Review: Halo – Combat Evolved (PC)

In this review, we check out another well known first person shooter (FPS) game: Halo: Combat Evolved. We decided to see if this PC game lived up to the hype we’ve heard surrounding this game.

This particular game was released in 2003 and would be the first game that started an entire series.

At the time of the release, I’ve personally heard how this game was one of the greatest games of all time. I’ve heard references in discussion to this game up to this day. Ultimately, this got me curious to give this game a try, though I do know from past experience that just because a game is considered by others to be the greatest game of all time doesn’t mean I’ll necessarily agree.

You take the role of Master Chief, a super soldier that is eventually brought out of cryo-stasis. The ship you are on is under attack by one of the main antagonists of this game, the Covenant. Your first objective is to evacuate the ship with Cortana, an artificial intelligence program that aids you along the way.

One of the first things you’ll notice in this game is that you are limited to holding two weapons and grenades. You can hold up to four grenades of each type though. If you want a third weapon, one of your current weapons have to be dropped to the ground. This is a departure from many older games like Duke Nukem 3D where you can carry every possible weapon in the game.

This, of course, leads to a potential problem of running out of ammo quickly. Some weapons allow you to hold a sizable amount of ammo, but others, like the alien weapons, have a more limited ammo capacity. Fortunately, and curiously enough, you can replenish your supply of ammo if you collect 2 or so ammo packs.

Another thing you can pick up are health packs. Unlike countless other FPS games, there’s only one kind of health pack. This health pack will fully replenish your health.

An interesting feature is your shield. This shield, which reminds me of Perfect Dark, protects you from damage for a limited amount of time. If your shield gets damaged, though, you can simply take cover and wait for your shield to replenish itself. If you lose all of your shield and start taking damage, you start losing your health.

Also aiding you along the way are a variety of weapons. Generally, your default weapons are the machine gun and the pistol, though some levels start you off with different weapons as well. You can also get a sniper rifle in your travels. Additionally, you can get a variety of weapons. One weapon allows you to charge up a shot and fire at an enemy (which does exist in Perfect Dark as well, interestingly enough). There’s also the interesting Needler weapon which has projectiles that fly through the air before sticking into an opponent and exploding (which reminds me of the Cerebral Bore from Turok 2 – Seeds of Evil, only far less disgusting).

Another item pickup you can find are two kinds of special items. The first is cloaking. This pyramid shaped item activates the second you pick it up – much like the ring of shadows found in Quake. This lasts for a limited amount of time before you gradually fade back in again. In the mean time, enemies can’t see you, allowing you to sneak past them and skip a few firefights.

A second special item you can find are overshields. This is basically a second shield that has twice the defensive capabilities as your regular shield. It fills your shield bar twice, but doesn’t regenerate. In order to replenish this overshield, you, confusingly enough, have to go through your first overshield before you pick up another. Good for an added layer of temporary protection though.

Generally speaking, though, these special items are not that common. In my run through this game, I could count on one hand how many cloaking items I found.

Along the way, you’ll encounter a variety of enemies. Some of these enemies are the Covenant. The Covenant are interested in tapping into the powers of Halo, the super structure you ultimately land on. These can be those small enemies that can carry a small variety of weapons and come in a small variety of colors. You can also encounter the Elites which can also wear different color of armor. There’s also various vehicles they drive that can range from a ghost to a full fledged tank. A number of these vehicles can be commandeered for your own purposes if you can get there before an enemy gets there.

Aiding you are your fellow soldiers that can greatly help you in various firefights. You also have access to your own kind of equipment like the famous Warthog or the Scorpion Tank. Out of all the vehicles in the game, I think the Scorpion tank was the most fun to play around on even though it reminded me of my time playing Goldeneye 007.

I personally found the controls of the vehicles to be a little awkward. For me, it would have made more sense to have look left and right simply turn the tires, not have the tires turn towards the direction the camera is facing. I could get used to it a little, but it wasn’t the greatest thing in the world for me.

Further into the game, you’ll encounter the Flood – a parasitic alien virus that modifies the genetic makeup of any sentient being and attacks you. There’s also the countless parasites that explode when you come into contact with them, damaging you slightly in the process. An additional character is a flying robot, which kind of reminds me of Dr. Carol from Perfect Dark in a way.

There’s a small variety of environments you’ll encounter. Some of them are outside in the elements, but others take place deep underground in an alien indoor world. The ambiance, personally, reminds me of Hybrid Heaven for the N64 with the colored lights and mysterious holographic computer systems.

While the outdoor settings were interesting, I couldn’t help but notice that the designs of the indoor settings seem more like lego blocks that were merely put together. In the alien facilities, I found myself going through the same rooms and the same hallways over and over again. Sometimes, these rooms simply have a simple little change to them. Other times, these rooms are literally an exact copy and paste from a previous area. The initial ship wasn’t so bad, but other areas are much more egregious in this.

