Review by verdantabyss
At Times, A Maddeningly Frustrating Experience
After 6 years, we're finally ready to finish the fight, but does it meet expectations and live up to the colossal amount of hype it received?
Let's get started on the campaign. Apart from being criminally short, it feels, more than anything, recycled. The maps are as linear as they were in Halo 1 and 2. Heck, Bungie have even re-used the Warthog speed run at the end of Halo 2. In one mission, three teams split up and each have to flip a switch at the end of three towers. Once you've gotten to the end of the first tower, which consists of bland, repetitive corridors filled with the same old enemies, you activate a switch. Oh, but what's this? The team at tower #3 didn't make it, so now we have to go all the way over there through respawned enemies, march through IDENTICAL corridors and flip an IDENTICAL switch? Brilliant.
Your allies' A.I is mediocre at best, NOTHING like what it should be for the next-generation game that was hyped up to hell and back and was given perfect reviews which only seem to be there as part of a moral obligation. At one point I entered the gunner seat of a Warthog while a marine entered the driver seat. Instead of circling around my opponents so I could kill them, the pillock at the steering wheel decided to drive into a wall and just sit there while I was blasted to pieces. The Arbiter, who arbitrarily appears out of nowhere in the Campaign missions to assist you (almost as if the Arbiter simply said "Hey Chief, I've got nothing else going on tonight so mind if I tag along with you?") has a strange, masochistic propensity for simply standing still while the Covenant shoot at him. Sometimes his only purpose is to be a living shield, but he can be useful when he wants to be (read: When the A.I gets its act together).
The "Legendary" difficulty mode is a bit of a disappointment. The enemies don't get smarter. They don't develop new tactics and flank you. They just get stronger. The Halo 3 commercials had me imaginining a scenario in which I'm getting flanked from all sides while desperately trying to fight off the Covenant horde and save the world. What I got instead was mindless enemies armed with super-powerful weapons coming at you one after another, with not an OUNCE of strategy in their actions. On the other hand, beating this mode (by yourself, NOT with three other people, which is the route many gamers choose) gives you a tremendous sense of satisfaction and accomplishment.
While repetitive and bland in some places, the campaign isn't BAD per se. When everything's working as it should be and the marines aren't being complete pillocks, you'll enjoy it. In fact, I enjoyed it so much that I finished it first on Normal, then completed it on Heroic and went through it again on Legendary. And then went through it all AGAIN on Normal for the meta-game achievements. The epic music which starts playing during huge battles is brilliant and in one memorable scene in which you clear a landing zone for the Dawn (a gargantuan ship), as it's coming to a stop overhead the high winds swept up in its wake push back debris and even your character, which is absolutely breathtaking and left me stunned.
The new weapons are also a bit of a letdown. You get a Gravity Hammer, which featured in the previous game as the weapon of Tartarus the final boss. It's a one-hit kill, but a bit hit-and-miss on Xbox Live because some of the time you'll hit them with it and about a second later the damage will come into effect, so most of the time you'll SWEAR you should've killed them but thanks to how laggy the game can get you'll end up boycotting the weapon after your opponent delivers a swift and thundering blow to your face before the game can realise that you him them with it.
You also get a weapon called the Brute Spiker which is basically a crappier version of the Needler and is absolute GARBAGE unless duel-wielded (the spikes even fall to the ground over mid-range, so it's imperative that you use it up close), you get the Flamethrower which appears in ONE MAP which you rarely get to play on and you get the Missile Pod which is basically a vehicle destroyer as it can lock on to vehicles but the fact that the missiles can't circumvent objects and will simply hit trees and walls unless you manouever yourself in such a way that your missiles have a clear path make it bloody useless since you walk so slowly while carrying it. In addition, if by some act of God you DO have a clear, open space for the missiles to travel, the enemy hears a persistent BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP when they're travelling towards them and by the time the missiles have got to them they've already abandoned their vehicle and ran away, making your actions useless. All of the Halo 2 weapons are in here too and have all been given upgrades. The Needler is no longer dual-wieldable but is now an absolute powerhouse.
There is an interesting new "sword clash" feature in Halo 3; when two opponents lunge at eachother with the Energy Sword at roughly the same time, the swords 'clash' in mid-air and a ferocious game of "Who can press the B button fastest?" ensues. To be quite honest I really love this feature, as watching enemies clash again and again in the distance with sparks flying everywhere is very fun to watch. But, there's a problem with it. Lag dictates the outcome way too often. Sometimes you'll clash with someone and they'll slash you back before the clash animation is even finished. Sometimes you'll lunge at someone and get telported back to where you were. Sometimes you'll slash someone and it'll do NO DAMAGE WHATSOEVER. It took 7 slashes on Team Slayer to kill someone who was holding the turret. He was so shocked that the slashes weren't killing him that he simply stood in place.
Moving on: The much loved Assault Rifle was brought back from Halo 1 after Bungie was inundated with requests for it. It now sounds like an Airsoft gun and nothing like the ferocious beast it did in Halo 1. Everybody starts with it by default (as it replaces the Halo 2 SMG).
You can now tear Plasma and Gauss turrets off their stands and carry them around. You become somewhat of a mobile tank while carrying these ostensibly powerful weapons and can mow down just about anything. Your camera also switches to a third-person view so you can see opponents who aren't directly in front of you, which I really like. To compensate for these plus points, you walk extremely slowly and turn extremely slow, so anybody that happens to spawn behind you can kill you in seconds: "Mega-weapons", such as the Flamethrower and Missile Pod all switch your camera to third-person and decrease your walking speed. The weapons also take up a lot of room of the screen so most of the time you literally have difficulty seeing where you're going.
