Halo: Combat Evolved - game review

Author: Stranger
Date: 2003-12-23 13:18:00
The review was based on the PC version.

Hello? I hear nothing! What!? Please repeat! We've got some noise on the line. Hold on ... well, it's better. Please be brief! Halo turned out to be one of the best shooters in recent years. It was also used to drive the sale of the first-ever console produced by Microsoft. Many players bought the X-Box just to taste it. The console "Halo" found a total of three million buyers. Now, more than two years after the X-Box premiere, it goes to PC. Isn't that a little late? Does the game take full advantage of the possibilities of modern PCs? And finally, what were these console players so excited about? I will try to answer these and other questions in the review below.

The main character of "Halo" is quite a mysterious Master Chief, the first genetically improved soldier. The action of the game takes place in the distant future. Mankind has been fighting for decades against the fierce race of Covenants. The actual game begins when one of the Earth cruisers - Pillar Of Autumn - is attacked. Our hibernating hero is on board. Well, the situation forces the commanders to finally release their child to the battlefield. Whether or not they fail with the created work depends only on the player's actions. The game uses the first moments spent on the cruiser to conduct a tutorial. The player learns the basics of operating the character, gradually learns about the indicators appearing on the screen and finally learns about his internal systems (about them a little later). However, training is interrupted. The Covenants manage to break into the ship. The beauty of the game is revealed even when we try to get to the commander to obey his orders. We see soldiers in panic trying to fight off alien attacks. Some face them, others flee in panic or try to barricade certain parts of the ship. Many battles are taking place before our eyes. It's hard to believe that many of these situations have been staged. I don't think I'm lying when I say that most players will enjoy these little flavors. In this respect, the game is not inferior to such giants as "Medal Of Honor" or even "Half-Life". Upon reaching the commander, the Master Chief is ordered to protect Cortana. An interesting fact is that it is artificial intelligence. Our hero implants it into the system and escapes from the ship. And this is just a prelude to real events. All those who managed to escape from Pillar Of Autumn (including Master Chief) land on the mysterious asteroid Halo. Its uniqueness lies in the fact that it looks like a huge ring. I must admit that at first the idea seemed ridiculous to me, but as soon as I found myself on it I found it brilliant. Not wanting to reveal too many details about the plot, I will just add that the action will very quickly start to revolve around something like a futuristic Wunderwaffe (at least that is what many may initially think) and a mysterious plague (Flood) that can threaten both fighting races. However, I can say without a shadow of a doubt that the plot is one of the strongest points of the game. It easily beats threads from "Chrome" or "Unreal 2". The only downside (and not for everyone) is the huge linearity of the game. Almost every newly released FPS has got us used to it.

Oh, you have to admit that the game world just has to be liked. The authors of the game have prepared many great boards. The levels can generally be divided into those taking place on the surface of the asteroid and inside bases or other installations. The former deserve special attention. The asteroid landscape is equivalent to the tropics of Earth. At times, you can feel like a great trip, especially if the player stops by the crystal clear water and starts watching the waves. It must be admitted, however, that the action takes place quite quickly and there will rarely be an opportunity to look around thoroughly. As the game progresses, a little darker atmosphere gradually begins to prevail. We have, for example, a huge jungle covered with dense fog. All the time, however, you run forward and wait for the next attractions prepared by the producers with flushed faces. The situation is completely different with the stages played underground. These are painfully schematic. It's a pity, because the examples of "Half-Life" or "Elite Force" showed that the game does not have to be played only in open spaces, so that the player would be delighted with it all the time. The underground levels in Halo are relatively simple. Computer architects didn't show off at all. Sometimes it even comes to the fact that the player reaches rooms similar in appearance through "twisted" corridors in an almost identical way. Personally, I was looking forward to finally getting to the surface. The authors of "Halo" have prepared a total of ten stages (we are talking about the single all the time, fans of multiplayer will find something for themselves at the end of the review). At first it may not seem like much. It turns out, however, that they are quite long. Each of them consists of at least several smaller levels. As a result, the time needed to complete the campaign ranges from 10-15 hours. Comparing this result with other, recently released FPS games, it turns out that it is quite a lot. A few more words about the interface. As befits a console game, it is quite legible. Theoretically, we have an overview of the current goals all the time, but as I mentioned before, due to the linearity of the game, there are no problems with their implementation. It is a pity that they are not very original. Usually, you have to get to some point, perform an action there (free someone, activate a device, defeat the boss) and sweep back to the surface. Fortunately, an interesting plot more than compensates for their excessive cliché.

At the very beginning, it is worth mentioning the curiosity related to the Master Chief. It has a special shield that regenerates gradually. However, for this to happen, our hero cannot be hit for a few seconds. This forces the player to follow certain strategies. You cannot get into enemies and eliminate them en masse. It is best to kill them one by one, try to attack them by surprise and move a lot at the same time. One of the biggest advantages of "Halo" is the course of the mission. There is always something going on in this game. Particularly noteworthy are the stages in which, apart from us, other soldiers are fighting. It even got to the point where I had to pause my game every now and then to correct my dropped jaw. Battle scenes beat the Omaha beach landing from "Medal Of Honor". It's still quiet at first. Just a short fire exchange, hiding behind rocks and other natural curtains. It gets more interesting when grenades and heavier equipment enter the action.

Accurate shots end in spectacular explosions and the bodies of the opponents fly away for several dozen meters. It's even better that they are not torn to shreds (then the game would have to be marked 18+), because at least we can enjoy their eyes with their flight. Despite the fact that the game does not have a ragdoll system, the end result is impressive. However, this is nothing compared to the battle in which the vehicles are involved. Then you can actually feel like you are in a real war. Accurate shots at enemy fighters make them perform spectacular corkscrews and smash with a crash on the ground. It is even better when we drive one of the available cars. The vehicle hit immediately capsizes and the soldiers sitting in it (including the Master Chief) are literally catapulted into the air. Personally, I would only stick to slightly lame bosses, who do not fit into such a dynamic, slightly flashy game, but this is a minor detail.

The great advantage of "Hello" is that you do not have to constantly move on your own legs. The authors of the game prepared four means of transport. Each of them is original in its own way. The human-made Warthog is by far the most used. It's a futuristic Hummer - high suspended, heavy duty, with an additional machine gun mounted right behind the rider. Just watching him in action is a lot of fun. The vehicle performs great on uneven surfaces. The torment of the suspension is clearly visible. In addition to the driver, the Warthog can take two other people with it. One then sits in the passenger seat and fires with its own weapon, while the other takes up the heavy machine gun position. Interestingly, it has no ammo limit. So you can mow further aliens without fear. Rhino is a HUGE tank. In addition to the driver, it can take four soldiers on board. They then sit on the sides. Unfortunately, they have to use their own guns. As a kind of "consolation" we get the tank's defense systems. You can use a huge cannon that easily destroys enemy positions and a traditional machine gun. Due to the fact that reloading the main gun takes a while, you should often use the optional heavy machine gun. Aliens most often use something like a hovercraft (Ghost). It is an extremely maneuverable machine, additionally equipped with two plasma cannons. The Banshee light fighter looks much more interesting. In addition to the weaker cannons, it also has one, extremely strong, which is perfect for eliminating installations and larger groups of enemies. The steering is quite strange. I suppose a lot of people may have a lot of trouble with that. It turns out that vehicles cannot be turned with the use of keys. A mouse is used for this. While in the Warthog it is acceptable, in the Rhino, whose barrel rotates separately, you can get lost. It's just good that the vehicles react extremely quickly to commands. An interesting supplement worth mentioning are the stationary plots. They will come to use them from time to time. I have nothing specific to say to them, well, they could be a bit more accurate, although they are still good at eliminating enemy units.

The number of available weapons is satisfactory. It is a pity that the Master Chief can only have two at a time. As a consolation I will add that there is no limit to what these guns should be. So you can easily take two heavy rifles with you. Well, weapons generally should be divided into well-known (human) and made by Aliens. The first group is represented by fairly standard rifles (also sniper rifles), shotguns, rocket launchers and pistols. Some weapons can zoom. It is worth using it, and not only because it was nicely realized :) The Covenant guns are more interesting. We have laser weapons, plasma weapons and even with self-healing projectiles. In addition, there are two types of grenades: traditional (human) and plasma (alien). A Master Chief can have up to four of each type at any given time. The game lacks white weapons. As a consolation, I will add that it is possible to knock out enemies with a rifle butt. The weaker ones of such an attack have no right to survive. It is worse when you surprise the enemy.

