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Bungie ready to show off Halo

July 26, 1999
Web posted at: 12:21 p.m. EDT (1621 GMT)

by Enid Burns

halo graphic

(IDG) -- Having first shown the game only behind closed doors at E3, Bungie is now ready to make a much larger showing of Halo, its stunning new third-person action-adventure game. Officially announcing the game at this week's MacWorld expo, Bungie is presenting its incredible alien world--and some dynamic features in graphic rendering that the developer believes will make Halo stand apart from other shooters.

Halo takes place on an artificial Ringworld-style planet orbiting a gas giant in another system, much like the vision of Larry Niven's Ringworld universe. The setting is part of the core mystery of the game, with the creators and builders of this world -- and its accompanying wonders -- long gone. While exploring the planet, humans have found new technology that we just have to have, even at the cost of lives. To complicate matters, another alien race is bent on obtaining this technology, and both races must fight to achieve dominance in this system.

Gameplay is fluid and seamless in this immersive environment, which is free of artificial barriers that keep you in fixed levels, and continues even as you advance to the next level. The game takes on a bit of a nonlinear quality, in that players can go back to accomplish tasks that may have otherwise been forgotten. Where advancing to higher levels interrupts the experience in most games, you may have to rig outside reminders (like an alarm clock) to jolt you out of this riveting game.
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Still in the early stages of developing the game, Bungie has worked hard to achieve an atmosphere and environmental effects that convey otherworldly behavior. The effects of shadowing and the reactive environment happen in real time, and give the gameplay realism that reaches new levels. Furthermore, the environment will be dynamic, and will display "prolific debris" of fallen units, vehicles, and geographical elements--as is characteristic of Bungie titles. But what really makes this title stand out visually--even at this early stage--is the atmosphere, animation, and shadowing. You'll see impressive weather effects such as wind and clouds on a clear blue sky; and lighting, shadowing, and reflections are captured to a lifelike degree, helping you absorb what you're seeing.

Gamers will also appreciate the game's multiplayer aspects, especially in co-op play. A crew of three can hop into a Jeep and continue the fighting independently from one another. One player drives the vehicle while another operates the Jeep's guns, with the third player firing his own weapons--a bit of railed gameplay until the on-foot fighting resumes.

The in-game graphics sequences are so rich and detailed that Bungie had to clarify that we weren't seeing another FMV cut-scene. Halo's gameplay rivals many current shooters' cut-scenes in terms of realism and level of depth. Bungie has also worked hard to give game characters control over mannerisms, like waving and taunting the aliens and even surrendering when necessary.

Due out in the first half of 2000, Halo will have a simultaneous release for PC and Mac, with multiplayer compatibility between the two operating systems. While you'll need a 3D card and a powerful system to take full advantage of the game's features, it'll be scalable so you can play it on less powerful machines. With its compelling storyline, dynamic environment, and alien setting, Halo seems on track to take fans of third-person adventure shooters to new worlds.

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