|Publisher(s)||Microsoft Game Studios|
|Release Date(s)|| NA September 14, 2010|
EU September 14, 2010
|Mode(s)||Single player, co-op, online co-op, multiplayer, online multiplayer, Forge, and Meta-game|
|Rating(s)|| ESRB: M|
Halo: Reach is a first-person shooter video game, developed by Bungie and published by Microsoft Game Studios for the Xbox 360 console. Reach was released in North America, Australia, and Europe on September 14, 2010. The game takes place in the year 2552, where humanity is locked in a war with the alien Covenant. Players control Noble Six, a member of an elite supersoldier squad, during the battle for the world of Reach. As the Covenant begin their assault on the planet, the UNSC begin their heroic yet ultimately futile effort to repel the alien invaders.
Reach was originally announced at the Electronic Entertainment Expo 2009 in Los Angeles, California, with the first in-engine trailer shown at the 2009 Spike Video Game Awards. Players who purchased Halo 3: ODST were eligible to participate in a Reach multiplayer beta in May 2010; the beta allowed Bungie to gain player feedback for fixing bugs and making gameplay tweaks before shipping the final version. The developers focused on creating a compelling world, more difficult enemies, and updated graphics and audio.
Halo: Reach grossed US$200 million on its launch day, setting a new record for the franchise. The game sold well in most territories, moving more than three million units its first month in North America. Critical reception was positive; reviewers from publications such as IGN, GamePro, and Official Xbox Magazine called it the best Halo title yet. Reach was Bungie's final Halo game, with future games overseen by the Microsoft subsidiary 343 Industries.
Halo: Reach is a first person shooter. Players assume the role of Noble Six, a supersoldier engaged in combat with an alien collective known as the Covenant. Gameplay is more similar to the original Halo: Combat Evolved than later games in the series. The player character is equipped with a recharging energy shield that absorbs damage from weapons fire and impacts. When the energy shield is depleted, the player character loses health; when the character's health reaches zero, the game reloads from a saved checkpoint. Health is replenished using health packs scattered throughout Reach's levels.Template:Citation needed
In Halo 3, players could wield one-use equipment power-ups that offer temporary offensive or defensive advantages. This system of single-use equipment is replaced in Reach by reusable and persistent armor abilities which remain with a player until they are replaced. Among the abilities are a jetpack, active camouflage, sprint, and "armor lock", which immobilizes the player but grants invincibility for a brief period of time. In addition to tweaks and changes to existing weapons from the Halo series, Reach features new weapons fulfilling various combat roles.
Reach supports player-versus-player multiplayer through splitscreen on a single Xbox 360, local networks (System Link), and the Xbox Live service. Reach includes standard multiplayer modes such as Slayer and King of the Hill, as well as gametypes new to the franchise. In "Headhunter", players drop skulls upon death, which other players can pick up and deposit at special zones for points. When a player dies, all their accumulated skulls are dropped. "Stockpile" has teams race to collect neutral flags, holding them at capture points every minute for points. "Generator Defense" pits three Spartans against three Elites (A type of Covenant soldier). The Elites' objective is to destroy three generators, while Spartans defend the installation. After every round the players switch roles. "Invasion" is a six versus six mode with three squads of two on each team. The gametype pits Spartans against Elites; Elites vie for control of territories to disable a shield guarding a navigation core. Once the shield is disabled, they must transfer the core to a dropship—the Spartans must prevent this from happening. As the game progresses, new vehicles and areas of the map become open.
Alongside other multiplayer options is "Firefight", a version of which appeared in Halo 3: ODST. In Firefight players take on increasingly difficult waves of foes in a game of survival. Players can customize Firefight options, including the number and types of enemies. It has also been announced that a firefight versus is playable in which there is an Elite team trying to keep the Spartan team from scoring points. Game modes like Generator Defense are playable in Firefight. Although Firefight in ODST only supported matches among players that were on each others' friend lists, firefight in Reach supports online matchmaking between random players.
Forge, a level editor that first appeared with Halo 3, was updated for Reach, and can be used to edit the default multiplayer maps as well as a large blank map known as Forge World. Forge World itself is home to several Bungie-created Forge maps that shipped on-disc. Forge tools have been improved; objects can now be phased into other objects, and can also be snapped to specific orientations.
