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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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Aiming the weaponry is done through the game’s minimal HUD, displaying the player’s health stats, weapon and ammo supply, distance to objective, and a small circular motion tracker, behaving much like overhead radar, that reports on the movement of both your friends and your dangerous alien enemies.

On their part, the alien faction intent on your destruction features a small cast of deadly characters. At the bottom of the ladder are the Grunts, short, turtle-shaped aliens who work in groups. The Grunts are fairly weak and apt to run away cowardly when injured, but are proficient in the use of plasma-based weapons and stationary guns. Next rung up are the sly Jackals, or “lizards with shields”, whose strong energy shields make them hard to beat with projectile weapons. The Elites, who come in several varieties, are the real brutes of the bunch; strong, tall and ruthless, they’re protected by a replenishing energy shield similar to our protagonist’s, and tend to throw their weight around and charge at players in a last-ditch attempt at survival. The Hunters are the real bruisers of the group – big and slow, they make up for their speed in resilience, and take an awful lot of firepower to neutralize.

The game’s characters are superbly detailed, command a real presence, and feature lots of depth. Every single character, from the non-playable characters to the principles, are endowed with distinctive characteristics, voices, and behaviors that match their size, strength, and affiliation. To boot, each character boasts an impressively large collection of animations and sound bites to round out those personalities. For example, the Grunts, short and stout, waddle around comically, while their cowardly retreating animation makes them look like fleeing orangutans. Each character in Halo boasts dozens of unique animations and poses, and transition between each animation smoothly. A huge number of sound clips complete each personality – the Grunts, like all the characters in the game, are endowed with a vast library of dialogue, and are responsible for some of the many in-game references to the Marathon series (“He’s Everywhere!” “Don’t Shoot!”).

The real treat in interacting with these characters, however, goes way beyond their polish, and rests on their intelligence. Halo boasts one of the most advanced AIs I’ve seen in a game. Sure, like in most modern games, the enemies dodge, weave, and roll when under fire, and even retreat when things start looking rough. What surprised me was how the characters interacted with each other while in battle. In one of the early planet side battles, players find themselves in a large field, littered with geographic details, near some alien structures, with wave after wave of alien hordes descending upon the area. Taking position behind some large boulders, I got embroiled in an intense firefight, taking brief rests to replenish my shields. Within seconds, I was killed from behind by two of the aliens from that squad who had taken the long way around when I got distracted. The co-operation between the game’s AI-controlled characters is almost uncanny, both on the offense and defense. Marine troops band together and cover new ground tactically, jump on your Warthog to cover you with protective fire, and Covenant forces are organized enough to have even baited me into a unscripted ambush.

Another vaunted gameplay element are the vehicles. At several points in the single player campaign, players can hop onto any of the vehicles available in the game. The Warthog, the Marine’s staple vehicle, is a three man ATV built upon a heavy-duty suspension, with a machine gun mounted on the back. Players can pick which position they take – driver, passenger, or gunner – to either maneuver the vehicle over the terrain, or provide firepower against Covenant troops. All of the vehicles in the game feature an extremely fun, bouncy, suspension-heavy physics engine, complete with monster-truck style jumps, skids, and obstacle hopping. Movement is controlled by the camera – swing your mouse to the left, and the vehicle’s back end follows suit. The combination is exhilarating - in many maps, I found it way more fun to run over the alien opponents, Carmaggeddon-style, than to shoot them.


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