This is the end of the Halo road for Bungie -- the group is set to move on to a new original game next while Microsoft takes over responsibility for the franchise's future -- and that sense of this being a finale is in Halo: Reach. It shows clear reference to past games, refines well-established game mechanics, adds a few exciting twists, and polishes the rest to a glossy finish. The result is one of the most complete, fully-featured packages you'll find in gaming.
Little here will surprise the hardcore Halo fan, especially if they were among the millions that took part in the multiplayer beta earlier this year. The approach to making a first-person shooter remains the same as it has in the past for Halo. There's a co-op friendly campaign filled with the dreaded Covenant aliens, sparkling online competitive multiplayer, the four-player Firefight mode, and lots of flexibility to allow everyone to tweak settings to their liking. If you've played a Halo game in the past, you'll feel instantly at home.
That's not to say this is just another rehash. There's plenty of new and exciting content in Halo: Reach and it begins with the main character. Master Chief is out. This time you'll step into the shoes of Noble 6, a nameless hero for players to project themselves onto. Noble 6 doesn't even have a defined gender. Thanks to a deep new customization system, you're free to fit Noble 6's look to your personality.
Noble 6's tale begins with an introduction to Planet Reach. This colony is the center of humanity's military might, and home to the Spartan program that produced Master Chief himself. The events of Halo: Reach take place as a prequel to the main Halo trilogy and -- though they take small liberties with the established fiction -- help to tell the story of the events that lead up to events of Halos 1 through 3. The war with the Covenant is already raging, and things don't look good for us humans.
Noble 6 is the rookie member of Noble Team, a squad of Spartans stationed on Reach. You'll get to know each of the other team members through the course of Halo: Reach as you work with them to complete various missions, but the action always follows Noble 6's adventure.