The Halo-bit: There and Back Again
The only people who would say Reach is the best game in the Halo series are those who never played any of the others. It’s a sad realization when you come to it, like getting stuck with a plasma grenade. But the future looks promising with a new game on the horizon and a somewhat new studio at the helm. Let’s look to our Halo past in hopes that it determines a better future.
Go Back Again: The Wrongs of Reach
Maps – If there is one function of the maps in Halo: Reach, it is to accommodate the load outs. Reach clearly subscribes to the mantra that “bigger is better”. Never have players spent so much time in matchmaking walking to the battle. What’s clearly the main focus of many maps in Reach is that they bend to accommodate the various load outs; gone is the emphasis on weapon placement and base balance. You can still strategize and hold key areas on many maps that will surely be the key to victory, but there isn’t that same level of thought we’ve seen in past iterations.
Ranking System – In Halo: Reach, the number of credits dictates when you rank up. Therefore, ranking is not a function of skill, it’s a matter of time. So the highest rank doesn’t go to the pro player who has a stellar K/D and consistent performance, rather the addict who plays non-stop. In a game that doesn’t clearly separate the best from the worst, there is no weight given to rank. And so, aside from the lackluster map packs of Reach, the ranking system is probably the biggest step backwards the Halo franchise took with Reach. A suggestion: don’t fix what isn’t broken. Revert to the ranking system of Halo 3, and flesh it out by adding more tiers.
Credit System – The concept of money only works when it holds value. By tying the use of credits solely to armor upgrades, Bungie tells those players who aren’t interested in character customization that there is no reason to strive for higher jackpots, little deterrent to quitting early, and virtually no reward for good play when you consider that the rank system is also broken. A suggestion: while queuing, players outside the game should be able to wager their credits on the outcome of the game currently in progress, who the MVP will be, who will get the final kill, etc. Bottom line, there needs to be more depth in the credit system for those of us disinterested by Spartan shopping.
Honourable mention: Lobby map previews are stock photos, theatre controls are still cumbersome, lack of vehicular innovation, max. cut off of local players in certain playlists, can’t review challenges once completed, rehashing campaign missions for credits
We’re There: What’s Right in Reach
Solid Campaign – One area that has never suffered in the franchise is the campaign. Reach was especially ambitious by expanding the narrative’s focus on the multiple main characters of Noble 6 team. The story was compelling, the adaptation was faithful, and they paid homage when homage was due. Though the campaign of any FPS is over-shadowed by the main event that is Multiplayer Matchmaking, Reach did a great job of making us care about the origin story.
Matchmaking Interface – Pop in a copy of Halo 2 or 3 and you’ll realize just how far the out-of-game experience has improved. Reach’s game selection makes the older veto process look primitive and limited. Queuing and joining are simple yet intuitive. Carnage reports offer the level of depth players want after every match. Even the playlists are organized into better segments to ensure you find the game type you want to be playing.
The Concept of Load Outs – To reiterate, the concept of power-ups each with their own advantage and disadvantage is fantastic. It adds to the “rock paper scissors” that the weapon balance worked so hard to achieve. However, the specific load outs that were included in Reach are unbalanced in a “rock paper bigger rock” relationship. Armor lock effectively deterred the use of grenades. Jet packs punctuated fall damage to the point that players don’t feel like Spartans anymore. Invisibility is an unbalanced 2-for-1 that also jams radar. It all feels like a way to offer COD-esque sprinting without seeming like modern shooters.
Honourable mention: Assassination animations
All in all, Halo 4 is going to be a blockbuster game with a massive fan base and even larger expectations. Do you agree with what I’ve outlined as the rights and wrongs of the last game? What do you think are the strengths and weaknesses of the franchise, and what do you hope to see in Halo 4? Let us know in the comments below.
Article written by Adam Rodricks.