Halo: Combat Evolved (Xbox) review
"Two dropships swoop in from the sky. Eight soldiers are going to land on a beach, to take it from some aliens. They know they are outnumbered. Yet they look somewhat eager for battle. Are they suicidal? Do they lust for battle so much that they don't care if they die? It's not just that though. A bit of confidence tingles in their eyes. A giant of a man stands up. He is over 7 feet tall, and clad in green armor. Perhaps this man's badassness is the source of their confidence. How could this be t..."
Two dropships swoop in from the sky. Eight soldiers are going to land on a beach, to take it from some aliens. They know they are outnumbered. Yet they look somewhat eager for battle. Are they suicidal? Do they lust for battle so much that they don't care if they die? It's not just that though. A bit of confidence tingles in their eyes. A giant of a man stands up. He is over 7 feet tall, and clad in green armor. Perhaps this man's badassness is the source of their confidence. How could this be though? He is only one man, how can he make a big difference? The dropships land on the beach. The giant man leads the way onto the beach, sheets of gunfire rain down on him. He is not too affected though, and easily disposes of two small aliens with his pistol, and hides behind the rocks they were behind. Taking out a few more of the small aliens, he then tosses a grenade at a large alien, who dies. Battle lust has overtaken the marines, and the giant man, as they now rush in for the last batch of large aliens farther down the beach. They are ready though, and toss a grenade at the giant man's feet, by jumping the explosion's blast radius barely touches him. The giant man now rushes head on for the aliens, jumping in the air he smashes an alien in the head with his gun, he then fires some shots at the other large alien before punching him as well. The beach is won, somehow. Welcome to a game where exciting moments like this are commonplace. Welcome to a game that could define the word intense. Welcome to...
HALO: COMBAT EVOLVED
Is the combat really evolved? Somewhat. Is it fun? Hell yes.
The combat doesn't seem so evolved when you look at some of the aspects of the game though. There aren't tons of different enemies, there aren't a lot of different guns, and they re-use maps for the last 3 levels in the game.
Indeed, these flaws are the results of a game that had to be rushed at one point. Luckily, in the time they had Bungie put together a little something that definitely deserves respect... as the best console shooter ever. While the bad things above seem pretty bad, there are many good things that easily overshadow them. Perhaps one of the finest examples of this, and a reason why Halo is somewhat ''evolved'' is the vehicles. Halo manages to be one of the first (or perhaps the first) FPS to effectively use vehicles. Halo provides you with four different vehicles to use throughout. Each one has it's own strengths, and weaknesses to the point where I'd say no vehicles is more valuable than another. They are also made an integral part of the gameplay, as they are placed throughout the game, and are truly needed at some points to survive. They also add an abundance of variety to the gameplay. This variety is one of the things that keeps you eagerly going throughout the game, and that will have you replaying this game constantly. With the vehicles you will be driving marine friends, as they shoot incoming aliens, and as you run them over. You can blow up everything in sight with a tank. You can fly around, doing hit and run bombings with a Banshee. You can even be on an agile hovercraft, poking away at every enemy in the vicinity. Vehicles are even used in the last minutes of the game, which helped create one of the most exciting video game endings of all time. Thanks to all the variety, and enjoyment you will get out of them, you'll love the vehicles in the game, and they are one of the things that make this game truly great.
The afore mentioned marines also helped to add to the fun, and variety in Halo. They are your allies, and using them is one of the keys to your success. While in many FPS you are either a lone gun, or your allies suck, but the marines in Halo are actually able to keep you alive, and just about necessary for survival. This is mostly because their A.I is superb. They can give you cover fire, they are able to fire the machine gun in the back of the warthog (jeep type thing, with machine gun mounted on back), they are masterful with a sniper rifle, and hell they'll at least divert some fire from you. They are also somewhat easy to kill though (especially compared to you), and they don't automatically hit with every shot they take. This ''balances'' the marines to the point where you can't say ''GO MY MARINES, KILL THEM ALL''! They also aren't useless to the point where you will just want to kill them (though many will do it anyway for their own SICK AND TWISTED amusement). The marines show even more balance and variety in Halo.
The guns in the game also show some balance and variety. Bungie apparently took pains to make every gun just as useful as the other. They did such a good job it's painstakingly difficult to decide which guns to keep, and which to leave on the ground (Halo only lets you carry two guns at a time). While there are only 8 guns in the game, each one is so useful for it's own unique purpose that it doesn't matter much. There are short range, medium range, long range, rocket, charge, and homing guns in Halo. The amount of strategies, and gun combos you can think of are abundant. For example, after taking out a few enemies early in level two, you have four different guns available. The assault rifle, which is mostly good for taking down enemy vehicles. The pistol, which is good for taking out grunts (the smaller aliens) from afar, so you can take on the bigger aliens (jackals, and elites) without extra pests. The needler, which is great for one on one battles, and the plasma pistol which can charge up for shots, and can hold it's own in most situations. There are a couple of combos that make sense out of those guns alone. Halo can be different each time through just out of gun choices, which adds quite a bit of replay value to the package.
