Review by brutusmuktuk
It takes more than luck to make a great game
"You had something they didn't. Something no-one saw but me. Can you guess? Luck."
These are the first words of the game, Cortanas explanation for why she chose Master Chief over the other Spartans. Perhaps this is the same sentiment Microsoft shared with Bungie. Where did these guys come from? Microsoft chose a relative unknown to create a release game on their gamble to enter the console world, and Bungie created that generations greatest game and conceivably the decades greatest. Perhaps the developers at Bungie surprised themselves because they seem at a loss when it comes to repeating that success. Halo 2 was merely a mediocre title, and Halo 3 is only slightly better, suffering from the same problem of doing too much. Though, where Halo succeeds in modesty, Halo 3 perhaps has its success and failures in its own conceits.
+ The vehicles are great fun
+ Provides a good challenge
+ Ripping turrets from their stands
The story is even worse than Halo 2s
Brutes still arent as fun to fight as Elites
The final two levels
:/ Its apparent that Bungie can no longer surprise us
Bungie has very little interest in the story. Halo 2s story was bad, but it at least had some good scenes, especially those dealing with the juxtaposition of Master Chiefs praise at home with the Arbiters punishment for his failure to protect the first Halo planet. The original games story was good because it was simple and didnt have the same conceited notion of itself the following two games have. Now that Bungie has a truly successful series in their belt, they flaunt it.
Not only does the game take itself too seriously, making for some laughable moments that shouldnt be funny, it doesnt do a good job of explaining whats going on. The Covenant attack the Earth and plan to destroy it, I think, but why? Why arent elites attacking the Earth? What has happened to the citizens of Earth? Is every man, woman, and child a member of the marines? Bungie doesnt focus at all on the smaller details. Bringing our attention to the citizens of Earth would make the story much more engaging, and answers to my other questions would piece things together more cohesively. Instead the gamer doesnt know the destination of the game, doesnt care, and is under the impression the developers dont care either.
Id hate to ruin anything, but theres nothing really to ruin. Ill just say that a little more than halfway through the game when there seems to be a plot forming (yet youre still asking such questions as who are these guys?), the game suddenly drops what it was doing and fails to keep the gamer up to speed. If you stay and watch the final sequence at the very end, you will have many more questions that the game doesnt seem able or willing to answer. If Halo 2s ending frustrated you, be thankful it did that, because Halo 3s ending will either confuse you or leave you apathetic.
As a disclaimer, I am not reviewing the multiplayer component of this game. I am solely looking at the single player game. Maybe some of you agree when I saw that modern deathmatch multiplayer is wearisome. Im waiting for developers to be much more imaginative, like Ubisoft with Splinter Cell.
Its also useful to point out that this game is much more fun than Halo 2. If it werent for the final two levels, I would have given it a higher score. As it stands, I think it would be helpful to divide this review into the following categories: enemies, vehicles, weapons.
Brutes just arent as fun to fight as elites. Its simple. Elites were very smart and were just as powerful as Master Chief. Brutes will stand out in the open while youre shooting them in the head. Theyre like sitting ducks. The only thing that makes them difficult is that they can use bigger, stronger weapons than the grunts and they take a lot of hits to kill. Grunts are much more fun than in Halo 2 (especially if you collect the skull that throws confetti in the air and cheers when you shoot them in the head). Theyre cowards, but theyre dangerous cowards. Sometimes a lone, desperate grunt will charge you waving two plasma grenades in the air. Its surprising the first time they do it. The jackals are still aroundthose with shields and the sniper jackals. Since plasma pistols have lost their overall effectiveness, shield jackals are not much of a problem. Sniper jackals are a challenge, though, since they now have armor and, in Legendary, kill in one shot. Fortunately, Bungie doesnt litter them about the level like they did in Halo 2, but they still make for the games most difficult moment (in the first level of all places). The final covenant enemy to make a return (elites arent enemies in this game) are the flying buggers. They fly in large groups, making them an impressive sight, but since they dont chase you down when your shields are low, theyre not too difficult to dispatch.
The flood make a return, no surprise. They come in different sizes this time, some of them about twice the size of the normal ones, but they still only mindlessly charge at Master Chief. The very small flood units can bring their fallen comrades to life, but they usually leave Master Chief alone and arent near as fun or dangerous as in the first Halo. Theres a new flood unit that looks like a spider and can climb walls and fire projectile needles. They slow down the game just when slowing down the game hampers it the most. In the games worst level, where it would be nice to just run and gun, you have to stop and take cover to fight these annoying things. Not a wise move on Bungies part. The flood lost their fun after the first game, and it seems that everyone except Bungie realizes this.
