Halo 3 is 2007's most anticipated game release, and quite possibly the largest media release of all time... and to think all this fuss over a simple videogame. Well, anyone who has played either previous Halo game will tell you that Halo is more than a game, it’s a lifestyle. This is it, Halo 3.
Halo 3 picks up where Halo 2 left off. Master Chief returns to Earth to finish the fight. The Truth, the religious leader of the Covenant has set up base in Africa in search of an ancient artefact that could activate all the Halo rings eliminating every life form in the galaxy. It’s up to Master Chief to defeat the covenant threat, save Cortana from Gravemind and put an end to one of the greatest videogame trilogies of all time. This time Halo isn’t going to disappoint with a cliff hanger ending, it’s all or nothing and I’m sure Bungie isn’t afraid of a little pressure.
If you haven’t had the pleasure of blasting through a previous Halo game you can still enjoy Halo 3 without knowing much about the Halo-verse. Halo 3 can be enjoyed by any gamer who enjoys a fast paced shooter. Although, I can't imagine too many gamers who don't know Halo, or Master Chief in his trademark green armour complete and reflective gold visor. The Chief is about shooting first and asking questions later, the few words Chief spits out once and a while are enough to make Halo, and Master Chief the phenomenon it has become. So let’s get into the action and find out what Halo 3 is all about.
It's All Out War!
Halo 3 takes a different direction then other previous games by putting the action into large battles in group settings. This takes the focus off the Chief making him as a bit player in the global war on earth. The majority of your time spent in the Campaign has you fighting along side your comrades through jungles, deserts, and other dangerous playgrounds of death. The missions are fast paced conveying a sense of urgency for the Chief to come up big and save the day. Through the entire complain you won’t have too many moments to slow down and take it easy, in this respect Halo 3 rocks by keeping the pedal to the floor. The downside to the fast pacing is that the Single Player Campaign flies by in no time and once you get going; it’s time to wind down.
This fast pacing also effected Halo 3's development into it's unique identity, mood and setting that the previous Halo’s excelled at. It wasn’t until the last two levels that I really felt like I was in for the fight of my life and that my role in the grand scale of things in Halo really mattered. Before that Halo 3 felt a little like an unscripted futuristic 'Call of Duty' game played out in large battles like an online frag-fest. This really doesn't take away anything from the action in Halo 3 because Bungie did another excellent job pushing the pace while inventing new situations for the Chief to deal with. Being the third installment I didn’t expect too many surprises. However, I expected a little more than the same pieces of the board with a few minor upgrades. What I missed more than anything was some quality time with the Master Chief and the mystery that went along with the first two Halo games. However, even though I could have done with more single player missions, Halo 3 comes to a strong finish making the whole experience feel like something special. I’m sure this is more impactful for gamers like me who have run through all the Halo games over the years.
What Halo 3 takes a chance with are the environments. Leaving the somewhat repeating nature of the first two games, Halo 3 covers a wide range of landscapes on foot and by vehicle. Halo 3’s pacing might move a little too quickly for you to appreciate the landscaping the first time around, but one more play through and you will start to see the subtle brilliance in Halo 3 design. The graphics don’t stand out like they didn’t on the original Xbox; however that doesn’t mean Halo 3 is a dud. Halo 3 is a solid game filled with little details that perfectly build a believe world with no issues to complain about. Even though Halo 3 is set in the science fiction futuristic world Halo’s type of future doesn’t seem to out of reach or unbelievable.
No Longer Sitting as King of the Hill
The best technical aspect in Halo is the flawless, hiccup free gameplay which is vital in a FPS. Halo 3’s graphical spotlight also brightens when describing its lighting that shows the dynamics in the games environments, indoor and out and the physics engine. In a nonchalant way Halo 3 keeps gamers content by being simply a perfectly performing game. Unfortunately this is all Halo 3 can brag about. Halo no longer sits as king of the hill in the graphics department which Bungie held in the in the last generation of gaming. Halo 3 is a little weak when it comes to the character models, rendering, and facial animation. On this side of the visor, Halo 3 looks like an updated Halo 2 which doesn’t cut the mustard when compared to other recent shooters like Bioshock, or last years Best Graphics winner Gears of War.
