Halo Reach Not Bad So Far

I managed to get a couple hours of play (well, more like an hour – see below) in for Halo Reach last night and it was pretty good. I had forgotten how to steer the warthogs, so I was having a miserable time for a while, but eventually remembered and that made things better.

I started off playing the game on my big 52″ Sony LCD TV connected via HDMI. The game looked very good from my sitting distance, but there were a lot of dark areas in the first part of the game and somehow they were too dark on the TV (you can adjust game brightness, which helped). The sound was really awesome coming from the surround speakers. I have highly-rated surround gaming speakers in my home office where I do most of my gaming, but the sound experience in the living room is far superior.

I moved the Xbox 360 down to my office and connected it to my Dell 27″ monitor via component cables via the Hauppauge HD PVR, so I will be able to capture videos. This meant I could only run at 1080i, not the 1080p of the TV with HDMI, so the image wasn’t quite as crisp. On the Dell monitor, however, I could really see the flaws in the game, however. It really appears to be a 720p game being scaled by the Xbox’s built-in scaler. The graphics are good, but not as good as one would get on a decent PC, which is one reason I prefer games on the PC.

Another reason I prefer PC games is mouse control, particularly for shooters. Aiming with the stick on a gamepad is lousy, for me at least, and the Halo games are no exception, though Halo Reach seems pretty forgiving. The controls of Halo Reach are quite good and as simple as possible. Movement is one stick; aiming/looking is the other one. Triggers and buttons do various actions, but it isn’t complicated. But I still wish it was on the PC with a mouse. I played Halo and Halo 2 on the PC, but since the rest are Xbox 360 only, I no longer have a choice (thanks Microsoft).

The game play so far has been nearly identical to the earlier Halos, so no surprises. The addition of armor abilities (speed, defense, etc.) is nice and lifted from Crysis (though you can only equip one ability at a time, so you can’t switch on the fly, as in Crysis). The biggest difference is your squadmates stick with you. In earlier Halos, most other soldiers would work with you for a bit, but you, as the Spartan, were the star of the show. In Halo Reach, you are part of a team and your teammates are pretty competent and sometimes better at certain things. But not driving. AI driving is simply terrible. I found it much better to drive the warthog myself and let a squadmate be gunner. If they drive, we just got stuck all the time.

The music is good, but not as great as Halo 3 was. So far there isn’t an iconic, compelling theme in the music, though perhaps one will show up later as I move on to bigger and better missions.

So Halo Reach is fun, but more of the same. And that’s okay with me, as I liked the others enough that more of the same is good!

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