HALO: REACH

RATING M for Mature

In this prequel, Reach is a planet - long mythologized as one of the last human colonies to fall to the alien Covenant before the events of 2001's Halo: Combat Evolved. Since we already know that things aren't going to end well, there's a sense of futility about this campaign, although your actions here will have a profound effect on the war between humanity and the Covenant.

You are part of Noble Team, a group of elite Spartan troops whose missions largely involve evacuating humans and sabotaging Covenant installations. Most of the scenarios involve sustained, ground-based firefights against alien hordes whose aggressive artificial intelligence will torment the most experienced Halo player.

Meanwhile, some of the franchise's more exasperating elements remain. Driving a Warthog jeep still feels awkward. Unlike in, say, Gears of War, there's no reliable way to take cover. And while you go into battle with a whole new crew, they never develop distinctive personalities. The story is more straightforward than previous Halo plots, but doesn't match the sophistication of even a middling "Star Trek" episode.

It offers all the multiplayer modes that fans have come to expect, from your basic death match and capture-the-flag to more recent inventions such as "Firefight," in which you and your buddies have to stay alive against ever-increasing waves of enemies. - AP

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