Halo: Combat Evolved
Halo: Combat Evolved is one of the most influential first person shooters of all time. Before Halo, the first person shooter genre was mainly confined to PC games. Popular online shooters reigned supreme on keyboard and mouse, mainly because no developer had found a comfortable control scheme for the genre on gamepads. Halo: Combat Evolved took the world by storm when it released on the original Xbox, and since then, we've seen numerous remakes and releases of the game. Not only is Halo: Combat Evolved a key title in the history of the FPS genre, but it's also a standout hit that remains tons of fun to this day.
The story of Halo is almost universally recognizable at this point. The story follows John, better known as Master Chief. Master Chief awakes out of a cryo-sleep at the beginning of the game, stationed on a spaceship. While exploring the vast reaches of space, the ship comes across a giant ring, dubbed the Halo. Master Chief, along with his AI partner Cortana, head down to investigate the mysterious ring.
The story of Halo works well as both a military-action and a sci-fi tale. As an enhanced super soldier, Master Chief feels vastly powerful. His limited dialogue makes it easy for players to become immersed in the character. The various futuristic guns and weaponry makes for excellent military action, but the deeply complex narrative is jam-packed with inventive science fiction. The story ranges in tone, dipping into elements of horror as well. Overall, the story of Halo: Combat Evolved sets a lot of ground work for later games to execute upon. However, it also works incredibly well as a self-contained story. By the time you reach the end, you will feel deeply connected to the character of Master Chief, as well as Cortana.
A great story isn't the only thing that separates Halo from the rest of the pack. Despite the clunky size of the original Xbox controller, developer Bungie managed to do the unthinkable. Halo's control scheme feels incredibly intuitive, tight, and responsive. It's a control scheme that set the mold for most modern shooting games. Games like Call of Duty, Battlefield, and many other modern hits has modified their control schemes to feel more like Halo. Eventually, this base control scheme would be improved upon, but for the time, Halo: Combat Evolved felt incredibly good to play. Few other games offered the amount of precision and comfort that Halo's controls allowed.
The quality of controls, graphics, and overall gameplay had a huge impact on the gaming scene. Halo quickly became one of the most popular multiplayer games, filling up dorm rooms and gaming cafes worldwide. Before the introduction of Xbox Live, players would hook up multiple consoles together, playing locally over a LAN network. Like Counter-Strike before it, Halo: Combat Evolved revolutionized the competitive multiplayer scene. Not only did the game have an outstanding single player campaign, but it had one of the finest multiplayer offerings available.
Although later Halo titles might feel a bit better to play, Halo: Combat Evolved is a historical title that brought the FPS to consoles in a huge way. It laid the foundation for the genre moving forward, introduced a great new control scheme that would become commonplace, and was generally a fantastic game. Whether you play the original version, the remade modern version, or any other release, it's hard to deny just how fun Halo: Combat Evolved is.
Download Halo: Combat Evolved
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP
"Halo Has The best Al I've ever played with, and I spent three years making Half-Life games." So says Randy Pitchford, president of Gearbox Software, as he sits playing a familiar-looking pastel-hued game in his Texas HQ. It's typical of the kind of admiration Halo inspires, and just one reason why, nearly two years after the game first appeared on Xbox, gamers are still clamouring to get their hands on a proper, PC-optimised version of the classic shooter.
A small team at Gearbox has jeen working on Halo for a solid year now, painstakingly re-making the game from Bungie's Xbox code, collaborating closely with the original developer to make sure, in Pitchford's words, "that we don't screw it up". The process is nearly complete. The new multiplayer modes and maps are in, the graphics have been overhauled, the gameplay sharpened. And now, confident that they have not, in fact, screwed it up, Randy's letting us play it.
For any hermit-like gamers out there who haven't had the opportunity to play the Xbox's best game, Halo is an FPS set on a colossal and mysterious ring-shaped world, casting you as a super-soldier fighting hordes of alien Covenant. When it was released to launch the Xbox in 2001, it immediately staked a claim to the title of best console shooter ever. Back then, it had graphics to match any PC game, along with an enthralling sci-fi plot, superb human and alien weaponry, fantastic vehicles, and, as Randy says, some hugely impressive troop and enemy Al.
Bungie also innovated in several areas of the genre, only allowing your character to carry two weapons at any time, thus forcing you to make strategic decisions on the fly. Halo introduced the idea of a gradually recharging shield, a superb convention that added tension as you skulked in the darkness praying that your personal force field would power-up before the next wave of aliens attacked. Plus there were the vehicles, which handled beautifully due to the game's excellent physics model. You could skid around the varied terrain in your three-man Warthog buggy, climb inside a massive Scorpion tank and pound the enemy from afar, or even commandeer the Covenant alien vehicles like the Ghost hover-ship and the Banshee flying attack craft.
