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Pixel-popping scale: 8.5 out of 10. Plunged into a pretty world that’s part Pandora, part national park and part Disney future world, the player has little time to admire his locations as he is mired in vintage Halo combat.

Gritty cut scenes along with those nonstop firefights help the story play out. This Halo epic looks and sounds great and maintains the traditions and minutia of the franchise, down to the detail afforded to energy swords and a fallen Jackal’s bony noggin, all brought to life in high definition.

Multiplayer: At the heart of Halo Reach is a deep multiplayer experience highlighted through Xbox Live. Among the possibilities, the community of combat-savvy virtual veterans can compete on teams of up to eight Spartans and Elites, and the Firefight mode seen in Halo 3: O.D.S.T. is expanded.

Specifically, multiplayer action includes load-out customization, better matchmaking and the ability to view an active roster of friends playing the game as well as more game types, such as Rocketfight (a Spartan team survives with help from an unlimited amount of rocket launchers) and Gruntpocalypse (waves of those mumbling, pint-sized death machines attack).

The game also includes a robust map and object editor found in Forge World to enable a Haloite to build and share his multiplayer creativity.

Unlockables and extras: The limited edition of Halo Reach arrives in a black box recovered from a classified Oni facility. Besides the game, the box holds Dr. Catherine Halsey’s personnel journal, which provides about 100 pages of handwritten, classified information and sketches about the origins and development of the Spartan project.

Additional content found in the journal sleeve includes Halsey’s security badge, Spartan candidate health records, maps, photos, a UNSC cloth patch, blueprints and clipped news articles.

This book covers entries from the years 2510 to 2552 and allows the mere gamer to transcend the first-person shooting and truly feel privy to the Halo mythology. I ended up spending a couple of hours just reading Halsey’s notes and analyzing the materials before even bothering to play the game.

I also should mention that a code for an exclusive helmet for the Spartan is included.

Furthermore, turn on the game and download Halo Waypoint to find another incredible resource about the sci-fi universe, including lots of videos and a personalized history of the player’s accomplishments during all of the Halo games.

What’s it worth? Die-hard fans of the Spartans will not be disappointed with the expansive limited-edition package. With a careful allegiance to story canon during the campaign (I wish it were longer), near limitless multiplayer potential and a map-enhancing extravaganza, Halo Reach defines the immersive experience that this pop-culture franchise richly deserves and acts as a fitting swan song for its developer.

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