Review: Halo 3 (Microsoft Xbox 360)

Halo 3
Developer: Bungie
Publisher: Microsoft
Players: 1-4(Campaign) 1-16(Multiplayer)
System: Xbox 360

Ah Halo 3. The long awaited conclusion to the Halo trilogy. Let’s face it. There isn’t much chance that what I’m going to type here is going to sway your opinions on the franchise one way or another. If you haven’t had some exposure to the Master Chief and his style of game play, then all I can say is “Greetings, welcome to earth, friend.”

Halo 2 ended prematurely for most. In fact I’m guessing only Microsoft was pleased with the story ending on a cliffhanger. Even Bungie has recently stated that they were unhappy releasing the game with the story being only half finished. But that’s all water under the hype bridge right? All if forgiven now that Halo 3 is here to finish the story, I mean fight, isn’t it?

Story

As Halo 2 finished, we were left with a very unsatisfying conclusion. Cortana had stayed behind with the Overmind, Master Chief was chasing the Prophet of Truth back to Earth, and the Arbiter had incited a civil war amongst the Covenant, which caused the Brutes to become the enforcers of choice for the Prophets, overthrowing the Elites. When we rejoin our comrades, we are on Earth. The Chief has made it home, but the Covenant have beaten him there. The Prophet of Truth believes the Ark, the place where all the Halo rings in the galaxy can be fired at once, is located on Earth, and he has brought the entire Covenant fleet, that which remains anyway, to find it. It’s time to get dangerous, as a certain masked duck once said.

To make a trilogy memorable, the conclusion must act both like a full story on its own, but also like the final act in a three part play. Villains must meet their justice, heroes must bring it to them, and any secondary storylines must be wrapped up in a satisfactory manner. I enjoyed most of the Halo 3 storyline, but I was left wanting a little more when it came to the solution to the Flood. It felt just a little bit too convenient.

One final word on the story. If you finish the game, and are unsatisfied with the end of the story, keep watching until the end of the credits. It’s still not as good as it could be, but it’s certainly better than not watching until the credits end. Were it so easy.

Story Rating: 7/10

Graphics

There are two camps when it comes to the graphics in Halo 3. One camp says the graphics are old and busted. The other camp feels they are the new hotness. Actually nobody I’ve spoken to feels the graphics are new hotness, but Halo 2.5 they are not. Simply put, comparing the graphics of Halo 3 to Gears of War, or Crysis or anything else is just not fair. Halo 3 is using pre-existing art work for many of its characters and backgrounds. They have been highly polished, but the visuals will look similar to the old version because they are both being modeled after the same artwork. Gears of War got to start off fresh, as did Crysis. Master Chief is always going to look like Master Chief, but the newer version will look better. And so he does.

Of course, the reason so many people were complaining about the graphics is simple. People had high expectations. Halo was the best looking game on the Xbox for quite a long period of time after it launched. Halo 2 introduced new things but really all anyone cared about in Halo 2 was the online multiplayer, so graphics were ignored for the most part, even though the game still looked phenomenal. Now the game is on a much more powerful system and the game has been in development for years. Obviously it should make your eyes water at its beauty.

Because the improvements are there, but in a subtle way, this score is going to be controversial either way. Especially after it was revealed recently that the game isn’t running in true HD, according to the internets. But when you can shoot the helmet off a Brute, the respirator off a grunt, or fight the Covenant forces in a running stream, there is no contest. The game isn’t the best choice for graphics whores who want to have a pissing contest with Playstation 3 owners, but it looks damned good.

Graphics Rating: 8/10

Sound

Much like the first two Halo games, it’s the little touches that make listening to this game so enjoyable. The Grunts are once again a blast to fight as they talk, hearing them scream for mercy or saying something that makes you think they believe they have a chance of killing you. The Brutes aren’t as talkative, but even they have their moments.

The actual voice acting is again outstanding, be it Cortana, Commander Keyes, the Arbiter or Master Chief himself. Sarge is back as well, and is just as ornery as ever. No complaints on the voice acting here.

One of the best things about the Halo games are their musical score. They have been fantastic. Star Wars just wasn’t Star Wars until John Williams and the London Symphony Orchestra made it so. So too with Halo. Without the music it’s just another FPS. With the music it’s Halo. Halo 3 is no different.

Sound Rating: 9/10

Control

The switch to a new console, with newly designed joysticks, meant that Bungie had the opportunity to tweak the controls. The end result of this tweaking is a new button for deploying items, and all around confusion at times until you finally figure out that X no longer reloads, and Y no longer enables you to enter vehicles etc. I have to say I prefer the older control scheme. It was perfect. There was no need to change things around. But since Microsoft did away with the button alignment, I suppose I’ll live with it.

Deploying items is the big secret that Bungie was keeping for so long. After the trailer showing the bubble shield was shown, people naturally assumed that there would be a new grenade. This was wrong. There are now a number of new items that can be deployed, all of them stolen from the Covenant. Have to love the Master Chief, he’s nothing if not a recycler. Anyway, the new deployables are the Bubble Shield, the Portable Cover (which is basically another shield, only not as nifty looking), the Flare, which blinds everyone, including you, and the land mine, which is handy if you are looking to lay a trap for a Scorpion Tank or something.

