Halo Preview

Gamestyle Archive Intro: a classic enough said. While Garnett review the game Stateside for us, we had to make do with a preview whilst waiting. From June 2001, writer JJ.

VERSION: Xbox

DEVELOPER: Bungie

PUBLISHER:  Microsoft

GENRE: FPS/Adventure

ACCESSORIES: TBA

PLAYERS: 1-4

RELEASE: November 2001 (US)

LINK: www.xbox.com/games/action/halo.htm

 halo

Every machine needs a killer game to attract attention of the more casual gamers.  I’m sure everyone at Gamestyle can be labelled under early adopter’s because we always want the latest thing regardless of the launch software.  That’s why we’ve had our doubts and regrets since shelling out for a PS2 back last November.   The N64 had Mario, the Playstation got going when Wipeout was released in Europe, GBA has F-Zero, the Dreamcast had to wait till Crazy Taxi and the PS2 in many eyes is still waiting.  For our first Xbox preview we are looking at the most promising game for the system to date and Halo has got us very excited.

There is no doubt Bungie are a very talented development company, now owned by Microsoft as of last year, of course this means that you will need a PC or Xbox to enjoy Halo.   Whether being owned by Mr Gates will affect the production of the game or future work in general is open for debate, Bungie do have their work cut out bringing Halo in on time for the Xbox.

Think future; think colonies everywhere, think its going fine?  Well until an alien alliance called the Covenant starts taking out humans on a grand scale (think Starship Troopers) it was.  Soon only a few colonies remain and these are being mopped up but the immediate threat is to Earth.   While the Covenant sends it forces towards our planet, we devise a cunning plan.   The approaching invasion force will be delayed by one en-route colony that becomes a decoy and takes its pursuers on a wild goose chase to a random location in the galaxy.  Why are all aliens so dumb?  Falling for such an old trick like that, at least they could have split their force in two.

It soon turns out that upon arriving at the random location a stroke of luck from god has been granted by Dan.   What they find upon arriving is a planet with a small moon in orbit around it but between them is an equally large ring that is some sort of ancient artefact.   Within the ring (now called Halo) is a breathable atmosphere complete with land, rivers, oceans, mountains etc.   At this point the Covenant force attacks and inflicts critical damage on the colony ship leaving no option but to crash on Halo.   Both parties now become very interested in Halo and its significance.

Enough of the minimal plot, the PC version of Halo has been coming for sometime and apart from looking fantastic, plays a blinder.   The console variation was only recently shown yet it only took Bungie a matter of days to convert the code to the Xbox.  While this version is still being optimised it promises to overshadow its PC cousin but at present this isn’t the case.   Take into account that the PC version is probably the best looking yet for that format.   The Xbox version currently is a little plain and empty in comparison and the frame rate while solid, could be improved.   Microsoft recently confirmed that there would be no online capability from the Xbox version, which suggests that the team are focusing all their energy on getting the game finished.  Bungie have shown DVD demos of the game that support Dolby Digital 5.1 sound and now the Xbox will have the latest Dolby sound chip we hope that this is included in the final version.   Imagine fighting countless foes, explosions and screams ringing around your room!

The game offers a combination of genres and views, just as our recent Red Faction preview, not only will you be in a first person view but you will be expected to control various craft while exploring the planet.   This continues the trend of recent FPS offering more than just pure blasting action; still the first level of Halo will get anyone’s adrenalin pumping.  From the first moment when you are briefed on route to the surface, then drop down amongst the carnage and engage the enemy, you know it’s going to be good, very good.

Unlike other games you have the choice whether to drive or to be the gunner and your computer-controlled colleague won’t let you down.   In the multiplayer mode you and a friend can perform either task! Craft will play an important part in the game as you navigate the various continents in search of the necessary supplies that were jettisoned by the Colony Ship.   You will have to use a variety of alien and human vehicles in your quest ranging from hovercraft to tanks: if you find it, you can use it.  Expect your range of weaponry to be just as impressive, forget pistols and rocket launchers when you can have a laser energy propellant or plasma sword?

As with most games Halo is mission based but the variety of locations and objectives on offer really put this one above most previous FPS.   Just like Deus Ex and Perfect Dark, expect to be treated to some wonderful locations, inside and outside, just don’t stand still to admire them!   Your missions will range from rescuing captured colleagues, raiding outposts, stealing technology to all out warfare.  We hate the term “movie-like” but this is looking like a bug-blasting Starship Troopers sequel.

The lack of an online option is a shame but Bungie have ensured that your mates just don’t need to sit back and watch your gaming skills.   Halo will include a wide range or 2-4 player options to keep you amused for months to come.   Your choice of death will be sweet for sure.   Apart from the standard death match you will be able to create you own team games or a two-player co-op mode will be included.  Bungie also promise to include some wonderful graphical effects and a seriously challenging AI program. “Most advanced graphic system on the most advanced gaming platform in the world” is some boast, hype or reality?

Halo is shaping up to be one of the games of 2001 its just a shame that European gamers won’t get their hands on it till Easter 2002.   Sometimes life just isn’t fair.

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