Introduction – In The Beginning, There Was The Word…
Ahem….to the Xbox community, there is only a handful of words that justify the existence of the mighty console(s) and assert its dominance in the minds of its fanatical devotees. But one word stands so mightily above the others, almost divine in origin. A bit of the saying by a Mr. John Brown in the show Ghost Hunt. For those unfamiliar with the show, here is my spinoff of the quote:
“In the beginning, there was the word. The word was Halo.”
That’s right! We are revisiting the classic Halo that has been bundled in the packaged deal of Halo: The Masterchief Collection. Normally, I would say you guys missed out on the blocky polygons and hazy textures that came with the original Xbox release. I still partly blame it for my bad eyesight. But the good news is that with the press of the button, you can now re-live what your predecessors played through with the eye-straining original graphics! Why you would want to torture yourself with that is beyond me. But at least it brings back good memories of the multiplayer rocket-arena days, which was the only way we found extremely high entertainment value in Halo. Anyways, on with the review!
Story – Hail To The Chief (The Masterchief, That Is)
Considering how this is Bungie’s and Microsoft’s most defining game series as well as having established one of the most cherished character icons ever created, the story can be summed up in the following:
In the future, humanity will be fighting a war for survival against an alien race known as the Covenant. The Covenant worships an ancient race called the Forerunners, whom had fought against a vicious race called the Flood. The Flood devour anything and everything. Probably souls too if they were given a chance. But the Forerunners had a backup plan for these little dybbuks when they run amuck. That is to destroy everything and deny this species any possible food source for which they may survive on. In other words, set off a massive chain-reaction explosion utilising the Halo ring arrays. After all, there were more than just one you know. Now it us up to the Masterchief to do what he can to save humanity from the Covenant, the Flood, and quite possibly the death of everything in space.
The gameplay, as far as I can recall, pretty much defined and solidified the FPS controller setup. Right trigger to shoot your gun, left trigger to throw grenades, and so forth. Thank god they made the LB and RB buttons replace the functions of the black and white buttons of the old xbox controller. The original buttons were tiny and easy to miss when you wanted to switch grenade types or turn on your light. Yes, I consider the evolution of the Xbox controller to the controllers of the Xbox 360 and Xbox One a welcome relief for backwards compatibility! It just ticks me off they don’t play the entire library of Xbox games. For those too young to remember, I am talking about the library of games belonging to the monster black and green machine that had the weight of an elephant! Or perhaps a wombat. Whichever works for you. Another example of how the controller evolution worked so well was playing the NBA Live 2003 on Xbox which was made a lot better with the backwards compatibility of the Xbox 360! Anyways, moving on.
So Call of Duty and the slew of FPS’ thereafter, you can pretty much thank your daddy for your control setup. Happy Father’s Day to you Halo! And Halo, say happy Father’s Day to Doom and Wolfenstein 3D!
“Look! We must be in the future! Everything is so shiny!” – Caboose from Red vs. Blue
Ok. I know I said I wasn’t going to talk about the graphics but this needs to be discussed in this case. In this collection, you have the option to switch between the original graphics and the new shiny, polished, updated graphics in Halo anniversary edition. What is mildly amusing is that you can switch between the two at any time with the press of a button. While this is a great feature, I just can’t understand why anyone would want to go back to the fuzzy eyesore graphics of the original. Yes, they were great and cutting edge at the time but with certain levels that seemingly felt neverending, I have to conclude that it ruined my eyes! F!@*in’ blocky graphics and hazy textures! And curse you Bungie!
Anyways, the new graphics are nice and certainly bring an aged classic up to speed. But I am impressed with how shiny 80% of the structures are and how the light sources reflect off of them. Caboose really hit the nail on the head with his earlier statement. I now need sunglasses just to play it! No, it has nothing to do with the gamma adjustment of the TV set. It is just how harsh the lights reflect off the building surfaces of the actual Halo ring installations themselves. On the INSIDE! Ah well, the game is pretty with the new graphics.
And don’t get me started on the level designs. In the later stages of the game where you are running long gauntlets and mazes, the levels feel like they have a repetitive architecture and can easily disorient any gamer that hasn’t memorised the maps. Or it could be a brilliant plan by the Forerunners. If we make the buildings repetitive and disorient the invaders, maybe they will get bored and go home. Or make the players stop playing the game as I have witnessed on a few occasions. One thing that should have been added to help people that are new to the first Halo game is that there should have been an objective marker that indicates the direction that you need to go in. I know most of us can play this blindfolded and in our sleep because we have played it for so many years but you know, you gotta help out the noobs after all. They want to be just like us, the ultimate uncouth gamers!
The game is just how I remembered it on the oringinal Xbox with the exception of the new graphics. The controls are just the same (if you discount that the black and white buttons are now replaced by the LB and RB buttons, a welcome change) and still plays fluidly with an engaging storyline to boot. All good times and brings back great memories! But ultimately, it was the multiplayer that sold it back when it first came out and it is no exception here.
I do have one word of warning. Anyone remember the episode of the Simpsons where Homer kept jumping across the US embassy’s side and the Australian side of the line and kept going back and forth until the marine punched him? The episode called “Bart vs. Australia”, I believe. Same thing with the one-button graphics switching. If you do this, the punch in your face will most likely be eyestrain followed by a nasty migraine! You have been warned.
All in all, this game is a 7 out of 10 Spartans on a warpath. Again, hail to the chief…the Masterchief!
PS: In case you were wondering, here is the sampler video. You can see two glitches, possibly three, if you count the one guy looking like he is being crucified during a Flood attack. See the video here.