Halo is a science fiction epic adventure first person shooter, created by Bungie
and Gearbox for the Xbox, and brought to the Macintosh by MacSoft. Halo: Combat Evolved
contains all the gameplay and rich story that made it a hit with Xbox gamers, but
Halo for Mac also allows you to take the battle online with all new multiplayer features,
including new maps, weapons and vehicles. What's more, Mac players are joined by
Windows players making it easy to find people to play with any time of the day or
Bent on Humankind's extermination, a powerful fellowship of alien races known as
the Covenant is wiping out the Earth's fledgling interstellar empire. You and the
other surviving defenders of a devastated colony-world make a desperate attempt to
lure the alien fleet away from Earth. Shot down and marooned on the ancient ring-world
Halo, you begin a guerilla-war against the Covenant. Fight for humanity against an
alien onslaught as you race to uncover the mysteries of Halo.
- An award-winning,
twisted, sci-fi story, filled with complex characters and cunning enemies
- Fight on foot, in
vehicles, in the air, and beneath the surface of an orbiting alien ring
- Increased precision
of obliterating the Covenant swarms with a mouse and keyboard
- Play as a single-player
or take the battle online with gamers all over the world
- Intense 16-player,
online PC/Mac battles; new weapons, maps, and vehicles
- 15 multiplayer maps
including 6 brand new, never before seen maps
- Unleash multiplayer
destruction with new vehicles and aircraft, and new weapons such as the fuel-rod
cannon and flamethrower
Installing Halo off of the CD is a breeze. However, you will need to go to MacSoft's
web site and download the latest patches that fix some problems with the 1.0 version.
For this review, I brought my version up to 1.0.4. Installation requires a serial
number, and gameplay requires the CD in the Mac. You will also want to go through
the setup of the controls, and either memorize them as they are, or set them to keys
that you are more comfortable with. About half the action keys I reconfigured for
my tastes, and the other half I left as the default. Overall, the setup process was
Single Player Game Play
The first things I noticed playing Halo are the rich graphics and the great sound
effects. I was blown away by the detail of the graphics, and how quickly the game
engine rendered scenes and animations. Having a long history of playing Bungie's
Marathon series first person shooters, I couldn't help but notice the flavor of Bungie
all over this game, from the physics to the weapons to the taunts and yells of the
aliens. Of course, the quality of both the graphics and sounds are far superior to
the now dated Marathon engine. The action flows smoothly in Halo, and the story is
well integrated into each level.
The story is broken into major chapters, and within each chapter are different levels.
Some levels pit you against the bad guys all by yourself, and others include the
option to have marines fighting with you. You might be tempted to let the marines
battle for you, but without your help, they'll be killed eventually, and you won't
have any help later on in some more tougher battles. In other words, try to fight
with them, and use them wisely!
The available weapons in Halo have some similarities to the weapons in Marathon,
such as having a pistol, a machine gun, missile launcher, and even the alien gun.
The weapons are more refined, better graphics, and better usage (especially the alien
guns). The biggest difference is that you can only carry two weapons at a time (versus
being able to carry every weapon you encounter in Marathon). It makes for a little
more interesting game play. When given a choice of shotgun, missile launcher, and
sniper rifle, which two to choose depends upon the type of battle you are in (or
ones that are coming up). Sometimes you may leave the wrong weapon behind.
One of the most exciting features of Halo is that it includes vehicle support, and
although there has been some vehicle support in some other games, I have never encountered
it done as well as it is in Halo. Whether behind the controls of a jeep "hog",
a "ghost" hovercraft, a tank, or a flying alien "Banshee", the
physics that control the behavior of the vehicle are extremely intuitive. The ability
to control the vehicle is critical during game play, and Halo does a good job of
keeping the control within ease. This allows you to concentrate on other aspects,
such as running over bad guys, not running over good guys, and picking up your fellow
marines to go into battle. The marines will hop aboard your hog when you pull up
next to them, and one will man the gun on the back of the hog, while the other sits
shotgun shooting at enemies and tossing grenades. It is just as exciting as in the
movies, only you are taking part in the action. You can bang up a vehicle pretty
good without hurting yourself, and if the vehicle flips, you can use the action key
to flip it back over. I thought it was amusing that I was strong enough to flip a
tank over, but for the sake of game play, this is actually a good thing. In fact,
it appears that a lot of thought went into each aspect of the game, ensuring that
you have a realistic and challenging gaming adventure, yet not to the point of being
too frustrating or complicated.
