HALO (XBOX; 2001)
- Graphics & Audio
As I review this game I will try to keep it in perspective and review it as a game released during the year it came out like I try to do with all games I review after the fact. Halo's graphics are superb and are no doubt at the top of the heap and the audio is equally top notch. Great sound effects also help to create an atmosphere that few could match at the time. Unfortunately, the visuals are brought down by the incessant reuse of the same textures over and over again. To make matters worse, there are many instances of reusing the exact same contructions of areas over and over again and in a row! When I noticed this trend of same hallway in between the same larger room over and over again I was laughing at the game and thought it was a joke! I have never seen such blatant copy and paste in a game before or since Halo's release. This makes the game very boring to look at regardless of how technically proficient it is and most of the game is like this which is unfortunate. And no, I don't care if the game "got rushed at the very last minute" as I've already heard that one before. It's still lazy design and there is no excuse for it.
- Story & Characters
I found the story to be a very by-the-numbers video game sci-fi story, but even so, was still good enough to hold my interest to the end. As far as narratives go in video games that is pretty much as good as you can expect in most cases. The characters, on the other hand, aren't particularly memorable at all. The least memorable of all was the main character, The Master Chief. He has absolutely no personality and is as boring of a character as you can imagine. To make matters worse he is impossible to relate to being that he is nothing more than a walking, sometimes talking, suit of armor. There is nothing relatably human about him, no emotions, nothing. The voice actor voices him so flatly as to come off sounding completely bored. The two best characters by far are the ones who are not human: Cortana and 343 Guilty Spark. Cortana is clearly the moral compass of the story and emotes and is voiced well. A solid character. 343 Guilty Spark was the best one and had far more personality than any other character in the story and it's a freaking machine! I really liked it when he neglected to specifically mention that Halo, if activated, would destroy all sentient life in the galaxy.
The weapons in Halo are largely a good mix that are satisfying to use, but I wish they sounded like they had more oomph than they do. My favorites are the plasma rifle, sniper rifle, pistol, and especially the shotgun. That shotgun is pretty damn great and made the Flood seem pretty weak. I wish I could have had access to the shotgun the whole game instead of only for the last handful of hours when you finally encounter the Flood. The grenades are damn sweet too! The take-it-or-leave-it weapon was the assualt rifle. It was great against the weaker enemies, but otherwise it seemed pretty useless. The crappiest was definitely the needler. It wasn't good against anything and after I realized that I stopped using it entirely.
The vehicles are all useful for the most part, but the way you control them all with the controller, while OK, is not a particularly good control scheme. The Scorpion Tank, Ghost, and Banshee are all done well and easy to control. The Warthog on the other hand is a piece of garbage! It is so hard to make it do precisely what you want it to do because it slides around like on ice all of the time regardless of what surface you are actually driving it on. The Warthog also has the additional problem of having no weight to it as if it weighed 10 ounces instead of the 3.25 tons the manual claims. The combination of these two huge problems makes it so it is very easy to turn it around when you don't want to and to tip it over. A light breeze could tip this damn thing over! All of the vehicles are pretty good, but the Warthog can suck it! I hate it more than any other vehicle in any game ever!
- The Missions
The missions in the game are largely fun endevors for kicking much ass, but there are a few problems with them. One problem is the length of each mission. Each one could have easily been half the length and it still would have been long enough. The constant use of copy-and-pasting segments makes the length even more unbearable and made the game feel like it droned on for much longer than it actually did. Other problems with the missions was that there were a few segments in the game that were pretty frustrating the first time because instead of just wiping out the enemies and continuing with your objectives like most of the game, you are expected to find a different way to accomplish these segments without the game giving you any indication that this is the case. You just end up finally realizing that after seemingly endless enemies keeping relentlessly coming at you that keep making you die time and time again. After you know the trick of what to do, then it's extremely simple. The worst mission segment in the game is "Warning: Hitchhikers May Be Escaping Convicts," yes, the very last segment in the game. They expect you, in one go, to pilot a Warthog (the worst controlling vehicle in the game) through a very poorly designed obstacle course where precision is required. Bull-*******-****! What happens then is you are constantly running into obstacles, getting turned around, and making jumps that you frequently tip over from. It would be a great ending piece, but the Warthog controls so poorly that it is far more frustrating than fun.
So, that's it for my final thoughts my Halo loving friends. Halo is a great game that pushed the FPS genre forward for consoles, but does indeed have many blemishes that seem to have been forgotten or ignored by most fans and they pretend it's some perfect game that it definitely isn't.