Halo: Combat Evolved (Xbox) Bungie/MS
For whatever reason, Halo fever just never caught on at GameSpy. For a crowd weaned on the lightning-fast action and precise controls of Quake, and the brilliant pacing and level design of Half-Life, the idea of slogging through repetitive levels with a gamepad and being forced to play multiplayer on a split screen just wasn't our cup of tea.

While our editors thought Halo had plenty to admire, we were never quite sure how so many publications were able to overlook some very serious flaws while dishing out near-perfect (or actually perfect) scores. Even today, bringing up the subject provokes much ranting from our group, as you can see below.

Sluggo: I wrote our original Halo review back in 2001, and before any Xbox fanboys have a heart attack, I believe there were a lot of things Halo did really, really well. It was drop-dead gorgeous, and the vehicles were a blast. I loved the unconventional armor/health system, and the fact that you could only carry two weapons at once was a great twist. More than anything else, however, I think Halo may have had the best AI of any first-person shooter, before or since. That's why we gave it an "outstanding" score and called it "a must-buy for the Xbox."

Getting up and personal with friendly alien scum.
But Halo had some serious flaws. As a veteran of countless PC shooters, I acknowledge the fact that Bungie did a good job of laying out the controls ... but to me, playing a shooter with a gamepad is like playing Madden with a keyboard. It's just WRONG. And, while Halo was loaded with multiplayer options, you couldn't enjoy it over the Internet (shameless plug: at least not until GameSpy's programmers designed the Xbox Tunnel app. - Ed.) Worst of all were the levels, which offered fleeting glimpses of brilliance, but all too often degenerated into recycling the same areas over and over until you were bored to tears. It was as if someone at Microsoft or Bungie realized Halo was an amazing six-hour game ... but needed to pad it out to 10. "The Library" may well be the worst mission in the history of modern shooters, and it amazed me that so many people were able to overlook these issues -- or get upset that we had the nerve to point them out.

Look, I'm glad so many people loved Halo. My beef's not with you. My question is really for all the reviewers who gave out insanely high 9.8's and 10's: if Halo 2 has more interesting levels and Xbox Live support, what do you score it? For that matter, what do you score the PC version if it's the same as the Xbox, with mouse / keyboard support, new multiplayer modes, and proper Internet play? An 11 or 12? To me, the original version of Halo simply offered too much room for improvement, and the majority of its reviews DEFINED the word "overrated."

Kindrak: My co-worker, Carlos "Dr. Angryman" Salgado and I played through Halo in co-op mode, and I can say with absolute conviction that I never would've finished it if it hadn't been through co-op. The enemy and level design was so intensely repetitive that to this day I still weep quietly whenever I think of what's become of my dear, sweet Bungie. See, I'm a pixel monkey here at da Spy, so I've been a long-time Mac user and fan of Bungie since back in the Pathways into Darkness days (the original Action / RPG). Halo was supposed to be the second coming; a game where Mac and PC users would collide in epic battles that would make Tribes 2 look amateur.

The Halo movies whet my appetite, the renders and screenshots made me feel that this precious gem would survive the transition to console and the rapid development schedule. I was wrong. It's not a horrible game by any measure; it just doesn't measure up to what it was supposed to have been. I wonder constantly at the praises heaped on this game, which, while looking pretty, isn't any major leap beyond its spiritual predecessors. Thankfully, I still have Tribes 2.

ferricide: A sacred cow that GameSpy has a reputation for being totally willing to slay -- but there are problems with Halo, for sure. I'll concentrate on the multiplayer. The maps are seriously unbalanced; some of them are just totally boring. I think that's what clinches it for me. I always make a face when it comes to four player split screen -- I always have, and I've never been a PC FPS gamer ... I just can't stand it on my own -- and Halo's messy maps do me in. I think some publications were a little too kind to it because it was a launch game (that always happens), and because they could easily set up 16-player System Link LAN games on their networks, something most gamers just can't do.

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