Players: 1 (16 for online multiplayer)
One of the most popular games of all time. If you don’t know what Halo is, you’re probably over 50, don’t have kids, and don’t read anything, like, ever.
COVER ART/SCREENSHOTS/BOX EXPLANATION (10/10)
No surprises here. Bungee is a solid company, and knows how to polish its products. The box looks cool, the back shows what’s going on, and even makes absolutely sure you know you’re going to have access to a big stinkin’ rocket launcher by posting Master Chief looking all tough with one on the back. It’s not even an inlay. He’s just busting out of the back ready to frag some aliens.
Now, I remember when I first saw this box. It was during a time when I was too focused on work and sleep to do much else, but I would stop into E.B. Games here and there to see what was new. I hadn’t seen any previews of the game in magazines, but I had heard whispers during my previous visits about how cool it looked, this and that. When it finally came out, I looked at the box, turned it out… meh. It looked just like every other shooter, except it had vehicles. Hadn’t vehicles been done? Tribes had them, right? Yeah. And that was it. I didn’t have an XBOX anyway, and I still had to beat Disgaea. Consider it paranoia, if you will, but I’ve been fooled by box art with cool guns before (Daikatana, you bastard). In the FPS world, there are huge variables that do NOT consist of graphics, plain and simple. Still, when I got around to it, I didn’t feel like Halo lied to me in the slightest… at least not by the box.
GAME PLAY (6/10)
I actually played Halo about three years later. More actively involved in games thanks to a circle of friends who regularly gathered to play Puzzle Fighter, Marvel VS Capcom 2, and Timesplitters 2. I had finally picked up an XBOX a year earlier thanks to the persuasive Ninja Gaiden being released, and my buddy Tyler had a copy, so I figured I’d see what the fuss was about.
Let me start by saying this; I really wanted to like Halo. I tried putting my issues aside. I tried to laugh at the stupid little aliens screaming when I killed their boss. It wasn’t enough.
Halo is, and always will be, a mediocre game. The story is a decent little space opera, but there have been better. The controls are tight… but they should be, because Bungee had been around for years, and as a small company with decent funding, their quality should always be better that those larger companies whose crazy timelines and bulky management tend to erode the game more than help. Everything that could excel simply did not.
I thought we’d worked out a long time ago that shooting a gun should look and, more importantly, feel good. Remember the days when we didn’t have force feedback? Or when you accidentally picked up a non-feedback controller because it was cheaper, and you didn’t read the fine print? There are still games that, despite no rumble, have weapons that are just fun to shoot, even if it’s just blank space. Every weapon in Doom, particularly the double-barrel shotgun, falls in this category, minus the pistol. Red Faction’s combat shotgun was great, and I would announce my presence in Goldeneye multiplayer by firing twin Dostovei’s wildly in the air. Blood had an awesome tommygun, Duke Nukem had the chain ripper, and so on. What do these all have in common? They felt solid. Halo’s weapons… the only way to describe them is “squishy”.
Halo is simple. You follow orders, run down a veritable track laden with aliens trying to blow your head off, and fire off your various weapons as if you were taking a casual stroll by the lake and can’t be bothered to do anything else. The graphics are good, and the enemies are creative, but everything reeks like Image comic books of 1996, i.e. everything should be great… but it has no soul.
I also want to fault Halo for bringing about a revolution of sorts. I can’t think of any melee attacks in FPS games prior that would kill a full-health enemy in multiplayer in two shots, max. Suspension of disbelief is alright in some cases, and I understand Master Chief is a genetic superman, but it paved the way for the exact same thing to happen all over. Call of Duty 4’s knife makes some sense in how it insta-kills, but they decided to keep that same speed as the buttstroke/pistol whip from Halo. It doesn’t make sense. And then came the laziness; in what could have been a fantastic game, this one-hit melee made its way into Transformers: War for Cybertron. There are no whirling attack chains like a mechanical God of War – no, a single whallop with a random axe, sword, or mace, leaving you vulnerable to attack as you recover is what you get. The real fault lies with those game developers, of course, but Halo made this sort of thing accessible.
I’ll gripe about one last thing before wrapping this up. Jumping up and down in combat is suicide. Gears of War did this right, as it replaced jumping with a lurching, heavy run, but because jumping is harder to track in a game than in real life, as well as sprays of bullets not really doing anything more that scratching your armor, it became a viable tactic in many Halo multiplayer matches. Now, while I could get over it in most cases, I’ve always had this issue with slow-falling. Not only do you jump about 10 feet in the air, but you fall at the same speed you left the ground. If this were an adventure on a single planet, great, lesser gravity is weeeeird, but it’s not the case. It’s the same in the sequels, in all levels, whether on a space station or solid ground. And why is there no damned run button?
I’ve heard before the Halo novels explain some of this weird behavior, but my as is my usual response, “Novels based on licenses often exist as nothing more than a way to cover missteps by conveniently backtracking and explaining away their faults.” Had the game not been a hit, as I’m assuming most parallel galaxies’ timelines would attest, no books would have been made. But, the truth is…
IN-GENRE (ACTION/ADVENTURE) SCORE (5/10)
Halo is nothing more than a “gateway” game, comparable to some pot with your high school buddies before you grow up and realize cocaine is the better drug. There are better things out there, but you’re too afraid to try them, or too biased to stick with it; maybe you’ll dabble in some Call of Duty crystal meth from time to time, but nothing beats the old familiar feelings, right?
Get over it. Every generation, mass hysteria picks a new game to faun over. Remember Final Fantasy 7, how that’s the most spectacular one in that series? Or how Mortal Kombat was the best fighting game ever made? If you believe any of these, you’ve been lied to. Look deeper.
I’ve already mentioned a plethora of great games (when talking about the squishy guns), and all of them top Halo in nearly every category. I’ll go ahead and list some more, all before Halo existed: Timesplitters 2, Alien VS Predator 1 and 2, Unreal Tournament, Quakes 1-3, Return to Castle Wolfenstein, and Strife. Still, I suppose Halo has its vehicles. And they, too, felt squishy.
THE ‘GAME OVER’ ALL? (7.0)
Like any bad habit, it’s time you all face the facts and tell your friends “No, I can’t play Halo with you anymore. Let’s play NFL 95 instead.” While I guess it’s too late, since Reach was the last Halo that Bungee will touch, it’s well time this franchise died, or at least fixed its damnable mediocrity. I STILL want to like Halo, but it just can’t happen when it doesn’t do anything well.
Unfortunately, averaging all three scores gave this wildly uninventive game a higher final score than I would care for, but a 7 is just average, after all.
ARBITRARY CREDIT FOR NUDITY/GORE: +.00
Nothing to see here. Mass market appeal… check. You win, Microsoft, you sneaky pricks.
Guest Review by: Fargascorp