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Halo: Reach

Halo: Reach

Halo: Reach

Halo: Reach is a 2010 first-person shooter video game developed by Bungie and published by Microsoft Game Studios for the Xbox 360 console. Reach was released in North America, Australia, and Europe on September 14, 2010. The game takes place in the year 2552, where humanity is locked in a war with the alien Covenant. Players control Noble Six, a member of an elite supersoldier squad, when the human world known as Reach falls under Covenant attack.

After developing Halo 3 in 2007, Bungie split into teams to develop two different games—what would become Halo 3: ODST and Reach. The developers decided to create a prequel to the original Halo game trilogy, freeing themselves from the obligation of addressing old story threads. As the game would take place on a human world doomed to be destroyed, they focused on making the environment a character unto itself. Longtime Halo composers Martin O'Donnell and Michael Salvatori returned to compose Reach's music, aiming for a more somber sound to match the story.

Reach was announced to the world at the Electronic Entertainment Expo 2009 in Los Angeles, California, and the first in-engine trailer was shown at the 2009 Spike Video Game Awards. Players who purchased Halo 3: ODST were eligible to participate in a Reach multiplayer beta in May 2010; the beta allowed Bungie to gain player feedback for fixing bugs and making gameplay tweaks before shipping the final version. Microsoft gave Reach its biggest game marketing budget yet, and created award-winning live-action commercials, action figures, and interactive media to promote the game.

Halo: Reach grossed US$200 million on its launch day, setting a new record for the franchise. The game sold well in most territories, moving more than three million units its first month in North America. Critical reception was positive; reviewers from publications such as IGN, GamePro, and Official Xbox Magazine called it the best Halo title yet. Critics generally praised the game's graphics and sound, but the plot and characters were less positively received. Reach was Bungie's final Halo game; future games were overseen by the Microsoft subsidiary 343 Industries.

Halo: Reach Plot

The game opens with the planet Reach in ruins, then flashes back to before the devastating invasion by the Covenant. Noble team is dispatched to discover why a communications relay on Reach has gone offline. There, they discover Covenant forces on Reach, and warn the rest of the planet about the Covenant presence. Soon after, the team defends "Sword Base", an Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI) installation, from a Covenant vessel. The team meets Catherine Halsey, a scientist and the mastermind behind the Spartan program and their MJOLNIR powered armor. Halsey informs Noble Team that the Covenant forces at the relay were searching for important information.

Jun and Six are dispatched on a covert mission to assess the Covenant's strength and discover a large invasion force gathering on the planet. The following morning, Noble Team assists UNSC forces in assaulting a Covenant ground base. When a massive Covenant super-carrier joins the fight, Jorge and Six take part in a plan to destroy the super-carrier using a makeshift bomb. The Spartans use starfighters to infiltrate a smaller Covenant corvette, prepare the bomb and set the corvette on a docking course with the carrier, but the bomb's timer is damaged. Left with no choice, Jorge stays behind and sacrifices himself to destroys the super-carrier. Moments later, huge numbers of Covenant ships arrive at Reach and begin a full-scale invasion.

Six returns to the surface and travels to the city of New Alexandria. There, the Spartan aids the local military in fighting against the Covenant and evacuating the civilian residents, reuniting with the rest of Noble Team along the way. They retreat to an underground bunker when the Covenant begin to bombard the city with plasma, but Kat is killed by a Covenant sniper before she can reach it. Recalled to Sword Base, Noble Team is guided underground to an ancient artifact that Halsey believes is key to winning the war against the Covenant. Six, Carter and Emile are entrusted with transporting the artificial intelligence Cortana, and the information she carries concerning the artifact, to the UNSC ship Pillar of Autumn. Jun leaves the team to escort Halsey to another base.

En route to the Autumn's dry dock, Carter is critically wounded. He rams his ship into a Covenant mobile assault platform, allowing Six and Emile to safely reach the shipyard. Emile uses a mass driver emplacement to defend the Autumn while Six fights through Covenant ground forces to get Cortana to the Autumn's captain, Jacob Keyes. When Emile is slain by Elites, Six remains behind to control the gun, ensuring the Autumn's escape. The Autumn flees from Reach and discovers a Halo ringworld, sparking the events of Halo: Combat Evolved.

The post-credits scene puts the player in control of Six's last stand against overwhelming Covenant forces. After sustaining heavy damage, Six drops his or her shattered helmet and is overwhelmed and killed. Decades later, Six's helmet remains on the grassy plains of a now-restored Reach. A narration by Halsey eulogizes Noble Team, who ultimately enabled humanity's victory over the Covenant.

