I finally broke down and played Halo

I avoided Halo for years because I never believed it really had that much to offer. My reasoning for this was as follows. Halo was a FPS game. FPS games started on the PC, and remain to be primarily a PC-centric domain. Say what you want, but mouse + keyboard combo is infinitely superior to a console controller. And I know – I played FPS games on PS1 and 2 in the old days when Sony was still kinda cool, and not the laughing stock of the universe.

Then again Halo was a FPS made for FailBox made by Microsoft which I didn’t own, and didn’t plan to ever buy. How good could that game be? Why would I actually want to get a silly console game and play it on my PC? So I easily ignored the original Halo, and then Halo 2.

Fast forward until today and just about every person with a blog is having a massive gamegasm because of Halo 3. Seriously, ever since that game was released it became impossible to go to any gaming site without witnessing fanbois jerking off to Halo 3.

I’m not planning to buy Xbox 360, and so I will probably won’t be playing that game any time soon. But all that praise lumped on top of the Halo series lately got me wondering what exactly was I missing. So I broke down, and installed the original Halo: Combat Evolved on my PC. I wanted to experience first hand what exactly was this whole hype all about, and how all of this started.

Halo

My first impressions? For a 6 year old game, Halo was really not that bad! In fact, it was highly entertaining. Unlike many other games, the difficulty system seemed to be very well designed. On easy, the game is genuinely easy, without sacrificing the AI intelligence. Enemies still take cover, fall back or try to ambush you – but they are much less accurate or effective with their shots.

To tell you the truth, I was quite surprised that a 6 year old game had all the FPS elements that are now staples of the genre: intelligent AI that uses cover, wide range of vehicles, scripted combat sequences, smart ally NPC’s fighting alongside you, a good story and etc. I expected a shitty console shooter, and I got a grade A FPS that was actually more fun than some of the much newer games that I played recently.

I especially liked the vehicle movement. In the PC version it uses 2 buttons – one for driving forward, and one for driving backward. While you are driving the vehicle turns to align itself with where you point your mouse. I’m actually surprised that more games did not copy this model because it was much more convenient than a full WASD vehicle control you usually find in FPS games.

While I abhor the checkpoint save system, Halo was the first game I ever played that actually made it work. It saved itself so often that I never had trouble finding a good stopping point. Also, the only time I was annoyed with it was during the final long escape sequence when I messed up one of the long buggy jumps. In fact this was the longest game stretch without a checkpoint and it was probably done this way to impose sense of urgency on a player. It didn’t work – and I was annoyed, but only mildly since ti was the end of the game, and I got it right on the 3rd try.

I immensely enjoyed fighting Covenant forces. I liked how you could sneak up, and toss a plasma grenade at an Elite, then pick off grunts as they ran away, or run up to a Jackal hiding behind a shield and knock him out with the butt of your gun. Flood on the other hand was not as much fun. They were pretty much generic monster/zombie types that you see in every other game.

Story was good too for an FPS game where the main character says total of like 8 sentences and never removes his helmet.

So while this was not the best game that I ever played, it was a very solid FPS. I highly misjudged it all these years. Now I kinda want to play Halo 2 to see what happens next, and kill more Covenant troops. Anyone got it working under XP yet? I know that a crack is out there, but I read mixed opinions about it’s effectiveness.

In before “buy and Xbox” and “get Vista” – no and no. Re: Xbox – I still maintain that playing FPS games with a console controller is silly. I’d rather put than money toward a nice video card. As for Vista – ugh. I’m strongly revolted by that whole thing. Sluggish 3d graphics, unstability and DRM are not my ideas of fun. Vista is Windows ME for the new millennium. So I think I’ll hold off on it for now. Maybe I can wait it out till MS releases a new version of OS that doesn’t suck.

[tags]halo, halo combat evolved, halo 3, halo 2, xbox, xbox 360, vista, pc, pc gaming[/tags]

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11 Responses to I finally broke down and played Halo

  1. Ian Clifton UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Ubuntu Linux says:

    How does it compare to the original Half-Life? HL was released in ’98 if I remember correctly, but it was a pretty sweet game and probably the last FPS that I really got into.

