Reach is Broken

“Halo: Reach” is seriously a great game. It brings the franchise so close to perfection that it’s almost scary, precisely shaving away every extraneous inch of fat and building up the core of what already worked. Bungie’s passion for online ranking has finally been checked against the need to positively reinforce its community, weapon balance is so sharp that even the freaking shotgun is useful, matchmaking playlists let you cut right to the heart of the experience you want to have, and the Armor Abilities keep everything from going stale. And the Warthog still loves to fishtail, God bless it.

And yet, the damned thing is broken.

I’ve been playing “Halo” since the original, and I have never seen any entry in the series struggle so mightily to keep the games running smoothly. At least every fifth or sixth match is interrupted by an infuriating, mandatory score screen; sometimes Bungie even wipes out your score for a second before restoring it, just to mess with your head. When the game re-boots, you’re standing in a completely new location, that headshot you just nailed didn’t count, and then you get assassinated by a twelve year old who humps your face. On rare occasions, I’ve even had the server kick the whole game back to lobby with no explanation, voiding our points like it was somehow our fault.

How does this happen? How can they come so close to their masterpiece and fumble on such a basic thing? How does Michelangelo get up on the scaffold to paint the Sistine Chapel and then realize he left the brushes in his other pants? “Halo 2″ ran better than this, and that was three games ago! Is this really the thing that’s going to bring the ultimate “Halo” experience to its knees? Say it ain’t so, Bungie!

Also, your new policy on quitters does not work. Please re-read that: DOES. NOT. WORK. You had them more or less under control in “Halo 3,” because you turned into ball-busters. I liked it, I liked your hard-nosed, “go screw yourself don’t quit the damned game” attitude. Power out, you say? Bad connection? La La La La, you weren’t listening. And damned right, because with a player count that low (cough raise it please cough), every quitter hurts.

So why the wussing out? What is this double-secret probation crap you’re trying to scare me with? If I quit four games in a row, you’ll ban me from matchmaking for…wait for it…thirty minutes. Thirty ENTIRE minutes? You monsters, that’s an eternity! Seriously, though, you pussied out, and now no one is afraid of you. Every single time I start to really get my opponents over a barrel, some whiny little brat slips out the back door and my victory is slightly less sweet. I don’t want to conquer an enemy with one hand tied behind his back! Maybe if you had listened to me and UPPED THE PLAYER COUNT this would not be a problem.

So fix these problems, Bungie, because I’m sick of not technically being able to call “Reach” your crowning achievement. You’ve come too far and gotten too close to screw the pooch now. Also, up the player count. Up it. “Battlefield: Bad Company 2″ is making you look like a chump.