Halo has been the most successful game on the Xbox to date. Perhaps the only game with enough pulling power to persuade people to buy the console. For the most part this glowing reputation is deserved as Halo proves to be an extremely enjoyable game. It is a futuristic First-Person Shooter in which you must defeat two alien races in a series of epic battles.
Halo succeeds for a number of reasons, which combine to create a satisfying and immersive universe. The style of the game is clearly taken from popular sci-fi movies and there are scenes reminiscent of Starship Troopers and Aliens. The space marines you are fighting alongside are very similar to the marines in Aliens and although this is highly derivative, because it is done well and because it is based on quality material the end result is fantastic.
The story line sees humans under threat from the Covenant, an alien race determined to destroy us. You play the part of Master Chief, some kind of superhuman in a recharging shield suit. Naturally all is not what it seems and there are more aliens behind the scenes, hordes of the Flood. The action is fast and furious right from the start as you fight your way through the ship and the Covenant attack.
Traditionally the main problem for FPS games on consoles is the control method. There is simply no way you can get the same accuracy of aiming with an analog stick as you can with a mouse. Halo has fudged this slightly by making the fire auto-target to a certain extent and by giving you a big target reticule, so you don't have to be too accurate. This prevents the controls from becoming irritating, you move with the left stick and aim with the right using the trigger buttons to fire.
Graphically the game really shows off some of the power of the Xbox, lots of reflective surfaces, which look great, good effects on the weapons and a nice mixture of indoor and outdoor environments. The alien weapon sets are nice, especially the plasma grenades which stick to your opponent before exploding. There are also a range of vehicles for both land and air. Driving the warthog can be a lot of fun but it takes some getting used to, the alien hover crafts and big phantom flyers are great fun to pilot.
Something else I really liked about Halo is the Covenant AI; big scary ones would be surrounded by little sneaky guys. Generally if you took out the big guy the wee ones would scatter and hide. You could often hear them whisper as you approach which is a nice touch. Their movement is quite good too, and they frequently dodge grenades and try to flank you. The satisfaction of sneaking up on one of the wee guys while he´s sleeping and cracking him in the head with the butt of your gun is sweet. Unfortunately as the game progresses you encounter the Flood, who for me are inferior AI, they may look freaky but all they do is run straight for you, they are brainless opponents who only pose a threat in big numbers. I would have preferred to continue fighting the Covenant but there are a few nice moments where all three are engaged in battle.
The single player is excellent but the game is most enjoyable as a co-operative experience. The fact you can play through the action with a friend, split-screen is great and it makes the game more accessible for novices if they play along with someone good. The multi-player isn't bad either, split-screen creates tiny fields of vision when you have four players and this is no fun but if you have the resources to link some Xboxes together on a network then you can enjoy a decent multi-player game.
The strong story line and lovely visuals combine with a haunting sound track to produce a truly immersive experience, the hours can fly by without you noticing. I have played all the way through this game three times now and enjoyed it each time. Bungie developed the game and Microsoft purchased the company during the development of Halo, which subsequently became a flagship title for the Xbox. This was an astute move by Microsoft, as they desperately needed a success like this to make people take their platform seriously. With Halo 2 on the way we can only hope for an even better gaming experience with proper multi-player available to fit in with Xbox live. In the meantime you could always play through this classic once more.