Halo: Reach Will Be Harder Than You Think, Less Spacey

Halo: Reach Will Be Harder Than You Think, Less Spacey
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The next Halo game will probably have the toughest enemies in series history, I learned this morning when I wasn’t flying a spaceship (!) in Halo: Reach. But they’ll only be tough if you force their hand.

Bungie’s Brian Jarrard played through part of the mid-game mission Long Night of Solace in an office in lower Manhattan today. He was recreating the truncated section of this September’s big new Halo game that was also shown to attendees of E3 in Los Angeles.

As Jarrard played, leading protagonist Noble 6 and his team through an on-foot battle on the surface of the planet Reach, he mentioned some of the campaign’s features. One of the key points is the campaign’s difficulty, which, in a change from recent Halo games, gets tougher if more than one person is playing it. For Halo 3 and last year’s Halo 3: ODST, the difficulty of the game’s enemies stayed the same no matter how many players joined the campaign for a co-op effort (up to four could play together). In Reach, Jarrard said, enemies will scale up, adding not just more health but getting smarter, more creatively using cover and generally being trickier foes. In the earlier games, Jarrard said, a four-player group had to switch to the high difficulty setting, Legendary, and activate some parameter-tweaking “skulls” to get a good challenge. In Reach, a player on Normal can bring three friends into the campaign and have the game adjust difficulty up for the group and then back down if that player resumes the campaign by themselves.

Following Jarrard’s logic, I asked if that meant that the enemies in Reach’s Legendary difficulty would, during a four-player co-op campaign, be the toughest enemies ever in a Halo game? Or was Bungie dumbing difficulty down? I had it right the first time, Jarrard said. We can expect the enemies in four-player Legendary campaign to be the most devilish foes in a Halo game, i.e. a formidable challenge.

(As with previous Halo games, Reach does not support drop-in/drop-out co-op. You can only group with people prior to entering a chapter of the campaign (the game’s online Firefight mode does tolerate player drop-out, but doesn’t support mid-action drop-in either.))

Jarrard let me play the spaceship sequence, which was also truncated for demo purposes. The flight controls are simple: analogue sticks to steer and tilt, left bumper+sticks to roll or do a 180 “Immelman” manoeuvre, right trigger to fire; y-button to switch from machine guns to lock-on missiles (no cockpit view). Spaceship health regenerates. The mission involves a defence of a space station against an incoming Covenant armada. I shot at some enemy fighters until the space station was ready to join the fight. Then things got hectic and I engaged some larger craft. The space battle was fun, and not that different from some of the other aerial sequences in Halo. Jarrard said this will be the only spacecraft battle in the campaign and hopes it will benefit from one of the game’s lead designers having worked on Crimson Skies. There is no spaceship mode in multiplayer, by the way, though Jarrard imagined that players could just shoot at each other in co-op if they really needed to.

I learned a few other things about Reach while I was there. One stand-out: You can play Reach as a woman. Players choose the gender for protagonist Noble 6 before they start the campaign. How’s that for a change of pace?

We’ll have more about Halo Reach here on Kotaku in the coming days. The game is set for a September 14 release.


  • Halo was always easy, but the difficulty was in the fact that the game cheats and surrounds you with unlimited AI spawning at you with superior mobility.

    • There have never been unlimited spawning enemies in halo.

      And if there has can you point me to the game and level?

      • There are a few instances of unlimited enemies in halo. I’m not talking about firefight either.

        The most obvious level would probably be “the maw” on the first halo. when you go in the access tunnels and look down the hole with the ladder, when you stand in the control room above the cryo chamber, the big reactor room, etc…

    • Yeah, it was so easy. Just the other day I was doing co-op legendary on Halo 3 and it was so easy that two (casual/hardcore) players took an hour to finish the FIRST MISSION!!!

  • Well that’s a bit of a disappointment. I wish they would have included an option to play legendary solo, but have the difficulty tweaked more to resemble 4 player legendary. Surely it wouldn’t take that much effort to code in an option to appear once you’ve beaten legendary.

    Is it strange that I think the game is visually excellent? None of the other games in the halo series have really wowed me with meticulous visuals like this one.

    • =P sign in on 3 other controllers and leave them at the start of each chapter, they’ll (hopefully) get dragged through the mission as you progress.

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