The PC version of Halo: Combat Evolved is outstanding and proves why it’s one of the greatest shooters of all time.
Halo: Combat Evolved was originally released on November 15, 2001 as a launch title for the original Xbox and it immediately became the console’s killer app, selling more than 5 million copies worldwide in four years. Eventually, a port of the Xbox version was made available for the PC too; this version lacks the much-praised cooperative mode and has a few problems. But even when it has some minor inconsistencies, the PC Version of Halo still is one of the greatest action games ever released.
The game consists of a long campaign and an intense multiplayer mode. The campaign is about 10 to 12 hour-long depending on the difficulty settings, and the variety of the different levels and maps encourage replayability. In the multiplayer mode up to 16 players can participate, the game runs very well most of the times and there are several modes to play in. These include slayer (read: deathmatch), team slayer, king of the hill, capture the flag, and oddball.
One of Halo´s main characteristics is the integration of vehicles, as this created a unique experience that quickly became a standard on any other modern shooter. Additionally, some weapons are exclusive to the PC version that weren´t included in the Xbox version of the game, these are the flamethrower and the fuel rod gun. Even if they are not as good as the rest of the conventional weapons they represent a nice addition. Also, six new maps are exclusive for the PC. What was, and still is great about Halo´s multiplayer is how fast-paced and chaotic matches can become, and soon everyone who played it realized how much potential the game really had.
Furthermore, the game’s single player campaign component is simply outstanding. There are just a few loading times and the controls on the PC are much more slick and responsive than the Xbox version. So if you´ve played first-person shooters lately, you´ll be able to pick it up really easily. But besides the more technical explanation of why Halo is such a great game you have to pay attention to the story. Fans of science fiction will love the intricate and complex universe the developers spent so much time creating. The game begins in a place called the Pillar of Autumn, a ship that is heavily attacked by the Covenant. The ship´s commander, Keyes, decides to awaken a soldier from cryogenic sleep. This soldier is called Master Chief, who is equipped with a powerful suit and who is in charge of protecting Cortana, the artificial intelligence of the ship. As they escape, they enter a ring-shaped planet called Halo. Halo is believed to have religious significance to the Covenant and that is why they want to defend it so strongly.
As Master Chief, you have the possibility to use many weapons, which you can use to defeat the multiple enemies you’ll encounter. Your motion tracker detects nearby opponents and your recharging shields allow you to receive direct damage. Though Master Chief is really powerful, you´ll rarely feel overpowered. He can only carry two weapons at once and a few grenades. The energy shield is quite useful and innovative as it recharges overtime after a few seconds when you´re taking fire. This mechanic works amazingly as you can use it strategically to retreat at times or seek cover while you wait for your shield to recharge. Halo´s physics, AI, graphics and the integration of vehicles are great. It´s like all these elements blend in together perfectly.
At times you’ll have to face enemies with the help of marines, who usually wait for you to make the first move. There are several enemies for you to fight, the Grunts for example are really weak, but at the same time are the funniest creatures in the Halo universe. When you are near them, they run in terror in the most awkward ways possible usually swearing or telling funny remarks. This is why it is so easy to underestimate them, but beware, for they carry heavy weapons and deadly grenades. Then, you have the Covenant´s elite, who, just like you, have recharging shields and they can cover, run or even use infiltration tactics when you hide for too long.
Interestingly enough, the most endearing experience in Halo is not the combat but the driving. You have many vehicles you can use, especially in wide-open areas. The Warthog is an all-terrain vehicle which up to three people can ride. One of them drives, the passenger can shoot his weapon and finally one can use the machine gun in the back. The controls for vehicles are really different to the ones you use for combat, as the vehicles move in the direction you look, so with the mouse you don´t only control the camera, but the direction. The humans can also ride a Rhino, which is basically a huge battle tank. Then, the Covenant have some interesting vehicles. The Ghost is a bike that has integrated plasma guns, and the Banshee is a unique aircraft you can use when facing ground forces. Of course each vehicle has its advantages and disadvantages, but each one is featured at a different point in the campaign when it makes more sense to use them. Fortunately, these are also extremely fun to use in multiplayer as they integrate very well with the rest of the action.
The variety of weapons is also surprising as some are more useful at a certain point during the campaign or against certain enemies than others. The balance between them is great as the weapons of the Humans are very different to the ones of the Covenant. As variety is so important, it’s very satisfying to see how great the different weapons work in some specific situations. Ultimately, the assault rifle will be the weapon you´ll use the most as it is great at close range, but grenades are really useful too, especially when you have to face many enemies at once. There are basically two types, the human frag grenades and the Covenant plasma grenades. The first ones explode on contact and the second ones take more time to explode but you can stick them to an enemy if you are patient enough. It is both funny and satisfying to see them running around hectically before they die. Besides the regular weapons you can find two rare items, a shield that provides extra protection for your suit and an invisibility shield that makes you invisible for a limited time.
The single player campaign is awesome but not perfect. While there are several open areas where you can fight and these offer a great sense of immersion in a battlefield, the long corridors and huge indoor levels are even more common. Usually these corridors have a cookie-cutter approach offering the same experience over and over. The library level has to be mentioned as its tediousness stands out; you have to run through an extremely long level fighting enemies and it becomes boring in minutes.
Graphically Halo looks amazing. All the explosion effects, the use of particles and sparks are simply groundbreaking. All the animations the different characters and enemies have are realistic and believable. The only problem Halo has is that it’s really difficult to get it to run properly. The frame rate is stuck at 30 frames per second at most even if you have a computer that surpasses the minimum requirements.
Regarding the audio, Halo is excellent. The soundtrack is pretty unique and the choir vocals add a unique effect that you are not likely to forget any time soon. Each vehicle and weapon produces a distinctive sound and they are really well-done. Each enemy has a special quality to their voices so you may hear them near you even when you don’t see them. Voice acting is great and hardly repetitive, for example the soldiers that fight along you trash talk or praise your shots or driving maneuvers and this creates a sense of attachment to them.
The PC version of Halo lacks some of the most important features that made it such a great game for the Xbox, an engaging cooperative mode and a smooth graphical performance. But the rest is outstanding. Its endearing story, high quality sound, fun single-player campaign and entertaining multiplayer modes make Halo: Combat Evolved one of the greatest classic shooters of all time.