Real quick, a disclaimer: These are just my quick opinions jotted down on a small notepad on my computer. They might not be how you see them and that’s ok I don’t intend these reviews to be like a “Should You Buy?” type of videos. They are just there to document my feelings and mainly for fun. I rate the games on a scale from 1-10 in 5 different areas including: story, gameplay, graphics, sound design, and technical aspects.
Story: 7/10 – I have never played any sort of Halo campaign before so this was my first introduction into the series besides some Reach multiplayer when it was considered new. For the most part, I felt like the story of Combat Evolved set the foundation for the universe of Halo. The actual Halo rings are interesting from a design standpoint and I’m really excited to see what the other installations have to offer. In terms of actual story plot points I didn’t find anything that blew me away, but I also felt it got the job done in an excellent way. The major plot twist half way through was pretty good and created a sense of direness. I also appreciated the comedic relief in the moments of smart, sarcastic quips interchanged between Master Chief and Cortonna. The levels also sent us to a cool jungle, beach, and snowy mountain base environments. Unfortunately, the game always seemed to find a way to funnel all the story in reused mazes of hallways and rooms. Overall, nothing blew me away when compared to today’s standards. That being said, I can definitely see how it was a major pioneer in the action games we see today. It felt very true to the 2000’s brand in terms of action to story ratio. I think it deserves a solid 7/10 maybe even 8/10 when compared to how groundbreaking it was back when it was released.
Gameplay: 8/10 – Where CE’s story lacks, the gameplay makes up for. I really had loads of fun driving the Warthog (even with the dated analog driving controls) and would just try to flip it as many times as I could for fun. The physics in the game are impressive considering the OG engine’s age. Deaths are still animation based, but there is something seriously hilarious watching a Elite’s body flain 80 yards in the air after throwing a grenade that blows up more grenades that blows up a banshee that blows up… well you get the idea. The chain reactions are great fun. Perhaps the greatest design aspect is the vehicles. Warthog, Wraith, Banshee, etc. are all much needed flavors in an otherwise bland movement system. Gunplay is a little stiff sometimes. I feel like CE really set the tone for the peashooter assault rifle and ran with it. Most the time I wished it was more…impactful? The Needler isn’t something that I would pick up all the time, but you can’t play a game of Halo without trying it out then promptly remembering why you dropped it 2 missions ago. The shotgun is the real star of the show, almost becoming a necessity when dealing with the Flood. Speaking of which, holy cow these guys are scary for what they are. Mutated plant dude is the thing of nightmares when they flair their limbs after tanking a clip. Their OG models are even scarier. I can’t tell you how many times I was jump scared after one of them regenerated behind and smacked me in the back of the head. Some stiff guns and foot movement along with some small other nitpicks like the never ending twists and turn corridors that seem to be there only to add time to the mission (LOOKING AT YOU “THE LIBRARY” AND “TWO BETRAYALS”) keep this from getting any higher than a 8. I’m sure I’m forgetting a really important part for me but enough on this part, time to move on.
Graphics: 7/10 – I might get a bunch of flak for this considering what the team at 343 has done regarding a complete graphics overhaul is nothing short of a technical miracle. I admit I would flip back to the old graphics a little more than I thought I would. By the way, thanks to the devs for adding that hotkey option. Really Cool! During the lows between combat I would switch and look at the old skybox and world . While I understand they were good for the time, I didn’t realize how far we’ve come in terms of graphics because some of those old environments were as exciting as a box of gray crayons. The new added foliage does wonders and the skyboxes have been reworked to add dimensions to the other areas of the ring you can see. It’s a real trippy experience to see other parts of the world right above you. Looking up expecting stars and being greeted with the other end of the Halo ring is a unique experience. The interiors have also been updated to a much needed HD texture pack because the old ones were basically plastic. The lighting is where I lose a little interest in the graphics. The shadows seemed lackluster even at max, and some of the interior levels just had this weird artificial lighting effect, especially in the maze of hallways in Two Betrayals. Speaking of which, it’s a shame that many of the best outdoor sights are quickly outshined by the rather boring interiors that the games tend to direct you too as mentioned before.
Sound Design: 7/10 – There’s not much to stay about the sound design. The original score returns in the most impactful moments. The guns sound decent and around what I’d expect. The shotgun cycle sound is just so satisfying to me, especially when unloading the entire tube in enemies without missing a beat. Perhaps the biggest complaint I have, is the fact that some of the OG sounds have more impact or “UMPH” to them when compared to the remastered version. This was most noticeable in the explosions. The remastered version seems to have less bass and more even across the sound spectrum. I get what they were going for but I want impact and power when listening to explosions and find it to be a questionable decision.
Technical Aspects: 10/10 – Funny enough, I never experience even a minor bug while playing through the campaign. While the engine would show its age at times, I felt that it was to be expected for this old of a game and to me that's a gameplay problem. It ran a solid 144+ FPS on my PC (2060 Super, i7-8700) at max settings and never seemed to struggle even at the most demanding of times. I guess there was a time or two in one of the final missions that seemed like a couple of weapons were having a hard time not clipping into walls. This was mainly just a recurring sound of the weapon clanking against the rock or wall.
Final Thoughts: 7.8/10 – Overall, I was really pleased with Combat Evolved. I can easily see why it was so monumental in pioneering the games we see today. If anything, I feel like maybe some of the experience was spoiled by my high expectations when compared to today’s standard of games. I would absolutely rate this a 10/10 game if I was experiencing it back in the OG’s release date. Double that if I was playing with my friend or brother in CO-OP. I couldn’t even imagine the hype of manning the minigun on the Warthog while the other drives. Using grunts for speed bumps and Hunters for target practice would be an experience that I could see earning the rent in some people's Top 10 games. For me and my experience it remains a solid experience and I can’t wait to dive into the other games in the series after a little palate cleanser. Halo: CE lives up to the hype and my only regret is I didn’t play it sooner.
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