While it’s true you could argue over saturation of anything ultimately breeds contempt, Halo seems largely immune to major criticisms. ODST was well received by the bulk of the gaming press, even if our own review was slightly out of kilter, but as Microsoft and Bungie finally showcased Halo Reach we’re left wondering if the issues that plagued their last game will return here. This is a fully-fledged sequel though, not an add-on and the first Halo game to truly stand apart from the main cannon, Reach has much riding on its shoulders.
Like ODST, Reach is more than a story about one lone solider, the Chief is important but the Halo narrative, post the original trilogy provides very little opportunity for multiple groups of Spartan’s to converge on the Covenant (once you rule out the secret Spartan III’s). Reach gives Bungie the perfect platform to push the Halo franchise into- thankfully- new directions, because despite some standout moments in ODST the Halo formula is on the verge of becoming over saturated. It’s a difficult position as the core gameplay has always been fantastic. Modern Warfare 2 may have the set piece down but it’s Halo that impresses with emergent AI and sandbox scenarios. Add in multiple Spartan’s, each with new abilities (bionic arms, massive back packs and so on) and with the Elites returning as the evil enemy of choice, and Bungie has the opportunity to make something new.
Whether they will or will not is still unknown, it’s not short of ambition, but whether squad mechanics can really change the gameplay enough is anyone’s guess? Would an online co-operative experience like Left 4 Dead with added objectives like Brink offer a more substantial experience? The Halo series was once known for genuine innovation that it unfortunately repeated and reiterated on in the sequels. If Reach is simply an extension of the formula with added narrative devices such as the ODST flashbacks then this will ultimately be a huge disappointment. The Halo games need reworking, perhaps more so than Microsoft and Bungie are willing to admit, and now that Infinity Ward has become the industry darling, audiences might not be as forgiving of a new Halo game that only takes baby steps instead of Spartan ones.