Review by beanmachine43

"Perfect? No. Worth the Hype? Most definitely."

Introduction:
Unless you've been living under a rock for the past half-decade, you're aware of the gaming phenomenon known simply as, Halo. Ever since the series' start on the original Xbox, each game has continually turned out to be a huge success for Microsoft, and rightly so. Halo: Combat Evolved gave the gaming world a game that reached the type of success that no other console FPS had reached before. Along with an engaging storyline and top-of-the-line graphics, Bungie Studios offered us action-packed multiplayer only to be thought possible on a PC. The second game, Halo 2, would go on to continue that success and sell an extremely-impressive 6.5 million units. However, that didn't mean fans wouldn't have their disappointments. Key changes to fan-favorite weapons, a rushed storyline and a few other tweaks to the formula prevented it from reaching the same critical success as its predecessor.

Diehard gamers and critics alike were left wondering on whether or not Bungie could do it again or not. The answer, to put it in simpler terms, is yes.

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Graphics:
Halo has always been a pretty game. The weapon models, vehicles, particle effects, lighting and of course Master Chief himself can all be eye-popping if viewed in glorious high-definition. Framerate is never really an issue either, unless you're purposely trying to fill the screen with explosions and such. Even on 16-player multiplayer it manages to hold up and remain steady. That said, it isn't the most beautiful game in the world either. A couple instances, especially in the later levels, you'll notice the lack of detail in some the environments. Other character models can appear smudgy as well, along with rare tearing, so it's a bit of a hit-and-miss on being a beautiful game.

(And for the Sony/Nintendo fanboys, as I'm sure it's been pointed out thousands of times, the game doesn't necessarily run in your typical HD setup. As with Perfect Dark Zero, the games actually renders at a 1152x640 resolution. This was done in order for Bungie to allow the game to maintain an acceptable framerate, as well as preserve much of the dynamic lighting as possible.)

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Sound:
Your typical FPS. A lot of ‘BOOMS!' and ‘BANGS!', as well as a decent score (even if it's been somewhat recycled for the past two games). One notable mention is that your fellow soldiers (as well as enemy units) are actually pretty funny. It's not uncommon for them to add their own commentary on your actions, or whatever situation is at hand. Fans of the series will feel right at home here, especially with the last level when the Halo theme is blasting through your speakers and your hands are gripping on the edges of your controller. Nothing truly amazing here, but nothing here is even close to being “bad”.

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Gameplay:
Finally, the meat of the whole game. This is why some people separate Halo from the mediocre games, as well as criticize it for its repetitive nature. While there is an element of running-and-gunning through some levels, it's nearly impossible to do this on Legendary. It'd be unwise for you to not pay attention of your surroundings, or else you may find yourself in the middle of a Brute sandwich.

The selection of weapons is largely the same from past titles (including the long-awaited return of the Assault Rifle from the first game), but there are a number of new additions to keep players busy. The Bubble Shield is particularly useful to protect yourself from a barrage of enemy fire. The Grav Lift is handy for jumping to otherwise-difficult to reach places. The Gravity Hammer serves somewhat as a counter-balance to the Energy Sword, considering it's much more efficient on clearing large rooms rather than focusing on a single opponent. Oh, and the Needler is totally kick-ass in this game! Imagine that! Aside from the impressive arsenal, not much else is worthy of mention…

Oh, that's right, vehicles. It's great to see a game have such an emphasis on vehicular combat on the campaign and not just the multiplayer. Throughout the end of the game, as you take down even bigger foes, it'd be best for you to stay in the protected walls of a Scorpion tank or newly-added Hornet (or a Banshee for the UNSC). Most vehicles have multiple points of entry, so AI-controlled comrades or a second/third/fourth player can join the fun by taking place in a turret or side wing.

Repetitive? Yes, but in a good way. While in essence this game plays exactly like the previous two games, everything just feels much more polished and balanced. Bungie has managed to impress me on making such a great game. Even if the ending story arch didn't grab my attention, the sheer amount of cannon fodder you can mow down will put a smile on anyone's face.

--Multiplayer--
Since Halo is all about the multiplayer, it's probably best to review separately from the rest of the game. Hell, if it wasn't for Chief himself, we wouldn't even really need single-player (Warhawk, anybody?). I usually hate to go into specifics when describing this part of a game, but this is an exception. Like a lot of other 360 titles, Halo 3 uses the TrueSkill ranking system. Along with this, there are two different ranks that the matchmaking system will look at before tossing you into a match, skill and experience. Experience is gained specifically through what kind of games you like to play. If you're more of a tactical player and CTF-lover, your ranking will reflect that. Straight-up Slayer players will also feel at home with this system. Game modes are largely the same, since players can now create and play matches with people's own custom rules.

If you've played Halo 2 online, you've played Halo 3 online. Maps are varied, players will quickly find their favorite weapon spawns, and overall it's just quick to get into. Anybody reading this who has yet to play a game of Halo, and are planning to; be warned. Not only are matches hectic and incredibly quick-paced, it's a very competitive community. Thankfully, if you're feeling harassed or just find someone downright annoying, Bungie has graced us with the subtly-dubbed “A-hole button“. Now you can quickly view the player list by pressing the Back button and quickly mute any player you wish. While I haven't used it too much myself, it is a nice feature, and welcomed.

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Conclusion: I'm going to be honest. I didn't expect this game to be that damn good. Maybe it's just the drawing appeal of the frantic multiplayer, or me willing to sit down and shut up, not opening my mouth before I even had played the game. This is definitely one of the most anticipated titles of the year, arguably the most. It has its flaws, but as I sit back and reflect on my experience I just had so much more fun than with Halo 2. While I don't think I'll ever have as good of an experience with Combat Evolved, this game did come close. If you have a 360, should you buy this game? Most definitely. Is it worth buying a 360 alone? Maybe. If you've been waiting on a next-gen FPS, than this may not be for you. I can promise you, however, is that you will have one hell of a time if you have a crowded friends list. And really, isn't that what games are all about? Looking past a game's flaws and simply asking yourself, “Is this game fun?” The answer, to put in simpler terms, is yes.


Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 10/02/07

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


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