Friday, October 17, 2003

Goodbye Sweetheart, Halo Ringworld



You probably need to have seen Full Metal Jacket to get that pun. Never mind. So, Halo then.

Played this for a couple of hours last night, and got to the first Warthog mission - Reunion Tour.


Impressions so far. The conversion seems truly terrible. I've got double the recommended spec, (P4 1.7GHz, with 256MB of PC800 RDRAM, a Soundblaster Audigy and a 128MB GF4 Ti4600) and every time things start to get a little busy - BAM! Frame rate goes through the floor. 30FPS my arse. 3FPS more like. Performance was helped somewhat by turning off the frame rate limiter and turning off the VSync, but it shouldn't struggle like this at 1280x1024. And it *really* stutters during loading.


Also, the sound is totally fucked up. The volume of firing the assault rifle fluctuates between unaudible and ear drum rupturingly loud. The audio in the cutscenes is all over the place - with huge gaps where presumably people should be talking, and you should be hearing background music, but no - just simple maddening silence and characters standing doing nothing, and no lipsync.
*Very* disappointing.


The controls likewise seem sluggish, even turning up the mouse sensitivity makes little difference to the turn rate, particularly when compounded by the frame rate problems, and the Warthog is practically uncontrollable with the mouse/keyboard setup. Why, oh why couldn't they have used a GTA style control model? Mouse steering is terrible. This is all a vestige from Halo's console roots, and if I can get it working, I may try it with my gamepad, as I can see that being the best control method, especially for the vehicles.


And the aiming reticle. It covers half the screen. What's the point of mouselook if you can't aim with precision? The cursor needs to be half the size it is to even make it something approaching practical.


After this comprehensive list of flaws, you're probably thinking I didn't enjoy anything at all.


Well, no. The game is surprisingly hard to put down. The level design thus far is pretty good - nice interplays between open spaces and tight, building environments and lots of intelligent placement of natural and artificial obstacles for use as cover.


And, boy, do you need that cover. I'm only playing on Normal, being, as I am, pretty crap, but even so - the AI is pretty spectacularly good. The Covenant retreat, panic, flank, co-ordinate attacks and act pretty much as you'd expect when attacking and taking fire.


Whilst the weapons don't feel fantastic, mainly due to the wooly aiming of the huge reticle, the shield system is great, and introduces a tactical edge to the combat - we're talking more Delta Force than Doom here. There's a real ebb and flow, as both sides attack and regroup, and it's truly exceptional stuff. Considering how challenging it is on Normal - I shudder to think how hard it is on Legendary.


Right now - I feel that it's a great game that's being ruined by technical flaws introduced by a sloppy conversion. On the Xbox, this may well be the greatest FPS ever - but on the PC, I can't help feeling a little disappointed.

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