We weren’t quite sure where the road was going to end, but it came upon us suddenly when the announcement was made that Halo 3 would be the last in the Halo series while simultaneously being the first Halo game on the Xbox 360. This mean that all of us Halo fans would have to hope that Microsoft and Bungie would be prepared to use the Xbox 360’s goodness generator to full effect. That was their job; my job is to tell you whether or not they did it.
Well…I am here to tell you that it happened. Bungie pulled it off.
Finish the fight with up to 3 friends over Xbox Live.
The game looked glorious with the graphical power of the Xbox 360 behind it. There were forests dappled with sunlight, containing streams that flowed, babbled, and roared hills and over rocks, saw stunning vistas that created a sense of immensity to the levels that was a prime example of the power of the Xbox 360 and was previously seen in games like Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion although, in honesty, Halo 3’s realms were much smaller but I digress. Let’s get down to the nuts and bolts.
Halo 3 promises to wrap it all up for those of us who have been waiting many months to find out just how Master Chief planned on making good on his clam of “finishing this fight” and how Microsoft and Bungie aided him in his quest. First and most obvious is the variety of new weapons that both the Master Chief has at his disposal through the game. The Arbiter, while still present in the game, is not playable but consider how their combined coolness flows together to be a nuclear bomb of coolness.
You have two new types of grenades at your disposal; spike grenades, which stick into a surface and send a flurry of spikes out toward any enemies unlucky enough to be nearby, and a flame grenade that causes a burst of flame that lasts for several moments and causes anything that passes through it to catch on fire. There’s a new Brute pistol called the Mauler that can be dual wielded, and the Brute’s gravity hammer you may remember from Halo 2. And my favorite addition is a modification to the popular gun turret where, not only can you man the turret, you can rip it from its base and haul it around with you, turning the player into a mobile artillery battery.
The NPC enemies and allies have also been improved a great deal. All of the game’s characters now look much more realistic than ever before; the quality of AI, voice acting, and animations in this iteration are welcome improvements to the series. What impresses most is the sheer amount of dialogue and how it changes based on the situation. If, for example, you take cover behind a crate, you will hear a brute order his underlings to sweep you out, often specifically mentioning the crate. One of the benefits of this abundant dialogue is that you can hear and react to the Covenant’s strategy as they announce their plans.
The game is chocked full of little touches that show how much use Bungie and Microsoft made of the powers of the Xbox 360. The viewfinder screen of the sniper rifle, for instance, always shows a digitized representation of the environment it’s aimed at as you run along. If you’re running along with a party of Marines, for instance, and they turn to pass in front of you they will appear on the digital scope of the sniper rifle running along. This attention to detail is also displayed in things like the movements of the massive Scarab tanks on which, if you can get close enough, will reveal complex mechanical joints that animate beautifully as its limbs lumber about
Halo 3’s campaign is short and to the point. Although for most players the single player game will be over was over within a couple of days, what happens during those hours is an incredibly intense experience that is perfectly paced and action packed from start to finish. The cut scenes and in-game scripted events are all finely crafted, and help keep players connected to the action while providing context for the game’s unending stream of battles. In one instance you see a human prisoner struggling against his Brute captor. The human swings a punch which is easily deflected and then the human is kicked sending him flying into the garage behind him, all in real time. No doubt about it; Bungie took a lot of care in making this game big and it did so with amazing results.
Multiplayer game types like Infection can be tweaked to keep things fresh.
The multiplayer component is back and better than ever. The underlying message of Halo 3 online is customization. Since players can control every aspect of their online experience, people will surely be playing Halo 3 for its excellent multiplayer mode for years to come. The ability to use the Forge (a real time level editor) and the Theater, which gives players the ability to record and send films and screenshots of their Halo 3 escapades adds value to an already robust package. Bungie didn’t reinvent the wheel with Halo 3’s online play, but they sure refined what they already began with the popular Halo 2.
In summation, Halo 3 is one of the best overall values available to Xbox 360 gamers. It’s got a great story that answers all of the questions left hanging from the end of Halo 2, can be played cooperatively with up to 4 players, and has one of the richest multiplayer components in any console game to date. Although Halo 3 isn’t a perfect game, it’s definitely worth more than the sum of its parts, and belongs in every Xbox 360 owner’s collection.