by Pete Davison
A new Halo game is always a big deal, and the release of Halo: Reach was no exception. Acting as a prequel to the Master Chief’s games, Reach tells the story of Noble Team, a squad of Spartans on the titular planet battling to save their homeland from the incursion of the sinister Covenant. But Halo has always had two sides to it—the story-heavy single-player campaign and the chaos of online multiplayer. Reach offers more possibilities than ever before for a wide variety of fun, making it an enjoyable game for first-person shooter fans of any persuasion.
With all these possibilities, then, it’s clear that a strategy guide for Reach needs to be a fairly hefty document. And BradyGames certainly haven’t disappointed on that front; weighing in at 400 pages, the Halo: Reach Signature Series Guide offers a wealth of knowledge that every fan of Halo will find both useful and interesting.
The guide itself is beautifully put together, with a thick, colorful cover and high-quality semi-glossy pages. It’s well organized, too, with a helpful “thumb index” situated on the right-hand side of each double-page spread allowing quick and easy flipping through the guide to the appropriate sections without having to refer to the Contents page. This is a particularly useful feature in the 30-second downtime between multiplayer matches when you want to try and stay ahead of the game.
And this guide will certainly help you keep on top of things. If you’re playing the Campaign mode, the guide not only provides you with a mission map, but also a step-by-step walkthrough and recommended weapon/Armor Ability load-outs for the three main difficulty levels of the game. The walkthrough is probably the most useful part of this guide, as the linear nature of the majority of Reach’s levels make a map mostly redundant. What’s interesting about the walkthrough section, though, is that it specifically highlights strategies for acquiring mission-specific Achievements as well as specialized tactics for playing on the super-challenging Legendary difficulty. The walkthrough is supplemented by some excellent, colorful screenshots and is clear and easy to follow, making a run through the campaign not necessarily easier, but certainly more straightforward.
Arguably the best part of the guide, though, is the multiplayer section. This section offers not only some incredibly useful maps for all of the multiplayer levels, but also detailed strategy guides for using each weapon as well as an in-depth breakdown of exactly what all of the many game modes that ship with the game actually involve. This is a good move, as newbies can often find themselves confused by exactly what the different between, say, Headhunter and Headhunter Pro mode would be.
The maps are probably the most useful part of this section, as they show not only the location of weapons and other power-ups, but also the locations in which objectives appear in specific game modes. For those who prefer the teamwork-based play of modes such as Invasion or Assault, this is a godsend as it allows the calculation of the most efficient routes to attack—or the best places to set up defenses!
New players will find the Tactics section to be useful, as it offers suggestions for how to deal with a wide variety of situations. Weapon recommendations are offered for circumstances such as dealing with vehicles, as well as information on strategies to avoid. By the time you’ve read it through a few times you’ll feel like a pro. At least until an experienced player rubs your face in the dirt a few times and you realize that you need practice as well as the knowledge of these strategies.
The back section of the guide features quick-reference material, detailing all of the game’s enemies and how to deal with them, weapon and vehicle statistics, information on how to acquire the game’s many Commendations and Medals as well as a summary of all the available Achievements and how to unlock them. This information is very handy to be able to refer to at a glance.
There’s also a page devoted to locating the hidden “Data Pads,” which reveal more about the deeply-buried backstory of the Halo series. This is the only disappointing part of the guide, as it could have easily been incorporated into the Campaign section. Instead, it is relegated to a single page at the very back of the book, and doesn’t even tell you exactly where to find them. Rather, it tells you the mission and difficulty on which the Data Pad can be found, and offers an obtuse cryptic clue to follow. Since the Data Pads are already hidden considerably off the beaten track, a little more help finding them would have been nice. But since locating all the Data Pads doesn’t actually unlock any rewards in the game besides a deeper knowledge of Halo lore, it’s a relatively minor issue.
The Halo: Reach Signature Series Guide is, Data Pads notwithstanding, a perfect example of how to put together a staggeringly comprehensive strategy guide for a deep and complex game. Gamers will still need to practice their skills to support the information in the guide, but learning the layout of the levels, locations of weapons and strategies for staying out of trouble in a wide variety of perilous situations will help anyone take their Reach skills to the next level.
The comprehensive, all-encompassing scope of the Halo: Reach Signature Series Guide earns it a well-deserved 5/5.