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2 years after the Xbox release, we finally get our hands on the PC version. The main additions here being multiplayer and "improved" resolutions. So have Gearbox gone ahead and made the best possible conversion of the Xbox's best title?Halo, the best selling game on Xbox, makes its highly anticipated move to the PC, courtesy of Bungie and Gearbox Software. Halo, enhanced for play on the PC, contains all of the action-packed combat and thrilling gameplay that made the title a smash hit for video game fans everywhere. Armed with a brand new arsenal of weapons and vehicles, Halo delivers challenges and surprises, as well as intense online multiplayer competition exclusively for the PC, including new multiplayer maps.
There are not many changes to Halo on the PC, which is in some ways good – but when you consider the game is now 2 years old, it is starting to show its age.
Once you begin the campaign the game begins with a great intro sequence which is all done via the in-game engine. Once the intro has finished and your character is released from his cryo tube to help the fight against the alien menace one of the other friendly characters from the game begins to lead you through the controls. These range from using the top left directional pad to move around to using the bottom right directional pad to look around, there are a load of other controls such as duck, reload etc. It only took a short amount of time to learn how to use the controller at its best, and I can say right now that the controls are excellent and easy to use.
You play most of Halo in first person mode just like any other First Person Shooter like Quake or Half Life. With Halo this means lots and lots of enemies coming at you at one time, which reminded me of the good old days of Doom on the PC. During the game you can pick up all kinds of weapons ranging from plain old pistols to alien weapons that can fire shards of glass at your enemies.
In Halo you can only carry two weapons at a time, during the game you tend to make up your own mind about which weapons you like to carry around with you at all times. Picking up a new weapon is easy, all you have to do is walk over it and then hold down the correct button on your keyboard and it then replaces the weapon you were holding in your hand at the time, it is a very simple system that works really well.
During the game you get to ride different vehicles from the excellent warthog jeep to flying ships. This is where Halo distinguishes itself from other first person shooters; the way you switch to driving vehicles is done so well it is easy to drive them. They are basically controlled in the same way that you control your character in the first person part of halo, one stick for acceleration/reverse the other for the direction. The Jeep and ships were easy to control on the gamepad with the Xbox, and thankfully everything works just as well here with the mouse and keyboard.
Now don’t get me wrong, I found Halo on the Xbox to be a fantastic experience, perhaps due to the fact that it was on my large TV, with great sound, friends around playing multiplayer. Now on the PC, the game feels too much like any other First Person Shooter – albeit a very good one which has a lot of style and the only one that makes good use of the fact that people can’t carry more than two weapons at a time. There are also the problems cropping up here that were already a problem in the Xbox version, the fact that it can get quite repetitive in the later levels and that there are not enough different aliens to come up against.
Now then, this is where the main changes to Halo have been made; you finally get the chance to play the game over the internet. Now on the Xbox, multiplayer on split-screen and over linked up Xboxes was great. One major omission has occurred in the port over from the Xbox – there is no longer any cooperative play which was one of the best parts of the multiplayer game on the console.
As for what is new – we have six new maps, a few new weapons and a couple of new gameplay modes such as changes in the Assault mode and the chance to fly the banshee. Like the Xbox version, you can create your own games from scratch. The six new maps are pretty good too, the best one being based on the Silent Cartographer level (which is the brilliant beach assault stages in the Single Player mode).
The net code seems good too, although the problem with the frame-rate that crops up in the Single Player mode too also shows its face in the multiplayer game, which is a disappointment when you consider how much more advanced PC’s are compared to the Xbox.
Now remembering that Halo is 2 years old graphically it has stood the stand of time better than most games release back in 2001 have done. There are times it does look dated though, especially with the human character graphics and the framerate, no matter what PC setup you seem to have does not do well. This is the real let down with Halo on the PC, when you consider the fact that the game is running on better hardware both processor and graphic-wise, you expect to be able to run the game in a resolution above 800*600 at a good frame rate, well Halo doesn't - although excuses are likely to come along, Halo won't run at 30 FPS on most PC's that would expect it to. The only times when the game runs as smooth as it should be seems to be during the outdoor levels.
So enough about the poor frame rate. As I mentioned earlier, although the game is 2 years old, there are parts that still look very good, but sadly the game still tends to look better on the Xbox on a large TV than it does on the PC, although running it on a good TFT monitor really does show off some of the great colors and designs in the game, which are the saving grace here. Now I don't know why it seems to look better on my TV than it does on the PC, the easiest thing to notice are parts which show computer displays or holographic images, these do look far better on a TV via the Xbox.
I guess most of the complaints (apart from the dire frame rate) here are due to the fact that we have had games like Unreal Tournament 2003 released (2004 version on the way looking even better), and we will soon have Doom 3, Half Life 2 and the excellent looking Max Payne released next month and Halo does not stand up so well against these titles. If Gearbox can fix the frame rate problems soon so people can play in the higher resolutions we expected to play in, then my views might change.
Sound & Music
One of the best parts of Halo on the Xbox was the sound. This is the same with the PC version, especially if you have say a 5.1 setup, the sound is almost perfect. All of the voice work from the original game is here and some of it sounds better on the PC than it did do on the Xbox and the music is just as good as it was two years ago.
It saddens me to say this, but Halo on the PC isn't all I hoped it would be. While the gameplay is as good as it was two years ago, graphically it hasn't held up so well on the PC, mostly due to the poor frame rate and also due to some lower quality textures being used. Sound-wise I can't really fault it - especially if you have a multi-speaker setup. So gameplay is still almost as good as it was two years ago, graphics are ok, sound is excellent and the multiplayer levels are really good - but overall it's a little bit of a letdown on the PC. If you already have the Xbox version and don't really want to give the online multiplayer side a go, then stick with what you have as all you'll get here are slower frame rates.