Setting and characters
Reach takes place in a futuristic science fiction setting during the year 2552, shortly before the events of the 2001 video game Halo: Combat Evolved, and during the events of the 2001 novel Halo: The Fall of Reach. Humans, under the auspices of the United Nations Space Command (UNSC), have been waging a long war against a collective of alien races known as the Covenant. By the events of Reach, almost all of humanity's interstellar colonies have fallen. Reach itself is an Earthlike colony that serves as the UNSC's main military hub. The colony is home to over 700 million civilians in addition to the military presence.
The game follows the actions of "Noble Team", a UNSC special operations unit composed of elite supersoldiers known as Spartans. Players assume the role of an unnamed new addition to the team, identified by the call sign Noble Six. Noble Team's leader is Carter-A259, a no-nonsense soldier. His second-in-command, Kat-B320, has a bionic arm; together, Carter and Kat are the only two remaining original members of Noble Team. The other members include heavy weapons specialist Jorge-052, assault specialist Emile-A239, and marksman Jun-A266.
Noble Team, dispatched to discover why a communications relay has gone offline, discovers Covenant forces on Reach Rather. Soon after, Noble team is deployed to "Sword Base", an installation belonging to the Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI), to defend it from a Covenant vessel. The team meets the scientist Catherine Halsey, mastermind behind the Spartan program and their MJOLNIR powered armor. Halsey informs Noble Team that the Covenant at the relay were searching for important information.
Jun and Six are dispatched on a covert mission to assess the Covenant's strength and discover an invasion force. Noble Team assaults a Covenant ground base and removes fortified Covenant defenses. When a massive Covenant super-carrier joins the fight, Jorge and Six take part in a plan to destroy the carrier using a makeshift bomb. Using starfighters to infiltrate a smaller Covenant ship, Jorge and Six dock with the carrier and place the bomb. Its timer malfunctions, so Jorge stays behind and sacrifices himself to destroy the carrier. More Covenant ships arrive at Reach.
After returning planet-side, Six travels to the city of New Alexandria and aids the local military in fighting the Covenant. Reuniting with Noble Team, Six assists with the evacuation of the city's civilians; Kat is killed by a sniper. Recalled to Sword Base, Halsey shows Noble Team an ancient Forerunner artifact she believes is key to winning the war. Six, Carter, and Emile are entrusted with transporting the artificial intelligence Cortana, and the information she carries, to the UNSC ship Pillar of Autumn. Jun escorts Halsey to another base.
En route to the Autumn's dry dock, Carter is critically wounded. He rams his ship into a Covenant mobile assault platform, allowing Six and Emile to reach the shipyard where the Autumn is located. Emile takes control of a coilgun emplacement to defend the Autumn while Six fights through Covenant forces to get Cortana to Captain Jacob Keyes. When Emile is slain by Elites, Six remains behind to take Emile's place at the gun, ensuring the Autumn's escape. The Autumn flees from Reach and discovers a Halo ringworld.
The post-credits scene puts the player in control of Six's last stand against overwhelming Covenant forces. After sustaining heavy damage, Six drops his or her shattered helmet and is overwhelmed. Years later, the helmet remains on the grassy plains of a now-rejuvenated Reach. A narration by Halsey eulogizes Noble Team, who ultimately enabled humanity's victory over the Covenant.
After finishing development of Halo 3 in 2007, development studio Bungie broke into two teams. One group began working on a standalone expansion project—Halo 3: ODST—while another group, headed by Creative Director Marcus Lehto and Design Lead Christian Allen, began work on what would become Reach. The team considered many different concepts and approaches to the game; among the rejected ideas was a sequel to Halo 3.
In brainstorming settings, the team kept returning to the idea of a prequel to the first Halo game. "And Reach, as a fictional planet, was just a great candidate [to] play around with. It's such a rich world, with such a great fiction surrounding it," said Lehto. "We were like: 'Okay, that's it. We've just got a lot of things we can do there so we can build an immense story with it.'" No longer burdened with continuing story threads as they were with the trilogy of Halo games that came before, Bungie viewed using Reach before the events of Combat Evolved as a way to introduce new characters and settings. As Reach ends with the destruction of the titular planet, Bungie focused on making sure players still felt a sense of accomplishment and success. "It is a challenge overall to ensure the player feels they’re doing the right thing all the way to the end," said Lehto. The final gameplay sequence at the end of the game was the subject of intense discussion, with some at Bungie wanting to cut it out. Ultimately, executive producer Joe Tung noted, "the 'survive' component ... felt great to us. We definitely talked about different versions of how that was happening and different versions of ending [the game] cinematically, but I think the way that it ultimately ended up is just a really well-paced, significant and emotionally impactful ending."
