Review by DandyQuackShot
"Can't Get Cortana Outta My Head"
If you need an introduction to the biggest FPS series of them all then you have been living in a hole for quite a few years. This review is to look back and see how well Halo 3 stands up to other big FPS games and if it still lives up to the hype before its release. The last surviving prophet of the Covenant has invaded Earth to dig up an ancient alien artifact that will lead the Covenant to the Great Journey. Master Chief and company are right behind him and behind them the Flood are consuming everything in sight. Halo 3 features new maps and a map editor along with a theater to go back and watch entire games and take pictures and record videos of your funniest moments are greatest triumphs on the online battlefield. In the end Halo 3 does not introduce any new innovation to the game. It is a game designed for diehard fans and is the ultimate party and tournament game, but you can't come away not thinking that the last two games of the series have their influence in this game.
Halo 3 still uses all of the controls from the last two games making this game somewhat complex for the new player, but right back in the groove for the veteran Halo fan. The new control schemes focus on the weapons and the new feature of using equipment. The weapons and vehicles are updated to show more damage and there are not really any new vehicles that are going to stand out. The new vehicles are the Brute Chopper, the Marine Hornet, the Mongoose ATV and the Elephant. The Brute Chopper is very cumbersome and not effective against experienced players, but vehicles like the Mongoose are important in objective based multiplayer games to quickly get a player to the bomb site or back to the flag base. The weapons are mostly all updated with the Needler being a very powerful equalizer and the Brute Shot holding more ammo. The sword is harder to use and is inefficient against almost all players that have a little distance and a gun. You can use the sword two different ways with one way being a quick swipe and the other a long lunge. Another unique feature is that Master Chief will go into a 3rd person view when you grab a flamethrower or gun turret and take off with it. There is a lot of feel good value when you can set your opponents on fire.
The campaign gameplay has a lot of features to make up for a disappointing campaign. What is disappointing about the gameplay is all of the hype surrounding the "end of the world" finish this game would have. A lot is at stake in Halo 3 as we find out the Great Journey means the Prophet of Truth wants to light all of the Halo rings and wipe out all sentient life in the universe. But what you run into in the campaign is not a great sense of urgency but the same campaign play of the first Halo and Halo 2. You will encounter a platoon of Covenant and have to take them out in sections at a time. No big battles rage except in the sky with which you only get one chance at doing. Then each mission except for The Ark is interrupted by some telekinetic message from the Gravemind or Cortana that really gets annoying. Sometimes the interruptions will be so frequent that it gets too repetitive to go back and enjoy the mission. The new features that try to offset this are the arcade like meta-game and the skull system which was used in Halo 2. The meta-game uses the skulls you find to add points and challenges to your campaign experience. Increasing the difficulty also earns you more points and the skulls are not all for challenges. Some are pretty fun and one unlocks extra dialogue. What you will also discover in the campaign is the inability to save a mission and go back to the spot where you left off. Saving and quitting means you will have to start the mission over and no score is kept for games you quit.
The online multiplayer is what defines the Halo series. Matchmaking is always a work in progress with the availability of new maps and new playlists, but here is what is not going to change about the matchmaking side of Halo. The greatest difference you will tell between Halo 2 and 3 matchmaking is the lack of cheaters. It seems this problem was worked out well in advance, but other problems are the TrueSkill scoring system which bases rank on whether you win or lose a game and not whether you got 30 kills when your teammate got -4 or quit out. Once again you have to rely on your teammates having good skill and Halo 3 remains a party based game so it is an excellent feature to be able to party up with people after a game if you had a good one with people you don't know. The forge system allows custom fans to create their own rearranged maps and gametypes and there is always going to be a substantial community. New playlists out now are Team Swat and MLG and there are Double EXP weekends along with sponsored tournaments. The other problem encountered was the removal of most of the equipment from matchmaking because of problems and complaints so that takes away some of the innovation in matchmaking.
There are just too many flaws and too many questions left unanswered about the Halo 3 story that you encounter in the campaign. This has nothing to do with what happens in the game as it does with what is going on and the pre-release hype generated. A website with this huge interactive diorama is set up and it appears Halo 3 is going to feature some huge battles that will determine the future of sentient life. So from the time you start the campaign to the finish you left wondering where those major battles were. The great race to save the universe also is distracted by the subplot of finding Cortana and rescuing her from Gravemind. This really digresses the main plot of saving the world. The missions are unique, but do not involve a lot of what the hype generated and my biggest question coming away from this game was: When did the Hunters join the Covenant side? In Halo 2 they join the Elites in taking down Tartarus. For a major hit series the story is very simple and in the end you don't feel sorry for putting down a few of your fellow Marines.
The graphics are not as solid as I thought they would be. Looking into any distance you can see where the lines in areas are not clear cut as they should be. However the characters are all detailed well enough and there are plenty of things to go sight seeing for. The sound is ok but I sometimes you wish the subtitles would work for in-game dialogue. There is plenty of dialogue in this game though. And nothing is more satisfying than to hear that sick hack that signals you have successfully stuck your opponent with a spike grenade.
It would be a sin not to give Halo 3 its credibility in this field. The disappointing campaign is offset by score points, skulls, and campaign kill counts on the Bungie website. You can also play through on Legendary with three other friends. Online is never going to die and there are weekly updated playlists. And if you don't like matchmaking games you can make your own. The theater mode allows access to review your games and record screenshots and videos which was wished for ever since Halo 2. This feature is probably the best thing about Halo 3. There is a lot to do with Halo 3 after you have achieved the big 50 or finished the game on Legendary and Halo 3 is the ultimate party game.
Final Recommendation 8.5/10
Halo 3 is definitely worth the buy for its online matchmaking and for it still being part of the best FPS series to date. There are ever growing changes to the game in its matchmaking play, but with the introduction of the latest maps (Sidewinder from Halo, and Lockout from Halo 2) the experienced player will realize this is just a game built from the success and influence of its predecessors and beyond the wished for theater mode it doesn't offer the veteran much more innovation beyond that. So there are aspects of Halo 3 that will make someone shelve it to try out the next new FPS game that comes out. Halo 3 may have its minor flaws with the campaign and repetitive nature, but it does end the series well on a very well deserved positive finish.
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 05/09/08
Game Release: Halo 3 (US, 09/25/07)
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