Wednesday, August 4

IGN plays Reach. Bastards.

Here's the first of a two pager on IGN's experience with a hands on go at Halo: Reach. These stories are coming htick and fast now...

As I headed up to Bungie's studio to get my first crack at the campaign for Halo: Reach, it was with mixed emotions. Crafting a prequel to a well-established and beloved entertainment property is a difficult task – one that can easily go awry. Just ask George Lucas. And so I sat in the cab moving towards Kirkland, Wash., both excited and filled with questions. Would Bungie's Halo swan-song meet expectations? Can Microsoft hope to continue the franchise after Bungie moves on to other projects? How could Bungie inject drama and fear into a game that takes place on a planet many Halo fans know is doomed to destruction?

I don't have answers to all of those questions yet, even after playing through roughly three levels of the near-final Halo: Reach. What I do know now is that Halo: Reach is going to make just about everybody sit up and take notice. It's moody and dark, exciting and beautiful. It feels like Bungie has come full circle in its Halo journey, returning to the moments when Halo: Combat Evolved took place and even pulling in a bit of design inspiration from the franchise's infancy. 
I'll do my best to keep this preview as spoiler-free as possible, but those sensitive to such things should know that it's probably best to avoid reading just about everything campaign related from this moment through Halo: Reach's release date on September 14.

Consider yourself warned, minor spoilers will find their way into this article. 

After a quick introduction, Bungie let me and a small group of journalists loose to play for the morning. We wouldn't start at the beginning of Halo: Reach, however. Instead our taste of the campaign would begin with the third mission, titled Nightfall. I chose to play as a female version of Noble 6 -- a largely cosmetic choice as the story and player abilities are unaffected -- and found myself set in a craggy moraine with Jun, the sniper of Noble Team, at my side. 

The whole Noble Team won't always be a solitary unit; they'll split up as the missions call for specific skills. But even when apart, radio communications keep the team on the same page, as does the new AI construct known as Auntie Dot. 

Unlike the multiplayer game, you won't be able to change armor abilities at will. Each mission opens with a default armor ability and in order to change you'll have to find little pickups scattered along the way. This allows Bungie to better script gameplay moments, a difficult task already, given the open nature of each level's design. This first mission felt like a throwback to the Truth and Reconcilliation level from Halo: Combat Evolved, only brought into the new generation with gorgeous backdrops, huge playing fields, and nasty artificial intelligence. 

Nightfall reintroduced me to some old foes like the Hunter, Jackal, Grunt and Elite, but it also gave me a look at some new iterations of those enemies and offered a stark reminder that Reach is an alien planet. Shortly after watching the neck-stab assassination animation that comes from sneaking up on a Jackal, I ran into some of the indigenous creatures that call Reach home. The ostrich-like Moa doesn't offer any threat, and sadly can't be ridden. The Gueta, a gigantic troll-like beast…well you might want to make sure you have some firepower on hand when these guys rumble through. 

No comments: