Producers: Microsoft Game Studios, Macsoft
Plot: A war between humans and the Covenant takes the two factions to an artificial planet called the Halo, which holds several dangerous secrets…
Halo throws you in a bright, colourful world, gives you an array of futuristic looking weapons and sends you off to fight several interesting alien creatures. The writers have come up with an interesting new Sci-Fi universe to play with, as you control one of few super soldiers in the human army, named the Master Chief. Your enemy is the fearsome Covenant, alien races hell-bent on wiping humanity from the face of the earth, declaring man an insult to their Gods. Most of the game consists of you holding back the hordes of Covenant.
My problem with this game is the repetitive nature of it. It sets you up with some interesting maps: the bright scenery of Halo’s forests, the intricate temples of the Covenant and a vast control room in the heart of Halo. However, once you are there you have little to do than fight your way through it, get from Point A to B and move onto the next mission. In some cases, once you reached your target, the game makes you fight your way back to the start point of the game, giving the experience nothing new other than a few more enemies stationed in old locations. Don’t get me wrong, some of this fighting is fun, but you kind of want more of a reward for completing a mission, rather than being shoe-horned to the next part of the story. By the time you get halfway through the game, you realise that this is a pretty much non-stop fighting deal and that gets a little disheartening.
Sometimes the game throws things up a bit. There are a few interesting bosses that shake the gameplay up a bit. The Hunters are tough to fight and when they appear on the map, you end up having to use every last bit of your skill to take them out. There are also several vehicles that you can pilot (bearing in mind, the enemies often have the same vehicles at their disposal), which is one of the more entertaining elements of the game. Controlling them is a bit shaky and you can end up ruining your own progress by a bit of novice steering. I think the later games tidy up that aspect of the game, but it is a nice addition here. Also, the midway point in the game throws a neat twist and introduces a new enemy. This enemy is terrifying, original and admittedly changes the pace of the game for a while. However, before long, even they become subject to the repetition of the game. What begins a cool twist eventually is turned into an annoying obstacle!
I am also unsure of what tone the game is going for. It deals with some quite serious issues. For one, war and infection, but also there is always this major sense of impending doom hanging over the game. By the end, Halo becomes quite a dark and despairing experience. However, this is harshly juxta-posed with the slapstick humour from some of your enemies. Grunts, the weakest enemy you will face, run around the map, squealing. They never put up a fight and at times, you wonder what their purpose is, other than a quick laugh. I know this game is made for kids, but this seems like quite a cheap use of comic appeal and sometimes it gets in the way of the dark story that Halo is trying to tell.
It is important to note that when the game was first released, it did give the player a fighting experience that was unheard of before in gaming. The AI was superb. When a character saw his superiors killed, they would back off and retreat, rather than bravely staying in a suicidal last stand. It made for an ever-changing combat experience. And combat is what this game does best. Although the repetition gets annoying before long, there are moments where you cannot help, but admire the smaller details of the controls. The fighting gameplay is handled well. When you and some of your men get into a vehicle, the AI instinctively knows where they can be used the best. For example, you jump behind the wheel, a man gets on the turret and two more men lean out of the passenger seats, armed with their rifles. There is a good game here, but the repetitive nature weakens it.
Final verdict: Halo will eventually become a leading franchise in the gaming world, but this instalment is humble in comparison.
Hey, people! I am writing up an article on my website, trying to find the best Xbox 360 game out there. If you want to participate, write up a paragraph or two explaining why your favourite game deserves to be the best one, comment on here (I will trash your comment soon after reading to avoid spoilers for the actual article), and I will include it in the site. You will of course be credited. If you pick the same game as someone else, I will have to decline your paragraph, although I will notify you, so you can select another if you choose to.
Lots of love, Luke ‘Up All Night to Get Lucky’ Abbott