Midnight Rant: Swimming in the Shallow Pool that is ‘Halo: Reach’

Published 4 years ago by

Halo Reach

Halo: Reach is a fantastic game. It has an exciting single player campaign with multiple difficulty levels, and a robust multiplayer system that you can pick up and play any time of the day. Halo: Reach is a whole lot of fun. You should go play a round of firefight right now!

Okay, that should have distracted all of the big-time Halo fans long enough for me get this Midnight Rant up without being bombarded by angry emails and text messages. Here’s the truth, Ranters: Halo: Reach is as shallow as a kiddy pool. Reach is a KFC Double Down chicken and bacon sandwich. You know, that sandwich that’s great for lunch one time, but the next day all you want is a meal instead of a stigma?

Playing through the Reach campaign once is great: you get those achievement points; you can talk about it with your buddies at the bar on Friday night; you pretend to empathize with the emotionally inept soldiers in the Noble squad because real emotional connections are for sissies; it’s all good fun. Then you forget about it because you bought the game for multiplayer anyways. It’s not like Reach has Master Chief in it anyways.

Multiplayer is just as vapid and puerile as it get though. At least in Modern Warfare 2 your time turned into unfair combat advantages on the battlefield, i.e. weapons, perks and the like. Halo: Reach gives you an emblem for you name-tag and unlockable armor accessories. Don’t pretend this isn’t dress up, gentlefolk, because when you pop into ‘The Armory’ to spend your well earned cash on the latest stylish visor and chest-piece, you’re only one degree from Bratz Makeover. But that’s besides the point (really though, think about it), because I’m trying to say is that Reach multiplayer has everyone tricked. The complex matchmaking system, variety of maps, playlists and gametypes is all a glamor put over your eyes. It’s all the exact same thing. It’s not a bad thing, but it isn’t enough to feel like it’s worth coming back often to see what’s changed.

Of course, the true source of fun in Reach comes from playing with friends, or even the random social interactions you’ll have with people from the internet. An enjoyment that could be found just as easily in Modern Warfare 2, or Bomberman, or even Uno for that matter. It’s the same experience you had with friends in Halo 3, Halo 2, Halo Wars–err.  There’s nothing inherent to Halo that makes the social experience better than those other games, except perhaps the fact that a lot of your friends probably have the game.

Halo: Reach is a fantastic game. It has an exciting single player campaign with multiple difficulty levels, and a robust multiplayer system that you can pick up and play any time of the day. Halo: Reach is a whole lot of fun, but it is shallow and unrewarding and that will never change. At least we’re all swimming in the shallow pool together, right?

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TAGS: Bungie, Halo, Halo Reach, Midnight Rant

  • http://gamerant.com Anthony Taormina

    I think of Reach as a different experience from Modern Warfare. It’s not a better experience or a worse experience just one where I can scratch a different itch. About the shallow pool analogy. Do not agree.

    • http://gamerant.com Rory Young

      You’ve got very particular itches Anthony!

  • Das

    I find the analogy kind of strange and a little incendiary. I wonder what one would consider a as an olympic pool of FPS’s? And if there were such a thing would anybody play? Would the Arena system in Reach qualify?

    This “rant” hardly rants and raves at all. It is ironically very shallow. I mean really, don’t you think it’s a little puerile to throw about Bratz references as opposed to validating your points with some insightful FPS’s allegories? (mentioning MW2 is practically a cop out.)

    I read so many irrational fanboy articles biased in either direction.I was really hoping for something better.

    • http://gamerant.com Rory Young

      It’s definitely a rough analogy, and intentionally incendiary. Most of all it was fun to write, and I was hoping it would be fun to read as well. And yes, isn’t it quite ironic? ;D

      I’m not going to re-review the game when Riley already did such a wonderful job. I just wanted to share some thoughts and perspective. Just looking for some discussion.

      Am I wrong? Is playing Halo: Reach meaningful? How is the Reach experience different? Are their layers to the experience that I’m missing? Where has Bungie hidden Reach’s profundity?

      • http://www.christianspicer.com Christian Spicer

        The layers in Reach (and all Halo MP really) are like the layers in chess or Go. The rules are simple and straightfoward enough and nothing changes per se. But you perfect your skills, recognize others’ moves, etc, etc. What I don’t like about MW and MW2 is the way you get “better” guns, etc by either playing a lot or being really good. I like that in Halo everyone has the same quality guns, etc, etc. The other joy in Halo MP are the maps, Bungie, IMO, has some of the best MP maps ever. They just work.