As in most first person shooters, the guns are also complimented by grenades. Yet another ''evolved'' part of Halo emerges here. The norm for a FPS is that you have to bring out the grenade like a gun, and then charge it for so long before throwing. This kind of thing generally makes grenades just not worth it, as you are extremely vulnerable while throwing. Halo changes all of that though. Rather than doing that, Halo makes it so with a touch of a button the master chief (the ''giant man'' in the green armor, the character you control) will automatically toss a grenade in the direction you were aiming. Quite a few new strategies emerge from this. It makes it so it's not so easy for the enemy to just hide behind cover. You can throw grenades to quickly lure them out so they back to shooting. This really ends up making sense in the end though. Halo has two different grenade types. One is your standard frag grenade. The other is a plasma grenade, which can be stuck on enemies. If you had to take it out this grenade may have been obsolete, but being the geniuses that they are, Bungie saw this and added an innovative touch that really helps make the gameplay a bit more fun.
Seeing the enemies’ reactions to sticking a plasma grenade on them can also be enjoyable. If you stick one on a ''grunt'' they will panic, and run in circles, and possibly into their own allies. Meanwhile, the bigger aliens will usually run straight at you, and try and take you out with them. This in itself is a prime example of the great A.I in Halo, which really brings the game in a whole together. Your enemy will coordinate, when they are on patrol, they will have people watching every entrance to where they are. They know how to take cover, and they can watch each other's backs. For example, in level one there is a point where two elites are standing next to each other. You and your marines attack them from both sides, so they go back to back with each other, and do their best to fend off the attack. They also did a nice job of making sure the A.I wasn't too smart though to the point where they are perfect. You will see your enemy make slip-ups once in a while, and part of the game is making sure you capitalize off their mistakes before they capitalize off yours.
One prime example of enemy slip-ups is the grunts' sleeping habits. In a few levels in the game you will find grunts sound asleep, free to knock out. While some of the bigger aliens are out and about, if you can avoid them you will be able to take out all the little aliens, before you confront the big stuff. Stealth doesn't play a key role in Halo at all, but the game still rewards you for stealth. The biggest example of this, is that if you punch an enemy in the back (another ''evolved'' part of Halo, you can punch, and each gun has it's own unique punch. Some quicker than others) they will instantly die. A little bit of stealth is always fun in a first person shooter, and Halo's rewarding of stealth was one of the more enjoyable parts of the game.
There are so many rewarding, and fun elements in Halo, it's obvious why it is so popular. Halo's only downfall comes in level design. For a lot of the game it is actually terrific. In the first level you are on a ship trying to escape. Tons of stuff is blowing up all over the place, and it is an exciting level. From there you move on to the ring-world of Halo. It's an all-outdoor level, but there is lots of cover, and long-range weapons to make the level very enjoyable. You then go to another ship, which is completely different from the ship on the first level. Once you get to level 5 though, you'll see that the level is somewhat repetitive in design. Level 7 is the same way, but where some people will truly get pissed is levels 8, 9, and 10. In these levels the maps from levels 1, 3, and 5 are re-used. While a few new areas were added in each one, it's still pretty annoying. Luckily the solid gameplay, and tight controls pull it through.
One of the nicest things about Halo is that the controls are very customizable. There are tons of different button options for you to use, and it's basically just about impossible not to find a layout that won't work for you.
Customization is also quite present in the multiplayer of Halo. For the 2-16 player, multiplayer mode you can customize the settings to make tons of different types of games, that compliment the large amount of modes already given. Level design is near perfect for almost all of the maps in multiplayer to the point where each is fun in it's own way. Halo also offers a co-op mode so you can play through the campaign with your friends. The multiplayer can easily add 100's of hours to the gameplay if you have people to play with.
The one player mode itself stands at around 15 hours on one play through, but I think it's somewhat unfair to say the campaign has only 15 hours on it overall. Halo is such a deep, and enjoyable experience that you will undoubtedly play it again, and again. Mastering the mechanics of the game, trying to beat the game on its hardest difficulty. Halo is very popular for a reason. It may not be completely evolved, but it's an experience I doubt you will have another console shooter. Now at 30 dollars, it is the one game everyone who owns an Xbox should have.
Community review by icehawk (March 15, 2004)
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