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[there's nothing here] Escee.com > Videogame Reviews > Halo

For: Xbox
Genre: FPS
Reviewed by: Escee (Brandon)
Developer: Bungie
Publisher: Microsoft
Halo is hailed as the killer app for the Xbox launch. And it is. But is it the perfect game it is made out to be, or just a killer app at the Xbox launch?

The first thing that struck me was the absolutely surreal orchestral soundtrack; the soundtrack is damn good consistently throughout the game. The story puts you in control of the last surviving Spartan II cybernetically-engineered human, known only by his rank of Master Chief. You start on the ship, Pillar of Autumn, which is under attack from Covenant forces; the Covenant are an allied collection of alien races whose religious beliefs drive them to abhorr humans. You'll quickly crash onto the ring-shaped planet Halo.

The AI in the game is absolutely revolutionary. Unlike in numerous other games, your friendlies are actually smart and actually help your efforts, providing cover fire and effectively combatting the enemy. The enemy AI is even better. There is no set pattern the enemies will follow -- every battle is different, and the enemies throw grenades, retreat when in danger, try to surround you, and overall use brilliant tactics against you. Legendary mode is incredibly hard, and it's not because of cheapness -- it's because of the stellar AI.

You can only carry two weapons, plus grenades, at a time, so the game thus invokes more strategy, challenge, and balance. Your max ammo is limited as well, so you really have to strategize in deciding what weapons to take and when to reload. This creates a more balanced FPS than many others.

You'll also find vehicles throughout the game which are seamlessly integrated into the game, even though you'll ride the vehicles in third-person. The four vehicles -- the Warthog, a Jeep with a machine gun; the Scorpion, a tank; the Ghost, a quick Covenant hovercraft; and the Banshee, a flying Covenant air-assault ship -- vary the gameplay and enhance the FPS experience.

The game is fantastic. The graphics are incredible -- the textures retain their quality two inches away. The AI is beautiful, and the soundtrack, sound effects, and audio are surreal. This is the game you should buy an Xbox for, and if you have an Xbox, you absolutely must buy this game. Is it the best game ever? No. No, it sure as hell ain't the best game ever. But it's still damn good. It does have its flaws, but what game doesn't?

Multiplayer is awesome. Playing co-op through the single-player campaigns with a friend is great fun. You can then hook up up to four Xboxes with four controllers each for 16-player multiplayer with tons of options -- team deathmatch, free-for-all, CTF, snipers, rockets, king of the hill, etc. There are countless multiplayer options, plus you can customize and edit them yourself for more options.

Now, as I said, no game is perfect, and Halo is no exception. A lot of it is rehashed, running down dark hallways might get repetetive. It didn't get repetetive at all for me the first time through the game, but it is a flaw, and it can be done better. It was done better in Deus Ex which had truly unique levels and little repetition because of variety in the levels. The framerate is not perfect in Halo either, and it falls sometimes in multiplayer and with too many enemies onscreen, but it doesn't get unplayable, and for the most part the framerate stays at a solid 30FPS. Those are the bigger problems I noticed, with the first being the more important -- I think Deus Ex was a more fun experience. Then there are little things, such as the fact that you can't play co-op over the system link, but that's just minor and not even worth complaining about.

There are some frustrating parts, the one I remember most clearly being the last level's Warthog segment (I won't spoil what it's about, so I'll leave it at that), but it certainly wasn't an overly frustrating game and was still an enjoyable play.

The storyline and sound make Halo a great cinematic experience, and it focuses on shooting over puzzles to create a truly action-oriented FPS, and it betters the genre.

The graphics are outstanding, with the best feature being the incredible textures that retain their quality up close. The framerate could've been better, though.
Absolutely superb. A surreal and unique orchestral soundtrack, with amazing sound effects and audio. You can even hear the accents of your Marines from around the world. I don't have a sound system, but Halo supports 5.1 surround sound for the best sound experience.
Action-packed and fun, integrating FPS first-person shooting with vehicles in third-person. The dark hallways can get repetetive, though, so I think I enjoyed Deus Ex more than Halo's single-player campaign. The outdoor levels of Halo are the best.

Bungie did a good job of making an FPS playable on a console controller without a mouse/keyboard. The right analog stick is mouselook, and the left analong stick is move. The right trigger is fire, and the left trigger throws a grenade. Controlling the Warthog takes practice, but it's a unique experience.
The game, with its four difficulties including the insane Legendary difficulty, may be worth playing again, especially for those who want to beat it on Legendary after beating it on Normal the first time through. However, the multiplayer options offer the most replay value.

bottom line: If you have an Xbox, buy the game... honestly, if you don't, you're missing out. Then go play system-link multiplayer.


click on the above screenshots for larger versions.
images from zdnet and ign

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