With the new game comes new vehicles to control as well. The Brutes have the Brute Chopper, which is essentially Paul Tuttle’s wet dream, and the Marines finally have a jet to compete with the Covenant Phantom, the Hornet. The Marines also get the Mongoose, which is just an ATV. The Chopper is nothing interesting, just a motorbike with lasers on the front. Chrysler once made a prototype motorcycle, all big ass wheels and mean looking. That’s basically the Chopper. It controls pretty well.

The Hornet on the other hand can’t seem to make up its mind. It’s used as a fighter in the game but it really should be a helicopter type vehicle, as that is how it flies. Fortunately you don’t have to use it that often, and when you do it’s for short periods of time.

The Mongoose is just a smaller Warthog, really. It seats two, is unarmed, and is just there for you to go blasting around the map. Good tip to follow, if you can’t keep this thing from landing on your head, don’t try it with the real thing.

Control Rating: 7/10

Replayability

What are you kidding me? The only thing that could make this a perfect 10 would be a longer campaign and a map editor that actually let you make maps. Some may feel that Gears of War is a game better suited for the long haul, it’s less frantic and more strategic. Not me. Give Halo gameplay any day.

Replayability Rating: 9/10

Balance

Much of the game is designed with 4 player Co-op in mind. You can beat the game on Legendary by yourself, but you better be damned good. As you progress farther and farther into the game the difficulty is really ratcheted up, especially when the Flood make their feelings known. Some of the Flood are really just plain cheap actually. Morphing units that can take 3 separate forms, each of which is nigh invulnerable to your weapons, it just makes things more frustrating. Perhaps Bungie was trying to make the game feel longer, but all they really wind up doing is pissing the gamer off. Indeed, it seems that all the complaining people did regarding all the cool foes in part 2 (like the scarab walker), was heeded this time around. Only instead of saying ok, here’s a Scarab, go and kill it, they now say ok, here’s 2 Scarabs, lets see you survive this. With 4 players the difficulty is reduced dramatically, as one might expect, but then you have added problems of getting lost or just not knowing where to go next on occasion.

Balance Rating: 7/10

Originality

As mentioned above the game is designed for 4 player co-op. In addition, Bungie has added a number of features which don’t directly affect the actual game but are worthy of mention. For one, you have the Forge, which is basically something of a level editor. You can’t create actual maps, but you can make a mess of the ones that are already provided. Change the default weapons, ok that’s been done. But changing the gravity, the shield strength, the spawn points, all of these things and many more are new. It’s all so seamless too. You can create a new version of your map with your friends, and try it out while you are building.

Secondly you have the screenshot and film sections of the game. Tired of making a spectacular kill on Live and having nobody around to corroborate the story when you tell it? Now you can save find the kill in an automatically created film of the game and upload it, where other players can download it and watch it.

Most of these things have been done before, but I don’t think any of them have been done on a console game.

Origniality Rating: 9/10

Addictiveness

Bungie still hasn’t gotten the matchmaking system right, but at least they are trying. Unfortunately they aren’t giving you the option of just picking a game and going. Instead you must join a party and then once again wait to find a game that has enough open spots to join up. The bigger your party the harder it is to find competition. The waiting isn’t as long as the ridiculous wait times found in Shadowrun, but in this day and age all I want to do is connect and fight. It can’t really be this hard can it?

The addition of the Forge level editor does wonders for the addictiveness of the game though, as new gametypes are only a imaginative thought away. Already Zombie levels and Racing, along with Baseball of all things, have added to the overall feeling of “there is still more to experience with this game.” Soon I’m guessing we’ll have Zombie Racing. Zombie Racing.

Addictiveness Rating: 7/10

Appeal

Well, it IS a Halo. A game with that name is going to come with its pros and cons. The pros include a great story and a horde of millions who want to play the game against you online. The cons are much the same as the pros. You want more of the story, and there are hordes of idiots on Live who want to play you and call you a loser for not being as awesome with a sniper rifle as them. But after the experience of Halo 2, you should know exactly what you are getting into, and there is as always a very useful mute feature.

Appeal Rating: 8/10

Miscellaneous

And thus we say good bye to an old friend, the Master Chief. Will there be other Halo games? Absolutely. Halo Wars has already been confirmed, but who knows what role MC will have in that or any other game. I for one am happy they gave this game entirely to Spartan 117 and abandoned whatever reason they gave for making you play as the Arbiter.

Miscellaneous Rating: 9/10

The Scores
Story: 7/10
Graphics: 8/10
Sound: 9/10
Control: 7/10
Replayability: 9/10
Balance: 7/10
Originality: 9/10
Addictiveness: 7/10
Appeal: 8/10
Miscellaneous: 9/10
Total Score 80/100
Final Score: 8.0 ()

Short Attention Span Summary
It’s Halo 3. It fixed everything that was wrong with Halo 2, which was in its own right pretty damned stellar. I’m a little sad to see it go, but I know there will be more. Microsoft isn’t stupid. Having said that though, the fight has been finished. For now.