        • http://gamerant.com Rory Young

          I neeeed an article on why Reach is like chess or Go.

          • http://www.christianspicer.com Christian Spicer

            A well thought out and written article might take a bit, but basically . . . both are simple, balanced, the rules of the “game” do not change between games or with different players playing them. Easy to play, hard to master. A lot of good VS games are like that. Street Fighter for sure, it is like chess on fastforward.

  • Ryan

    Well it’s good to hear peoles opinion so it can be fixed. This happened in halo 2 and 3 so we will see a good patch for reach in the coming months.

  • http://gamerant.com Rob Keyes

    Reach is similar to the previous games yes, and while it may not compare to MW2 on some levels, it does offer an improved and more detailed version of what people loved about about the previous Halo’s.

    The single player is very standard and you’re right about the characters and story (basic and somewhat boring), but it DOES have co-op which Call of Duty fails hard at :)

  • jwalka

    i find reach way more fun and not as competitive as halo 3 or the CoD series. what i do hate is the fact that you cant customize loadouts and that there are high powered weps laying around for anyone who is fast enough to get them, no leveling or anything for the energy sword etc you just have top know the spot and presto 10+ kills.

  • http://eclectic-euphoria.blogspot.com/ Benjdude

    I agree about the shallow depth of the game. I still enjoyed this campaign more than any previous Halo game but I was hoping that in a world full of deeper customizable FPS games that there would be a bit more meaning in all the armor variants. I am not even asking for anything big, but why can’t a piece that is “supposed” to help a jet-pack soldier actually give him a bit more energy for jet-packing with? Or the chest-piece with all the extra ammo actually give you a bit more ammo or grenades? The fast pace of Halo and the fact that there are tons of weapons falling to the ground everywhere mean that these “advantages” would be greatly mitigated but to the guy who is working hard to unlock them it would make him feel like it has an actual purpose other than getting 100% armor unlocked. Halo is a game that has found a working formula and the developers have stopped pushing the boundaries long ago. Dual-wielding was one of their novelties in H3 and there was enough backlash that they removed it. Armor abilities are cool, but only work because anyone can start with what they want or need. That pretty much just leaves new weapons that makes the game seem fresh and they are scarce.

    • http://gamerant.com Rory Young

      Thanks Benjdude, I completely agree! Don’t you think Bungie is going to make a really great game, now that they aren’t limited by what Halo “has to be”?

  • http://gamerant.com Rory Young

    With regards to everyone’s complaints, I think Reach is perfect the way it is. I wouldn’t change it for the world. It’s fun and exciting, hell Game Rant just finished our weekly game night with Reach and more of our staff showed up than ever before.

    A game doesn’t have to have depth to be great. Just because Halo: Reach couldn’t elicit any more emotion than the latest issue of Naruto doesn’t change that it holds meaning to millions of gamers. It is what it is, and though I’d love to see a Halo game that isn’t carried by it’s multiplayer system, that won’t happen in the foreseeable future (especially now that Bungie has left the building). Halo: Reach will slowly is just like ODST, Halo 3, Halo 2 and to a lesser extent the original: forgettable. And that’s the Microsoft likes it, because it keeps us buying new games.

    • John C

      “Perfect the way it is”. Yet your article is written with a tone that strongly suggests that “shallow” is a bad thing. So which one is it? Is it bad? Or is it perfect the way it is? It just seems a rather transparent ploy to stir up controversy.

  • Xavier

    I kind of agree with you. The game is great but the ‘rewards’ aren’t as great as I expected. I would’ve liked to buy more than just dress-ups for my soldier, like cheats that change campaign gameplay… really I can’t think of anything else, but I would’ve liked to have seen a deeper rewards system.

  • doctor earwax

    FYI, I just peed in the pool.

  • Phil

    I agree. I love Halo. I think Halo CE is still the best game ever. Halo 2 gave me the fondest memories of multiplayer that I cherish to this day. Even halo 3 was…good.

    But it finally feels like Halo has past it’s sell by date. ODST I could forgive because I considered it an extention of Halo 3 (despite the full price). Halo reach does doesn’t do ENOUGH new things to keep you going. The new things that are there feel like Bungie grasping at straws. I think the equipment mechanic in Halo 3 worked better than powerups. Although they’re cool and fun, you can’t deny the fact that Modern Warfare 2 was so much more variety. It feels like Bungie is late to the party.

