Posted on Saturday, May 5th, 2012 at 5:45 PM by Guest
Anyone who knows me, would probably bet on me choosing to review a Final Fantasy game from Square Enix’s extensive back catalogue (I am a pretty big fan-boy as far as the series goes). Failing that, I would be expected to pick the first Tomb Raider game, to which I lost countless hours of my youth following the busty heroine as she cavorted around dark caverns.
However, always one to buck the trend, I am instead reviewing the game that introduced me, and the console generation, to LAN gaming, and multiplayer FPS games in general. That game is Bungie’s 2001 smash hit Halo: Combat Evolved
For the uninitiated, Halo is an FPS game, and as such plays in a similar manner to other FPS games from that era, the only major exception being the addition of futuristic technology (such as energy weapons, plasma grenades and force fields). In the single player game, you take control of the lead character, a Spartan-II soldier going by the name of Master Chief, who after a brief introductory mission onboard a doomed UNSC spaceship – The Pillar Of Autumn – becomes paired with a sassy female AI called Cortana, and gets jettisoned in an escape pod towards the titular ring-world called Halo. It is here on the Halo that the game truly starts in earnest, introducing more of the enemies you faced in the tutorial mission (alien forces of the Covenant: small but numerous Grunts, larger and more dangerous Elites and the expert marksmen called Jackals), but this time in a less claustrophobic environment, and with more perils, such as sheer rock faces, perilous drops, and enemy vehicles.
The game guides you through the well-told plot, but spaces the cutscenes out between copious amounts of shooting and hiding behind cover waiting for your energy shield to recharge. The levels are mainly involve you finding survivors from your doomed spacecraft, and then getting together to rescue your Captain from the hands of the Covenant. The levels are fairly linear, but are mixed up slightly as the game progresses, thanks to the unexpected arrival of a parasitic alien life form called The Flood, and the true nature of the Halo is revealed -but I won’t spoil the surprise if you plan on playing it for the first time.
The graphics of the game are superbly rendered for its time (I took the HD rendering off from the Anniversary edition game, and was still very impressed), and the voice acting is on par with any space marine film with a similar plot line. On the whole, the single player experience is a good enough reason to play the game, but the real draw for me was the multiplayer. Once mastering the controls, I was invited to bring my Xbox console around to a friends’ house for a “system-link” game. Intrigued, I carried the giant console (of which I have owned 3 in total, and yes, all at once) and the massively oversized controller to the agreed location, and set up in my friend’s bedroom while his brother set his up in the opposite room. The multiplayer gameplay was solely for local area play, and was only added to the game weeks before release, so we trailed the ethernet cable under the doors and between the two rooms, and set up 2 players on each 14” CRT TV; my friend and I versus his brother and a family friend.
The multiplayer characters take control of other Spartan-II marines, but with differing coloured armour, and it all started out being friendly enough before slowly degenerating into a war of words and abuse, made worse by the fact that you can pick your own usernames for the matches. I can’t reveal all of the ones used, but when the game makes the announcement of your death “You were killed by < ;USERNAME>;” (and bearing in mind that this wasn’t monitored by any online system to prevent abuse), it leads to some pretty hilarious combinations. With usernames starting off as the childish “your mum” and “a small child”, they soon became more and more experimental: from names of diseases, to the names of actual serial killers, and even to the names of friends we knew and people we didn’t like. Let’s face it, a game telling you that “you killed your boss” is always going to make you feel better after a long day at work, right?
You were given the option of 5 multiplayer modes (and also the option to play co-operatively through the main story) including the usual “deathmatch” and “capture the flag” gameplay.
We quickly identified that perhaps the greatest experiences were either the use of sniper rifles on the “Boarding Action” stage or an all out fire-fight in “Blood Gulch” or “Battle Creek” – the two grassy levels with buildings and cave structures. You may recognise these structures as those used in the award-winning internet videos of “Red vs Blue” made by Rooster Teeth. They parodied FPS games, science fiction, action movies and Halo itself, using a team of red Spartan-II’s locked in a civil war against the team of blue Spartan-II’s. Any game that can spawn this kind of fan base deserves respect.
For the multiplayer alone, and the fact it preceded Xbox LIVE and other MMO gaming, this game deserves not only recognition, but perhaps a resurgence in local multiplayer gaming. After all, half of the fun is watching your friend/opponent’s face as they realise they have just been killed by “Hillary Clinton”.
Single player: 8/10
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