Deep in the Heart of Autumn
were silent spaces for fifty
of the ones that need no name
From this celestial bough
all but one did fall into
the pitless fires of reach
A soldier's ignominy
to have dreamt while brothers bled
But oh, for the rest of us
His shame was our salvation
- Author Unknown, 26th Century
Halo is currently (2002) the top of the line in first-person shooters. Developed for Microsoft's XBox by Bungie Software, there are some who say that it's more that the XBox was developed for Halo. I wouldn't be surprised if the requirements for Halo made it into the design process for the XBox, at the very least in the configuration of the controllers. Yes, the game is that good.
It also rather recently (October 2003) came out for the PC. Yay!
Update: This information is old. It's not the best game for the XBox anymore. Its sequel, Halo 2 is. I suggest playing both of them.
Update: While Halo 2 remains the best game for the XBox, it is now rather overshadowed by its big brother Halo 3, on the XBox 360.
The year is 2552. Humanity is waging a losing fight against the Covenant, a coalition of several technologically advanced species. You play the role of Master Chief Petty Officer John-117, a member of the SPARTAN project, which took a bunch of 6 year olds and with careful biomedical and cybernetic alterations, turned them into super soldiers. He's usually just called Master Chief.
Various alterations were made, most importantly including a set of "shields" installed. When the game starts you awaken out of cryogenic freezing aboard the Pillar of Autumn, which having just arrived in the system containing "Halo", is under attack by Covenant forces, who are boarding the ship.
As you fight your way off the ship, to an escape pod which crash lands on the surface of Halo, you find out just how important those shields are. You fight alongside a bunch of Marines who die a lot easier than you do. A lot.
Stepping out of the crashed landing pod, being the only survivor, you finally actually see what Halo is. A massive structure spinning in space, Halo is like a miniature Ringworld. (Only 5,000 km in radius instead of 1 AU.) And it is stunning. The graphics are absolutely top of the line.
This is where things get really interesting. It's now up to you, with the help of any surviving Marines you run into, to find out what Halo is, and what it was built for. All of this, of course, before the Covenant can do the same thing, or before they kill you all.
So, off you go, trooping over hill and through dale, through snow and into various installations. And a'killing as you go.
One of the most enjoyable parts of the game is driving the vehicles. There's 4 types. The Warthog is like a 4x4 Jeep with a big chaingun in the back, which you'll need a 2nd player or a handy Marine to fire. If not, just zoom around and run over enemies.
There's the Scorpion, which is a big assed tank. Not much to say about that, it blows stuff up real good.
There's the Ghost, made by the Covenant. It is kind of a hover motorcycle, mounted with plasma guns. It's the fastest way to travel, and it's also the only vehicle which can strafe. Very fun.
And then there's the banshees. They are a small flying fighter craft. Not all too sturdy, but they do have a nice big plasma blaster, as well as a devastating fuel rod cannon. Boom! Strafing runs are always fun, and there are parts where you will have to dogfight with Covenant in other banshees.
The Campaign game has four different difficulty settings, Easy, Normal, Heroic, and Legendary. It can be done with either one or two players. Legendary *cannot* be done with a single player. I've seen people try. This is of course not true. The it cannot be done on legendary part, not the I've seen people try part.
I don't know what it is about this game, but I've gone to sleep for the night with people playing it, and woken up the next morning with them still playing. They were trying to beat the Legendary game IIRC. The game's like that. Its quite realistic, and has awesome graphics. But all of that fades besides the awesome might of its fun factor.
Most impressive is the AI. It's smart. Most of the time, it's smarter than me. On the harder settings these guys know what they're doing. And what they're doing is most likely killing you.
The XBox allows up to 4 Xboxes to be networked together over a LAN. It has four controllers max per XBox. This allows for the capability of up to 16 people playing at a time over a LAN.
This is not ideal. Honestly, the screen gets too small when you have to cut it into four, even if you're playing on a big screen television. Ideally, you only want 2 people per television. Gives you plenty of room.
There are a few types of games to be played. Slayer is just a regular deathmatch, the one with the most kills wins.
Capture the Flag is, well, capturing the other team's flag and bringing it back to yours. Just like every other CtF game.
The Race games have you running around trying to get through checkpoints before your opponents do. It's hard to get through checkpoints when you're dead.
King of the Hill is won by the player(s) are able to spend more time within a marked off section of the map. This is where grenades come in handy.
And there's Oddball. The winner is the one who spends the most time holding the "Oddball." Of course, you run slower and can't use your weapons while holding the Oddball.
There's a lot of customizations that can be made to the gametypes. Stuff like what kind of vehicles you can use to the types of weapons included, teams or free for all. Rocket Launchers and Tanks can be fun, but so can running around with just pistols of plasma guns.
I suck at multiplayer. At least compared to all of my friends who play this game WAY too much.
This game isn't perfect. Large sections of the last half of the campaign game are fairly repetitive. And as for the multiplayer, I honestly think they should have included a LOT more levels to choose from. I think there's only about 10 levels or so. (I'll update when I get a chance to count 'em.) And this does get tiring after a while, especially when you have some people who play it so much that they get to know them inside and out.
That having been said, this game still rocks. The gameplay is excellent, the sound effects are good, and the graphics are unequalled anywhere.
If you own an XBox and don't have this game, well, that's just silly. It's like those people who bought a Gamecube and didn't get Rogue Squadron. Why did they bother? Yes, I do know some of those people. Yes, you might be one. Go fix that. :)
It may not be the best game ever, as many people are claiming, but to date it certainly is the best game available for the system. Oh, and it is apparently going to be made available for PC and the Mac eventually, but no one, not even Bungie Software, knows exactly when.
Oh yes, I also forgot to mention one thing. Halo does have a really good storyline. It also has a book based upon said storyline. Read about it at Fall of Reach.
www.bungie.com/products/halo/halo.htm (Check here for screenshots!
halo.bungie.org (A very good fansite)
Way too much time playing it.