Single PlayerIn the single player game, Halo puts gamers in control of the Master Chief (MC), a mysterious cyborg commando travelling on the military ship Pillar Of Autumn. At the time that MC gets awoken from cryogenic sleep, the ship is approaching the artificial ring planet Halo, on a mission to counter the work of a particularly nasty race of aliens called The Covenant. Similar to the plot of the Indiana Jones movies, the aliens have invaded the planet in an attempt to take possession of a mysterious artefact or weapon, and it’s up to MC to prevent that from happening.
The gameplay immerses you into the action almost immediately, and doesn’t let up for the twenty or so hours it takes to work your way through the entire single-player experience. When the game starts, your commander briefs you on gameplay issues, hands you a weapon, and sends you off towards the deep recesses of the ship in order to assist your marine allies in exterminating the squad of aliens who are attempting to take over your ship.
One of the first things players will notice about the game is its graphical beauty. Gearbox has gone through tremendous efforts in bringing the visually-rich Xbox game into the realm of high resolution PC graphics. Through extensive use of vertex and pixel shaders, the latter which have never been seen in a Macintosh game before, Halo brings a rich and vastly textured alien world to player’s screens. Taking advantage of today’s high-end graphics technology, Halo pushes graphics cards to their limits with gorgeous exterior environments, stunning visual effects like reflections and glows, and multi-pass texturing to put the latest versions of Unreal Tournament to shame. While the game is being programmed for the latest and greatest hardware available, the porting teams over at Gearbox and Westlake are putting great pains into making sure the game is scalable for some of the older graphics cards out in the market today.
In the first mission, as you tackle the hoards of Covenant warriors attempting to take over your ship, you’ll notice the game’s superior artificial intelligence, which is head and shoulders above the AI featured in most of the other first person shooters this writer has played. Halo’s well-developed AI is scalable and adaptive, empowering both the computer controlled alien enemies and your own troops to work efficiently both as a team and as skilful individual opponents. The result is a malleable and intelligent army whose moves and actions are prompted by the situation at hand rather than some script. Hide in a corner, and some of the alien forces will branch off in two directions in an attempt to flush you out of your hiding space. Jump on a vehicle down on the planet’s surface, and any of your marine allies in the area will hop on the vehicles with you, laying down covering fire and sniping alien enemies while you attempt to destroy the enemy’s tanks and flying vehicles. The game’s reliance on adaptive intelligence rather than scripted actions increases the game’s replayability – no two passes at the same level will ever play out the same way.
Gameplay quickly moves on to the planet’s surface, with the MC leading the marines through the game’s vast exterior environments in an attempt to wipe out the invading alien army. As with the game’s AI, the single player missions are fairly open-ended - although levels feature main objectives that need to be accomplished, medium and short-term objectives change and get swapped around pro-actively, depending on the player’s situation and the enemy’s threat level. This feature also increases the game’s replayability factor far beyond most of today’s computer games.
Once gameplay shifts to the surface of the ringed world, gamers will have access to an increasingly larger collection of vehicles that can be used to their advantage in defeating the enemy hordes. For example, the marines’ vehicle of choice is the Warthog, a machinegun mounted all terrain vehicle which makes easy work of wiping out a squadron of Covenant infantry. Several marines can hop into the Warthog at a time, meaning that while you steer the vehicle and man the rocket launcher, snipers who’ve jumped on board with you take out any standing infantrymen who threaten to get in your way. Vehicle steering is camera-controlled – jump on a Warthog and the perspective changes to a 3rd person view above the truck. Moving the mouse changes the camera’s angle of view, with the jeep turning quickly to match. The vehicle’s bouncy physics and camera-controlled steering make for a fun, new style of vehicle control that, once mastered, makes for quick, tight turns, and allow players to manoeuvre into some pretty tight positions.