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Halo: Combat Evolved (Xbox) artwork

Halo: Combat Evolved (Xbox) review

"Ironically, I only purchased Halo because I’d played Munch’s Oddysee to death and picked it up because it looked “ok.” OK? If I had heard myself say those words a month after my sceptical purchase, it would’ve probably led to some deserved self-harm. However, they had some justification as Halo sat in line up of the Xbox’s mostly putrid launch title selection along with a few morbidly bland titles like Azurik and Nightcaster. Halo shined out as the firs..."

Ironically, I only purchased Halo because I’d played Munch’s Oddysee to death and picked it up because it looked “ok.” OK? If I had heard myself say those words a month after my sceptical purchase, it would’ve probably led to some deserved self-harm. However, they had some justification as Halo sat in line up of the Xbox’s mostly putrid launch title selection along with a few morbidly bland titles like Azurik and Nightcaster. Halo shined out as the first FPS title to hit the ‘box and still remains today as one it’s most popular titles of all time, for good reason. Halo has a lot of great qualities that certainly boost it from the regular caste of the FPS and it’s these qualities that make Halo a smash hit on the Xbox, a necessity for anyone who has the system in their possession.

Halo is set in the distant future and drops us right in the middle of an intergalactic dispute. The human race is under threat by a race of destructive aliens known as the Covenant. A marine unit on the ship the Pillar of Autumn release a SPARTAN soldier, known as the Master Chief from a cryo-chamber. He is the last in a line of elite soldiers and is their only hope of surviving an oncoming Covenant onslaught.

After going through a rather dull process of recovery to shake off that sleepy feel after being frozen for so long, you’ll have to make your way to the ship’s commander, Captain Keyes, who will tell you that you better get the hell off the Autumn to avoid the AI being occupied by Covenant forces, he’ll ask you to take the ship’s computer data, known as Cortana, plug it into your memory and get it away from the hands of those nasty Covenant.

Your ship will then be bombarded by a plethora of Covenant troops. They’ll blow through the ships defences and battle mercilessly with your marine allies and ship workers. Unfortunately, these marines are really dumb and will do next to nothing to help you kill any enemies. Their shots will either miss or skim across the enemy. If you’re lucky one or two might take out one of the weaker Grunt units but most of the time, they’ll do little to help OR they’ll throw a grenade into the fray of battle and take out everybody, including you and your allies.

Halo has a diverse range of weaponry that goes from armaments created by humans and those manufactured by the Covenant. The human weaponry is a collection of rather standard FPS guns such as shotguns, rocket launchers and M.C’s trademark Assault rifle. You also get a sniper rifle, which is absolutely fantastic for picking off far away enemies and covering the backs of your troops as they come closer to victory. Although the humans use the most powerful guns, the Covenant style of weaponry is a little more creative. We have Laser Rifles and pistols, which heat up after constant use, making them unusable for a brief period of time. We also have the Needler, a rather awesome and common weapon that fires small needles onto your opponent en masse and then explodes right in their face. Lastly, Halo offers two types of grenades that can be perfectly timed to clear away sets of enemies. One is your basic bombs but the plasma grenade can lead to some funny moments. When you throw a plasma grenade, it actually sticks onto the person it hits and then detonates. It’s so much fun that usually leads to the “can I get it on his face?” game, which involves a patrolling Elite Covenant soldier, two players and a sack full of grenades.

You’ll journey through many different areas, blasting the hell out of enemies and riding around on some cool vehicles. The most famous of all is the Warthog, an all terrain jeep with badass chain gun on its rear end. It can hold three people, one drives, one shoots with his weapon and the other operates the chain gun. It’s great for storming in the middle of the battlefield, running over worrying Covenant troops and teaming up with player two to wipe away anything hostile with your nasty chain gun. Humans also have a nasty tank in their arsenal, armed with a cannon and a rather nasty machine gun, the Scorpion tank will take out any other vehicle in one swift hit. However, the Covenant forces have a few nice additions of their own including an incredibly fast hover-plane known as the Ghost, which fires out powerful beams of light from its wing cannons and the Banshee, a one man plane. The Banshee holds the key to some of the more memorable moments in Halo. Imagine the ecstasy as you swoop down, like a bird of prey and pick off some struggling Covenant troops or, even more exciting, the dogfight between you and another Banshee.

