Reader Retrospective: Halo: Combat Evolved

Halo: Combat Evolved is one of my personal favourites, so when I saw that Glenn Taylor had written a Reader Retrospective on the very same game, I couldn't wait to read it. Especially in lieu of the fact that I've spent every non-Kotaku waking hour playing Halo: Reach over the last couple of weeks. After seeing the ending of Bungie's prequel, I felt compelled to revisit the original, which make this retrospective all the more timely.

Take it away Glenn... Halo: Combat Evolved I'll start by saying this, I have only ever played Halo on PC. I know it got rave reviews for Xbox, but I believe it holds up on its own ground for the PC as well. Halo has become a name well known amongst gamers. It's also become a whipping boy for PlayStation Fanboys, but that's a whole other story. After completing Reach on Legendary this weekend, I decided to go back and visit Halo at its roots.

Loved It's Halo. What's not to love!

The enemy AI. I find the AI in Halo to be really intelligent. Even after almost 10 years the AI is smarter than some current generation games (Wolfenstein, I'm looking at you!). Covenant dodge attacks, Grunts lose all hope when their superior officers are killed... The game is very well polished in the AI department. Bungie has excelled at creating some challenging enemies.

The levels and attention to detail. The size of the levels are massive. Some of the "getting from Point A to Point B" sections are a little repetitive, but for an almost 10 year old game, the size of these levels is something to marvel at. Nothing quite like navigating the terrain of Halo, looking up in the sky and seeing the other side of the ring.

The Nostalgia. After playing all other Halo games, Halo 2, 3, ODST, Reach... Even Wars... Going back to the original is such a blast from the past. Nothing has changed (Except the shinyness of everything). The Covenant look the same, the vehicles look and handle the same, Master Chief... well yes, he gets an armour upgrade, but he still looks the same! About the only thing that changed was the Covenant turrets.

The Music. The Halo soundtrack is one of my favourites of all time. The epic orchestral scores add a very nice touch to the situations faced in the game, from fighting Covenant forces, to your first encounter with the Flood, to the escape from the Pillar of Autumn at the end.

Hated Not a thing! What can I say... Bungie created a masterpiece 10 years ago which still ranks up there amongst the best games of all time. I found it far more enjoyable to play than some releases in the last few years (again, Wolfenstein, I'm looking at you!).

The Flood. Ok, so I lied. I did hate The Flood, but only because I find them so difficult at times! Most of the time I just had to run away instead of fight them.

Hopefully this retrospective will encourage you to go back and pickup your old copy of Halo: Combat Evolved... Or buy it on PC or on the XBLA if you don't own it already. The game has really stood the test of time.


    This review was absolutely bias-free...


    You hated NOTHING? I can find thousands of flaws in my favourite game (Morrowind).On top of that, I have this game! The level design is repetitive, the guns don't feel weighty and the story is horrible (but then again, which FPS story isn't). Try thinking from the viewpoint of a halo-virgin next time... I doubt they would be impressed with the AI, gameplay or story...

    Sure, the game is fun and was revolutionary FOR ITS TIME, but it can't hold up today...

    Please don't turn this into a flame war... I just think this review was lopsided...

      The purpose of a review is to express an opinion of a game. That's all this is, an Opinion of Halo Combat Evolved.

      While yes, every game has it's flaws, that's not to say they're worth hating. You only hate the flaws if they drive you crazy.

      Also, the AI is really impressive. The elites still dodge your attacks, and are really hard to run over in a Warthog, very much the same as they are in all other Halo games. Many new release games now just have enemy AI that stand in your line of fire, and if you move your line of fire, they move into it for you.

        I'm sorry, but I have to disagree with your definition of "review". The point of a review (in my eyes at least) is to disassemble a game into its components and explain which are good and which are bad, and why.

        Well, I suppose you may not have hated those aspects in your opinion, but I am certain other people did, and a review should try to cater for all...

        As to the AI, I agree that it was amazing for its time.
        But only recently as AI gone through a severe case of the "Uncanny Valley" as developers are convinced we want "dynamic AI" rather than fun enemies :(

          "Retrospective (from Latin retrospectare, "look back") generally means to take a look back at events that already have taken place."

          does that mean a review? no, it's meant to be looking back at the games you loved, andseeing if that still holds up, it's meant to be YOUR oppinion, this isn't to show people whether they would like it, it's a reflection on the fun YOU had with the game.

