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Halo

Developer: Gearbox Software | Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
Players: 1 to 16 Player Game | Release Date: 09/30/03 | Genre: FPS

Almost as soon as a few Halo screens hit the internet, people were touting this game as THE game to own when the Xbox finally arrived. Well, that time has now passed and how does Halo hold up to the hype? Read on to find out!

Halo is the gargantuan first person shooter for Microsoft's new Xbox and after playing it, it's easy too see why this game was hyped up so much. Halo is an incredible experience that every gamer should try. Is it worth $350 just to play this game? Well, probably not, but I don't think I've played a game yet that I'd be willing to spend $350 for. However, since the Xbox is so cool even without Halo, you should definitely invest in one, and if you do have an Xbox then you might as well consider Halo a mandatory purchase.

The story puts you in the shoes of a cyborg warrior simply called the Master Chief. You are the last remaining cyborg of your kind, and you were created by humans to fight in the war against a fellowship of alien races called the Covenant. The Covenant has been trying to exterminate the human race for years, and humanity's very existence now rests on your shoulders. Piece of cake, right? Well, maybe if you have the game set on the "easy" difficulty, and if it's your first time through, I highly recommend this. The game still provides plenty of challenge on "easy" as you near the end. Set the difficulty up higher and you'll likely be buried in an avalanche of enemy fire.

The atmosphere of Halo really puts you into the game. As you progress through the levels, you'll sometimes join groups of marines who are busy fighting the Covenant forces. The marines talk to one another, the enemy, and even you on occasion, making it seem as though you're actually right there in the trenches. These marines will also give you cover fire from time to time, and you always feel good about yourself whenever you return the favor and save one of your buddies from certain annihilation.

Things really heat up as you get farther in and a third warring party joins the fray. The Flood is yet another group of aliens that will be after you, but they also attack the Covenant. It's pretty funny to walk into a room when the Covenant is currently fighting with a group of Flood aliens. They won't even attack you unless you shoot them first. I usually aligned myself with the Covenant in these situations because the Flood aliens are just too vicious. Of course, once the Flood group was exterminated the Covenant immediately turned on me like the dreaded bunch of ingrates that they are.

The gameplay in Halo is fairly standard for a first-person shooter; basically just fire at anything ugly and moving. Something that is a bit unusual is the fact that you are only allowed to carry two guns at a time. This means that you must think strategically about which guns will be the most helpful given the current situation. On your adventure you will also be able to snag a few vehicles here and there. These range from the land-roaming Warthog to the strange, flying Banshee. You can also knock aliens from the seats of turret guns and take the reigns for yourself.

Visually, Halo is definitely a treat, but to be honest, I didn't think it looked all that much better than the other launch titles. The enemies are very distinct and there is a fair number of different varieties. The environments are good for the most part, but the outside levels really look fantastic and I found them to be more fun than the levels taking place inside of a structure. The guns are cool looking and the level of detail in them is almost astounding. The assault rifle litters the floor with shells as you fire and they bounce all over the place in a heated gun fight. There is also a nice variety of weapons to choose from, including different types of grenades. You have your standard earthly weapons like the shotgun, but you can also pick alien plasma rifles up from fallen foes.

The sound in Halo is yet another one of its many finer points. The sound effects are excellent, and the voicing sounds good as well. Enemies will speak in plain English and your marine pals will speak as well. The music in the game goes against what you'd normally expect for an FPS game, but that's actually a good thing. I thought the music was very impressive and gave the game an added sense of wonder. I certainly enjoyed it more than the ridiculous heavy music that is found in so many FPS games today.

If Halo has any downfalls, it's probably the game's insane level of difficulty. As I said before, the easy mode is hard enough, but crank it up a bit and you barely stand a chance; I can't even imagine what the later levels must be like on hard mode. Another faulty spot may be the game's multiplayer mode. You don't even have the option of using bots if you want to. There are a lot of multiplayer games to play, but Xbox controllers are pretty expensive if you're going to provide one for three friends. If your buddies don't have Xbox's then you probably won't be using this mode much at all.

Overall, Halo more than delivers the goods and should be played by absolutely every Xbox owner out there. It is definitely one of the best first person shooters on the market, and if you don't have it, I highly suggest you go out there and pick up a copy today!

By Ryan Schaefer - 01/09/02
ESRB Details: Blood and Gore, Violence
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Screenshots for Halo

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