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Publisher: MacSoft    Genre: Action
Min OS X: 10.2.8    CPU: G4 @ 800 MHz    RAM: 256 MB    Hard Disk: 1400 MB    Graphics: 32 MB VRAM

Halo: Combat Evolved
December 12, 2003 | Jean-Luc Dinsdale

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For the last week or so, Iíve been wandering through beautiful, lush fields, capped by the soft glow of a shimmering ocean, exploring spooky, darkly-lit hallways and large, cavernous rooms lit only by the glow of distant holograms, and fighting my way through iridescent spaceship hallways covered in textures brimming with detail and depth. Iíve driven a futuristic, machine gun-mounted all terrain vehicle across rocky landscapes and into a sunset which shares the horizon with a band of land that sweeps up into the night sky. Iíve listened to a rich and multi-layered soundtrack full of lush, deep sound, and Iíve dealt with an artificial intelligence-driven alien race so crafty, so cunning, so, well, intelligent, that Iíve literally jumped out of my seat, astonished by my opponentsí reactions.

Iíve been playing a copy of, in my opinion, the most advanced, the best produced, the most amazing first-person shooter to have ever graced my Macís screen. That first person shooter is, you guessed it, Bungie Studioís Halo: Combat Evolved.

Now, as a cynical game reviewer, I donít ever shower such praise on a title unmerited, and I certainly donít take my job lightly. Ask any of my friends, and youíll see that it takes a lot to impress me. This title, quite frankly, swept me off my feet, even after having played through a couple levels of the console version. I know, I know, Iím about to get flamed by all the bitter, jealous, self-centered Mac gamers out there who still hold a grudge against Bungie for a move they were forced to make a few years ago. To be honest, I used to be one of those people. However, after experiencing the fruits of their labour, Iím happy they got the financial backing required to pour the huge amount of resources rquired to produce a game of this caliber. Hereís why.

As expected, the single player portion of Halo is a straightforward port of the Xbox version. However, the game does not feel like a re-hashed, two-year old title, due to the tremendous resources that were poured into the game by its original developers.

Like Bungieís earlier award-winning titles, the game is original, rich in detail, and features a marvelous backstory. As previously detailed in IMGís Halo Preview, players are thrown in the shoes of the Master Chief, a cyborg warrior whoís woken from cryogenic sleep in order to help save a marine war ship from invasion by a colony of alien invaders near an artificial ring planet called Halo. As the story unfolds, it turns out that the alien menace, a collective of alien races calling themselves the Covenant, have declared a holy war on the human race, and have come to the mysterious planet to seek an ancient alien weapon to use in their deadly advance across the galaxy. Of course, itís up to the Master Chief, assisted by Cortana, the shipís artificial intelligence, and backed by wave upon wave of brave (but ultimately doomed) human Marine soldiers to bring an end to the Covenant menace. As players make their way through the gameís fifteen-or-so hours of gameplay, they get more deeply immersed into the storyline, which becomes increasingly compelling with every plot twist and revealed detail. If this isnít great moviemaking material, I donít know what is. Luckily for us, the gameís compelling storyline only serves as the backbone to a fully matured and developed game.

As a cyborg, the Master Chief is not invincible, but is endowed with several attributes that make him a more efficient field agent than his human counterparts. For one thing, heís familiar with the use of alien weapons, which he can pick up and use when his regular arsenal of armaments runs out. This skill comes in handy quite often during gameplay, as players can only carry two weapons at a time, on top of a limited inventory of alien plasma grenades and man-made frag grenades.

The weapons featured in the game, both human and alien, are original, ingenious, and evenly balanced. Not only do they pack a punch against the right opponents, but when the ammo runs out, players can use them in melee mode to bludgeon the opposing forces into submission. My favorite of the bunch are the Covenantís Needler, a porcupine-shaped hand weapon that fires heat-seeking purple glass shards at opponents; on top of the immediate pain incurred on contact, the weapon dishes out a wallop of damage as the shards explode in a puff of purple smoke and the sound of tinkling crystal. Honourable mention goes to the plasma grenades, little greenish-blue sticky grenades which, much like satchel charges in the Myth series, set off a chain reaction of explosions with other plasma grenades in the blast vicinity.

While the Chiefís health is as fragile as a regular humanís, he benefits from a protective shield that can regenerate itself after several seconds if not under fire. If players get hit with their shields depleted, however, they lose their health quickly. As a result, Haloís gameplay is more strategic than careless Ė new players soon learn to duck, shield themselves with obstacles, and make the best use of the weapons at their disposal.


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