"A very worthy way to finish the fight, and the best Xbox Live game. Period."

I have been waiting for Halo 3 since the day Halo 2 came out. I have listened to every Bungie Podcast, and read every Bungie weekly update. That being said, my hype for this game was way higher than that of the average player. Based on what I'd seen in the beta and read/heard from Bungie, I knew the game was going to rock. I just didn't know how much it was going to rock. I will say it right now: Halo 3 is the best game that I've ever played on any console or computer. Period. And I've played a LOT of games. From the epic story to the amazingly in depth multiplayer, the game delivers extremely well on all fronts. I have no doubt that every gamer (or even somebody who's not a huge gamer) will love Halo 3. If somebody tells you that Halo 3 doesn't stand up to the hype, then they have obviously never even given it a chance. Due to the complexity of the game, this review consists of two main sections (Multiplayer and Campaign), each of which is broken down into subdivisions.

Campaign

--Story: 10/10--

If you've played other Halo games, then you basically know what the story in Halo 3 will be like. I can't really say too much about the story without spoiling anything, however the story starts out strong right where Halo 2 left off, and goes on strong. Bungie learned from their mistakes from Halo 2, and the story takes place only on Earth. The game does use an excessive amount of cut scenes, however they use the same engine as the game, so it never really feels like you are out of the game at all. Even if you haven't played any previous Halo games, it won't be too difficuilt for you to follow whats going on, and they've even got a little back story in the instruction manual in case you need more information. Note: Be sure that you stick around to watch the credits, because there is more to come afterwords :)

--Graphics: 9/10--

The graphics in Halo 3's campaign are some of the best graphics I've ever seen on the 360. When you consider the fact that you can play 2-player co-op on one system with the same graphics and framerate, it is really amazing. The lighting and particle effects in the game are probably the best on any console game I've ever seen. Overall, the graphics are probably slightly worse than Gears of War or BioShock, but again, considering what this game does, the graphics are absolutely amazing. Loading takes place only in between levels, but the loading screen looks so amazing, you will probably wish you saw it more often.

--Sound: 7/10--

If you've watched the E3 2006 trailer for Halo 3, you've heard the music in Halo 3. Yes, the music is amazing, but Bungie chose to repeat the same song over and over and over again. The song always manages to fit what's going on the screen, but with Bungie's large budget, I'd have thought they could do better. As for the game's sound effects, they are absolutely amazing. Each gun has its own set of sounds, and they sound differently when they are far away or in a small area. The characters make some hilarious noises when they die, and the voice acting in the game can't be beat. Bungie has gone to great efforts to ensure that the voice acting is interesting, and they have really succeeded. When playing on different difficulties or with different "skulls" enabled, there will be different voices for the characters to ensure that you get a new experience every time you play. Other than the poor variety of music the sound in Halo 3 is absolutely amazing.

--Gameplay: 10/10--

Gameplay is where Halo 3 shines the most. The controls have been perfected for the Xbox 360 controller. They may take some time to get used to, however once you do, you will see that the changes are amazing. Of course, if you refuse to change, Bungie does offer a Halo 2 control scheme option that you can choose. Some have complained that Halo 3 is too much like Halo 2, but that couldn't be further from the truth. There is such a large variety of new weapons, the addition of equipment, and characters that it feels like you are playing a completely brand new game, not a copy of Halo 2 like some have claimed.

--Online Co-op Play: 10/10--

It was only a few weeks before release that Bungie finally announced what everybody had been waiting to hear: 4 player campaign cooperative play over Xbox Live. Why did Bungie wait so long to reveal this feature? They needed to be sure it worked perfectly before they promised it to gamers. Let me tell you, thanks to co-op play with meta scoring (gives you a score based on your in-game performance), the Halo 3 campaign is going to be replayed, and replayed, and replayed over and over again for tons of years to come. To start a co-op game you simply choose campaign from the main menu, and then invite your friends. You can play with 3 people online, or you and a guest on your console can play with 2 others online. Either way, you are ensured a great experience. During my play with co-op, it has worked much better than I expected, and only lagged when I was playing with a friend who had a bad DSL internet connection. I should tell you right now that you need to play co-op on legendary difficulty, because as you might expect, the game gets substantially easier when there are 4 people fighting. Also, the only time you revert to the previous checkpoint is if all 4 of you die at the same time.

Campaign score: 9.2/10 (an average of the above scores)

Multiplayer

9.2 is an amazing score for the campaign. But you haven't even scratched the surface of the game yet until you've heard about multiplayer. For the past 3 years, Halo 2 has remained the most played Xbox Live game. Nothing could beat it. Except Halo 3, of course. I am amazed at all of the features included in Halo 3, and I'm always finding new stuff every time I play. The Multiplayer will be played for tens of years to come. That's just how great it is. Now, lets dive right in and try to take a look at all of the multiplayer features:

--Graphics: 9/10--

For obvious reasons, the graphics aren't as good in multiplayer as they are in campaign. That being said, the graphics are still flippin' amazing. I have no clue how Bungie has pulled off these amazing graphics with up to 4 players split-screen with no framerate hitches at all. Every time I play Halo 3 online, I catch myself stopped in the middle of the action staring at the detail in the environments. No two explosions are alike, and you will continue to be amazed at the level of detail in the graphics for a long, long time. My absolute favorite graphical feature is the water. I have died countless times while staring at the water. At first glance, the water looks great. Its flowing realistically, with waves and sloshes, and all that stuff. Then you see somebody jump in the water. There is a realistic splash, followed by realistic ripples around the person. My favorite thing to do is to stand in the water, and just watch how it ripples around me. The water effects are seriously that great. And so are the explosion effects, the wind effects, the lighting effects, and the particle effects. Combine all these amazing graphical effects, with the option to watch everything over again in slow motion (more on saved replay's later), and you have what is probably the most visually stunning multiplayer game ever. The level of detail put into everything far surpasses any other multiplayer game on any system. The best part of it all is that loading times are buried within the matchmaking process, so as its preparing connection settings and teams its also loading the map so that once the game is set up you can all jump in and start playing with no visible load time whatsoever.

