Halo: Combat Evolved

Halo: Combat Evolved
Halo: Combat Evolved Cover
Platforms Xbox, Windows
Genre Console Saving FPS
MtAMinutes to Action 5
Score 7  Clock score of 7Gameplay: 9
Fun Factor: 7
Gfx/Sound: 8
Story: 5
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Halo: Combat Evolved was released along with the original Xbox and essentially defined the console, along with the entire last generation of first person shooter games. Halo was one of the most popular games of the last few years, basically only surpassed by its sequel and a few other select games. Featuring a two player cooperative campaign and a multiplayer mode that supports up to 16 players over system link (multiple Xboxes on the same LAN), Halo basically had everything gamers wanted, and definitely everything the Xbox needed to get the kick in the pants that it needed. The game sold millions and so did the Xbox along with it.

Halo is basically the opposite of a game like Beyond Good and Evil. It's extremely popular with gamers, readily recognized in mainstream media, and considered overrated by some (or many, depends on who you talk to). But with Halo 3 less than a week away, Bungie's blockbuster series is on the rise. But how does it all begin? Does the first hour of Halo start the series with a bang, or a fizzle? Read on and find out.

There are no pictures in this post because I am stuck at work dealing with a major support issue. I plan to add them later this week.

Minute by Minute

(minutes are in bold)
00 - The game is ready and I select campaign from the menu, I enter my name and then select my difficulty level. I'm actually a highly experienced Halo player so I'll choose Heroic (hard). Heroic is still decently hard for someone who hasn't played in a while (me) and hopefully will deliver a similar experience to a Halo virgin playing for the first time. Anyways, a cutscene begins, we're looking out into space (feels slightly familiar to another game's opening) but there's a giant ring just floating there. We see a space cruiser fly over us, the "Pillar of Autumn" is inscribed on its side.

01 - Now we're inside the bridge, listening to a man and woman talk. We made a blind jump to this ring to try and beat the bad guys here, but they're already waiting for us! It's a trap! 90 seconds until the battle begins. Turns out the woman's voice is from Cortana, a holographic computerized representation of the ship's artificial intelligence (that was a lot of big words).

02 - The humans send out their attack ships to deal with the Covenant (the alien race that we humans must not be friendly with). In the launching bay there's also huge tanks and the famous Halo Warthogs. We see a black marine captain yelling at his crew about the impending battle.

03 - The captain gives out word to "unseal the hushed casket." This means thawing out our hero, Master Chief. We see the big man in the suit stand up and stretch.

04 - Crap, my controls aren't inverted. Say what you want about inverted, but it's what I grew up with playing flight simulators and such. Well, I'll tough it out. I follow a soldier out of the room and then he gets blown up! Thanks for leading me out of the room, buddy!

05 - There's battles in every hallway I enter, but I can't participate directly yet, no weapons. Instead, blast doors are closed between the enemies so I can't get too close...

06 - I have to use my suit's flashlight in some areas, this isn't Doom 3 style darkness, but it adds some variety (and annoyance finding that flashlight button). Another marine yells for me to follow him to the bridge so I start trailing him through some more fire fights. In the distance I can see both little enemies (grunts) and large, human sized baddies (elites).

07 - I enter the bridge and a cutscene kicks in. The captain and Cortana explain the situation and Master Chief kicks in a few words here and there.

08 - They make the decision to abandon ship, but Captain Keyes wants to land the giant battleship on the ring! He gives me my mission: to get Cortana safely off the ship, because if the Covenant capture her, they'll know everything, including the location of Earth! (cue dramatic music)

09 - Master Chief sticks Cortana's chip inside his suit (hmm...) and the captain gives me his pistol, no ammo but I quickly find some.

10 - I get to kill my first grunts! Feels good.

11 - Now for my first real battle, a pretty intense shootout in a hallway, the elites can take a lot of hits! The A.I. seems pretty intelligent, hiding behind barriers and around corners, but the game is pretty lenient in terms of hit boxes. I lose some health but find a health pack attached to the wall and refill. If you don't know how Halo's health system works, you have both a shield and health. When your shield gets knocked out, you start losing health, but your shield will recharge itself after being out of harm for a few seconds. However, you won't get that health back unless you find health packs, which is what I needed!

