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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.

The 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 Covenant's ass.

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 of way.

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 before.

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.

Mike Regan
So enamored with the game he forgot to include a witty tagline.

Halo: The Scores













The Final Word:  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.

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Halo Movies
Need help playing our movies?

  • Halo (Movie 1) 5.5M MPEG
    The player explores the first areas of the game.

  • Halo (Movie 2) 6.0M MPEG
    Player gets frisky, shoots lots of things.

  • Halo (Movie 3) 5.1M MPEG
    Cool forest-type environment, and more... shooting.

Halo Screenshots

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