The Halo games consistently featured protagonists that were silent during gameplay sequences. Community manager Brian Jarrard pushed for greater customization of the player character, including the ability to choose a female Noble Six and have the cinematics and dialogue change accordingly.
The prequel concept also gave the art team an opportunity to redesign key enemies, weapons, and elements of the series, though 3D Art Lead Scott Shepard stressed that they remained true to the spirit, if not the letter, of the original designs. Artists found inspiration in the original concept art for Halo: Combat Evolved; the shape for the redesigned Covenant Grunts came from a sketch by Shi Kai Wang done ten years earlier.
For Halo 3, the first Halo game on the Xbox 360, Bungie had been forced to shrink parts of the game to fit the constraints of what the game engine was capable of delivering. For Reach, Bungie made it a goal to capitalize on the Xbox 360 hardware to make every part of the game look better than what came before. Originally, the plan for Reach was to port existing Halo 3 assets and update them, but as Shepard noted, "The more we started looking into this, the more we found that realistically we could rebuild each asset from scratch with a huge increase in quality without significantly investing more time." Texture resolution and polygon counts for models were increased; the Reach assault rifle is constructed of more polygons than an entire Marine character from Halo 3.
Much of the engine was redesigned. To increase replay value, the developers focused on improving the artificial intelligence. Rather than scripting enemy encounters, the developers focused on a more open world or sandbox approach to battles. Reach was completed in July and August 2010 before being shipped off for manufacturing.
Composing team Martin O'Donnell and Michael Salvatori returned to score Reach. With the game's music, O'Donnell wrote "somber, more visceral" music since the plot is character-driven and focuses on a planet that is already known in the universe to have fallen. The music piece shown in the world premiere of Halo: Reach was the first music he wrote for the game, which he hoped he could use as a starting point for developing further themes. O'Donnell began work on Reach while ODST was still in production, but did not begin writing music until August 2009. O'Donnell was assisted by past Halo collaborators Salvatori, C. Paul Johnson, and Stan LePard, although with Reach he did not divide music chores between them. "I decided this time to come up with some themes, tempos, keys, and other basic starting points for musical ideas," explained O'Donnell. "I shared these with all the other composers and just asked them to take off if they felt inspired by any of that material." The works-in-progress they came up with were either touched up by O'Donnell or sent back to be finished by the respective composer.
In previous Halo games, sections of music overlap and change depending on player action. Reach's system of interactive audio was much more complex, featuring the ability to combine up to seven layers of instrumentation compared to Combat Evolved's two.
In Reach, every interacting object produces two sounds for the respective objects; for instance, a Warthog vehicle that collides with an armored Covenant soldier produces a crunching metal noise. The interaction between objects and terrain was demoed in an in-game environment that O'Donnell called "the stripey room" due to the bands of colors differentiating materials.
Halo: Reach was announced on June 1, 2009 with a trailer at the Microsoft Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) press conference. An accompanying press release announced that an invitation to the open multiplayer beta of the game would appear in spring 2010, a date later refined to May 3, 2010. Reach is the last Halo game developed by original Halo developer Bungie. Future Halo games will be overseen by Microsoft subsidiary 343 Industries.
At E3 2010, Bungie revealed parts of the game's campaign, as well as Firefight. On June 23, 2010, Bungie reached the "Zero Bug Release" milestone. This meant that, for the most part, the team was focused on "crushing" all of the game's bugs and no major content would be added from that point forward. This also meant that any "bugged" AI would be removed rather than fixed, as there was simply no time to repair the coding. On July 30, 2010, Bungie released the complete list of achievements for Halo: Reach, including the titles, symbols, and requirements.
Reach's multiplayer beta was open to owners of Halo 3: ODST. Bungie's previous multiplayer beta for Halo 3 had drawn 800,000 players. More than three million copies of ODST were sold by November 2009, but Bungie did not know how many players might appear for Reach and estimated between two and three million. Due to development schedules, the beta code offered to players was six weeks old, and several bugs and issues in the beta had already been addressed internally. While there were concerns that these sorts of issues might tarnish players' perception of the game, Jarrard noted that they had little choice but to ship it with the issues and attempt to communicate with players concerning the fixes.
