3/10: The Fall of Reach

I didn’t hate Reach right out of the gate. It took a bit of time.I mean, sure, bloom sucked pretty much immediately. Why in the name of Thor would you add a game mechanic that makes getting headshots, things that are already, if not difficult, then at least challenging to come by, more random? Is latency not enough?Even after two years, I fail to understand the logic. Randomization of that element doesn’t make the game more enjoyable. It makes it more frustrating. Though, it does give the guy running around with the AR a better chance of survival. Instead of achievements, maybe Reach should give out participation ribbons.After Reach came out, I played roughly 600 multiplayer games, and then we took a break. It’s not me, Reach, it’s you. I made out with other games. “Drost, you know Halo never loved you as good as I do,” said MW3. My team quit. Malice moved to the sticks and lost internet. Chibi wandered off into CoDland. Killa … I don’t know what the hell he did. I think he gave his Xbox and gamertag to his kid.That was kind of a big deal to me. I mean, I’d had a “team” since 2005. I’d played thousands of games of Halo, Halo 2 and Halo 3. I loved Halo, and possibly in a socially incorrect way.After the team disintegrated, I pretty much quit gaming entirely. I bet I went five or six months without playing anything at all. It took a couple of my clan members – Dixon and Hoplite – giving me epic guilt trips about letting my clan run aground to get me to dust off the “trusty” DMR. Even then, if not for the Anniversary maps and playlists, I would not have come back.The Anniversary stuff felt like a breath of fresh air. No bloom, which meant my shots hit where I thought (reasonably) they were hitting. I moved a little faster, which felt … right. And then the maps. They didn’t feel like the afterthought, campaign-borrowed clusterfucks that are the normal Reach maps. They had flow. They had firing lines. They made sense, especially if you’re not a close quarters combat kind of guy.For a while there, we had plenty of guys showing up again, and we’d play some Anniversary BTB, which was kinda fun.And then they killed that playlist and our options became a bit more limited. With four, we could still play Anniversary classic. With five, we had to go back into Team Objective, and anything past five, we were playing normal BTB. Sure, there were “TU” games, but most of those still had … issues.Playing normal Reach feels like playing Halo underwater. You move too slow. Strafing is devalued. Your gun is inconsistent (and don’t give me any of that shit about pacing my shots better; my kpd is just fine, thank you very much). I would be doing the things Halo has taught me to do to be successful playing it, and they would not consistently work. We’re already on the Internet. Inconsistency is part of the deal. Don’t build more of it into your game on purpose.It’s frustrating. But more than that, it’s unsatisfying. It’s gimmicky. It is not Halo. Not any kind I want to play, anyway.I feel like Bungie let the interns make Reach because all the vets were already transitioned over to whatever space-faring adventure they’re working on now. I feel like they pulled a Prince, and threw a game together to complete their contract so they could get out from under the thumb of Microsoft. I feel … betrayed is too strong a term, but certainly “let down” isn’t.I blame the quality of Reach for putting my clan on life support. I founded Profanity (with a bunch of other guys) on Oct. 26, 2004 on Bungie.net. We officially moved to 2o2p in August of 2005. At the time we had 14 or so members. Over the next couple of years, it grew to about 80ish. That was in the halcyon days of 2o2p, when there were clan challenges every week, and tournaments every weekend. Hell, there were epic clan rivalries. It made the game more than a game to a lot of us, and no doubt forged many a friendship on 2o2p.Reach pretty much shit on all that. Maybe it was Halo fatigue. Maybe after more than six years, we were all burned out and tired of the Spartans. But if the game had been better, we’d have weathered the storm more successfully. Frankly the numbers support my claims. Reach has not been as well played as its predecessors. Sure, there is more competition in the market, but by that rationale, if the game were better, it would’ve stayed at the top of the food chain.Why this rant? Why now? Because Monday, Oct. 22, was the last time I’m ever going to play Reach. Enough is enough. I took Reach out of the tray, carried it to the garage, and smashed the hell out of it with my best hammer. Three shots. One to the chest, two to the head. Was the only way to be sure.I did not smash it out of anger. Okay, maybe a little. But like Capt. Ramius said in The Hunt for Red October: “When he reached the New World, Cortez burned his ships. As a result his men were well motivated.”I will never play that game again. I had that realization while playing it Monday. Each of the Halo games prior to Reach, I have gone back and played again. I remember them fondly. Halo 3 had some of the best competitive matches I ever played. Halo 2 had that beautiful BR, and, frankly, it built my clan and this site. What’d Reach do to be remembered fondly? Well, it finally acknowledged the entertaining fiction surrounding the Halo universe. Hello, Dr. Halsey. That's something, I guess.Maybe I should’ve called this The Fail of Reach instead.At the end of the day, I’m a Halo guy, and that means that all my gaming hopes pinned to one game: Halo 4.It’s difficult not to be bitter, to not be jaded. But as I look at the dregs in the bottom of my coffee cup, I see portents of good omens. There are signs. There are people in charge saying the right things. We’ve seen the clips. The BR is back and it has no bloom. The DMR is there, too, and it has no effing bloom. And both guns are hitscan, which is awesome (for those fans of how the BR functioned in Halo 2, anyway). You appear to move faster by default, and still have sprint (which was the only armor ability I enjoyed in Reach). Now, can we strafe properly again? Yes?We have some guys in the clan who’ve managed to play Halo 4 at various events, and they say it plays like Halo 2.5. Now, don’t freak out about that. It still has all the accumulated debris from Halo 3 and Reach, crap like armor abilities. But the basic mechanics … shooting and moving and jumping, those allegedly feel more like the spiritual successor to Halo 2, which is a good thing. It’s a better base to build the future on. Even Halo 3 had that hitch in the Chief’s step that made strafing feel not quite as precise as it did in the game before.I still wish they’d incorporated button combos into the code as actual things. Actual CQC. Holy hell. Layers of things to get good at. Alas…Then again, maybe I’m just happy that I don’t have to play Reach anymore. Less than two weeks and ticking …Author’s Note: Although I’m a 2o2p site Admin, the views expressed in this rant are mine alone and do not necessarily reflect those of management (heh. “management”). They may, however, reflect those of my clan. Possibly. Please feel free to disagree with me in the comments below, or in an appropriately titled forum thread. Thanks for stopping by!

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