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One of the most popular shooters of its day and a continuing legacy both on Xbox and on PC, the Halo series is built on three concepts: usable vehicles, excellent storylines that work well with the game, and a killer multiplayer experience.
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Halo: Combat Evolved was the first FPS to feature well-balanced vehicles for use in multiplayer games. Far from being game-breakers, vehicles provide an edge that can easily be countered by a sharp eye and a sniper rifle. The vehicles in the game range in size and functionality from small skimmers to massive tanks. The vehicles also have a significant role to play in the single-player campaigns as well.
Almost as story-driven as an RPG, the Halo series has been marked by storytelling. The game is more than just a run through areas filled with enemies; there is story to be had at every turn. Every level uncovers a plot that gets deeper and deeper.
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Halo’s graphics were excellent for their time. They pushed the bounds of system capabilities, but did not strain it excessively. Transitions are smooth, graphic errors are at a minimum, even with the vehicles moving around (which is no small feat.) Though the graphics in Halo: Combat Evolved are dated by today’s standards, the Halo series has continued its tradition of high-quality graphics.
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The sound design for Halo is average until you listen to what the characters are saying. And not just the Marines; the Covenant troops speak too. The voice acting is good, but the range of voices and effects that come from the characters is excellent. The gameplay sound effects are well done, but the music is where Halo really shines. Halo’s soundtrack is a mix of military marches, techno and a monastic choir. In line with the religious undertones, some of the musical tracks are simply beautiful.
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The Halo series has built half its reputation on the single-player features of the games. The other half has been held up by the multiplayer features. An array of vehicles, ever-evolving maps, weapons and strategies make Halo multiplayer fun for ages.
Though the lobby system for the PC version could have used some more work, it does feature two weapons not present in the Xbox version: the Flamethrower and the Fuel Rod Gun. Neither of them are particularly impressive, but they do add an element of fun for those who chose to wait for a PC release.
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While it does sparkle in most respects, there are some aspects of Halo that can grate on the nerves. It has no map system and no directional device (eg: a compass.) While you do occasionally have a marker telling you where to go next, it is not always present, nor is it always helpful.
The game also has you backtrack for several missions. Once-visited locations are revisited with new enemies thrown in and few other discernible differences. If you are looking for inspired level design in a game, look somewhere else.
Despite a few flaws, Halo remains the founder of a great name in gaming. A well-crafted storyline, rock-solid gameplay and a multiplayer experience for the ages make Halo: Combat Evolved worth the while.
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733 MHz Processor
128 MB RAM
32 MG Graphics Card
1.2 GB Hard Disk Space