With Gearbox's intervention, the single-player game on PC now supports the latest video cards, running up to a resolution of 1600x1200. Mouse and keyboard support goes without saying, as does a proper quicksave function, but Gearbox has also tweaked the gameplay ever so slightly, taking the best bits of the Xbox PAL and NTSC versions of Halo to make the definitive version. For example, the sniper rifle, always a favourite, has the less extreme European 8x zoom, rather than the USA's original 10x zoom. "It's surprising how many times we favoured the PAL version," says Pitchford. "It came later, so Bungie had more time to balance things."
See The Ring
Halo's multiplayer modes on Xbox were also great, but completely offline - to play with or against friends you all had to cram around the TV like laboratory animals or create a crude network by painstakingly connecting several Xboxes together. Gearbox believes it is about to deliver the ultimate Halo multiplayer experience, with a host of original and new multiplayer modes, maps, vehicles and weapons - all playable with up to 16 players over LAN or Internet. "For most of the project we had six people working on Halo, with half of those manipulating the network code," says Pitchford of the process of getting Halo online.
"That's more than we've ever had, and more than any game I've ever known had on that problem, but we wanted to make sure we did it right. Online multiplayer is a vital part of this product."
For existing fans of the game, you'll be glad to hear that all the maps and modes from the original Halo are still in the game. So you'll be able to enjoy King of the Hill, Slayer (deathmatch), Oddball (future sport), CTF and Race on levels such as the infamous Blood Gulch, which featured two bases at either end of an open battlefield.
But it's new content that we're really concerned with, and of this there's no shortage. For starters, there are six additional maps designed to cover as many different kinds of multiplayer mayhem as possible. Ice Fields is a snowy map that's as fun in Race as in CTF, causing any vehicles to skid around hopelessly on its frozen surfaces, whereas Timberland is a very open level with lots of cover -perfect for tank combat. Gephyrophobia ('fear of bridges') is hugely playable and takes place on a central bridge with sniper platforms on either side - great when you take control of the aerial Banshee and swoop down between the struts to pick off any enemy soldiers below.
Also new is Death Island, a variation on the Silent Cartographer level in Halo, which kicks off with a dramatic Private Ryan-styie beach-landing among dozens of aggressive Covenant troops. Then there's Danger Canyon, which has a nasty L-shape in the middle allowing you to launch a major assault without the enemy spotting your approach. Finally, there's Infinity, which is a large figure-of-eight that Pitchford says was inspired by a childhood toy called Criss Cross Crash, where vehicles can race around the loop before smashing dramatically into each other in the middle.
Four On The Floor
Crucially, Gearbox has added full vehicle support to all these maps, as well as introducing a new Rocket Launcher Warthog - a buggy packing explosive missiles for powerful long-range strikes. But we reckon the biggest thrill for Halo fanatics will be the chance to unleash the firepower of two brand new weapons - the flamethrower and the Fuel Rod Gun.
The flame-thrower was something that Bungie has wanted to include in Halo, but didn't have the time to implement. Pitchford and his team have made sure that this new weapon hurts big time, so just a few bursts of flame will toast any troops nearby in seconds. It works a treat and is great in confined spaces, but is balanced by its range - wielding a flame-thrower makes you hugely vulnerable to snipers. The Fuel Rod Gun is basically a huge mortar, pumping out devastating plasma shells that can be fired far into the distance. The coward in us had a great time with this weapon when we tried a multiplayer match, as it allows you to stand at the back and shell enemy positions while your teammates surge forward. Both weapons are a hugely welcome addition, offering many new possibilities for team tactics in multiplayer games.
Throw in the fact that you can now take command of many more vehicles on all the maps, and you can have battles that are more intense than UT 2003. more tactical than Tribes and way funnier than any other FPS out there. "We spent a lot of time balancing the new weapons because we didn't want to mess it up," said Pitchford. "Gearbox and Bungie are ruthless. If there's something we don't like, we're not afraid to say it."
On top of all the gameplay tweaks and additions, the enhanced graphics make a massive difference. All the latest whiz-bang bump-mapping and specular lighting techniques are in place, at resolutions that offer 1,000 times more pixels than the original game. It's like having a new pair of glasses after years of looking through broken Coke bottles.
If there's any remaining worries about Halo on PC, it's that the slightly slower pace of the game may frustrate hardcore shooter fans, and the notable lack of a co-op campaign mode (so superb on the Xbox) could significantly weaken the package. However, having spent some time playing the game in an all-but-complete state, there's little doubt in our minds that Halo is absolutely still worth playing on PC. With Bungie's groundbreaking creation finally playable online, including new maps, weapons and vehicles, Halo PC could be every bit the classic we've been hoping for.
