Halo: Reach, or Call of Halo?

A prequel to the orignal Halo, Reach places players in the role of the original Spartans during their battle with the Covenant.

Photo Courtesy of Bungie

A prequel to the orignal Halo, Reach places players in the role of the original Spartans during their battle with the Covenant.

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Bungie’s newest work was recently opened up to the public in beta form, and it seems to be suffering from a bit of an identity crisis. On paper, Halo: Reach looks like the result of Call of Duty and Halo having a baby. Set in the Halo universe with perks just like in Call Of Duty. The actual result is surprisingly unpleasant, and doesn’t feel as satisfying as either of them.

The most obvious problem with Reach is how unsatisfying it is to use many of the weapons. Mainstays such as the assault rifle and battle rifle have been remodeled or outright replaced with newer versions. Surprisingly, they feel worse and not better. Many of the new weapons feel clunky and unreliable in comparison of their Halo 3 counterparts. An example of this is the battle rifle, which in Reach is replaced by the designated marksman rifle. Not only does its name sound watered down compared to its predecessor, but it doesn’t perform nearly to the same effect, either.

Almost mimicking Call of Duty 4, grenades are now insanely powerful. Compared to their Halo 3 counterparts which were generally used for shield breaking and in high level play, Reach grenades are capable of getting kills outright with the use of nothing else. They have an amazing blast radius and a sticky trajectory that actually favors those who throw grenades directly at the target, rather than in their path. This probably makes them easier to use for newer players, but it will infuriate Halo 3 veterans who learned the skill years ago.

Slow and clunky is a good way to describe Reach. While the overall look of the graphics has seen a facelift from Halo 3, the way Spartans move seems to have taken a major step backwards. Spartans, even when equipped with the new sprint ability, seem to move slowly, inaccurately, and without conviction. The satisfying responsiveness of Halo 3’s controls are not in attendance here.

This brings me to the new powers. Before a match begins, players of Reach are allowed to choose between four different perks for their Spartan to have. These include an ability to sprint short distances, a personal shield which turns the user invincible but immobile for a short period, a cloaking device, and a jetpack. Some of these powers, like the cloak and jetpack work exactly how you think they would, and are satisfying to use. Sprint can be great for retreating from fights and forcing your shotgun into an opponents face. Shield however, is near useless and is very situational. At best it works as a distraction for your teammates.

One feature that is most welcome is the ability to add more in depth with customizations to your Spartan. Alongside the standard ability to change different parts of your armor, such as your helmet and chest plate, you can now add several accessories on top of that. These include things such as extra arm plates and dual visors for your helmet. They are purely cosmetic, but they are a nice touch and let players make their game avatars more individual.

Reach doesn’t really feel like a Halo game, and that’s not a good thing—especially if you’re a person who liked Halo 3. Reach feels like a confused mixture of two better game franchises.

One thing that must be kept in mind with Reach, is that it’s only in beta form as of now. Beta means that technically, the game is still in production and changes are going to be made. What is playable now is just a taste of what the full game will be. The beta only includes two maps and about a few multiplayer game types. The full game is expected to have much more content than the beta, as the beta basically serves the purpose of both demo and community play test. Betas are great for game developers and players alike, as they allow gamers to get access to games early, while being able to give developers crucial feedback about certain aspects of it. This can help improve the game dramatically for when it’s released in full.

The Halo: Reach beta is accessible to anyone who owns a copy of Halo 3: ODST on May 3. The beta can’t be played, downloaded, or otherwise bought without a copy of Halo 3: ODST in the 360’s disc tray.