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back to article In the loop: how Halo defined a new decade of first-person shooters

The glint of alien sunlight on green body armour; the spark of purple crystal shards arcing their way across the battlefield; the roar of a Warthog’s engine as it bounces across uneven terrain; and the dull thud as the butt of Master Chief’s gun impacts Covenant skull… familiar enough occurrences these days given the impact Halo …

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Halo, gaming devolved

The only thing Halo taught me was that I love my keyboard and mouse. Sure the game was well executed but it wasn't ground breaking. The Xbox simply introduced what PC gamers were enjoying to the console masses. in 2001/2002 I was busy playing BF1942.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Halo, gaming devolved

Yeah, Halo was a massively over-rated game. Probably because of the lack of decent shooters on consoles, Pc users on the other hand had plenty of better ones to choose from. And we could use a decent control system too. plus only 16 player multi player in 2001? LOL...

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Re: Halo, gaming devolved

By effortlessly translating the accuracy - well, most of it - of the keyboard and mouse to the few buttons and dual analogue sticks of the 360’s pad

All I thought when I read that was "Ahhhh haahaahaahaahaahaa" ; when my sides stopped hurting I felt like I should post.

When reading this I thought of numerous games that offered what Halo did. But then I have been a PC gamer most of my life and before that Acorns, BBCs, C64's, Speccy, Amiga's etc. I used to love my consoles for what they were good at but first person shooters was not it.

And for your info Bungie ripped this away from PC gamers who had been waiting for it for years.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Halo, gaming devolved

What I rather liked in Halo was the possibility of a co-op campaign. Didn't see too many of those about. I don't recall anything else that was particularly groundbreaking in terms of graphics or gameplay.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Halo, gaming devolved

I've never understood why people prefer keyboards and mouse for FPS. Sure the mouse is more accurate but the movement control completely sucks. Also accessing other keys is ergonomically inferior to a purpose built controller where everything is right where your fingers can reach in an instant. And the mouse being so accurate is actually a negative for me, I don't want a point and click FPS, I want it to take some skill, that's why I prefer games with gun sway, bullet drop and recoil.

I grew up gaming on Apple ][ followed by PCs and still used controllers even after the mouse came around.

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MJI
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Controls

Well the multiplayer I normally use has good controls, controller in each hand, point and shoot with right, control the character left. So I can move similar to a traditional controller, but aiming, I have to place the cross hairs over the other person, and pull the trigger. No aim assist, no springing to centre, just hold it stable and shoot them!

Artificial sway is silly and gets on my nerves.

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Boffin

WASD sucks

Marathon, back in the day (also the real pioneer of the health-shield system, no surprise there, same guys as "combat evolved") taught me to use the mouse with my left hand, and use the arrow keys for movement (left and right arrow for strafing, not turning). To this day I won't play a game that doesn't allow this.

This layout (called the "vidmaster setup" by Bungie, after one of their playtesters who used that nickname) gives you very fine control of movement in an FPS game, and also entirely avoids finger alignment issues with using frickin WASD. Some people hate using a mouse with their left hand, but thanks to a couple decades of using this setup, I can mouse equally well with either hand.

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Re: Halo, gaming devolved

Yeah, we from players of PC-based FPSs that Halo was overated... but I before Halo I had played a lot of PC FPSs and I can't remember them having vehicles in the same way. Halo CE was also very good for the things it took out- it played like a concentration of the good bits- no cycling through a dozen weapons trying to find the one that some ammo left in it, for example, or creeping around reluctant to get into a fight because health was at 11%. Grendades were fun, enemies required some thinking to deal with, guns had to be used for the correct job or in combination... It was good.

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Re: Halo, gaming devolved

>When reading this I thought of numerous games that offered what Halo did

Please name them.

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Re: WASD sucks

Being left handed I have been doing this for 20 years. Didn't know it had a name though.

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Re: WASD sucks

Marathon, back in the day (also the real pioneer of the health-shield system, no surprise there, same guys as "combat evolved") taught me to use the mouse with my left hand, and use the arrow keys for movement (left and right arrow for strafing, not turning). To this day I won't play a game that doesn't allow this.

Already ranted about Future Shock twice on this thread, but I still use its A-SHIFT-ZX control setup to this day. Works like WASD but has much better placement and spacing for my massive hands.

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Re: Halo, gaming devolved

I agree. Halo wasn't special. Goldeneye was still better game although older. Starseige Tribes with Renegades mod was far better still on 64 man server.

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Re: Halo, gaming devolved

"And the mouse being so accurate is actually a negative for me, I don't want a point and click FPS"

If your playing multiplayer surely everyone is playing with the same control system?

" I want it to take some skill, that's why I prefer games with gun sway, bullet drop and recoil."

Yes, because bullet drop and recoil has never been used in a PC FPS. As for gun sway, dispersal area increase when running has alsobeen around for years on the PC

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Halo, gaming devolved

@Corborg. Agree 100%. I remember being distinctly underwhelmed playing Halo. Gameplay was OK. But in terms of atmosphere and engagement it was a distinctly poor Half Life copy-cat title. Also there were already games with vehicles on the PC. One of the most innovative was Hidden and Dangerous. A frustratingly buggy but otherwise fantastically innovative WW2 first person shooter, which really defined the Genre deserves a much bigger podium in the history of gaming than it currently seems to have been given and set the ball rolling for WWII shooters which in turn lead to Modern Warefare. The difficulty level was superbly balanced, despite a single shot caught in the head being all that was required to take you to your maker. The atmospherics were simply superb and the creative mission variety knocked the first Halo into touch.

So yes for me Halo was by comparison with Half Life and other predecessors was just me-too meh!

I even remember Lucas Arts Outlaw on the PC being far more engaging. Less sophisticated for sure, but boy did it grab you. "Sherif, we know your in there sherif!", "Come out come out wherever you are!".

Oh and now I'm remembering Dark Knight and Dark Knight II, after Doom, Duke Nukem and Quake. Those were the days. I'm sure anyone going back to any of these titles would find them very restricted, but the steps they made and the excitement they generated in their time were far greater than equivalent titles can achieve now. From the way it is talked about now, I guess Halo had a similar effect but only if you were a pure console gamer and hadn't experienced the greater titles that had already come before.

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FAIL

Erm...

"Battlefield has taken online encounters to new numerical heights, it but has only ever looked to extend the vehicular combat that Halo laid down all those years ago."

Your kidding right? Codename Eagle ?? april 2000

i give up.

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This post has been deleted by its author

Re: Erm...

Goldeneye had tanks, Terminator Future Shock (1995), Hunter had vehicle combat (Ok it was 3rd person but 3D) hey we can go all the way back to Midwinter in 1989 if you like.

I swear the work experience boy runs the gaming articles on el'reg

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Re: Erm...

Thanks for saving me some typing! (apart from this bit).

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Re: Erm...

Terminator Future Shock (1995)

Greatest fucking game ever. Now, if you want to talk about a revolutionary FPS, lets talk about Future Shock!

*First ever mouse-look FPS (no, Quake fans, shut up)

*Driving stages

*Flying HK stages

*3D modelled enemies

*HUGE levels, open-air, walk into any building

*Frigging awesome weapons (and more than 2 of them at a time)

*Atmosphere and story that put even modern shooters to shame

And what did Halo bring to the party?

*Shit PC FPS games had been doing for years.

Halo only gets such praise and fanboy creaming because the console cowboys had never played anything even remotely resembling a proper FPS before. Get over yourselves.

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Re: Erm...

The Chief’s dual health system was a pioneering step too. The decision to have shields and health separately governed might be a largely standard occurrence now, but it was anything but back when Halo: Combat Evolved was making its debut.

Again, Future Shock did this in '95. Keep up, guys.

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Re: Erm...

You're going to make me create 100 more accounts and upvote until I cause an overflow on the upvotes database column.

Well said, Future Shock was an amazing FPS with both internal/external locations, sewers, jumping on HK's and taking control, driving around firing laser cannons and the eerie atmosphere of a post-apocalyptic Los Angeles. The music, mechanical whirring noises of terminators around the corner, ability to enter buildings. Amazing. Even bought the expansion pack which let you board a nuclear submarine.

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Re: Erm...

It could also be argued Elite's Energy and Shield system are similar...

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Re: Erm...

