Is Halo as good
as everyone says it is? Why, yes it is. Find
out why in the full review.
Update: Nov. 23, 2001
We update our review with a batch of in-game screens. With two reviews,
there needs to be enough screens to go around, and we manage quite nicely.
I am in awe. I have just completed my third run-through
of Halo and it is without a doubt one of the most satisfying experiences
I have ever had with a video game. Every aspect of this game is polished
to the 9th degree. From graphics, to game play mechanics: Halo simply
outshines pretty much every title out there. Bungie has always been a
major player in the industry (just as Mac gamers who still play Marathon),
but this game cements their reputation and status. Despite their previous
success on the Mac and the PC Bungie will be judged on their work on
Halo as a defining moment in this industry.
You play as a mysterious character named Master Chief, who
is the human race's last hope against the evil forces of The Covenant.
If this sounds like an introduction to a high budget Hollywood action
flick staring an over paid Hollywood actor you would be right. Halo is
essentially an interactive movie with you playing the leading role. Finally
after years of attempting to bring players closer to a movie like experience,
Xbox has finally given developers enough horsepower to realize the vision.
From the moment the opening cinema begins all the way to the shocking
ending Halo takes you on one hell of a roller coaster ride.
Every aspect about the game design grabs players into the
games world. From the NPCs that fight along side you to the control all
contribute in making Halo one of the most engrossing games ever released.
Half Life for the PC did an excellent job of combing first person shooting
action with triggered cinematic cut scenes using the game engine, but
Bungie has taken that idea to the next generation with Halo. By the time
you reach the dramatic conclusion of Halo the story line will have more
twists then a roller coaster. The cut scenes use the games engine and
they really do an excellent job communicating the story.
The first level starts off just as you are awakened from
cyro-sleep, and gives you a chance to get acclimated to the controls.
The left analog stick moves the player while you can look around with
the right analog stick. The left trigger is used for throwing grenades
and the right trigger is used as the primary fire button. You can crouch
by pressing in the left analog stick. The A button is used to jump. The
X button is used to reload your weapon as well as getting into vehicles.
The X button is also used as a context sensitive button in several parts
of the game. For example, on one level you must make your way to a security
override. Once you get there a pop up window will ask you to press X
to deactivate the security system. By doing that it opens up the level
so you can continue on with your mission. Also this is the way to drop
one weapon and pick another from off the ground. The B button is used
as a melee attack where you can get up close and personal with your enemies.
You can change weapons by pressing Y. The decision to only allow players
to carry 2 weapons at a time is ingenious. It adds a certain level of
strategy to finish the game. The white button is used to turn on and
off the lamp. However the battery life on the flashlight depletes while
in use and recharges while it is off. The black button cycles through
the available grenade types.
only problem I had with the controls in the game was controlling the
vehicles in the single player game. It took me about 25 minutes of constant
crashing and falling off cliffs to finally get the hang of it: while
you're driving, the game shifts into a second person perspective. The
left analog stick controls forward and backward motion while the right
analog controls the direction you move. There is a little green arrow,
and whichever direction the arrow is facing is the direction you will
travel if you move forward. So basically, the right analog stick controls
the camera. The game does have a learning curve and I found myself looking
at either the ceiling or floor, then I was looking at the enemies taking
pot shots at me. However, if you are a first person vet you shouldn't
have too much difficulty picking the game up and busting a cap in the
Halo features some very nice textures, especially in the
later levels. The grass looks like real grass and I found myself staring
at the ground on purpose just to take a closer look at how good the grass
is. In the second level of the game, there is a waterfall that is wonderfully
done. It's almost a shame that most players won't have the time to enjoy
the scenery because they're busy killing the enemies (or busy being killed
themselves). The enemy character models are very well done as well. For
example, the Grunt reminded me of Jawas from Star Wars. They have that
sawed off wibble wobble walk like a jawa. They're kind of cute in an "alien-trying-to-eradicate-the-human-race" sort
The later levels textures see a remarkable improvement in
quality if that's possible, especially the walls used in the Aliens base.
One of the most impressive visual feats in Halo is that bullet holes
in the walls stay there and do not disappear. Likewise any enemies that
you send to the after life will also litter the landscape.
Halo uses a classical musical score along the lines of what
can be heard in most Sci-fi movies. It fits very with the game. With
a game like Halo, music and sound plays a huge part of the overall experience.
An example of this would be the various dialects you run across when
speaking with various marines. The voice acting is extremely well done
and their excitement is contagious. While you're battling the enemy you
will hear phrases like, "come get some," "Game over man, game over," "Hey
that was my shot." The Convenant also has its share of phrases. For example,
if you rush the aliens some of them run away screaming "they're everywhere." Others
let out a roar and bring the fight to you. After playing through the
game 3 times, I noticed that every battle is different. Bungie has done
a remarkable job of capturing what warfare is like.
The AI in the game increases as you play the game and it
becomes quite challenging as you get to the higher levels. There are
several different alien creatures that you come across during the game.
First you have the Grunts; which I spoke of previously. Besides reminding
me of a Jawa he also looks like Vivi from Final Fantasy 10. They usually
attack in-groups and run away when facing you one on one. The Jackals
carry a force field and like to bunker down and take pea shots at you.
The Hunters can be tough adversaries if you fight in close quarters with
them. Perhaps the most difficult enemy that you face during the game
would be the invisible cloak wearing Elites. The non-cloaked versions
of the Elites carry a plasma sword, which not only can slice, dice, and
julienne, but it can separate your head from your body. Each alien creature
has a unique personality. And it's because of this Halo really shines.
Length wise, an average player can defeat the single player
mode in about 16 to 17 hours on the lower settings. However if your up
to the ultimate challenge you better take a lunch (or three) because
the Legendary challenge level will take you about 60 hours to complete.
The best part of Halo is that each time you play through the game is
unique. The aliens and the marines act in different ways than they did
One stickler, and it really is a small problem considering
that all of the levels are very well designed and is such a pleasure
to play through, is that once you get through the later levels you have
to go back and fight in levels that you previously already cleared.
Bungie, wasn't just satisfied with having an outstanding
single player mode has really tipped the scales with an equally outstanding
multiplayer mode. You have the co-op mode, which you and your buddy can
play through the single player missions. This is a blast and I can guarantee
that you will spend hours with this mode. Then you have the standard
death match where you can hook your Xbox up for a little 16-player action.
Bungie has also included capture the flag and several other modes that
you customize to your hearts content. The lack of computer-controlled
bots is a small price to pay when considering what Bungie did include.
So enamored with the game he forgot to include a witty tagline.
All in all, Halo is the number one reason to own a Xbox
and it proudly takes its place among such classics as
Goldeneye, Half Life and the perennial first person shooter
classic Doom as a must own game. Halo does so many things
right and everything is so polished that the standard
for first person shooters has been raised. There aren't
enough adjectives to describe how outstanding Halo is.