Halo has ten levels of mayhem, ranging from a salvage and rescue mission through a beautiful valley to a snow covered mountain range to a hot and sweaty jungle. You’ll also do battle inside a gigantic Covenant Ship, a beach and the wrecked body of the crashed Pillar of Autumn. You’ll team up with the annoying Monitor who will guide you to the control room of the Halo structure where you’ll find out what this enormous relic is actually capable of. You’ll also be barraged by a new group of locust like creatures called the Flood, who come in large numbers to bring you down. These bug like creatures soon begin to pop up everywhere and are incredibly fast and deadly. Luckily, even a well-aimed pistol shot can take them down but they just keep on coming at you. Some smaller ones even clasp themselves onto you and pop themselves and some bigger carrier flood creatures actually take some hints from the Israelites and suicide bomb themselves just to take you out, releasing a lot of smaller bugs that try to latch on to you. Luckily, if these creeps encounter any Covenant, they will attack each other instead of you, allowing you to either sneak past the fight or take advantage of it with your rocket launcher.

Halo’s multiplayer mode is just as amusing as the story mode, either with or without two players. In the multiplayer, you will be allowed to access a great variety of classic FPS multiplayer games such as capture the flag, death matches and team death matches. It also has some extra games that see you occupying land or keeping a hold of a skull for a certain time limit. The number of games and the ability to customise rules to create your own game variations almost doubles Halo’s replay ability. You can even hook up on to Xbox Live and play whatever you like with all of the nerds across the world. It’s fun but if you feel like a complete nerd after playing it, it could be worse. It could be Counter Strike!

Although Halo’s graphics were impressive back at the launch of the Xbox, the age already starts to show. The textures seem to be little ragged now, especially on the characters during FMV sequences. However, the quality images in some of the backgrounds and levels still look as artistic and aesthetically beautiful today as they did way back on its release. The water effect, the capturing of the grass and crunching of the snow are still rather impressive today and brilliantly create a sense of atmosphere, whether it’s the tranquillity of the jungle or the raging sandy shores being shook by battle, the naturalistic elements still stand out beautifully. Some elements, such as the burning cloud of flames in an explosion or the gigantic blue ball of energy that fires out from a Covenant tank still look visually appealing.

Halo’s brilliant opera inspired opening sequence will send shivers up your spine, it’ll enthral you and fill you with a sense of adventure. The actual theme song will blast through your speakers as you cruise through the game and you’ll hear a mixture of variations of that song including one with an awesome guitar solo that really gets those juices flowing. The music in Halo completely engulfs you and increases the atmosphere in the situation; the creepy Flood tune will have you on the edge of your seat with anticipation because you KNOW that they’re coming after you. The only truly horrible thing about the sound are the voices of your fellow Marines, you solely exist just to bug the crap out of you. They’ll constantly come up with the most retarded of sayings like: “Hey, I got one!” which is usually after you’ve destroyed about a dozen of the alien bastards. The marines all have annoying voices as well so when this is mixed with irritating phrases and their lame ability to shoot anything, it usually results with you giving them a swift melee attack on the back of the head, just to get them to shut the hell up.

Halo is definitely a classic game and an essential title for the Xbox gamer. Its range of levels in a variety of different environments, its mesh of standard and creative weaponry and the ability to use a nice range of vehicles to deal some extra damage on to your foes are all brilliant touches which fit together brilliantly to form one of the most popular FPS and Xbox games of all time. It’s a definite must have for FPS fans because no other current console can offer you such an epic FPS title. It may not be the greatest of it’s genre, not by a long shot but it still reaches out and gives us something memorable that provides you with hours and hours of enjoyment, whether it’s through playing through the main game, alone or with another or blowing the living crap out of others in the multiplayer options or on Live, you’ll have a memorable experience with a flame that will refuse to burn out for a while, a long while.

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Community review by goldenvortex (November 03, 2005)

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