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Microsoft Game Studios






M (Mature)



Q4 2001



- Great graphics
- Co-op mode
- Vvehicles galore
- Pinpoint control



- Minor framerate issues
- Silly vehicle controls
- No official Internet play



Review: Timesplitters 2 (XBox)

Review: Turok: Evolution (XBox)

Review: Halo: Reach (360)



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Score: 9.0 / 10


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Goldeneye and Perfect Dark aside, first person shooters haven’t exactly been received with open arms by console players over the years. The first reason is clearly control. Hardcore FPS fans point out (quite correctly) that there is no substitute for the classic mouse and keyboard control scheme that PC first person shooters utilize. Additionally, consoles have traditionally been behind the power curve when compared to PC’s of the same generation. Hence, console ports of FPS classics like Quake 2 and Unreal Tournament were seen as clearly inferior to the original PC games. Given that history, it is surprising that the most heavily hyped and most sought after launch title of Microsoft’s new Xbox is indeed a first person shooter. Halo, luckily, is more than able to overcome the limitations that plagued




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earlier releases and provide an experience unequalled to this point by a console first person shooter.

On the graphics front, Halo is simply stunning. Though the levels are huge and, as such, fairly sparsely detailed, the details that are there are truly amazing. The textures are high-resolution and feature heavy use of bump mapping, giving every object, building, or


vehicle a solid, “real life” look that is completely unmatched to this point on consoles. Watching two friends play co-op on the night of the Xbox launch, I noticed them constantly focusing on the ground to look at how real the grass seemed and zooming in with the sniper rifle on things like tree bark and tire treads. Amazingly, the textures displayed no blurring, regardless of how close the camera got to them. The characters and creatures are equally well done. I had nearly as much fun watching the computer-controlled members of my assault team exchange fire with the aliens as I did killing them myself.

To complement the graphics, Halo also brings some new , or at least tweaked, gameplay mechanics to console FPS’s. The most notable is the use of vehicles as integral parts of many of the missions. Playing through the game, players get the chance to control both human and alien vehicles. Though all of the vehicles, especially the Warthog, are given odd control mechanics, playing with the vehicles adds quite a bit of enjoyment to the otherwise standard FPS game mechanics. And make no mistake, as good as Halo is, it is simply a first person shooter. Though some of the levels are huge outdoor environments, much of the game is played in the same tight corridors that have been common in these types of games since Castle Wolfenstein.

Scripted sequences, like those in Half-life, add to the games cinematic feel. The plot is B-movie science fiction with elements lifted from various sources, but it is still involving and enjoyable. The fact that the beautiful cinematics actually use the game engine really puts the players in the middle of the action.


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As good as most of these elements are, Halo could easily have been ruined by faulty control. That is not the case however. The control scheme is mapped efficiently onto the Xbox’s controller, and mere minutes into the game, most of the functions had become second nature to me. Any player familiar with the way Timesplitters and Red Faction control on the PS2’s controller should have no trouble adapting to Halo’s controls.

Halo is an amazing launch title, one of the best launch titles I have ever played, but it is not perfect. Though the game is fairly well locked in at a constant framerate (reported by the developers as 30 frames per second), framerate problems occur throughout the game whenever a significant amount of action is happening simultaneously, especially when multiple explosions occur at once. For most of the game, this has no effect on gameplay at all; however, during the game’s exciting final sequence, the slowdown can become so bad as to affect the player’s performance. Since this moment is both hectic and timed, the slowdown can become annoying, especially when playing at the highest difficulty level, when surviving the level at all is difficult enough.

This gripe aside, Halo is the first console FPS to truly give PC titles a run for their money. Both the graphics and the control are the best yet seen in a console FPS. On top of the remarkable single-player game, a co-op mode allows two players to play through the entire campaign mode together. Combined with a deep and addictive multi-player mode, the co-op mode gives Halo solid replay value. I can’t imagine too many people trading the game in, at least until Bungie comes through with a special edition that allows Halo to “officially” be played online.

- Tolen Dante
(November 30, 2001)


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