It's Hammer Time
The controls remain faithful to the original games keeping the gameplay simple to learn if you needed to and fun to play. Halo 3 might not have the most innovative features in its gameplay, but thankfully the straightforward style works. Master Chief is a synch to navigate and control and skilfully players can really become one with the Chief which is more so reflected online. What’s new in Halo 3 are a few new weapons choices including the impactful Brute Gravity Hammer which is one of the most impressive melee weapons developed for a FPS. Halo 3 also introduces the ability to rip turrets from the ground and use them in the third person perspective to unpack hundreds of rounds into the enemy. For weapons Bungie has stuck a few more into the mix that keep Halo interesting and expansive which translates more when you’re dealing with online matchups. If you haven’t played Halo 3 yet, then I'll keep them as a pleasant surprise along with the new vehicles which add more dynamics to the games offense.
Halo 3 also adds equipment that can be picked up along your journey, mainly from fallen foes that have these new tricks to their disposal as well. Instead of them being instantly activated like the Covent stealth shield, they can saved and used whenever you need them the most by pressing “X”. A few tricks as I call them include bubble shields, portable gun turrets, invincibility and a few other handy helpers. For the majority of my time in the single player campaign I actually forgot to use them until I got into a rough spot. I don’t know how much they impact other people’s game, but for me I could have done without this new feature. However if I went through the game on Legendary I might have a change of heart.
Another concept explored in Halo 3 is further development of the artificial intelligence. The A.I. seems to be stepped up with enemy pack mentality becoming more relevant and a little more ferocious then last time around. The Brutes are the main enemy along with the ever lurking Flood. Both life forms seemed to have a little more aggression along with some smarts that are more visible on higher difficulty levels. It’s this AI that keeps the realism of the Halo-verse alive and also differentiates Halo from other pre-scripted or minimal AI programmed games. Every time you go into combat you’re likely to see different re-actions and tactics by the enemies as you approach, attack and try to out flank their position for the most opportunistic shot.
Halo is Xbox Live
Over the years since the original release of the first Halo the online community has grown and made Halo the most popular game on the Xbox Live network. Halo and Halo 2 jumped light years ahead in matchmaking, ease of play, leaderboard rankings and online game modes. This tradition still continues with Halo 3 which takes the Halo 2 formula and polishes and increases its ability. At any time you want to get freaky with Halo 3 someone, somewhere will be online, there are latterly thousands online at once which helps keep the game strong and solidify the online gaming community even more. Halo 3 online is as addictive as ever, there is a reason so many gamers log on to play Halo online and all it takes is one sit down with a few friends, or even as a lone wolf to find out why.
What’s new in the multiplayer this time around is the inclusion of all the new toys in Halo 3 which includes the new vehicles, inventory items and weapons. Halo 3 also includes co-operative play supporting four people online, or two off of one console. This obviously is awesome if you have the time to shoot it up with some friends. If you’re not getting together with some buddies to run through the campaign there is the ever so sweet multiplayer. Halo 3 has a host of new maps which are beautifully set up for multiplayer destruction; in that perfect developed Halo balance which brings me to the coolest multiplayer feature the theatre. The theatre mode allows you to glance back at your games you shared online, and in single player mode and run through them as the director saving screenshots, or capturing movie clips. This is perfect in helping build that Halo community of gaming showcasing the rivalries of clans or just to brag about that perfect sneak attack on a fellow buddy. Unexpected and totally pleased, the Theatre is a revolutionary and impressive feature to add to a FPS as intense as Halo 3.
The Forge Workshop
In another innovating twist in Halo 3 is the inclusion of the Forge. The forge is what it sounds like a Halo 3 workshop where you can build new levels like a map editor, but it’s not only a simple map editor. In the forge other mode you can change the world on the fly and help out your team mates or hinder your opponents by adding vehicles, or cover for an ongoing attack, or even better just drop some a Scorpion tank on a group of gathering threats. I didn’t spend too much time in the Forge creating new rich maps, or in the multiplayer vs. version, however the expansive and limitless nature of this feature seems like something die-hard Halo fans will bite into. It’s almost the Matrix meets, Halo.
Halo 3 might not be a revolution when it comes to the core gameplay of Halo, but that really doesn’t matter because Halo delivers on what Halo does best. Halo 3 gives a deeper, smoother and grander ride then ever before. If you enjoyed the first two Halo games there is no reason why you won’t be overjoyed with Halo 3.
Bungie has stepped it up once again making Halo 3 the premier game for Microsoft’s gaming console. Master Chief has returned with a whole lot of friends and a lot more firepower. This is the grand-daddy of 2007 and you’d have to be a fool to not want in on the action. Halo 3 is that big of a deal, it’s a landmark game, and final puzzle to one of the greatest FPS every developed. Congratulations, Master Chief, you’ve done it again.