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Halo: Combat Evolved

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Stunning images of an alien world seemingly built on a metallic ring deep in space with human marines, military vehicles and menacing aliens helped Halo grab the attention of everyone who saw it during it’s development. These fantastic shots left many questions about the world and the story, but most of all they left us anxious to get our chance to jump into Halo. The wait ended on Xbox launch day. When you finally set down the controller the first time, and eventually hunger or exhaustion do force all of us to take a break, Halo has pulled you completely into its world and started one of the best sci-fi gaming adventures of all time.

Halo puts you in the role of the master sergeant, a super solider who happens to the last hope for humanity in our war with the aliens. Bungie chose to use the first person style for the game and it works perfectly here drawing you into the game as the player without focusing attention on the character. Like most games of this style you spend most of the game battling through levels using a variety of weapons to take out all the bad guys.

The almost immediate and complete immersion into the game and the well paced storyline help take Halo beyond being just another shooter. The great looking graphics of the game engine let the designers use it to do the preset scenes that move the story along instead of loading separate movies throughout the game. Letterboxing frames the top and bottom of the screen during the scripted story scenes you watch without controlling and then seamlessly dissolves back to full screen as the action picks up putting you back in control.

With all the attention given graphics Bungie made sure the sound side lived up to it’s part in creating the Halo experience. The voice acting fits naturally in the game and helps give all the cast some personality. Movie quality music accompanies the game and dynamically adjusts to build tension coordinated perfectly with the dramatic action unfolding in the game. It adds an epic feel to the bigger battles as the action heats up and the music swells to match. Even the weapons give a satisfying sounding response to each pull of the trigger.

Some of Halo’s most memorable moments come while in one of the vehicles you find yourself controlling at different parts of the game. The warthog, an armored 4×4 of sorts gets most of your vehicle time. Driving it successfully takes some practice as it slides considerably giving a dirt racer feel to the control. Once you get it down add a computer controlled sniper in your passenger seat and one to man the heavy machine gun behind you and get ready to unleash some serious mayhem. Later in the game you find yourself at the controls of a hover bike, a tank and even a flying attack ship.

A great set of multiplayer options compliments Halo’s single player game and gives it staying power well past one or two runs through it. Beyond just deathmatch a variety of team options from capture the flag to assaults offer more structured play. If just 3 of your friends playing split screen with you seems too few you can even link up to 4 systems together running in 4 player split screen to get an amazing 16 players together. Halo even offers a cooperative two player split screen option for going through the single player story. Blasting through the main game gets even better when your buddy hops on the main gun of your warthog as you drive through the enemy.

Playing Halo definitely leaves one of those satisfying great game smiles on your face. Whether following through the story or just blasting it up multiplayer with some friends it delivers hours of fun. For the next several months expect to see gamers trading great stories and knowing looks talking about it and all the while Xbox enjoying some great word of mouth. Halo goes in the books as one of those rare “not to be missed” experiences and that makes a pretty compelling argument for getting an Xbox.