XBOX REVIEW: HALO: COMBAT EVOLVED

Halo is definitely a tribute to the power of the Xbox, but unless you are a detail / technology monger and know what to look for, you'll just think Halo looks really nice. The underlying beauty of Halo may not be readily apparent, especially if you are just wowed by shiny graphics, but once you get into the gameplay, you'll realize there is more here than just another pretty face.

In a nutshell, you are Master Chief, who is unthawed early to thwart an onslaught of an alien faction called The Covenant. The Covenant have a few different species fighting their war and you'll be introduced to them fairly quickly, as they have infiltrated your ship. The little Covenant grunts would be kind of cute if they weren't so dangerous. However for all of there macho bravado, they sure turn tail quickly when they realize they are about to get their ass handed to them. Watching them scurry off while whining or panicking in English is hilarious. Their big brothers aren't as funny however and will often attack you up close and personal. Luckily you can join the melee, with a good smash to the face with your weapon if one gets close enough. If defending yourself and your teammates ever lets up, take a moment to look around, especially in the outdoor scenes. It's breathtaking, unlike real life. Kidding.

Because Halo is a first person shooter developed for a console, you'll have to use the controller instead of the preferred keyboard and mouse. One the easy setting this is acceptable but above that, you'll probably run into trouble. Bungie did make the crosshairs wide enough, to allow a little leeway in your aim, but when you have take a ton of enemies, you'll wish for the speed and accuracy of a mouse. One way in which Bungie has countered the need for such things is by allowing your health to regenerate if you can duck out of the action for awhile. This certainly evens the score to some degree and even gives the game some added gameplay elements as you can't just walk in a room and start killing everything without at least ducking for cover a few times. You'll need to think defensively as well as offensively. Once you start getting further on into the missions, the control starts to become second nature (even with the Xbox controller!).

Tossing in a bit of Tribes concepts, Master Chief can drive or pilot some vehicles around the landscape on different missions. The first vehicle you will encounter is the Warthog, an army issued jeep, with a machine gun mounted in the back. Definitely a cool idea, until you try and drive it. The vehicle has absolutely no traction (for a jeep) and the steering is hit and miss at best. Controlling the thing is extremely difficult and annoying, although it is particularly cool when you've got a teammate or two with you who are literally riding shotgun.

Halo builds on the scripted events style of gameplay that originated back in Half Life, which gives the game a life of its own. There are things going on around you that you may not even notice, but it's all happening whether you are there to witness it or not. The missions are objective oriented and although linear, you will feel as though you have some influence over how to accomplish them.

The weapons in Halo all have their strengths and weaknesses and Bungie decided to make this game a little more realistic by only allowing you to carry two weapons at once. The catch? Well, you can pick enemy weapons along the way, but you'll have to drop one. But which one? Along with the two weapon max, you'll have to reload those puppies, which means ducking for cover. You have to see these weapons in action not to mention the grenades. Talk about realistic explosions! When you toss a pineapple (I've watched too many war movies) into a group and one of them gets blown towards you, you'll be as impressed as I was.

Later on, without giving too much away, the game bogs down in the middle and a sense of repetition invades what should have been a steady climb to an incredible climax. The game's last few minutes make up for this, but I was left wondering why Bungie had opted to go this route. The only reason I could think of was time limitations to get the product ready for launch. Hopefully the sequel will flow a little more evenly.

Halo also has multiplayer modes which are fantastic. My only real complaint with multiplayer is that you can't play them alone. How's that for a literary oxymoron? I'm not sure if it's just me, but I would love to be able to play the multiplayer games against some bots, but you can't. Strictly for 2-4 players. I hope I have just overlooked something, but I have tried everything. However, you can play 2 players in the single player campaign which is a real blast.

In conclusion Your Honor, Halo is as good as everyone says it is. I love the intense fire fights as they really captures the "shoot out" mood if you get my drift. Bungie did an excellent job melding story, action and suspense. If you own an Xbox and you love FPS, then you're in luck. Buy it.

