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Halo: Combat Evolved

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Halo: Combat Evolved
Developer(s) Bungie Studios, PC port by Gearbox Software
Publisher(s) Microsoft Game Studios
Release date(s) 2001 (Xbox), 2003 (PC/Mac)
Genre First-person shooter
Mode(s) Single player, multiplayer
Rating(s) ESRB: Mature (M)
Platform(s) Xbox, Windows PC, Mac

Halo: Combat Evolved, or simply Halo, is a video game in the first-person shooter (FPS) genre, created by the Microsoft-owned Bungie Studios. It was released for the Xbox game console on November 15, 2001.

Contents

Introduction

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A magazine cover featuring Halo

Halo was one of the first games for the Xbox gaming system, considered by many to be that platform's "must-have" game. The game has sold several million copies since its release on November 15 2001 alongside the Xbox console. Many consider Halo to be one of the best, or most influential, first-person shooters of all time. For example, the usually harsh Edge magazine gave it a full score of ten out of ten. Nevertheless, Halo has its weaknesses; its game play has been criticised as repetitive, an element Bungie acknowledges as a design decision. In the words of Bungie’s lead designer, Jaime Griesemer, "there was maybe 30 seconds of fun that happened over and over and over and over again. So if you can get 30 seconds of fun you can pretty much stretch that out to be an entire game."

Halo is a FPS (first person shooter), in which the player assumes the role of Master Chief, a cyborg with MJOLNIR battle armor accompanied by Cortana, an AI construct that resides in the neural implant between the suit and the Master Chief's brain. The game is relatively simple to learn when compared to other first person shooters. It has a total count of only 8 weapons (not including grenades and other weapons that are only found in the campaign mode), well-regarded by critics because of the subtle balances and interplay they exhibit. Only two weapons may be carried at any given time, an element which provokes careful decisions by players during play.

Although Halo has a well-regarded campaign (single player) mode, it is most popular for its multiplayer function. See the multiplayer section below.

The game does not support Microsoft's broadband gaming service Xbox Live because it was not available at the time Halo: Combat Evolved was released. However, the game is playable via Xbox Connect packet tunnelling software, which simulates a Local Area Network (LAN) over the internet. Thus, using the System Link option of Halo: Combat Evolved enables people to play online with and against each other. The successor of Halo: Combat Evolved, Halo 2, does fully support Xbox Live.

Plaforms

Prior to Bungie's takeover by Microsoft, the initial release of Halo was planned for the Mac OS and Windows platforms; in fact, the game was first previewed at the Macworld Conference & Expo, New York, in 1999. It was also originally planned as a real-time strategy game.

Following the takeover, Halo was released exclusively for Microsoft's Xbox game console on November 15, 2001.

Almost two years later on September 30, 2003 a port (developed by Gearbox Studios) of Halo for Windows was released, followed by a release for Mac OS X on December 11, 2003.

The Windows version does however have some problems, largely stemming from its porting. While the plot and content remained the same, there were frame rate issues. Most of the issues, however, were caused by users who used detail settings from other games as a starting point for Halo's settings. When detail settings (many barely noticeable when active) were removed or lessened, frame rates typically were raised to acceptable levels.

Gameplay

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A scene from Halo gameplay
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Driving a Warthog vehicle

Halo's gameplay is characterized by several features which set it apart from less acclaimed first-person shooter games. It was the first game to combine features such as recharging shields and a limited inventory of weapons, and has been widely imitated since the game's release.

  • Storyline execution: Halo's gameplay and storyline are tightly interwoven, and delivered in a convincing manner which is consistent with the flow of the game.
  • Vehicles: Halo incorporates many vehicles into its single and multiplayer games, including flying ones. The player can seamlessly change from guerilla foot tactics to intense vehicle operations. However, the player cannot operate some vehicles, such as the Covenant tank, otherwise known as a Covenant "Wraith," and the different dropships.
  • Weapons system: Halo's weapons system is unusual in two respects. First, it allows one to carry only two weapons at any given time, forcing the player to switch weapons often and make trade-offs when choosing which weapons to carry. The player must also regulate ammunition fired and police weapons from fallen solders and covenant. Second, Halo has an independent button for throwing grenades, these also must be regulated and policed.
  • Artificial intelligence: Halo's AI was quite sophisticated for its time. For example, the more cowardly types of enemies would panic when one of their superiors was killed. If a speeding vehicle came at them, they could dive out of the way, and they could take cover from explosives or suppressive fire.

