Halo 1, or Halo: Combat Evolved, is one of the most important video games ever. Released in 2001, it was the first shooter game to introduce the looking controls on the right stick; it also had extraordinary multiplayer capabilities for the time. It is considered one of the best games of all time, spawning a franchise with more than fourteen games, including five first-person shooters, two remasters, three strategy games, and a new game, Halo Infinite, which will be released in early December 2021. But we should start from the beginning, with Halo: Combat Evolved. Please note: the following contains spoilers for the main campaign.
Halo: Combat Evolved is the first game in this franchise. Revolutionary at the time of its release, Halo 1 introduced new controls that felt natural in the hands of a skilled controller player. The campaign had great gameplay and a compelling story and it was also released with a brand new console, the Xbox. The game was an instant hit, with the sequel being even better. It even had a remaster that was released on the game’s 10th anniversary, though that wasn’t as well received.
The campaign is by far the best aspect of Halo 1. In the campaign, you play as Master Chief, a super soldier fighting in a war against an alien faction called the Covenant. While on a ship called the Pillar of Autumn, you are attacked by the Covenant and are forced to crash-land on an artificial world shaped like a ring called Halo. After regrouping with your fellow marines, you soon discover that there is more to the ring than it seems. You learn that there is an intergalactic zombie parasite called the Flood, which feeds on both humans and Covenant alike, and the Halo ring is a giant weapon made to starve the Flood of its food source by killing every organism in the galaxy. In the end, Master Chief fights off both the Flood and the Covenant to destroy the ring.
There is more to the campaign, however, than just a good story; the graphics and gameplay are engaging and fun as well. In my opinion, it is better to play Halo 1 with the original graphics. To change these graphics on Xbox, press the button on the left side with the two squares. To change it on PC, simply press Tab. Firstly, while it might seem better to play on the newly remastered graphics, the brightness ruins most of the dark, mysterious atmosphere with its intense lights and higher saturation. Because of this, you need to use the flashlight only once in the entire game, whereas it was an important aspect of the original. Secondly, some of the assets of the remaster can affect the gameplay, as some trees and rocks are bigger than the original game assets; because the remaster uses the same engine as the old game, some of the trees and rocks will have negative space, so enemies can shoot through them. Lastly, the cutscenes in the remaster use motion capture for their animation, which don’t look good in the game. The original from 2001 used normal 3D animation that hasn’t aged very well, but the mocap in the anniversary edition is extremely off-putting and can ruin the game experience. In conclusion, it is highly recommended that you turn on the original graphics for a better experience.
The gameplay itself is extremely fun. There are different types of enemies that you have to fight. Grunts are small enemies that have terrible weapons and will run away if their leader is killed. Elites are fast and have an overshield similar to the player’s. Elites will sometimes even have energy swords, which can kill you in one or two hits. Jackals are small, but they have strong energy shields and can use beam rifles, which are powerful Covenant snipers. Finally, there are Hunters: big, strong, and harder to kill. Their weak spot is their back, where they can be killed with one or two well placed shots. All of these enemies have a place in the overall gameplay, as they are placed in spots where they can overwhelm you. In most spots, Grunts will be placed in the front, with Jackals and Elites tailing behind. Because of how these enemies are spread out and strategically placed in different areas, you have to come up with a plan to eliminate them all effectively. When the Flood is introduced in Mission 6, the entire experience is changed. At that point, you are forced to fight two enemies, one of which can reanimate dead enemies and use them as their own. Finally, there are the sentinel robots. They are flying robots that will fight with you when the Flood is around, but will quickly turn on you after the Flood in the area is killed.
Finally, the weapon variety in Halo is balanced for both sides. On the player’s end, the Assault Rifle is a fully automatic weapon that can destroy enemies with ease, but it isn’t long range, so you won’t be killing Covenant from afar. The Magnum is a high powered pistol that can get rid of Grunts and smaller enemies without wasting the ammo of a gun that you need more, like the shotgun or rocket launcher. The Covenant’s weapons are also very good. The Plasma Rifle is like the Assault Rifle, but you cannot replenish its ammo reserve, because it is a plasma weapon. The Plasma Pistol is like the Magnum, but it has the ability to charge up and fire a plasma ball that can stun enemy shields and vehicles. Then there is also the Energy Sword, a Covenant blade that can kill attackers in one hit, making it the best weapon for close range. That is just a taste of the weapon variety in Halo; other tools for combat await.
Halo: Combat Evolved is one of the most iconic and important video games ever. The campaign is compelling, boasting a good story and even better gameplay. Every video game lover should experience it at least once.