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"I Work At Microsoft"

Now, before I go too far, I must disclose that I now work at Microsoft. True, I started playing the Halo games before I started working there, and most Halo games I played were shipped before, and half the games were made by Bungie that is now owned by Sony. Still, those are my personal opinions and this is not some kind of "endorsement".

You could draw some parallels between my experience going through the Halo games and my transition to Microsoft, but that would be a stretch.

Reach: Last and First

"Halo: Reach" if the first game in the Halo's chronology, but also the last Halo game Bungie developed. I played it as part of the "Halo: The Master Chief Collection", and even there it was presented first in its menu.

Playing Reach first shows Halo at its best but is also not a great idea for new players unfamiliar with the franchise. By the time Reach was released, the series had well established and understood tropes. The game can then afford to have fewer tutorials and "hand holding" for new players, instead throwing them into the action.

For me, being at least familiar with First Person Shooter games on PC (including DOOM and Marathon), I quickly noticed a few unique things. You can hold only two weapons, so you have to replace one or the other if you want to pick up a new one. Nearly all enemy weapons can be picked up, which you might need to do quickly because there are almost no ammunition items. Nearly all enemy vehicles and turrets can also be used. There is no health item (other than in Halo ODST), with both health and shields auto-recharging if you're not hit after some amount of time. Weapon effects on the shields can be different than without, and enemies (and vehicles) too have similar shield technology.

What I didn't yet knew is that some of the gameplay elements of Reach made it more similar to Destiny than the rest of the Halo series. Its jetpack and shield items are nearly identical to how they behave in Destiny, and they only came back in Halo in modified forms: The jetpack came back in Halo 4 but only has a short movement boost, and the shield came back in Halo 5 but more similar to the shield walls set up by the enemies.

Controlled Chaos

What quickly became apparent is how much leeway each area gives you to improvise any number of different approaches. The battles are chaotic. The more different enemies (each with their own weapon) and vehicles there are, the more options there are. In other FPS games, those options are more often constrained by your own collection of weapons and the level layout, so often the areas are already designed with a few expected approaches. In Halo, even the presence of teammates can make a big difference, not only because they can use mounted guns in the vehicles you drive, but also because they let you "borrow" their weapons, as if extending the limited two weapons you can hold at a time.

So, much more than other FPS games, Halo pushes players to experiment with different approaches, to quickly think, to improvise, and sometimes be a bit lucky.

The game ends with the introduction of the "Halo ring". In fact, the game's story seemed to focus too much on elements that, in Reach’s own story, are insignificant, but are rather interesting for players that played the other games. It's a common issue with "prequels" that tarnished a bit an otherwise excellent game.

Published on April 11, 2024 at 18:40 EDT

Older post: Halo, Part 1: Marathon

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