Sunday, January 2, 2011

Level Up: Halo: Combat Evolved

Well, it’s that time of the year again: the holiday season. And with “Weird Al” playing in the background, I can’t help but think of two things; game gifts and constant slaughter. So, how about this time I combine the two? Now, granted this game wasn’t given to me as a gift during the holidays, it was still a gift. Plus I think the title more the makes it appropriate for a review at this time of the year. That’s right, I am reviewing the somewhat considered classic, Halo: Combat Evolved for the X-Box.

I need to start with the story, and, I know that it has gotten a lot more complicated with the recent additions, but I am going to review it as my interpretation of how THIS GAME presents it. You pretty much start off in the middle of an ongoing war between the humans and a race called the Covenant in the 26th century. The Covenant followed the human marines and attack them while near an unknown ring like structure in space. The humans decide to “wake up” Master Chief (the player character) since he’s kind of a trump card after being one of the few surviving members of an earlier battle a few decades ago. With stuff not going quite as well as the Humans would have liked, Master Chief is asked to take Cortana, an artificially Intelligence presented as a human female hologram, so that they don’t get a hold of the information she contains. After fighting them off, Master Chief then gets into an escape pod and lands on the mysterious ring (with oddly earth-like landscape) This is of course the giant ring known as Halo.

I am going to stop now for two reasons. Partially cause if I go any further, I think I would be ruining it for some people, and I found the plot twists to still be well kept secrets, so who am I to ruin them? Secondly, I want to talk about how well the plot is presented. It’s pacing is spectacular; repeated levels of “you need to kill the covenant” may start off exciting, but I can imagine lose their substance after a while. In Halo however, just as you may tire of it, BAM, something happens and the game has your attention again. Also, the suspense of the game can just be killer after one of these twists. It can really suck you in a go along with it in a very “I know something’s going to happen, but I don’t know what or when” fashion. Finally, the game has a way of guiding you that just seems natural. More on that in a minute. To wrap up the story; if you thought this game was just about shooting anything that moves, you’d be very surprised.

The game play is a joy. I know the multiplayer is probably the aspect most people are familiar with, but I kinda follow the Yhatzee ideology that “it’s the single played that counts.” Though, to touch on the subject, it is fun, and the system link that this game presents was revolutionary at the time.

Anyways, the controls play smoothly. As usual for first person shooters now, the analog sticks move your character and change your view, which makes seeing your enemies to gun them down easy. The right trigger button fires your gun, which comes naturally, since it’s relatively the same action to fire a gun. All the other buttons (which I won’t get into individually) also do something nessecary and they are very well placed. It easily becomes a second nature; even if you haven’t played Halo: Combat Evolved in a while, you can still pretty much just pick it up and you’ll remember how to play. Also, I have to mention that this was pretty much THE first game to correctly utilise and popularize regenerating shields.

The levels are also great. Remember how I said that the game seems to guide you in a way that feels natural? It’s like that for the game play too. Despite most of the maps seeming very large and open, I was aware that there was pretty much a path I had to follow, and rarely was it that I went off adventuring fruitlessly. Honestly, I think that might be my favourite thing about this.

I could still go on for a while, but I need to wrap this up to get to my eggnog. The game is fun; it plays well, works well and was designed well. The story is captivating, immersive and suspenseful. The music is amazing, perfectly fitting every moment it comes in and uses silence to its advantage (I still cower a bit when I hear the hunter’s theme). Finally, the graphics are great considering this was a one of the first games for the console. I honestly don’t think I have anything bad to say about this game; it sucks you in and makes you enjoy the ride, and even though you’re the one driving, it’s telling you the path without you knowing it. I hate having to do this so soon after my Majora’s Mask review, and knowing there are other games in the Halo series every says “improved” on it, but Bungie Studios and Microsoft Games presented me with something great that started a phenomenon. I give Halo: Combat Evolved 10 levels out of 10.