I have a weird relationship with the Halo franchise. I own the original Halo: Combat Evolved but have yet to play past the first level. Halo 2 actually convinced me to come back to console games after extended sessions in the barren wastelands of Championship Manager and Minesweeper. While I shy away from most multiplayer offerings, I have played Halo 3 and its successors online.
I've never invested myself into the games to the point that I would be frustrated or let down by the developer, Bungie. Honestly, this is a pretty good way to feel about fictional universes.
Playing Halo games is fun — not counting the Flood parts — because Bungie builds top-notch titles. Over the last few years, the quality shooters became quality shooters with interesting plots.
A Kenny G soundtrack wouldn't gain much traction here.
Since the beginning, Bungie was open about making Halo a grand project. Halo 3: ODST proved, however, that the studio was also willing to delve deeper into the side stories that sprung up from the overall narrative. Halo: Reach benefited from both of these points. First and foremost, it was a characteristic game in the series — and a very good one. It was also the best entry when it came to story.
The Fall of Reach is a big deal for Halo lore followers. I couldn't have cared less about the fate of this human-colonized planet before I bought the game. By the end of the experience, I cared. Bungie took a major keystone in this interactive, intergalactic fiction and presented it from the perspective of unestablished characters. Yet this group became more meaningful to me than Master Chief or Cortana. It was inspired stuff.
I also got to shoot dudes in space.
ODST made an effort with its characters, and it mostly succeeded. Before Reach, though, my opinions of Halo characters depended on the people who did their voice work. Ultimately, I realized I just liked Nathan Fillion and Keith David.
Who doesn't like Keith David? Who would dare not to like him?
In Halo: Reach, the player encountered individuals with distinct personalities who interacted with each other. Jorge was the classic Jesse Ventura-style, minigun-toting beast but proved to have a softer touch than the rest of the crew. A testament to Reach's excellent art design, Kat's prosthetic arm told you what you needed to know about her: She was tough and more experienced than most members of the squad. Her gender was irrelevant, and I thought that was a great thing. The player's character, Noble Six, felt like a true member of the team.
Emile had a really cool helmet.
Maybe it was just another Empire Strikes Back thing, since I'm a sucker for a dark conclusion to a storyline. Or maybe it was how Bungie decided to go beyond making the ultimate piece of fan service. Reach was a goodbye to Halo players, and the ending of the game felt especially tender. I mentioned earlier that I'm not the biggest fan of the games. When playing ODST, I had no idea what was going on with Master Chief. The events of Halo 2 are a distant memory, and I never finished the first release. I am still a Halo fan, however, and Reach felt like an intimate farewell. I rarely get such feelings from people who make games.
What a great experience.