Halo 3 Review

I’ve been sitting here for two hours now trying to figure out how, exactly, to write this. I’ve started four different reviews, and scrapped them all after one page. The fact of the matter is, Halo 3 is unlike any other game I’ve ever played or reviewed. There’s never been a game this hyped — this anticipated. Chances are good that if you’re reading this you’re one of the people who have preordered the game already, or know for a fact whether or not you’re going to get it when it comes out. (For many people, this fact is 100% based on whether or not they have a 360 or the money to get one.) I have no problem admitting that even if I gave Halo 3 a 2, it would still sell more copies than any game in recent memory by far.

I also know our audience, and I won’t kid myself. People will go to IGN and GameSpot first, read their reviews, and learn all about the new features. (And if they don’t, Wikipedia does a much better job explaining new features than I ever could, and in a lot less space — so if you honestly have no idea what a Halo 3 is, like many things Wikipedia is the best source if it’s insanely popular.) What can I do, then? After such a long time agonizing over the solution, it’s actually really simple: just explain how much fun the game is, and how much I love it.

Halo 3 mongoose vs scarab
Master Chief is so awesome, he uses vehicles as shields while driving them.

Before I actually played it, I admit I was expecting to be disappointed. There’s no way a game could live up to this much expectation. No matter how good it is, I’d be disappointed in the final product because I expect too much…right? After a less-than-stellar outing in Halo 2, I wouldn’t have been surprised if Halo 3 dropped a notch further compared to the original Halo: Combat Evolved. But no; Halo 3 surpasses even the first game, and shockingly delivers upon the hype surrounding its release. Everything that made the first Halo game such a memorable experience? It’s back. Everything that made Halo 2 a disappointment? It’s gone. (Well, for the most part; Elites are still at a big disadvantage online, the shotgun is more nerfed than ever, and the pistol is still a shade of its former self, but everything else is all good.)

The 4 player co-op via Xbox Live may not seem like a huge feature in a game which will obviously live for years via the multiplayer matchmaking play, but it’s actually one of the best parts of the game. In 2001, chances are a lot of us lived in a different area, or had friends and neighbors we played the first Halo with who have since then moved away, and gone on with their lives. If you’re like me, you miss playing the campaign mode splitscreen with your buddies. Now, you can play it with them again, and this time all at once. On Legendary, that makes the game infinitely more fun.

Halo 3 Elephant
Too bad this puppy isn’t in the campaign.

I’m really glad the campaign turned out well in Halo 3 after the fiasco that was Halo 2’s. At first, I admit that I was very disappointed with the ending (or lack thereof). I ranted and raved, and the friends I beat it with expressed similar anger at an ending which was just as bad as Halo 2, if not worse due to the expectation that Bungie did it right this time. Then, we found out there’s an after-credits cutscene which is infinitely better, and does bring an end of sorts to the saga. So make sure you stick around for that, because if it weren’t for a few friendly people who had the game even earlier than me, I would have never known better.

The gameplay in the campaign is fastpaced, and there was only one level I didn’t love playing. Sure, the little interruptions of gameplay via Cortana’s giant blue face and flashback speech are annoying (basically, it halts gameplay and it looks like MC is having a seizure), but that’s a very minor complaint in the grand scheme of things. Overall, the campaign is just incredibly paced, has a lot of homages to the original Halo and Halo 2 (including an awesome "drive the warthog while shit explodes!" portion a la Halo’s ending), and unless you’re stuck as players 2-4 you never have to touch Arbiter or anyone other than Master Chief.

For most people, that’s decent news, but nothing great — because most people are going to get Halo for the multiplayer gameplay outside of the campaign. Well, don’t worry, because that’s a blast, too.

Halo 3 Spartan laser

Even if you don’t have a Live account, you can still enjoy the game. With up to four people per 360 sharing one Live account, you can have 16 people playing online with 4 Gold-enabled accounts. (It’s nothing too new, but it’s still a great addition a lot of other games really need to copy.)

