The holidays are all about the homecoming of old friends; families reuniting after long bouts away. And just as the weather turns cold and (for some) snow starts to fall, Halo makes its long-awaited return to PC. Releasing in installments for the Halo: Master Chief Collection, the first game has now arrived: a terrific port of 2010’s Halo: Reach. Though it is few fan’s favorite entry in the series, it serves as an indication to 343’s commitment to quality and the eagerness at which they’ll jump back on the warthog.
When it was first released for the Xbox 360, Halo: Reach was notable for its many changes to the series’ tried-and-true formula. Taking hints from other titans of the FPS genre, like Call of Duty, the game featured class types and abilities. Notably, the campaign also did not feature Master Chief, the character that has become synonymous with the franchise. Still, the game’s many additional modes (like the popular one-hit-kills “SWAT”) and excellent multiplayer support helped prove the game another success.
Years later, it is suffice to say that Halo: Reach holds up. Though the graphics didn’t receive a major overhaul like Combat Evolved and Halo 2 for the Xbox One, there’s still a marketable improvement on performance. The game moves at 60 FPS (or more!) and supports a bunch of brand new video options from 4K to Ultrawide viewing.
With PC ports, there are often a slew of issues on launch day (looking at you, Rockstar), but that has not been the experience so far with Reach. The game has done remarkably well, shooting to the top of the Steam store, and supporting millions of active players. Lobbies fill quickly and the matches run with no noticeable lag or input delay. The customized keybindings are great, save the fact that players can’t store more than one key for a certain action. For instance, if a player wants “changing weapons” to be both scrolling down the mouse wheel and clicking Q. It’s a strange oversight in an otherwise great set of customization tools.
Looking past the performance, Halo: Reach scratches that wonderful itch that PC players have had, looking on in jealousy as the Xbox exclusive dominated the FPS genre. Even those who had both will be pleased by the addition of the game to the Master Chief Collection, as it revilizes the franchise that has been relatively dormant – save for anticipation for Halo Infinite.
Reach’s campaign may not hit the highs of Halo 2, but it does have some memorable fire fights in its 11 missions. Players can hop in solo or with a group of friends and play as a team of Spartans holding the last line of defense against the alien Covenant. Chronologically the first story in the “Master Chief Saga,” the story doesn’t have all the fancy trimmings of modern AAA games, but blasting grunts with a click of a mouse feels so great, players will hardly notice.
Also included in the release is the Firefight mode, a sort of functional “horde” game where squads face off against endless waves of enemies that get harder to kill as you go. Like the campaign, players can add “skulls” to increase the difficulty further: doubling the health of enemies or requiring a melee attack to replenish shields. These modifiers can be used throughout all of Reach’s modes, and help to add a nice amount of variety. Already beaten the campaign? Trying it again with no checkpoints might prove a bit more of a challenge.
Of course, the most important element of any Halo game is arguably the multiplayer. This is the series that redefined the online competitive scene. 4-12 Friends (and randoms from across the globe) would hop into a map and pick up guns from Earth and alien lands, depleting each other’s shields and landing critical final blows. In Reach, the regenerating shields are back, with the addition of abilities like sprinting, dodging, and jetpack-ing. These movement options are unique to this title, but with their large cooldowns and unwieldy controls, don’t really add much to battles.
The firefights often play out based on who notices who first, using cover to one’s advantage, and aiming precision. Luckily, the 20 maps included with Reach’s release are magnificent: varied with sprawling wastelands to narrow city streets, filled with everyone’s favorite guns (and that big sword and hammer).
All the modes from the past are returning, like the zombie-infested “Invasion” to the classic Team Deathmatch. Players can queue for a specific lobby or look for any game type; it feels like the early aughts all over again. Unfortunately the create-your-own Forge is missing from the initial launch of Halo: Reach, but 343 has plans to deliver it later in 2020. Then, all the games and maps made by fans will be available for PC players to enjoy.
Halo: Reach didn’t define the genre like Halo: Combat Evolved, but it was always a strong entry in the series nonetheless. As it stands today, the combat and vast amount of content will provide an excellent starting point to bringing Master Chief back to PC. Halo 2 can’t get here soon enough.
Halo: Reach is now available on PC for $9.99 or as part of the Halo: Master Chief Collection for $39.99. The remaining games will be released at later, unannounced dates. Halo: Reach is additionally available as an add-on to the already full-released Halo: Master Chief Collection on Xbox One. Screen Rant was provided with a PC copy for the purpose of this review.
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