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73 Reviews

Halo Reach

Bungie's last ever Halo. The verdict.

This is it. Ten years after virtually launching the Xbox brand, Bungie's Halo comes to an end.

But despite the gravitas of the au revoir - and the fact that Bungie's final Halo game is basically a big tale of planet-scale genocide - Reach doesn't feel like a sombre moment in Xbox history.

Reach is a celebration of four fantastic shooters. It pays tribute to entries past (most strongly to the one that started it all, Combat Evolved), whilst delivering the most beautiful and epic campaign yet. In addition, its multiplayer modes brim with depth and customisation never before seen in the series.

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But is Bungie's last Halo really its best work? We're not so sure.

Reach for the stars
The fifth Halo regales the pathos-filled tale of the human planetary stronghold (that's Reach) - famously wiped out in Halo lore, before the events of the original trilogy of games.

Right from 'press start' you can tell this is going to be the most cinematic, visually spectacular Covenant battle you've seen so far. Bungie's become a master of camera angles, swinging and panning across the landscape like Christopher Nolan snapping his sci-fi holiday video.

Reach itself is glorious; like Rapture and Liberty City before it, the lush, flourishing landscape is like a character unto itself, painting the screen with more atmosphere and drama than even the lead characters themselves (they're Noble team, the band of smaller-than-Master-Chief-but-still-hard Spartans, who you may have seen parading across every television ad break for the last fortnight).

You play as Noble 6, the new anonymous rookie. He hardly ever speaks but still manages to get delegated the toughest and most dangerous jobs on the planet.

As a cheaper, more lightweight Spartan III supersoldier, Noble 6 can't take quite the same beating as the larger Spartan II Master Chief - which you discover the very first time you encounter a group of Elites, who swiftly hand your MJOLNIR-armoured arse to you.

Halo's enemy AI really is genre-beating - and in Reach you'll see it at its best as your alien foes distract, flank and grenade you into oblivion.

The campaign is tight, beautiful and cinematic with an overbearing love for sandbox - perhaps proving that Bungie's learned lessons from the occasionally bloated Halo 3, masterfully scripted ODST and still-loved sprawling worlds of Combat Evolved.

Like any great game, Reach never has you doing the same thing for too long. In one scene you battle Elites across a beautiful, Halo 1-esque vista. In the next, you tear a Warthog across an epic battlefield, stealthily assassinate and snipe Elites at midnight and - yes - fly a jet through space.

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The space combat section is fantastically well done. High above the stunning celestial body of Reach, you'll manoeuvre and spin the Sabre (that's your spaceship) through the heavens, shooting down Covenant vessels via clever HUD items - which show the correct spot to target in order to arch your shot straight up their backsides.

But it's not the best airborne section of the campaign. That award goes to the stunningly beautiful mission that sees you piloting a Falcon airship in the rain high above the skyscrapers of a burning Reach city.

Like most missions in the game, it's mind-numbingly gorgeous and a real sandbox heaven. Bungie proves once and for all that when it comes to building a place to have a fight, it's the undisputed champ.

Impressively, repeated playthroughs reveal the studio's gone even further this time; with this mission a prime example of objectives being completely randomised. Players will start and end in completely different locations to another. Awesome.

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