Review by brutusmuktuk

Reviewed: 01/28/08

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, Cortana’s 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 generation’s greatest game and conceivably the decade’s 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 Good:
+ The vehicles are great fun
+ Provides a good challenge
+ Ripping turrets from their stands

The Bad:
— The story is even worse than Halo 2’s
— Brutes still aren’t as fun to fight as Elites
— The final two levels

The Apparent
:/ It’s apparent that Bungie can no longer surprise us

Story – 3/10

Bungie has very little interest in the story. Halo 2’s story was bad, but it at least had some good scenes, especially those dealing with the juxtaposition of Master Chief’s praise at home with the Arbiter’s punishment for his failure to protect the first Halo planet. The original game’s story was good because it was simple and didn’t 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 shouldn’t be funny, it doesn’t do a good job of explaining what’s going on. The Covenant attack the Earth and plan to destroy it, I think, but why? Why aren’t elites attacking the Earth? What has happened to the citizens of Earth? Is every man, woman, and child a member of the marines? Bungie doesn’t 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 doesn’t know the destination of the game, doesn’t care, and is under the impression the developers don’t care either.

I’d hate to ruin anything, but there’s nothing really to ruin. I’ll just say that a little more than halfway through the game when there seems to be a plot forming (yet you’re 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 doesn’t seem able or willing to answer. If Halo 2’s ending frustrated you, be thankful it did that, because Halo 3’s ending will either confuse you or leave you apathetic.

Gameplay – 7/10

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. I’m waiting for developers to be much more imaginative, like Ubisoft with Splinter Cell.

It’s also useful to point out that this game is much more fun than Halo 2. If it weren’t 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.

Enemies – 6/10

Brutes just aren’t as fun to fight as elites. It’s simple. Elites were very smart and were just as powerful as Master Chief. Brutes will stand out in the open while you’re shooting them in the head. They’re 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). They’re cowards, but they’re dangerous cowards. Sometimes a lone, desperate grunt will charge you waving two plasma grenades in the air. It’s surprising the first time they do it. The jackals are still around—those 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 doesn’t litter them about the level like they did in Halo 2, but they still make for the game’s most difficult moment (in the first level of all places). The final covenant enemy to make a return (elites aren’t enemies in this game) are the flying buggers. They fly in large groups, making them an impressive sight, but since they don’t chase you down when your shields are low, they’re 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 aren’t near as fun or dangerous as in the first Halo. There’s 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 game’s 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 Bungie’s part. The flood lost their fun after the first game, and it seems that everyone except Bungie realizes this.

Vehicles – 10/10

The vehicles are as fun as always, and they’re 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 it’s not a major player. The mongoose is a new addition, a fourwheeler with serious speed and maneuvering ability, but only holds two people—the 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 game’s most suspenseful moments occurs while you’re 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, it’s just too bad Bungie doesn’t 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 game’s most fun vehicle, with the mongoose a close second, because it’s 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 them—and grunts are probably the game’s most fearsome pilots. They sure are deadly in those ghosts; maybe brutes aren’t all that stupid for allowing them to pilot them.

As you probably have heard, it’s not wise to allow allies to drive vehicles, especially ones that you’re a passenger of. Some people enjoy gunning more than driving, admittedly, and those people will be sorely disappointed in the ally driver AI. It’s just bad. Most of the time they stop the vehicle for no reason at all and wait to die. I’m not sure how Bungie let that error slip.

Weapons – 8/10

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 you’re fighting elites. Usually one gun will serve you through a whole level, but sometimes you’ll come across three powerful weapons and have to leave one behind. Maybe this isn’t a bad thing, especially during cooperative play. Admittedly, most guns have their uses most of the time. Scope weapons are always handy—having a carbine or battle rifle is extremely helpful. Turret weapons, although they slow your movement, are a blast, and they don’t 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 spikers—the covenant equivalent of the SMG, but less powerful. It’s impossible and useless to list all of the weapons here, as you will use them while playing.

New to the series are items. They don’t add anything to the gameplay, but they don’t 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 don’t 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.

Longevity – 8/10

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 I’m 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 2’s 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 don’t doubt for one minute that Bungie will make a Halo 4. I just hope they attempt something more creative. They’re quite capable of it.

Score – 7/10

Rating:   3.5 - Good

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

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