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  2. Luke Maciak UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    Halo is lighter on thinking and puzzles. Most of the time you are just running down a pretty well defined path. But the environment is constructed in such way that it almost seems open ended. There are many outside sections that let you ride or fly vehicles over large distance. You also don’t really need to push and pull stuff around. It’s a very different game all in all. And since it’s newer than HL graphics are better.

    Btw, have you played HL2? If you if you haven’t you are missing out!

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  3. Ian Clifton UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Ubuntu Linux says:

    Nope, I never got around to trying HL2. I suspect that if I did, I wouldn’t have time to comment on your blog ;) Plus, I’d probably be spending money I don’t have on new hardware.

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  4. Teague UNITED STATES Internet Explorer Windows says:

    I played Halo 2 on console, and found it to be excessively repetitive going through the stroy line. I guess all the Halos really shine in multi-player. I played it co-op, and that works pretty well, even though you’re still following the story. Co-op’s the only real reason I’d get it myself for a console (I played on a buddy’s). Hey, that might be a good topic: Whatever happened to same-location multi-player on the PC? You can’t even play sports games on PC that way anymore.

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  5. Luke Maciak UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Ubuntu Linux says:

    @Teague – after looking at some reviews, it does seem that Halo 2 is more of the same. Another Halo, another Flood breakout, another Monitor. Hmm…

    Very good point on the co-op thing. A lot of games used to have it, and then it went away. What happened?

    Btw, I hate split screen multiplayer on consoles though (both co-op and deathmatch). You’re playing with half your field of vision, and the other screen is always distracting. The only games that work with two people and one console are those that do not utilize split screen – fighting games, beat-them ups, and etc..

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  6. Craig Betts UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Solaris Terminalist says:

    Well, you saw how long it took for Halo 2 to come out for the PC, you will be waiting a long time for Halo 3. Especially with all the hacks the developers did on the graphics. It is very hardware dependent now.

    Half-Life still is a much better game as far as single player goes, but nothing can touch Halo for multiplayer. Halo 2 got most of it right with Halo 3 pretty much perfecting the experience.

    To be honest, I like the console controller. It allows me to relax on the couch to play. Yeah, I am a better shot with a mouse and keyboard, but it is nice not having to sit in front of a computer. I also like the fact that a friend can join me in a split screen environment. Yeah, I know you don’t like it, but it is nice to just have it as an option.

    Bungie had always made good games. I was a Mac fan back before the time the Microsoft owned Bungie. Marathon and Myth were just awesome.

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  7. Luke Maciak UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Ubuntu Linux says:

    Hmm… I wonder if people still play original Halo on multiplayer. I actually haven’t tried it yet. Then again, if people do play it I will most likely be fighting against some dudes that have been playing this game since it came out and will have my ass royally handed to me in no time. :P

    I played few FPS games with the controller on PS1 but the experience was not that great. I mean, it’s not like the games were unplayable – just not as fun as on the PC.

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  8. Craig Betts UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Solaris Terminalist says:

    Actually, the Halo 1 community is quite big, although they use Halo CE (Custom Edition) which allows mods to just about everything. There are even people porting over the Halo 3 maps and weapons to work as they did in Halo 3.

    Of course, there is still the XBox hackers that have made mods to Halo 1 and 2 as well . . .

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  9. Teague UNITED STATES Internet Explorer Windows says:

    Yes, the John Gabriel Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory has kept me from playing anything MP online. I have a couple of buddies who I play UT2K4 or BF1942 with but one of us hosts and we limit the human players to ourselves.

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  10. Luke Maciak UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Ubuntu Linux says:

    Heh… In the good old times, we used to do mini lan parties and play Quake Fortress and Blood. It was especially fun since you could just yell insults across the room or actually throw something at the guy who keeps fragging his teammates. :)

    Online play is just not the same.

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  11. Craig Betts UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Solaris Terminalist says:

    Halo has preserved some of that feel with the XBox Live headset. You tend to hear a lot of smack talk when playing the open games, but still works well with friends that are distant or just unable to meet someplace for a fragfest.

    If you still feel more need to insult, there is always tea-bagging . . .

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