Halo Reach on PC: Steam release is cathartic, Bungie-flavoured comfort food

It’s 2019, and last night I played a round of Team SWAT on PC.

Sorry, I just had to get that out of the way to help me parse the unreality of this situation. Reach has fallen onto the mouse and keyboard platform for the first time thanks to Microsoft’s port of The Master Chief Collection, which is being released in chronological order, cataloguing the story of Halo from Reach all the way through to Halo 4.

This first entry in an ensemble of genre-defining shooters is a strong point to start.

Reach marked a moment when Bungie decided that it had long figured out the mechanical systems to make a strong shooter, but the narrative needed some finesse to divulge from the conformity of the mainline series.

Halo has always had high stakes blockbuster campaigns, but after three games and a delicious experiment in ODST, it was time to do something bold with the world they’d created and scratch the itch they developed exploring New Mombasa.

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I spent the night playing the campaign through with a friend, and it felt like such cathartic comfort food.

There’s never really been a co-op campaign shooter that feels as good as Halo since Halo.

We started at 10:30 PM and if we hadn’t happened to glance at the time some three hours later, we would have probably played through the entire thing in one sitting.

It was such a magnificent trance, like I was teleported back to my youth and into the loving arms of a different style of game to what I’m now very used to.

Halo Reach isn’t bloated for the sake of it like many modern shooters – it simply delivers a terse campaign brimming with set pieces and dominated by impeccable gunplay.

As far as the PC port is concerned, it’s hard to complain.

I only entered the settings to switch back to Halo 3 controls, but as far as graphics go it retains its charms and slides comfortably into the modern milieu.

You can flick between ‘Original’ and ‘Enhanced’ graphics depending on the strength of the lenses in your rose-tinted glasses.

My return to Reach made for quite the magical evening. We sat and marvelled at the lush skybox in Tip of the Spear and reminisced about the long nights we’d spent playing Reach as kids.

I stopped at one point in the second mission to note that this was where 15-year-old me had decided to go to bed after returning from the midnight launch many moons ago.

The fall of Reach felt like a pilgrimage in my early teens and a key moment where shooter games started to grow up alongside me. Playing it some ten years later, its unique approach still has the power to startle.

It’s a story that takes the spotlight off of its great green mascot and shines it on the unknown soldiers, the brave, diverse group of heroes who enabled the greater victory.

In 2010, Halo Reach was brave enough to tell an abrasive story where the good guys and the players themselves don’t receive a happy ending.

It didn’t have all the answers for its own questions about grief and loss. Instead, it wallowed in the bittersweet partition beyond victory, where all you’re left with is the ability to dwell on the anguish it took to get there.

Its sentiments certainly still resonate now and thanks to the uncompromising nature of this port, a new generation will get to internalise them too.

If you’ve already spent precious hours trying to desperately hold off the Sangheili, beating against the overwhelming current of Covenant to coax a survival story out of the cutting finality of Bungie’s best, then I certainly won’t have to work too hard to convince you to pick this port up.

Yet, if you’re yet to experience one of the finest franchises in shooter history, there couldn’t be a better time to join Noble Six and kickstart a six-game odyssey that you won’t soon forget.

343’s Reach renaissance is a nostalgic tour de force, from the campaign to the wave-defending Firefight mode and the addicting multiplayer in between.

TL;DR? This is a very, very good PC release – and a strong start for Halo's gradual Steam arrival.

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