A finale fit for a spartan

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The Spectrum

Grade: A

After nine years of steadfast dedication, developers Bungie Studios are bidding farewell to their beloved "Halo" series with their latest release, "Halo: Reach."

Bungie pulled out all the stops for the series finale. "Halo: Reach" draws from nearly a decade worth of experience and manages to go above and beyond any other installment in the series.

The game introduces several new features to the classic "Halo" formula, giving it a fresh new feel while remaining familiar at the same time.

One such feature is armor abilities.

Armor abilities are the single biggest change gamers will find when they pop "Halo: Reach" in for the first time. Throughout every game mode, players will be able to choose the armor ability that fits their play style best. Among them are Sprint, Active Camouflage, Armor Lock, Hologram, Jetpack and a few others.

Each one of the options dramatically alters the way gamers play. Those who prefer the cloaking of Active Camo may take a stealthier approach to the game, whereas those with the temporary invulnerability of Armor Lock would rather go in guns blazing.

However, no matter which tickles your fancy, the game still remains true to the "Halo" style at heart. This means plenty of explosions, tit-for-tat firefights and vehicular manslaughter.

One of the best things about "Reach" is that it provides a smorgasbord of game modes to help you get your alien killing fix. There's so much crammed onto the disc that it's practically three games in one.

First up is campaign, the mode that tells the story of the game. In comparison to the rest of the series, "Reach" provides the fullest all-around fullest campaign experience.

This time around, you no longer play as the iconic hero Master Chief. Instead, gamers take on the role of another spartan, Noble 6, who belongs to a team rather than being a lone super soldier.

Mere minutes after joining the team, Noble is dispatched to investigate a downed communications relay. It isn't long before you discover that the covenant, a collection of alien races bent on humanity's destruction, have invaded Planet Reach.

The story is a much darker and grittier "Halo" than any before it. The game uses incredible vistas of crumbling cities and burning landscapes to convey an overwhelming sense of death and despair that causes the gamer to truly care about the characters and the outcome of the ill-fated planet.

From beginning to end, the campaign will draw players in with a deep, meaningful story and keep them hooked with over the top action sequences that will have them grasping their controllers in excitement.

But campaign is far from the only option available to players. There's also multiplayer, the mode that truly turned "Halo" into a phenomenon.

All of the classic game modes are back in addition to a few new ones. Invasion, one of the new multiplayer modes, pits a team of spartans against a team of elites in an attack and defend style which players must either capture an item from the enemy and evacuate it or stop the other team from doing so.

In invasion, only a handful of weapons are available at the start of the match. However, as the rounds progress, more weapons and vehicles are unlocked. By the end, the game is a frenzied firefight with action happening all around the player.

Despite the entertainment multiplayer mode provides, it does have its downsides – the biggest being the limited number of maps available.

Where "Halo 3" possessed a total of 11 maps at launch, "Reach" only has nine. The upside to this is the game's map editor, Forge, which gives players the potential for unlimited maps. But it would have been nice to see a few more originals from Bungie.

Finally there's the incredibly fun Firefight. In this mode, players, alongside their teammates, will face waves of increasingly difficult alien foes. The objective is to kill as many aliens as possible before either time runs out or your life is ended.

Overall, "Halo: Reach" is the quintessential "Halo" experience. The game takes clear inspiration from each of its predecessors and brings them together in a brilliantly designed and executed product that has truly earned its right to bear the "Halo" title.