Revisiting Halo: Combat Evolved

Revisiting Halo: Combat Evolved 

So after not playing it for at least 2 years, I've been chomping through the game that started it all, Halo: Combat Evolved. All the talk from Bungie about how they looked back at this game to take all its magical elements and put them into the Halo: Reach game, piqued my interest  to tear me away from Mass Effect long enough to play the entire campaign through on Heroic mode. 

Halo: Combat Evolved was released in late 2010, so that's nearly 10 years ago. It's platform was the original Xbox and it became the flagship game of what quickly became the Xbox Empire. Does it stack up still?

You start the game as a recently thawed Spartan facing an attack from the Covenant. In terms of space time context, the Planet Reach has fallen and your ship is fleeing the Covenant forces. Fighting through the Elite and Grunt invaders, you escape the doomed Pillar of Autumn and land on the Halo ring you suddenly found in space. Woot! Woot!

The escape is still a brilliant start to the game. It offers some pretty awesome action and also sets the game up quite neatly. As a player you feel you are in a space ship being attacked by aliens. The Captain Keyes and your AI companion urge you along, giving you a strong sense of urgency. Cortana (and the game's most excellent music) will keep this urgency up the entire game. It's an early sign of how great a game Halo was. 

If one was to compare the Graphics of Halo 3 to CE, you'd root for Halo 3, you'd be impressed at how far the Halo series has come. Check out Cortana for example. She has gone from purple cartoon to a purple Hologram. Cortana herself, was as cool in the first game as she was when she asked the Chief to wake her if he needed her in Halo 3. 

Aside from the fun game play, great music and bad ass elites, the true hero of Halo is the story. When I first played it, it was familiar in a sci fi kind of way but it was original. It was a chapter in a giant space opera that had spanned 1000s of years. It could simply have been called Halo: Epic.

In the second and third levels of the game, the Master Chief and Cortana gather human survivors and rescue Captain Keyes, who is imprisoned on the Covenant ship Truth and Reconciliation. The insertion to rescue the Captain is a favourite level of mine. It's the first time you get to use a sniper rifle and it;s one of the best. It's also a muthucka ucking up your shiittee on Lengendary mode. 

Once rescued, Keyes orders the Master Chief to beat the Covenant to Halo's control center and to discover its purpose.The Master Chief and Cortana travel to a map room called the Silent Cartographer, which leads them to the control room.There, Cortana enters the systems and, discovering something urgent, suddenly sends the Master Chief to find Captain Keyes, while she stays behind. While searching for his commander, the Master Chief learns that the Covenant have accidentally released the Flood, a parasitic alien race capable of spreading itself by overwhelming and infesting other sentient life-forms. Flood should actually be spelt D-O-O-M!

And thus we get to the point of the Halo installation itself. Halo was a weapon to destroy the flood. Every thing about the game changed from that point on. Human kind was now at war with two separate groups - the Covenant and the Flood. In their ignorance about the Forerunner technologies (albeit a chosen ignorance as was revealed in the novel Contact Harvest) the Covenant had let loose hell itself. Luckily the Chief was Hell's Janitor himself and took the Flood on with many a brutal shotgun blast to the head. 

While fighting the Flood, the Covenant, and Guilty Spark's Sentinels, the Master Chief and Cortana attempt to destroy Halo before 343 Guilty Spark activates it. Cortana discovers that the best way to destroy Halo is to cause the crashed Pillar of Autumn to self-destruct. 

The game play comes full circle as the Chief and Cortana return to the ship where we started the game. This time instead of Elites we battle a hoard of the Flood who by now are completely desperate to prevent the destruction of Halo so they may live and restart their take over of the galaxy. 

The Master Chief manually causes the Pillar of Autumn's fusion reactors to begin to melt down thus setting up a thrilling finale of 'The Maw'. In a race against the clock the Chief has to get off the Halo. Running a gauntlet of Flood in a Warthog to catch up to a pick up point - For me, this is one of the most memorable parts of Combat Evolved (another being the music on the Silent Cartographer level). There's a neat little trick which EVERYONE fell for the first time they did the level which makes it even more classic and more fun. A replay of the game ending still holds up in this current era of 'massive game finishes'. So much so Halo 3, mimicked this ending, bring a nice conclusion to the Halo series. 

So while the game's graphics may look a little tired to modern day games such as Call of Duty and Mass Effect or even the new Final Fantasy, the game play still holds up. It's well paced, and has many neat combat scenarios to keep the player well entertained. At times the game can be infuriating - Floods with rocket launchers and annoying fire from Banshee ships can impede your progress, but getting through them proves the game's worth. I'm almost tempted to suggest that Bungie should have remade Halo: Combat Evolved instead of Reach but as the story has already been told, I'll sit and patiently play through the rest of the Halo series until Reach is safely in my Xbox 360's disk drive. 


D said...

"Halo: Combat Evolved was released in late 2010, so that's nearly 10 years ago." FAIL

Callianis said...

It was the Chief that asked Cortana to wake him if she needed him ;)