Year: 2001
Platform: Xbox
Publisher: Microsoft
Developer: Bungie
Genre: First person shooter
Review Date: 2/1/02
Rating: ****

Earth is at war and fighting a losing battle with an aggressive alien race known as the Covenant. With the Covenant on Earth's doorstep, a surviving battleship called the Pillar Of Autumn makes a blind jump into hyperspace in a desperate attempt to draw the Covenant away from Earth. On the other side of the jump, they find a mysterious artificially constructed ring world called Halo and are forced to land there after abandoning ship. Playing as the last surviving Spartan-II combat cyborg in Earth's defense force (the Master Chief), you and the Pillar Of Autumn's artificial intelligence computer core construct (Cortana) have to make your way across the Covenant infested ring world and make a last stand for Earth, while also learning about Halo's terrible secrets.

Not being a fan of first-person shooting games or possessing any amount of skill with them, I was hesitant at first to play this game. Fortunately, the "easy" setting tones down the action enough for a novice such as myself to successfully crawl through the game, and the legacy controls are intuitive and simple to use. The graphics are stunning and the world of Halo is truly magnificent to behold. Unfortunately you don't have much of an opportunity to take in the splendor of the world since you're constantly under attack by Covenant forces, but that's a common complaint I have about most games. Apart from the beautiful graphics and the excellent level design, what struck me most was the impressive music score, which adds a rich dramatic texture to the whole experience. I also really enjoyed listening to Cortana's voice (Jen Taylor), which is comforting as well as commanding (not to mention rather sexy). The story is consistently compelling, but about halfway through the game the endless carnage becomes tiresome and the battles become increasingly tedious. And then, in the final minutes of the game, it completely falls apart. Not only is the final run for freedom hard as hell, but the level design is utterly nonsensical and completely spoils the precedent set by the rest of the game.

In addition to the single player campaign against the Covenant, "Halo" also features a cooperative two-player mode as well as a nice collection of multiplayer games for 4-16 people, if you're into that kind of thing. "Halo" has a little something for everyone, and Bungie has definitely succeeded in creating a tight and well crafted shooting game. It's also the most butch game I've ever played, which was really uncomfortable for the first few days I played it. Psychologically, I had a lot of difficulty putting myself in the mindset of a gung-ho marine, and it wasn't a place I enjoyed being in. However, the complete lack of any character development makes it easier to mentally detach yourself from the Master Chief as the game progresses.