Gaming Insight by Perrin Morasco
Platform: XBOX 360

The newly released “Halo: Reach” is technically the fifth installment of the Halo storyline. First came “Halo: Combat Evolved” in 2001, released in conjunction with Microsoft’s original XBOX. “Halo: Combat Evolved” is considered by many to be the finest launch title ever made. There is even some debate whether Microsoft’s original XBOX would have even survived without Halo. The statistics supported the debate, with an attach rate of over 50% for every console sold. The game went on to sell over 5 million copies (That’s a gross of over $250 million!) !) This game had no online multiplayer capabilities as there was no online service yet available. Microsoft’s Xbox Live service would not be introduced for another year.

Next came the highly anticipated “Halo 2” (2004). The developers at Bungie smartly chose to stick with what worked in the original. They improved the graphics, added more weapons, and best of all, added online multiplayer through the now well established “XBOX Live” service. The game sold 2.4 million copies in its first 24 hours on the shelf. For you movie buffs reading this, Halo 2 out grossed “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest” taking the crown of the highest grossing opening day entertainment release in history, the first time a video game held this honor. (Modern Warfare 2 currently holds the crown at $401 million in a single day!)  The game went on to sell 6.3 million copies and, by a wide margin, remained the most played Xbox live title until late 2006.

In 2007 “Halo 3” was unleashed on Microsoft’s brand new XBOX 360 console. The game sported improved graphics, many more interesting levels and environments and, of course, online play that was simply spot on perfect. The game also introduced to us online Co-op, which let you play through the game with a friend over the XBox Live service. “Forge” which lets player design and save their own levels for playing online, was also introduced. That’s a lot of innovation for the third entry in an already aging franchise. Halo 3 went on to earn $300 million in its first week. The game continues to sell well to this day with over 8.1 million copies sold.

In 2009 Bungie surprised us with a little title called “Halo 3 : ODST”. Originally slated as side project to fill in production lull between Halo 3 and the eventual “Halo: Reach”, the game took us out of the main character “Master Chief” and puts us into the role of one of the support troopers called “ODST’s” (Orbital Drop Shock Troopers). Besides having the WORST save game system of any game I have ever played, , the game itself was quite fun and captured the spirit and play style of Halo from a new perspective. The game included it’s own multi-player mode called “Firefight” and also shipped with a second  disc that contained the full multiplayer game from Halo 3 as well as every single map released for Halo 3. This was a huge deal for a lot of players, since the maps, purchased and downloaded individually, would cost a lot more than just picking up this game. So it was a win/win situation for Bungie and the gamers. Very smart marketing = 3 million copies sold.

September 14th 2010 – Halo: Reach

My Kids had me mark the calendar 3 months ago. They asked me every day “How many more days Dad?” and I didn’t need to ask what they were referring to. “Halo: Reach” was coming. I preordered 2 copies from Gamestop just so I’d be able to play too. On Halo’s Eve (Sept. 13) I get a phone call from Gamestop telling me I’m invited to their pre-sale, midnight party. This party starts at 10:30pm and you get to finally leave with the game in hand at 12:00 midnight. I am tempted by this invitation, after all there is free food and beverages,  but then I envision myself trying to make conversation with whiny 12 year olds or worse yet, the War Craft Guy from South Park. I decide to sleep instead.

Next day I jolt straight from my Psychologist office (me Therapy? Oh yes.) all the way out to the Gamestop where I made the preorder. On the way I see a sign at Toys R Us saying they’ll give me a $25 gift card if I buy it there. After leaving Toys R Us with the game and the $25 gift card I finally get to Gamestop. They are cool about selling me just the one reserved game instead of the two I had reserved. Vroom! Back in the car, seeing what this new Genesis Coupe can do to get me home quickly. I arrive home in record time and the kids are waiting with hands and tongues out. The rest of the night from their room, all I hear is a barrage of “oh my g*d, did you see that?”, “holy crap”, “awesome”, “This gun kicks butt”, “You can fly that?”, and many, many, more gems, some too graphic to print here.  (no, my kids aren’t saints. Sorry Mom!) Just go buy it and you will soon be shouting out expletives from your own living rooms and bedrooms too!

I confess, I haven’t gotten far into it yet. But from everything I’ve seen, this game takes everything you loved about the previous games and makes them better. The Game is getting amazing reviews. Single player game difficulty is way up as are the graphic and lighting detail. The enemy and friendly AI is extremely smart (like it always has been with the series) but it is even smarter now. Weapons feel better and sound better. Power-ups are given a unified design. Jet packs, the return of the medkit and healthbar, customizable in game characters, and the ability to design your own levels in something they call “Forge World”.

Forge World is Bungies last great gift to us. To see it is to believe it. It’s an entire world, fleshed out in natural surroundings. Mountains, rivers, waterfalls, canyons, and forests are all here for us to play and build in. To call it “huge” would be understating its size. The 3D environmental development tools provided to the user are both easy to use and advanced in their capabilities. There is nothing you can’t create in Forge World. I have spent 12 hours in the game building my own level called “Two Towers”. I didn’t fire a single shot, yet I had the most fun I’ve had with any game in a long time. I felt like a futuristic and magical architect on an endless budget.

Currently playing: Halo: Reach
Currently Watching: Pawn Stars
Currently Listening: Filter – The Trouble with Angels