More than 2.7 million players participated in the beta, which lasted from May 3 to May 20. The game was rolled out from an internal group of Bungie or Microsoft employees, with the total number of players in the thousands. When the beta went public, more than a million played the first day, causing back-end servers to struggle to handle the traffic. While the engineering team overestimated server load, bugs in server clusters caused game uploads to become backed up, slowing matchmaking to a crawl until the underlying issues could be fixed. Jarrard noted that the 16 million total hours of play time and large-scale rollout of the game was vital to seeing how Reach would perform.
Bungie used the beta to fix mistakes, glitches, and change the balance of gameplay elements. "We needed our fans to provide feedback," said Lehto, adding that having a large audience to "hammer" on the game allowed them to gather useful feedback to mold the finished product. The game automatically collected statistics such as upload speeds, the time it took players to find matches, and game preferences, but sorting out what Jarrard called "the more subjective anecdotal feedback" from emails, notes, and forums was more difficult. On Bungie's community site, Bungie.net, the Reach beta generated over 360,000 forum posts alone. In order to manage the high volume of feedback, Bungie created official threads for groups of issues; "We tried to give people a little bit more of a direct avenue to give that feedback and to make our lives easier. It was definitely a lot to assess and digest," said Jarrard. Some player responses did not align with datasets from the game—multiplayer design lead Chris Carney recalled that early in the beta there was vocal dissatisfaction with the pistol, but by the end of the beta it was the weapon that generated the most kills in all games. On noticing trends and possible imbalances in the game, Bungie deployed special test matches to eliminate lurking variables and make informed changes.
Reach was released in three retail editions. The standard edition contains the game and the manual. The limited edition features an artifact bag with story information, different packaging, and an exclusive set of in-game Elite armor. The Legendary Edition contains all the materials from the limited edition, a different packaging, two hours of developer commentary on the in game cutscenes, in-game Spartan armor effect, and a Template:Convert/lb statue created by McFarlane Toys. North American players who purchased a first run copy of the game (buying in-store close to launch day or pre-ordering) received an in-game Spartan "Recon" helmet customization; the same incentive was offered to other regions, but only if it was pre-ordered. In addition to the retail editions, Reach came bundled with a limited edition Xbox 360 Slim that sports Halo-themed sounds and finish and two controllers.
Microsoft listed Reach as an Xbox Live Marketplace download on August 12, 2010, at a price of 99999 Microsoft Points (~US$1250). A spokesperson confirmed the download was for media review purposes, and that there were no plans to distribute the game to the public through Games on Demand. Four days later, hackers managed to access, download, and distribute the game online; Microsoft claimed to be actively investigating the matter. Halo 2, Halo 3, and ODST were similarly leaked ahead of release.
Jarrard told The Seattle Times that the developers were planning a much more "grandiose" marketing effort than ODST. Microsoft gave Reach its largest marketing budget, surpassing the scale and $6.5 million cost of the award-winning Halo 3 marketing. The focus of marketing efforts was not to outdo the efforts for Halo 3, but to connect with consumers via universal themes. Interpublic Group of Companies' AgencyTwoFifteen handled strategy and video development for the marketing push, while AKQA developed interactive components. The agencies were previously involved with Halo 3's marketing. The advertisers' brief was simple: "Remember Reach. Focus on the heroes, not the victims. Expand our audience beyond Halo fanboys."
The advertising campaign began April 2010 with the live-action short "Birth of a Spartan".
Marketing for Reach also took the form of merchandise. McFarlane, who had produced toys for Halo 3, created a line of 5-inch action figures, while Square Enix's Play Arts toy label created additional figures.
Reach was released Tuesday, September 14 in 25 countries. Tens of thousands of stores signed up for midnight launch events, with sponsored events taking place in London, Oslo, Stockholm, and New York. Reach's marketing won several industry awards. It took home thirteen medals at the MI6 Game Marketing Conference Awards.
Reach made $200 million in first-day sales, a record for the franchise. Its strong sales suggested to analysts that despite the lagging game market of 2010 the trend might reverse for core titles in the holiday season. In its first sixteen days the game sold $350 million worth of merchandise. Reach premiered at the top of Xbox 360 and multi-platform charts in most territories. In North America, Reach sold 3.3 million units according to NPD Group figures, making it the third title in the console generation to sell more than three million units its first month, the other two being Halo 3 and Modern Warfare 2.