If you're after an epic third-person action/adventure, look no further than Halo. Set on a strange ring-world, you play the part of a human recon soldier who wages a one-man war against an alien race. It may sound like your usual run-of-the-mill plot but, believe us, Halo promises to be something very special indeed. The main reason for our enthusiasm is the inclusion of a graphics and physics engine of the kind we have literally never seen before. Every vehicle in the game (of which there are loads - including flying and driving) moves in such a realistic way, you can't even tell that they're computer-generated models. We watched a running demo and it was like watching a film. There's still plenty of work to do, but rest assured - Halo is one game we will be keeping a very close eye on.
There were three two-hour long queues at E3 this year: one for the shitter; one snaking around the Microsoft stand to snatch a peak at Microsoft's X-Box console; and the other camped around the Bungie booth, with people waiting patiently to see the third-person game Halo in action. The difference between the latter two queues was that while the line for X-Box was filled with Satan-worshipping marketing types, those encamped around the Bungie stand were predominantly games developers, curious as to what all the fuss is about - the people in the know, basically.
Being awarded VIP status and herded around the back, we were able to jump the line and sneak in through a secret entrance to take all the best seats. The presentation, although brief, certainly had impact. First we were treated to a few minutes of real-time action, which although revealed nothing of the game's structure or Al, certainly forced the odd jaw to drop with the graphics alone. The alie ring world on which Halo is based stretched far into the horizon. Firing each of the game's dozen weapons caused casings to roll downhill and when our wise-cracking host climbed into a vehicle, we could even see gravel particles shoot from the skidding wheels as the jeep took off and its occupant bounced in his seat. Little details perhaps, but it wouldn't be an exaggeration to say Halo was the best-looking game at E3 by quite a margin, so good in fact that it looked too good to be true.
Next up was the meat and veg of the presentation - a multiplayer ten minute rolling demo, recorded in real-time in the Halo offices prior to E3. Without going too over the top, it was almost like watching a film. And the promise is that within a year it will be an experience we will all be able to savour, with sleek aliens and their anti-gravity vehicles taking on a human force - all with realistic AI - across a dynamic and seamless world, featuring as realistic a physics model as you're ever likely to find. In terms of its graphical style. Halo manages to hit the right balance in that rather than pitch the humans as good and the aliens as evil, there is almost the same tension as between the colonial marines in the Alien films and the same morality as the honourable hunter of the Predator films. As a multiplayer game Halo could seriously take the crown. As a single-player game we will have to wait a few months to see what Bungie can add. In the meantime, it is clear that graphically Halo is light years ahead of anything else.
Halo: Combat Evolved is arguably the finest console FPS to date. Originally released as a launch title for the Xbox, it was the one title that made it worth owning an Xbox. Now a bit older and with gamers a bit wiser, Halo has finally arrived for the PC ' but can it stack up with the big boys of the PC world?
Halo: Combat Evolved ' sounds like a cocky title, doesn't it? Believe me though'Halo_ really has upped combat in the first-person shooter genre. Gunplay in Halo is fast, fun, and methodical thanks to both the incredible AI and smart gameplay features. The AI is intelligent and unpredictable on both sides of the gun. Allies are actually useful in Halo, which is particularly nice since the enemies are quite smart, to the point where each fight feels unique. You never know what tactics enemies will use, whether they'll be evasive, aggressive, or just run and take cover. The AI coupled with the health system guarantees you'll be ducking in and out of combat constantly, and meticulously planning your moves. Throw in some vehicles into the mix, and you have a fantastic FPS on your hands.
Halo as a whole is wonderful title, but there are some obvious problems, particularly with level design. You'll think it's either genius or just very rehashed. The outdoor levels are fantastic, but the indoor levels are forgettable at best. Granted, it's not confusing and doesn't take away from the action, but it doesn't match the other ingenious aspects of the game. Halo also moves a bit slower than what's ideal for a PC FPS. Sure, the speed is ideal for consoles, but Master Chief could afford to quicken the pace a little, especially with the precise mouse and keyboard setup of the PC.
Aside from the mouse and keyboard controls, the single player game in Halo is essentially unchanged. Cooperative play has been removed, but in its place is the online multiplayer mode, which is just as fun as it ever was on the Xbox.
Halo has the potential to look beautiful, but you'll need a stacked rig to see it's complete graphical prowess. If you're running on a mid-end machine, the Xbox version will look noticeably better since the textures aren't as sharp and the effects are really dumbed down. On a powerful rig, however, the PC version of Halo outdoes the Xbox's visuals, though the differences are subtle. Simply put, it looks stunning at 1600x1200 with full effects on.
Immersive is the one word that sums up Halo'saudio. From the ambient music to the great voice acting and sound effects, you'll feel like you're the Master Chief from beginning to end. Really, there's not much to complain about here.
Halo: Combat Evolved is a fine FPS any way you cut it. It may not be the pinnacle of the genre on the PC, but it can certainly hold it's own. Unfortunately, there aren't enough differences between the Xbox and PC version to make it worth owning both, but if you missed Halo the first time around, there's no better time than the present to make up for your past mistakes.