One positive in this is that this game gives off the impression that it’s larger then it really is in some areas. This is through the use of doors that simply do not open. While the numbers of doors being locked may remind some of Silent Hill, the system of red indicating locked and green indicating unlocked again reminds me of the system set up in Hybrid Heaven.

While I’m not one to give away endings that often, the ending also has similarities to Hybrid Heaven.

One interesting element was that there were few distinct levels. Instead, this game interlocks whole areas and loads them piece by piece as you pass through them. This system actually resembles what is found in Quake II. Personally, I don’t know which game was the first to do this kind of thing, but it’s nothing that is exactly new.

Another aspect of this game is the checkpoint system. There’s nothing visible to indicate an area is a checkpoint, but you know it’s a checkpoint when you get a message saying you crossed through a checkpoint. These checkpoints are valuable in that if you die, you respawn at the last checkpoint you crossed over and you can try again. The one flaw I found with these checkpoints is that if you cross over a checkpoint with damaged shields and one dot of health, you could respawn in the exact same position if you die further ahead. I nearly ended up having this game unplayable at one point because an enemy had placed a grenade right beside me right when I crossed a checkpoint with little halth and damaged shields. Fortunately, some creative strafing allowed me to get through this area. So, checkpoints can help you a lot, but can also hurt your ability to play in some cases.

Generally speaking, I found that this game really didn’t break a whole lot of new ground. Instead, a lot of ideas generally come from previous games. A lot of these ideas seem to resemble what is found in Perfect Dark, but there are some ideas that resemble a few other games like the Turok series, Contra, Perfect Dark, Super Metroid, and Quake. In many of the areas where this game seemed to break new ground (like the shield regeneration), a lot of compensation was made.

For a good portion of the game, I found myself relying on a bunch of death sites of fellow soldiers to replenish my ammo supply and top off my health. Sometimes, you hear Cortana say things like she wasn’t expecting humans to be in this area. If it weren’t for these areas, I would definitely be forced to rely on alien weapons which, generally speaking, are not as great as human weapons. The shotgun is great for more difficult flood enemies. The sniper rifle is great for Covenant enemies. The rocket launcher is great for gun emplacements, tanks, and other enemy vehicles. So, while the alien weapons look great and shiny, they seem to only be good if you are out of ammo from your human weapons. The only exception to the rule are the aliens grenades. These grenades stick to enemies if you manage to land one on them. They can run towards other enemies for cover before the grenade detonates, sending a bunch of them flying everywhere like rag dolls.

This game does suffer from a few glitches. The most annoying is the fact that vehicles can be drive through objects and get stuck. This is annoying because it’s possible to lose your vehicle due to this. Another glitch that is even more annoying is the possibility that you can get out of your vehicle and instantly die. I suspect this has something to do with the fact that running over enemies instantly kills them. So, if you accidentally run over yourself (or, at least, the game thinks you did), then you can find your run cut unexpectedly short by the mere act of hopping out of your vehicle. This was really annoying in some areas because I required a fast escape from my vehicle before it exploded, killing me anyway.

Generally speaking, though, this game wasn’t bad. It was interesting for the most part, but I found the fact that it recycles all of the previous levels in the second half of the game to be an element that hurts the playability of this game. It’s OK to revisit a few areas. It’s OK to be able to revisit every area if it’s some sort of bonus level. However, recycling the whole game to extend the play time as a mandatory mission objective cheapened the game play more than made things interesting in my opinion.

This game does offer a certain amount of challenge in some places. Perhaps most notoriously was the mission to follow the robot while hoards of enemies shoot at you. I did get some entertainment value out of it, though I debate back and forth whether or not once was enough for me.

Another feature was the numerous cutscenes. I found that the game was a little heavy and dependent on the cut scenes, but they were decent enough.

Graphically speaking, I was definitely impressed by the draw distance. I don’t know of any games currently that had so much draw distance that were made prior to this game. The textures themselves range from good to standard stuff. The effects, though, really allowed this game to have a more crisp feel to it. I thought the lighting and atmosphere effects were nicely done. I did, however, find a tree that was well above the ground in a winter area. I found it odd being able to walk under the trunk of the tree. Beyond that, I don’t recall seeing any real graphical bugs.

The audio was pretty good. The music depended largely on orchestral type music which isn’t anything new in gaming. Still, I would say the music was good. The voice work for everything was good. The sound effects were good as well. So, overall, I give the audio experience of this game a positive review.

Overall, this game had a lot of hype behind it. When I played this game, I found that it used a lot of ideas found in other games. Ultimately, it didn’t beak a whole lot of new ground, but that’s not to say this game is bad. This game was a good game to play, but it wasn’t the greatest game of all time in my books. Still, there’s plenty of entertainment value to be found in this game even if it recycles a lot of elements throughout. An interesting game to play to say the least.


Furthest point in game: Beat the game on the normal difficulty.

General gameplay: 18/25
Replay value: 7/10
Graphics: 9/10
Audio: 4/5

Overall rating: 76%

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.

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