In the United Kingdom, Reach's opening week was the fifth-best launch in the territory, beating Halo 3's debut by 20,000 units and ODST by 200,000 units. In its second week on the UK charts Reach was the second bestselling title, being displaced by racing game F1 2010. Reach continued to hold the top place in North America. In contrast to its performance elsewhere, Reach fared poorly in Japan, as have other Halo games, selling 44,413 units its first week, coming in first place. This showing was above ODST's sales of 29,734 in the comparable timeframe, but below Halo 3's 61,143. Reach dropped out of the top 20 best selling titles entirely its second week.
Reach supports additional downloadable content (DLC). The first additional content, dubbed the Noble Map Pack, was made available on November 30, 2010. The Noble Map Pack contains three maps that, unlike many of the maps that shipped with the game, are not based on campaign levels. Microsoft partnered with Certain Affinity, who had previously worked on Halo 2 maps, to produce the second "Defiant Map Pack", which was made available for download on March 15, 2011.
Halo: Reach was received well upon its release. On the critic aggregate reviews GameRankings and Metacritic, the game has a normalized score of 91.74% and 91/100, respectively, based on samples of 15 and 26 reviews. Critics such as 1UP.com's Thierry Nguyen, the staff of Edge, and GamePro' Matt Cabral considered Reach the best Halo title yet. Many noted that there were few major changes to the Halo formula, although IGN's Erik Brudvig wrote that while Halo veterans would instantly feel at home playing the game Reach was not "another rehash". Tom Hoggins of The Daily Telegraph commented that the game was unlikely to convert non-Halo fans, as the game took the best elements from previous games and created Reach as "a blistering, breathless crescendo to a decade's worth of work".
Brudvig praised the Campaign for not suffering from the "repetitive landscapes and circuitous, difficult to follow plots" that past Halo titles had, while Game Revolution's Blake Morse wrote that the campaign "succeeded triumphantly" as Bungie's last title, thanks to no religious subtext or "telepathic plant that looks like something out of the Little Shop of Horrors" to detract from the story. GameSpot's Chris Watters and others noted that the friendly non-player character artificial intelligence was less advanced than that of enemies, especially while driving. Steve Boxer wrote for The Guardian that Reach's story made previous entries feel "amateurish", while Nguyen felt the story was more accessible, although it suffered from overly-generic archetypal characters and occasional lapses in exposition. In contrast, Games Radar's Charlie Baratt opined that Reach's campaign was better than ODST, but it lacked the "franchise-changing potential" it promised.
Writing for Ars Technica, Ben Kuchera praised the multiplayer component of Reach for its scope—"no matter how you play, you will find something to like", he wrote. Morse, Baratt, and others lauded the large amount of new and old customization and game options available to players. Watters and Kuchera praised the concept of psych profiles to hone more agreeable teammate selections, but were not sure how effective it was in practice. G4 considered Reach's Forge World alone more expansive and impressive than Halo 3's Forge.
The audio-visual components were noted as a marked advance over Halo 3 and ODST's. New Zealand Herald's Troy Rawhiti-Forbes wrote that with the improved graphics, animation, and voice acting, "Reach looks just like a big-budget Hollywood project." While Official Xbox Magazine said that there were other games with better graphics, "Reach has its own eye-catching beauty and breathless scope", and the inclusion of wildlife and civilians heightened the impression of a planet under siege. Nguyen noted that large amounts of action on-screen occasionally resulted in frame rate slowdowns. Martin Robinson of IGN UK appreciated O'Donnell's moody score and the redone sound effects, and wrote that the new weapons "feel like they're about to tear your hands off".
|Best Sound||GG Awards 2010||Good Game||December 06, 2010|
|Best Xbox 360 Game||2010 GR Awards||Game Revolution||December 21, 2010|
|Shooter Game of the Year||Game of the Year 2010||GameSpy||December 22, 2010|
|Game of the Year||Drunk Tank Awards 2010||Drunk Tank Podcast||January 05, 2011|
|Best Multiplayer||Spike Video Game Awards||Spike TV||December 11, 2010|
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- ↑ Jim Reilly (2010-08-20). "Microsoft Investigating Halo: Reach Leak". IGN. Retrieved on 2010-08-24.
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- ↑ Eckstein, Eric (2010-07-06). "A First Look at the Halo: Reach Action Figures Coming this September". G4tv. Retrieved on 2010-07-07.
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