Review by aleeock157

"A decent ending to a revolutionary trilogy."

Halo. The first person shooter (FPS) that some say revolutionized the way we look at FPS games. In 2001, there was Halo, with its awesome story and co-op mode, and it's even better multiplayer mode. Then in 2004 came it's highly awaited sequel, Halo 2, which offered a different take on the story and revolutionized multiplayer play with it's integration into Xbox Live, Microsoft's online console service that allowed users from around the globe play with each other. Then on September 5, 2007, Bungie released the third and final chapter to Master Chief's story, Halo 3, which perfected everything that it's previous iterations succeeded in doing, and much, much more.

Story:
The story in Halo 3 continues where the agonizing cliff hanger in Halo 2 left off, Master Chief on the forerunner ship in orbit preparing to take the fight to Earth. Unlike Halo 2, you do not have a Covenant side of the story. Instead, the Arbiter and his band of Elites join you on your fight against the Covenant. You must stop the Prophet of Truth before he activates the Sacred Rings (Halos) and destroys all life in the galaxy!

For a video game, the story is pretty bland. For a FPS, the story is… well… pretty bland. Master Chief still does not have much in terms of character development, and the Arbiter is there pretty much for backup during combat situations. He doesn't really do much aside from talk in a few key scenes. All your favorite non-playable characters (NPC) are back, including Sergeant Avery Johnson and Miranda Keyes. All in all though, it is a very solid ending for the trilogy and it leaves little in plot holes.

Controls:
Not too much has changed in terms of controller design, so you can expect that the layouts are still pretty much the same. Unlike many FPS's that I've played, the controls are very fluid and easy to learn, and come with many different configurations to suit your style.

The both of the bumpers are used for reloading or picking up weapons, but if you don't have a second dual wield you can use the left bumper for switching grenades. The left trigger fires your second dual wielded weapon, and if you don't have one throws a grenade instead. The right trigger/bumper shoots your main hand and reloads your weapon.

During Xbox Live play, to talk to people you need to push a direction on the D-pad (unless there are 4 or less people on your team, but I'll cover more on that later), you will hear the com open up, and when it senses that you are done talking, it will close.

Graphics:
If you're looking for insanely realistic graphics, then Halo 3 isn't the game you want to look at. The graphics are amazing, but meant to be colorful, which turns a handful of people off. I think the graphics are beautiful, from the explosions on the snows of Snowbound, to the splashes from the tires of your Mongoose as you frantically race away with the flag on Valhalla. You can even see footprints in the snow.

All four grenades look beautiful when they detonate. The plasma grenades are brilliant bright blue and have sparks throughout the explosion and frag grenades blow tons of dirt and debris everywhere. The spike grenade's projectiles bounce off of every surface until they come to rest, and the firebomb grenade sticks to any surface (including you!) and burns any person that comes near it.

All of the weapons you use look incredible. The human sniper rifle has a little window when you have it zoomed out where the scope is. In the Battle Rifle scope, you can see a reflection of your helmet. It's the little attention to details that really make the graphics great.

Game play:
The game play section is quite large, so I'm going to separate it into different categories:
i. Campaign
ii. Matchmaking
iii. Custom Games
iv. Forge
v. Theater Mode
vi. Bungie.net Integration

Campaign
You start off as Master Chief, who has just crash landed on Earth in a very… unique way. Once you beat each level, you can go back to a certain point in the level if you wish by the use of “Rally Points.” There are normally 2 per level and they occur after major points in the mission. The levels are very large, and sometimes easy to get lost in. One of the later flood levels is nearly impossible sometimes to find your way around in, for the sake of spoilers I can't tell you which one it is.

The cut scenes only occur once you complete a level or you hit a major point in your journey, and I think there is a very nice balance between cinematics and game play. One big gripe I have about Halo 3's campaign is the fact that the Arbiter really doesn't… do much. He is pretty much only there for a support character during battles and for a reason to have the elites on your side. He rarely talks, and really only has one cool scene.

One awesome thing that they included this time around is 4 player online Co-op. Now you can help all your friends get through Legendary! One player is Master Chief, another is Arbiter, and 2 supporting Elites (named N'tho ‘Sraom and Usze ‘Taham). You can play through and get achievements like normal, and there's even a scoring mode called “Meta Game.”

In the Meta Game, players compete with each other for kills to get the highest score. Even the way you kill each enemy dictates how many points you get. For example, a headshot or a stick will be worth more points than a regular body shot kill. Plus, if you kill a Brute, it's worth more points than a Grunt. At the end of each level, it shows a status screen with everyone's scores, similar to the end game screen of a multiplayer match. It shows kills, deaths, how you got them, and more.

