Halo Reach Xbox 360
Published by: Microsoft Game Studios
Developed by: Bungie
Halo Reach is a prequel to the Halo trilogy and sets the scene for the events in Halo Combat Evolved, the game that started the Halo phenomenon on the original Xbox console. It also happens to be the final Halo game that developers Bungie will be involved in. Whilst there a few minor additions to the classic Halo formula, in many ways Halo Reach is a classic Halo experience that will delight those who have enjoyed the previous titles in the series. Unfortunately for deaf gamers however, it does nothing to make the Halo experience a more accessible one.
In Halo Reach you’ll play as Noble Six, a sixth member of a squad of Spartans who form Noble Team. The action is set on the UNSC planet called Reach and Noble Team soon find out that Covenant forces have invaded the planet and are wreaking havoc. Unlike the Master Chief, Noble Six is a Spartan you can customise. You can choose whether Noble Six is either male or female and you’ll also get to customise the various components of Six’s Spartan armour.
Whilst you are part of a team in Halo Reach, this is in no way a squad based shooter. You are largely doing the bulk of the work here; even when fighting alongside team members, you rarely feel as though they are doing their fair share. They will be giving you orders and picking you up at certain points to transport you to other locations but it still feels like you’re flying solo for the most part. The quality of the AI in general is pretty much the same as it’s always been and your AI comrades still can’t drive a Warthog correctly for toffee. It’s disappointing to see that the AI hasn’t been improved but in other respects it’s understandable why Bungie hasn’t tinkered too much with the classic Halo formula.
Actually, to be fair, you will notice one significant addition. It’s not a major thing but it’s welcome nevertheless. You now have armour abilities and these are used in both the single-player and multiplayer games. Armour abilities are essentially augmentations that have to be recharged between uses. There are a range of abilities to choose from but you can only have one equipped at any one time. You’ll find them scattered around and you have the choice of either keeping with the default one, Sprint, which allows you a temporary speed boost, or exchanging it with the others you’ll come across. These armour abilities are actually a nice addition. The problem is however, that the default ability is so useful in the single-player campaign that you’ll probably not want to bother with the others unless you’re playing in the multiplayer modes.
As with the other Halo titles the heart of the experience is the multiplayer side of the game. The multiplayer experience in Halo Reach is arguably the finest you’ll find in any console shooter. The range of modes on offer is extensive. The modes include: Assault, Capture the Flag, Headhunter, Infection, Invasion, Juggernaut, King of the Hill, Oddball, Race, Slayer, Stockpile and Territories. Some of these games have an assortment of variants too. At some point in the near future it will also be possible to play the campaign with others over Xbox Live. Of course the excellent Forge mode, which allows you to customise the game variants and multiplayer maps, returns from Halo 3 so you can tailor any of the multiplayer experiences to suit yourself or enjoy any of the custom game creations from other players. There’s now a Psych Profile which allows you to select whether you prefer to be chatty or quiet when playing online, whether you’re out for a good time or out to win at all costs, whether you’re a lone wolf or team player and finally if you prefer to be polite or prefer to talk trash with your opponents. Of course it remains to be seen how effective these Psych Profile settings will be in the long term but the idea behind it is certainly welcome.
Visually speaking, this is the best Halo game to date. The quality of the visuals has definitely been improved upon from Halo 3 and the quality of the character models, environments and textures are noticeably better. The frame rate holds up pretty well for the most part too. There are some moments when you’ll notice the odd dip, particularly during the game’s cut scenes but for the most part the frame rate is absolutely fine.
So we have the last Halo game developed by Bungie and the real question is whether they have finally created a game that’s deaf gamer friendly. The answer, unfortunately, is that they have not! The game is no better for deaf gamers than Halo 3. The game does provide subtitles but these are for the cut scenes only. The cut scene dialogue displays the speaker’s name next to the speech so you’ll be aware of who is saying what. The in-game dialogue is not subtitled and deaf gamers will yet again miss out on a lot of dialogue as a result. The team members of Noble Team converse frequently with your character and each other and deaf gamers will not be aware of any of this dialogue.
Most objectives are shown in text and can be recalled if you press the start button to access the in-game menu. There are a few times however, when an objective will be given during a communication and for deaf gamers it will not be immediately obvious what needs to be done because the text objectives will not have been updated. You’re notified in text when challenges have been completed, checkpoints have been reached and when your shields are running low (warning you to find cover until your shields have recharged). Tutorial messages are shown in text. Your motion tracker will also alert you to enemies (shown as red dots) that are within your vicinity. Red arrowhead icons indicate the general direction from which an off-screen enemy is firing upon you. However, there are no grenade icons to alert you when an explosive has been thrown in your direction from an unsighted enemy and this can add to the frustration factor. The HUD also displays how much ammo and grenades you have in addition to alerting you to new objectives you have received. Essentially then playing Halo Reach is far from being impossible for deaf gamers but once again it’s a much poorer experience than what hearing gamers will be able to appreciate and that’s not satisfactory.
Many may be disappointed that Bungie will no longer be developing Halo games but in some respects it may prove to be a blessing in disguise. At this point the Halo formula, particularly in respects to the single-player game, is in danger of becoming a little stale. There’s little in the single-player experience that Halo veterans won’t have experienced before in terms of how the game plays. Whilst any future Halo titles could definitely do with the single-player game being revitalised however, the multiplayer side of the game shouldn’t differ too much from the superb experience that Bungie have been perfecting since the release of Halo: Combat Evolved. It’s still arguably the finest FPS multiplayer experience you can have on any console and many will find that the real value of Halo Reach is in the multiplayer game. It’s incredibly disappointing that Bungie have made no efforts to make the game deaf gamer friendly but in so many other ways this is a fitting farewell to the Halo series for them.