Halo: Reach is a game that launched with a lot of issues. Bloom, armor abilities and lackluster competitive maps really hurt the game. The launch settings Reach provided were in fact a bit of a prelude for what would be a horrible stretch for the series.
Coming off of Halo 3, which is one of the best multiplayer games ever made, Reach was an initial disappointment. But after a lot of tweaks, Reach became a great multiplayer game. Reach will never be able to live up to the best Halo games, but it’s the best multiplayer the series provided this decade and a worthy entry into the series.
There are two “variants” of Reach multiplayer that are standard for the game today. The Title Update (TU) version and Zero Bloom No Sprint (ZBNS). The Title Update variant made a lot of changes, but the most important aspect was it decreased “bloom” to 85% of its original effect.
If you don’t know, bloom is a truly awful system that was added to Halo multiplayer for the first, and thankfully, last time. Essentially, the more you shoot your weapon, the less accurate your shots become. There is a “bloom”‘effect on your weapon that basically expands the recoil of the gun. If you shoot your gun fast enough, it basically becomes impossible to accurately hit anyone. It considerably lowered the skill gap of the game, and made any gun skill come down to luck.
What Title Update did was decrease the effect to 85% of the original effect. Bloom was still there, but it wasn’t as severe. It made shooting precision weapons a lot easier and less random. It wasn’t perfect and bloom was still an issue, but it improved the game dramatically.
Title Update Reach has fundamental issues, but it’s still a fun game. It still has sprint, and armor abilities, but I find them to be more minor annoyances than anything truly game breaking.
The ZBNS variant of Reach is where the game goes from a fun Halo game to a nearly great Halo game. ZBNS does exactly what it says it does, it completely removes bloom and sprint. You are free to shoot as fast as you want with no random recoil effect to throw you off. There is also no sprint so enemies can’t just run away if they make bad decisions. ZBNS sprint at a fundamental level is great Halo.
In fact, I think the core gameplay of Reach for ZBNS is so solid that I think it arguably rivals Halo 2 and Halo 3. The gunplay feels incredibly good in the ZBNS variant, and to this day I think it rivals any Halo game just in terms of feel.
Where Reach falters is the map selection. Reach has a lot of good maps like Countdown, Zealot, and a few good forge maps. But the multiplayer map suite is so weak compared to the games that came before it. There’s just not a lot of great map design in this game. Forge brought a lot of cool maps, but it felt like Bungie relied on Forge so they didn’t have to make a lot of maps.
After spending some time with Reach over the past few days after it’s release on Xbox One, I can look back fondly at what the game was. It’s not perfect, and it has a lot of flaws. But in the right circumstances, with the right settings, it’s an incredibly solid Halo experience.