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A Little History


            Halo is a great example of both what's right and what's wrong in the gaming industry today.  Produced by Bungie as an unofficial sequel to their Marathon series, it was touted as one of the most revolutionary first person shooters to hit the market.  However, Microsoft, who needed a hit game for their Xbox gaming system, bought up the project.  Bungie, now under intense pressure to finish from Microsoft, ripped out the guts of the game and sent it on its way to expectant gamers everywhere.  The result is a surprising combination of both innovative ideas and boneheaded mistakes. 


Game over man, game over!


            The plot of Halo is nothing new.  The Earth is fighting a losing battle against aliens and youre the only one who can save it blahblahblah.  The weapons in Halo are also not going to knock your socks off.  You are equipped with your standard machine guns, pistols, (my personal favorite) sniper rifles, and alien plasma guns.  Although you can only carry two weapons at a time, you'll generally end up with a plasma rifle and a shotgun/sniper rifle/rocket launcher, depending on your fighting style.  As for the levelswhile there are occasional places that are so fun youll want to play them over and over (such as rescuing the downed escape pods), most levels are SO repetitive as to slowly drive you insane (like the rescuing the captain mission and the cartographer mission).  You'll fight some aliens in a room, go down a hall, and then find a room that looks exactly the same as the room before it, fight some aliens, go down a infinitum.  The monotony is broken up at times with the different vehicles you can use, but these portions of the game are few and far between.  I would have preferred smaller levels with more thought put into them than the mammoth levels that test you patience more than your skills.


It's thinking


That said, you are fighting against one of the most sophisticated AIs Ive ever seen.  Even on relatively easy levels, the aliens still will try to outflank you, lob grenades, avoid grenades you throw, and use intelligent squad tactics.  In most games, playing on higher difficulty levels gets you the same old enemies with more hit points.  The best part about Halo is that on higher difficulties, the aliens actually get SMARTER, not tougher.  By the time you hit Legendary level, even small squads to aliens can tie you down for some time.  At one point early on, I found myself pinned down behind a corner in the ships mess hall, low on health with plasma bolts flying past my head.  Suddenly, I found two aliens had worked their way around the mess hall and were firing at my back, surrounding me.  Its moments like these that make the long levels tolerable.  Sadly, your human teammates seem to have the collective intelligence of a bowl of pea soup.  Often the human marines are more of a liability to you than an asset.  When the aliens have a plasma grenade stuck to them, they will run towards you before exploding.  When the human marines are hit with a plasma grenade, they will run also towards you.  On more than one occasion, Ive had to kill my own teammates before they could get close enough to damage me with the grenade thats stuck to them.  When the marines encounter an alien, they will stand out in the open and shoot at it and anything (like you) that gets in the way of their inaccurate fire.  Ive had to go back to get my marines more than once because they all got stuck on the corners of walls.  I suppose Bungie wanted you make sure you didnt rely on the marines too much, but making them a little more on par with the aliens would have made them more useful.  The only exception to this seems to be the human sniper you occasionally come across; hes a crack shot and never seems to run out of ammo.  Oddly enough, although you can hook up to 16 players together to play Halo, only two people can play the campaign at a time.  Why limit the number of players in single player mode when the technology is already in place in the game to allow more people?  Yet another one of lifes mysteries


A friend in need


            But hey, nobody plays a FPS for the engrossing plot, right?  Where Halo really shines is in multiplayer mode.  With games ranging from capture the flag to racing, Halo does it all.  It even allows you to create your own types of games and even designate what kinds of weapons and vehicles are included when you get tired of the stock options.  In contrast to the flat, dull levels in single player mode, Halos multiplayer maps are grossly addicting.  From wide-open plains (perfect for sniping), to the cramped insides of space ships, Halo will satisfy even the most hardcore gamers.  With the system link, multiplayer games for the most part ran as smooth as the single player missions.  It does tend to lag a little if you bunch everyone on one Xbox, so the more systems you have the better.  Unfortunately, a skirmish mode with bots is noticeably absent from multiplayer mode.  While it may seem like Im asking too much, it would be very easy to do given the games sophisticated AI, and would have made multiplayer games even more fun.  Also, to differentiate between multiple Xboxes, Halo will assign your Xbox a random name.  I would advise installing Halo and finding out which name it gave you before you bring your friends over.  It can be very embarrassing to hook up your friends Xbox (named the Butcher) to yours, only to find Halo has decided to name yours Bubbles.   As for multiplayer tactics, since the punch feature is surprisingly powerful in Halo, I found that the Boxer button configuration is best way to go in multiplayer mode.  A good tactic is to stun your opponent with the alien pistol, while closing in for the kill with a punch to the face.  It can be quite humiliating if done properly 

            Halo is one of the best Xbox games available, and is a must have for anyone with $50 and one friend or more.  If you can get together around 6 people to play, you will all easily lose hours (even days) beating the crap out of each other.  Its the best console fragfest I've played, bar none.  Sadly, it cannot receive a 10 because of what it could have been.  All of the problems I've mentioned in single player mode could have easily been found and fixed in testing, which shows how quickly the game was rushed to market.  Had Bungie had a little more time to polish it up, Halo would easily be the best FPS console game ever made.

GamingHyena gives Halo 9/10