Halo

Halo

Written by Charles Husemann on 9/30/2003 for PC  

This is my Halo for the PC review…I’ve been waiting a long time to write those words. Even though I own an Xbox I’ve never been able to force myself to purchase a copy of Halo for the Xbox since I knew that it was coming out for the PC at some point. Finally, the wait is over and now PC users will finally get a taste of what Xbox owners have had for years.

You take control of Master Chief, a genetically engineered super soldier. The game is set in the future as the humans are fighting a war against an alien force known as the covenant. You are awoken from cyber sleep as your ship warps in next to an strange circular shaped world (hence the title). It’s all typical sci-fi stuff but Halo’s game play more than makes up for the semi-generic plot.

Halo for the most part is your standard FPS game. You run around, kill some things, and protect other things from the bad guys. What pushes it beyond your typical FPS is the plot, the graphics, and the gameplay. Halo provides users with a full end to end experience.

I covered a lot of the single player portion of the game in my preview. The single player portion of Halo is rock solid. There is a nice narrative and flow to the game although some of the missions do get a bit repetitive. There are a lot of nice touches in the single player portion (the interaction with the other marines provide a lot of entertainment and levity). The single player portion of the game moves you seamlessly through indoor and outdoor environments with only small load and save times to let you know that you’ve moved into another region of the game. I did experience a little slowdown in some of the larger areas but it wasn’t much of a distraction.

The AI of the covenant is actually pretty good. They do a nice job of swarming you and dodging fire. The most fun you can have is chucking grenades at them and watching them run for cover or better yet sticking one of the plasma grenades to them and watching them run around before the grenade detonates.

The only real gripe I have is that Gearbox stuck with the single check point system. I realize there might be some purists out there but come on, there’s really no reason why users shouldn’t be able to save anywhere in the came. This prevents gamers from fully exploring levels and taking chances. Despite this flaw, the single player is icing on the cake compared to the multiplayer portion of the game. Multiplayer is where Halo really shines. The first thing veteran Halo players will notice is that the co-op mode from the Xbox did not survive the port to the PC version. This is probably the most disappointing thing about the game (besides the save point issue) but never fear Gearbox tossed in a bunch of goodies to help ease the pain. The most significant is that Gearbox made it stupid easy to play over the Internet. You just click multiplayer, join Internet game, and then grab a list of servers. Find one with a low ping and you’re off and fragging. I played a few games and even with high pings (over 100) I didn’t experience any real lag.

Hosting games is also as easy and anyone with a decent broadband connection should be able to host a nice sized game. I was able to host an eight-player game without anyone experiencing much lag in the game. Like joining a game, hosting is simple. You pick the map, game type, number of players, and then start the server. Dead simple. The only thing I couldn’t find was an option to setup a dedicated server. Hopefully this is something that Gearbox will release shortly.

To make the new Internet play more interesting, Gearbox tossed in a few new multiplayer maps, a new multiplayer weapon, and two new vehicles. The new multiplayer maps are a lot of fun and do a good job of taking advantage of the new vehicles. Like the classic Xbox maps, the new maps are nicely balanced and don’t seem to provide either side with a clear advantage.

The new vehicles are a little hit and miss. The new warthog is your standard Warthog except with a rocket launcher instead of the chain gun. It’s effective against infantry and vehicles but it is not nearly as fun as the other new vehicle, the Banshee. The Banshee is now available in multiplayer and it adds an entirely new aspect to the game. Now you have to watch the skies around your base along with the ground. The Banshee isn’t going to win any speed awards (it would be too powerful if it were any faster) but it is an effective way to get from point A to B as well as providing support for teammates.

Halo’s multiplayer takes some getting used to. The action feels a little slower than some of the other PC FPS games but the action is still intense. The Banshee’s add a new layer to the game and force you to really work in teams as the Banshee’s can pick off single soldiers with ease. I had a ton of fun with the multiplayer side of Halo and I think it has the potential to quickly become an online favorite.
Halo uses the typical WASD control set. The left mouse buttons fires the weapon while the second mouse button throws grenades. You toggle between weapons using the tab key (you can only carry two weapons at a time) and you toggle between the grenade types with the G key. It works out pretty well and I never really found myself hunting for a key to do something. The controls do feel a little tighter since the early beta but jumping still feels a little floaty.

Controlling the vehicles takes some getting used to but once you have it down it’s a blast. You use the W and S key to control forward and back and steer with the mouse. The trick is that you point the mouse where you want to go and the game turns the vehicle in that direction. Once you get the hang of it you’ll be tearing around and tail sliding over enemies in no time.

Graphically Halo is fairly impressive. The folks at Gearbox did a great job of converting everything over to the PC. I did spot the occasional jaggie but that is probably more a result of running without anti-aliasing on than anything else. Bottom line, it’s real purty to look at.

For the most part the sounds are solid. All of the weapons have nice distinctive sounds and the voice work is outstanding (especially the quips from your fellow marines and panicked covenant troops). The only real complaint I have with the sound is that at max speed the warthogs sound like they are looking for the next gear and can’t quite get to it. It’s not too bad until you have to cross a large span of space in the Warthog and the engine just drones on and on.

Overall the game is a blast to play and provides users with one of the best combinations of single and multi-player fun since Half-Life hit streets. This is a pretty solid use of your $50 as you’ll get about 10 hours out of the single player side of the game and lots of play out of the multiplayer side. The big questions are if the game can hold up against the cheaters and what cool mods will be created once Gearbox released the development kit.
The single player mode is rock solid (although a bit repetitive in places) and the multiplayer side of Halo PC is a ton of fun that provides hours of fragging fun.

Rating: 9 Excellent

* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company for review.


About Author

Hi, my name is Charles Husemann and I've been gaming for longer than I care to admit. For me it's always been about competing and a burning off stress. It started off simply enough with Choplifter and Lode Runner on the Apple //e, then it was the curse of Tank and Yars Revenge on the 2600. The addiction subsided somewhat until I went to college where dramatic decreases in my GPA could be traced to the release of X:Com and Doom.   I have been a Microsoft Xbox MVP since 2009.
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