Halo: Reach

Common Sense Media says

Conclusion to violent sci-fi shooter for older teens only.

Age(i)

2
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5
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7
8
9
10
11
12
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15
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17

Quality(i)

 

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Like other games in the Halo franchise, this one is about mankind’s war against an alien species bent on human genocide. Our fight, as presented in the narrative, is unquestionably just and noble, but glorified violence is the game’s reason for being.

Positive role models

Our hero and his or her (players can select gender) comrades-in-arms are clearly moral men and women fighting to save humanity. Many of them give their lives in defense of others. That said, they are graduates of the Spartan program, which, according to Halo lore, grooms children from a young age to be violent, obedient super-soldiers. Their skill in dealing death -- and the pleasure they occasionally take in employing it -- shows in their every action.

Ease of play

As with all Halo games, Reach is almost brilliantly accessible. The controls are so tight and intuitive that players of almost all skill and experience levels can feel comfortable with them quickly. However, it’s also the most challenging game in the series. Even on easier difficulties many players will encounter enemies that tax their abilities.

Violence

Players use automatic rifles, plasma cannons, rocket launchers, energy swords, grenades and more to fight off intimidating aliens in the story mode and armour-clad humans in multiplayer. Blue, purple, and green blood gushes out of aliens when shot, red blood smears the ground and walls when humans fall to the ground. Advanced ragdoll physics can lead to some unexpectedly graphic scenes -- we witnessed our avatar go flying from a grenade blast and smash his head heavily against a wall, leaving a big, bloody stain.

Sex
Not applicable
Language
Not applicable
Consumerism
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Halo: Reach is a sci-fi-themed first-person shooter. Unlike other popular first-person shooters that strive for hyper-realistic action, the violence depicted in this game is more fantastical; player aggression is directed at exotic looking aliens that bleed blue, purple, and green. Note, though, that online play sees human avatars fighting other human avatars, and that our characters leave bloody red patches on the ground and walls when shot. Also, online play supports non-moderated voice communication, leaving the door open for players to share personal information and be exposed to inappropriate or offensive language and ideas.

Parents say

Kids say

What's it about?

HALO: REACH, developer Bungie’s final game in the franchise it founded, takes place on the planet Reach, a key human colony that is under attack by the genocidal Covenant, mankind’s alien nemesis. It’s the birthplace of a military initiative that saw the development of a handful of biologically modified soldiers, the Spartans. Master Chief, hero of previous Halos, is the most famous graduate of this program, but he’s nowhere to be seen in Halo: Reach. Instead, the narrative follows the exploits of Noble Team -- players assume the role of Noble Six -- a squad of Spartans fighting to save the planet. But it’s a losing battle. As anyone who follows Halo lore knows, Reach is destined for destruction, and players witness a steady stream of epic and personal tragedies as the planet slowly falls to its alien invaders. Indeed, Reach is the darkest game in the series. Happily, the dark vibe lifts once players move online and begin exploring Reach’s rich array of multiplayer options that encourage group and team play that takes place under decidedly less ominous circumstances than the story.

Is it any good?

QUALITY
 

Reach’s story shares many of the strengths (dynamic combat dialogue, constant sense of urgency) and weaknesses (simplistic plot, feeble character development) of its numbered forebears, but its dark atmosphere immerses players in a way that feels new to the franchise. Play, on the other hand, remains strikingly similar to other Halo games. Like its predecessors, Reach is a twitchy game that rewards players who stay on the move and make split-second, heat-of-battle decisions. Strategy plays an important role, but nimble thumbs are what will save the day in the campaign.

Of course, as in previous Halo games, online multiplayer is Reach’s biggest draw. New play modes -- like “Headhunter,” in which players collect skulls for points, and multi-phase “Invasion” matches -- help breathe life into Halo’s aging online formula. What’s more, online matches are where players can make greatest use of Reach’s ballyhooed new armour abilities, including jetpacks, holographic decoys, and drop shields. Reach may be Bungie’s final kick at the Halo can, but the studio is going out with a planet-smashing bang.

Online interaction: The franchise’s leading-edge online functionality makes it extremely easy for players to communicate via open voice chat and join groups that travel from game to game. Common Sense Media does not recommend moderation-free online communication for pre-teens. We suggest using the parental controls built into game consoles to disable online communication features.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the difference between hyper-realistic violence and violence that involves fantastical elements, such as superhuman powers and exotic aliens. Do you find the latter less unsettling? Why or why not?

