Does Halo’s “combat evolution” still stand up against Alien versus Predator?

Posted by | September 13, 2010

Halo came to the masses with a bold statement from Microsoft, “Combat Evolved.” Certainly, Halo did change the game field. Now we’ve seen an entire series, in fact, evolve from the franchise and it’s time to see how it stands up against other FPS models from other publishers.

The first Halo caught our attention immediately when it was released in 2001 and became a must-buy after the demo gave us mousepaw. Although, really what captured our imagination happened to be the attention to detail to the world—the halos, their implications, the threat of the Flood, etc—and also the portrayal of the various characters across the storyline. The FPS evolution seemed to come in terms of a clean presentation, low bugginess, excellent sound, nicely architected environments with strong visual cues to identify structures and enemies. These certainly made it a fairly solid product and we appreciated all of that during game play. It also still has one of the more shining examples of multiplayer set ups throughout most current FPS games.

Then there’s the Alien vs Predator series, which came out with Alien versus Predator 2 in 2001. Another solid product that presened a powerful storyline based on an already pre-existing franchise, it developed an amazing set of environments, a plethora of different play styles arranged in a style designed to produce the rock-paper-scissors effect for multiplayer. We still enjoy the concrete mechanics for weapon switching, easy controls, and stark environments which run from claustrophobic (good for Aliens) to open and cluttered (good for Predators) and an engaging reason to be there in the thick of the fray.

Looking at the modern Halo games it seems that Microsoft has been spending a lot of time sitting on their laurels. They’ve changed very little from the initial product with new skins, new beasts, and new storylines to draw in players. This is probably why current offerings like Half Life 2 and Team Fortress 2 are currently scorching Halo—in all its variations—in the multiplayer market. The variability of play styles and the potential to find something in the game to challenge the player has always been a massive pull.

Then there’s the single player attachment. With each new release of Halo the story has become less and less coherent, lengthier, more winding, and creates a disconnect between critics and campaign-oriented players. Alien versus Predator develops a campaign that hadn’t been seen in almost any FPS contemporary to it, or even since, by interleaving the timelines of the three different factions, especially important due to their rock-paper-scissors manner of interaction. This produces a sort of synthesis that made players realize that they’ve crossed their own path in the storyline while playing (usually as their enemy.)

Places where Halo still shines happens to be the introduction and development of new skills based on weaponry. The double-fisting mechanism and the melee aspect of the original Halo still glitters brilliantly all the way into Halo 3. This allows players to mix-and-match play styles based on what kind of equipment they can get their hands on, giving them an on the fly ability to develop from scratch how they want to engage the game. It also permits level developers and campaigns to force particular problem solving paradigms onto the players by changing up their equipment or environment. Could do some good for its own replayability.

Has Halo actually been evolving combat? The outcome is a bit iffy. Microsoft is publishing a powerful, compact product with sleek lines but it’s really not innovating anything so far—even when compared to products gaining cobwebs from 9 years ago. While Halo dominated with game mechanics, acrobatics, and quick-twitch combat–a mainstay of the modern genre–Alien versus Predator brought a more solid foundation for the players to stand on with a superior game play experience. Innovations in technology, which Halo managed, make good prototypes, but they don’t make epic games. With the new release of Halo: Reach maybe we’ll see something that will pique our interest, and we’ll keep you in mind.

1 Comment so far
  1. spartan 105
    September 15, 2010 5:56 am

    halo based alien vs predator like the flood vs covenant lol

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