(PC - Bungie/Microsoft)

Dude, why can’t all console ports be half this good? Halo is a sci-fi first-person shooter that takes a generic premise and hits it out of the park with outstanding gameplay, amazing graphics and audio, and an outstanding storyline, which completely drives Halo. While “elite soldier fights alien menace” sounds a little generic, the actual story is twisting and unexpected. The cutscenes, environment, and plot keep you totally interested in the game and create a compelling gameworld. And almost at the exact moment when you get a little bored, the game throws you in a completely different direction that will freak your shit out, especially if you’re stoned at the time.

Halo is a port of an X-Box game (Microsoft held the PC version back to give their console a killer title), and it uses a console “save point” system instead of letting you save your game anywhere. And unlike every other PC port that has tried it, the save point system works. Save points are everywhere and have infinite uses, so you’ll never repeat large levels over and over. And level load times are almost non-existent, keeping you locked into the gameworld.

The graphics and audio are stunning and contribute to the immersive environment. Sci-fi geeks will find themselves getting shot by bad guys because you’re tripped-out staring at the spacescapes. Audio is similarly excellent, especially the dialogue and the weapon sound effects. Enemy AI is also great, so you’ll need to do more than “run and gun” enemies that take cover, flank, and flush you out with grenades.

Multiplayer is slick, if uninspired. You get all the game types you’d expect (deathmatch, capture the flag, king of the hill, and teamplay variants) in a painless matchmaking interface, with a decent selection of maps that load in a flash. But outside of some nice audio cues for kills and respawn, there’s nothing all that new.

There are a couple things keeping Halo from being flawless. The vehicle controls may be too weird for some people to get used to, and some levels at the end suffer a little from the save point system. Ultimately, the biggest complaint is that it feels too much like the console game it is. The story – spectacular as it is – is linear, and you have little freedom of action to complete missions your own way. Even so, Halo is the most straight-out fun and seamless shooter you’ve ever played.