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Halo Reach hands on previewBy Johan Keyter 9 September 2010 | Categories: news
“Remember where it all began. Remember Reach”. Those chilling words have been staring gamers in the face for months as we've poured over trailers for upcoming Bungie epic, Halo: Reach.
Earlier this week we had the opportunity to go down to Microsoft headquarters in Johannesburg for some hands-on time with the upcoming game.
Now, anyone who has been close to a gaming console over the past decade should be familiar with Halo. The epic sci-fi horror series from Bungie interactive has over the years gained massive popularity, recently even being declared the biggest video game franchise of all time by the Guinness Book of World Records.
This year the latest title in the series, Halo: Reach, will take players back to the planet Reach to fight the first Covenant (genocidal alien) invasion. The game will serve as a prequel to the original Halo trilogy, so seeing the final storyline for Reach should prove interesting.
From the get-go the game reintroduces the gritty and bleak feel of the chaotic Halo universe, from the musical score to the main menu streaked in thunder and rain, the feel one gets is one of desperation in the face of overwhelming odds.
As we are introduced to our squad mates on Noble team we see a new first for the series, a female Spartan. This time around there is also a much bigger emphasis on team play and being part of a squad, the members communicate through their mics constantly, we board vehicles together and fight alongside each other.
This is a welcome break from the previous games' emphasis on lone wolf gameplay as it creates a much richer and vibrant battlefield that really felt alive with characters.
In Reach your objectives are more or less the same as in the other Halo games, fight against the Covenant invasion or die trying.
The ways in which players can do battle against the Alien invaders are varied though. In the fourth mission of the campaign, entitled ‘Nightfall’, we joined Nobel Three (Jun), the team's sniper for some late night headshot hunting. The level is set at night and emphasises stealth, this doesn't mean there's a lack of shooting and explosions, but we did get to see some great ‘silent kill’ sequences as we snuck up on an unsuspecting Elite early in the mission.
Throughout the level Noble Three provided us with covering fire and saved our skins more than once. The amount of work Bungie has put into the AI really showed, their movements are natural, the player doesn't have to babysit them all the time and if you want you can even ignore them completely.
The next mission we had a taste of was entitled ‘Tip of the Spear’ ,one of the games' larger battles. It started off with a cinematic showing a contingent of warthogs and falcons advancing on a Covenant outpost. Soon we were violently flung from our warthog and it was time to get to work.
We got to experience both on-foot and vehicle combat during the mission and it really showed the kind of big battle scenario that fans of the series have been waiting for so long. Check out the attached video that shows the intro cinematic to the mission for a better idea of what to expect from Halo: Reach.
Unfortunately our time with the game ran out at this point as we unwillingly put down the controller. We didn't have a chance to experience it first-hand but the mulitplayer aspect of Halo: Reach is set to take over Xbox Live during the remainder of the year. Online multiplayer as well as firefight and forge modes will be available to players on a wide variety of new maps.
Halo: Reach is set to be the swansong of one of gaming’s most epic tales spanning nine years since the release of the original Halo: Combat Evolved. Reach attempts to immerse players in the world of Halo in a much grander scheme, something which was hard to do with previous games’ limited technology.
Now for the first time players will be able to experience the intensity of large battlefields bursting with sound and colour. More friends, more enemies and a roster of new weaponry is sure to give Halo: Reach a special place in fans’ hearts. Players are already exclaiming their excitement for the game with the beta testing period attracting an amazing 2.7 million players, making it the largest console video game beta to record, more than triple the size of the Halo 3 beta.
The games’ status as a prequel also adds a dramatic element to the narrative, as players who know their Halo history will know what eventually becomes of planet Reach.
Halo: Reach is set for a phenomenal worldwide release on the 14th of September exclusively to Xbox 360, and judging by our brief experience with the single player this one is going to the top of our gaming wish list.
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