The maps in Halo 3 also feel a lot better than Halo 2’s offering. I loved Halo 2 (not as much as some people, I admit), but there was no map that really stood out as THE map; of course there were a couple that were avoided at all costs. In Halo 3, however, there are several maps that rise above even Halo’s multiplayer offerings, and none that stick out as maps I hated playing on. (Although in hindsight, Sandtrap was a horrible choice for 8 player Infection…)

Halo 3 hammer vs warthog
Rock beats scissors, hammer beats Warthog.

Playing the Forge mode with other people is a lot of fun, but I can see a lot of people getting bored with it quickly. It’s a really nice idea, having a level-editor built in with the normal gameplay, but it’s almost too much being offered at once. Half the people I played with wanted to just move stuff around and spawn items/vehicles, while the other half wanted to take it seriously and would just ruin everyone’s fun. I guess you can decide to play only with friends or by invitation, though, but even then there’s never a consensus on what’s going to go on. (One example of that split? We played 3v4v1 [one guy wanted to be alone…] in Forge — everyone wanted to build and mess around, except the one guy who took it seriously and ended up with far more kills, declaring himself the winner.)

The features Bungie added to Halo 3 just to give more back to the Halo community are just awesome — especially for a console game. Not only can you save your created maps in the Forge and share them with other players, but you can record videos of all your matches, take screens in-game (all of the ones in this review came from a few games friends played), and more. While you can’t upload videos online, that’s offset due to the fact that they’re saved via the game’s code, not actual video. What that means is you can have extremely long videos (an hour or more) take up less than 6mb of space. Perfect for the guy who wants to try to create the next Red vs Blue, or for those who want to study games to get an advantage over opponents and friends.

While the new online community-based features are awesome, it’s still all the little things Halo 3 does and how it’s done that makes it great. The gameplay isn’t far superior to other FPS games, the story isn’t as epic as we like to think it is, and the multiplayer modes really aren’t unique if you ignore the "for a console" moniker. Like I’ve said before when talking about the Halo franchise, it’s how Bungie fits it all together that makes it such a special experience. While Halo 3 doesn’t do a lot innovatively, it does everything right. They’ve had years to perfect their Halo craft, and they did it damn well this time around. The engine is better than ever, the new weapons such as the Spartan Laser and the hammer are an absolute blast to use both off- and online, and it’s a game that will have a lot of online support and community-driven content thanks to the Forge mode and file share for years to come.

Halo 3 prowler
The coolest of the new vehicles.

If you’re one of the three people with an Xbox 360 who hasn’t preordered Halo 3 yet, then take my advice and buy it when you can find a copy. If you don’t have an Xbox 360 and were on the fence at all, this is the game you were waiting for to help you decide. I just can’t explain what makes Halo 3 such a fun game, and I’m sure anyone who loves Halo can (for the most part) understand that. It’s just fun to play with people, and you really don’t understand why it’s so awesome until you try it yourself. (Which, thanks to the Guest capabilities, you can!) BioShock may be the Game of the Year at this point from a design, story and gameplay perspective, but in terms of value, fun and entertainment, no game in the current gen of consoles tops Halo 3, and it will be hard for any console game to do so in the next few years.

Halo 3 scorpion parade
The coolest of the old vehicles.

You’ll be playing this for ages, everyone else will be playing it for ages, and when it’s all said and done Master Chief’s trilogy-ending blockbuster will top the charts as the highest opening "entertainment release" of all time, and he’ll easily become the most recognizable video game character in non-gaming circles outside of Mario, Sonic and Pikachu. Halo 3 takes every positive aspect from the first two Halo games, perfects them, puts them in a shinier and better looking package, tosses in wonderful community-driven content for a console game, establishes some awesome environments, and does it so damn well it’s impossible to not have fun while playing — unless you keep losing to some random 12-year-old on Xbox Live, that is.

For those of you picking the game up at midnight, Wednesday, Thursday, next Sunday, or even Christmas, don’t worry. I never thought I’d say this, but Halo 3 deserves everything that was said about it, and then some. It really is the game we were all hoping it would be, but never expected it to become.


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Author: Brendon Lindsey View all posts by

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