March 17, 2004

Halo for the PC Review

I have to explain one other reason for the recent sparse posting. Halo PC.

I downloaded the free version the other day to try it out (I haven't bought the full-featured game yet, and probably won't, for the reasons outlined below).

The console version of this game was one major factor in my decision to get an Xbox instead of some other platform for the family. (There were several other reasons, including research and recommendations from trusted family friends, but Halo was the deal-closer). Not to be immodest, but I'm pretty sure that I rock on the Xbox version of this game. I haven't gone against adults in multiplayer (yet), but I have beaten the game on Legendary, and have replayed most of the hardest levels on Legendary several times until I can beat them pretty readily. The chance to play online against real humans is the main reason I wanted to try out the PC version. (The Xbox version does not support XboxLive, although there is a third-party freeware program that would allow me to play head-to-head over the Internet).

I have a decent computer, only a year old: Gateway Pentium IV, 2.5 GHz, 1GB RAM, 80 and 200 GB hard drives, with an upgraded 3D-accelerated graphics card. We also have broadband. The only drawback for a game like this is that I have an LCD flat screen monitor, so the graphics look "cartoony" compared to the rendering on my TV with the console version of the game. I'm not about to invest in plasma, and I'm not about to get a huge CRT monitor just for gaming, so I'm stuck with this look. All this is to say that I can account for the decreased quality in "looks" between the PC and console versions of the game. The sound is still excellent, as is the story, which made this game so captivating to me in the first place.

Unlike James Lileks (who thinks the Mac version is superior to the Xbox one), I think the
computer version is less playable. I guess I am not a PC first-person-shooter afficionado, as I think, frankly, that the mouse-keyboard control setup sucks (for lack of a better term!) I love the feel of the Xbox force-feedback S-Controllers, the intuitive triggering for the guns and grenades, the smooth action of the dual thumbsticks, and, most importantly, the easy access of my right thumb to the critical buttons needed to reload, swap, and jump.

With the PC setup, I have to do most critical functions (including all movement!) with my clumsy left hand. Long story short, I am getting slaughtered in online play. I'm thinking about getting a decently cheap gamepad to see if the PC version would be more playable, but I am really frustrated with the awkward interface. (Hello, Microsoft? I've spent a fair amount on my computer, game console, and software with you --- seems that the least you could do would be to make my XBOX controllers compatible with my PC, especially for Microsoft games. Just a thought. . .)

I understand that Halo 2 will have Xbox live support, so come this Fall the point will be moot. I will happily be going head-to-head with other console gamers like myself!

Posted by JohnL at March 17, 2004 09:02 PM
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