Review by TheKoolAidShoto

"Halo 3 is one of the best games of 2007"

Finish the Fight

Halo. Its the most important video game series of the last 10 years, and the sequels have been the most hyped video games in history. The presence of Halo 3 has been felt everywhere. From Burger King placements to Mountain Dew, Microsoft has spent 20 million dollars to push this game to every form of media they could find. On September 25, 2007, Halo 3 launched and made $170 million dollars in 24 hours; bigger than any other form of entertainment out there. But beyond all the hype and sales, what is it about Halo that makes it so popular? Its not easy to explain, but the bottom line is simple: Halo 3 is a great game, and anyone with a good taste in gaming should definitely find a way to add this to their collection.

Halo 3 is really two different games, and I'm going to split this review into two halves. First up is the campaign. Master Chief has been waiting to "Finish the Fight", and now 360 owners finally get to find out how this space opera ends. Unfortunately, the story is definitely not one of Halo 3's strong points and is somewhere I'm definitely disappointed about. It goes like this: Master Chief arrives back to Earth and now has to join forces with the Elites if he hopes to stand a chance against the Covenant. The Covenant believe they have found The Ark(The control center of all the Halos) which just so happens to be in East Africa. The Covenant has pretty much decimated all of Earth's forces and Master Chief is pretty much the only one who can save the world. Oh, and The Flood are still ****ing things up. Cortana is nowhere to be found.

About halfway through though, the story just gets crazy. Portals, Cortana, Gravemind, Prophets, multiple Halos, 363 Guilty Spark; damn near every character and plotline comes together in some way, but Bungie does a terrible job of illustrating the story. The writing during the cinemtics seems straight out of a Fantastic Four comic, and the ending puts a new definition for "anticlimatic". The characters in the scenes look like they were made of clay, as if last-gen technology was still in heavy rotation. It really takes you out of the atmosphere. Compare this form of storytelling to other shooters this year such as Bioshock, Half-Life 2 Episode 2, and Call of Duty 4, and you'll see why Halo 3 falls flat on its face in this cateogory. Easily the biggest disappointment of the game. My advice is not to think about it too much. Aliens have taken over the world, and you're the only badass space marine for the job. That's the basic gist; anything besides that is not worth your time.

The other big problem I had with the campaign was The Flood. Their levels have always been the worst levels in the series, and this game is no exception. I will admit, the fact that you can actually melee them makes some levels actually pretty good, but the second-to-last level is not. This mission has you crawling around a disgusting environment with constant interruptions that shake/obscure the screen. You have to transverse a maze like area with monsters that run out you from all directions. The fact that you have no idea where you are going for the majority of the time doesn't help either. I've played hundreds of video games in my life, and this has to be one of the worst levels I have ever experienced(and I've played Battletoads). The amount of frustration I received when I realized I had to backtrack through the entire level is unmatched.

Besides those two flaws, Halo 3's Campaign is exceptional. Bungie realized that had a formula that worked, and have stuck to their guns pretty effectively. Grunts are still funny little critters that flail their arms in the air in fear. Jackals still do support roles and are still annoying snipers on Legendary. Brutes take the place of Elites, leading their pack of minions into the fight. Halo 3 still follows the "30 seconds of fun" rule, which has firefights spread evenly across large battlefields. Their is always more than one way to battle the enemy and its awesome no matter how you approach the fight. Your marine buddies are as stupid as ever. Do NOT let any of them drive unless you want a closer look of what the nearest wall looks like. The Artiber, who assists you in single player from time to time, doesn't fare much better. He's great at taking out Flood though with his sword. Sometimes I stand back and just let him go to work.

Master Chief has a lot of old favorites back and more balanced, like the Assault Rifle and the Plasma Sword, but a few new ones appear as well. Maulers are Brute dual weldable shotguns. They have amazingly fast melee; very effective in multiplayer. Spikers are the Brute equivalents of the SMGs, firing needle like projectiles instead of bullets, but do come equipped with a bayonet. The Spartan Laser takes 3 seconds to fire, but its easily the most powerful human weapon, with the ability to take down most vehicles with a single blast. The coolest one however, has got to be the Gravity Hammer. This is a large toothbrush looking weapon that sends shock-waves out with every swing. One hit takes all but the toughest Brute Cheiftans, which is ok because they are usually the one carrying them. The feeling you get from smashing a Brute over the head never gets old.