    The editor is cool but inpractical compared to a real game editor like LBP. The MP maps play really well but does anyone else feel that they just seem a bit…dull and uninteresting? I feel cheated cose half of them are made in Forge.

    The only thing Halo had over it’s competitors was the theatre, and thankfully other games are picking that up now :)

    It’s time to move on.

  • http://gamerant.com Riley Little

    I like Halo: Reach because of it’s simplicity. I can’t recall an FPS with a deep multiplayer experience, but it would have been nice if the customization options allowed you to make your own loadouts. I get what you’re saying, Rory, but I think there are strategies to this game (i.e. working together to fight off the zombies like we did in the GR Game Night the previous night) that help add some depth. There’s not much to the actual gameplay and that’s fine — I’m not sure what else you’re suppose to have in a shooter that Halo already doesn’t. It’s the joint king (with CoD) for a reason 😉

  • John C

    For multiplayer, what you consider vapid and purile, others, like myself, see as fair and balanced. The armor customization in Halo Reach is cosmetic to avoid the pitfalls of games like MW2 that give unfair advantages to those that can simply grind to higher ranks. One is not better or worse than another. They’re merely different approaches to motivating people to play the game. Based on the popularity of each, I’d say this point is a wash.

    In terms of social experience, what exactly were your expectations here? That you can get together with friends to play online? How’s that co-op level editing that people love so much in MW2? It’s a good thing that Infinity Ward put in a mechanic to save game replays and pics that you can upload and share with the rest of the Modern Warfare community. That’s definitely the same social experience as Halo Reach. That was sarcasm by the way. No, you cannot “just as easily” find that same level of social interactivity in MW2 as you can in Halo Reach, or even Halo 3 for that matter.

    I’ll bring up the point of game story last even though you brought it up first. You fail to provide an example of what a good single player story is. Does the Master Chief make the Halo story any more compelling? Perhaps you would like to tap into Modern Warfare 2 narrative which, by the way, doesn’t even qualify as a shallow pool, but an emotionally anemic puddle.

  • B

    It was an alright game for me. I did not regret the purchase, but the campaign was definitely lacking. The characters you meet were intended to get close to the audience, but ended up being so shallow that you would have to lie to yourself saying you cared about their death. I truly enjoy Firefight (way better than ODST, also customization makes it more fun), and Forge mode, and Theater Mode. Multiplayer isn’t great, but I was not as frustrated playing it compared to MW2.

    • B

      I mean, multiplayer isn’t the best on XBL, but it’s definitely not bad. Some way or another, you’ll find a game that will become really fun, and it’s great that you can watch it again after the battle is over.

  • Lisa

    Reach is the only one in the franchise I find even remotely playable. I think this game has really evened the playing field for all gamers which is especially nice for someone like me who is coming very late to this multiplayer Halo party. The dynamics are different in Reach than the others in the series so almost everyone is starting from square one.
    My point? It’s nice to play a Halo that doesn’t make me want to throw my console down the stairs and light my head on fire. :)

    • http://gamerant.com Andrew Dyce


  • Tristan


    The problem with Modern Warfare 2 and other Call of Duty games is that the people who play it online don’t play to have fun. All they care about is the competition, and aside from all the idiot 12 year olds cursing me out like a sailor, all I see are people who can head-shot from across the map with a pistol, which shows me that they spend every waking moment playing the game. I can’t compete with them, and the game is no fun when they figure out all the tricks and hiding spots and I don’t know any of them. Sure, I could learn, but I’d have to be able to not die in the first five seconds.

    No, I prefer the Halo franchise. Not because it’s simpler, or because it’s harder to die, but because it’s simply more fun. Vehicles are a welcome addition to any game, and even though the vehicle controls can be kind of wonky at times (honestly, who the fuck designed the Scorpion’s controls?) the amount of strategy they add to any game is greatly appreciated. And by that I mean not too much but not too little. I’m not constantly worried if someone is about to lay a freaking missile on me out of nowhere, nor am I afraid that I’ll be sniped by some guy I can’t see and have no chance of at least being able to kill him back.

    Yes, I’m disappointed that the armor permutations don’t actually have a big effect on game-play, but I don’t mind that as much I thought I might. The most they do is make it easier or harder to do damage from certain angles with rifles, but that’s enough for me. Besides, with shields and armor abilities adding to the mix I’m perfectly content and even happy with the gameplay.

    And COD doesn’t have Forge. SUCK IT

    • http://gamerant.com Andrew Dyce

      All of my favourite points. Couldn’t agree more.