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Halo

Review By:  Brennan I.

Developer:   Bungie
Publisher:   Microsoft
# of Players:   1-16
Genre:   First Person Shooter
ESRB:   Mature
Online:   No
Accessories:   Memory Card
Date Posted:  

12-04-01

We are on the brink of a video gaming revolution, plain and simple. Not only are industry pros Nintendo and Sony vying for the top spot, but now the most infamous software company in the world has entered the fray by releasing the much debated and highly anticipated Xbox.

After spending some time with the hardware, I can say Iím quite excited as to what the Xbox has to offer. As for the software, I have but one word to tickle your senses with flights of sci-fi wonderÖHalo. This game is reason enough to purchase a Xbox. Halo will change the way you look at video gaming, and it will raise the bar for future generations of games to follow.

You play the role of the Master Chief: a state of the art, one of a kind, cyborg soldier and coincidentally, mankindís last hope against an onslaught of fanatical aliens called The Covenant that are hell bent on the destruction of earth. The story starts off as the Pillar of Autumn, a marine space cruiser, is being relentlessly pursued by an alien fleet whose primary purpose is not to destroy the ship, but to get aboard it. There are two reasons the Covenant wants to board the ship. One, they hope to destroy you. Two, the aliens donít know where Earth is, so they want to retrieve coordinates from the onboard supercomputer "Cortana" (a cute, holographic chick) so they can destroy our beloved home world, and eliminate our species for good. As far as the Master Chief is concerned, that ainít gonna happen!

The game starts off as alien forces are boarding the Pillar of Autumn. Youíre quickly awoken from your cryo-sleep and are ordered to report to the shipís captain. Once you arrive on the bridge, the captain dispenses with the bad news: Evacuate the ship, take Cortana with you and protect her by all costs, The Autumn is going down. With pistol in hand, you cautiously start to make your way to the escape capsules. After a rigorous trudge through the alien infested ship, you discover a life vessel. You escape the lost marine cruiser, but are then forced to crash land upon a strange ring-shaped planet.

Moving the Chief requires using a dual analog stick method, and while Iím not usually a fan of this style, The Xbox controller is arranged in a way that makes it much more intuitive than it ever has been on the PS2 controller. In addition to that, the sticks themselves are much more maneuverable and responsive. Iíve heard many complaints about this design and I have to say, after about an hour of playtime, the whole layout just seems to fit right. Aiming and strafing, which are key in a FPS, become second nature and when the action really gets thick, every button youíll need is comfortably at your fingertips.

The gameplay in Halo is an intriguing mix of old and new concepts. Old, meaning itís essentially a first person shooter with your standard point and shoot gameplay; New, meaning it introduces revolutionary AI, brilliant level design, beautiful outdoor and indoor environments that blend together with 1 second load times, pulse pounding vehicular combat, and an awesome assortment of well balanced weaponry. This is real warfare. The battlefield has never been as fully realized in a video game, as it is in Halo. In many instances, youíll find yourself fighting alongside a group of your fellow Marines; these boys are much more than just cannon fodder too. They use strategy by taking cover, throwing grenades, seeking out the enemy, and the AI is just so good youíll feel like your playing online with a group of your friends. They jump in vehicles with you, they talk to you and yelp and holler whenever the fighting starts, it becomes evident very early on that if you want to make it off of Halo alive, youíll have to use teamwork. On the b-side of things, the Covenant are the most cunning, and intelligent computer-controlled foes I have ever faced. Every variety of Covenant soldier has their own personality and their own method of attack. The grunts usually stay behind and run for cover, while the elite tend to take a more head-on approach, and are far more aggressive. Thereís hardly ever a moment in Halo where youíll find yourself with nothing to shoot at, and thanks to the great AI, it stays refreshing from start to finish.

Jumping into a vehicle just takes the experience to a whole new level. The first time you get into a warthog jeep, a couple of your marine buddies will hop in and join you. One will stand at the rear mounted chain gun, the other will jump in the passenger side with rifle in hand. Zipping around the hill covered landscape with your AI buddies gunning down the covenant is so much fun itís unhealthy. In addition to the jeep on the Marine side, youíll also have access to the scorpion tank, a lumbering behemoth of steel and firepower. If you get tired of all this Earth born human stuff, feel free to commandeer any alien spacecraft you might find laying around the planet. The Covenantís "Ghost" is a sort of hoverbike with hood-mounted lasers, and the "Banshee" is an alien jet fighter with bombing capability. With all of these bad ass, high octane machines dashing across the battlefield, the fighting gets so damn intense youíll have to pause the game every couple of minutes so you can blink without getting jacked by an alien plasma grenade. If you can manage to keep your gun holstered for a few seconds, it would do you justice to take a look around the landscapes. Youíll find some truly next-generation graphics to permeate your retinas.

The texture quality in Halo sets a new precedent for console gaming. Iíve spent countless minutes just staring into a beautiful oasis of rippling water, or studying an intricate nexus of cracks upon a canyon surface. Every character, weapon, vehicle, and rock is fleshed out with such care, such realism, that youíre never removed from the fantasy world of Halo by a lame graphic or texture. All of this eye candy doesnít compromise the frame rate either; everything sails by at a smooth-as-butta 30fps. Achieving this kind of detail, at that kind of speed, just couldnít be done on any other console on the market. There are times whenever thereís thirty characters on screen, all firing their weapons, throwing grenades, flying around in vehicles, and the frame rate just refuses to chug. Itís a sight that brings tears to the eyes. Even the multiplayer matches move briskly.

With a ton of gameplay options with customizable regulations, Halo is the best multiplayer deathmatch available on a home console. Thereís a wide assortment of levels, ranging from complexes full of claustrophobic hallways, to wide open outdoor arenas that support vehicles. Capture the flag has been changed forever. Once your sailing across the landscape in the jeep, escaping with the flag, while being pursued by two hoverbikes trading fire the whole way, youíll realize that this is as good as it gets. My only complaint would be that there are only two levels that support using vehicles. Otherwise, this is the new king of 4 player party games, 4 to 16 player party games that is. If you're lucky enough to have 4 TVís, 4 Xboxes, 4 copies of Halo, and 16 controllers, you can engage in multiplayer combat of epic proportions. Good luck with getting that party together cowboy. Another wonderful addition, is the ability to play through the entire single player campaign in two player split screen. Playing through with a friend makes everything twice as enjoyable, kudos to Bungie for including this great option.

The only thing I would have to criticize about Halo, is the level design of some of the interiors. More specifically, near the end of the game. Youíll make your way through some truly immense underground fortresses, and sometimes every room looks the same save for one or two subtle details. But the action stays intense the whole way through and itís an issue that is easily overlooked since youíll be so busy bustin alien skull.

Halo is an experience that no gamer can afford passing by. If you havenít been planning on picking this title up, you seriously need to reevaluate your priorities. Donít miss it.

Highs:

  • Every second of action packed gameplay

Lows:

  • Some repetitive level design
  • Only two multiplayer levels that support vehicles

Final Verdict: 

Revolutionary on all fronts. If Halo is a sign of things to come on Xbox, gaming is going to be changed forever. Sony and Nintendo had better pick up the pace.

Overall Score: 9.8

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