Halo Review by Chris Blair

Halo is in a word: Mind blowing! "Ok that was two words. Hey, give me a break. I have been playing for the last 48 hours almost non-stop" With a title like this I will enjoy the suffering though. If you where impressed by games like Half-Life, then this is the game for you. It is kind of funny Half-Life fits very well here do not get me wrong but it is a term to describe a length of time. It seems that the life span has now worn off. Thanks to the folks at BUNGIE and Microsoft. Halo is an adventure shooter and combat game. That is certainly going to make people stop and say hey what is that? This game is rated Mature and at times there is some strong language, blood and gore. However, it is not just for the sake of blood and gore. It has a reason for it unlike some games that just add it to help sales. If you have a speaker set-up in your gamming room and it is not hooked up, you're missing out on a lot of extras. The graphics are great. The voices fit the characters very well. The story line draws you in almost from the very first minute of the game.

This is the show stopper so for of all the launch titles. However, there are a few things that would have made it a hands down outright number 1 game. The game manual is loaded with info. However, it really does not explain the controls enough. I guess that since during the game play messages pop up telling you the functions, they decided that the information was not needed. I would like to be the judge of what I would like to know before the game starts. You can change the controls to your preferences to a degree. I gave the control a higher rating based on the ease of learning them and they work well for the most part. Like any game, some things just take practice such as learning the proper way to climb the ladders and other small things. The whole game is like being in another world. The weapons are very cool. They also make some nice, messy spots after you blow up one of the creatures.

The basic story without ruining anything: you're the last of a special breed of human race, a human who was bred and engineered for total all out warfare. You will need all those skills to accomplish your mission. This game has it all: a great story multiple missions and a great mix of different fighting areas. Also, it has some really cool toys to drive around to destroy the enemy. They even included some ships to attack from the sky! Like most games of this type you must reach a goal point to save from. If you die or cannot complete the mission you have to start from the last successful save point. You do get plenty of help and hints along the way. However, if you're the type who is gun crazy, beware. It's not nice to take friendly fire and how would you feel if you killed one of your own?

If this is only the beginning of what the Xbox can bring to all of us gamers, I cannot wait to see what is next. The game is very complex with several options not just the campaign mode. So do not expect to just spend a few hours on this one. This is definitely one you will want to show off to all your friends who did not yet get the Xbox! Take your time conserve your ammo and be prepared to be surprised at some of the awesome things that will happen during the game. One last thing, this is a 1 player game. To use the 4-player mode, you will definitely want to use the Xbox Link system.

OVERALL
4.5
GRAPHICS
4.5
CONTROL
4
MUSIC/FX
5
VALUE
4.5
Halo Preview by Vaughn

Enjoying a lot of accolades at E3 this year was Halo, a military/alien, first-person shooter with great graphics and tons of action. The game hits the floor running with heart-pumping excitement that features real time strategies and squadron deployment. The only thing that would make me put this game down for a second might be a double cheeseburger with bacon, or possibly a loaded pizza, or maybe a plate of hot wings… Mmmm. Hell, I'd put down my life support system for a plate of hot wings. (You'll notice I didn't say I'd actually unplug it….)

Sometimes there's nothing like a good alien shoot up. Armed with a massive, futuristic assault rifle, it's up to you to save the human race from the other-worldly monsters you battle on their own turf. They blow up real good though; with explosions that look so realistic you might be tempted to roast a hot dog over the flames. I can't stop thinking about food now that I mentioned it.

The environments are massive and most of the action takes place outdoors. Think of areas (zones) instead of levels. Because the world is so vast, you have to navigate your way through the alien landscape on a jeep. Make sure to pack a lunch; it's a long way to the nearest truck stop. Beef Jerky doesn't spoil as fast as fish.

If you don't enjoy strategy games because you find them too cerebral and slow moving, then you will definitely enjoy Halo with its relatively straightforward gameplay and engaging battles; just get down and start shooting. The gameplay becomes more involved as strategies and other battle decisions are played out in real time. I've got to make a food reference in this paragraph, so here it goes: fried chicken.

Single and multiplayer options are available. A headset mike will be used for communicating with up to 16 network players. If you're not used to using headset mikes here's a tip: try real hard to remember you have it on before you leap from the couch, responding instinctively, to the beeping microwave in an effort to retrieve your popcorn.

 

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System: XBOX
Dev: Bungie
Pub: Microsoft
Release: Nov 2001
Players: 1 - 4
Review by Vaughn
RATING (OUT OF 5)
OVERALL
5.0
GRAPHICS
5.0
CONTROL
4.5
MUSIC/FX
5.0
VALUE
5.0