Review by wolverinefan

"Halo 3 brings nothing new to the gaming front"

Within it's first day of sales Halo 3 broke the record for largest selling media item in the United States. What drives these people to go to New York City and stand it line? What can possibly bring someone to spend $130 on a single game?

Well to be honest I don't know but I imagine Halo Mania is about equal to the release of a new Final Fantasy or Dragon Quest game in Japan. But what is it about Halo? What makes it so good that rabid fans rush out to buy the game on day one? I really don't have the answer but what I do have is my thoughts on the blockbuster game of 2007.

Master Chief's body comes crashing into the planet. His comrades assume him dead but alas he isn't. He meets the Arbitor and they team up to take down what is trying to activate the Halo and bring death to all life in the universe. On our journey as Master Chief we get messages from the leader of the Brood and Cortana. These messages are suppose to represent a struggle within master Chief. Should he allow this hologram woman to suffer or should he try to save her no matter the cost? Should he listen to this leader that speaks false truths?

To be honest I'm pulling stuff out of the air. Halo 3's plot is so paper thin that it's rather pathetic. After a game where political intrigue took the front seat we get a bare bones story that has so little going on that by the time the credits rolled I had to actually think if there was a plot and to be honest there wasn't. Yes, characters die, the plot is sort of finished but there's nothing there. I also have problems with needing to read bad game novels to fill in some gaps between the 2nd game and this one. It's just shouldn't be done that way.

The biggest problem people had with the Halo 3 beta was that the graphics were very average. While they have been upgraded since then they really don't hold up against other games to come out this past summer (Bioshock). But the key difference though is that halo 3 takes place in a much more open environment. It actually looks good and the draw distance is rather nice as well. A few problems arise from this though as I found myself running into stuttering moments and during loading or checkpoint times the game would briefly lock up. This just isn't acceptable these days, maybe back on the PS1.

Do you like the Halo soundtrack? Well, it's back and to be honest it's still the same. At first I had an issue with there being no music for the first few levels except during cut scenes but then rest of the game had music most of the time so I don't know what happened there. Voice work is all the same and it's good. Sound effects are pretty much the same. Explosions, laser blasts and the screams from the midget-esq. enemies.

Control in this game is very simple. Move with the left analog stick and aim with the right. It's your typical FPS setup. Y changes your weapons and A is for jumping. B is your melee and I have no clue what X does. Right bumper reloads your weapon and right trigger is the fire button. Left trigger is for your explosives. Left bumper allows you to use the new equipment which I never used in single player.

Halo 3 is made up of 9 missions. Some are about 15 minutes while others may take you up to 30 minutes. The levels remain straight forward for the most part but the 8th mission is by far one of the worst levels created in a first person shooter. Not only is the enemy ratio absurd but everything looks the same, multiple dead end paths, limited ammo and enemies that constantly respawn into horrible monsters that take way too many shots to kill. By the end of that mission I had to turn the game off and just finish it the next day. It left that bad of a taste in my mouth.

Otherwise the levels have a pretty good design. I love the outdoor stuff and it's something I'm glad is back because it reminds me of the original Halo since Halo 2 was way too corridor based. My only other problem though is the use of vehicles takes up about 1/4 of the game and while their control is much tighter this time around, it still is far from perfect.

Speaking of the vehicles let me address my biggest problem with the game by far. In the 7th mission or so you need to drive across this desert wasteland. I like to drive the vehicle because before the game offered some good AI partner shooting. In this mission my partner would shoot four spurts, pause, wait and then maybe shoot four more. It was a constant painful cycle. I then tried to let him drive and I would shoot. I did excellent until my guy either stopped in the open and was hit by an instant death shot or he continuously ran into a wall only to be shot to death. Either way it became a major pain in the butt and I had to ultimately go back and steal a Banshee and do it all myself which worked perfectly. But I shouldn't have to do that. On the other hand two people I talk to said they had no Ai problems so I don't know.

I've never been a fan of the weapons in the Halo universe. I tend to stick to my machine gun and then grab whatever is near by. I do like dual wielding and about midway through the game that became my greatest method of defense. But I found too many of the guns looked too much alike or just weren't very useful unless used in select situations but you want to lug around a weapon that isn't good most of the time.

I also have problems with the enemy variety. I really think there are about 8 types of enemies. Just not enough to keep me interested and most, if not all are from the last game so nothing new besides armor attachments have been added.

The solo portion of the game is roughly 5 hours long. It's a little below average but I'm not going to dock it too much but let me say that the other big action games this summer were also short but their stories made up for it. That's not the case here.

