The biggest change for me was Covenant themselves. While most of the characters are familiar, Bungie has given them less of a human personality and more of a visceral animal like feel. This time we are unable to understand the Covenant language; Grunts no longer make wise cracks, Elites no longer call you out, and Brutes don’t warn you of an incoming charge. Instead growls, grunts, and roars are in the place of the familiar caricaturistic sound bites from Halo's past. It doesn’t end at the audio, the characters themselves look more “realistic” - there’s a distinct departure from the cartoony look the previous games have taken.
That being said, Bungie has borrowed a lot from it’s previous titles. Taking the best pieces of each game it’s easy to see the inspiration from Halo 1 all the way up to ODST. For instance, there’s a night vision mode that’s similar to the ODST's from the last game. There’s a mission that feels very much like that first time you set foot on Halo, there's a flying mission like that from Halo 2's banshee level, and there’s even a mission from the Halo Wars game. After a somewhat slow start the pacing really picks up as the story unfolds. This is bolstered with a variety of different styles of missions to play. Vehicles, sneaking, large battles, and space combat all keep you on your toes - you’ll never want to put the controller down.
There’s something charming about a prequel, especially for someone who’s followed a series as rich as Halo. Halo Reach doesn’t disappoint in this department either - many of your favorite character’s origins are revealed, and it's hard to not smile when you realize what’s unfolding before your eyes.
The space battle is a gorgeous diversion from some of the other missions
So what else is new, yet old in Halo Reach? Most of the weapons from the previous games have returned with plenty of new ones to boot. The DMR, a single shot battle rifle, is probably my favorite but there’s at least 4 new Covenant weapons in addition to some other unique equipment like a gun that lets you call in air strikes. The biggest change to your arsenal are armor abilities, these unique options get slotted into your Spartan and can be interchanged when found on the battlefield. Jetpacks, sprinting, bubble shields, invincibility, and a hologram all aid in your battle for survival. I’m a huge fan of the new bubble shield, it not only protects you, it’ll heal you and your team mates in the process.
Which brings me to co-op. It’s been a staple of the series since the beginning, now Bungie has wrapped up the last remaining “loose” ends. Co-Op matchmaking is finally a feature for the campaign, though I was unable to test it. According to PR it’s not getting “turned on” until launch day - so hopefully it doesn't disappoint. There’s also match making for the four player co-op Firefight mode, which in reality, behaves almost exactly like the versus mode’s play lists. You’ll choose Firefight and then be given a few variant game types that Bungie defines in which the players can vote on. In both of these modes you can mix and match local and online players as well as players from your party and friends list. Another nice feature is the queuing option which displays all of your friends that are playing in the main lobby and allows you to queue up to join their Halo Reach party upon completion of their next match - this works for all of the game modes.