The levels within a chapter are all connected, and you can usually return to previous
scenes (although sometimes doors close that cannot be re-opened, or elevators that
once worked are now non-functioning). As the chapters change, you usually end up
being picked up by a drop ship, and then when the next chapter begins, you start
off with a different set of weapons (usually a pistol and a machine gun). That is
sometimes upsetting because you may have gone through great pains to grab a full
compliment of rockets for your missile launcher, and then all of a sudden you don't
have the launcher anymore.
One problem I ran into with the single player adventure is that there were a few
scenes where I simply had to play through them a few too many times. This is because
Halo does not have a real-time save function. There are built in "checkpoints"
that automatically save the game when you reach certain points. That means that you
cannot go back to a previously saved point, which is something you might want to
do (especially if you happen to have made some really bad decisions between the two
save points). I discovered some inconsistencies with the automatic save points as
well. For instance, if you back track, old save points usually don't "re-save"
the game. In one chapter, I was in a major battle and decided that I needed to do
some major back-tracking to find a sniper rifle. After doing so, I then came back
up to where I had been, but died again. That was an awful lot of work for nothing.
It would have been nice if the game "re-saved" at past checkpoints so that
I didn't have to go back and find the rifle again. On the other hand, some previous
save points did re-save the game. At one point, I had gone back far enough that it
did re-save at an earlier stage. The problem now was that it was way way back, further
than I really needed to go, and now I had to move forward through several old save
points (that no longer saved), back into battle. Upon dying again, the whole process
had to be repeated. These anomalies happened to me rarely, but they were miserable enough to
leave some lasting memories of wasted evenings.
The only other issue I had with the story is when you get to the point where you
are following the alien "eye" around in a monotonous string of battles against the "flood" (parasitic
creatures that attack you in a variety of ways). The graphic nature of these creatures
was great, and their behavior often unpredictable. Their presence in the game was
definitely a benefit. They would often scare me when they would jump and lunge at
me. However, playing against one swarm after another, after another, after another,
as I wandered around this alien building waiting for the "eye" to open
the access doors, I began to loose focus on the story. Fortunately, the checkpoints
("save" markers) were many, so I didn't have to re-play too many of these
Despite the issues, the story still kept my interest. It is a really fun story, with
some major cool battle scenes. In fact, if anything, I felt that the story was too
short. By the time it was over, I was left wanting for more levels. My favorite part
of the single player game was teaming up with other marines. I had the most fun with
them, and those chapters of the game are the most memorable.
Multi-Player Game Play
Where the single player game approached addiction, the multi-player feature of the
game went far beyond it. I cannot begin to count the number of nights I stayed up
long past 3:00 AM driving around in a hog, making a flag run, and mostly getting
my butt shot off. Often, around 11:30 PM, I would say to myself, "just one more
match". The next thing I knew it was 3:00 AM and I could barely see out of my
eyes (and when I laid down to sleep, I was still riding my hog).
Getting setup for internet play is as simple as
clicking on the Multiplayer button, and clicking on "Get List". If you
have an internet connection, all sorts of server names show up, indicating the type
of game currently in progress, the number of players, and the ping. The lower the
ping, the better the connection you'll have. You can pick any server that has an
open player slot and join the game in progress. Switching from the solo levels to
the multiplayer games is a major transition, so be prepared to die a lot when you
first start playing against other real people. There are some vidmasters out there
that will make you feel like cannon fodder.
There are different types of multiplayer games,
such as slayer (most kills wins), king of the hill (most time in marked areas wins),
and capture the flag (CTF). After months of play, I have come to appreciate the CTF
games more than all the rest, as it involves more strategy and teamwork than just
brute killing. You play as teams that are divided in blue and red, and you usually
don't know any of the other people in the game (often reaching the maximum of 8 players
on each team). The better organized your team, the better your chances of winning.
For instance, if everyone on your team just runs for the other team's flag, that
leaves no one left behind on defense, giving your opponents the advantage. Likewise,
with everyone on their own, you lose the advantage of attacking in a concerted effort.
I found going in with about 3 vehicles filled with your comrades will give you a
better chance at stealing the other team's flag successfully.
Playing against live players is nothing like playing against the computer. The computer
AI can become predictable to some degree, but with live players of varying abilities,
it's very difficult to anticipate the actions of your enemies. Also, in the solo
levels I loved the sniper rifle, but it's my least favorite in multiplayer. The fact
is that nobody stands still long enough to get the scope targeted on them. I much
prefer the rocket launcher, or getting behind the wheel of a hog. Driving the hog
in a network game has become my biggest addiction.
The network play was not without it's flaws. First, it's an unsettling transition
from playing against the computer AI to playing against live players. To ease the
transition pain of going from computer AI to live players, it would have been nice
if the net levels could be played against the computer AI. This would have allowed
me to practice more as well as learn the net maps (it's crucial to learn where the
good weapons are).