The vehicles are as fun as always, and theyre not overdone like they were in Halo 2, which had one too many scorpion tank sections. There are new vehicles along with the old ones, and only one of the new ones really disappoints, but its not a major player. The mongoose is a new addition, a fourwheeler with serious speed and maneuvering ability, but only holds two peoplethe driver and a rider, who must fire with his own weapon since the vehicle has no turret of its own. Still, the mongoose with a marine passenger who wields a rocket launcher is just as dangerous as a warthog, only because the mongoose is more difficult to hit. One of the games most suspenseful moments occurs while youre in the mongoose, when Sergeant Johnson warns you that something big is coming. The sort of tension and excitement those words build is what makes games fun, its just too bad Bungie doesnt resort to that sort of tension more often.
The other new additions are a chopper, a clunky, yet fun vehicle whose main purpose is to mow down other small vehicles; a human plane called the raptor, which is neat but the rare moments you use it lack any challenge; and a new enemy tank, the predator, which is the covenant equivalent to the warthog. I never had a chance to drive it, but it made for a difficult enemy. The warthog is still the games most fun vehicle, with the mongoose a close second, because its so fun to drive and ram enemies while the gunner mows them down. The scorpion tank again allows passengers on the side; the wraith tank now has a turret to shoot down enemies that get too close; and the ghost now allows grunts to drive themand grunts are probably the games most fearsome pilots. They sure are deadly in those ghosts; maybe brutes arent all that stupid for allowing them to pilot them.
As you probably have heard, its not wise to allow allies to drive vehicles, especially ones that youre a passenger of. Some people enjoy gunning more than driving, admittedly, and those people will be sorely disappointed in the ally driver AI. Its just bad. Most of the time they stop the vehicle for no reason at all and wait to die. Im not sure how Bungie let that error slip.
New weapons have been added, including the welcome return of the Assault rifle. Many of you probably remember the glory days of Halo when all weapons were equally useful (with the exception of the needler, perhaps) in their own situations. Like Halo 2, some of the weapons in Halo 3 are useless. I never found a need to use either pistol. Dual wielding with the plasma pistol has no use unless youre fighting elites. Usually one gun will serve you through a whole level, but sometimes youll come across three powerful weapons and have to leave one behind. Maybe this isnt a bad thing, especially during cooperative play. Admittedly, most guns have their uses most of the time. Scope weapons are always handyhaving a carbine or battle rifle is extremely helpful. Turret weapons, although they slow your movement, are a blast, and they dont replace any of your equipped weapons. And when you fight the flood, dual wielding becomes useful, and so do some of those weaker weapons such as the brute spikersthe covenant equivalent of the SMG, but less powerful. Its impossible and useless to list all of the weapons here, as you will use them while playing.
New to the series are items. They dont add anything to the gameplay, but they dont detract from it either. Most of the time I forgot I had one. You press the X button to use them, and they consist of, among other things, shields, a regenerator, an anti-grav lift, and an automatic turret that enemies usually destroy before it has a chance to shoot them. Only once did an item save me, but most of the time I dont even know what I have, as I never mastered interpreting what the item symbols represented. All in all, these neither add nor remove from the game experience.
Many people will buy this with the multiplayer in mind. The novelty of deathmatch, however, wore off on me after Rare used it in Goldeneye for the Nintendo 64. Developers have had difficulties improving upon what Rare did in Perfect Dark, and that was seven or eight years ago. It seems that Im alone in my judgment of the multiplayer, though, as gamers continue to play.
There are four difficulties in campaign, but if you are a skilled gamer only Heroic and Legendary, the two highest difficulty levels, will challenge you. Heroic is good for the solo player, and Legendary is good for cooperative play (and masochistic solo players). Now that Bungie has removed the frustrating rule in Halo 2s cooperative that when one player dies both have to restart the checkpoint the cooperative is less frustrating, though still challenging. Also, there are skulls to collect and achievements to unlock for completion aficionados. I dont doubt for one minute that Bungie will make a Halo 4. I just hope they attempt something more creative. Theyre quite capable of it.
Rating: 3.5 - Good
Product Release: Halo 3 (US, 09/25/07)
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