Early trailers have depicted weary-eyed Spartans amidst a muted gray color palette and we’ve pulled off bloody stealth executions in the multiplayer beta. This already proves what Halo Reach would prove out to be. So go on and take your pick as there’s no shortage of indications that Reach will be a better experience than previous Halos.
So much of the discussion around Halo: Reach has been focused on the darkness of the game. But if there’s one thing we came away with after a recent hands-on outing with a few of the game’s early campaign missions, it’s that Reach while certainly dark in many respects, isn’t all doom and gloom.
Consider a few scenes from the play-through. In one tense shoot-out, the player popped out from behind cover in a last-ditch effort to kill a group of Elites that had drained nearly all of health. Only, the first thing you will see saw is a comically adorable ostrich native to the planet Reach staring blankly back. There’s nothing like the sudden appearance of a bird resembling Kevin from Up to break the tension. So it’s pretty fun.
Although Halo: Reach is darker than previous games, but every so often, you’ll find a reason to crack a smile, giggle to yourself, and remember that Bungie is a developer that knows how to have fun. The result, it seems, is a game of contrasts. Halo: Reach does more to mix things up and buck labels than previous games in the series, which is a trait that includes environments, pacing, and mood.
Nightfall is definitely one of the more subdued Halo missions to talk about. The mission kicks off with a select few members of Noble Team, the game’s central cast of Spartans to which you belong, prowling through the darkness exchanging communications chatter along the way. You mainly play alongside Jun, a soft-spoken sharpshooter who seems to prefer methodical approaches over going in guns blazing. With Reach being the first Halo game to show Spartans minus helmets, there’s clearly an effort on Bungie’s part to build and explore these Noble Team personalities.
The E3 demo, which ends with a flight combat sequence in which you’re piloting a ship called the Sabre in outer space, seemed an appropriate way to cap off the demo. The two missions preceding it did a good job of taking familiar Halo gameplay and mixing up the pacing enough to make it feel fresh, why not finish off with a glimpse of something entirely new? That was our hands on time in a nutshell, the contrast between the grim and the lighthearted, the new and old, the stealthy and the bombastic. We’ll see if the entire game maintains such variety when Halo: Reach is released on September 14.