For starters I should say right up front that I have always been a fan of the Halo game series.  So that may bias my review just a little bit.

Let’s get the basics out-of-the-way upfront… it’s a brand new game so the graphics, playability and overall visual appeal of Halo: Reach is off the charts compared to its predecessors.  It’s not like your typical first person shooters where the “movie” reel segments are graphically intense but the gameplay itself is basic… in this case the gameplay is as amazing and visually off the charts as the rest.  Add in a surround sound system and you can’t help but feel sucked into the action like never before.   

As for the story line, in the current theme of many Hollywood franchises, this particular game goes back to the beginning… as in its the “prequel” to the 4 Halos before it.   There is a very rustic and almost clumsy feel to this game (the “feel” not the actual game itself) which I imagine is the very cleaver and brilliant design of the makers to give you that special nostalgic warm n’ fuzzy.  Without giving too much away, if you have played the entire franchise before it, this game will drop little nuggets that make you think “ohhhhhh yeah, I remember when they had that in Halo 3” or “That’s sweet how they tied that into Halo 2”.  Mostly a good game.  I did find myself almost forcing my way through completing the game.  Not sure if it was a little too much nostalgia and not enough game, or if I’m just finally at the end of my desire to thump virtual aliens… but there were moments I wanted to just eject and move onto something else.

Now, for the true grit behind the Halo franchise… online gameplay.  As with Call of Duty, the storyline of the game is nice and all… but the true competitive nature lies within the online tournaments.  Hell, it’s the only reason why some people even buy the games.  With Halo: Reach it is no different.  I have a general rule when it comes to these types of games… I force myself to complete the storyline because I know once I get online I’ll never go back to the regular game.  With Reach they’ve taken the traditional Halo online battle royale and given gamers the opportunity to make choices.  Very cool!  You all start off as equals… nearly the same guns, shields, etc.  But you also get to make one choice upfront: Extra Shield boost, jet back, hologram double, faster running, camo (invisibility) and sometimes a bubble shield.  Everybody can make a separate decision and the entire game has now changed.  On top of that… once you die you can even opt to change your mind.  Try flying… if you suck, change it to hologram.  A wonderful twist to a classic game.

Everything said and done, I truly did enjoy this game… but am officially done with the Halo franchise.  I can see myself going toe-to-toe online for the next few months, but the light at the end of the proverbial tunnel is there.  Microsoft has done an amazing job creating a hugely popular and amazingly playable series, one that has almost single-handedly made Xbox Live a viable force and put an Xbox in living-rooms across the planet.  But now I think it’s time to put their creative might behind something new.