Review by Mykas0
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When I purchased a second-hand version of this game, all I wanted was to understand what was the deal with the Halo series, what's so special about it that makes so many people interested in these games. This title surely has some interesting features, but is it worth all the hype? I don't believe so.
As soon as you start to play, you're allowed to create your own profile, which makes it possible for you to slightly personalize the game. Using such an option, you can set different difficulty modes for everyone (useful if many people in your household want to play the game), set different controls or change the way your character looks like, a change that is only effective on multiplayer games.
After accomplishing such a basic task, you'll probably start by playing the story mode, accessible by clicking the main menu's first option. Doing so is generally a good idea, since you're told how to play the game and filled on many of its unusual features, but this is exactly where the first of the game's problems makes itself quite visible no matter if you're controlling a vehicle or Master Chief (the game's hero) himself, the default controls are rather unusual and turn out being hard to get used to. One could point at the ability to customize them as a possible solution, but it is also hard to change it all to a more satisfying way, turning the customization of controls into an hard task by itself.
In fact, your first contact with this game is always a tricky one. As soon as you start playing, your spaceship is attacked and you're thrown right into action, without any time for introductions, and with new controls being introduced the first time you need them. While many other games start like this, here you get to know absolutely nothing about Master Chief, and this lack of information on the main character makes it impossible for players to connect with the person they're controlling. No matter if you're walking around or fighting aliens, you'll feel like you're just playing as a random hero who needs to shoot at everything that moves, and nothing else. The game's storyline is what most suffers with this problem, and while you will probably be too addicted to the gameplay to realize it, when you stop playing you'll feel absolutely no appeal to head back to this game's story mode.
While the level design is way too repetitive, gameplay is generally well designed and playing the game turns out being an enjoyable experience. You're usually taken across a path set in stone, but there are also a few places where you're allowed to give more use to your imagination, such as stealing enemy vehicles or, more often, just their weapons. In fact, this unusual feature plays an important role in the game - you'll hardly ever come across ammunition for your initial weapons, and so you're advised to take weapons that friends or foes dropped and use them as your own, which later allows you to gain access to some of the game's best weapons.
Unfortunately, unlike what happens in Marathon, another interesting game created by Bungie, this title turns out being too predictable in its content, with the tasks you're given being generally limited to reaching particular places while shooting at hundreds of enemies and recovering their weapons. Once in a while, you get access to a few vehicles, but their usage is rather limited and you're constantly told up to where you're allowed to take them, preventing you from actually setting your own rules, which would have been nice.
Since technology plays an important role in this game, it is interesting to see the way it all works. Your main character, for example, is protected by an invisible (and regenerating) shield, and only after such a shield is heavily damaged is that your character will lose part of his health, which can later be restored by picking health kits. This last part doesn't sound very realistic, but at least weapons allow you to easily check how much ammo you have left, or how many shots you can make before overheating them. It all depends on what weapon on pick, and what functions it has.
Despite its many flaws, Halo's main appeal is supposedly its Multiplayer mode. Either if you're going online or facing opponents in a local area network, up to 16 different players can join the action, and there are plenty of multiplayer modes to enjoy. So, this maybe be where you'll be spending most of your time.
At first, your contact with the multiplayer modes (more specially, the internet one) may be a shocking one. There's no way to check how skilled some players are, and your first tries at such a feature may end up in sheer frustration when you're getting hit by grenades even before noticing that you had started to play. More often than not, you'll have to enter a certain match just to check how skilled the players are, and this makes it way harder for new players, since they'll be constantly facing opponents which are a lot stronger than them.
Provided you can stand such an issue, you should give a look to the many multiplayer options available. Some of them may be more fitting to your gameplay style than others, and while some of these simply make you to kill members of an opponent team, there's also Capture the Flag and King of the Hill, along some other less usual ones, such as Race, where you simply have to win the stated event.
Apart from a large number of different multiplayer modes, this game also contains many maps, most of which are perfectly fit for the multitude of multiplayer options here available. There are even weapons exclusive to this mode, such as the Flame Thrower, which is an interesting surprise. All these add to the game's replay value, and while the storyline isn't that impressive, I'm sure you'll be spending a long time in huge online battles.
Provided you have a powerful processor and a good 3D Card, your eyes will be delighted with the beauty that this game has to offer, and I must admit that this port has nothing to envy to the original Xbox version. Everything is perfectly drawn, from the enemy weapons up to the FPS interface itself, there are absolutely no graphical glitches and special effects could be easily confused with those of Hollywood action films, which says a lot about their quality.
Another of this game's technical points, its sound, is equally good. I found the Gregorian chants heard in the main menu great, but so are the many other themes heard during the game. From the simply cry of blowing grenades up to the dying words of your enemies, the Covenant, everything appears to be exactly where it is supposed to, and you'll never feel like you're hearing unfitting noises.
In the end, I must admit that this game's biggest appeal is surely its multiplayer mode. Provided you can stand the harsh learning curve that initially separates newbies from more skilled players, such a mode is an happy pleasure that may last for months, even if the Campaign mode, where the story is imbued, provides little pleasure. Obviously, it may be a good idea to stay away from this title if you're not going to take advantage of its multiplayer functions, and if that's your case there are many other PC games that better fit your needs.
Rating: 3.5 - Good
Product Release: Halo: Combat Evolved (EU, 10/10/03)
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