Here's the real reason you're reading this review. It's all about the multiplayer. What has Bungie done with Halo 3's on-line portion? To be honest I never really messed with halo 2's so this was all new water to tread. Also realize though that I really need to be entertained by on-line play to keep playing it.

First up we have theater mode. This mode allows you to take videos of recent on-line sessions and edit them up, take pictures or whatever and load them for others to view. It's an interest idea and it's a great way to learn the maps by watching players with more skill than you. However the functions seem limited, the fast forward is a bit too slow if you know where you're looking. But it's a good start.

Next up is Forge mode. This is an excellent idea. Take a pre-made map and place items that you want on it. Drop them where you want as well. It's an awesome idea and while it can be used in bad ways it can keep many games interesting as it really mixes things up. Personally I find this a great mode but it has its problems. You can only play Forge levels with people on your friends list or recently played players so to be honest it becomes useless. Great idea though but I'd rather play against strangers with it, the surprise factor with that would be great but alas Bungie dropped the ball on that one.

The game also features co-op play. Excellent I'm sure but I never got to try it out. Why? Well like Forge it can only be played with friends or recent players so again we can't just jump into a game that is going to start or select a game from a list. Instead we are limited in how to go about playing a feature that is present in the game.

Okay, enough of that stuff. Let's jump into the real on-line experience. First of all the game offers one of the better ranking systems out there and matches are made upon your skill so it's rarely uneven in the ranked matches. However you might still run into a match where someone has 3 times as many kills as anyone else. But what I like is that you gain experience and rank titles so it's easy to be close to your own skill. It's still a little broken as you continue to advance just by playing more but that doesn't always mean you're any good at a game.

There were only a few modes I got to experience here and I'll go into why that is a little later in the review. First up we have slayer matches. These are either free for all or team based. This was my favorite mode to play but only in free for all, I'm not big on team gameplay because every time I played team my team never talked, and they just ran around dying.

Next up we have a ball game. This has you racing to get a ball and whoever ends up with a total of 100 seconds of holding wins. I hated this one but maybe it's because I didn't figure out until the end of the match that I had to actually pick up the item with a button. That was just a pain and should have been explained.

Now we have king of the hill which I thought was pretty decent. Whoever holds the hill for 100 seconds total wins. The hill moves around and everyone races there. Sometimes it becomes amusing because you'll be on the hill while everyone else has run into each other and decide to duke it out instead of killing you for the hill.

All modes have time limits if the scores aren't met. It's a nice addition though. Sadly Bungie forgot the promised additions so we have one of the worst menu systems ever. Instead of being able to pick the type of game you want to play you must pick from a selection. Solo wolf allows free for all but it's also all modes. Everything else is specific team bad types.

The next problem is that no one picks the map or game type anyway. It's all random and while you can veto out a stage/type you can only do so once and whatever appears next is what you're playing. I hate this with a passion and while I believe there are 11 maps I think I've only played 5 of them. Only 2 of them have I enjoyed and some are sniper safe havens which really makes the playing field unfair. Besides that though some maps have vehicles which usually means the driver will get a good 5 kills before the vehicle is blown up unless someone lands a luck bomb.

And for my final complaint with the on-line it's the users. The high pitched 9 year olds, the people who sing, people who randomly scream curses at you for killing them. I don't think I've ever avoided so many gamers before in an on-line game. It's just absurd the way these people act. Maybe in a few months it will calm down but right now it's a headache. Also the game suffers from some long load times for matches and while they aren't as bad as Shadowrun's you need to hunt for a new match every time so things become a bit tedious after a while and if you're stuck playing a type you don't like it can become even more frustrating.

It sounds like I have nothing but complaints for Halo 3 but it really isn't that way. It's a decent game and with some remodeling the on-line would be playable to me but as that stands it just doesn't offer an easy way to play what you want in ranked matches. On the single player front we get a plot less game that is too short and to be honest it's very easy besides one mission. The game does offer secrets though that requires some work and a few of the on-line achievements could take awhile.

For me Halo 3 wasn't the blockbuster that it was hailed to be. Instead I got a very average rehashing of the same game for a third time but with less story and no real variety at all. The on-line is flawed in its design but the content itself is good. But what does any of it matter, everyone seems to buy Halo for the on-line but to me a game needs a solid single player first and multiplayer should come second. This isn't the case but Halo 3 is worth a rent or a $20 purchase. It's not worth the $60, $70, or $130 price tags.

Story - 2/10
Graphics - 9/10
Sound - 7/10
Control - 9/10
Game Play - 7/10
Replay value - 6/10

Final Score - 7/10

Reviewer's Rating:   3.5 - Good

Originally Posted: 10/04/07

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

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