The alien race of Covenants, with which the player has to fight, initially did not like me. Little, cowardly creatures, which additionally croaked similar to the Critters in the movies, made me laugh more than they made me pull the trigger. After some time I got used to them. However, it has to be clearly said, this is not a 100% serious title and those who expected a science-fiction horror film will be very disappointed. However, if someone focuses on unfettered gameplay, I suppose that he will have to be pulled away from the monitor screen by force. The Covenant race, apart from the aforementioned creatures, is represented by well-armed warriors. Interestingly, some of them even use special shields. Well, the behavior of creatures on the battlefield is one of the strongest points of "Hello". This is partly due to the enemies' very high artificial intelligence. In fact, few scenes are prepared in advance. In most situations, the opponents react to the player's actions on an ongoing basis. I must admit that the "arsenal" of their behavior is at least satisfactory. Enemies can easily avoid grenades (some of them even perform spectacular dodges), they can move the player from several sides, cooperate in groups and withdraw when they feel threatened. Our allies are not much worse. The soldiers who stand alongside the Master Chief in some missions can be even impulsive. There are situations in which they lose their heads and shoot blindly or take advantage of the bodies of long-dead enemies. However, the moments when the Master Chief was treated as a one-man army made me laugh. As soon as he appeared on the battlefield, shouts could be heard: "Cavalry is coming!", "Finally!", "We are saved!" or "Look! It's him! " You want to help them immediately :-)

The multiplayer version for home computers is unfortunately not an extension of the console version. It was not without a few cuts. The PC version lacked, for example, Cooperative Mode. I didn't play the X-Box version of "Halo", but from what I heard it was relatively popular. I wish it had been taken away from us. As a kind of sweetness, the authors of the game added six new maps to conduct skirmishes. There are also two completely new weapons - the plasma launcher and the flamethrower. It is a pity that due to the unique dynamics of the game, they will not be used too often. Players can choose one of several modes, but there is clearly a lack of those that would not have appeared in any other shooter before. At first glance, it is even good, but it quickly turns out that in many cases the differences are limited only to changing the name of the mode (eg Slayer instead of Deathmatch). Up to sixteen players can contend with each other on the maps. It may not be much, but the fun is still great. The huge dynamics of the game, the ability to use vehicles and, finally, well-chosen guns (from the single, these two new ones are bad) - all this means that many a multi player will be captivating as much as the singleplayer campaign.

Despite the fact that the console version of "Halo" was released over two years ago, the graphic design of the game is not smacking. This is mainly due to the numerous improvements. The game has been adapted to display at higher resolutions. It is a pity that many modern technologies, such as Pixel Shader, were not supported. It's just good that such water is interactive. Throwing a grenade into it, we see a perfectly realized explosion (not some nightmare from "Chrome" :-)). The characters and vehicles have aged the least in these two years. Master Chief looks like an expressive hero. The quality of the surroundings is a bit worse. While there are no complaints about the ubiquitous atmosphere of the game, the textures or architecture used, for example, arouse mixed feelings. It certainly could have been done much better. The situation is saved by a well-made soundtrack. Dialogues (including shouts) are at an exceptionally high level. I am only surprised that the PeCet "Halo" is characterized by exaggerated hardware requirements. The game can cut solidly even on the most powerful configurations. This usually happens when there are more moving objects on the screen (vehicles, opponents, teammates ...). Don't believe what is written on the box. If you want to enjoy smooth gameplay in maximum detail and high resolution, multiply the values given there by two.

"Hello" is like a good vacation in the tropics - expensive (you know, Microsoft publishes the game after all :-)), short (for the price), but unforgettable. If you're bored with the clichéd PeCet shootouts, try something sharper. I guarantee that you will have a great time and you will jump up more than once shouting: "Wow! It was just an action! ”. It is a bit worse with the multiplayer. In comparison with the best PeCet titles, it looks a bit pale, although it will probably interest many online skirmishers. And I just hope that we will not have to wait another two years for the second part of "Hello", the more that it looks very promising ...

Jacek "Stranger" Noise