Review by emh465

"Major additions great, minor additions terrible"

Halo: Combat Evolved was the reason to buy an Xbox when it came out, and really always will be, perhaps with the exception of its sequel. One reason Halo 2 sells so well is that it supports online play, something that Halo 1 did not. But then Halo was released on the PC, bringing (nearly) all of the features that everybody loved from the Xbox version and adding a bunch of stuff. The only problem is certain things in the "added bunch of stuff" category make the game worse, but retained a lot of the good aspects from the Xbox.

In General – 8/10

The default control scheme for Halo had a few things that I would have changed about it, so I did. The controls are extremely customizable. If you want to change crouching to a key that isn't "Left Control," you can, and the menus make it easy. The only disadvantage for control schemes is the support for gamepads; on the Xbox version, there is autoaim so you can shoot your opponents better, but Halo PC lacks that. Either way, I prefer the mouse and keyboard to a gamepad any day, no matter how much autoaim.

Halo for the Xbox had weapons that were all pretty much equal, and were all pretty enjoyable weapons. In Campaign, no weapons were changed from the Xbox version and I have no complaints. In Multiplayer, where most of the changes happened, there are a few problems. The Fuel Rod Gun, a new addition, allows people to launch explosives in fast succession and requires very little skill to use, as does the Banshee, the flying/killing machine. The Pistol requires skill, but is still overpowered and someone who is good with it dominates the game. Otherwise, the weapons are well-made.

Halo's engine is made well if you're just playing the game. It isn't glitchy (more on that in the next paragraph); you can play the game without getting stuck in the ground, and it is also extremely smooth and natural. Walking isn't robotic, looking is fine, the animations when throwing grenades and reloading are pleasing. Though when driving a car in real life, you cannot see everything around your car, in Halo, you can, as the game switches to third-person, which is extremely nice and allows you to look at your character a little bit (before you get killed).

One thing that becomes fun after you beat the Single Player game and play some of the Multiplayer is to screw with the engine. There are an almost innumerable number of glitches found on various Halo websites that are fun to perform; to see if you can launch a car to the other side of the level, to try to fall through a wall, to try to get a tank where it isn't supposed to go. These are all entertaining to try, and, surprisingly, adds a huge amount of replay value to the game.

Single Player – 10/10

Retaining its near-perfection from the Xbox version is Campaign, now known as Single Player. Nothing was drastically changed about it from the Xbox version with the exception of two-player Campaign. The game starts a bit slowly, but once you start playing through it, even just for the storyline, it's great. It features a rather straightforward sci-fi story until a gripping plot twist which kept me up another two hours past when I intended to go to bed, just so I could beat it.

Here is the basic story, without giving away the thing that will keep you up for two hours past when you intend to go to bed. The humans have been losing a war against a hostile (but colorful) alien race known as the Covenant in the year 2552, a time far in the future for those of you without knowledge of what year it is. The humans have machine guns, the Covenant have giant exploding laser beams that can destroy a planet, which has already happened to a planet of the humans, called Reach.

But the humans have something up their sleeves. They've got this genetically modified supersoldier known as Master Chief, who you play through the game. He's got this energy-powered bullet proof armor that makes him much more powerful, and he's been trained to be a wonderful military combatant. The Master Chief sits in a cryogenic tube inside a human spaceship, called The Pillar of Autumn.

The Pillar of Autumn, while escaping from a Covenant ship, stumbled upon a strange world, not a planet, but a ring world. This ring world, called Halo (hence the game's creative title), is like a ring, but on the inside is terrain, filled with tall mountains, wide plains, deserts, oceans, and anything you'd find on Earth before the human race turned it into one giant casino. The Pillar of Autumn decides to land there after the Covenant spot them, and that's where your game starts.

Multiplayer – 8/10

Multiplayer is fun to play because you can kill people you do or do not know. The major disadvantage is that there is a terrible netcode (see Performance section). This means that you can't hit your enemies by pointing the gun at them and shooting, no matter how accurate the gun is. You have to aim in front of them, because the programming was done so badly. A good (and more fun) remedy of this is to bring all your friends over and have a LAN party where you hook up a number of computers. There are no online latency problems there and it's just more fun anyway.

Though Campaign had no major changes from the Xbox version, Halo PC has a number of new additions, some of which are good and some of which I could easily live without. Halo PC's multiplayer features two new weapons, three new vehicles (two of which were always in Campaign) and six new maps. I will discuss these additions and how fun they are later.

The addition of online to Halo was useful, even if they didn't add anything to the weapons or levels. All of the old weapons are still fun to use, and you can only have two. My favorite combinations are the Pistol + Shotgun and Pistol + Sniper Rifle, but other people have different preferences, and it's fun to pick them. The only disadvantage here is, the Pistol is easily the best weapon in the hands of a master; someone who's good with just a Pistol against three people who are good with all of the other weapons will probably be beaten by the wielder of the Pistol. Still, it doesn't take much away from the gameplay.

The additions of the new weapons, vehicles, and maps are a mix of good and "I want to kill this." One of the new weapons, the Flamethrower, is useless in any level that is popular and extremely cheap in any where it is useful. The other new weapon, the Fuel Rod Gun, is the cheapest weapon you can use in the whole game. So both of the new weapons are flops.

The new vehicles include a new version of the car, a plane, and a turret. Only the first one is new to the game entirely; those familiar with Campaign will recognize the other two. The new car is fine; it's extremely powerful but has enough weaknesses. The turret is, more or less, something you can use to hide behind. It isn't useful for anything but that. The plane, called the Banshee, is probably the most annoying thing in the whole game and allows people with no skill to win. I don't know if there are better words to describe it, quite honestly.

The six new maps are the only things that aren't annoying and really can't be. Some of them are more fun to play than others, but some are not. My personal favorites of the additions are Ice Fields and Gephyrophobia, though the latter has the hardest name to spell of any video game level I've ever seen. The other four are fine, not wonderful but not awful either.

All in all, I could've done without all of the additions they made to multiplayer, but it's worth it if I can play online.

Performance – 2/10

Because this is a PC game, it needs to run on a variety of different computers with varying graphics cards. Other popular and more graphically demanding PC games, such as Battlefield or Half-Life 2, run better on my computer's bad graphics card than Halo does, probably because the graphics are coded for the Xbox and are not optimized for graphics cards that are any different. This is still a problem and leaves many people looking at Master Chiefs that only come in one color, have no visors, and everything looks like it was alive but has been dead for at least a decade.

Most people who prefer Halo PC over Halo Xbox like it for its online support, but not many people like its online support. One can get used to aiming leagues in front of other people when you need to hit them, but it becomes frustratingly difficult when using precision weapons such as the Sniper Rifle, because you have to shoot at least twice before you can hit somebody unless you've practiced using it with online latency for hours on end.

Overall – 8/10

Overall, I'd say this game is one you should buy if you have a good enough internet connection to play online. Even if you don't, the single-player Campaign is fun enough for the money.


Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 07/31/06


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