Halo: Reach

Bungie | Xbox 360

Without the familiar characters (Master Chief, for example), an over-polished feel, and endlessly trying to live up to the cultural impact of the originals, this installment in the series could be called Halo: The Phantom Menace. Don’t let that deter you though. An amazing space battle breaks up the campaign combat and the cities bring a diversity that we haven’t seen in recent Halo installments. Even the returning baddies seem revamped with better accuracy and thicker skin. The action has a rather disappointing ending, but the epilogue easily ranks as one of the most poignant battles and cinematics in the last few years. However, while The Phantom Menace failed with Jar Jar Binks, Reach excels with multiplayer. There’s local and Xbox Live four-player co-op for the campaign, firefight mode, and matchmaking where you can design your own battleground or jump into four- to 16-player team-objective or deathmatch matches. A rotating lineup of challenges ensures that you’ll always have a reason to earn more credits, which you can use to customize your character. There are a few dings in this Spartan’s armor, but the campaign is solid, the multiplayer could dethrone Modern Warfare 2, and, hell, it doesn’t have any Gungans.