Armchair Empire Home

 

Platform: PC

Genre: Shooter

Publisher: Microsoft

Developer: Gearbox Software

ETA: Q4 2003

 

Related Links:

Review: Halo: Combat Evolved (Xbox)

Review: Unreal Championship (Xbox)

Review: Serious Sam (Xbox)

Action Figure: Master Chief (Halo)

 

 

 

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Halo: Combat Evolved

(Hands-On)

 

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For those of you not keeping score at home, here’s the rundown on the history of Halo.  A few years back the good folks at Bungie had this game in the works for the PC and Mac, turning quite a few heads for how revolutionary the first person shooter was.  Enter Microsoft, getting ready to step into the console market with their Xbox.  Halo looked like a great marquee title to have in the new console’s launch library, so the juggernaut from Redmond approached Bungie and hammered out a deal to make their FPS an exclusive title for the Xbox when it hit store shelves.  With that PC gamers became thoroughly irate, screaming from the highest points in the city about how Microsoft was evil and Bungie had betrayed them.  Eventually some succumbed and bought the big black box to play the game, but there have been plenty of others who fought the good fight and waited, hoping beyond hope that the game would one day come to the PC.  There were the highs, there were the lows, there were the doubts as to whether a PC version of Halo would ever see the light of day, but here we are now with the game finally nearing completion as Gearbox puts the finishing touches on this port.  We had a chance to take a beta of the game for a spin, so let’s get down to the chewy nugget center of what the beta had in store for us.

 

Right out of the gates the beta makes it very obvious that this version of Halo is meant for the ardent PC fanatics that don’t have a Xbox or simply would not play the game without mouse support.  For those who’ve played through Halo on the Xbox, I think that this edition of the game will be a tough sell.  The single player game is exactly the same as that found on the Xbox, only much prettier, and while there is a nice number of multiplayer maps new to the 

PC version, as well as two new weapons and more vehicles, if the beta is any indication, what little that is new to Halo just won’t be enough to justify paying full price for a second, slightly more robust version of the game.

 

That out of the way, all you PC gamers out there who’ve been foaming at the mouth for this game to finally hit store shelves could be in for a great time.  The single player experience is as solid as ever, with tight mouse control while running around the levels, gunning down Covenant troops.  Even the vehicles handle very well, though the Warthogs take some getting used to as it fishtails quite a bit, but after 

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about 15 minutes of cruising around it becomes natural.  What may take some getting used to for some PC gamers is how high Master Chief jumps in the game.  He practically soars, flying way up in the air, far more than what you’ll usually see in the genre on the PC.  On top of that it almost feels as though he floats for a bit as he hits the top of his jump.  It’s not as pronounced as, say, the princess jumping in Super Mario 2, but wow, you’d think you had wings when you leap here.

 

Looking at the game in motion, Halo looks very good.  The colors are crisp and vibrant, the edges of objects smooth, and the frame rate is very solid.  Gearbox seems to be very intent on making PC gamers proud of their hardware.  For those of you who aren’t made of money and can’t run out and buy the latest and greatest video card or processor the day it comes out, you’ll be happy to know that the graphics settings in Halo are very scalable, and the title runs very smoothly on older computers (within reason).  There were a couple of graphical guffaws that came to light while playing, for one there were some doors in the Pillar of Autumn that would not render properly, so they seemed to be invisible, taking some guesswork to get around, and there’s the occasional time that an invisible obstacle would get in the way which got to be a pain in more intense firefights.  But this is the sort of stuff that Gearbox will obviously clean up before shipping the game to stores later this year.

 

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Of course, the area seeing the most improvements over the Xbox version of Halo is the multiplayer mode.  There’s new maps, new weapons, and new vehicles this time out, and they are all quite entertaining in the beta for the most part.  The new weapons are going for a pyrotechnic flair with the introduction of the flamethrower and the fuel rod (this gun functions more like a combination of an energy grenade launcher with glowing fire, but fire-like nonetheless).  They look great in use and are fun for the different dynamics they bring to the table.  The new vehicles for multiplayer mode include a jeep equipped with a rocket launcher for the marines, and now players will be able to use the Covenant banshee and stationary turret.  The maps are well laid out with plenty of areas to duck and cover, and generally have a nice setup to really take advantage of the maximum 16 players allowed for multiplayer mode in Halo.

 

By and large Halo is shaping up quite well for the PC.  It looks great, the play is solid, and the multiplayer mode is looking well tweaked from what I saw in this beta.  People who’ve been waiting with baited breath for this game to finally come to the PC should have something exciting to look forward to if this beta is any indication.

 

- Mr. Nash

(September 3, 2003)