Halo does vehicular combat better than damn near any other shooter, and all the old ones come back in some form. The Warthog is the iconic Halo staple that controls the same way it always has, and the Ghosts are still the best from running over people, but the new vehicles are pretty interesting. The Mongoose is a a two-man ATV and is probably my favorite new one. Its a great way to get across the map with a flag carrier. Choppers are motorcycle like vehicles with a giant wheels in the front. It has powerful projectiles and a small boost that great for running over vehicles and enemies. The Hornet is a campaign-only vehicle that is the UNSC's answer to the
Banshee, only much more powerful. With all these additions, Bungie proves that Halo's balance of on-foot and vehicle missions is unmatched by any other single-player shooter.

The one really new thing to the Halo formula is equipment. This are little items you pick up through the game that you deploy with the X button. Some are protective(Bubble Shield), while others damage(Power Drain). Radar jammers, trip mines, even flares are commonplace items found in every level. Beware though; the enemy Brutes often carry these as well. They add a extra bit of strategy to the game, but nothing too major. Brutes tend to throw them out haphazardly, regardless of what effect they may have. The gameplay still depends on your weapons, grenades, and melee so don't get to bothered by this new addition.

Halo's presentation has never looked better. Besides some questionable in-game models, the game looks beautiful. It won't give Gears of War a run for its money, but one look at the HDR lighting on Sierra 117 will make you realize this isn't the old Xbox. To people saying this is just Halo 2 with a face-lift, please excuse me as I laugh in your general direction. From beginning to end, this is definitely a pretty game; just not THE prettiest. The soundtrack is still as beautiful and epic as ever. The memorable tunes return, as do some new tracks that use some familiar melodies. Marty keeps the intense atmosphere of the Halo trilogy alive. Much appreciated.

The level design is much improved, taking you from one epic set piece battle to the next. By the end of the game you will have fought off a pack of Hunters and Brutes with a rocket launcher, scaled and destroyed a giant mechanical walker called a Scarab(no longer a scripted event ala Halo 2), blazed a path of fire through Flood zombies, and do something to a certain annoying flying robot you ALWAYS wanted to do. Its an amazing experience that you want to play through several times.

As if the main game wasn't enough, Bungie added a few features that warrant multiple plays. A new Meta-Game scoring system is optional. It changes the Halo formula into an arcade game, providing points for killing enemies. Bonus points are awarded for different factors, like headshots, sticking your foes with grenades, and killing multiple people at once. Add that to the fact that it tallies all your enemy kills, deaths, etc at the end of a level, and provides multipliers for things like time beaten and difficulty setting, and you can see why this mode can become quite addictive.

The game also has Skulls hidden throughout the game's 9 chapters. When enabled, they usually make the game harder. The radar may disappear, or enemies might have far superior armor. Those looking for a challenge will want to turn on as many as possible, but some skulls actually provide funny results. My favorite is the Grunt Birthday Party, which causes confetti to fly in the air and a few kids to yell "Yay!" upon a Grunt headshot. The skulls also add multipliers to your meta-game score, so those looking for achievements might need to turn a few on. The skulls are well hidden; one in particularly is REALLY hard. Whoever first found is must have been really bored. Finding them all also unlocks some badass Ninja Gaiden armor.

To top off all this great features is the fact that there is 4-player online co-op. Now you and three friends can finish the fight in style. Instead of four Spartans running around, player one is Master Chief and player two is the Artiber. The other two are red and blue Elites. This makes more sense, seeing as how the Elites have teamed up with the Earth government to destroy a greater foe. The game plays out just the same, but everything is better with friends. 4-player co-op is amazingly fun, providing laughs and moments you will always remember, particularly because the game saves the levels in Theater mode(more on that later). Its well worth the price of admission alone, and its one of the only ways to beat Legendary without losing your mind.

Speaking of difficulty, the four difficulties from previous Halo games return: Easy, Normal, Herioc(Hard), and Legendary(Insane). Normal has been made easier for the increasing casual fans who buy Halo 3 to simply find out "how the world ends", so anyone worth their salt should play the game on Heroic. It adds more enemies and weapons, and is an overall much funnier experience than playing by yourself on Normal. With four players, you can blast through Legendary in five hours, so always do Legendary on co-op. Anything else is way too easy.

