What this does, though, is allow Reach to reassume that oh-so-familiar Halo mould. But because that formula is so regimentally established, and Reach's demise such a guaranteed certainty, Bungie is left with few opportunities to add characters and rewrite a list of features that would dramatically advance the narrative and action beyond previous games.
Where the game excels from former titles in the series is in its unremitting tide of embellishments, regarding both design and function, which stops Reach from falling down some familiar pitfalls. Over the course of the game's nine levels, there are no recognisable instances of cut-and-paste corridor design, no excessively long sprawls through regurgitated mission objectives and no lengthy backtracks through previous landscapes. The significance this has upon the overall campaign is huge.
When it comes to the process of riddling your foes with bullets, the most noticeable feature to the game comes in the form of Armour Abilities, which function like the Arbiter's cloaking in Halo 2 - represented on-screen as a circle that must be recharged in-between uses. These can be swapped out with others when found in single-player, and allow you to do things like sprint, use a jetpack, drop a shield or generate a hologram. The system works a lot better than Halo 3's slightly cumbersome equipment.
The weapons, too, have all been tweaked and balanced to create the most consistent loadout yet, including a new Covenant needle rifle (get a few hits in quick succession and they'll explode) and UNSC target locator (locks onto tanks, then blows them up) alongside familiar pistols, machine guns and assault rifles.
The real star of the show is unquestionably planet Reach itself, the game packed to the rafters with gorgeous sweeping shots of a tumbling, cracking and dying planet on its very last legs. Take the ice-tipped peaks of one vignette, complete with deep green skies and crisp blue surfaces, or the one that follows a few hours later when the sky (now a regular blue) is intertwined with rippling waves of enemy Banshees.
The first half of the game is essentially a tour of the planet's primary industries - farming, mining, hydroelectric plants and so forth. These rather drab areas are, of course, livened up a bit by the unwinding realisation of the Covenant armada's surprise attack. This is the Covenant as they used to be: mean, cruel and without any bits where you learn about their culture or jump on a chair and punch someone to death.
An interjection halfway through the game takes you through Reach's atmosphere and into a Covenant frigate - the game's only opportunity to have you explore anything non-human in the game. To do this, you pilot a Sabre spaceship and take to dogfighting in the stars in a surprisingly adept sequence that puts many dedicated flight games to shame.