A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What 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.
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?
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.
Talk to your kids 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?
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.