  • Families can also discuss online play. At what age do you think kids should be allowed to communicate with strangers online freely and without moderation? What sort of danger should they be on the lookout for? In what ways can you take action when you encounter inappropriate behavior online?

Game details

Platforms:Xbox 360
Price:$59.99
Available online?Not available online
Developer:Microsoft Studios
Release date:September 14, 2010
Genre:First Person Shooter
ESRB rating:M for Blood, Violence (Xbox 360)

This review of Halo: Reach was written by

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About our rating system

  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

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Quality

Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Educator Written byJason Peevyhouse September 20, 2010
AGE
11
QUALITY
 

Best Halo yet, including good role models and customized online settings

This is the latest (and last) Halo release. The game is a prequel to all other Halo games, and leaves off where the original Halo begins. This game is the best Halo game to date, and is fairly mild in regards to violence as compared with Halo 3. Yes, you are still shooting aliens for the majority of the game. However, the moments of actual violence against humans is fairly sparse and infrequent. The game developers could have added more gore and blood, but it seems they made an effort to tone those elements down in this title and focus on the story and gameplay. There are moments when human teammates get stabbed with alien energy swords, but there is no blood or gore shown in those moments. The ESRB gives this game a M rating 17+. This is for blood and violence, but like I said, those moments are fairly rare and the game is toned down compared to other titles such as MW2, Gears of War 2, and certainly most other first person shooters out there. The reason I rate this game iffy for for age 11 is that there is violence and occasional intense moments of action. The violence is mainly alien in nature. The role models in the game display great heroism in the face of danger and can be a launching point in discussing bravery and sacrifice in the name of a bigger cause. The story is well thought out, and the visuals are amazing. There is multiplayer available online for this title and if offers the coolest feature I've seen yet. You can customize your multiplayer experience and add filters for content like language and skill level. For example, you can choose to display lobbies that are categorize the tone as polite. Also, they have a filter for more competitive play or playing for fun. This is a really cool feature Bungie introduced with this title and I hope it does well and other game developers catch on. This way, at least I have a better chance at finding a lobby that isn't cursing at each other and trash talking all the time. All being said, this is the best Halo title to date and if your kid is interested, be sure he/she can handle alien violence and be prepared for a discussion on bravery and courage in the line of duty.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Great role models
Parent of a 11 year old Written bykaydcee February 20, 2011
Parent of a 12 and 16 year old Written byOhioGrown March 13, 2011
AGE
10
QUALITY
 
Well, this was my 12-year olds first m-rated game. I watched him play for an hour or so, praying that he wouldn't see something gruesome and have nightmares. Buy in all honesty, Halo: Reach is a relatively mild game, and is gun as well. First you need to know that we live in a Christian home, and that out family loves playing video games together! I grew up playing the old Super Mario Bros on my NES. My wife and I don't generally let our 12-year old play m-rated titles without our supervision, but this was not a problem. The blood was so unrealistic, I didn't realize it was blood until my son pointed it out to me. Mild, PG-rated language. Some violence, but if you let your kids watch Star Wars, there's nothing new here. No sex, I don't recal any alcohol. The only real problem, and probably the reason for the N rating, was the online interaction. Generally there was some mild cussing, no worse than the actual game. But every once in a while there would be some crazy little kid cussing like a sailor, trying to act all grown up. It was kinda funny, but I didn't want my kid hearing that. Fortunately, you can mute players online, and most of the gaming community is friendly and do not cuss. So, Halo: Reach is a great game in general, and I would have no problem letting a 10-year old play this. Just be prepared to mute some players, and it you have time, play with your kid. Bond with them. One more thing, I like the role models and how they are willing to sacrifice themselves for the greater good. When my son saw this, he noted that this was courageous of them and that they were acting heroically, and how they almost represented Jesus. Of course, Jesus never defended a planet from aliens, but the morals are there just the same. So, if you want to treat your kid, I recommend this game whole heartedly. I'm not a big shooter fan, but Halo is a blast! This is a great "first m-rated game", and was even milder than Assassin's Creed.
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Safety and privacy concerns

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