It’s been a long, long time since Halo Reach came out. Halo Reach was a big deal, even in 2010 when it was originally released. Reach was the last Halo game developed by Bungie before they moved on to go make Destiny and the first Halo game, barring ODST, where we did not play as the Master Chief. In terms of story, Reach may have been a prequel, but it was the most advanced Halo in terms of gameplay. To this day, a lot of fans consider Reach to be the last good Halo game, Reach became symbolic for the end of an era and no one knew what would become of the Xbox’s flagship title but one thing was for certain: Halo would never be the same. On December 3rd, 2019, 343 Industries, the devs that took over once Bungie left, released a port of Halo Reach for the PC on Steam and the Microsoft Store.
Within a day, Halo Reach was the most viewed game on Twitch, and became one of the most played games on Steam, ironically surpassing Destiny 2. Expectations were high and after the original Master Chief Collection launch, which was kind of a disaster, people were left wondering whether the launch of Reach on pc, only one out of six total games, would be a similar fiasco. After several hours with Halo Reach, I’m pleased to say that it looks and mostly plays better than ever. There was a lot of work put into this port and the final product is a testament to the love that went into porting this game to PC. That’s not to say that it’s without any flaws, however. A change to how you unlock armor pieces, some weird audio issues and some strange matchmaking decisions are a few things that stop this game from reaching its true potential but it’s never enough to ruin the experience.
So buckle up and let’s find out how Noble team fares on PC.
Halo Reach takes you back to before Master Chief was killing more covenant than any other individual human in the series. The campaign follows a squad of Spartans referred to as Noble Team. You take on the role of Noble Six, the newest member of Noble Squad. The story starts with you doing some investigating which leads to the horrifying discovery that the Covenant are on Reach. What follows is ten missions that take you through the fall of Reach. The story is well told, full of emotional gut-punches and ends with a truly heartbreaking final segment. Noble Squad is developed far more than Master Chief was in the original trilogy and because of that when the story takes some devastating turns, it hurts a lot more. The entire campaign will take you about 8-10 hours, depending on difficulty but offers some options if you want to replay it. Instead of tackling it alone you can invite up to 3 friends or if you’re after a bigger challenge or want to compete on the leaderboards you can activate skulls for point multipliers.
If the campaign isn’t your thing, then you can always try firefight instead. Firefight is another cooperative mode in which players will fight increasingly difficult waves of Covenant forces. You’ll survive as long as you can while earning points. None of these have really changed since the original release, they’re still as fun now as they were in 2010.
It’s important to not forget that Reach is an old game and even with its improved graphics sometimes its age still shows. The game has been pretty well optimized and even older machines should be able to handle the higher level of settings but what’s disappointing is the lack of individual customization options. The graphics settings are pretty bare bones with the three main options being ‘Performance’, ‘Original’ and ‘enhanced’. You can change your field of view and set frame rate limits, but beyond that, you’re pretty much out of luck. It’s unlikely to cause many issues as I mentioned above. The game works pretty well even on older machines but a few extra options would have been nice. The best part though is that you’ll rarely drop below 60 fps, making the whole thing smooth as heck.
In addition to being able to play with a controller, you can now use a mouse and keyboard! As expected, this works great. It’s snappy, it’s responsive and most importantly, it’s fun. You’ll be able to react far more quickly to enemy fire than ever before and you can pretty much bind your keys to whatever you want, which is particularly important to me personally when playing without fingers on my left hand. Options are always a good thing.
The only weird thing I encountered in terms of performance is a weird audio bug where the voices and music are far louder than any of the sound effects. It takes away some of the feelings when you shoot your gun and instead of making it sound like you’re shooting a truly powerful weapon, it sounds like you’re shooting a Nerf gun. As of this writing, it hasn’t been fixed but I expect it’ll be patched before too long.
No fps would be complete without its multiplayer though and a lot of people were dreading this. Would we have another instance of matchmaking being completely broken? Thankfully not! In all the matches I’ve played I haven’t had a single issue with the multiplayer. No random disconnects, no lag, and finding matches take no time at all. All of your favorite game modes are back, from Infection to Swat and it looks like Reach is going to be active for some time to come. You’ll need to log in to your Xbox live account to play online, even if you’ve purchased the game through Steam but it’s smooth sailing from there.
Picking game modes is easy with several playlists already there to choose from and if none of those tickle your fancy it’s easy to just make your own. This is good because chances are you’ll never end up stuck playing a game mode you aren’t interested in. Inviting friends, however, is a different story. I have to assume it has something to do with the Xbox Live accounts being connected through Steam. When I tried to invite a friend through Steam it wouldn’t seem to allow him to join. I had to go through the in-game ‘find a player’ option, forcing me to manually type in his Xbox Live Gamertag and invite him there. It’s a minor inconvenience but one that I still hope is eventually patched. After that though, there were no more annoyances.
You can still customize your Spartan however you want, the only thing that’s changed is how you unlock those armor pieces. In the 2010 Reach, everything you did in the game would grant you credits, which you could then spend in an in-game store to unlock different looks for your character. That system is completely gone and is replaced with a battle pass type system a la Fortnite. It’s not inherently bad but you can’t pick which armor piece you’re going to unlock next. Instead, you’re stuck which whatever the next tier gives you, regardless of whether you like it or not. I should probably mention this isn’t a paid feature, it’s free and even though it’s labeled as season 1 my understanding is that the pass will never go away, so you can’t be locked out of those items.
Finally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that Halo Reach is part of a much bigger collection. If you’re not interested in any of the other Halo games then you can purchase Reach by itself for about 10$ but the games all share a UI. It’s not a problem because the UI has been updated from the Xbox One version and is really easy and intuitive to use.
343 Industries have also said they’ll be bringing Forge in later, a mode where people are able to edit the already available multiplayer maps.
Spartans Never Die
Halo Reach is a special game and 343 Industries have done a phenomenal job porting it to PC. It’s all still there, Reach retains its magic even nine years later. With its new control options, updated graphics and active multiplayer this is probably the definitive edition of Halo Reach. There are a few bugs, sure, but when the overall product is of such high quality it’s hard to focus on those faults. The future of Halo is looking really good, and 10$ to play one of the best games in the franchise is an absolute steal. Unless the new progression system really isn’t for you then you should definitely give this updated classic a chance.
After all, Spartans never die. They just come back nine years later better than ever.