Movement and aiming

Movement in Halo is similar to other first-person shooters, allowing the player to move forwards, backwards, and strafe left and right independently of their aim. On the Xbox, moving and aiming are normally separated between the two analog sticks; and on the PC, between the mouse and the keyboard.

Halo also allows the player to crouch and jump, although jumping from a high ledge will often result in death.

Damage system

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The health and shield indicator in Halo. The blue bar is the shield level.
  • Health: The player in Halo has a limited, non self-regenerating health which can be fully restored by picking up health-packs. Running completely out of health will result in death, but having lower health doesn’t impede player actions. A player's health can only be reduced if his shields have failed. If the player's health is low (into the red) the game will begin to play a low heart-beat sound. This usually requires a very quiet area or a sound system with a subwoofer to be noticable.
  • Shields: The player carries a shield which protects all parts of his body from damage. The shield will decrease in strength every time it is hit by a weapon, and will fail after taking enough hits, but will quickly recharge if the player is not attacked for a short period of time, duck and cover is part of the training in the first level. The shield represents a marked departure from most first-person shooters, in which one's health bar is basically augmented by picking up "armor," and it is entirely possible, in the single-player campaign at least, to simply not have enough health points to survive the next section of game play. Halo players, on the other hand, have a more-or-less permanent buffer of health at their disposal (assuming they manage to find time to regenerate the shield), making it less of a disaster to take hits in combat. The shield is not impenetrable, however; direct rocket hits and sniper rifle headshots can kill a player instantly.

Powerups

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With Active camo, the player is rendered invisible.

There are three types of powerups available in Halo:

  • Health packs: Fully restore the health of the player.
  • Active camouflage: Reduces the player's visibility for a period of time, making all but a faint outline of him transparent. This effect is cancelled if the player is hit by weapons fire or if the player performs any action like opening doors.
  • Over Shield: The over shield is a non-regenerating extra shield which functions on top of the regular shield, giving the player three times their normal damage capacity. When it is active, the normal shield does not take damage or recharge until the over shield is completely gone. If the over shield is picked up when the shield is down, the player receives a full charge and the effects of the over shield. In the single player game, the over shield is reduced only when the player is hit, while in the multiplayer game, it also weakens gradually with time (see MJOLNIR MARK V battle suit). For the few seconds that the overshield is charging, the player is invincible.

Allies/Enemies

Three factions of allies/enemies are encountered on Halo: the Covenant, the Flood, and the Forerunner Sentinels.

  • Covenant: The Covenant is set up as a caste system. It is ruled by the High Prophets as a conglomeration of different species that were defeated and incorporated into the Prophet's fold, including: Grunts, which are extremely useless by themselves; Jackals with energy shields strapped to their wrists; Elites, the backbone of the Covenant armada; and Hunters who have thick armor plates that cover most of their bodies. The Covenant wield plasma weapons of varying power, including energy swords carried by some Elites and fuel rod cannons used by Hunters and Veteran Grunts. They also make extensive use of vehicles.
  • The Flood: The parasitic Flood are encountered in 3 forms: Infection Forms, the lowly parasitic spores themselves, which usually die from a single shot; Combat Forms, walking forms of former humans and Covenant whose nervous systems have been taken over by the parasite, which are tough and may carry either human or Covenant weapons; and exploding Carrier Forms, which cause splash damage and release Infection Forms.
  • Forerunner Sentinels: The Sentinels are drones that were designed to maintain and limit the flood. 343 Guilty Spark is the caretaker of Installation 04 and can control the sentinels as well as many other aspects of Halo. The Sentinels possess a powerful beam weapon and, while immune to infection by the Flood, are not particularly durable or resistant to damage. Some contain shield generators, which cast the same shield type as the ones the Elites have. Sentinels will target Covenant forces and the Master Chief if ordered by 343 Guilty Spark.