Another issue experienced from time to time is landing on a team with a bad egg,
someone who basically goes around killing their own teammates for fun (known as a
TK for "team kill"). Some servers are setup for auto-banning a player if
they have too many TK's, but many servers will not ban them. It's really annoying
to be taken out by your own teammate while you are already struggling to survive
against the enemy forces. It's just a game, but still a terrible feeling of betrayal,
and often leaves you wanting to forget about the enemy and just seek revenge instead.
You have to be careful, as some TK'ers will "almost" kill you to trigger
a response, and then when you fight back and actually take them out, to all others
in the game, it only looks like you are the betrayer (and you may be the one who
is banned). It's a whole lot more fun if you don't have to deal with that issue at
Finally, there are also special "mods" of network maps that allow players
to incorporate what appears as "cheats" from the perspective of an average
player. For instance, someone who has been hit several times with a missile and still
lives is suspect. There are those who have unbelievable ability to aim at fast moving
targets with perfect accuracy, which would imply aim bots at work. I have heard about
mods that give players advantage, but I did not research it to the point of finding
out how they do it. Those kinds of cheats do place a slight damper on game play.
A word of caution to parents: Halo network games
support real-time chatting during game play, and the taunts that come across the
screen are often extremely offensive. In addition to the inherent violence of the
game, you need to be concerned about their exposure to some pretty bad language.
From an adult point of view, however, it's kind of fun to really let loose from time
to time. There are also dedicated servers that have admin players who will ban people
who use bad language.
None of the problems list above, however, has stopped
me from entering into matches on nearly a daily basis. Network play hones your skills
and reaction times, and puts you into a realistic environment that takes you away
from the real world for awhile. The fact that you are with other live players makes
it much more enjoyable, and having the most flag steals is a very satisfying feeling.
PC vs Mac
The good news is that the Mac version is just like the PC version in terms of the
solo level game play. Everything looks, feels and behaves the same way. Is sports
the same rich graphics, music and sound effects. Both versions are extremely stable,
When it came to the internet game play, however, the first major difference I noticed
was in terms of mouse control. The difference is probably there in the solo levels,
but it isn't really noticeable until you are playing against live players and depending
more on every microsecond of response. There are many settings you can change to
increase the game play experience, such as turning off much of the "goodies"
effects and details (like bullet indentations, shell casings, fire coming out of
the flame guns, etc.). You can also adjust the sensitivity of the mouse, yet no matter
what I set it to, I never achieved a level of mouse control with the Mac version
as I achieved with the PC version. This put me at a disadvantage playing against
my PC counterparts.
The other thing that was different between the Mac
and PC versions is the text that is displayed during a network match. In the top
left portion of the screen, the game displays match status, such as "so-and-so
killed Bob" or "Jane was betrayed by so-and-so". It also displayed
text that players type in to communicate with their team or with all the players
(sometimes strategic information, most of the times taunts). In the PC version, the
text is small, and several lines are displayed at once before they scroll out of
view. In the Mac version, however, the text was larger, with altering text sizes,
and the worst part is that there are only 3 lines of text displayed. In a large game,
information you want to see is often scrolled off the screen before you even have
a chance to see it. This is troublesome if you want to see who got credit for a kill,
more so if you want to see who may have betrayed you, and the worst when strategic
information is provided by your teammates and you didn't get to see it.
Halo: Combat Evolved is truly a first person
shooter experience evolved. The single player action fully immerses
you into a dynamic and living environment with amazing graphics, sounds and physics.
In terms of network games, the multi-player action in Halo provides a major thrill
ride, making it feel like a team sport where the sky is literally the limit as far
as what you can do. Gameplay in Halo is finely tuned, with great attention paid not
just to the aesthetics, but also to the behavior of the game, how vehicles operate,
how weapons work, and how the computer AI engages you (either as friend or foe).
In the single player game, the method of saving your game leaves something to be
desired, and the story is a bit short. Where the story falls short, however, the
multiplayer action picks up the slack. You'll find yourself driving a hog or flying
a spacecraft night after night hunting down your enemies and securing your team's
flag. The Mac version is not quite up to snuff compared to the PC version, giving
your PC counterparts a slight advantage. However, the Mac version is just as addicting.
When you cannot remember the last time you had a full night's sleep, don't say I
didn't warn you! This game is a blast, and a must have for any first person shooter
- Awesome graphics and effects
- Well-balanced game play
- Exciting and addictive multiplayer action
- Awesome vehicle support
- Lack of save game control
- Story too short
- Mouse control not as good as PC version
- Net games status text scrolls off screen too fast
4 out of 5 Mice