--Sound: 10/10--

We have already covered how great the sound effects were in the Campaign, but multiplayer is even better. Shoot in the water for a realistic sound, shoot a wall for a realistic sound, kill a person for a realistic sound (or yelp in some cases- you will see what I mean when you are playing). The sound in Halo 3 multiplayer is unbeatable. Period. It's really hard to describe sound, so the most effective thing I can say is: Go get the game and play it for yourself to see how sweet it is. Even better if you can play with surround sound and see just how much work was done on the sound.

-- Multiplayer maps/game types/game play: 10/10 --

The multiplayer maps included in Halo 3 are the strongest maps to date. I've played over 1000 multiplayer games, and have yet to find a map that I dislike or get bored with. They are varied in size and shape. This time around, Bungie has really strayed away from the symmetrical maps to more asymmetrical maps. The change is really nice, and you will definitely appreciate it for games such as capture the flag, as it provides more of a fun experience, while still being perfectly fair for both teams. As for game types, all game types from Halo 2 make a return, as well as some of the popular ones from custom games such as “zombies” (renamed infection). All of the games and maps seem to be balanced perfectly, and it is never too difficult to complete an objective thanks to this great balance. And of course, even in the rare instance that you get a game type that you don't like in matchmaking, you can simply press X to veto it, and if more than 50% of the players in the game agree, a new map and game type will be chosen. The game play is similar to that of Halo 2, although the old weapons have been balanced (the energy sword still owns, but now it owns in a fair way), and the addition of equipment really has a fun effect on the game. Equipment items include a bubble shield, a portable gravity lift, a trip mine, a power drainer, or power regenerator, just to name a few. These can be activated by pressing the X button, and are thrown sort of like grenades. They last for about 30 seconds or until somebody blows it up. Overall, the multiplayer experience is the best in any game, ever, and won't be beat until Bungie releases their next title.

--Online rankings/other extra features: 10/10--

The amount of extra features included in Halo 3 is absolutely astounding. First, you have saved replay's, which let you save a replay of any multiplayer (or campaign) game and watch it back from any angle, frame-by-frame. You can watch from anybody's point of view, or fly the camera anywhere in the map and watch from any perspective you choose with the ability to rewind, pause, slow motion, and everything else you'd expect to be able to do with a replay. You may or may not think it sounds cool, but once you try it out, you will wonder how you survived Halo 2 without it. It makes your smack talk so much more powerful, and you can now prove to your friends that you “got a 100 kill spree last night.” (or they can prove that you didn't). Best of all, films are saved as "game code" rather than video files, so they take up extremely tiny amounts of space and retain FULL quality. Of course, once you have your film, you naturally want to share it, so Bungie lets you upload up to 6 files to their server for storage and sharing with other members (you can upload 24 files with "Bungie Pro" which currently costs $10 per year, and increases your space limit from 25MB to 250MB... keep in mind a film from a 30 minute game is only around 5MB so you don't need a ton of space unless you are a machima addict).

Another great extra included in Halo 3 is Forge. Forge is a basic map editor. It lets you move spawn points, weapons, scenery, etc. You can edit basically anything other than the physical layout of the map. And after you get the perfect map, you can save it and upload to your file share for all to enjoy. It really is extremely amazing, you just have to see it to believe it. The best part of all the mentioned features is that they are fully accessible from Bungie.net. Looking for a good video to watch but your friends don't have any? Just go to www.bungie.net and search for what you are looking for. Next to the screens and description there is also a Download button which, when clicked, will download that file to your Xbox 360 the next time you boot Halo 3. In addition to this, all statistics from all games you play are stored on Bungie.net for you to look at. There are even more stats available here than in the in-game stats report, and if anybody you played with has uploaded screenshots or videos from that game, Bungie will put a link on the game page so you can check them out.

--Lasting Appeal 11/10--

When you consider everything that I've mentioned in both the campaign and multiplayer aspects, its really amazing. You could spend an entire day exploring the features I've mentioned in this review, and still not have seen everything. Halo 2 never lost its popularity (even after the release of Halo 3, there are an average of 40,000 people playing Halo 2 online every day), and with all the exciting new features in Halo 3, it is going to retain its popularity for even longer. I know people are going to be mad that I gave lasting appeal an 11/10, but I firmly believe that by the time Bungie's “next project” is released, Halo 3 will still be my most played game, and will still be on the weekly list of top Live games played

Multiplayer Rating 10/10 (an average of the above scores)

Final Score and Thoughts

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: Halo 3 is THE BEST GAME I'VE EVER PLAYED. I don't know how Bungie got this much game made in 3 years, but it is simply amazing. Everybody should purchase this game- you won't regret it. As a final sum-up I will offer some pro's and con's.

Pro's:
Amazing graphics
Amazing AI
Great sound

Con's:
Could use a better variety of music
Rewinding saved films is a bit awkward- you will see what I mean when you try.
A matchmaking feature for custom games promised by Bungie has gone strangely missing :(

Overall Score: 9.999/10- ALMOST PERFECT (I don't feel any game is ever perfect, so I will never give a game a score of 10. But this game is the closest to perfection that I've ever seen. Since the GameFAQs rating system doesn't allow decimals, I've given it a "9" rating, but it's honestly closer to "10"


Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 10/02/07, Updated 03/21/08

Game Release: Halo 3 (US, 09/25/07)


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