So to sum up the Campaign: Flawed yet still amazing campaign that puts the predecessors to shame(hey, that rhymes!), perfection of the Halo formula, lots of old and new weapons/vehicles, pretty graphics, superb soundtrack, hidden easter eggs galore, meta-scoring system, and kickass four-player co-op. The campaign alone deserves a 9/10, but I haven't even got the part most people buy Halo 3 for.

Multiplayer

Right now, over a hundred thousand different color Spartans and Elites are battling each other over Xbox Live. The easy-to-learn streamlined online gameplay returns, and its features should put other online competitive shooters to shame.

The matchmaking system is back, and it has a few new features that make it even better than before. You now have two ranks, one rank for a certain playlist(like Halo 2), and one that shows everyone how experienced you are at Halo. You start out as a recruit, eventually moving up to a Sargent, and then rising through the ranks like Lieutenant, Major, and eventually General. The higher ranks require you to have a pretty high level in a certain Matchmaking playlist too, so you can't simply keep playing the game and ranking up eventually(ex: Call of Duty 4); you actually have to win in you want a better rank. This helps XBL users to find better matches and friends who can compete with their skills.

When you find a game in one of the dozen or so playlists(whether it be ranked or unranked), you can veto the gametype to play something else. You need a majority vote to do so, but it helps when you get Shotty Snipers on Snowbound for the third time in a row. Be warned, you can't veto the next gametype if the vote passes, so you might be stuck with something even worse. Just keep that in mind when you tell everyone to veto Crazy King. Nobody wants to play Ninjanaught.

You now have customizable armors for your Spartan/Elite. Using a variety of colors and armor pieces, you can mix-and-match to create your sci-fi warrior of choice. Not as customizable as say Unreal Tournament, but different enough that you probably won't run into your mirror image anytime soon.

The core gametypes of Halo return. Slayer is just a fancy name for deathmatch. Flags are captured, bombs are planted, and Kings of the Hill are crowned. A few tweaks to the gametypes add some balance to the games, but Halo 2 XBL users should feel really comfortable to the game. The weapons have also been balanced, and you no longer have to dual-wield to survive.

A few crazy gametypes have been included, but the custom game options have been increased tenfold. You wanna have everyone starting with gravity hammers, 1/3rd the gravity, and 3x the shields? You can do it.

Forge is a map editor addition to the Halo universe. You can't really make new maps, but you can put in lots of features to make your own custom maps. It has a few good ideas, but I think it mostly a poorly-conceived map editor.

The theater mode saves the last 13 games/levels you played, and the ability to save any of these for future references may not be new to PC gamers, but is a amazing addition to the Halo universe. In multiplayer videos, you can rewind, fast forward, focus on a player, look down the barrel, put in slow motion, fly across the map and watch something else...its pretty extensive. Campaign levels also save, but the lack of a rewind button or the ability to save clips kinda hinders it.

Halo 3's multiplayer perfects the Halo 2 experience with some much needed tweaks, and with upcoming maps as of this writing, Halo 3 looks to be one of the most popular Xbox Live for years to come.

Believe

Halo 3 is one of those games that, surprisingly, not everyone will love. I can definitely see why someone might rate this game a 7/10. Maybe they don't like the feel of Bungie's streamlined shooter gameplay. Maybe they don't like the whiny kids online. Maybe the graphics are pretty enough, or the campaign isn't long enough,or they don't have Xbox Live; SOMETHING. However, as a user of Xbox Live and a Halo fan, Halo 3 is everything I could hope for('sans the story). Its got an amazingly good campaign and the same addictive Halo multiplayer that will keep Spartan warriors like myself battling for years. Greatest game ever? Its not even the Game of the Year(Super Mario Galaxy takes that title). However, it is one of the best shooters of the year(which is saying a lot with such quality titles out like Bioshock, Orange Box, Call of Duty 4), and I believe it is the ultimate Halo experience. Bungie should be proud of their mega-blockbuster series.

It looks like a lot us won't be finishing the fight anytime soon.


Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 11/26/07

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


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