Halo: Reach Gameplay

Halo: Reach is a first-person shooter in which players predominantly experience gameplay from a first-person perspective; the game perspective switches to third-person when using certain weapons and vehicles. Gameplay is more similar to Halo: Combat Evolved than later games in the series. The player's head-up display displays and tracks a player's current weapons, abilities, and health; it also contains a compass and a "motion tracker" that registers moving allies, enemies, and vehicles in a certain radius of the player. The HUD changes when the player pilots aircraft and spacecraft.

In the game's campaign, which can be played alone or cooperatively, players assume the role of Noble Six, a supersoldier engaged in combat with an alien collective known as the Covenant. The Covenant come in eight distinct varieties with different ranks and classes for each type; for example, Elites are the leaders of a group, while Grunts are less intelligent and only dangerous in large groups. The player character is equipped with a recharging energy shield that absorbs damage from weapons fire and impacts. When the energy shield is depleted, the player character loses health. When the character's health reaches zero, the character dies and the game reloads from a saved checkpoint. Health is replenished using health packs scattered throughout Reach's levels. The campaign's encounters with enemies are typically large, open spaces with weapons caches, cover from enemy fire and strategic vantage points. New to the Halo series are dogfight sequences set in space.

Reach features updated versions of old weapons, plus new weapons fulfilling various combat roles. In Halo 3, player characters can carry single-use equipment power-ups that offer temporary offensive or defensive advantages. This system of single-use equipment is replaced in Reach by reusable and persistent armor abilities that remain with a character until they are replaced. The abilities are a jetpack; active camouflage; sprint; hologram, which creates a facsimile of the player running towards a target point; drop shield, which creates a bubble that heals those inside and protects them from a limited amount of damage; and armor lock, which immobilizes the player but grants invincibility for a brief period of time. When playing as Covenant Elites, players also have access to an evade armor ability.

Reception
Halo: Reach received critical acclaim upon its release. It holds an average of 91.79% and 91/100 on aggregate web sites GameRankings and Metacritic. Critics such as 1UP.com's Thierry Nguyen, the staff of Edge, GamePro' Matt Cabral, and others considered Reach the best Halo title yet. Reviewers noted that there were few major changes to the Halo formula; IGN's Erik Brudvig wrote that Reach was not "another rehash", though franchise veterans would feel immediately at home with the game.

Nguyen, Tom Hoggins of The Daily Telegraph, and others wrote that Reach took the best elements from previous games and combined them in their final entry. Hoggins noted that this approach made Reach "a blistering, breathless crescendo to a decade's worth of work", but also that it was unlikely to convert non-Halo fans as a result. The Daily Mirror's Kevin Lynch praised Bungie for introducing new gameplay mechanics like jetpacks without ruining the game's difficulty curve or game balance.

Brudvig praised the campaign for avoiding the "repetitive landscapes and circuitous, difficult to follow plots" of past Halo titles. GameSpot's Chris Watters and others felt the friendly non-player character artificial intelligence was less advanced than that of enemies, especially while driving. Steve Boxer wrote for The Guardian that Reach's story made previous entries feel "amateurish"; Nguyen felt that whereas previous Halo titles had become mired in inconsistencies and Star Trek-like technobabble, Reach told a broader and more accessible story. Despite this, he wrote that the game suffered from overly-generic archetypal characters, as players only spent enough time with a few members of Noble Team: "I almost forgot that Noble Four (Emile) even existed for a big chunk of the campaign, as I rarely saw him." Wired's Gus Mastrapa unfavorably compared Noble Team to the marines of Aliens, writing that most of the characters were unmemorable and one-dimensional. Nguyen also faulted the game for occasional lapses in exposition, but summed these up as "minor quibbles" compared to the improvements. In contrast, Games Radar's Charlie Baratt opined that Reach's campaign was better than ODST's, but lacked the "franchise-changing potential" it promised. Lynch judged that Bungie still had not learned to create a perfect story, " does expertly set up bombastic scene after scene".

Ben Kuchera of Ars Technica enjoyed the multiplayer component of Reach for its scope—"no matter how you play, you will find something to like." Baratt and others lauded the many new and old customization and game options available to players. Watters and Kuchera praised the concept of psych profiles to hone more agreeable teammate selections, but questioned its effectiveness. G4 considered Reach's Forge World more expansive and impressive than Halo 3's Forge offerings, and Lynch wrote that the sheer number and options for multiplayer would give it a long lifecycle for players.

Critics considered the audio-visual components a marked advance over Halo 3 and ODST's. New Zealand Herald's Troy Rawhiti-Forbes wrote that with the improved graphics and animation, " looks just like a big-budget Hollywood project." Official Xbox Magazine acknowledged better graphics in other games, but praised Reach for "eye-catching beauty and breathless scope", noting that the inclusion of wildlife and civilians heightened the impression of a planet under siege. Martin Robinson of IGN UK appreciated O'Donnell's moody score and the redone sound effects, and wrote that the new weapons "feel like they're about to tear your hands off".


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