>Halo only gets such praise and fanboy creaming because the console cowboys had never played anything even remotely resembling a proper FPS before.

I'd played all the PC FPS shooters from Catacomb Abyss onwards, and I still think Halo was excellent. It isn't about 'such and such a game had driving first, or another game had weapons that needed to be used together' but rather how all these elements are combined and extensively refined.

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Re: Erm...

Even bought the expansion pack which let you board a nuclear submarine.

I bought SkyNET and I did enjoy it, and while it improved the game engine, the atmosphere suffered. Too many movie references/easter eggs (did you find the one where you could make dancers appear on the floor in Tech Noir?). The levels were still bitchin' though. Chasing that convoy along the highway in a jeep with a pintle-mount laser cannon was awesome, in a way games haven't replicated since.

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I don't think it's fair to say Call of Duty didn't push any boundaries either; When Modern Warfare 4 came out it had the most photorealistic engine seen to date, with a Tom Clancy Russians/terrorists/nukes plot that stayed just on the right side of believability. It was also the first game I remember with a cinematic 'movie' style plot that went as far as two weave the storylines of two different groups together - I can't recall any other game where things were kept fresh by jumping the player between characters.

Unfortunately when it went massive it became something of a victim of it's own momentum; with Treyarch pumping out a COD title every other year that you could describe as not-as-good if you wanted to be very charitable, even the Infinity Ward follow ups weren't quite as good as the first Modern Warfare.

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Anonymous Coward

> while Battlefield has taken online encounters to new numerical heights, it but has only ever looked to extend the vehicular combat that Halo laid down all those years ago.

No. It extended the vehicular combat from 1999's Codename Eagle.

>The Chief’s dual health system was a pioneering step too. The decision to have shields and health separately governed might be a largely standard occurrence now, but it was anything but back when Halo: Combat Evolved was making its debut.

Games have had separate armour and health bars for as long as I remember. I am pretty sure I saw this as far back as the (crappy Wolf3d clone) Blake Stone from '93.

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Ru

Was the part-regenerating, part-non-regenerating hitpoint system present in other systems, though? The armour/health split was common enough, but both bits tended to be ablative, no? Or if health regenerated, the non-regenerating armour took the damage first, or in parallel.

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Goldeney and PD spoiled console FPSs for me.

I played Halo near as soon as it was released thanks to a mate with hefty expendable income. My previous console FPSs had been Goldeneye and Perfect Dark, which had fantastic manual aiming systems - about as close in terms of control to PC FPS controls as a console could do.

Halos controls felt hugely clunky and, frankly, backwards, and I just put the controller down and let my mate play.

Don't think I missed much TBH!

Steven R

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The difference

There were indeed better FPS shooting experiences to be had on PC in 2001 than Halo: CE. However, the PC was a long way from the convenience and shared experience of the living room. In the living room domain, this console game was absolutely revolutionary.

It can't be understated, (although this article has), that Halo CE was the sole reason the Xbox took off, and is the franchise which allowed Microsoft to build it#s game presence. In terms of sales and cultural penetration, it thrashes every other MS exclusive combined. Only Nintendo's major Mario releases and Sony's Gran Turismo can stand alongside it in the last decade.

Without Halo, and Halo 2's brilliant Xbox Live integration (still a benchmark), the Xbox 360 wouldnt have had the momentum to become the best-selling HD console it now is.

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Paris Hilton

I am clearly easily pleased

I loved halo on the pc and the xbox , so much that I bought an xbox because of it after playing on a mates. mind you it was a bit too easy on the PC. I loved goldeneye and Perfect Dark on the nintendo and I loved Half life 1 and 2 on the PC

i got bored of Halo 2 halfway though but I still rate the first Halo just cos I enjoyed it so much, my favourite bits in no particular order were the two weapon limit, messing about with warthog jumping, multiplayer, enemy AI and the flood

don't give a s**t about the history or inaccuracies or that PCs FPS had mouse and kbd, horses for courses and all that , I just really enjoyed playing Halo on the xbox.

PH cos, well why not

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Re: I am clearly easily pleased

Halo 2 was a mess. By Bungie's own admission. Halo CE was one single dedicated team. Halo 2, under pressure to be bigger and better, was split amongst several teams and felt like less than the sum of its parts.