Weapons

Main article: List of weapons in Halo: Combat Evolved

Vehicles

Main article: List of vehicles in the Halo universe

Secrets

A number of easter eggs have been discovered in Halo: Combat Evolved, deliberately put there by the programmers of the game to make their "mark." Some of the most notable are:

Meg Egg

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A closeup of the "Megg," a bloody heart with bullets shaped like an "M"

The Meg Easter egg ("Megg") was a private gift from Jaime Griesemer (Designer on Halo, Lead Designer on Halo 2) for his significant other, Meg Sagi (a.k.a. Pallor). It is located in a normally locked room near the bridge of the Pillar of Autumn. The Megg can be seen by completing a sequence of events, or "triggers," that are not included in the normal sequence of the game. It was a personal gift and therefore not intended to be seen by the normal player, but its discovery sparked a massive hunt to find how to unlock it. According to Meg, the gift incorporated many elements of the game that she enjoyed - "senseless carnage, insane tasks, blood, bullets, dying, and an old fashioned image." There is no Megg in the Halo port for PC, even though you can still get to the area where it was by fulfilling the same triggers.

Bridge Bulletin Board

There is a bulletin board outside the bridge of the Pillar of Autumn, which has several posters on it, most of which are eggs.

Multiplayer Select Screen

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An annotated version of the multiplayer select screen.

When you select "edit gametypes" on the multiplayer select screen, an image of a Spartan appears to the right of the multiplayer select screen with little captions pointing to various parts of his body. On closer inspection these captions are actually easter eggs:

  • Sometimes I give myself the creeps/Sometimes my mind plays tricks on me. (This is a lyric from the Green Day song 'Basket Case'.)
  • Hydraulic suspension thigh pads with cool Kevlar crap
  • Action/Reload one-way flexible joint system
  • UV protectant: See visor for protection from elements
  • UV protectant: See armor for protection from elements
  • All your base are belong to us
  • Directional Lock MJOLNIR Cyborg Dealer Parts

These captions are also present in the PC port of Halo.

Environments

Halo features a wide variety of environments the game starts and ends in the same place: The Pillar of Autumn. Levels on Covenant ships include the Truth and Reconciliation and the Flood-infested ship in Keyes, there are ancient buildings on Halo itself, and vast outdoor expanses of varying climates, including the temperate lands of the levels The Silent Cartographer and Halo, the desert in the first half of the level Truth and Reconciliation, the winter wasteland of the levels Assault on the Control Room and Two Betrayals, and the forests and swamps of the level 343 Guilty Spark. Six of the ten levels feature a substantial amount of combat outdoors.

Multiplayer

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In team play, each player is red or blue.
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In Slayer and Oddball mode, players can choose their own colors.
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A bird's eye view of the Blood Gulch multiplayer map. Taken using a mod.
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A time-lapse screenshot of a Warthog Jump.

16 players can play together in one Halo game over a local area network, using four Xboxes that have been connected through the Ethernet hub. The game's seamless support for this type of play, as well as a few large maps that can comfortably hold up to 16 combatants, is a first for console games.

Players can customize each round of multiplayer with a wide variety of settings:

  • Weapon sets - Human only, Covenant only, Snipers, Rockets, Pistols, random, etc. Grenade types (either plasma and fragmentation) can also be customized.
  • Game length - Either by the number of kills or a certain amount of time
  • Game mode - Determines the way the game will be played. Capture the Flag (where two teams attempt to capture each others' flag), Oddball (a game where players fight over a skull "ball"), King of the Hill, and others, including Slayer (a standard deathmatch mode), are available from the start, but players have the ability to create a completely new game setting by manipulating a wide variety of options.
  • Map (see below)
  • Vehicle sets - Limited to Scorpions, Warthogs, and Ghosts, or all of the three combined. Only certain maps can support vehicles.

The PC version of Halo adds online play, new vehicles (Banshee and a Warthog with a tri-barrel rocket launcher), and weapons (Fuel Rod Cannon and Flamethrower) for multiplayer.

