When Microsoft released its Xbox game console in late 2001, easily the best launch title for the system was Halo. Originally announced way back in 1999 and slated for release on the PC and Macintosh, this first-person shooter became an Xbox exclusive after Microsoft bought the developer, Bungie. Halo for the Xbox has gone on to sell more than 3 million copies worldwide--which isn't proof of the game's superior quality, but certainly is evidence of it. Yet, the game was never officially canceled for its originally intended platforms, and at long last, it's available for the PC. For the most part, this new version of Halo is a straight port of the 2-year-old Xbox game. You'd think a high-end PC could handle such a game easily, but this port, which was done by Gearbox Software, is surprisingly taxing even on very fast PCs with tons of RAM and the latest video cards. Halo for the PC also loses the original version's much-vaunted cooperative play mode. But in spite of all that, and in spite of the very high standards for first-person shooters on the PC, Halo is still an incredible action game. It's a true classic--a game that hasn't lost any of its impact and intensity over time.
Halo consists of an intense, story-driven single-player campaign and a multiplayer mode. The campaign is a good 12 hours long at the normal difficulty setting, and the dynamic nature of the battles, along with the multiple, well-balanced difficulty settings, gives it good replay value. The multiplayer component only supports up to 16 players and includes a bare-bones integrated server finder. The game tends to play smoothly online if you can find a server with a low enough ping, and it features an assortment of different modes, which are variations on the standard modes of play found in your typical multiplayer shooter: They include slayer (meaning, deathmatch), team slayer, capture the flag, king of the hill, and some others, though slayer and CTF are by far the most popular choices judging from the servers that are up and running.
Halo is famous for integrating powerful, fun-to-drive vehicles with the on-foot action, and this is what distinguishes its multiplayer component from that of other shooters, though some other PC shooters have also integrated vehicles more or less successfully since the original release of Halo. The PC version exclusively features a couple of multiplayer-only weapons not found in the Xbox version--the flamethrower and the fuel rod gun, sort of a plasma grenade launcher--though they're not as interesting as the game's core weapons. There are also six new multiplayer maps that were made for the PC version of the game. All in all, Halo's multiplayer component can make for some good, chaotic fun and seems to have a lot of potential for when the fan community gets hold of the editing tools that Gearbox has promised.
For the time being, it's Halo's single-player component that's the main attraction. If you've played it on the Xbox, then you already know why--and you may still wish to pick up the PC version of the game just to go through this outstanding campaign with higher-resolution graphics, virtually non-existent loading times, and more-responsive controls than what can be found on the Xbox. The standard first-person shooter controls work flawlessly with this game, so you'll be able to pick it up and start playing in no time if you've played any other shooter lately.