specifying my gender and selecting a load-out I was ready to kick some covenant tail in the campaign.

The first thing worth noticing is the brutally intentional slow pace of the story.

Not only does this resonate within the game’s cut-scenes, but is also displayed in the game-play sections that don’t allow the player full control.

In effect, you’re forced to slog through quite a few of these moments while limited to sitting passenger seat in one of the many aircraft available throughout each stage.

The pacing of the story wouldn’t be a real problem if, in the middle of all this somber chaos, there were interesting and dynamic characters to accompany you along the way.

The reason Master Chief worked well as a character wasn’t because he was interesting in his lonesome, but the characters he surrounded himself with were aggressively opposite him when channeling their emotions or challenging beliefs.

Instead, we have brutish monotone types who seem devoid of all personality; which would be fine had they thrown in a couple of conflicting parties.

When it comes down to it, this isn’t the weakest story in the “Halo” franchise, but it is the worst crafted.

Even with a slightly disappointing campaign, “Halo Reach” manages to rectify that bad taste in your mouth with sweet multiplayer options and tight controls.

Matchmaking options include everything from classic team death match to the much improved Fire-Fight mode, making its second appearance since its introduction in the previous “Halo” title: “Halo 3 ODST.”

In Fire-Fight, up to four players defend against wave after wave of increasingly difficult covenant resistance.

The longer you stay alive, the more difficult the enemy forces become.

One of the more addictive new game modes, Head Hunter, requires you to mow down your opposition in hopes to collect a skull-shaped token from the enemies’ remains.

The more skulls you collect, the better.

On the other hand, if you go too long without dropping off skulls at specified drop zones for points, the bigger a target you may become.

With everything that’s going on in “Halo Reach,” believe me when I say that the amount of time that could be spent on this game is staggering for a first person shooter.

I’m amazed Bungie held it together as well as they did.

The vehicles, for the most part, function with great precision and ease.

Whipping around corners and plowing right through enemy forces with the Warthog never felt so good; while grabbing two teammates to ride gunner seat in the Falcon – a replacement to the previous titles’ playable aircraft – is a phenomenal rush in any eight-on-eight multi-player match

Though the story has a somewhat tedious air about it, the scope of what’s to be told really comes through for the title as a whole.

With a game made up of so many components, it’s nice to see the level of care that went into a thoroughly balanced leveling system and customizable traits.

Not to mention, the lead music designer from the previous “Halo” games makes a return to the series with some of the franchises most relevant motifs.

From the very beginning the players knew how it would end and Bungie had to pull out all the tricks to really shock us into submission.

I think the big time developer has been successful in conveying the scope of these events, but somewhere along the way they may have forgotten the most important ingredient for the complete “Halo” experience: a gripping story.

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