12 - After picking up some sticky grenades from the Covenant, I put them to good use and attach them to a grunt. He knows it's on him and runs around screaming... right into all his buddies! Very satisfying death cries from that one.

13 - The covenant are docking onto our ship from our own pod launches, tricky bastards. I head into an empty one and grab one of their overshields, nice!

14 - I get whacked by an elite, and the grunts are chucking grenades at me. It's hard but I'm loving the excitement.

15 - The ship is very large and seems complex, but yet I don't get lost. There's really only one linear route, but there's enough hallways and different routes to sustain a lot of variety. This probably took a lot of effort from the level designers and I applaud them.

17 - You can only carry around two weapons at a time, so I'm constantly having to make a choice on what to keep. I decide to stick with the human pistol and assault rifle.

18 - I enter a room to find a two level fire fight going on. The Covenant are holding the upper level and we have to slowly pick them off, running up there would be suicide.

20 - A moment of dumb A.I. as an elite just stands behind a shield looking bored. I stick him good.

23 - I'm starting to notice a lot of cool scripted events: explosions, guys dying, fights in the distance, good stuff.

24 - What a fool I am! I dashed into a hallway only to find myself surrounded by Covenant! I back peddle out of there quickly while lobbing a few grenades, looks like they worked well.

25 - A marine gets stuck by a grenade, he runs around flailing his arms, then blows up. Ouch!

26 - I load up into the last lifeboat left on the ship, then we blast off. Master Chief don't need no seatbelt.

27 - We fly by the ring and then head in for a landing. No where else to go I suppose.

28 - Loading - then the next level starts. We're coming in too fast and have a crash landing!

29 - So Master Chief, the only guy who's not wearing his seatbelt, is the only one alive. I decide this is a good time to save and quit and update my control settings, must turn on inverted...

30 - I'm back in the game pretty quickly. This level is much different than the last, it's wide open, grassy, and there's blue sky above (and you can see the other side of the inner ring way up there in the distance).

31 - Cortana warns me of an incoming dropship, time to hightail it out of here, but I'm not sure where to go. I wander around for a bit and find the path I need to take just as the ship is landing.

32 - I'm getting shot at by flying ships, these guys pack a punch. I use the scattered boulders as cover.

33 - I'm still getting dogged by the small fighters, but I manage to take one down with a lot of pistol shots.

34 - As the second ship finally flies off, the dropship party is just reaching me! Time for a small skirmish with them. I find it hard to fight in such open grounds, you have to use the little cover given you very wisely.

36 - I enter a large field with a huge building on it, but there's a dropship between me and some marines. We work together to take them out, then meet up.

37 - I find some needed health on a marine escape ship. And then I get killed. I was too much out in the open and a red colored elite took me out with a bunch of well placed shot.

38 - I end up reloading right where I got the health, guess that was a checkpoint! As I pass a marine, he mutters "This is suicide!" Sometimes I have to agree.

40 - I pick up the Covenant weapon the Needler as my pistol is out of ammo. This is a heat seeking machine gun like weapon that shoots out pink needles. It seems pretty effective, but it's a lot of fun to use.

42 - Bad guys just keep coming from dropships, but a woman comes on the com telling us that more escape pods are landing and we should help them out. Time to head out... but I don't wanna walk there!

43 - Lucky for us, a marine dropship drops me off a big old Warthog! Warthogs are basically rugged jeeps that are very fun to drive. They're fast, and can hold a gunner and an extra passenger.

44 - I have no idea where to go so I get out so another guy can drive us there. Except no one will get in the driver's seat, guess I'll be exploring on my own!

45 - I head into a cave that Cortana explains was not made naturally (I'm guessing nothing on this ring "planet" was made naturally). The walls quickly become metallic like so I'm obviously heading into some kind of base. And I bet I know who's waiting for me.