Multi-Player levels include:

  • Battle Creek, "Splash Splash, Bang Bang", 2-8 Players
  • Sidewinder,” Red Blood, White Snow", 4-16 Players
  • Damnation, "Covenant Hydro-Processing Center", 4-8 Players
  • Rat Race, "Up the Ramps, Down the Tubes", 2-6 Players
  • Prisoner, "Get on Top", 2-8 Players
  • Hang 'Em High, “Tombstones for Everybody", 4-16 Players
  • Chill Out, "Dude, you really need to...” 2-8 Players
  • Derelict, "Deep-Space Anomaly #0198", 4-8 Players
  • Boarding Action, "Ship-to-Ship Combat", 4-16 Players
  • Blood Gulch, "The Quick and the Dead", 4-16 Players
  • Wizard, "Round and Round and Round", 2-8 Players
  • Chiron TL34, "Spartan Clone Training Complex", 2-6 Players
  • Longest, "A long walk down a short hall...” 2-8 Players

Blood Gulch is the map primarily used for the machinima video webcomic Red Vs Blue. An updated version of the map appears in Halo 2 under the name Coagulation. Battle Creek also returns under the name Beaver Creek.

Warthog Jump

The Warthog jump is a game trick popularized by a series of videos made by gamer Randall Glass, who was given the role of "Vic" on the Halo-themed movie series Red Vs Blue as a result. It is purely for fun, as it is of no tactical value whatsoever.

The Warthog jump involves a Warthog vehicle backed against a boulder. Then a series of players intentionally die around the Warthog, dropping grenades in the process. Once there is a large pile of grenades, they can be detonated by throwing a live grenade into the pile, causing the Warthog to jump into the air and fly to the top of the map. Although the trick was originally performed in singleplayer, due to the availability of grenades, it was later also performed in multiplayer, where it required to coordinate efforts of many players at once to throw enough grenades at the same time to have the desired effect.

Storyline

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An early screen shot of the game that would become Halo, circa 1998.

Halo's storyline is presented to the player through an instruction manual, scripted events and conversations during the game, and a number of cut-scenes rendered using the game's graphics engine. This method of storyline delivery is common among modern video games. As a literary side note, the design of "Halo" borrows heavily from the ring-shaped Culture Orbitals of Iain M. Banks, and many of the naming conventions recall Banks' novels.

Synopsis

Like previous Bungie releases such as the Marathon series, Halo has an intricate plot. The "Halo" in the title refers to an enormous (approximately 10,000 kilometers in diameter) artificial space habitat which is discovered by the human warship Pillar of Autumn. The central character, the Master Chief Spartan-117, is aboard this vessel at the start of the game.

The Pillar of Autumn exits slip-space to find a mysterious ring shaped space station orbiting a gas giant. The ring, called "Halo" by the Covenant, is obviously artificial and teeming with life. A Covenant fleet, however, is also present, and a subsequent battle heavily damages the Pillar of Autumn. Captain Keyes initiates the Cole protocol - all records of Earth's location are erased, and the Autumn is crash landed onto Halo. The ship's AI construct, Cortana, leaves the Autumn with the Master Chief in an escape pod which also crash lands on Halo.

Game play begins in earnest with the Master Chief's escape from the Autumn, and continues upon landing. With the help of his fellow marines and the ship's artificial intelligence, Cortana, the Master Chief discovers the secrets of Halo while fighting off the Covenant, enemies of humanity who, wish to begin and complete the Great Journey and join the forerunner at the journey’s end.

The first levels of the game deal with an attempt to reach Halo's control center to uncover its purpose. It is soon discovered that the Covenant have accidentally released the "Flood", a parasitic race that gets its name from its nature, the Flood overwhelm, infest, then spread. The Flood sweep across Halo and destroy human and Covenant forces positioned on it. The release of the Flood prompts 343 Guilty Spark, an eccentric Artificial Intelligence responsible for monitoring and maintaining the ring world’s systems, to try and get the Master Chief to activate Halo's defense system.

This defense system is in fact a pulse weapon that, when fired, would wipe out all life in the galaxy large enough to be hosts for the Flood. Technically, that installation only has a maximum effective radius of 25,000 light year s, but the pulse would trigger other installations as well, effectively killing all life in the galaxy. This system is designed to stop the Flood from spreading through the universe if they escape the confinement of Halo by the only way possible: starving the Flood of any life source large enough to sustain them.

