Halo Combat Evolved
Everyone knows Super Mario 64 right? That game is still frequently played and well received to this day. Well my Super Mario 64 is Halo: Combat Evolved. A game so timeless even coming up to its 20th birthday. But why is it still played and loved today? I’m going to try my best at reviewing HCE
Halo’s story is about a helpless vessel out in space stumbling across an ancient ring world created by a precursor race. For the first act of the game the excitement of killing aliens in huge environments overwhelms the player. However half way through the game things change. Just after one of the most exiting and large scale missions, your AI counterpart Cortana informs you of something your alien enemies found. Something "horrible" as she describes it. As the player your mind races with wonder. What is it ?A weapon? A place? No. Something much worse. The Master Chief is dropped in a green dense jungle by an ally of yours. A feeling of loneliness and fear surrounds the player. The guns playing a vital role in guiding the player throughout the difficulty of the game and setting up the mood, guns blazing with the assault rifle , which has an iconic and meaty sound effect.
A very brief look at the guns
I'm going to take a break here to talk about some of the gameplay and weapons. The game has 8 guns in total. However every gun in the game has its own purpose and reason to use it (except maybe the needler which is more for fun than utility). For example the plasma pistol isnt much on face value merely a glorified pew pew gun for the smaller enemies to utilise. However upon testing you'll find that the plasma pistol is very good against "energy shielded" enemies rendering them defenceless to a quick pop in the head with a pistol. Its here where we arrive at the shotgun. Upon being delivered to the jungle on "easy" difficulty you will find the shotgun abandoned under a downed drop-ship for you to pick up and use against the seemingly low levels of aliens.
If this review seems quite all over the place its because I've been building up to this part. On the 6th mission, the story changes from a fairly good excuse for you to use your ever growing arsenal of sci-fi guns, to a VERY ambitious story about... well, space zombies. The reason I find it so impressive that the developers managed to pull this off is, all they needed to do was make a fun shooter to launch with the original xbox and with halo missions 1-5 they had this. But they wanted to tell a good story, they didn't have to they wanted to. So on mission 6 you are introduced to "The Flood" a parasitic life-form who presumably wiped out whoever created the very ring you walk on. They seem to be the reason for the lack of enemies you've faced so far.
Now I finally arrive back to the shotgun. The shotgun will be a very necessary tool for the player if they hope to stand a chance against the ever growing hoards. Amongst the chaos you find the shotgun lying there in a hallway like a light in a sea of darkness. However i do have a small problem with this gun. Its really your only option against the flood and this limits player choice. if you try and use something like an assault rifle or needler you are putting yourself at disadvantage. So instead of a sandbox for the player to experiment in the game chooses what you have to use you have to use for you. This however is one of my few problems with the game. At the end of the battle through the jungle you meet a floating round robot who informs you his name is "343 guilty spark" and he is the monitor if the ring world you're standing on. I wont spend much time on the next mission of the game because its been talked about to death on the internet but its basically an hour long set of corridors with endless hoards of nightmares. I always found it fun. A challenge if you will but i know I'm in the minority.
Mission 8 is what i believe to be the best mission of the game for a variety of reasons. Your new floating robot friend and AI counterpart Cortana (whom you left at Halo's control room at the end of mission 5) get into an argument about the true intended use of the halo ring, hence the name Two Betrayals. The mission sees the player fight there way through mission 5 again but now you're heading in the opposite direction. Many say this makes the game feel repetitive however, i think that the level somehow manages to have a completely different tone and feel to mission 5 due to the different setting. This begins a trend near the end of Halo CE where you go back through different areas of the game except now they're completely overrun with the ever spreading flood infection. This means the developers could save space on the disc without having you just fight through the same areas again with a difficulty increase. The best way to describe mission 8 is that it is a war zone. In the earlier parts of the level the player alternates between fighting covenant and flood. During the transition between fighting the two sides, you will enter a section where they fight each other. In these sections you can just sit it out and let them fight each other until someone comes out on top, then you can go out and clean up the survivors. Or, you can go in to the shootout head first and fight you way through the war zone. These sections are great because it adds another way that the player can tackle every given situation. During the end of the missions its more of the same but on a MUCH larger scale.
Keys and The Maw
Mission 9 "Keys" sees the player trying to rescue Captain Keys from the very place you saved him from earlier in the game. However it becomes evident quickly enough that the Captain has circome to the flood infection. I don't really have much to say about this mission gameplay wise. Its just more of the Flood/Covenant battles from mission 8 but in a different setting. However i will say this. The missions setting is AWESOME. It really shows the destruction the flood can cause within less than a day of being released. Visual storytelling means everything with this game and this mission is no different.
Mission 10 "The Maw" is a wild time. It sees you return to the "helpless vessel" from the very beginning of the game, now grounded on the ring and under attack from Flood and covenant survivors. The plan is to blow the ship up using the engines and hopefully it will take the ring and flood with it. However your old friend 343 guilty spark stops you and informs you that you wont be destroying "his installation". This leads the master chief to overload the reactors manually. Instead of telling them to make it count chief and cortana escape within seconds and fly far away from the halo ring. That may seem a tad rushed but i really wanted to make that Halo: Reach reference. In all seriousness however this is the perfect way to end such a great game. Gameplay wise this level is amazingly challenging. Its not too hard to the point of unfairness but it tests everything the player has learned so far with harder versions of established enemies in tight corridors. Everything in this mission is just so great its hard to do it justice with a simple review.
Halo: Combat Evolved is a game of very few lows and very many highs. Every inch of it is oozing with care and attention (despite its development hell). Its hard to do justice to such a timeless game in an amateurs review but i tried my best. I know this was quite long and all over the place so if you read until this point thanks for supporting me and constitutive criticism would be ever so helpful thanks again and goodbye!
© 2021 Josh Scanlon