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Halo Reach (PC): Finishing the fight on a new platform

There’s no denying that Gregorian chants are a cornerstone of the Halo series. They’re unmistakable identifiers for the Master Chief and the fight against the alien covenant. Halo Reach is no exception.

So when the Gregorian chants fired up on the menu screen of the PC version, it brought a smile to both my face – and my ears (if my ears could smile, that is).

I’m not the world’s greatest Halo fan but I’ve played them all. Reach was always at the top of my list as my favourite of the series. Maybe it was because the story told of the close-knit camaraderie between the six members of Noble team. Cat, Emile, Jorge, Jun, Carter and Spartan B-312 (that’s you, by the way). As they take the fight to the covenant on the planet Reach, or maybe it was because Reach wasn’t about Master Chief. Whatever it was, Reach just resonated with me.

Nine years since we Finished the Fight

Now, nine years after the game appeared on the Xbox 360, it’s finally appeared on PC. Reach is the first game in the Master Chief Collection to make the move to PC. The other five games in the package will be released in 2020 and set you back $NZ60 (it’s also available on Xbox Game Pass for PC, a subscription service which is worth its weight in gold, to be honest). And as first cabs off the rank goes, Reach is good, it’s really good, but it’s not without problems that hamper the experience just a little.

Look, fans of Halo know what the story is about so I’m not going to delve into that too much. Except to say that it’s a compelling tale of the members of Noble team and the sacrifices each member makes to take the fight to the covenant. This review is about how it plays on PC and what the differences are to its console counterparts. Let’s begin.

Halo Reach vs PC Specs

I’m not a PC elitist gamer but, I was surprised at the lack of customisable options in the graphical settings that PC gamers are used to. PC gamers love tweaking their PC games so they work best with the hardware they have (I’m running an Intel i5 8400, 16Gb of RAM and an AMD RX580 graphics card) but here, Reach offers “original”, “enhanced” or “performance” graphic presets. That’s it, with none of them really informing PC players what the differences are.

Reach does look good on PC, really good, with higher resolution textures that’ll crank all the way up to 4K UHD if your GPU can handle it. Visuals that look a lot sharper than the console original and a frame rate upped from the original 30FPS to 60FPS (or unlimited). After all the tweaking options available in recently released PC version of Red Dead Redemption 2, I was expecting more tweak-able options so I could adjust to the finest detail settings that worked best with my GPU.

Let’s talk about the unlimited frames per second that I mentioned in the last paragraph. I initially selected an uncapped frame rate but the game had micro-stuttering and pauses. Not the pauses that Halo players are used to when the game autosaves at predetermined checkpoints. These were seconds-long pauses. I reverted back to the 60 frames per second mode, which proved much more stable. Using my GPU’s metrics overlay, Reach was able to sit at a rocksteady 60FPS with a very rare dip from time to time. I’d suggest that unless you have a top-end GPU, stick with the 60FPS mode.

Halo Reach : Finish the Fight

PC problems

The ability to use mouse and keyboard is a bonus here, but to be honest, I used a gamepad most of the time. Sorry, fellow PC friends. The audio seemed off at times. With a lot of weapon sounds seeming muffled and not quite as sharp as they should be. The game also refused to load the mission Oni Sword Base, constantly kicking me back to the in-game menu. Some quick internet sleuthing revealed that it was a glitch that impacted a random number of players. After verifying the install, it revealed that some of the game installation files hadn’t downloaded properly. So I had to re-download four files. Oni Sword Base loaded perfectly after that. These are all things that can be addressed with patches.

One thing is certain from playing Reach again, though. It reminded me just how good enemy AI can make all the difference when it comes to combat encounters. Halo Reach has some of the best around. Especially the way Covenant Elites dance and dart about the battlefield, dodging grenades and displaying tactical nouse. Reach has also taught me that I still hate hunters, and I maintained the same strategy that used when I first played Reach. Pick away at them with heavy weapons. Targeting their squishy, unarmoured bits, then lob in grenades when they’re on their last legs. Cowardly, yes, but effective.

How does Halo Reach stack up?

Reach also reminded me that it has perhaps some of the finest space combat missions I’ve ever played in a video game. With you flying in a nimble UNSC fighter, squaring off against covenant fighters all the while avoiding hulking UNSC frigates. Before embarking on a near-suicide mission to disable a giant covenant capital ship with a big bomb. It’s simply superb.

In my view, Reach is Bungie’s greatest achievements in the Halo series. However the PC version needs optimisation to make things run smoother.

If new Halo gatekeepers 343 Studios and Xbox Game Studios can do that. Then this PC version will be a ‘must-have’ for Halo fans who want to continue the fight. This time on PC.