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FAIL

but never was it always thus.

What terrible grammar.

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Re: but never was it always thus.

Downvoted! Awesome! Still, never was it always thus I guess...

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Re: but never was it always thus.

It's such an awkward construction I figured it had to be a reference to something in the Halo materials. I've never played Halo myself (FPS games are not my thing; I read the article out of curiosity), so I just assumed the phrase showed up in backstory narration or something. If it's Plant's coinage, I agree it's pretty terrible.

(It is not, in fact, "terrible grammar" - all the words are being used as parts of speech they conventionally fill, and the phrasing, while inverted, is still well within traditional English grammatical constructions. It's terrible style. But that's a quibble.)

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MJI
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FPS

I missed the early console FPSs as I didn't know much about them. And I didn't think about getting one until the children were old enough for a PS2, my game on that was GT4.

I have played Valve and Id ones on the PC.

I have never played a Halo game, I was going to get a PC one but Game didn't know what to recommend. I think it is the only Xbox exclusive I would be bothered about playing, but not spending a fortune for one series when I have a huge backlog anyway.

You are right it did define the Microsoft console.

From playing other FPS on console I will say I prefer mouse for aiming over a stick, I bought one of the Halo killers for PS2 recently and the controls were not good, the recent PS3 HD version is a lot better. But FPS are usually mouse territory, but keyboard is clunky.

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Re: FPS

I've never got on with the Playstation analogue stick for FPSs... but for Tekken or WipEout its great.

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MJI
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Re: FPS

Yet I can for third person, no problem with Uncharted and so on, but FPS - I just can't do it.

Howver I do like Move supported FPSs - now they are best of both worlds

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FAIL

Absolute crock of....

Valve hasn't followed on its successes???????

No Valve moved on and did something different instead of vomiting the same junk on people. Portal & Portal 2, Left 4 Dead and Left 4 Dead 2. Team fortress etc etc.

Halo just continually pumped the same crud out in sequel after sequel adding little more than a few weapons or a new vehicle or a new location to what was the same engine. Plot moved on a bit but not much and if you play the ODST it isn't even much of a plot jump.

Even your own review just says Halo 4 is a clone of the first Halo with nicer whistle & bells.

What actually happened is a good formula from the likes of any PC game before it like Half life, was put onto a console where a captive audience of people who have no attention span and where logic and brains are not required can run round shooting everything in a linear fashion. Run jump shoot, hide, run jump shoot. (can you even crouch) Then on every incarnation since it has repeated that winning formula of no puzzles, plenty of shooting but nothing on a par with the likes of Crysis, Half life 2, Cod (choose any of them) or battlefield games.

Halo gives a you a few vehicles, so did BF2 (and planes, and boats, subs) but that was purely online game play, Halo included nothing new in Halo 2, BF2 had an entirely different skin, model list, weaponry. etc etc. Battlefield however had mods, had the vietnam with an entirely different mechanic for flying, all new profiles and skins, and a different physics engine. As did the 2142, once the bugs were sorted you could not only have different kits but the range of upgrades made those kits something completely new. Halo gave you another gun.

Every COD has a different arsenal of unlocks and upgrades, Halo 2 gave you a second hand. Halo 3 gave you an upgrade (shield, speed). ODST gave you less, Halo Reach gave you some more plot and a brief linear flight in a space fighter or VTOL. Even the plots are the same, run and jump and shoot and finally drive a car at great speeds either on a collapsing ship or on a collapsing planet.

Halo didn't define a generation of FPS, it just gave XBOX 360 owners something to play. But you can't compare Halo to anything in other formats. Battlefield 1942, Half life 2, Crysis (not the Crysis 2 port) and Cod:MW pushed and defined FPS for differing reasons.

I own all of the Halo series but each and everyone is the same. I have yet to start Halo 4, but I predict it will have exactly the same plot of run, jump and run and jump, shoot something a lot and then press a few buttons before you drive very quickly against the clock.

Genre defining, no. Peddling the same stuff and having idiots (me included) pay over the odds pricing for the next clone, yes. I also lay odds that graphics, speed, game play and longevity are nothing on a par with the new CS:GO valve have released (not that they follow on their successes) Could be the game, could be the XBOX 360 being just too old now.