47 - And it's the Covenant! I drive in the middle of a huge room and my gunner starts mowing down grunts and elites. I hop out to assist in the massacre.

48 - I get blown up by a sticky grenade! Stupid grunts and their lucky throws! But I get my revenge by sticking two straights grunts after I come back.

50 - I have to activate a bridge to move on, so I hit the controls and there's a cutscene as the bridge extends. Not sure if that cutscene was necessary but whatever.

52 - I drive out into open air in the Warthog, glowing markers on the ground mark my way. Thanks Halo!

53 - I approach a very rocky area, almost like a maze. There are marines in there fighting for their lives against the Covenant! Luckily, I find a sniper rifle and start taking down anything the dropships are dropping off. I meet up with the black marine leader from the beginning.

55 - Just noticing how great the draw distance this game features, the sniper rifle's scope really shows stuff off.

56 - I'm able to snipe enemies that are still in the dropships, effectively making their entire journey moot.

57 - One of our own dropships approaches, and I jump in. All the marines jump in too. But then it starts flying off and kicks me out! Guess I gotta get back in the Warthog and go... somewhere... on the ground.

60 - My hour runs out as I cruise around on the Warthog, with no clear way to go. I finally discover a group of marines clustered in a hill, and a huge battle is about to begin! Oh well. Looked like it could have been fun.

Now for some scores out of 10.

First Hour Scores

Minutes to Action: 5

Gameplay: 9
Halo features classic console FPS gameplay with some great improvements. All movement is performed with the left thumbstick while all looking is done with the right thumbstick. This is different from say Goldeneye 007 where strafing and looking were reversed. This seemingly minor change actually does wonders as you can now easily look around without accidentally moving, possibly exposing your position. Another big change is that throwing grenades and melee have their own dedicated buttons, allowing for many different ways to attack very easily. The typical multiplayer battle is well varied and pretty fast. The game is pretty unbalanced for new players when set up against veterans, but I also see this as a way to reward dedicated players.

Fun Factor: 7
The first hour of Halo was a blast to play, but I started getting the feeling of repetitiveness even early on. The wide open second level also presents the problem of it being TOO big. Sometimes I had no where to go and I could tell Bungie foresaw this problem and placed blinking lights to sort of light the path. The A.I. was both very good and bad at the same time, but mostly good. There were some well fought battles even in the early levels. And like I said above, the ship felt large, but also very manageable. I never felt lost in the ship even though there were seemingly many paths to take.

Graphics and Sound: 8
The game looks and sounds great, this is somewhat surprising as it was a launch title for the Xbox and it took a while for another game to really match Halo in style and flair. Halo features a nice, booming soundtrack that is tied with the events in the game and kicks in at appropriate times. It also has many voices from the marines and even the Covenant who yell and scream some pretty funny stuff. The graphics don't look as great anymore, but they've held up pretty well comparatively.

Story: 5
Nothing too impressive, but Halo's first hour begins an intriguing tale of two warring races and a mysterious ring world. It doesn't try to be too deep at the beginning and it also doesn't have an unnecessary or prolonged opening cutscene. There seems to be a lot of potential for a great story and I think the game could have explored the human's relationship with the Covenant better, either through Cortana during actual gameplay or something. But we really have no idea why they're fighting or why they raced to his Halo ring. But then again, it's a first person shooter so I'm not expecting much.

Overall: 7
Halo does a lot of things right and few things wrong, but the things wrong kind of stand up. The first level was designed great, but the second level was just too large for it's own good. Even when you first start the second level, it is not obvious which direction to head in (and you're being shot at by two flying Covenant at the same time). I really wish the story would have been fleshed out more too, as there really was no motivation behind the races' actions. What it does right, however, is great gameplay packaged with amazing graphics and an awesome score. This is a great first person shooter and a must play for fans of the genre (who can stand FPS games on a console, some people can't - or won't). I recommend it to anyone with an Xbox or Xbox 360. You have a lot of catching up to do with Halo 3 coming out tonight!

Halo Master Chief Art