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.