Malcolm Owen On October 29, 2003 at 8:08 am

I have the firm belief that I am in fact the last person on the planet to play Halo in any incarnation. I have never played the Xbox original (even though it was originally developed for the PC but was poached by Mr Gates and that small company Microsoft) at all, yet everyone else in my family and small group of introverted friends have lauded the adventures of Master Chief and company as a successful endeavour in gaming. Even my own Mother gets the whole Warthog/Puma joke.
My sole excuse for my pitiful display of gaming-knowledge: Everyone else has played it and circumstances made sure that I haven’t been able to. Sure, I have friends whom own the black boxes big enough to house a small developing nation, but whenever I go there, they all seem to hide it, wanting to make the experience a private joy, kept secret from my prying eyes. My family managed to get hold of it and play for a while when I was on holiday in Holland this year, and conveniently returned the game and console to their rightful owner before I arrived from a 28 hour bus ride of Hell. I have been in this circle before, and I don’t like it.

So, for the remaining life forms on this third rock from the sun that haven’t heard or seen Halo: Combat Evolved before (That’s 2 moles in Utah), you play Master Chief, a cyborg soldier whom is woken from his slumber due to an alien invasion. Cue you leaving the alien-filled ship with the ship’s AI/Computer/Thing to land on a ring world called, handily enough, Halo. You then proceed to take on these aliens (The Covenant) whom want to use the ring world for their own nefarious deeds, whilst at the same time protecting your fellow soldiers/human-shields. It’s pretty simple to understand, and is slightly more of a storyline than you would find in the original Star Trek series, but it does the job. Albeit a storyline so linear that it’s almost in Dragon’s Lair territory, it’s has a few bends in the relatively straight road that makes it interesting.
The primary mechanic of warfare happens to coincide with the unbelievably small weapons cache that you carry around with you. You can only carry 2 weapons at any one time, along with a ton of ammo. If you find a weapon later on, you have to relinquish one of your existing weapons to take it, and these include weapons left by dead aliens and also dead marines. You also can carry up to 8 grenades – 4 normal explosion ones, and 4 "Plasma" grenades, which stick to any human/alien it comes into contact with, gives off a blue glow and smoke then blows up. It seems fun at the start to stick the grenades to anything living, watching the reaction, but after a while it gets old pretty quick.
Aside from the limited weapons, you also have a pretty neat armour system. You do have the usual health and shield bar that appears in almost every single FPS game since the year dot, but Halo’s version is rather cool. Initially it’s your shield that takes a battering, and then your health, but if you hold back and defend yourself quietly around the corner from a fire fight and wait a few seconds, your shields regenerate back to normal, so even if you are almost down and out, you can still come back relying on the strength of your shield.

There are parts of the game that seem repetitive, and the game becomes a chore to get through, as you fall asleep from playing through the same looking sections over and over again, that almost have you yelling "NO! Not this bit again! I’ve done this 4 times already! If I go through another square grey room and have to go around to the next connecting corridor again, I will scream!" (Biggest criminal of this – The Silent Cartographer)
The vehicles, although good, also happen to appear only for very short periods within the game. You simply do not get to play them enough in the main story. Sure, a short section using the tank to blow up a ton of stuff and protect your marines may seem good, and going around an island in the Warthog (4WD vehicle with a gun on it) is cool for the most part, but it simply is not enough. When I play with a vehicle in a game that is similar to the Warthog, I want to play parts that feel like the Dukes of Hazzard or a Hollywood chase scene in a cop car with very springy suspension going over lots of small jumps. The Warthog doesn’t offer much of a chance to play through these fantasies, although there are some fun bits to drive in.

Multiplayer is fairly well done, keeping to the same sort of game-plan as the singleplayer. Just like before, you can only carry 2 weapons, a maximum of 8 grenades and the same health and shield combo is evident, but there are some little tweaks to it all, for example the "Overshield" power-up within the singleplayer would not start wearing down over time, but it does here, in an attempt to allow people to actually kill each other instead of it being a Mexican standoff. The removal of Co-op from the PC version’s main story scratches a few heads as to why it happened, as it would have been quite nice to do, but sadly no.

The general look of the game is quite good, damn good in fact, but at the same time it does seem slightly dated. If this were released 2 years ago as it could have been originally in the current state, then it would blow everything else out of the water, but it wasn’t, and it just doesn’t seem as mind-blowing as it could have been, as a fair few recent releases far surpass Halo.

It may seem unfair to say all of this, but despite any problems above, it does play fairly well, and it’s more a lack of extra levels and changes throughout the game that’s the let-down. It is fun, but it really needs more to play and drive through. I suppose that’s what sequels are for.


A bit short, needs to be longer, but mostly structurally sound


Graphically great, but others are superior


Good soundtrack, great voicework.


If this were only released last year…

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