Review by Pyro Vesten

"As a PC first person shooter, Halo is a fantastic, entertaining and enjoyable experience well worth having."

It’s been a long time coming, but Halo has finally landed on PC. Most of us are aware that Halo was originally intended to debut on PC (Mac included), however somewhere along the way, perhaps after themselves experiencing the wonder of early Halo builds, Microsoft passed a small financial incentive in the direction of the game’s developer, Bungie and for a good two years Halo was exclusively enjoyable on Xbox.

Halo launched with the Xbox and was recognised as not only being one of the strongest launch titles of any of the current consoles, but far and away one of best console first person shooters of all time. The question now is how does Halo stack up as a PC first person shooter, and at the ripe old age of two, does Halo still pack the same punch? The same power to wow and impress us in terms of gameplay and graphics, or are the PC first person shooters of the present just a few steps ahead of the old dog? Read on.

Owning Halo on Xbox and having played through it multiple times already, I was certainly not planning on buying the PC version for the minor changes and additions, along with its online multiplayer. After having time enough to sit down and play though Halo on PC I can safely say I’m not missing out on a whole lot in avoiding it. Of course it wouldn’t be fair to mark the game down because of the fact I’ve played another version, so from here on in it’s all purely about Halo.

Upon starting a new game, players will be treated to a well composed (and well executed) cut scene, setting the mood and filling them in on the first sketchy details of what’s going on and why it’s up to you, Master Chief to help... well... as clichéd as it may be, save the universe. From this point you’ll find Halo straying from the usual conventions of a first person shooter. Halo has a story, and as far as first person shooters go, it’s one of the best. However that isn’t necessarily saying a lot, but Bungie definitely put a huge amount of effort into Halo’s script, and the telling of the story through various events and sequences which you will find yourself enjoying throughout the game.

Another feature of Halo helping separate it from the crowd is the fact that Master Chief can only carry a rather realistic number of weapons, two in fact. This adds a whole new element of strategy to the game. Players will often find themselves having to make tactical decisions on what weapons they should carry with them into the next step of the game to provide the greatest advantage. Bad weapon choices can have rather unpleasant results. This may sound limiting on paper, but in the game it works very well. I guess we’ll never have to wonder how or where Master Chief managed to carry 20+ guns while remaining as agile and quick on his feet as a hyperactive gymnast. *snap*

Missions are broken up into a bunch of sequential smaller sub-missions, usually all progressing towards a common goal at the end of a level. The game works on a number of checkpoints woven through each of the sub-missions. If you ever find yourself in a spot of bother you can revert to the last saved checkpoint, which will usually only be 5 or 10 minutes progress lost, at maximum. This method of play ensures that the game still remains quite fun to play even on harder settings where you’ll find yourself cold and limp numerous times in your attempts to make it to the next checkpoint in one piece. Generally speaking because of the close checkpoints, things shouldn’t get too frustrating, but then again it’s not going to be a cakewalk finishing the game on Hard or Legendary mode.

Halo’s levels are mammoth. Even by today’s standards they are frigging huge. The outdoor environments are delightfully modelled, fully of vibrant, rich colours and textures and are a joy to traverse. You will also find that you’re able to cover a lot of ground in not much time thanks to Halo’s Warthog, by far the best vehicle ever seen in a first person shooter. The Warthog is a rough, tough, beefy and powerful military style four-wheel-drive, with room for three, and packs a gun turret in the rear. This means you can pick up two fellow soldiers and have one firing rounds from his gun in the passenger seat, and the other kicking some major arse with the turret as you navigate through and around hills, trees, valleys, rivers, beaches, hallways…pretty much anywhere you can imagine. If the warthog will fit, Halo will let you take it there.

One of the best visual aspects of Halo is the delightful use of colours and lighting, most often associated with your alien opposition and their weaponry. Very pretty stuff indeed.

In addition to the awesome, awesome Warthog vehicle, later in the game you’ll find yourself behind the controls of the Banshee, which is fairly compact aircraft, designed with the sole purpose of destruction. It can be a bit tricky at first to really get the hang of controlling it, especially the weapon, but in time you’ll come to master its intricacies and be very thankful that it’s there to help.

My only real complaint as far as gameplay goes is that there is a little much repetition in some areas of the game. That is that you will find similar architecture over and over in some levels, which can become a bit bland and boring, and you’ll be repeatedly killing floods of the same enemies over and over in certain levels. This doesn’t detract hugely from gameplay as it rarely gets too repetitious, but a little more variety would have gone a long way.

