Halo: Combat Evolved

The first game in Microsoft's iconic series. Memories, and a modern take on a classic.

Written by MashTheNewton 11/22/2021

When Halo and the Xbox released in 2001, I wasn't quite yet convinced of Microsoft's incredibly large home console with massive controllers. I already owned a PlayStation 2, and I was playing games like Half-Life on PC. I had already decided that the only way to play FPS games was with a mouse and keyboard. (*Spoilers* Now I think the best way to play FPS games is whatever suits you in the moment. Mouse and keyboard, controller, Dreamcast Fishing Controller, DDR Dance Pad, etc.) One day after high school, I went to pick up a new friend of mine from his house so we could hang out. I went inside and he revealed that he had an Xbox and Halo. As a gamer, I absolutely had to check it out. We spent a limited amount of time playing co-op in the campaign, and had a great time. That would be the last time I played Halo until a couple years later.

Now we fast forward to the late summer of 2003. I found a deal that was too good to be true on eBay for an Xbox. Sadly, I got scammed out my $80 investment, but I'd already committed to getting an Xbox and playing Halo. I swung by a GameStop that used to be Funcoland, and I picked up a used Xbox and made a quick stop over to Blockbuster to rent a copy of Halo. I took my prize to a friend's house where we burned through 5 or so hours playing co-op through the campaign late into the night. We shot, drove, and rocketed our way through the rest of the game the very next day. Once the campaign was done, I read online that I could use GameSpy to play Halo online via system link. I set it up with my PC and tried it out, though I was absolutely destroyed. A day or two later Halo was returned to Blockbuster.

When Halo 2 came in November of 2004, I was so wrapped up in hype and excitement for Half-Life 2. Halo was completely off my radar. When Halo 3 released for the Xbox 360 in 2007, I wasn't on the hype train because of being able to play co-op with my two gamer roommates. We played through Halo 3 multiple times, and even went through the game on Legendary. Many hours were spent smoking hookah in the living room while playing Halo 3 together.

Ok, back to the reason I started writing this. Halo: Combat Evolved. How does it hold up today? Andy and I played through this game earlier this year, and it was my first time playing it since 2003. I played a bit of the original Xbox version of the game, but we ended up playing the Master Chief Collection version of the game together. This version looks really good overall, and I love that you can toggle the graphics back and forth between the original graphics and the enhanced graphics. The MCC version of the game allows you to customize the controls, and even play the multiplayer component of the game online, which you couldn't (officially) do on the original Xbox version.

The soundtrack in Halo: Combat Evolved is one of the best video game soundtracks to date. The orchestral music really helps to set the tone of the game, and to get you hyped as you head into battle. The Halo soundtrack lives up to the level of quality that is usually only achieved by Nintendo. The music is amazing, and totally worth checking out even if you never intend to play the game.

The gameplay of Halo: Combat Evolved is a lot of fun. The guns generally feel good, and you get a good variety when you start picking up and using the weapons from fallen enemies. Guns like the Needler, Plasma Rifle, and the Sentinel Beam help to change things up from the standard military fare. That being said, the guns like the Assault Rifle, Shotgun, Magnum, and Sniper Rifles are still a lot of fun to use. Overall there is a really great variety of guns that feel fun to use. Though not a gun, my favorite weapon is the Plasma Grenade. I'm filled with delight when throwing a Plasma Grenade on an enemy to see their dance of distress once they realize their impending doom. The melee attack in this game is also very satisfying.

One of my favorite aspects of Halo's gameplay is the use of vehicles, and the vehicular combat that goes along with it. First off, controlling the Warthog feels a bit weird, but when the non-traditional controls sink in you'll have a blast running over enemies and flying off sweet jumps. The fun factor of the vehicles, and the variety, are akin to something like the Battlefield franchise. The vehicular combat is what sets games like Battlefield apart from Call of Duty, and I think Halo matches the fun of the vehicular combat that the Battlefield series achieves. UNSC vehicles like the Warthog and the Scorpion, and the Covenant vehicles like the Ghost and the Wraith are so much fun to use. The flips, turns, and other aerial maneuvers in the Wraith are great to pull off. Heck, even just flying down to squish some enemies is also great fun.

As you work your way through the game's 10 levels, you're met with cutscenes to help propel the story forward. You'll get to know more about the situation and why you're bringing the fight to Halo. You'll also get to know more about some of the other characters in the game, like Cortana. Levels like The Silent Cartographer give you a lot of variety in the environment, and a lot of fun combat sequences. I know that The Library gets a bad wrap, but it really doesn't seem that bad if you're blasting through the game with a buddy. The last level has you driving through a Michael Bay movie, and narrowly avoiding explosions and certain death. It's a great action-packed way to put a bow on the game, and to make you want to immediately start playing Halo 2.

Whether you play the original Xbox version, the not as well known Xbox 360 release, or play Halo: Combat Evolved via the Master Chief Collection, you should take the time to visit (or revisit) the game that kicked off an incredible franchise that helped to solidify the success of the Xbox. This game is best experienced with a friend, so hop on to AIM to send them a message and tell them to drop by. Spend the weekend playing this killer couch co-op experience, or invite even more friends over for some 16 player system link multiplayer. The first game of the series absolutely holds up today, so do yourself a favor and check it out before the 30th anniversary of the game's release!