It’s been 12 years since a Halo game was released on PC. Twelve long years. But finally, the cloud has broken and the first drop of Halo has begun to water these barren fields. Halo: Reach has rounded out the Master Chief Collection on Xbox One, but it is the first title added to PC. For a game that is almost a decade old, the team at 343 Industries have done an incredible job at porting it to a new platform, while improving all areas of the game. Though it does have some technical errors, they pale in comparison to the overall experience on offer.
Currently on offer in Halo: Reach is the campaign, Firefight, and multiplayer, which includes a social playlist and hardcore playlist for those looking for skill-based match-ups. Unfortunately, missing from the release is Theater and Forge, two modes that offer untold value to the overall experience. Though it’s disappointing these are absent, 343i has commented that these modes are still being worked on and will be released at a later date.
The campaign is as good as what fans will remember from 2010 and thanks to the various visual upgrades, also looks phenomenal. The draw distance has drastically improved and it feels so good to play at a buttery-smooth 60FPS.
In terms of multiplayer, it’s a joy to get back in and play an arena shooter with objectives. I’ve personally missed the days of carrying a flag around, trying to sneak a bomb in to a base, or holding a skull for longer than the other team. Big Team Battle feels as hectic as before, and is made all the more exhilarating when playing with seven other mates.
The multiplayer also includes an extremely robust search function. The mechanic allows players to choose the team size (2v2, 4v4, 8v8, FFA, etc), game modes (Slayer, Flag and Bomb, SWAT, Snipers, Infection, etc), and even what Halo games to include in the search (Reach is the only available title on PC at the moment). This gives the player an incredible amount of control over exactly what they play.
As for Firefight, it’s as chaotic and challenging as players remember. For those new to the franchise, Firefight is Halo’s version of a horde mode that was introduced back in Halo 3: ODST in 2009. Depending on the difficulty selected, Firefight can be a low-impact mode used to unwind after an intense multiplayer session or an extremely challenging test of endurance.
On the control side of things, players can switch between controller and keyboard and mouse on the fly, with only a few seconds of delay when shifting. While keyboard and mouse users can remap all available keys, there is no such option for controller users. This is extremely disappointing as the presets, while numerous, do not offer enough flexibility, which could pose a problem for some users looking for greater accessibility.
There are some undeniable rough edges in this Halo: Reach port, at least on the PC side. For starters, the audio needs another pass. Weapons sound oddly distant when firing and the music is ear-splittingly loud. It’s strange, but nothing that jeopardizes the overall experience.
On the visual side, there are alarmingly few dials to twist and sliders to slide. While the field-of-view can be expanded up to 120, there are none of the standard graphical tweaks PC enthusiasts might expect from a new release title. There is a mysterious “Graphics Quality” setting featuring three options: Performance, Original, and Enhanced, though what these do individually on a technical level is anyone’s guess.
As for actual new mechanics, the season pass system is either going to be a welcomed change or something you wish they would revert. Back in the days of the Xbox 360, each armor customization could be unlocked once the required rank had been reach and the necessary credits earned. What this amounted to was allowing players to save for specific items.
The new system is a free season pass, where players must unlock items in sequence. Players can almost guarantee they will walk away with a new item each gaming session. The downside to this new system is that if an item you want is at the end of the season pass, you’ll be spending a lot of time simply grinding levels to reach it. Conversely, this is similar to what players would be doing in the original release if the item you wanted was expensive. Again, this is a divisive change.
Halo: Reach is a welcomed addition to the Master Chief Collection and a great starting point for 343 Industries in the PC porting world. While the game does have a few technical problems on PC that need to be addressed, it’s not a death sentence. In fact, Halo: Reach is just as enjoyable to play today as it was a decade ago.
This impression piece was based on a Steam code provided by the publisher. Halo: Reach is available on Steam, Windows Store, and Xbox One, standalone or with the Master Chief Collection.