I touched on the fact that you can only carry two weapons at a time previously, and as I mentioned deciding on the right combination of weapons can be a real toughie, not only tactically, but because there is such a great variety at your disposal. Your standard military issue stuff includes a 600 round assault rifle, pistol with 2x scope, sniper rifle, grenades (four of which can be carried in addition to two weapons) and even a rocket launcher *grin* Downed enemies will drop their alien weapons, which have been very well crafted, and being alien, they do actually function a lot differently to ‘our’ weapons. You’ve got a charge pistol that runs on battery, plasma grenades, the needler, which fires off purple spores that are attracted to heat and movement (see: enemies) and if enough spores get into a victim in quick succession they will combine their powers and detonate an explosion, more often than not putting an end to the miserable life of whoever they were fired at. Being able to use both human and alien weapons ads a very nice touch to the game, and is another of the reasons playing Halo is so enjoyable.

Halo is also an aural delight. Featuring an epic orchestral score that pushes the story along and provokes changes in mood, altering as events unfold around you. The music is brilliantly composed, and quite honestly I’d be surprised if Bungie haven’t at least thought about, if not released a Halo CD soundtrack. It’s great to hear an epic soundtrack to match the epic game and story of Halo, and it’s also a quite a pleasant departure from the standard techno/rock soundtracks we are so used to with shooters.

I do briefly have to say that playing Halo on PC over Xbox has one major advantage to me, and that is the controls. The ability to use a keyboard/mouse combination makes movement and aiming a hell of a lot more precise and one could argue that the greater level of control makes the PC version that little bit easier.

In terms of visuals, there is both good and bad news. The good news is that Halo has the ability to look absolutely fantastic, as jaw-droppingly delightful as it did two years ago on the Xbox, and even in much higher resolutions. The bad news however is that the game is a complete resource hog and has been quite poorly optimised to run on the PC (especially mid-to-lower end models). Rather ironic really considering it was once being developed primarily for the PC don’t ya think? So if you are hoping to have Halo running smoothly whilst kicking out super crisp, sharp and details textures and effects, and avoiding most of the slowdown that can occur during heated battles you are going to need an absolutely top of the line computer. If you’re one of those lucky people however, you’ll find that Halo looks and runs like a dream. One other, more minor letdown in the graphics department is the lack of customisable graphics options. You can change the resolution, texture levels, and turn particles and decals on or off, modify the refresh rate and enable vsync and that’s about it. Texture detail levels come in low, medium or high. That’s it. Everything else is low, high or on, off. The ability to really tweak the graphics would have been a nice feature that we really should be able to come to expect from PC games these days. Despite these minor annoyances though, Halo is still a delight for your eyes to really marvel upon.

Last of all we come to the one real positive aspect of Halo on the PC. The multiplayer. There are a bunch of new modes over the Xbox version, and obviously the ability to play online with up to 15 other players is quite the advantage indeed. Most of the multiplayer action is your usual fanfare, capture the flag and whatnot but it certainly adds plenty to the longevity of the game, which will take an average player a good 15+ hours to complete first time though if they’re playing on the normal difficulty setting.

I’m coming at this review from two angles. For a player who has yet to experience Halo, then by all means grab a copy as soon as you can. Halo is an epic game, pushing the limits in so many ways, and helping to strengthen and redefine the idea of what a first person shooter should be. Halo for PC is some of the best money you will spend on a first person shooter and is a game not to be missed! Current owners of the Xbox version however will find little to no worth in the PC version of the game whatsoever. Sure there are a few new bells and whistles, and online multiplayer (including new modes) is nice, but for most of us Xbox owners those are the only advantages. Very few people will (at the present time) own a PC capable of running Halo in a way that is graphically superior to its Xbox counterpart.

For those Xbox owners who are feeling a little disappointed that Halo on PC isn’t worth forking out the cash for just for the extra multiplayer and online support… at least you can sleep tonight knowing that the Xbox is the only place you’ll find a co-op mode of play. Odds are Halo will still look and run a lot better on the old Xbox than most PC players will experience it for many moths to come too.

So if you’ve yet to experience the wonderful Halo, and you don’t own an Xbox I can’t stress enough how highly I recommend picking up a copy of Halo: Cobat Evolved ASAP. It’s a truly awesome experience, and one that won’t soon be forgotten. If however you own an Xbox then I might suggest weighing up the pros and cons of the two versions (taking into careful consideration the specifications of your PC) and making a choice between one of the two versions from there. Finally, if you already own Halo on Xbox I’d recommend you stick to the Xbox version and/or give the PC version a rent/borrow before laying out any big ones..unless you really feel that the multiplayer additions are worth the full price of admission.

The only thing keeping me from scoring Halo higher is horrible PC optimisation it suffers from. Anyone not running the latest, high-end beast of a computer is going to have real difficulty experiencing Halo in its most beautiful form.

9.4/10 (Rounded to 9/10 for GameFAQs)

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 10/28/03

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