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Headmaster

Pretty much the only FPS I've played

HALO: CE gave me one thing: A STORY. I don't play games to play games. I want a *reason* I'm in there putting holes in aliens. HALO gave me that, and gave me a reason to shoot those little bastards. It also gave me a reason to slog through the library. It kept me engaged.

As a game, my reflexes suck, so I don't do multiplayer, but I still want a decent challenge from the AI. HALO gave me that too. It also gave me a HUGE sandbox, with enough varied stuff I could keep trying different things. All the physics worked and there was no "rails" to ride on. You could try carrying different weapons, and sneaking instead of frontal assaults, and other things.

It even had controllers large enough to fit my paws, until they went to the small ones, but I found a bunch of large ones on eBay.

For some reason, I loved the one where you played as a marine, with the cool heads up display and finding the audio tapes. I can't remember the name, and nobody else liked it, but I did.

And as an added shock, local LAN multiplayer was actually fun with my friends, so we played that for a LONG time. We never did XBOX Live. I did for a short while on Halo: Reach, until I got banned for "cheating" because my ISP was so shitty it kept dropping my connection. When that happened, the XBOX went on a shelf and has stayed there.

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Re: Pretty much the only FPS I've played

Bungie are on record for saying they were more inspired by Larry Niven and Iain M. Banks (amongst others) than they were by movies. Anyone with half an imagination who has read 'Consider Phlebus' will see why they choose to read books rather than watch movies, limited as they are by SFX budgets and running lengths.

That said, the upcoming FPS Aliens: Colonial Marines (with input from Fox, Syd Mead, and Ridley Scott) looks to be pretty good, though its game modes suggest some strong influence from Left 4 Dead.

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Re: Pretty much the only FPS I've played

> HALO: CE gave me one thing: A STORY.

Try half-life.

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MJI
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Re: Pretty much the only FPS I've played

Lots of games have a story, some excellent, some silly, some pointless.

But I like a good story in a game.

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FAIL

What he said

Have to agree with Avatar.

Halo just scraped a few bits from various PC shooters, stuck em together in a cliched sci-fi environment and marketed it at 10-year olds.

"Master Chief" come on give me a break.

Next stop James Bond renamed Agent Spy.

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Re: What he said

>Halo just scraped a few bits from various PC shooters, stuck em together in a cliched sci-fi environment and marketed it at 10-year olds.

It didn't merely 'just scrape' previously seen elements, it carefully combined and polished them.

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Joke

Re: What he said

"It didn't merely 'just scrape' previously seen elements, it carefully combined and polished them"

So...

It's the Apple of games then?

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and that original Xbox controller....

Worth remembering that Halo CE was released onto a console with the single worst controller in video game history. Worse than Intellivision. You know the one I mean.

If anything cements Halo's mythical status, the triumph over that ergonomic catastrophe must be it.

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Windows

Re: Re: What he said

>It didn't merely 'just scrape' previously seen elements, it carefully combined and polished them.

Yup, the one thing that you can say about the recycled mediocrity that is Halo is that it's polished to a mirror sheen. I guess that the statement "Halo defined a new decade of first-person shooters" is valid after all, just as valid as "McDonald's has defined decades of American 'cuisine'".

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Trollface

the true innovation of Halo

Halo not only made tea bagging a fact of life in shooters but it also took team killing to a whole new level. Long live forced team killing where you run in front of another players vehicle they team kill you accidentally and you can then kick them. Griefing rules!

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Anonymous Coward

Extremely repetetive

I seem to remember the first few levels of Halo being fun, but later on they just started repeated rooms over and over again with different "waves" of baddies every time, as if the development budget ran out. The library level especially was horrific, just being the same twisting corridor over and over and over again for a very long time until the only reason you're still playing is the (mistaken) belief that after it's finally complete, things will get better again. Never finished it because of this reason, there's only so much of the same room again and again you can take.

One has to wonder if most people actually got that far to give it so high praise. Any PC shooter that tried to pull this off at the time would have been instantly dismissed as crap-ware. The only reason that anybody remembers this one is because it was a playable (not great, really not) FPS on a console.

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