They're all dead. Everybody is dead. Everybody dies. Reach is glassed by the Covenant in August 2252. But maybe Team Noble, the pack of scrappy Spartans who star in Halo: Reach, manage to find a way to survive for future sequels. Everybody else dies, though. Dead. Dead. Dead.
Maybe I'm not making myself clear enough: Reach will definitely have an unhappy ending. But it also has quite an unhappy beginning, as Team Noble gets dispatched to find out why a farm's communications (and also the USMC force sent to investigate) has gone down. We all know why, of course - it's the Covenant. They're all on Reach and they're going to murder everybody - but on the plus side, this sets up an intriguing narrative situation where the player is far more aware of what's going on than the characters. "Don't look around that corner," you might wish you could say, "because you'll get totally murdered by an Elite."
It sounds like the perfect setup for a horror film, and Bungie embellishes the fact by setting the first level in a spooky farm that is completely desolate - other than the occasional Moah, a deer-like indigenous life form that is probably delicious. The scene is drenched in ominous mist, cut-off from the rest of society by deep, rolling valleys and shockingly bad signal. It's all a bit rural, actually, with hay bales, stony paths, pitchforks, rolling fields of green, green grass and steel-framed farm buildings. If the weather conditions were better you could probably harvest a good crop here. Bit of a shame about that Covenant swarm just about to destroy the planet, though.
So, yes, you look about a bit - around a few circular walkways overlooking a cliff, through some sandbag storage buildings and probably in some bushes - but nobody can be found. Nobody apart from a USMC trooper who's been brutally murdered and left in a nasty pose. Ouch. What could have done that? Oh, yes, it's the Covenant isn't it? Silly me.
Some decent scripting and music, the latter thankfully a far cry away from the riff-heavy guitar wailing that played over the E3 demo, competently handles the rising tension. We get to run into some civilians, feebly hiding away in a building and speaking in crazed gibberish. It's the first time in the series Bungie has been really able to flaunt the sheer size of their Spartan super-soldiers, and seeing the armour-clad, genetically-engineered monstrosities tower above regular people emphasises just how much killing you're going to do as soon as the Covenant show up.
You take on the role of Noble 6. This is your character's first mission with Noble Team, so it's a case of some on-the-job learning of your teammates. Here's the skinny: Carter's the boss; Kat is the woman; Jun is the sniper; Emile is probably going to die first; and Jorge is both a SPARTAN-II (which means he's cut from genetically superior cloth, like Master Chief) and probably a bit of a psycho. We can probably save the rest of the getting-to-know-you stuff for the SPARTAN Christmas party, to be honest.