Delayed Responsibility

I Shouldn't Be Gaming Right Now… But I Am!

Halo 3 Review (because I only just finished the campaign)

Posted by deckard47 on April 17, 2008

Halo 3 was probably the biggest release the Xbox 360 had ever seen, and the only game likely to unseat it from its Xbox throne is GTA IV. It came out amid absolutely giant clouds of hype, got pretty good reviews (for a guaranteed well-reviewed AAA title), and is now the second highest played game on Xbox Live (COD 4 recently beat them out).

I haven’t played a Halo game since attempting to like the second one, so I approached this one with trepidation. Sure, I had fond memories of the first one: I had a good time with my friends on the co-op campaign, and the amount of time we wasted on Sidewinder, Blood Gulch and other maps was alarming. After all, it was the first truly amazing LAN-ready console game.

Considering I now have games like Team Fortress 2 and COD 4 to play online, and Half Life 2, Portal and Bioshock to play single player, how important could Halo 3 really be anymore? Kind of important is the answer I came up with.

The single player hasn’t changed, at all. You can now dual wield (you could do that in Halo 2), hijack vehicles (another Halo 2 holdover), use special battle items (droppable shields, portable grav. Lifts, etc.), use all-new weapons, and you employ all of these items through extremely linear levels that play exactly the same as those from the first game.

Some of the settings may be different (I liked the opening setting, particularly), but it’s still the same “30 seconds of fun” idea, which got old a while ago. I mean, games like Bioshock and Half Life 2 have hours of fun, you don’t have to wash, rinse and repeat.

The plot is silly, overblown, and presented with a ludicrous and undeserved weight and grandiosity. The acting keeps pace with the writing (when Commander Keyes is asked where squads should meet up, where they should go, she says “To war.” No, really), and Bungie still thinks the Flood are fun. I don’t know why.

All this amounts to a rather forgettable experience, one you chug through to unlock achievements. It’s made more fun by co-op, and the ability to play a kind of challenge co-op where you try to beat your friends to points and kills.

Now comes the time to briefly mention the graphics. In single player, they are nice enough, but you get the weird sense that you’re looking at an older game. All of that is forgotten when you fire up multiplayer: online, in the Forge and the Theatre, you realize how impressive this game is. There’s so much going on, so many different players and effects, it’s impressive the amount of detail that Bungie pushed into this game. The water on High Ground, for instance, looks strangely real, compared to other games. The lighting effects are subtle, effective, and oddly “realistic.”

The Forge and Theatre are the best place to witness this. When you pause playback on your most recent match and see a character flung across the room by a rocket, you’ll appreciate the technical achievement before your eyes. Oh, and the Theatre and its file-sharing portion are great fun; I love looking at other people’s weird moments, deaths or screens. The Forge is even cooler. A really fun map editor, familiar maps can be completely changed with this tool. You can add platforms, boxes, ramps, and other items that change the topography of the level. You can also change weapon and vehicle placement, which can drastically alter the flow of a map. It’s a great community tool, like the Theatre, and Bungie deserves credit for that.

So there’s the multiplayer, which is amazing. All of those gadgets I mentioned earlier? In multiplayer, they’re fun, new, and useful. Honestly, gameplay-wise this feels like what Halo 2 should have felt like. There are new maps, and you can tell that they’ve been tested to perfection. Personally, I enjoy a couple of maps more than the others: the Heroic map pack includes Standoff, a fun outdoor map that is best played as a CTF map. Next up is High Ground, a good Team DM map that includes a long, sloping hill. Finally, my favorite straight-up DM map, Snowblind, an indoor/outdoor/underground map where the bodies pile up at an amazing rate.

Character models start out boring (Spartan/Elite Covenant), but as you win matches, rack up kills and start earning experience and ranks, you’ll unlock new armor pieces for both sides. You can customize your character’s colors and emblem, all of which are cool.

It really is surprising that I enjoy multiplayer so much. Most of the people with mics are hideous mouth breathers; the best people I meet are just silent. It’s sad, because voice chat can be used for such cool purposes (see Chromehounds, or any mildly tactical game), but on Halo 3, it becomes a forum for the witless, the racist, and a surprising amount of the time, what sounds like 5 year olds. Maybe I’m just being silly, but it’s weird how many young kids play this game (and they are all totally better than me).

Still, it’s obvious that Bungie has their multiplayer formula down to a science. It may not be the same adrenaline rush as COD 4, or provide the same amount of fun as Team Fortress 2 does, but it has its own place. It’s fast, fun, perfectly balanced, and always entertaining. I’m still surprised by the scores out there. This game has amazing multiplayer, but its single player is pretty basic and boring. I realize it’s Halo, and people love it, but it makes Die Hard 4 look well plotted. Still, if you like shooters, and you like deathmatch or CTF, you’ll like this. Oh, and if you like Halo, it’s a safe bet you’ll like it even a bit more.

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One Response to “Halo 3 Review (because I only just finished the campaign)”

  1. firestream said

    Nice review. Its funny cause I just recently finished the fight myself. Only took me 7 months to get around to it.

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