Naturally, this would wipe out Humanity as well, and so the final levels of the game revolve around the Master Chief's attempts to destroy Halo before it fires. The game leaves the story open to further developments, with the revelation that there are most likely several Halo ring worlds in the galaxy, due to Halo being numbered "Installation 04" by 343 Guilty Spark.

Characters

Main article: Halo characters

Back story

The events which transpire in Halo's game play may be better understood in the context of its back story, created by Bungie and elaborated in several novels written after the release of the game. A summary of this back-story is presented below.

Early Conflicts

In the years 2160-2200, various governments and factions fought for control of Earth and its first Colonies. As overpopulation and unrest on Earth mounted, new political movements formed including the Jovian Frieden and Koslovics led by Vladimir Koslov, resurgences of Fascism and Communism which waged the Interplanetary, Rain Forest Wars Campaign and Mars clashes and were defeated by the United Nations Space Command.

The human colonization of the Orion Arm

In the years 2170-2291, the United Nations Space Command (UNSC) successfully develop humanity's first faster than light drive, the Shaw-Fujikawa Trans-light Engine. For the first time in history, the rapid colonization of other worlds is made possible. By 2390, 210 worlds had been occupied by humans, and were being actively terraformed to suit man's needs. These worlds are to become known as the Inner Colonies. By 2490, the UNSC's fledging Interstellar Empire had expanded to over 800 planets throughout the Orion Arm of the Milky Way Galaxy. During this period, the planet Reach becomes one of the two headquarters of the UNSC military and government (the other was Earth itself), and is destined to become the most heavily fortified world under human control and the Inner Colonies became the heart of the United Nations Imperial Government

In addition, there were Brushfire Wars in the Outer Colonies in which Rebel Insurrections including the one at the Eridanus System led by Colonel Robert Watts were suppressed.

The Human-Covenant Wars begin

On February 3, 2525, first contact was made with an alliance of alien races that referred to itself as The Covenant. On that day, a single Covenant Warship exterminated the surface population of the Outer Colony of Harvest. Three UNSC battleships and a Colonial Military Administration scout ship, the Argo, were sent to investigate this incident and in doing so, engaged the Covenant ship in battle. Only one, the Heracles, managed to return to Reach badly damaged. The Heracles returned with a message that was sent to them pre-translated by the Covenant saying, "Your destruction is the will of the gods, we are their instrument". By December of the same year, the UNSC mobilized a massive fleet under the command of Vice Admiral Preston Cole, with orders to reclaim the Harvest Colony and impede the Covenant advance. Cole won the battle and reclaimed the glassed planet, but it required the sacrifice of over one third of his numerically superior fleet.

Covenant ships possess several technological features, which make them far superior to their human counterparts. First, they have superior maneuvering and tracking abilities when employing faster than light travel (ships in Halo, like many other science fiction titles, achieve faster than light speeds by moving through an alternate realm. In Halo it is called "slipspace"). Although the Covenant and humanity use essentially the same techniques to enter slipspace, the Covenant are unaware that their engines can be used much more accurately than human technology.

Second, Covenant ships possess resilient, recharging shields, which must be destroyed in order to physically damage the ship. This is quite difficult, as they can withstand a near-direct nuclear explosion.

Third, Covenant ships employ more powerful weapons, including a form of guided plasma, which can often destroy human vessels in a single hit. It should be noted that the Covenant also uses plasma to exterminate the surface population of a planet (a process known as 'glassing').

The Cole Protocol

Quoted from Halo: The Fall of Reach, page 135:

"To safeguard the Inner Colonies and Earth, all UNSC vessels or stations must not be captured with intact navigation databases that may lead Covenant forces to human civilian population centers. If any Covenant forces are detected:
  1. Activate selective purge of databases on all ship based and planetary data networks.
  2. Initiate triple-screen check to ensure all data has been erased and all backups neutralized.
  3. Execute viral data scavengers. (Download from UNSCTTP://EPWW.COLEPROTOCOL/Virtualscav/fbr.091)
  4. If retreating from Covenant forces, all ships must enter Slipstream space with randomized vectors NOT directed toward Earth, the Inner Colonies, or any other human population center.
  5. In case of imminent capture by Covenant forces, all UNSC ships MUST self-destruct.
Violation of this directive will be considered an act of TREASON, and pursuant to UNSC Military Law Articles JAG-845-P and JAG 7556-L, such violations are punishable by life imprisonment or execution."

