Halo: Combat Evolved
Review by jenovasreunion
"Halo is the polished and collected elements of the world's greatest FPSs."
Halo has been delayed and delayed again, only to meet with further delays after Microsoft bought the once Mac-only Bungie Studios. After 'joining with the enemy' in a sense, Bungie made Halo an Xbox exclusive (at the time) and upped the graphics and control antes for modern console gaming. Now that Halo has arrived almost every Xbox owner has the game and is rabidly awaiting the sequel. Halo has become the 2001 game of the year in many internet and magazine gaming circles and has been the single biggest force behind the Xbox's U.S. and European success. With the release of this mamoth title, the shooter genre has been polished to near perfection.
Halo's gameplay may be best summed up as pure fun. From the one-shot sniping action on ''The Truth and Reconciliation'' to the edge-of-your-seat shoot outs in ''Assault on the Control Room''. Few games in this genre have presented such magnifficent variety and polish. What keeps Halo from receaving a perfect score however is the fact that much of it's gameplay elements are mere derivatives of other games in the FPS genre. Vehicle usage can be traced to most WWII shooters, sniping is taken almost blatently from Half-Life and Counterstrike modulations, and the use of enemy weapons has been present since most any shooter since 1992. Although unorgiginal in it's roots, Halo never ceases to emulate and surpass the aformentioned titles in these departments. Halo is an awesome, if pasted and prettied title in it's entirety.
The story in Halo is fairly good, but a bit hard to follow. Keeping track of all the races of creatures and their involvment with Halo itself is tedious, and makes the game seem over-written. The BASIC premise however is that in the future the human race is at war with an alien race known as the Covenant who use more advanced technology and have taken a vested interest in the artificial ring structure known as Halo. The cyborg seen in all the previews is known simply as ''Masterchief'' and has superior strength and (depending on the player) superior smarts to the marines that serve under him. He is used to defend the human race he serves and stop the Covenant from capturing Halo for themselves. This may not seem too complicated to follow on paper, but once the various cut-scenes get under way and you have beaten the game, the player will most likely be confused about why certain events have taken place and why he/she is fighting all of the different alien races. Halo's plot can be intriguing, but is a bit overcooked.
In the graphics and sound department Halo shines except for a few nit picks that the player will gradually notice upon repeated play. Graphically the game is like none other. Trees blanket planetary terain, water ripples and glistens in swamps, and ice cracks and depresses when run over. In an interesting twist, the game actually looks better when the player gets closer to an object due to the heavy bump-mapping put on the enviornments. An area where Halo seems to take a real hit however, is in the character models. The Masterchief and all of his marines seem blocky and unupdated from the PC structure the game was adapted from. With that small complaint aside, the sound is absolutely amazing. Full Dolby Digital 5.1 is supported and easily recognized by anyone with a good sound set up. With speakers all around the player, the direction from which the enemies approach can actually be heard and reacted to. The sound effects don't slouch either in that they are crisp, and unique to each enemy and terain they come from. Overall Halo is superb (although slightly flawed) in Graphics and especially sound.
On easy mode, Halo is usually about a 15-17 hour game. The game makes up for this short experience by adding loads of replayability in the increased enemy AI and increased friendly AI. On a players' first time through they may simply blast most enemies without much effort or thought. However, on hard and the infamous legendary modes enemies will make the Masterchief stop and rethink rushing in with guns blazing. Things like coversion and movement trickery play big roles in beating the later difficulties. Overall Halo's play time is short, but the replayability makes it shine like no other shooter before it.
Halo is very much the game to own no matter what a shooter fan has played. Despite being cut, pasted, and polished from just about every name-brand shooter on the PC or current consoles, Halo delivers an experience not gained by any shooter alone. It's story borders on overwhelming, but will deliver to most Half-Life or Scifi fantasy fans. Graphically and sound-wise Halo sticks a plasma grenade to all other shooters before it and lets out a brillant explosion of endless enviornments and beautiful surround sound. This is a game people will play though once, and be obsessed to play through again and again due to amazing AI that keeps thinking and manipulating what most people would expect out of a computer opponent. Halo is pound-for-pound the best shooting game on the market today, period.
Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 11/24/02, Updated 11/24/02
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