4 years after the fall of Reach.
Though it has not exactly been four years after the Fall of Reach (release of Halo: Reach), the passage of time has not diminished the titles’ ability to inspire and capture our imagination. Indeed it was only last week that I decided it was time to re-watch the cutscenes from that amazing game, and really look back at what made me fall in love with the game itself. Now up until that point, Halo had followed the adventures of Master Chief, and indeed with the release of Reach, it was nice to see a change of pace from the usual “superhero one-man army” show. Following a team of soldiers from the Spartan III program, Halo Reach chronicles the events leading to the eventual fall of Reach: a fortress planet on the figurative doorstep of Earth.
Even the opening sequence of the game still gives off the feeling of a new, alien world that – while having fought on the planet multiple times in re-runs of the game – triggers the wanderlust within the player, keeping them locked in the games’ universe as they fight to save Reach from the Covenant forces. Now the gameplay in itself is nothing special: pick up rifle, shoot alien, run around, shoot another alien, go indoors, shoot alien squad, go out doors, open fire on drop ship, watch aliens line up in front of you, jump, dodge, throw grenade, and repeat the process for multiple levels. However with that said it was the sense of exploration and imagery that kept people such as myself encased in this beautiful environment with which we were somewhat free to explore. Let us be honest here, combat is combat no matter how you word it, and games that follow the shooter genre will feature the usual gun-play mechanics. Yet for all the repetitive actions a player does, the story and environments is what makes the game worth experiencing.
Take Call of Duty for example: usual Russia/China invades USA – instant cash cow. People like the whole near-future aspect, but then take a game like Section 8, or Red Faction Guerrilla, and you are thrown out into a wild west scenario where the frontier is the new front line. While COD may be fun to some, I certainly have lost interest in the title not so much because of the gameplay, but because the story and universe is something not worth exploring. There are no new alien environments to set my boots onto, no new planets with which the sun sets in a different direction, where the flora and fauna are unlike what we have here on earth, and where even dropping into battle from space you are rewarded with a view of the vast space in and around the planet, with the red sun burning bright in the distance, and the atmosphere’s parts and layers swirling in around you as you plummet into the atmosphere and onto the planet. This world we love on – Earth – has already been “explored;” I say that in quotations because we could always explore below the ocean, or deep underground.
Halo Reach does this well, and Bungie has definitely left their mark on the franchise when they said that this was their farewell gift to the fans of the series. Now 343 Studios continues to work on this – and indeed Halo 4 is worth experiencing as well – but Bungie went out with a real final huzzah with Halo Reach. Such beautiful artwork cannot be forgotten in an instant, and while some may disagree, in the end games are a gateway into our imaginations, and into new universes that could not, or at the moment do not, exist in our reality.