Microsoft is holding Gamestock this week; a press-only event to show off the software giant’s latest games. Taking center stage is none other than Halo, the 3D action game in development at Bungie, which last year became part of Microsoft.
Halo takes place in a futuristic sci-fi setting where human commandos square off against the vicious alien Covenant on the surface of an enormous artifact in space called Halo — a ringworld orbiting a gas giant. The game features both vehicle and foot-based action — players can pilot Covenant flyers and hovercraft, human buggies and tanks, and other vehicles as they assault enemy strongholds. The game also features a diverse environment comprised of both detailed indoor and outdoor settings. Needless to say, there’s a wide variety of exotic and powerful weapons to choose from as well. Halo will also feature various multiplayer modes, including cooperative and competitive styles of play.
It’s clear that Halo is going to be a showcase title — arguably the showcase title — for the Xbox when the new console bows later this year. The game features exquisitely detailed graphics — Bungie has long vaunted Halo’s realistic physics modeling. Plans are still in place to bring Halo to Windows and Mac OS, but those versions will unquestionably be released some time after the game’s debut on Xbox.
Apple has established a relationship with graphics chipmaker Nvidia, which supplies Apple with both the GeForce2 MX and the new GeForce3 chip. This relationship may prove to be very important for gamers interested in Halo, since Nvidia also provides Microsoft with graphics technology for the Xbox.
The Xbox’s graphics chip uses the same core technology as the GeForce3. New Power Macs that use the GeForce3 card will see the most similar performance and quality to the nascent game system. The Apple Store is taking orders for the GeForce3 as a US$350 build-to-order option, and will be offering the GeForce3 as a $599 upgrade kit for older AGP-equipped Power Mac G4s beginning in late April. Some Mac users have balked at the price — which is comparable to what similar cards will retail for on the PC, at least to start — but that hasn’t stopped many from getting in their pre-orders already.
In previous demonstrations of Halo’s technology, much of the action has been depicted from a third-person perspective — in other words, it appeared that players controlled their characters from viewing them on the outside, and usually behind (think Tomb Raider or Heavy Metal FAKK 2 and you’re on the right track). Journalists wondered how Bungie had planned to solve certain gameplay problems associated with third-person perspective games, usually related to precision aiming and other related issues. Now it’s clear from the demo footage that Halo will depend, at least in part, on first-person action similar to the Quake or Unreal style.
Microsoft’s Gamestock Web site features more information about Halo, including screenshots and an .AVI video. You’ll need a recent version of QuickTime in order to view the movie. You’ll also need Macromedia’s Flash 5.0 software installed to view the site itself.