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Halo: Combat Evolved (Xbox) artwork

Halo: Combat Evolved (Xbox) review

"Halo was the first must-play game on Microsoft's XBox, and to this day is is still seen as one of the best, if not the best game on the system. It is still refered to as the system's "killer app", and a model FPS four years later. You can't say that about many games. "

Halo was the first must-play game on Microsoft's XBox, and to this day is is still seen as one of the best, if not the best game on the system. It is still refered to as the system's "killer app", and a model FPS four years later. You can't say that about many games.

A lot of the aforementioned praise is indeed true. Halo does have some truly unforgettable moments that make it obvious why it received all of the hype and praise that it did. But then there are some other bits that make me wonder how this game was loved by so many. There certainly is much more to love than to hate, but in the end Halo is definitely not the flawless FPS that it is labeled as.

Halo takes place several years in the future at a time when Earth is at war with an alien race known as The Covenant, and are apparently not doing too well. You play as The Master Chief, a ďlegendaryĒ war hero who was just awoken from a cryo chamber because of news that The Covenant are trying to unleash a special weapon that can be found on a mysterious ringed-shaped planet called Halo. Itís up to you to prevent them from finding and obtaining this weapon.

The minute you leave your escape pod and enter the planet Halo youíll get a small glimpse at the planetís beauty. You begin in a quiet, open field with a calm, peaceful creek below. Suddenly enemy drop ships appear, looking for you and waiting to hunt you down. Thatís not everything; there are several other unique areas of Halo that provide some intense gameplay. At the beginning of level 3 itís late at night and youíre on top of a hill while a bunch of unaware aliens are below, just waiting to be sniped. Stage 5 is a long level that will have you battling in a winter environment against aliens with hovering bikes and turrets to help them. The next stage will have you placed in a dark, eerie forest while some aliens quietly wait for you at the top of a hill so they can destroy you. Every area is different and makes Halo the ultimate sci-fi planet.

There are many games out there with beautiful environments and cool extras, but what puts Halo above the rest is its AI, especially the intelligence of the enemies. Every enemy requires different tactics to defeat, and will put up a fight no matter what. Hell, even the weak grunts will look for cover and allies when theyíre outnumbered. If youíre not careful small aliens with an energy shield, known as Jackals can obliterate your entire army. Forget about the tougher enemies, they can EASILY defeat you if youíre not prepared. Now Iím not saying this is a hard game, it certainly isnít, but you will need to learn how to deal with different types of enemies, especially if you plan on winning on the harder difficulty levels. This is a nice, refreshing change from all of the plow-through-the-enemies type games that we see today.

What makes Halo such a great FPS is the multiple ways to approach every situation. Lets go back to the third level, itís late at night and nobody is expecting your arrival. You can either hide in the shadows and snipe, or jump right down and take out all of the aliens with your assault rifle. Maybe youíll enter a base and the aliens are inside taking a snooze. You can either quietly sneak by and take them out with the butt of your rifle or wake the whole place up with a rocket launcher. Or maybe theyíre anticipating your arrival. You can try to sneak past them and hope that they wonít see you or plow through the main entrance with a tank. Even your fellow marines are surprisingly bright. Although there were a few moments in which a wished I didnít have them, they are generally good at taking out smaller enemies and for the most part will be a great help to you. They even make traveling in vehicles more fun by gunning for you, which they do a pretty good job at.

Not the whole game is this smooth. The outdoor environments might be awesome, but half of the game is indoors. These areas are extremely lacking and are often a pain to play through. I previously mentioned how cool the environment of the snow level is, but that level is ruined by the indoor bits. It is an extremely long level that is made twice as long as it should be because of the endless, repetitive rooms that look exactly the same. I can forgive the game for having one bit of redundancy, but this isnít the case with Halo. Every level has this problem is some way. The third level begins with an awesome sniping bit, but about one third through the level youíll enter a Covenant ship. It might sound cool, but it really isnít. Youíll be walking down the same corridors that lead to the same rooms for the remainder of the level, and not only does it get boring, but itís so easy to lose track of where you are since thereís no in-game map included. I donít know how many times I was lost because I had no idea of where I was going and accidentally wandered backwards.

Some of the levels donít have a few annoying bits, but just flat out suck. One of the levels, The Library, has to be one of the worst levels Iíve ever played in a FPS. It puts you in a bland, open room, and youíll fight the same enemies over and over again. You defeat the enemies that attack you, move on to the next room (that looks the same as the room youíre in), defeat the same enemies again without any marines or vehicles, and repeat for 30-40 minutes. Then the next level is just as bad. Itís the same as the snow level, but backwards! The level had a few highlights, such as driving the tank into the alien base and shooting down Banshees with a rocket launcher or mounted turret, but most of them are gone, and the repetitive inside parts are still present. Even if the indoor levels were better it still wouldíve been disappointing.

Even the weapons arenít so great. A weapon for pretty much everything is available and the system of being able to hold only two at a time is cool, but they are rather bland. With the exception of the Needler, a homing alien gun that shoots an energy projectile that sticks and explodes on its target, all of the rest are your typical bland FPS weapons; assault rifle, shotgun, sniper rifle, plasma rifle, pistol, and so on. Unfortunately the Needler isnít anything worth bragging about, and itís useless compared to some of the other guns. I usually LOVE experimenting with weapons, but I found myself sticking with the same two for the entire first half of the game and the same two for the second half. There just isnít anything worth experimenting with.

Luckily Halo has awesome multiplayer, but it hasnít aged well at all. There are plenty of modes and some great maps, including the legendary Blood Gulch, but over the course of XBoxís lifespan there were so many better multiplayer games available. Halo doesnít offer any online play (this makes sense since it was released before XBox live), and although the 16-player deathmatches can be a blast at parties, games such as Unreal Championship, Brothers in Arms, and Halo 2 offer so much more. At least there is single player split screen, which can potentially be more fun than playing by yourself. Itís awesome to have you and a friend in a Warthog (the gameís off-road SUV, an AWESOME vehicle), one driving and the other gunning.

In the end Halo does much more right than it does wrong. A good amount of the hype is correct; it does have some aspects that should set the standards for future FPS games. But there are also the aspects that most people look over, such as the repetitiveness and at times poor level design. At times I hated the game, but I canít deny its brilliance. Some bits, such as sneaking past sleeping grunts, sniping the helpless jackals in a valley below, seeing the ďweaponĒ unveiled for the first time, and plowing through the alien base with a tank almost made me forget about the Library and any other horrible parts.


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Community review by Halon (December 29, 2005)

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