The day has finally come and it's time to see just how well Halo stands up against the massive amount of hype that has been built up behind it these last few months. To be honest with you, The Source was starting to feel that the hype would create a vision of a game that, in reality, wouldn't live up to it's expectations. Boy, was The Source ever wrong! Halo has gone far beyond The Source's expectations and has managed to stand up to the shadow of hype. The Source thought maybe gamers would also expect too much from halo, when in reality they still have no idea what Halo has in store for them. Halo is not only the perfect next-generation first person shooter; it has redefined the genre, on a console no less. Never before has a combat game been so amazing in every way.
The Source was particularly impressed with the AI of the enemies in the game. Rather than acting as single, mindless units that independently attack you, the enemy forces will cooperate with each other and move in units that will actually perform advanced combat tactics. You will find yourself being swarmed, surrounded, led into traps, and hunted by enemies that will combine their efforts based on position and numbers. You will soon learn that a good amount of strategy and brainpower in the heat of action will be as necessary a weapon as firepower is. Whether you play single player or multiplayer co-op, Halo will require gamers to carefully plan out their attacks, as one likely would in any real life military operation.
In multiplayer-mode, communicating with your fellow player or players will become vital, as you will quickly find yourself shouting out commands and positions in order to work as a team to boost your chances of survival. During single player mode, if you do not function well as a part of your Marine unit, your computer-controlled allies will be killed. The better you are able to help support and protect them, the better they will be able to provide you with some sort of backup in deadly situations. Finally, we have a combat title that actually gives us a taste of what the real thing might be like.
In case you have been living in a cave, you might want to take a look at the screenshots from this game. There really isn’t much dispute over Halo’s beautiful graphics. Anyone who knocks the graphical splendor of Halo should be given a brisk slap upside the face. The world of Halo is so gorgeous it almost reaches the point where you probably won’t even notice the minute details of the environments around you. Everything from weather effects and lighting is wonderfully done, and you might feel the urge to stop and smell the roses, but not for too long or you might end up buried 6 feet under them instead. Even such subtle things as your flashlight will make you go WOW! Advanced particle systems enable effects like snow and rain, as well as dirt and debris to be tossed up here and there. The cut-scenes are real-time and seemless with the game’s progression. Models are crisp with textures so detailed you can see skin irregularities during close up views.
You’ll be sure to notice some nice graphical features when you fire off your weapons as well. Each weapon has a distinct visual effect, complete with color, lighting, enough intensity that it will make attacking your enemies both visually and egotistically pleasing. Just watching your player reload each weapon is entertaining. The Source could go on and on about Halo’s graphics and give you all kinds of technical babble, but it all leads to the same conclusion…Halo’s graphics owns us all.
The controls of the game are quickly picked up and before you know it, you won’t even think about what buttons to hit. After a while, you will just react to the game and the controls become very natural—surprisingly natural for an FPS game on a console. Plus, you will have the ability to tweak the controls to your own personal liking, so if you have any complaints about button use, there is probably a reasonable solution if you try to change the default settings. For example, The Source prefers the inverted control so that looking up is down and looking down is up. Since The Source has become so accustomed to this control setting for flight combat games, it seems natural to do so with Halo.
One directional pad will control your aim (like a mouse), while the other controls your movement (like a keyboard). This will allow for complex tactics that give you the ability to zig and zag while keeping your sights locked on a fixed position—a particularly nice feature when you are trying to avoid enemy fire. Depending on whether or not you are left or right handed, you can switch the controls of the directional pads, so once again you decide the control setup. Your triggers will act as your weapon firing buttons. One is for your gun while the other will toss a grenade at unsuspecting foes. It felt good using The Source’s index fingers for weapons control. Other controls will enable you to jump, reload, switch weapons, discard and pickup weapons as you make your way through Halo. It should only take you a couple of minutes to get the hang of the controls. Another plus of using the controller is the vibration function, which is pulled off just right during the game. The Xbox control pad enhanced with vibration features gives you an added amount of subtle detail that boosts the overall experience of Halo.
Right up there with the graphics, is the superb audio of Halo. If you have access to a 5.1 surround sound system complete with a decent subwoofer, you will feel each gun blast, explosion, and impact as the room shudders. You will also hear the action of the game around you in complete 3D audio. As you move throughout the game’s environments, the directional sounds will help guide you along, and sometimes startle the bejeezus out of you if you aren’t paying attention to your targeting system.
Gun shots and laser blasts will move throughout the room from one side to the other, providing some spatial depth while playing the game. The most notable audio element of the game is the communication between your allies as well as your foes. Your fellow Marines will rally together during a skirmish shouting out phrases like “let’s kick some ass!” if you happen to show up while a group of Marines are under attack, they will let you know just how relieved they are that you showed up just in time, since you are, of course, the Master Chief (a cyborg). Your enemies will also engage in some verbal expressions during combat. The smaller, bug-like members of the Covenant often turn coward and run away from you, squealing out phrase like “wake up, they’re here!” or “we’re gonna die!” It’s a nice feeling you get when you know just the sight of you instills such fear in those you wish to conquer.
Aside from the communication of the game, each level has a distinct environment. The swamp level is particularly impressive in the audio department. Not only will you hear individual droplets of rain splashing in the shallow waters below you, you will hear crickets, wind, and whatever other strange creatures might inhabit this strange land. The clarity of the game’s audio is like no game you have ever played before, and the power of the Xbox is truly showcased through a kick butt surround system.
Halo has enough diversity in; lay modes to last a lot longer than most games in your collection. With plenty of multiplayer modes, you won’t soon get bored of this game as long as you have some friends to fight with. You may choose to play in cooperative mode, which allows you to team up with a friend and play through the main game. The Source highly recommends joining up with a partner, as it makes the game that much more fun. You’ll find yourselves coming up with a plan of attack in which one of you will act as cover while the other pushes forward, or checks around a blind corner. It really becomes a game that you will get completely involved in. If you choose to play some multiplayer versus action, you will find 25 different competitions to keep you and your friends busy. Bungie thought of everything here, including Slayer the classic deathmatch mode, Phantoms where players are invisible, and even a Snipers mode that gives each player a long range sniper rifle.
You can also play multiplayer using the LAN capabilities of the Xbox. Using the Xbox System Link, you can connect up to 4 Xbox units for up to 16 players for some serious Halo action. This is where you separate the men from the boys and put the children to bed for the night. At the Xbox Unleashed event, Halo LAN was fully functional and probably the most well-received setup at the show.
To sum things up, Halo is the game to get if you have an Xbox. If you have never been a fan of first person shooters, this game will make you one. It’s really that good. If you don’t like Halo or don’t think it’s quality, then you’re definitely not from this planet. Halo is the kind of game that will…no, has redefined the genre. From this point on, all future combat games will be base on and compared to Halo. All your base are belong to Halo! Period.
The Verdict is in!
So there you have it folks, the first in many to come reviews from the one and only The Source.