Still holds up.
Let us take The Wayback Machine to a much simpler time, Nov. 2001. The PS2 had been out for a year, the Dreamcast was on it's deathbed and the GCN and Xbox had just been released. Think of console FPSs back at that time. Go on, I'll give you a minute.... Done? Ok. Not a whole lot, was there? On the PS2, there was Red Faction and Timesplitters. On the DC, you had ports of Quake 3 and Unreal Tournament. The GCN didn't have a shooter yet but the N64 had Perfect Dark and Turok 3. Now compare these games to Halo: Combat Evolved, and you'll see how important and revolutionary the game was.
The graphics were phenomenal in 2001 and impress even now in the wake of the PS3 and Xbox 360. It was this game that truly transitioned us from the 32-bit generation into the so called 128-bit. None of this could be done on old hardware, the realistic models, beautiful landscapes & the best damn textures ever seen in a video game, all running at a smooth 30 frames per second. The Dreamcast was not capable of doing this, nor were the GCN and PS2 until later in their lifespans.
The sound was also groundbreaking. The guns, vehicles, voices and even footsteps are heard in the clearest way. The music was great as well, no longer were FPSs constrained to lame metal/rock samples, but excellent orchestrated pieces of music. Who could forget the choir at the start menu, which has now become a staple in the series.
Now it's time to quit beating around the bush, the gameplay is what's made this game a legend. Sure it's an FPS, but even the simple things like the control scheme are perfect, and not to mention that nearly all post-Halo FPSs have similar control schemes. Halo wasn't the first FPS with vehicles but it was done the best and still is. A limit of two weapons and a max of 8 grenades convey the feeling that you're playing as a soldier, not an unstoppable force of nature.
The game has plenty of value to keep you interested for days. 4 levels of difficulty make replaying the campaign more engaging. And, of course the multiplayer, while not on Xbox Live, is one of the best reason to use the Xbox's System Link. A 16-person LAN party on the Blood Gulch map is reason enough to get this game.
Halo has aged though. The back tracking and levels with many similar looking rooms will grow tiresome, let's face it, even Perfect Dark had more maps AND guns. The limited amount of enemy models is a problem, it's hard to get excited about the 25th time you've killed a Hunter. Halo's campaign is also a tad short, even by FPS standards. The levels of difficulty and the tight multiplayer make up for this somewhat, but I predict it'll be hard to get your buddies excited for Halo: CE's multiplayer in 2009 and beyond (especially with Gears of War 2 out)
Halo is worthy of it's praise, even if it's getting a little long in the tooth in this day in age (it's approaching 8 years old!) But it's campaign still solid entertainment for 10 hours and you'd be hard pressed to find a better multiplayer LAN party game.
note- This review was originally written by myself for Gamespot, I post it here with a few changes.