Product Type: Microsoft PC games
Newest Review: ... aliens, and that's where the combat begins. You play the role of the now-iconic 'Masterchief' - a seven feet tall, armour-plated geneticall... more
Regression, not Evolution.
Halo: Combat Evolved (PC)
Member Name: cheffrey
Halo: Combat Evolved (PC)
Date: 17/11/11, updated on 17/11/11 (36 review reads)
Advantages: Bit of fun to be had, nice draw distances, some intriguing back story
Disadvantages: Overhyped, boring, unoriginal, childish.
Halo, or to give its full title Halo: Combat Evolved was the first instalment in one of the most enduringly popular video game franchises of the decade. Its appeal has spawned numerous sequels, animated films and a whole wave of fervent adulation that I felt that I was missing out on something important.
Strangely, it was some years after its initial launch that Halo was given a release on the PC. It was released as the flagship game to accompany the launch of Microsoft's answer to the Playstation, the first generation Xbox. It was odd that a company founded entirely on a market of PC users should shun them, but they finally relented and it got a peep through its Windows (pun completely intended).
I had briefly played Halo on a friend's Xbox, and hadn't given it enough time to judge it fairly. This was almost entirely down to my apathy towards FPS games on consoles, as thumbsticks do not lend themselves to the genre at all - after playing any FPS with a mouse and keyboard, switching to the clunky imprecision of a gamepad is like giving yourself instant dyspraxia. Timing was poor on Microsoft's part, as I had just finished Valve's bona fide classic Half-Life 2, and, hungry for more sci-fi based adrenalin-fuelled action, sunk my teeth into Halo. Shame that when I did it felt like I'd lost a few molars, and that a trip to the dentist would've been more enjoyable than this lazy, underwhelming snore-fest.
~Premise and Plot~
The premise of Halo is a simple one. In the far future, a mysterious pennanular alien world (the 'Halo' which lends its name to the series) has been discovered by humans and space marines (how original...) have been sent there to check it out. Unfortunately, it is populated by two species of warring aliens, and that's where the combat begins. You play the role of the now-iconic 'Masterchief' - a seven feet tall, armour-plated genetically enhanced warrior, which sounds awesome but translates into being very lame. This is where Halo first falls down; the developers have sunk quite a bit of time into creating this fictional universe and its back stories, but the lore doesn't tie in with the gaming experience. Legends abound of the Masterchief's super-human abilities, such as holding off 20,000 enemies almost single handed, or flipping over an upturned tank to save some crew members, but you never get to experience anything like this...
~Gameplay and Design~
The game starts as your huge spaceship comes under attack from aliens. The first scene is quite tense, as I had no idea what to expect. However, when the aliens land, all sense of danger and threat vanishes in a puff of garishly coloured idiocy. The aliens, known by the impressive title 'The Covenant' do not live up to their biblical-sounding name. They are garish, cartoonish, chunky and totally non-threatening. The smallest of them utter thoroughly silly Pingu-esque noises and waddle around like neon-coloured space penguins, and the larger ones are so cumbersome they are sitting ducks. So much for the Covenant, then.
The next species of aliens, The Flood, are a little better, essentially being mindless zombies that will charge at your relentlessly, exploding in a cloud of toxic gunk that will strip your armour away. However, compared to the terrifying, screeching fast headcrab zombies of Half-life 2, they're a breeze to overcome.
Guns and weaponry are central to any FPS, and this has an array of them. One nice feature is that you can only carry two weapons at a time, forcing you to think tactically and change them as the scenario requires. However, the audio and physics are a real let down here. Never once did I feel as if the weapons to hand packed any kind of punch, as the sound effects are tinny and underwhelming. The alien weaponry is gaudy and plastic looking, and the whole thing feels like quite tacky. The shotgun doesn't give out the mighty boom one would expect from it, it sounds more like someone crunching on a mouthful of Skips (maybe my PC speakers were to blame, but Doom 2 sounded better than this)
For a heavily armoured, genetically optimised warrior, the Masterchief is rubbish. Given the back story I described above, one would expect him to be a one-man army. One grenade will bring him down. You can swing your rifle at your enemies like a club, but it's incerdibly lame. you can only take out the weakest enemy if his back is turned to you; pretty poor show for a man who can supposedly shift thirty tons of tanks with his bare strength. And any elements of danger left over from the appearance of the Disney-esque aliens is gone with the health regeneration system. Been peppered with gunfire and close to death? No need to panic, just hide behind a rock for three seconds and watch it all come back. This sloppy system was later used in the Call of Duty series, much to its detriment.
There are vehicles to drive and fly too, but these handle so clumsily that frustration can soon kick in, although some of the levels are so vast that they're necessary to traverse them. The level design is incredibly poor throughout, with little in the way of surprises or innovation. The first level onboard the spaceship is just endless, homogenous corridors linked together with pauses for a firefight, and when you land on the surface of Halo it isn't much better. For an alien world, it looks remarkably like the Trough of Bowland with its plains, rocks and conifer. There are huge tracts of nothing to explore and the whole thing feels like a wander through an amateur Doom .wad pack.
It's not without joy though. There is humour to be found in the chatter of the marines, and the draw-distances are impressive, especially when seeing the Halo system from orbit, or seeing it stretch out from the surface. Mulitplayer can be a laugh, especially the split-screen, but it's a bit limited. And I wouldn't bother with online play unless you're in the mood to hear rafts of American teenagers hurling insults at each other.
This game is mostly dull. The level design is awful, the action is limp and non-threatening, and much of the graphics are gaudy and childish. This is essentially Quake 2 designed by Disney for an audience of 5 year olds. It's just about OK to play with your mates in the front room for a bit, but its multiplayer is far from the exciting, fraught twitchy gameplay of Counterstrike or the overtly cartoonish silliness of Team Fortress 2. I could only stomach the single-player campaign in doses of about twenty minutes as it was so dull.
There has also been a lot of praise chucked at this game for its originality, which is baffling. It's a pretty safe amalgamation of Battlestar Galactica, Star Wars, Star Trek and any other sci-fi/action film, game or series you care to mention. And the Masterchief's design is a blatant rip-off of the space marine from Doom (who would chainsaw his head clean off his plagiarised shoulders, should they ever meet in a deathmatch arena)
This is the flagship game for mindless fandom, of style over substance and hype over judgement. When compared to Half-life, Doom, or even the over-rated F.E.A.R, this is a pretty mediocre game at best.
Summary: Quite possibly the most overrated video game of all time.