You also have 'equipment', such as Bubble Shields and Regenerators which can work very well when used in the correct situations. The Bubble Shield, like its name suggests, creates a veritable bubble which you can step inside and be shielded from all incoming fire; rockets, grenades, nothing gets past it. The downfall? Vehicles and opponents can drive/walk right through it to get at you. The Power Drain depletes any enemies' shields in a small radius so it can be very useful and the Regerator creates a force-field of green energy which can heal you.
You also get two new grenade types to use: Spike Grenades and Incendiary Grenades, the latter of which doesn't even appear in multiplayer, much like the Fuel Rod Cannon. The Spike Grenade shoots out spikes in a 360° direction and the Incendiary grenades create a small carpet of flame which damages surrounding enemies, but if thrown onto an enemy he will simply burst into flames and you'll score an instant kill.
Going back to the campaign, there's also a half-baked 'boss' battle near the end of the game which was a total disappointment and is clearly only there for story purposes, much like Yu Yevon in FFX, but they could've at least made it more interesting.
The theatre system is probably one of the best parts of Halo 3. You can replay recent matches and create clips or screenshots which can then be uploaded to one's file share space and then downloaded by others to watch and view, or you can simply invite some friends to your party then go into the Theatre lobby and you can all watch the movie while chatting to eachother! The best part is that you can watch the match from anyone's perspective, so if you were fortunate enough to encounter a Halo 3 god during matchmaking then you can watch their tactics (which weapon they went for first, the angle at which they throw grenades etc.), so really by studying the behavioral patterns of better players you can become a better player yourself.
The meat and potatoes of the game is definitely Halo 3's multiplayer. Like the rest of the game, this isn't all that it was cracked up to be.
The rank system is a fresh and interesting touch; winning a match in first, second or third place will earn you experience, and once you reach a certain amount you get promoted and attain an actual sense of accomplishment. You start off as an Apprentice, and move up steadily through the ranks, the higher of which will start requiring exorbitant amounts of experience.
However, the higher your rank is, the higher the probability that the TrueSkill system wil start to pit you against people who are much better than you are. The "TrueSkill" system is supposed to search for games which contain other players whos' skill levels are roughly equal to yours. This works for the first few days, but as your rank starts increasing, so will the frequency that you'll be put with other players whos' skill is so much higher than yours. Around the time I first got the game and was a Gunnery Sergeant, I was playing against people who were of equal skill level and was enjoying myself. Now that I'm a Captain Grade 2, I CONSTANTLY get pitted against Colonels, Majors and in one case a *bleep*ing BRIGADIER, who have double, triple or in some cases quadruple the EXP and skill that I have, which is not only demoralising but very frustrating.
Hell, while playing a Social Doubles game with my friend who is also a Captain Grade 2 we got put against someone with 14 exp (and his guest). 14 EXP, and we both have 150+. Yeah, that's really fair, right? And on another occasion, I entered a Social Doubles game to find that I'd been paired with a RECRUIT with 1 EXP, against two Majors.
Which leads me to my next point: The spawn system. It outright blows. Most of the time you get spawned far away from the action and any power weapons, so by the time you've found anyone they're probably packing shotguns and dual SMGs while you're still stuck with your Assault Rifle. The person who spawns near the Shotgun in Snowbound will become God for the rest of the game, racking up kills like there was no tomorrow.
The armor customization is pretty decent. Upon completing certain goals and achievements, you unlock new pieces of armor with which to equip your character to make him look more original. The armor also comes with detailed and interesting descriptions which outline their background. Although the armor does absolutely nothing except looking pretty, it's a nice touch. HOWEVER: The armor customization is exorbitantly biased toward Spartans, as they have more than double the amount of armor that Elites can get, and their reward for 1000 Gamerscore is a back-mounted katana, while the elites get absolutely nothing. Why couldn't they have Honor Guard armor or something, or a ceremonial staff on their back? In addition, some of the armor is extremely bugged and most of the time won't unlock at all. I have all of the possible achievements and my Elite Commando Shoulders are STILL 'locked'. The Security Shoulders are supposed to unlock at 750 Gamerscore but do not; they seem to unlock at random for most players, and it can take up to 900 Gamerscore for them to finally be available.
The Veto system is very irritating. If everyone else is happy playing the gametype that you don't want to play then you're screwed. Even if Lady Luck does happen to be beaming bountifully at your direction and the other players choose to veto the gametype and map too, you can't do it again; whatever the game chooses is what you're going to play. If it still isn't something you want (In one memorable occasion I vetoed Oddball and ended up with Ninjaball, which is basically the exact same bloody thing) then you're stuck with it. Lame.
I know this seems like an overly negative review, but some parts of this game are very, very bad. Although there are some truly superb battles you'll have in the Campaign mode and the Multiplayer is great when you aren't suffering from lag or the shoddy hit detection, these occasions are few and far between and do not excuse the overall recycled feeling of the game. Getting annihilated by a player with quadruple your experience who spawned in front of the Rocket Launcher while you spawned in some far, out-of-the-way place nowhere near any power weapons will be extremely frustrating and will probably have you throwing your controller through the television when it happens. Because believe me, it will.
Rating: 3.0 - Fair
Product Release: Halo 3 (US, 09/25/07)
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