Halo: Combat Evolved (Xbox, 20 hours)

You need to realize that before Halo, first-person shooters built from the ground up for consoles were hard to find. We had Goldeneye: 007Perfect Dark, and not a lot else. Sure, games like Doom and Quake got competent console ports, but at their core, they were truly PC games. Halo: Combat Evolved helped define how a first-person shooter would feel using two analog sticks, and brought new ideas to the table such as regenerating health. This game also had rock-solid multiplayer capability, and allowed you to network multiple Xboxes to play with more people on a local network. All told, this is a classic.

Something about running and gunning alien covenant (the name for the aliens) feels right. An innovative idea Halo had was to allow you to carry only two weapons at a time. This is perhaps more “realistic” (despite being set in outer space on alien planets) because in real life you couldn’t hold an arsenal of thirteen weapons at once. You will find two weapons, with the ability to swap weapons easily when the enemy drops them, is all you need. Also innovative was regenerating health. You have eight life points, and a regenerating life meter. If your regenerating meter hits zero, the game starts taking away life points. Crazy how regenerating health is now standard in so many shooters, but Halo: Combat Evolved did it first.

The Artificial Intelligence is … well … intelligent, but not brilliant. Enemies do a lot of side-strafing and occasionally go in and out of cover. Most impressive is how much mileage the developers at Bungie got out of four enemy types. You’re primarily fighting only four kinds of enemies throughout the game, with some exceptions. Occasionally these enemies carry a shield, making them slightly more difficult to defeat. There is a Jeep-like vehicle called the Warthog, whose controls are greatly simplified, making the Warthog easier to drive than vehicles in other video games. You simply push the left analog stick forward to go, and moving the camera left and right changes the steering. It feels great.

In terms of graphics, the game showcases the original Xbox’s power. The polygonal models and the environment aren’t especially complicated, but the game is built around a lot of wide open vistas. The GameCube and certainly the PS2 couldn’t handle environments that are this wide open. Icing on the cake includes high quality shadow maps, and some nice reflective effects here and there. The framerate is 30 frames per second. A bit disappointing they couldn’t hit 60 frames per second, as shooters often demand higher frame rates for a better, easier to play experience. I also noticed some dropped frames here and there, unfortunately. 

I guess no talk about Halo: Combat Evolved would be complete without mentioning the multiplayer. Though I think Halo 3 is the real high point in the series, here the multiplayer is very good. One time my friends and I networked two Xboxes and played eight player, and that was a blast. Bungie proved with Halo: Combat Evolved that a top-tier first-person shooter game could exist on console, and helped pave the way for big console hits like Call of Duty and Battlefield. Though Bungie has moved on to bigger things with the Destiny series, an internal Microsoft studio 343 Industries still makes Halo games. Combat Evolved is worthy of five stars if only for what it did for the genre.



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