An important step in the evolution of console gaming...
I still remember the first time I played Halo. Up until that point, I was a constant player of Counter-Strike, Quake 3, that sort of thing. But once the PS2 and Xbox hit the streets, I noticed a growing change in the air that, until Halo, took a little time to get used to. Anyway, the story goes, I went to a friends place and picked up an Xbox controller to play Halo co-op for the first time. This was my introduction to the series, and I still remember to this day how enjoyable and exciting it all was.
Flash forward to today, and you can see clearly how much Halo changed the way we play video games. Yes, there are others who played their part, but Halo can be credited for proving how effective 1st person shooters can be on a home console, especially with the right control pad at your fingertips.
The story itself won't become an instant classic, but at this point online functions weren't a norm, so a two player fire fight or a four player slayer match on one TV was more than enough to keep people entertained. Co-op, on the other hand, wasn't always available for games of this ilk, and that's where my enjoyment of Halo built up from. Playing by yourself can be fun, but completing the game on the Legendary setting without a friend to cover your back can be ... well, hard. Really hard. If you're a freak of nature and can do it with one hand behind your back while aiming with your nose on the thumbstick, then all the best for your future career at the petting zoo.
I will say that the visuals were up and down at times. I won't compare it to the modern games available as of this review, but Halo holds up well for its age (compared to Goldeneye, which goes to show that even the best four player N64 games look more like SNES titles compared to the first Xbox era). Still, frame rate slow downs and a glitch or two still pop in and out at times, not that it will lower the enjoyment of the game.
The biggest complaint I hear about Halo (and to a degree, the two sequels since), is the fact that each level is just the same as the last, corridor after corridor, creature after creature. It all feels the same no matter how different it might look. I tend to agree with that, but only because if you compared it to Call of Duty, which gives you a number of other objectives that don't always include shooting, Halo really is just the same thing over each level. But, and here's the big but, when played at the hardest difficulty setting or with a friend, that factor can quickly slip by the wayside as the challenge builds across the story. And that, dear readers, is the ultimate strength of the game.
The Bottom Line
So yes, perhaps Halo was overhyped. Perfection certainly isn't a term I would use to describe this first chapter. But for all the problems that may (or may not) be described by other gamers, Halo's place among the most important titles of the past decade is as rock solid as it was back in 2003. Bungie, and indeed Microsoft, took a huge risk in releasing this game to an audience that, up until that point, were hungry for more Quake and Unreal than anything else. The fact that Halo went on to sell so many copies, as well as helping Microsoft find a place within the gaming industry elite, just goes to show that the risk was worth taking.
Without any true multiplayer options, or any online functions to speak of, Halo wouldn't go down as well today as it did five years ago. But for those who are yet to play it, or those simply interested in knowing how it all began, the campaign can be a rewarding experience. Picking up a cheap copy won't be difficult to find, or you could just as easily download the game from the Xbox Live marketplace. It's worth trying, even by today's standards.