Halo Reach is a very fine conclusion to the Halo series. And I say that strictly based on the aha moment I had coming to the close of the campaign. The discovery of my player's identity as the Master Chief, the one chosen by Cortana, late in the game was just magical. I said "I got it".
I have to say that makes Reach the most consistent and satisfying prequel I've ever played, watched, or read. History comes alive in the Halo universe on Reach. I say this having the benefit of one aspect of the Halo universe that goes very often without much fanfare, and that is the I Love Bees audio drama. Over the past couple weeks, the first previews of the final installment played. One of them was a live action trailer showing families on Reach the first day of the Covenant invasion - at the moment the battle began. It immediately drew me in emotionally to the idea of humanity threatened, and echoes of I Love Bees surfaced. That, my friends, is fine sci-fi.
Reach is the saddest installment. And while I'm sure it will end on a note of hope as the Pillar of Autumn escapes the doomed planet, there is nothing that quite has the emotional impact of fighting with a squad that gradually gets ground down to one. There is urgency in the arc of the story that is missing from most of the ODST. Only in a few parts of that mission were soldiers involved in protecting civilians. The most dramatic of these scenarios is actually in the Halo Wars RTS where the player is responsible for protecting evac ships. That theme is resumed, if only through cut scenes, in Halo Reach - and again, it adds an element of tragedy. Where ODST finds one wandering solo through a maze of confusion in New Mombasa, puzzling things out with plenty of time - the tragic urgency of Reach penetrates your gaming skull.
Reach has everything. It's hard to imagine how many features they packed into the game. When you compare it to the prior Halo games, it makes you think - wow, they sure have gotten better over the past 7 years. It also makes you appreciate how much compute power is packed into the XBox 360 as a platform, and how extraordinary it is to have the network capabilities it has. There are all sorts of vehicles, there are a huge number of different game types. There is a broad selection of skill loadouts that allow you to change tactics on every respawn. There are multiple cool ways to play co-op or competitively. There are custome games - and it all works well without any degradation or much change in the feel of the overall Halo playing style. It very much feels like Halo, even though I still want to melee with the B button.
Somewhat new to Halo is a lot more flying. From personal jet packs, to VTOLs to space fighters, there are many ways to engage aerial combat. The space fighting is inspired. Speaking of which, Reach has a gigantic moon. What's up with that thing?
Anyway, it's good that Halo is back. They grossed 200 million in the first week and there are half a million players online at any one time on average this week. Not bad.