home > review > archive > Halo
GamesFirst! Online since 1995

|| Get Prices

game: Halo
four star
posted by: GF! Back Catalogue 10/2004 => 1995
publisher: Microsoft
date posted: 12:00 AM Mon Nov 10th, 2003
last revision: 12:00 AM Mon Nov 10th, 2003

Unlimited Game Rentals Delivered - Free Trial

By Chris Galbraith

So I never played the Xbox version of Halo, but it was a game of which I was always aware and wanted to experience. My prior exposure to it was limited to playing it for 3 minutes on the Xbox at CompUSA (with the old bear-sized controllers), and reading about it on Penny Arcade , they aren't big fans of it all , and I wasn't either at first. I found the game to be choppy, poorly scripted, clunky, repetitive, and not very fun at all. However, I decided that I needed to give it a chance. I had talked to a lot of people who loved it on the Xbox and others who were looking forward to its release on the PC. I sit here writing this now smiling and very glad that I decided to spend some time getting to know this game because it ended up being one of the more entertaining and challenging shooters that I have played in quite some time (I would go so far as to call it my favorite since Half Life). It offers tactical challenges, extremely intelligent AI, multiple ways to attack a situation, and a decent if not earth-shattering storyline.

Let's start with the strengths of Halo. The game's subtitle is Combat Evolved,? and it definitely lives up to this. The game excels when the fighting is loud and insane. I loved running the Master Chief into a room full of Flood or Covenant, chucking a grenade into their midst and watching their nicely rag-dolled corpses fly back at me, then going to clean up the survivors with my shotgun. That is fun stuff. Halo is like this 95% of the time. I will get to the other 5% a bit later.

The game begins with a less than stellar intro movie that uses the game-engine graphics to introduce us to the back story. It has something to do with a war between humanity and an alien race called the Covenant. Eventually the main character, cryptically named Master Chief, is brought out of cryogenic fugue and brought up to speed on the situation. Some clever gameplay calibration occurs next before we can take full control of the Chief (a soldier has us look around the room in various directions to set up proper mouse controls here). But then chaos ensues. The Covenant hoards have boarded the ship and we need to get to the bridge of the ship. As a starting level, I found this to be lackluster. All of the criticism of the repetitive levels seemed to be very noticeable here and I also had a hard time running the game at anything more than 640x480. The controls felt very touchy and the textures looked rather shabby. I was wondering what all the hype was about. Eventually I finished the intro level and found myself on Halo. At this point I was feeling distraught and didn't want to finish the game. Rarely has a first level so disappointed me in a game. Thankfully our intrepid editor Shawn Rider convinced me to marshal on. I thank him for this now. He told me to wait and see that the true meat and potatoes of the game were coming up. He was right.

Once I got through a few more skirmishes, I found a bunch of my fellow soldiers from the ship. We were soon attacked by scores of Covenant. I felt like I had jumped into the intense storming of Normandy section from Medal of Honor. My fellow soldiers were firing everywhere, calling for help, and the enemy kept on coming. It was intense and I could now see that this game had potential.

Halo is definitely a combat game first. You are limited to carrying two weapons at a time, 8 grenades, and a shield that recharges after taking damage. The pace of combat has a natural flow to it due to the shield. Once you take some damage and the warning siren goes off, you better find some cover until the shield recharges or you will take heavy direct damage very quickly. The necessity of this action creates a rather deliberate pace to the combat. No longer can you charge into a group of enemies and blow their heads off without regard to your own status. You have to pick your targets, attack, avoid taking hits, and then hide somewhere to recharge because your enemies are going to be gunning for you. And this is one of the strongest points of Halo , the enemy AI. The Covenant (and later the Flood) will test even the most experienced FPS player. They hide and ambush you, take cover in the surroundings to avoid your fire, and use vehicles in organized attacks on your position. It is truly an astounding AI and sometimes battles will play out differently each time you go through one. But this in turn brings me to Halo's most glaring problem , its level design.

Some levels look nice, but they go on and on and on as if they wanted to increase the amount of game time (the Library level, and to a lesser extent the reactor level). This repetition is a combination of unimaginative level layout, repetitive enemy attacks, and monotonous textures. It really feels like a cut and paste job with the underlying code. Luckily the challenge of the combat alleviates this distasteful practice somewhat, but it is still a major game flaw that will hopefully be rectified in Halo's sequel.

The single player game is a kick in the pants and well worth playing. Multiplayer is also great and fun to play. There are a bunch of maps and the carnage is really nice , lots of vehicles to play with, lots of weapons, and lots of game play options. However I seem to have a bit of a problem with my ping and there is no in-game command to display the various pings of players like there is in Counter Strike. I found that annoying, but it could be partly because I am running a wireless LAN. My biggest ax to grind with multiplayer is the menu system. Once I got into the multiplayer screen, loaded all of my servers, and then found one I wanted to play on, the load times rocked , as long as I got onto a server. If the server was filled after I connected (which happens a lot), I would get dumped back to the main menu of the game! This is terrible! I would have to go through the entire update check, and then reload my server list, and find a game all over again. This is a terrible feature and needs to be addressed immediately.

Now for more of the bad: while I don't have the hottest gaming rig in the world (AMD XP 2700, 512 PC2100, GeForce4 MX420), it suffices for almost every game I have played in the last year. To get all the glitzy goodness out of Halo you need a serious beast. I found a nice balance at 800x600 with decals and a decent texture level. I would love to see this game in its full glory because I think it would look fantastic.

However, there are some major graphical glitches in this port which I think are unacceptable. Oftentimes I would kill an enemy who would then fall down and have half of his body lying off a ledge. Other times I would encounter an enemy who was stuck inside of a wall or other various environmental objects. There are also various texture issues that annoyed me. The texture on the machine gun that displays the ammo count would flicker at times when I wasn't moving, and there were other various texture fights in the game. For such a major game port, I think Gearbox could have and should have addressed these issues.

So while there are a few significant problems with this port of Halo, I think that it is an overall excellent game that lives up to most the hype. The gameplay rock, multiplayer is fun, and the story is compelling enough to keep you interested. If you have a weak gaming system you might not be able to enjoy all of the bells and whistles, but it won't affect your overall experience. I look forward to the sequel to this interesting, yet not groundbreaking game.