            Mark, remove my above post, it was made in haste and not truly representative of what I meant.

            Delete it if you please :)

      "Sure, the game is fun and was revolutionary FOR ITS TIME, but it can’t hold up today…"

      COMPLETELY disagree. I started playing Halo after finishing Reach and aside from the graphics, it hasn't aged terribly at all. Frankly it's a smoother and more playable experience than many FPSs getting cranked out today.

      I see Reader Retrospectives as a way to convey how fondly or condescendingly you remembered games from the past. I'm stating the obvious here but what I'm really trying to convey is that I think people shouldn't have to be unbiased when it comes to this format.

      These games have been out for ages, many people have played and reviewed them already and so the only reason many people would write an R.R. is for nostalgia's sake. To reflect on how well these games have stood up over time or how badly.

      I agree with you in that this R.R. (and undoubtedly others) seems lopsided but you know, who cares. Even Mark mentioned how much he was looking forward to reading Glenn's review and I assume it's because he has fond memories of the Halo franchise which he'd like to recall.

      As for me, I have fond memories of this game too but I care little for its sequels or spinoffs.

      "the story is horrible (but then again, which FPS story isn’t)"

      If I may ask, what about Half-Life 1 and BioShock? They both sport excellent stories (even though BioShock's is heavily taken from System Shock 2).

        I stand corrected.

        Although my memory was only really reaching to games released in the immediate past (last year or so).

        And Deus Ex. Loved the story in that.

      <3 <3 <3 Morrowind <3<3<3

      That said, I agree completely with how flawed it is. A completely bugged out, 85% broken game, but still, completely amazing.

        So glad to find someone like-minded! So many morrowind-tards are convinced it was bug-free...

        At least the modding community kept it relatively stable :D

    Best game ever, no question. I still play this

      I know everyone is entitles to their opinions and all.. but best game ever?!?!
      What the hell - how does this even come close to best game EVER?!

      I'm with TadMod... this review is so over-the-top biased it's crazy. There are quite a few things to dislike about the first Halo game

      But anyway, thats MY opinion, and i'm sure plenty of you want to burn me at the stake for that one.. but still.. best game ever? WTH...

        Ok.. to be fair the review DOES say he dislikes th flood.. but i disagree on the difficult thing, thye just required a bit more thought at times than the "duh i run in and shoot room with gun bang bang bang" sort of tactic you use for the rest of the game

    I absolutely adore CE. From the frantic matches of insanity on Battle Creek to my first incident with the flood, I have many very fond and endearing memories of it.

    ..I think I'll revisit it this weekend. Thanks Glenn!

    Best FPS game, anyone who says otherwise hasn't played it or is a PS fanboy.

      I have played it

      I don't even own a PS3, so i can't really be considered a PS fanboy.. i even own over 60 360 games and dozens of original xbox games.. but Halo is DEFINITELY NOT the best FPS of all time..

      Possibly SIMPLEST of all time??

    I agree with the reviewer; I've also just re-played Halo (the whole series of games in fact) and it holds up so well. Yes, some of the graphics are a bit muddy, but apart from that it is still as great today as it ever was.

    The Covenant still seem as smart, the reverse-trawl through the levels I think is actually a stroke of genius, and that massive hunter/wraith/flood battle at the end of Two Betrayals still haunts me.

    RE: Morrowind, that also stands the test of time... But not as well as Halo. You can't just forget about the game-breaking Creeper once you know he's there, and it is... So... Slow... To start off with.
    (Though Morrowind stands up better than Oblivion!)

    I think the review is more a statement of how little the series has evolved, beyond a couple of new weapons and several layers of polish.
    While the Halo series is a staple for well constructed shooting, it's the polish which places it above it's competitors more than anything else.
    Only the original entry offered anything revolutionary.

    Another PC player here although I did recently get it from the second hand bin for the Xbox multiplayer (still prefer split screen with friends over anonymous internet wingers).
    I totally agree that the music was great. It just seemed to fit the whole majestic space opera thing bungie was trying to do with the story line and while I wouldn't call it perfect it's definitely stood the test of time. I still load and play it every now and then, and though I've yet to play Reach I still rank the original above all its sequels for the quality of the single player campaign.
    Strangely enough my number one dislike was how much the flood's theme music creeped me out.