The Covenant find Earth by capturing 343 Guilty Spark who leads them to other rings and shows them the location of earth that he downloaded from the Pillar of Autumn. At the end of the first game, after the credits, it is revealed to us that 343 escaped the Autumn and is flying through space. In Halo 2, he is first captured by the Heretics, then makes his way to the Prophets by way of the Arbiter and Tartarus.

The SPARTAN Project

Several decades before contact with the Covenant was made, the UNSC military embarked on a secret project to create a group of elite soldiers that would deal with occasional unrest in the Colonies. Code-named SPARTANs, these genetically enhanced troops were trained from the age of six into a life of battle, and became a great asset against the Covenant. While humans suffered defeat after defeat in space, they could almost always prevail with the help of the SPARTANs in ground engagements. The main character of Halo's gameplay, the Master Chief, is a veteran SPARTAN.

All SPARTANS were given special armor designated MJOLNIR, which, in laymen’s terms, can increase their strength and speed. They were the only ones who could wear it, as those without the proper SPARTAN body training or body augmentations (like the SPARTAN upgrades) killed themselves with strength-enhanced convulsions.

The Battle of Reach

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UNSC cruiser Pillar of Autumn

By 2552, many of Humanity's Outer Colonies have been destroyed by the Covenant (although they were routed at Sigma Octanus IV). In a move of desperation, UNSC orders a secret plan to capture a Covenant ship using a SPARTAN task force and find the coordinates of their home planet. A group of SPARTANs, led by the Master Chief, also knowed as Spartan 117, are chosen for this mission, and board a specially outfitted Halcyon-class cruiser, the Pillar of Autumn, under the command of Captain Jacob Keyes. This plan, however, is interrupted when the Covenant launch a surprise attack on the fortress world of Reach via automated probe attached to the UNSC Iroquois,

During this battle, half of Reach is overrun and glassed, and the human fleet is obliterated. Worse still, the Master Chief thinks that all of the SPARTANs but himself are killed on the surface of the planet (the SPARTANs are revealed to have survived in Halo: First Strike). The last remaining SPARTAN, the Master Chief, escapes with the Pillar of Autumn. In accordance with the Cole Protocol, the Autumn makes a blind slipspace jump, and emerges in the vicinity of an unexplored and remarkable world: Halo.

Unreleased Macworld 1999 and E3 2000 versions of Halo

In early versions of the game, the Player is a Marine Recon Unit of the Human Empire. Pursued by Alien Covenant ships, the Human ship is destroyed and crashes on Halo and the player must defeat Humankind's sworn enemy through a Guerrilla war over air, land, and sea above and below the surface of Halo.

Books

As of 2004, three books have been written based in the Halo universe.

Future developments

The next episode in the Halo story, Halo 2, was released on November 9, 2004. [1] (http://www.bungie.net/News/Story.aspx?link=5B522E9E-A265-409E-9267-EB2EDCFD50B4) Like the previous fan-beloved Marathon, Halo 2 has a return of old characters and new technology in attempt to further a complicated plot line, the object of which is to be deciphered by the end.

A free mod for the computer game series Battlefield 1942/Vietnam called Homefront features Halo-esque and original content for online multiplayer games with up to 64 players. Not only this mod, but also, many can be found at various sites on the Internet at places like Halomods.com and halocity.org.

A new version of the game, called Halo: Custom Edition, was released by Gearbox Software. It only supports multiplayer mode, and has a customizable map option in which you can design your own multiplayer maps using tools such as 3D Studio Max.

HaloGen is a mod for Command and Conquer Generals. It turns Halo into a RTS.

External links

Template:Bungie Studiosde:Halo (Spiel) fr:Halo sv:Halo: Combat Evolved fi:Halo: Combat Evolved

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