previews\ Sep 10, 2003 at 8:00 pm

Halo: Combat Evolved - PC - Preview

With Halo 2 nearing release for the XBOX, PC gamers can finally get their hands on the first Halo for the PC in the near future. Yes it has been over two years since we first saw the trailers that had many of us stoked over what should have been game of the year for the PC. Then Microsoft got involved and bought the rights exclusively for the XBox release. Now many moons later, we are finally going to have the chance to play it on our home PCs. Though still in a closed beta, we had the chance to get our hands on a preview copy.

Halo takes us on a science fiction adventure that is probably one of the best story lines in any game I have personally previewed to date. I'm not saying it's number one so don't clutter my inbox with your opinions, but I will say it sure is close. The voiceovers are wonderful and one might think that the developers actually spent some money on decent actors to do the voices. Something that should be done with games that use voiceovers. In short, your space vessel is under attack and the covenant (that’s the bad guys) is taking over your ship. You (the master chief) are brought out of some sort of cryogenic sleep for an important mission. As lifeboats are fleeing to the nearby Halo, your commander brings you up to speed on the situation and orders you to protect Cortana. Cortana is an AI computer hologram that holds all of the good guy's secrets to weapons, ships, etc. Making sure she does not fall into the wrong hands is crucial. She is loaded into your computerized suit and provides help and guidance on your missions.

You have a variety of weapons that you will be equipped with not to mention what you find from fallen comrades. You can also pick up enemy weapons that you can loot from the aliens that you have blown to bits. Both sides carry an assortment of rifles, pistols and grenades. Some special ones too like the covenant Needler, rocket launchers, and the new fuel-rod gun. Though ammo and carrying room is only limited to two guns and four grenades, there are plenty to pick up. Running out of ammo rarely happens and if you do, simply pick one up from either the enemy or a fallen soldier. There are also health packs, camouflage armor, energy shields, etc that are scattered about as well.

You can also jump in a variety of gun turrets and vehicles. At time of preview I only spent some time in the Warthog. Your basic military 3 person ATV with a powerful machine gun on the back. The modeling and controls of this vehicle were awesome. I have ridden four wheelers for years, and I have to tell ya, they did a fantastic job of incorporating many details and physics into the game. It takes some trial and error to get used to it, but it can be a lot of fun once you get it down! One huge plus that if you crash it or roll it on its side you can simply flip it over. This greatly takes out the frustration learning how to operate it. Gun turrets are great for some added firepower but that makes you an instant target so you better be quick. All in all there is plenty of firepower and reinforcements to help you along with all the missions.

The story is told by cut scenes and in line play. Talk about a nice blend. Its not overloaded with pauses in the game, which makes the game flow very nicely. Sometimes you will see that when you enter a certain area you will see a "loading" prompt. This does not slow gameplay down one bit, which are another thumbs up for fluid play. Mission variety will have objectives like attacking enemy outposts, raiding underground labs, finding and rescuing friendly comrades, stealing alien vehicles and weapons, taking high ground and snipe the enemy from an elevated position, etc.

Gameplay in itself is fantastic! Only a handful of keys to remember which makes jumping right in easy even for novice gamers. Whether you are running and gunning or driving a vehicle, gameplay is fluid and smooth just like it should be.

Audibly the game is phenomenal. The 5.1 surround sound is incredible. The sound effects are true to life, and the musical score is wonderful. Very few games allow me to utilize my surround sound that I paid way to much money for, but games like this make listening well worth it. Graphically I was quite surprised how well the game played even at the higher resolutions. The interiors and exteriors are beautiful and the attention to detail especially on the vehicles is top notch. I really enjoyed the variety of indoor and out door missions and felt that it was a nice balance. Gamers with high-end graphic cards should be able to enjoy super high 1600 X 1200 resolution.

Unfortunately at time of preview there is no support for online play, but when the game is released you should be able to play individual and team based games like capture the flag and death match and maybe a few more online. LAN play will also be available if you just want to play on your personal network.

So far I have no complaints about the game just that we had to wait so long before it came to the PC. I have truly enjoyed the preview and can't wait to get my grubby little hands on a retail version when it is released. No MSRP as of yet but I would guess you can expect to shell out 40 -50 bucks which in my opinion will still be a great buy. There are a variety of difficulty settings, which in itself will provide many weeks of gameplay, but the true replayability factor will be the multiplayer facets of the game. Two thumbs up!


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