Review by Braben

"Insultingly unoriginal and almost uniformly mediocre, but also a lot of fun."

I am still trying to figure out what`s with this worldwide phenomenon because, simply put, Halo doesn`t have a single quality to rise it above any other first person shooter out there save for the fun factor, however, nobody talks about how fun it is but what unbelievable piece of software it is in general.

That is not to say this is a bad title by any meaning of the word, but it is far from being the next great thing it has been said to be and it is extremely hard for me to imagine veteran PC gamers getting exited with something like this. Taken as a whole, for a PC first person shooter Halo is hardly an evolution.

What starts out like a cool Half-Life rip-off quickly degenerates into an impenetrable amalgamation of silly B-movie one-liners, random cut-scenes without any purpose whatsoever and plot twists nobody cares about because we have already seen them before and in the end have little to no effect in the game`s development.

The environments are extremely solid, there is hardly any glitches and the textures are incredible. Normally, no matter how good the graphics are, if you get close to a wall the pixels become huge, here the structures look better from a close range.

The bad note is the emptiness of the scenarios and the terrible enemies, nowhere near as well designed as the rest of game in any way. The enemies look specially lame, nobody appears to have put much effort into this (highly) important aspect of the game, sure they look pretty cool at first, but if we get close to them the good impression evaporates.

Halo features an awesome and awesomely wasted soundtrack. When there is some, it kicks major butt, the problem is that there are about two minutes of music for each hour of gameplay. The voice acting is fantastic in case you are interested.

Again, Halo`s noisy Half-Life-esque first hour of gameplay isn`t an indicative of what`s to come, once we land on that green planet the game goes drastically downhill. Sometimes there are moments that seem to indicate things are going to become cool again, but the impression quickly fades.

The final result is a very fun but utterly unbalanced experience with several inexcusable shortcomings that, while not enough to ruin the entire game, keep if from being the revolution it aims to be.

One of the most fatal flaws is the alarming lack of variety when it comes to absolutely everything: weapons, enemies, scenarios, mission objectives, etc, etc, etc, Halo is easily one of the most repetitive FPSs since Doom and its dreadful yet beloved sequel. We have to replay and spend too much time in the same areas and the variety of scenarios isn`t very wide to begin with, which doubles the amount of repetition, and that is just the beginning, we have yet to add the ridiculous and ludicrous bunch of enemies and even less artillery. Do the math, the amount of repetition gets enhanced by four if I am not wrong.

There is some kind of twists at the middle of the game which introduces a couple of new enemies and a shotgun (wow, a shotgun, I didn`t see it coming), but by the time they arrive it is already too late and the stages keep repeating themselves anyway.

As I said before, the enemies are a joke, when I first saw those laughable gnomes with silly voices wielding plasma guns I though it was some kind of bug of something, and I swear I felt bad for killing them, they looked like the signature cute creature from an anime not the enemy of a furious action title about an alien invasion. The rest of them are not any better either, just some type of lizards with energy shields and futuristic pistols. The new enemies that appear later look a lot better but still nothing very impressive. In short the game doesn`t have a recognizable and charismatic evil race of aliens destined to become all-time classics like the magnificent Zerg from StarCraft of even Half-Life, whose creatures and those marines with gas masks had a very distinctive look you immediately relate to no other title, although it must be said that Master Chief`s armor is admittedly neat looking.

The world of Halo isn`t very interesting either, it doesn`t have anything that makes it stand out of the crowd and, again, the repetitive environments and enemies only enhance the problem. The worst part is that they aren`t just a bit repetitive, as I said before it is Doom-like repetition, sometimes it is like ``haven`t been here before, say, five times?``, it is not that the scenarios look similar, we have to pass through the same corridors (which are actually different ones) so many times sometimes you`ll constantly wonder if you are on the right track.

So, the much-lauded design of the game leaves a lot to be desired.

Our arsenal of weapons is one of the worst I have seen in one of these games and I guess I don`t exaggerate when I say there is only one weapon, ok two weapons in the whole game. Sure, this is not strictly true, but who cares if there are another two or three (many huh!?) when we are going to use that God-damn machine gun about 90% of the time we are going to spend playing?, oh and do not bother to aim to the head here the bullet hit detection system is remarkable for its absence.

To my surprise, the drivable vehicles is a very cool feature and the controls are superb. I usually don`t like vehicles in these type of games, don`t know exactly why, but here some of the best parts come inside them, specially that Scorpion tank, that part is awesome.

The online mode is something Halo maniacs seem to be specially proud of, but since I never use to play games online I can`t say anything.

Ok then, except for the vehicles it`s been pure rant up this point, so, does it have something worth mentioning?, any praiseworthy qualities besides the fun factor?, why an final score of 8 then?, well, actually no, but the fun factor is not anything despicable but rather the contrary.

And I think the perfectly balanced difficulty and smooth gameplay has a lot to do with it. First of all we don`t have to worry about saving our game every two steps, every once in a while we`ll reach a checkpoint and we`ll continue from there if we die. This is THE saving system every worthy FPS should have because it adds great challenge and makes the gameplay much more enjoyable if the difficulty is well balanced, which is Halo`s case. It is simply amazing how an enjoyable gameplay overshadows the obscene amounts of repetition and utter lack of originality Halo has in spades, it is frustrating to see the same enemies and scenarios so many times, but it is so easy to play you just can`t stop doing it.

To make a long story short, Halo is not the holy grail of the first person shooters by any measure of the word, it is not a revolution and it is no Half-Life, let alone Goldeneye, it is just a repetitive, monotonous and wholly unoriginal FPS that, fortunately, is a lot more fun and three times longer than the vast majority of its competitors, which are the only reasons why it`s worth checking out.

If you really want a to see what a landmark FPS looks like skip this and try Star Trek Voyager: Elite Force.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 10/24/06

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