Halo (Sniper)
Genre: First-Person Shooter
Developer: Bungie
Publisher: Microsoft

At launch the X-box has already produced the two most graphically dazzling show-stoppers to date on any platform, DOA3 and Halo. Virtually every surface in Halo's world is bump-mapped, detail-textured, spectrally highlighted, or all of the above. This combined with the absolutely stunning draw-in distance makes for some amazing scenes, such as a seemingly 10-mile field covered with bump-mapped, crystalline ice. The game features no slowdown whatsoever, and makes use of just about every feature of the feature-rich NV2A video chipset which the X-box so masterfully employs.

The soundtrack features a mix of intense orchestrated, blood-pumping selections, and quiet, spooky, ambient songs. All of the music is of superior quality, yet it's not such a good soundtrack that you'd listen to it outside of the game. The sound effects are well done, especially the voice acting, for both the humans and the set of aliens that make up The Covenant. Hearing a Covenant grunt screech, "They're everywhere!" when there's in fact only one of you is especially rewarding. Oddly, Dolby 5.1 is not quite properly implemented, but that's a small price to pay for an otherwise great sound package.

This is the first console-based FPS where the control scheme was actually easy to use. I had little trouble getting into the game, and while my coordination with a mouse is still better, I can play Halo competently. The level design is absolutely fantastic, the weapon balance is superlative, the enemies are extremely creative, and the vehicles are an absolute joy to use, especially in coop. The deathmatch maps are likewise very clever and flow well, although there aren't enough small ones to keep one-on-one matches (the most common types on consoles) interesting.

Halo is, bar-none, the best single-player FPS to date, and a solid deathmatch game as well. It is one of those few games that makes you feel a part of a much larger endeavor, in this case a futuristic geurrilla war, without convoluting the control scheme. Most importantly, Halo is a true pleasure to play, and has fantastic replay value. The single-player game combined with the plethora of multiplayer modes, including full co-op support, and online play (using Gamespy Tunnel or some other such apparatus) make Halo the greatest triple-a game and best launch title since Mario 64.

Sniper's verdict: