Sunday, May 2, 2010

Why Halo needed Reach

 This describes what Reach is doing to the old gameplayWhether you game or not everybody knows about Halo. Besides being one of the most popular franchises of all-time, it’s the reason console shooters took off in the first place. Sure there’ve been plenty of quality shooters before Halo’s day, but after Halo 2 blew the competition away, with internet functionality among other things, Halo’s place would be firmly cemented into gaming history. What came after would be controversial, but I don’t think anyone can deny the stale smell emanating from the series’ tried and true mechanics. With Bungie’s departure from Microsoft and my clear displeasure with the third game and its contrived spin-offs, I pretty much wrote the series off as having done all it could. Then, Reach hit me. 

Reach, is exactly what the Halo series needed. It’s a boost to a franchise that has long followed the “if it ain’t broke then don’t fix it” approach. While that’s the safe way to play with game design, after the third game Halo desperately needed something to put that infallible sheen back on its armor plating. I’m not saying that traditional FPS style isn’t a good time, but as technology advances so does design and Halo needed new ideas. Reach provides an augmentation to the series by modernizing and organizing the game into something that feels fresh yet still familiar. There are surely some hurdles to cross, but if this game can do it I feel confident in saying it will be the definitive Halo experience. 

 Dude, Spartans can fly
With all this talk of Halo being different, fans shouldn’t feel immediately alienated because the core of the game hasn’t changed. You’re still running and gunning with your shields and trusty plasma grenades at your side. What I’m most excited about are nuances like spawning in on your wingman, which if you ask me is anything but a slight change. You’ve been able to do this in a slew of other games, like Battlefield, but implementing this in Halo calls for extra strategy and adds some needed depth. More than that, Reach is also borrowing the Battlefield class system. No longer will you be dependent on reaching location A where weapon B always spawns. I’ve become embittered with that system over the years but now choosing your class suddenly clears up the battlefield and makes for your initial spawn to have a few extra seconds of life. I can’t explain how important that difference is.

The class system and Battlefield-esque borrowing seems to be the most controversial item Reach offers. Truthfully, I think Halo will be better off now that more of its random nature has been toned down. You know, spawning in the midst of a massive gunfight, getting gunned down by the very man you just killed not two seconds ago, never being able to get the damned sniper rifle. Surely some of these things will still happen, but more of the control has been put into your hands. There was nothing worse than being camped when a team controlled all the effective weaponry on a map. Now that you can control what you spawn with and where you spawn, this frustration should be relaxed. 

 I guess Elites suddenly got bigger? Nice!
Giving an identity to both the Spartan and Elite is further evidence of Bungie trying to tweak everything about the series. Elites are gigantic compared to Spartans who should be easily concealed, they’re also stronger, and can regenerate health. Both sides also have unique armor functionality that will be instrumental on the battlefield. Spartans can sprint, like in Call of Duty, Elites can cloak, and both sides have the option of using a jet-pack. There’s so much more apparent and this customization adds yet another layer of strategy while ridding Halo of the identical combat we’ve all become accustomed to. Surely this is the way the game should have always been played.

There are the many more changes and obvious inclusions to a brand new game like Reach, but what we should all be excited about is how the gameplay has changed so dramatically yet in such a subtle manner. Halo has finally evolved with the rest of modern day gaming and I can’t wait to see how it all pans out.

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