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Halo
Review by: J. Michael Neal
Developer: Gearbox Software
Publisher: Microsoft
# of Players: 1-16 online
Genre: First Person Shooter
ESRB: Mature
Online: Yes
Date Posted: 11-18-03

System Requirements:

Microsoftģ Windowsģ 98SE/Me/XP/2000
PC with 733 MHz equivalent or higher processor
128 MB of system RAM
1.2 GB available hard disk space
8x speed or faster CD-ROM drive
32 MB T&L capable video card required
Sound card, speakers, or headphones required for audio
Microsoft Mouse or compatible pointing device
56.6 Kbps or better modem or LAN for online play; broadband to run a server

You really can't appreciate just how overrated Halo really is until you play the PC version. Taking Halo off the console and leveling the playing field by placing it in an arena more suited for the genre seems to show that under all the mounds of hype and whiz-bang excitement, that emperor is stark-freaking-naked. Itís just another uninspired FPS up here in the big leagues, and while it will surely sell by the tons from simple curiosity, it will probably see uninstallment before the week is out.

Don't count me among those who have jumped on the retroactive Halo-bashing bandwagon, because I have not. Quite frankly, I was never very impressed with the game. Like every other Xbox owner out there, it came home with me the day I bought the system, but I was never so enthralled with the game to overlooking itís shortcomings. Sloppy frame rates, unimpressive visuals, repetitive environments, repetitive textures, repetitive characters, repetitive gameplay, and repetitiveÖ just-about-everything-else tended to overshadow what the game did well, namely great audio, solid multiplayer, fast paced (if not mindless) action, cool vehicles, and undoubtedly the smoothest console FPS controls ever created. Donít get me wrong, Halo wasnít a bad game, much like Splinter Cell I enjoyed it while I was playing it, but after it was over I wasnít left with the same feelings of awe and admiration as my contemporaries.

And now that Haloís odyssey home has finally come to an end? Itís showing all the wear and tear age, countless engine switches, and console port-dom can do to a game.

To begin with, Halo PC still retains all the issues that plagued the original, and gains a few new ones along the way, including - frame rates far more spastic than expected for an aged console port; dated graphics; mouse movement that lacks the responsiveness of traditional PC games; no coop mode and few enhancements to the multiplayer; and design decisions that make you wonder if any PC optimization was done on this game whatsoever, like being forced to sit through a tutorial that teaches you how to use mouse look, or the game pausing to load up the next bit of the level every few paces just like it does on the Xbox.

And what of the crown jewel of the Halo Empire, itís single player experience? Itís NPC scripted events? Well, they just donít seem as impressive anymore. Since Haloís release these kinds of interactive sequences have become a dime a dozen, being polished to near perfect on games like Call of Duty. How could something like Halo possibly compete? It canít, and quite frankly, Halo is out of its element here. Things like fellow soldiers blowing up in front of you have gone from cool to almost laughably cheesy, and with that weapon taken out of Haloís arsenal there is nothing to mask its ďmove forward - kill, move forward - killĒ gameplay. Sure, the action is still pretty fast paced and itís hard not to love the Warthog, but are these enough to warrant choosing this game over something light-years ahead like Tron 2.0? I would hope not.

With all these strikes against it, what does Halo PC have left? Well, if you have the right rig it will look noticeably improved over itís console progenitor, but thatís not saying much. Also, it still has some of the best surround sound I have ever experienced, particularly rewarding owners of bitchiní subwoofers, as well as some exciting single player action and online modes that should offer a few hours of fun (until the bloom is off the rose and everyone goes back to Counter-Strike). But is that really enough to warrant your time and money? Not while you can find equally worthwhile gameplay in free downloads like Enemy Territory and Americaís Army, or use Xbox Connect to take the original online; and few gamers even have the equipment needed to truly appreciate Haloís audio. No, it still appears that Halo PC just hasnít given gamers enough reasons to stop whatever they are doing and play this game.

In the end, Halo PC exposes the original for what it really was - a good, ďoriginalĒ (and I use the term loosely) console FPS that was magnified into greatness by a combination of hype, long-standing anticipation, new console exuberating, lack of respective competition, and a fanatic following. On the console itís still pretty good, and worth popping in every now and than for a cooperative run or two, but on the PC itís too little, at least four years too late, lagging even further behind the competition than it should thanks to some pretty piss-poor porting. In short: youíve seen better single-player elsewhere, youíve seen better multiplayer elsewhere, youíve seen better visuals, had better controls; if you were expecting a taste of what many called ďthe greatest first person shooter of all timeĒ, prepare for a serious anti-climax. Itíll probably hold your attention for a few hours, but once the new-game glow has faded itíll probably become a coaster.

Highs:

  • Great surround sound, especially subwoofer utilization.
  • Multiplayer should prove a fun, if not short-lived, distraction.
  • Single player campaign is still fairly entertaining.
  • With a good enough system it will look noticeably better than the console versionÖ
Lows:
  • Ö Though they will still be several steps down from the more recently constructed PC graphics engines.
  • Scripted events donít stack up against whatís currently out there.
  • Still has all the problems of the original.
  • Maximum mouse sensitivity isnít as sensitive as some may be use to.
  • No coop mode?
  • Few multiplayer additions.
  • Jittery frame rates on a two-year-old console port?
  • Basic, underlying Halo gameplay was rather bland to begin with.
Final Verdict:

Halo PC is like waking up next to someone you pick up at a bar the night before and seeing them for the first time in the harsh light of day: they arenít as interesting as you remembered, they arenít as charming as you remembered, and they certainly arenít as pretty as you remembered. Maybe, just maybe, cooperative play and expanded multiplayer could have saved this game, but even those would have still placed Halo well below its closest competitors. If youíre dying to see what all the fuss was about, just make friends with someone who owns an Xbox.

Overall Score: 7.0

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