Back in 2001, Halo: Combat Evolved became just the Killer App Microsoft needed to get into the Console Wars with its 128-Bits Machine, Xbox. Now, almost 2 decades later, 6 games of the succesful Sci-Fi First Person Shooter franchise hit the PC with a collection that no fan of the series can pass.
Now that we have A LOT of shooters made with Unreal Engine, the controls and overall gameplay are what you’d come to expect from the genre. Be it gaming mouse and keyboard, Xbox 360 controller or an Elite Xbox One gamepad, you move with the left stick, look around and aim with the right stick, shoot with the right trigger, and such and such with the rest of the buttons, which you figure out as you go.
The missions are more or less simple, go around and kill every alien you see in the map, until new enemies arrive or you have to go to a different path to continue your job as an extraterrestrial exterminator. Of course, it is a little more complex than that (especially in the later games included) but you get the point.
The game pace is not as fast as in the new Doom, or high-speed arena shooters like Quake, where you run around like if you have rocket powered rollerskates. Halo has a more relaxed approach, where you can take cover and come up with strategies to face your enemies, and the gravity of the planets you’re in makes you weight less than on Earth, so you can jump a little higher (and slower) and can even aquip a jet pack to reach higher places and avoid getting shot by laser guns of otherworldly beigns.
One game mechanic that was new at the time of Combat Evolved release, was the way the shield worked. Most FPS titles back then had body armor that allowed your character to take more damage when bullets hit you in certain parts, or it was something that covered you completely instead of your health meter until it was depleted and you had to find more armor shards, but in Halo, it’s different.
Your always surrounded by a shield aura that can be broken after you take enough damage, but it will recover completely if you can avoid attacks after a few seconds. If you take a hit and you have no bulletproof shield on, then your health bar will go down, and to recover life you have to use health packs that you can find scattered around the levels. Recovering health while staying still was something added to the genre later on.
Another aspect that set apart Halo from other similar games at the time, was the way you can use vehicles. Getting on the wheel of a futuristic militar Cherokee while someone of your squad was trigger happy with the ChainGun on the back, was a blast in 2001 (and still is). You can also ride hovering crafts where the pilot can shoot without a gunner, and gun over on foot troops instead of putting bullets on them if you want a more Carmaggedon-like experience.
Overall, the campaign is what you’d expect from a title that has a space super soldier holding an assault rifle on the cover, but the multiplayer really set a new standard among FPS enthuasiats. More so once Xbox Live came around.
This collection features games that looked great in their time of release, but now they show their age. There are graphic options to improve the lighting, shading and texture filtering, and even change the native resolution up to 4K, but the blocky 3D models may not be of the taste of the average modern player.
There’s an option to keep the original look of the games for the Retro Gamer or nostalgic fan that wants to relive the experience of Master Chief like when the titles originally came out, but the option is there if you want to change the field of view, screen aspect ratio, frame rate and other customizable choices to get what is best for your monitor. If you own a powerful GPU with a monitor that has Adaptive Sync, then you can take full advantage of the unlimited frames option.
The Halo Theme song has become a staple in videogame culture, it is easily recognizable and catchy enough so you can still hear it in your mind once you’ve put down the controller. Of course, it’s not Super Mario Bros. Theme Song, but it stays with you longer than say… Metal Gear Solid Alert track.
The original music created for the series is composed of great tunes that fit the interplanetary sci-fi setting of the Master Chief adventures right on, and each song matches the setting and mood you’re in. When your exploring a planet on your 26th century jeep, chatting with your teammates, watching the cut scenes or engaged in an epic battle, the music is always outstanding.
The SFX are what you expect from a game of its kind, weapons, explosions, alien noises and super advanced tech equipment, all sound in place and make you feel like living inside a Science Fiction movie.
The voice over work is also very well done, all the time you can hear your squad talking over the comms, or listen to their voice clearly if your close enough. In Halo Reach there are no subtitles shown in the cinematics, but the actors speak clearly. However, they would’ve helped in the parts where you’re in an aircarft flying over a war zone, since you can’t make out some phrases, that might have been important to the story.
It’s also worth mentioning that most games in the collection have been translated in different languages. So if you’re curious of how Noble Six talks in Spanish, here you can find out, but don’t expect the earlier games on the series to be dubbed in every language, international players at least have all the text presented in a way they can understand.
While currently you can only play Halo Reach in the PC version, eventually, you’ll get access to half a dozen games, which in Solo Play can give you up to a hundred hours of fun. And if you play Campaigns in Co-Op, the fun will last for a long time.
What really can get you to play non-stop, is the Multiplayer, because all the games together give you over 140 maps to make play in the greatest Battle Royales of the past generation. Before we all became connected with high speed internet, the LAN parties of Halo 1 and 2 were the real deal, and with all the technology available now to play with people all over the world, this collections offers you non-stop sci-fi multiplayer action.
The first games in the series may not have aged that well, but for those for whatever reason haven’t gotten into the Spartan wars (maybe you were more of a Nintendo or PlayStation Gamer) now is finally the time to get on it with all the main titles available for the PC. Time to see what the hype was all about and see if Master Chief is worthy of all the fame gotten over the last 2 decades.