Matchmaking
Alright, this is where a lot of the beef of the Halo series is, Matchmaking. In Halo 3, there are many different play lists, and some change every week. These playlists can be either Ranked or Unranked.

In a Ranked playlist, players have a number next to their name, and as they win or lose matches, that number will change. That number is used to determine who you play in matches with, as you can only play with teams that are close to your number rank, unless you have a mixed party (someone that's maybe rank 30 partied with someone that's around 12). That way (theoretically) you will only be playing with people around your skill. That's not always the case though, especially in somewhat newer playlists. It is maddeningly frustrating when you and your friends start at level 1 in a playlist, and get matched with a group who play like they should be at least 30s. Which is why I think that the Matchmaking system should put a little more emphasis on matching Captains with Captains and Colonals with Colonals. There are also no guest accounts allowed in ranked playlists.

In Unranked playlists, any size party can join (as long as it doesn't exceed the maximum players for that playlist), and guest accounts are allowed. Players aren't matched by anything specific, and games tend to be very mixed in skill level. Unranked playlists are used by a lot of causal players or for pros to warm up, or just people who don't want to deal with the seriousness of ranked battles.

Custom Games
Here is where a lot of the game shines. You have unlimited customization of each gametype you decide to play, from how many lives each player has, to the gravity and speed levels of the players. You can create custom power ups to place in your maps here as well.

I almost think that Halo 3 was designed more for custom game usage because of all the features in the customization. You can create a game with no shields, but head shots count against you instead of for you just to play with people's heads. :D Or you could create a game with only Gravity Hammers, 25% gravity, and 400 times speed. That game has got some fun moments in my book. You can have parties up to 16 players, so you know that it will end up pretty crazy on a small, enclosed map like Foundry (a storage warehouse map).

Forge
Forge is Bungie's pride and joy. It is an in-game map editor where you can do almost anything with any map in the game. You do have a limit however, each item you put in the game costs a certain amount of money. Your money meter is displayed in the lower right corner with how much money you have left. A Wraith is going to cost more than a street cone, for example.

With the new map packs they have included new items to use in forge mode. One of those new features is adding different video filters to your maps. What these do is make the map have different lighting. You can go from color saturated to a black and white setting to a an outlined “Pen and Ink” feel. There are 6 all together. You can also combine these as well, you can use the “Gloomy” filter and the “Juicy” filter to create a neat effect.

Theater Mode
This is also one really cool feature. You can take your games that you play in custom games, matchmaking, forge, or campaign and watch them and take screen shots! You can rewind, play, fast forward, and go in the ever so suspenseful Slow-Mo to show your friends all your amazing kills (or deaths… XD). You can also take film clips, but not in Campaign mode due to spoilers. You can share these with your friends in a party, or you can upload them to your File Share and send it to your friends so they can download it.

In your file share, you originally have 6 slots, but if you subscribe to Bungie Pro you can upgrade it to 24 slots if you feel pressed for room. I don't really recommend it unless you and your friends are really big on sharing your experiences.

Bungie.net Integration
This is a feature that I don't think many reviewers touch on, but I find it a very cool part of the game. If you go to Bungie.net and make an account there, you can look up all your stats for Halo 3 from how many medals you get, how many kills you get with certain weapons. It even splits them up by map to break it down and show you what maps you do well on and what you don't. There's also this feature called “Heat Maps” where they take each map, and break down where you get killed and where you get kills. Depending on which filter you have on it, the brighter the color, the more kills/deaths you have there.

Sound/Music:
Music and sound effects are one aspect of the Halo series that has really stood out. As you make your way out onto a battlefield, the music slowly picks up in tempo and crescendos as you reach the top of the hill or when that huge, reinforced bunker door opens and you witness the carnage that the Marines are currently causing outside.

Speaking of marines, now's a good chance to talk about the voice acting. Out of all of the Halo games, Halo 3 has the most chatter during regular play. A grunt will call out when it's about to bombard your team with a grenade, Brutes will scream and charge you when they are near death, and marines make little quips such as, “Tank beats Ghost… Tank beats Hunter… Tank beats EVERYTHING!” Also, once you get the I Would Have Been Your Daddy skull, if you activate it and start a mission, there will be different battlefield dialogue. All of the main character's voice actors are back, and as awesome as ever.

All of the guns sound amazing. Each has their own individual sound, and it is easy to tell if the person shooting the gun is close or far away. You get the bangs, booms, thumps, and bumps you expect from this series. It definitely doesn't disappoint.

Story: 7
Controls: 9
Graphics: 8
Gameplay: 9
Sound/Music: 10

I give Halo 3 an 8.5/10


Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 06/25/08

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


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