Can you believe Halo Reach is a mere month away? As we speak, or, in my case, rattle away on a keyboard, vast piles of gleaming Halo Reach discs are being printed in some Chinese factory, boxed on a conveyor line, soon to be shipped off to your local Game store. In my opinion, it's the last true Halo game, before we see Microsoft pass the reins that Bungie forged, grudgingly, to upstarts 343 Industries, so Reach should be enjoyed with some fanfare. So in honour of this momentous occasion, we selfless writers at Dealspwn have decided to list the 10 best things to look forward to in Halo Reach. Read on, though beware for minor spoilers!
When Halo was first unveiled on the Mac, eons ago, it showcases a Halo ring alive with... well, life! Until the story-gurus concocted their galaxy purge, we'd of seen Thorn Beasts and Blind Wolfs roaming the looping alien landscape. Ultimately, we didn't, settling for far off birds to shoot, but Bungie has since realised this dreadful omission, and filled the planet of Reach with wildlife.
On the harmless side, we have the Ostrich-like Moa, a flock of flightless bird ostensibly bemused by all the plasma bolts of explosions tearing apart their once peaceful home. On the... well, less than harmless side, we have the fifteen-foot tall Gueta, a fearsome predator with arm-length talons and formidable tusks. Perhaps best left alone, then.
9. Spartans. Plural!
Unlike the Halo trilogy, which only had one lone Spartan to fascinate over, Reach provides an entire squad, Noble Team, and possibly more, to idolize, draw pictures of and write fan-fiction about. Reach is the center of Spartan activity, it's where they're trained, but Noble Team are among the best on the ground, and here's why:
First, we've got Kat, the sole female Spartan of Noble, who's right arm has been replaced by a bionic substitute. Then there's Jorge, a towering Spartan-2, who carries a machine-gun so big it doubles as vehicle turret. Leading the team is Carter, a strong-willed, resilient soldier sporting fancy wrist-gear. Covering from the hills is Jun, the sniper, with a big facial tattoo and even bigger mouth. Finally, we've got Emile, the strong, silent type, visor adorned with a scraped-on skull. Nice.
8. Back to Basics
It's taken four games, but Bungie seems to have learned its lesson on what to and what not to include in a Halo game. Bye bye dual-wielding, recharging health and bloated weapon arsenal. It's distilling the Halo formula, finding what's right and what's balanced, instead of throwing as many ingredients in the pot and hoping it'll taste nice.
But I'll admit, vehicle-jacking will be missed. Timing a perfect jump onto an oncoming Ghost, swing-kicking the driver off, hopping on and blasting him before he can get to his feet, was fun.
7. No More Halo
It might seem like a strange thing to be thankful for, but having no Halo rings in the campaign is a relief for me. The Forerunner universe is well-covered in the trilogy, and I've had enough of their looping green rings and flat, symmetrical architecture. It was fantastic in the first game, a truly wondrous sight to behold, but like all things, too much becomes too boring.
Reach, unlike Earth, gives Bungie the opportunity to explore a brand new alien environment. So far, we've seen misty mountainsides, rocky beaches and wind-swept desert. Not to mention space itself!
6. Spartans v Elites
Since Halo 2, we've been duking it out with Spartans Elites online. But other than the spiky helmets and mandibles, Elites were, by and large, identical to their Spartan counterparts. While it balanced the multiplayer, it failed to do the formidable Elites justice, as in the campaign, John-117 required all his cunning and combat prowess to defeat just one Elite.
Not anymore. In Reach, the Elites tower over their Spartan foes, can run faster, jump higher and actually recharge their stronger health. To compensate, Elite weaponry is less varied, and their pool of Armour Abilities less plentiful. But as a Spartan, seeing an Elite dive and roll towards you, spraying blue fire from its Plasma Repeater, is now a truly terrifying sight, just as it should be.
5. Big Guns and Stuff
As much as I'd love to indulge in Halo's fine well-crafted universe and characters, it's the guns we all like most. And shooting them. In Reach, we can expect a few new delicious additions, and a few tweaks and changes to some old favourites. Bungie haven't simply pumped as many new guns as possible into your willing arms, instead opting for some well thought-out inclusions, such as...
Liked the Needler? What about the Battle Rifle? Then you'll love the Needle Rifle, which spits out purple spears at long distance, three of which will detonate on unshielded foes. Ever wanted to stuff grenades into the Rocket Launcher? Well fret no more, as the Grenade Launcher will appease all your desires, chucking out grenades which can either detonate instantly or be primed for remote detonation.
Building on the customization options in Halo 3, Reach has a staggering array of armour variations, even gender options! You can switch helmets, change visor colour, change your wrist gauntlets, knee-pads and chest-plates. Armour pieces upgrade, too, like the helmets which can be decorated with further cosmetic additions.
Even the Elites enjoy some wardrobe changes, with sets of armour instead of piece-by-piece switches. With enough Credits, you can don the armour of a Spec Ops Elite, or even the sword-wielding Generals!
3. Forge World
Remember Forge in Halo 3? Well, imagine an entire portion of a Halo ring, the largest environ ever created, free for you to muck around with in Forge? Canyons, beaches, countryside and more. The remake of fan-favourite map Blood Gulch is but a tiny part of this enormous landscape you can tinker with to yours heart's content.
Forge itself has been improved upon considerably. Moving and placing objects has been simplified, and now you can choose to either place objects, as per normal, or have them hover in midair, defying gravity, or 'phase' them through objects, defying... well, the laws of mass.
Although Bungie has wisely distilled the Halo formula, it's still built on the foundation, and no inclusion is more dramatic than the inclusion of Armour Abilities. You can now take to the skies on a Jet-Pack, or slink around, unseen, with Invisibility. Oh, and you can finally run for your life with Sprint, too.
The list of AAs continues, and hopefully we haven't seen the entire roster. A suite of Elite-themed AAs might be cool, too. We've got Evade, which allows you to duck and roll like they do in campaign, but we demand more!
1. Space, Space Baby
Sorry, Stanley Kubrick fans, I don't mean celestial fetuses of the 2001 variety. We've glimpsed space-battles in the sky, witnessed colossal cruisers wade into the star-strewn blackness and hop galaxies. But we've never been in direct control, simply guests, observing on the side-lines.
Until now. In Reach, we'll be hopping on-board the Sabre, a space flight-able ship with dual-turrets and homing rockets. You'll zoom around and barrel roll amid Banshees, Seraphs and even Covenant cruisers. Get in!