Review by lopp3

"It's Halo. No effin way."

If you haven't heard of Halo 3, it's time you advanced from the Neolithic era into modern existence. We have conveniences called "video games" around here, which are things you use for "fun". So put down your oxen and get ready to blow some heads clean off some disgusting, slimy, brutish, nasty, and downright evil shoulders. Yeah, I know what you're thinking. Rawr is absolutely right, because Halo is about pure, vile, unadulterated destruction. The Master Chief likes big guns and so do you. So the only question that remains is can YOU save Earth?

Having not played Halo 2, I'm a bit out of the loop on the epic quest of everyone's favorite MC. So let's compare to the much more popular original Halo. Halo 3's single player campaign simply and honestly trumps that of Halo. While some of it is standard FPS fodder (hilarious grunts running in terror at the slightest provocation and stupid looking enemies bounding across the terrain like Romanian gymnasts), there's much fun to be had in the world. The plethora of unreasonably abandoned vehicles provides a little extra firepower to the adventure, as do some impressively thrilling segments of driving. But this is nothing new; I'm sure you've all driven jeeps, tanks, hovercrafts, and various other contraptions in your FPS days. So what's new in Halo 3? Well, nothing is new. Bungie chose to play is safe and make the gameplay as traditional, simple, and normal as possible. But Halo 3 is executed very well. The gameplay is kept in perfect balance the whole time (unless you're playing on Legendary, but you've willingly chosen to unbalance the game there). Some weapons are more effective at short ranges, some more effective at long ranges. Some weapons are strong, some are weak. You're strong, but not invincible. You can't just run into the crowd and blast away, like say TimeSplitters, but you don't need to be behind a rock the whole time, like Gears of War. So the combination between thinking and destroying is very nice. If you need time to think, you can generally spend some time in a corner or behind a wall (they're always playing defense, so they won't chase you usually). Halo 3, weapon-wise, is an amalgamation of the previous two games with some modest new content spattered in for good measure. You've got Halo classics like the Assault Rifle, the still-weakened Magnum, and the Sniper Rifle. Similarly, Halo 2 brings the heavy hitters such as the Battle Rifle. And lastly, Halo 3 has its own contenders. The most common of these is the spiker, an inaccurate but powerful SMG weapon best suited for short range bursts combined with melee attacks. There's also the brute shot, a somewhat weak grenade launcher that just needs more ammo. The powerhouse addition to the lineup is the Spartan Laser, a massive portable laser cannon which takes a few seconds to charge, but can obliterate anything it touches (including AA Wraiths) in 1 hit. In terms of vehicles, there's more or less nothing you haven't seen before. You unfortunately can't pilot Banshees in the single player campaign, though it's not much of a loss, considering Hornets are much better in all respects. The only vehicle you'll see on a regular basis is still the Ghost, so expect to drive these around often. There are two new additions, the Chopper motorcycle and the Prowler (Warthog analogue), though they're surprisingly uncommon. The enemy AI isn't stupid, and some of them (especially the brute Chieftains) are annoyingly intelligent. The marines aren't exactly genii, and you'll be doing solo work most of the time. They're especially poor drivers, so expect to take the wheel often. And as if that wasn't enough incentive to drive, the marines are impossibly good with vehicle mounted turrets. So head to driving school.

As far as enemies go, the Elites have been completely replaced by the Brutes once again, so don't expect to find many (or any) Plasma Rifles being wielded by anyone but Flood. The standard enemies are the traditional grunts, who run in terror whenever you approach. If they fire, the large number of plasma pistol shots can be dangerous, but...they won't fire. Jackals are few and far between, and are usually found with shields (though sniper jackals are more common than they once were). All brutes are quite strong, though they usually carry the ridiculously inaccurate spiker. Brutes with brute shots or better, however, are often very deadly. On rare occasions, one will run into a Chieftain, a super-armored brute with either a now-acquirable Gravity Hammer or a detached plasma turret. They're often unfairly cheap, using Invincibility frequently. Fortunately, the payoff for killing them is great (as you can take their hammer). And then there's hunters. You don't wanna be on the wrong end of these guys. They pack massive lasers (which you CAN'T get) as well as hugely powerful melee attacks. And did I mention: they're frontally invincible. You need to hit a small spot in their back for a kill. And you need to hit it a lot. It can take several shotgun blasts, or a few blows with a hammer, or some plasma grenades to kill one. They're quite resilient, to say the least.

I have yet to delve deep into the multiplayer, and my lack of XBL leaves me somewhat lacking in multiplayer prowess and ability. The MP however seems decent. It seemed to me that there were a lack of bots, which means that multiplayer maps seem more or less empty. The sense of chaos which exhilarates me so is missing when there's no action looming before my very eyes. But that doesn't mean you only need one controller to play Halo 3. The cooperative mode is fantastic. With a second player as the Arbiter, you can execute masterful tactical maneuvers to outwit the less-than-perfect Covenant forces opposite you...or you could utilize the fact that you have double the firepower at your disposal and wipe them unceremoniously off the face of the earth. That's right, cooperative mode generally allows you to ravage through the enemy forces, using each other as both a sword and shield (power in numbers eh?). Using XBox Live you can gather many more players; just a small cadre of real people with some skill can destroy the single player campaign, even on Legendary.

The graphics, while not rendered in true HD due to the use of multiple frame buffers, still look damn good. The use of an HDMI connectivity cable may create some artifacting and overly sharp edges, but the game still looks fantastic. High dynamic range combined with superb texturing and attention to detail give many of the environments a hyperrealistic look, adding to the sense of being so far in the future. The character models are slick as well, with good design and fantastic physics (although Master Chief can jump exorbitantly high). The weapons are big, shiny, and pretty looking. The weapon effects are even prettier looking and bigger (though only plasma weapon effects are shiny).

I noticed that a sizable portion of the game actually had no music. The music would come on during certain key moments or huge skirmishes, but I often found myself enveloped in silence. While it adds to the realism, since real battlefields obviously don't feature their own soundtracks, I felt that something crucial had been cut out, leaving a blatant empty hole where something was clearly intended to go.

If you enjoy FPS games, you should probably purchase Halo 3. But don't expect it to cover all your needs; local multiplayer can be found in games like TimeSplitters, and besides, those other FPS games you own are still fun. So, without further ado, please go kick some Covenant ass.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 10/17/07

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

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