    To TadMod, I agree that Halo isn't perfect (what game is). There are parts that can be repetitive and the AI still has moments of stupidity but there is no part of it that I hated, just parts I "love less".

    As for standing up against the games of today there's no question that it does. Obviously the graphics aren't as good as todays games, but that has nothing to do with the game balance and the enjoyment you get playing it. Halo: CE remains in the top 5 games I've ever played and most of the other games in that top 5 are also older games. Graphics and budgets are increasing constantly but sadly there are few games that get the fundamental stuff right. Halo is one of those rare few (and personally, I think only Halo... the rest have been mostly inferior).

    I've only got two gripes about Halo.

    And unfortunatly they carry accross almost all the games (except reach).

    1. The Flood, which for some unknown reason was in Halo Wars.
    2. The coundown race levels at the end of every game.

      Countdown race levels? Only CE has one. And Halo 3, technically, although there's no real danger of failing unless you stay completely still since all the destruction is triggered as you move along.

      So only 1 Halo FPS out of 5 had a countdown race...

      I don't mean to start an argument, but I'd like to point out that there was no countdown race at the end of Halo 2, there was no countdown race at the end of Halo 3: ODST, there was no countdown race at the end of Halo Reach, and I haven't finished Halo Wars, but I find it hard to imagine a countdown race in an RTS (but I could be wrong).

        The last mission of Halo Wars is a timed mission... but it's not a race.

        Then again, all Blizzard RTS games have had timed missions for their finales (Starcraft 2, WC3, Frozen Throne... Possible even the Original Starcraft and warcrafts, I can't remember back that far)

    I thought this was a retrospective, not a review

    I liked Halo, even on Xbox. But it's not zomgwtfbbq epically awesome.

    I suspect much of the rivalry between Halo fanboys and PS fanboys is triggered by Halo fanboys (which I do not credit Glenn as being) claiming Halo was somehow ground-breaking or revolutionary. As other comments have noted, there is very little evolution in the series. There was very little - if anything - new about the original Halo, bar that it was arguably the best FPS seen on consoles (possibly since Goldeneye, though that's another story).

    In the isolation of the console market, it would certainly look ground-breaking. But everything that Halo brought to a console market had been done before (and with a mouse). On PC, it is certainly a well-polished and enjoyable product, but that is all. Similar to Starcraft 2, it is enjoyable for being a concentration of a whole bunch of enjoyable, familiar things. But not for being original.

    It's the "good, but not that good" sentiment which leaves Halo open to attack. Halo fanboys push too far one way, PS3 fanboys push too far the other.

    I never thought much of Halo on the PC, I really liked it when I played it on the 360.

    I'm glad I'm not the only one who thought Halo was an overrated game.

    It's a good game, just not great. Very poor level design.
    I wouldn't give it 9/10 like most reviews. It only deserves a 7/10.

    Can some do a Reader Retrospective on Diablo so I can dis that overrated game too?

    Halo, in my opinion is the most OVER RATED game series in the history of videogames.

    The videogame equivalent of the iphone: Everyone likes it for the 'Name' attached to it even though there are others that do the job just as good or better.

    Happy gaming everyone.

      Each to their own. I've been playing video games for 30 years - from the very first Pong and Space Invaders machines to Apple ][ and TRS-80 through C64 & Amiga through early DOS & Windows games - Doom, Descent, GLQuake, Half-Life etc - to the various current day consoles.

      I have many favourites from over that whole time, and Halo: CE, for all its flaws, is probably in my top 5. Sure the console controls are awkward compared to mouse/PC, sure the levels sometimes got confusing and repetitive, but the sense of exploration, the music and sound design, and all the countless hours of fun I had playing and replaying, alone and with friends...

      You don't have to like it, but IMHO it's most definitely one of the classics.

    Halo is the Final Fantasy VII of first-person shooters. Crazy fanbase, spawned its own series, did something supposedly revolutionary that nobody can precisely pinpoint... yeah.
    Here's hoping Valve, id, and Epic all team up and make a game so we can say the FPS genre has its own "Chrono Trigger", too.

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