Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Halo: Highly Overrated

Halo: One of the biggest game franchises of all. It is so ingrained in popular culture now that people who are not even gamers may recognise the name 'Halo' or the image of the Master Chief. However, for all the hype, the first game seems to be rated slightly higher than it should be.

There isn't much to say in this review - most things about this game are excellent. The graphics are visually spectacular and the first time you look up and see the ring rising in the distance - its a memorable experience. The landscapes and level design is generally superb.

The music and sound for this game are excellent also, they really give a cinematic feel making it feel you are less playing a game and more you are in a movie. The sound effects are especially detailed as you can hear the slightest noises such as shell casings hitting the ground.

The gameplay controls are tight; this is where Halo got its master domination of shooters and now there are few others that can lay claim to the title of best shooter. However this game is now outdated and obsolete when compared to Halo 2 and the updated controls such as dual wielding.

Now to the not so great things about Halo Combat Evolved. This is essentially a good game. However, there are things that are certainly not great: Enemy imbalance and level design. To be honest, the game from the level 'The Library' is a pretty broken experience. The level is dark, and confusing, and although it doesn't take much to realise where you're meant to be going the player shouldn't have to stand around wondering where to go next in a linear game such as Halo. The torch is really bad, especially as it keeps running out of power.

As for the level where the player has to disable the pulse generators, that's where it gets extremely frustrating. I played this on easy, because I hate games that make it too difficult for the player, and I wanted to get through the game quickly. If I have to play a certain section 4 times over (on easy difficulty) I think there's a problem there. The situation was: I had to fly down to the bottom of the tower on the banshee to grab a health pack, then fly back up, enter the tower, fight some Flood and disable the generator. And then get flooded by Flood again, resulting in death. The Flood are horrendously imbalanced: they are much too powerful due to no real flaws, good in melee and also armed with weapons such as assault rifles and missile launchers. Thus I had to replay this section multiple times: NOT FUN.

The health packs are also a major criticism in the game. Players don't want to scavenge around for health packs, and while at the time this was often the norm in games they are often placed badly, and not where the player most needs them.

Now to vehicles. While the ghost and banshee are an absolute delight to use, with excellent transitions, controls and balance, the warthog is a horror to drive. In open terrain it isn't so bad, but in the final countdown section with all the pillars and walls in the way, trying to steer with the warthog is a nightmare. Not to mention keeping an eye on the clock. The final level is a very stressful and frustrating affair: it was here that I put down the controller in disgust. Time limits are much hated in video games and although some gamers see it as 'challenging', having to replay the final level at least five or six (or more) times is not fun. As soon as the game ceases to be fun the player often puts the game down, never to pick it up again. And that's where Halo Combat Evolved fails again. Although the game has a great storyline, there's almost no replay value in single player.

So, that's my rant on the flaws of an otherwise stable and pretty revolutionary game that spurred the xbox onwards and the Halo franchise to where it is today. With Halo 2, 3 and Reach now released, there's little point in playing Halo Combat Evolved so I won't be picking it up again. Although an excellent game it isn't perfect, so I'm giving it a 7.

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