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First Impressions - Halo: Reach

My First Impressions articles so far have been a little too much like reviews under another name, which was not the original intention. I wanted to  accurately chronicle my thoughts at the beginning of a play experience to analyze what games could do better from the outset and why, after just an hour or so of play, some games leave me drooling for more and others leave me cold. 
In order to better reflect my intention and not confuse these as reviews written far too early, I’m trying a format shift. I will record, via my trusty iPhone, my thoughts as I go along my first hour or so. I will then transcribe them here for you as accurately as I can so you can get a true picture of exactly what it was that was going through my head as I played. Nothing more, nothing less.
Let me know what you think of the change.


Halo: Reach
Single player campaign
Release date: September 14, 2010
Date of play: September 14, 2010
  • I’ve just started the campaign and I’m already immediately noticing some graphical glitches. This is hardly a new phenomenon for Halo, as I remember similar graphical weirdness with Halo 3, but I’m disappointed it hasn’t been cleared up. I see screen tearing, a little bit of choppiness, and other such distractions. I’m hoping it will go away, because I also immediately notice that this is a substantially better looking Halo than what I’m used to.
  • I haven’t heard but maybe two of the music tracks so far and I’m already impressed. I’m going to have to pay close attention to the music because I have a feeling it’s going to be good.
  • Small note: on the pause screen, the default selection is “Revert to last save”, not “Resume”. This is kind of nitpicking, but that seems a little stupid. 
  • This game doesn’t have in-game, non-cutscene subtitles? That’s really disappointing. I thought games had gotten to the point where that was pretty much a standard feature. Not only is that not accessible to the hard of hearing, but it sucks for me because I always turn on subtitles so I can make sure I catch all of the dialog. This is even more important in a game like Reach, where dialog is easily drowned out by explosions, gunfire, or the heavy “I’m on the radio and my voice is fuzzy” filter that is overused here. 
  • That was totally an Ostrichasaurus. I approve. Local fauna is a nice touch.
  • I’m already impressed by the opening environments. Much more lifelike, believable, and detailed than what I expect from a Halo level. I hope this lasts. 
  • Halo has a sprint button now! Whee!
  • It’s a shame that I’ve heard you’re mostly traveling with only one other team member through most of the campaign because I love the group dynamics on display here. The team chat, animation, and the working together with others is much more interesting than the typical lone wolf or lone wolf + Cortana scenario that halo has been so far. I hope that they manage to preserve these group dynamics somehow even if they must cut down the number of Spartans I’m traveling with.
  • After just having finished a couple of the books, this group dynamic, this teamwork feels almost more true to the Halo universe, oddly, than most of what the traditional Halo games have so far displayed.
  • First big firefight of the game just happened and my team is definitely being more useful than I am. I kind of like that. 
  • I’d have to go back and play the older games to check for sure, but I’m fairly certain the weapons here feel more realistic and satisfying than in any Halo game so far. They sound better, they feel weighty and fun to shoot. The flimsy, pea-shooter weapons has been one of my biggest complaints about the Halo series so far, so I hope this holds up. 
  • I’m not yet sure what the name of the new weapon I’m using is, but it’s like a Needler on steroids and it’s freaking awesome.
  • These Covenant are freakin’ smart. This is some good AI. The Covenant are officially scary again. I missed them. I am so looking forward to a game not overloaded with annoying Brutes and with no Flood in sight. Beautiful.
  • It’s still hard for me to accept the idea of health packs on principle because logically they just make no damn sense. They’re one of those things that just break my immersion and pull me out of a game world and make me focus on the UI. I can’t help it. I will admit that tactically they work well and their implementation here isn’t as distracting as I’ve seen happen in other games. I can deal with them. They make for good strategic gameplay even if they’re distracting from an immersion standpoint. 
  • I like the pacing so far. It’s just the beginning of the game, but I get the feeling they’re trying to alleviate some of the tedium of the constant grind of fight after fight that the other games sometimes devolved into. There are more cutscenes mixed in, some driving sequences for good measure, and more variety in the way the combat situations are set up. A good sign so far.
  • I decided to be brave and try out Heroic difficulty. I’m beginning to think this was a bad idea. It’s certainly been a learning experience and I’m going to try to stick with it, but man… this shit is hard.
  • You would think after this many Halo games the AI might suck just a little less at driving. You would be wrong.

Conclusion: Halo: Reach makes a strong first impression, albeit one that is primarily dependent on familiarity. This definitely feels like Halo, no doubt about it. But I think it looks to be a better Halo, and I’ve only just begun to scratch the surface of what this game can offer me. Me and this game, I think we could go places. It’s still got some of the same quirks that bothered me about previous games, it is still Halo after all, but it seems much improved on its predecessors. 

Result: It’s just more Halo, but it’s a better Halo and that’s exactly what I wanted out of this game. I can’t wait to sink my teeth into more of this one, especially with friends in tow.

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