Halo: Combat Evolved

Written By: Blake Elens

The year is 2552. Earth’s colonies are under attack by a ruthless group of alien races come to be known as the Covenant. The ship you’re on is the last ship to leave to massacre on Reach, Earth’s last major colony. You traveled to some unknown location in space, hopefully to lead the Covenant away from Earth. At this location, a mysterious halo ring-world is between a planet and it’s moon. Suddenly, your ship is under attack and you crash on this mysterious “Halo”. Now, you must lead a gorilla attack against the Covenant and find out Halo’s deep secrets before the enemy does.

This is possibly the most perfectly balanced FPS in history. Even Half-Life would be glad to be Halo. The A.I. is some of the smartest of all. The weapons are perfectly designed. Everything is just so well mixed in this game.

Let’s talk about multiplayer. Even without the inclusion of LIVE, Halo does very well to keep you playing this game. If you have one special friend, you can get together and play through Halo’s 10 campaign levels on co-op. One Saturday, you could invite 3 friends and you can play through Halo’s big colorful multiplayer levels. You can even hook up 4 Xboxes and have 16 controllers and have an all-night Halo marathon party.

If you have 5.1 Dolby Surround Sound, you will be totally immersed in Halo’s realistic sound effects. The gunshots and explosions will make you feel that you are in a real war. The dialogue is some of the funniest of this generation. Some of the lines you may have heard from such movies like “Animal House” and “Jerry Maguire”. The music is some of the best my ears have ever listened to. If Marty O’Donnell went into movies, James Horner will have some new competition.

These controls may get some getting used to for the console FPS fan. But, if you are a PC FPS fan and hate all the FPS controls that have come out for consoles, this is a breath of very nice fresh air. The left joystick controls the movements and the right joystick controls where you see. The right trigger is your fire button and the left trigger is the grenade button. That is really good for people tired of switching weapons just to throw grenades. The only reason why I didn’t give it a 10 is because of the time it takes for console FPS fans to get used to it. Otherwise, it’s perfect. All future console FPSs should have the exact same controls as Halo.

These are some of the best graphics this generation. The environments are just jaw dropping. You can just sit for hours just looking at the environments. The scenery does something that has hardly been done before; they actually look better when you get closer to them! The character models are as amazing as the environments. You can just stare at your fellow marine comrades. Speaking of fellow comrades, many of them flow on the screen at once. As well as your marine buddies, many of the enemies are on the screen at once, also. Each never losing a single graphical detail.

Halo is the best FPS and one of the best games of all time. The story, the graphics, and the multiplayer make for one hell of an experience. If you own an Xbox, get Halo. If you don’t have an Xbox, buy one and then buy Halo. Trust me on this one; you’ll thank me later.

James Bond 007 in Agent Under Fire

Written By: Will Schaeffer

James Bond 007 in Agent Under Fire (AUF) is in this reviewer’s opinion, probably the most underrated game of this generation of consoles. It baffles me how a game like this gets so little respect, but maybe that’s another topic for another time, but its a pretty decent game overall. Sure, its not “Halo: Combat Evolved quality” (on Xbox and PC), but then again, not a lot of FPSs are.

The game is based on James Bond, however, EA decided to make its own story for the game, instead of following a movie. This allows for the player to actually be somewhat interested in the story, instead of knowing exactly what is going to be happening next. The story isn’t that different from other James Bond licensed products, but that’s what makes them a classic, Bond goes out to save the world, meets a hot chick, saves the world after a car chase ending in a big explosion, and then screws the girl. However this time we find that not all is as it seems about our Bond Girl, Zoë.

The graphics aren’t top notch, but they are on par with this generation, and can still compete with most of the games out there. They weren’t a vocal point for my experience, so this part of the game never bothered me. The sound included that classic James Bond theme, which I never get tired of, and often found myself humming after playing the game. The guns all have clearly distinguishable sounds, which all fit nicely.

The game play again isn’t “Halo: Combat Evolved quality”, but it is neat trying to work through each level doing “Bond Moves” (Such as shooting a wire which holds a crate over a bad guy, or shooting a tank of gas to kill a couple guys from behind) or finding golden 007 Tokens. The levels hold up against most FPSs as well. The AI isn’t too hard or too easy, and there are three difficulty levels.

The value for me, is where the games strength lies. I’ve clocked in a lot of time on the multiplayer, which is for 1-4 players, its neat to be able to play the multiplayer modes just by yourself when you need some practice as well. A thing I found to be really neat to play with is the grappling hook, which allows you to climb up walls, and then jump down when someone walks underneath you. It also basically makes every wall a sniping spot for your SSR 4000. A couple other things I liked is the ability to make the game go faster, have low gravity, and that almost every gun has a back-up weapon (ie. One gun has a grenade launcher with it, the rocket launcher can switch over to rockets controlled by you, which is fun, and the grenade launcher has grenades that can split into six parts, the explode around your opponent) Also there is a level which is sort of a replication of the temple level in Goldeneye (for Nintendo 64), which is neat and almost a nostalgic experience for veterans of Goldeneye. I certainly got my 50 bucks out of this game.

So in summary, this game may not be “Halo: Combat Evolved quality” or live up to Goldeneye, (Which is just about impossible in my book). But it’s definitely a solid Shooter, and worth a rent at least. Enjoy.

Super Smash Bros. Melee

Two words describe this game: must have. This game is a sequel of the successful N64 Super Smash Bros. Melee and has the same idea as the original Super Smash Bros. with just a few upgrades. There are better graphics, more characters, more levels, more moves, more weapons, and more game modes. However, some of these upgrades are a little disappointing. For instance, none of the new characters are really that spectacular, especially because many of them have almost the exact same moves as one of the original characters (Young Link, Falco, Dr. Mario, and Pichu). Also, some of the new weapons are not useful, just annoying (Mr. Saturn, umbrella, cloaking device). The graphics are only slightly better than the N64 version, and none of the new levels are anything special.

However, there a few good changes. Some of the new game modes (like Adventure Matches, Stadium mini-games, and Tournament Melee) are interesting and can be played over and over again, and still be fun. One difference that I really liked was the trophies. Where as the original Super Smash Bros. only gave information on each of characters, in Melee you have little segments of information to all kinds of old Nintendo characters and items. Collecting Trophies and looking through your collection may be one of the funnest parts of the game.

There are also a few differences in the controls and the moves. One part that is very cool is you can now perform your special attacks using the C stick, but you can only do this in VS Mode. All characters now also have a B over attack, in addition to a B attack, a B up attack, and B down attack. The controls are very easy to get used to, especially if you’ve played the original Super Smash Bros. a lot.

Overall, I think the differences between the original Super Smash Bros. and Melee are little disappointing. However, if you look at Melee by itself, it is an excellent game. Besides very good gameplay and good graphics, I think that Melee has exceptional sound. Try playing Melee with the volume all the way down, and I think you’ll find it is a completely different experience. While this is probably reasonably true for all games, I think it especially true for Melee because of the noises we normally wouldn’t even pay attention to. The little bangs, or umphs, you hear when characters hit each other or when they hit the ground. We hear these sounds, and pay very little attention to them, but they make Melee a good game none the less.

In summary, you should buy Melee if you already haven’t (especially because it’s only $20 now). Despite the fact that the differences between the original Super Smash Bros. and Melee are a little disappointing, Melee is still an exceptional game. I should warn you that it would be futile to rent the game and try to get enough play-time in the five days you rent it for. Melee just has too many hours of fun packed in that little disk.

The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker

Written By: Dustin Stewart

The game opens with a story told through still pictures with words under them, and a remix on the classic Zelda theme blaring in the background. Once you hear that music and find out where this story is taking you, you know you’ve got something special on your hands by the way it sends chills down your spine.

The first thing you will notice as you take control of the lead character, Link, is that the graphical style is like no previous Zelda game out there. The style is called cel-shading, and on first seeing it, your jaw just might drop in shock. Most people react badly to the new style at first, but once you move Link around and get a feel for the game, you are completely immersed in it. It’s like you are actually in a cartoon, and you won’t believe how fun that can be until you pick this game up for the first time. The emotion conveyed on the characters faces through this incredible graphical style is equaled by none. You can tell exactly how Link is feeling: sad and angry when his sister is kidnapped in the first few minutes of the game, happy and excited when opening up a treasure chest, set and determined while fighting off hordes of enemies. The world is huge and alive as you explore every nook and cranny of it, whether by land or by sea.

From the very first notes of that classic Zelda theme in the beginning of this game, the music is spot on. What the graphics do to the characters expressions to convey emotion, the music does the same by being spot on with what Link is feeling at any given time. If things are going well for our young hero, the music soars with upbeat tunes blaring through the speakers. If things aren’t going so well, the music is dark and dreary, giving the player the sense that Link is no longer having the time of his life. There is also a great music effect implemented into the sword play. With each successful hit, you hear a short surge in whatever track happens to be playing at the time. The more hits you land in a row, the higher in pitch the music goes, for a great effect that very well may have you trying to see how many blows you can land just to hear the bright and encouraging surge.

The graphics may be miles from previous Zelda games, but the game play is fully intact and improved upon in some cases. The classic “Z Targeting” (now “L Targeting”) has returned from the Nintendo 64 installments, and works just as well here as it did before. Simply hold down the L button while near an enemy and Links view point will lock onto his foe, allowing you to move any way you want without losing site of your target. The fighting aspect is better than ever, as you can now pick up enemies weapons to do some major damage, or use the classic Master Sword to do some quick but effective damage. If timed right you can even pull off a front flip over your enemy and strike him in the back before he knows what hits him, a necessity to beat some of the heavily armored baddies.

Like all Zelda games that have preceded this one, you have a large arsenal at your disposal, including the classic bow and arrows, hook shot, boomerang, and bombs. New comers such as the deku leaf, which lets you glide from high cliffs to ledges below, and the Wind Waker, a devise somewhat like the ocarina used in Zelda: Ocarina of Time, are welcome additions that add new layers to the game play. Zelda just wouldn’t be Zelda without some dungeons, and Wind Waker has its fair share of them. They are a little easier than those seen in the N64 Zelda games, which is somewhat disappointing. They are still great fun though, and the bosses are as big and bad as ever. The story starts out small, but about half way through the game you realize it’s just as epic as previous installments. It all sounds too good to be true doesn’t it? Almost like the perfect game right? Well, now I have to mention the traveling by sea aspect of the game. If you thought that traveling across the vast Hyrule Field in Ocarina of Time was tedious, be prepared to be frustrated, because the sea is huge and your boat is slow. You’ll spend a lot of time on the sea just wondering if you’ll ever get to your destination. Sure there’s plenty to do out at sea, like hunting for treasure, fighting giant squid or murderous pirates, but it gets old about half way through the game. Winning the ability to use the Wind Waker as a warp devise helps some, but not enough to keep the sea travel aspect of the game a chore.

Die hard Zelda fans will want to play through this game again, because there is bound to be a few things you weren’t able to do the first time around, such as collect all the picto-box statues, or play all the mini games. There are plenty of things for you to do, and there’s virtually no way you will cover them all by the time you slay the main bad guy (I wont spoil anything for you) for the first time. You also get to play in a different outfit (blue stripped pajama looking things) if that kind of thing is any incentive for you. Casual gamers will probably be satisfied with just one time through though, considering the monstrous task of traveling constantly by sea.