Summary: Ready or not, the anti-aliased master chief himself is soon landing onto the PC platform. Jakub hits us with action screenshots and his initial impressions. Get lost in space in this preview while waiting for a full review coming soon!
Halo went on to become the Xbox’s best-seller and one of the best launch titles ever. Few games, before or since, have managed not only to make such an initial impact but maintain their staying power. Halo is still selling so well that it hasn’t yet been cut down to the budget aisles.
Of course, those computer gamers – particularly PC gamers – are a little miffed that the company that’s supposed to be representing them has hijacked one of ‘their’ games for its own purposes. Fortunately, almost two years after its Xbox debut, Halo is finally coming to PC.
Of course, two years of time has a way of taking its toll on a game. Halo looked incredible on the Xbox when launched, but the years and the high-res screen have a way of tarnishing that great image. The days when we were wowed by screenshots of a Warthog kicking up dirt behind itself are long gone but Halo has a certain charm that hasn’t been matched by any other game I’ve played.
Halo’s greatest asset was a sense of atmosphere and establishment. Though it is the first (and thus far only) game in its setting, the world feels very fleshed out and it’s easy to slip into it. The first time someone sees Star Wars, they don’t need explanations to know that the Empire is an evil, gargantuan, nigh-on-invincible military juggernaut trying to swat the pesky-but-resilient Rebel Alliance, or that an Imperial Star Destroyer is not a ship to be trifled with. Halo has the same effect; you have no idea who the Covenant are or what the back-story is, but the Covenant has character and is clearly the enemy. The incredible outdoor designs and consistent (maybe a little too consistent) interior designs reinforce this sense of familiarity.
SIDEBAR: Pongky’s suddenly a big tennis fan, it seems.
The biggest graphical improvement on the PC is of course the addition of higher resolutions. While high-res graphics do tend to highlight the fact that Halo’s textures are relatively low-res, other details do come to light. Unit movement is easier to spot and looks much crisper. Small details such as the passenger gunner scanning the sky briskly are now more evident along with the general crispness of a monitor display versus a conventional TV.
Although Halo is unlikely to blow anyone’s mind after all these years, there are some things about it that still stand out today. The characters in the game, be they marines, covenant or other, are beautifully animated. Their motions are so smooth, natural and carry so much attitude that it’s impossible to not be impressed even in these days of ragdoll physics and hypermegaskeletalanimationbodylocationdamagesplicing.
The addition of keyboard/mouse control is both a major upgrade and a serious issue. On the one hand, it means freedom from a gamepad – even one as nicely laid out for FPS games as the Xbox controller. On the other hand, it poses a serious balance problem. After all, the game was designed for the slower movement and worse aim that comes with a gamepad, rather than the laser-pointer precision and speed of a mouse.
Regardless, the system works as advertised. There are some left-over oddities from the Xbox version but these make perfect sense. For example, don’t expect to press 1 or 2 to choose your weapon, rather, there is a weapon switch button. Given that there are only two weapons, this works perfectly.
The main menu GUI has received an update but not an overaul. The menu text and buttons look humongous even on a meager 17” monitor, though they’ve obviously been updated with PC-related options like keyboard and mouse setup. Also, the development team has taken care to update the interface to support the mouse, unlike many sloppy ports which leave just keyboard controls active on the menu screens.
SIDEBAR: I just discovered that ctrl+a selects all text in MS Word. After about 10 years of using this program.
Now we come to the very thorny issue of co-op mode. They say they’re trying, but don’t count on it. Maybe if community outrage is loud enough and sales are bad enough they’ll patch it in - maybe. The ironic thing is that co-op wasn’t really a big deal for Halo on the Xbox – at least initially. Of course what was a great game when played by yourself turned into a classic when played with a friend, but people originally bought it for singleplayer.
On the PC, where competition is much stiffer in the FPS market, Halo’s co-op mode could have been what set it apart from the competition. It’s been ages since a multiplayer co-operative title was released that still retained the story of the singleplayer game, and the market is clearly hungry for that.
On the bright side, the new multiplayer levels in Halo are amazing. While Capture the Flag might not have the attention-grabbing value on the PC that it does on Xbox, Halo’s multiplayer game remains very solid. Like so many Blizzard products, it’s not the flashiness of what it does that grabs you, but the solid design of the game. Halo strikes a fantastic balance between realistic shooters like Counter-Strike and action shooters like Quake III, and has vehicles thrown in to boot. It may not be the perfect competitive game but it’s remarkably fun. Of course, the new flamethrower and fuel rod cannon (think: Tribes mortar) will be exclusive to multiplayer. Our biggest concern for multiplayer would be the sniper rifle, which is more dangerous by several orders of magnitude thanks to mouse controls.
So is Halo going to be worthy of this reaction or this retraction? If it had co-op, the answer would be obvious. Since it doesn’t… that’s up to what you’re looking for. (Hey, a little editorial pressure on the publisher to get co-op implemented isn’t necessarily a bad thing! -ed.)
Does Jakub want co-op bad enough yet? Holy crap, down boy, down! But what do you think? Is Halo without co-op just not Halo anymore? Or will its clean design and solid execution let us forgive all? Sound Off! in the news comments and let the world know!
|© Copyright 2003 FS Media, Inc.|