Flying rings around the competition. Review

Halo: Combat Evolved Info


  • FPS


  • N/A


  • MacSoft
  • Microsoft


  • Bungie

Release Date

  • 12/31/1969
  • Out Now


  • Mac
  • PC
  • Xbox


Flying rings around the competition.

A few months ago, I said Halo was “…set to deliver an unprecedented

video game experience on a console.” Here it is, six months later and Bungie

has delivered the package like some digital stork on a divine mission. Is the

video game experience actually unprecedented, you ask? Let’s just say if you

plan to buy an Xbox, Halo will be on the front lines at the Battle of

I-Told-You-So. Although one game won’t win the system wars, this one puts up

a hell of a fight.

But even the Great Pyramid has its flaws albeit very few. Halo is no

exception. A dash of repetition, a smidgeon of a learning curve and a slight

prejudice to the socially challenged gamer is all that blocks the road to perfection.

As a result, we’re merely left with the best single player FPS game we have

ever played

on a console or otherwise. Oh well, you can’t win ’em all.

The drama unfolds in a distant galaxy known as Halo for the huge planet-sized

ring-like object that floats there. Humanity’s long standing war with the amalgamated

alien race known as the Covenant has brought you to Halo via the Pillar

of Autumn (a mini SDF1-sized

battle cruiser). Before long, you find yourself and a handful of crew members

seemingly stranded on the giant ring, fighting for your lives and possession

of the ring itself. Thankfully, the big metal donut has its own atmosphere,

which, incidentally, is human-lung friendly, not to mention lush and a potential

gold mine for anyone looking to invest in some vacationing property.

The story is great and progresses you through the game very believingly with

twists and turns that keep it intriguing. Thought you knew everything about

Halo? Well I bet we know something you don’t know, and we’re not telling.

Let’s just say invisible swordsmen are bad, but…oh, forget

it. From the intricate story to the well-scripted voice talent, Bungie was obviously

serious about Halo‘s delivery from start to finish.

You assume the guise of Master Chief, a cybernetically enhanced super Marine

with some very handy rechargeable armor. Offering suggestions and general navigation

is the Pillar of Autumn’s onboard computer named Cortana. This little construct

has been transplanted to your hi-tech helmet for easy transport and it plays

a vital role in Halo‘s story.

For the most part, Halo is a blend of incredibly innovative vehicle

use and traditional FPS-ing with the game’s few but impressive weapons. Standard

projectile armaments like a machine gun, pistol (w/one level zoom), frag grenades,

sniper rifle, shotgun and rocket launcher comprise the marine firepower. However,

nearly all enemy ordinances can be acquired from fallen Covenant soldiers as

well. These weapons are energy based and brutal – Covenant weapons more easily

slice through Covenant energy shields, which obviously comes in handy.

Halo‘s entire alien and terrestrial arsenal is the product of hard,

meticulous thinking and some of the guns really show this. From the Alien Needler

(which fires crystal shards that stick into an opponent only to explode moments

after) to the adhesive plasma grenades, the weaponry is a blast.


and gunning is great, but where Halo really shines is the vehicle support.

There are many instances that let you drive, hover and fly across Halo‘s

gorgeous landscapes. You can hop in an all-terrain buggy (Warthog) that seats

two and is equipped with a rear-mounted gun turret. A third marine can operate

this monster to dish out some rapid-fire projectile pain while travelling at

high speeds.

Other vehicles include the Marine’s Scorpion tank and a couple alien crafts

like hoverbikes (Ghosts) and flying units (Banshees). Each vehicle handles differently

– the Warthog is the most difficult to drive due to its point-then-accelerate


You really have to see Halo moving to appreciate its amazing graphics.

The textures are simply fantastic and the attention to detail is terrific. The

light sourcing is really cool – energy blasts and your teammates’ personal flashlights

illuminate the surrounding area. Plus, the cuts and grooves are endless and

dynamic. I shot down an enemy Banshee, but its rapidly descending charred husk

managed to crush me when it hit the ground and noticeably scraped the ice upon

impact. I was awestruck…and very dead.

The transition from intricate indoor to stunning outdoor areas is virtually

seamless. There are a few instances where the framerate dips just a bit, but

this is always a result of there being hordes of baddies and laser blasts dotting

the screen.

The control is the slickest and the most intuitive for a console FPS, but that

doesn’t make it perfect. Two analog sticks will quickly frustrate before they

gratify. Don’t fret, though – the relative auto-aim is great and you’ll quickly

get used to it, yet still mouse and keyboard should be supported.

At any rate, you better make do with what you got as soon as possible, because

the enemies won’t stand idle for you to get your bearings. They’re smart and

legion., two things we don’t often see in FPS games (remember Delta

Force: Land Warrior
). Throughout the game you will team up with various

friendly Marine NPCs, who are a great help and add a good deal of realism to

the mix. They’ll split up, charge, grab their own vehicles, ride shotgun or

man the aforementioned rear-mounted gun turret. And most importantly, they’ll

accurately cover your cybernetically enhanced behind. Plus, their banter is

fitting, varied and often comical.

There’s a saying: A soldier can only be as good as his greatest nemesis. Indeed,

the Marine NPCs are so intelligent because they have to be in order to deal

with the Covenant warriors. Separated into several groups possessing different

battle tactics and strategies, the Covenant are formidable adversaries. They

too will split up and try to flank you. They will often seek cover, charge or

retreat if the odds are stacked against them. Some of them have impenetrable

shields, some have cloaking devices (ala the Predator), some have swords and

many have at least two of the three.

This is just playing Halo on the Normal setting. There are still three

higher difficulty settings. I haven’t been challenged by a FPS like this since


After you’ve charged through the game’s massive single player campaign, grab

a few friends and charge through it again, but with permanent backup this time.

Yep – Cooperative single player is here, and it rules. When you’re done with

that, you can choose between a slew of different multiplayer game types, including

Classic, CTF, Deathmatch, King of the Hill, Race and Oddball. In Oddball, one

character must hold a skull for a given amount of time while everyone goes crazy

trying to take him down. You can’t fire a weapon, but the skull does devastating

melee damage.

The folks at Bungie have incorporated an incredible customizing option to let

you tweak the particulars of each game type. Change the name, type of vehicles,

game time, number of kills, toggle the cloak option, make it free-for-all or

team based and so much more. Plus, the game ships with 21 presets that Bungie

thought might whet the player’s appetite a little.

We only have two real complaints about the multiplayer. For one thing, you

can’t play as the aliens. It’s always human vs. human, which takes some of the

fun away. Plus, there is no bot support. You will always need a friend with

whom to play multiplayer, and for some game types you’ll need many. Eight or

more Xboxes can be linked together for unmatched fun at those extremely rare

LAN parties. Of course, you need a TV and a copy of Halo per Xbox, which

sucks. Since the Xbox is not online yet, the lack of bot support to add more

players leaves you in something of a lurch.

But in the end, Halo has totally revolutionized how we look at console

FPS games. Before you go to that big sweat-stained sofa in the sky, you absolutely

have to play this game. It’s really the best FPS you can play on your TV. Xbox

score big with Halo: Combat Evolved.


Box art - Halo: Combat Evolved
Totally gorgeous
Obscenely entertaining
Massive single player game
Massive multiplayer game
Excellent vehicle support
Compelling story
No bot support