Review by ShadowGuardian9

"Finish the fight. You know you want to."

Halo has come a long, long way since its initial appearance at E3 so long ago. Since then, the Halo series has reached critical acclaim from point blank range and has become one of gaming's most treasured series. 2001 was a golden year for the original Halo: Combat Evolved, which sold Microsoft's budding Xbox into stardom. In 2004, Halo 2 hit stores with fanbases cheering. It reached a tremendous landmark as one of the best selling video games in history. Fans eagerly awaited Halo's climactic conclusion for years. No Halo appeared at the 360's launch, but in 2007, we are given the third and final game in the Legendary Halo trilogy. Grab your helmet, Halo faithful, because Master Chief is back for Halo 3 for the Xbox 360.

If you've played the first two Halo games, or at least Halo 2, you'll remember what happened and be ready to go for Round 3. Master Chief is reawakened after crash-landing on Earth and meets up with some old friends and enemies. Now fighting alongside the Arbiter, Master Chief must fight through the Covenant forces, confront the betrayer Prophet of Truth, and save the galaxy from utter destruction once more. Along the way Master Chief gets cryptic messages from Cortana, who is still suffering from the events of Halo 2. If Halo 2 wasn't enough of a double-take, then Halo 3 will constantly keep you guessing. The story is so less methodical than the first two, and there'll always be some unexpected event to delay the amazing and climactic clincher. But there's really nothing wrong with that. Halo 3 isn't the most amazing storyline ever, but it packs the same sci-fi action and philosophical tension that the series is known for and is a worthy end to one of this generation's most treasured series.

Thanks to the revisions of the Xbox 360 controller from the Xbox controller S, the controls in Halo 3 are excellent. The dual-analog aiming and moving system still works brilliantly. Use A to jump, Y to change weapons, B to melee. Triggers to fire weapons and throw grenades. Reloading and picking up weapons are now mapped to the bumpers, which makes the system smoother and less cumbersome. The X button now lets the player use equipment (more on that later). On the whole, the game's controls allow for further experimentation in how you play, and the entire system is a good improvement on the past games solid and ergonomic controls.

Halo 3, essentially is the same phenomenal game as Halo 2, but it does pack in some interesting new tricks. First is equipment. Master Chief not only can wield different weapons, use grenades, and hijack vehicles, but now he can use more defensive tactics. Equipment can range from something as simple as a Deployable Cover to the more advanced equipment like Trip Mines, Shield Regenerators, and even Grav Lifts. These add an interesting new dimension to gameplay, and show off significant variations in the traditional Halo gameplay. Another interesting, though generally less useful, is the ability to detach turrets and use them as super-powerful weapons. You trade speed for power so they're not particularly flexible, but there's a degree of inventiveness in this subtle inclusion. But besides that, there are little changes in Halo 3's gameplay. You'll see new weapons like the Brute Spiker and Spartan Laser and new vehicles like the Hornet, but at its core, Halo 3 is still Halo. The majority of the game leads you along different mission objectives, usually taking out Brutes and Grunts to clear a path for your team. The action is still fast-paced and furious and you rarely ever get some breathing room in game. The game still mixes up the traditional FPS gameplay with stellar vehicle combat and navigation, so you rarely find yourself getting bored in-game. There's plenty to do in Halo 3, even if it may seem a bit more traditional than groundbreaking.

If there's one thing Halo 3 nails, it's the options. Halo 3 is the first game in the series to introduce online co-op in the Campaign, along with traditional co-op in the multiplayer, which is absolutely phenomenal. If you don't have Xbox Live, you'll need it to see all that Halo 3 has to offer. Now new players can battle other new players, and veterans can duke it out in a number of new modes. Along with the stellar multiplayer and Campaign, players can now create levels with Forge, which lets you place weapons, vehicles, and items to your liking. There's also the option of creating game modes and even saving screenshots and videos. You like that snipe you just made? Save it to your hard drive for remembrance, or even share it with friends. Along with Achievements, there's so much to do in Halo 3 once the Campaign is finished. You'll need Xbox Live to get the most of it, but if you do, prepare to be occupied for a long, long time.

Quite honestly, Halo 3 is not the best looking game on the Xbox 360. The graphics are incredibly beautiful and full of the diversity and unique cosmetic detail expected since the first, but do they really push the envelope? Not really. Yes, the Chief and Arbiter both look great and the lip-syncing is relatively good. The game does move at a quick and strong clip; slow-down is extremely rare and the game does show some technical power when a multitude of enemies appear on-screen. The stages and maps are diverse, yet traditional. A good example is Valhalla, the multiplayer map that theoretically replaces Coagulation from Halo 2. It is filled to the brim with beautiful graphics, but still retains the stylistic tradition of Halo. On the sound side of things, Halo 3 trumps with choral and orchestral gold at every standpoint. The climactic sounds of choral singing elevate the game to a downright incredible level. The explosions and weapons sound are equally visceral, and the sounds of battle explode and echo throughout the game. The voice acting has its moments of being a little melodramatic, but you'll still find yourself smirking at Master Chief's one-liners and the Sergeant Major's wise-cracks. The game still retains a strong presentation, but there's unforgettable moments abound, making Halo 3 a phenomenal achievement.

Pros
+ Plenty of new weapons and vehicles
+ Refined controls compensate for fast action
+ Multiplayer is refined and easier to jump into
+ Beautiful graphics and sound
+ Online modes offer plenty of customization
+ Campaign closes trilogy with good merit

Cons
- The trilogy is over. Simmer down.
- Xbox Live is practically required to get all the fun in the game
- Quite honestly isn't as groundbreaking as other games this year
- Graphics are beautiful, but not earth-shattering

In a nutshell, Halo 3 delivers. You won't find anticipation higher and tension-populated gamers like the fanbases that desperately awaited the final chapter in the trilogy of Halo, but above all odds and matters, Halo 3 is a remarkable achievement with enough style, revision, and enjoyable moments to be worth the money of even the most jaded gamer. It's a beautiful, beautiful game with gorgeous visuals, diverse environments, and plenty of cosmetic detail. While some games have trod upon new paths like Gears of War, Halo 3 is a strong reminder of games of past and how downright enjoyable they are. The sound design is stellar and a healthy reminiscence of high quality choral music and epic sound degree. The gameplay is everything the original two games were and so much more; the high-intensity action is at an incredible clip and the game offers many ways to approach a battle. It's also a healthy challenge, but never manages to be impossible, even on the especially challenging Legendary difficulty. Pack in a multiplayer with literally thousands of possibilities, a community that's always ready to play, and the ability to share memorable moments with friends and rivals, and you get one of this year's best games. If you are of legitimate age and own an Xbox 360, Halo 3 belongs in your game collection. From start to finish Halo 3 will astound, surprise, and remind you of how great gaming is. Finish the fight. You know you want to.


Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 01/03/08

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


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