Developed By: Bungie Studios
Published By: Microsoft Game Studios
Reviewed by Firedancer34
Facts and Stats:
Halo 3 is the third of the Halo trilogy that follows the story of Spartan 117, otherwise known as Master Chief. Halo 3 was released on September 25, 2007 in North America and a number of other countries, and grossed over $300 million in its first week of sales. Bungie kept the development of Halo 3 under wraps for almost a year and a half before finally releasing a trailer for the game at the E3 convention in 2006 that had the gaming community looking forward to the release of Halo 3.
Bungie and Microsoft unfortunately had to deal with numerous incidents of the game either being ripped and then posted on the internet or outright sold before its official launch. Some of these were genuine mistakes on the behalf of retailers, but others were outright theft of the game and the developers took severe action against gamers who were caught downloading or playing the game before its official launch date.
Halo 3 was met with mixed reviews. Many fans were disappointed by the cliffhanger ending in Halo 2 and were happy with the play out of the story in Halo 3 . However a large number of critics felt the game was too short in content and that the storyline could have been stretched out. Despite some critical reviews, Halo 3 still managed to garner a number of awards, including several Game of the Year awards.
At the end of Halo 2, fans were left with a somewhat confusing cliffhanger. The Elite race of the Covenant were now working with humanity and their forces were being headed up by The Arbiter. Master Chief had gone off on another ship in pursuit of a Covenant spiritual leader and was headed back to Earth. Johnson, Keyes, and the Arbiter managed to stop the rest of the Covenant from firing the Halo ring, and barely escape the Gravemind who controls the dreaded parasitic army known as The Flood. And poor Cortana is left behind and is last seen becoming the focus of the Gravemind’s attention.
Halo 3 picks up on Earth where Sergeant Major Johnson joins up with Master Chief and they fight their way towards one of the command bases where Commander Keyes is now in charge. The Covenant have unburied a Forerunner artifact outside of the devastated city of New Mombasa and Commander Keyes has come up with a last ditch effort plan to stop the Covenant from activating it. Unfortunately, humanity is too late to stop this from happening and the firing of the artifact creates a massive slip-space portal in which the Covenant fleet retreats to. Before humanity can give chase, a Flood infected carrier crashes onto Earth, and the Elites and humanity are forced to deal with that threat first.
During the fight to stop the Flood, Master Chief comes across a badly damaged message from Cortana. Master Chief, who has been haunted by his decision to leave Cortana behind, is now determined to go back for her and to stop the Covenant in the process. A small fleet of humans and Elites are formed and they head into the portal. T hey find themselves outside the Milky Way galaxy, at an immense structure called the Ark. The Ark has the capability to activate all the Halo rings, and with the Covenant and the Gravemind already there, it’s up to Master Chief and his allies to stop them from activating the Ark.
It is a brutal battle to the bitter end, and while Cortana is recovered, it is apparent she has suffered while in captivity to the Gravemind. There are several character deaths along the way, making the inevitable victory bittersweet. While the final Boss Battle is a bit anti-climactic, the finale definitely boosts the adrenaline as the Ark self destructs all around you while you try and make a frantic drive towards your only means of escaping alive.
Where to start? Halo 3 kept the basics of the previous games but added so much more to it. Controls were switched up slightly as Bungie added a new feature to the game: the ability to carry a deployable item. Various shields, lifts, cloaks, or drone cannons were amongst some of the items now able to be added to your inventory and then deployed for a single use at critical moments. Also added to the basic player loadout were new grenade slots. The standard frag and sticky grenades were still in play, but now a player could also pick up and use brute spikes grenades, and fire canisters that came in handy when a horde of Flood were after you.
New weapons we also available for use including the Spartan Laser, which takes several seconds to prime before firing but can destroy almost anything with one shot. Dual wielding two weapons became more refined, and most of the original weapons went through some modifications to become slightly more improved as well. New vehicles were also introduced into the game, while the mechanics of several of the originals were upgraded tremendously. Most notably controls for the Scorpion tank, and the Warthog were improved immensely- which considering how much time you spend in both, this was a crucial decision.
Bungie also spiced up the Campaign a bit with an Easter Egg hunt of sorts. Skulls were hidden throughout the game for players to find. Discovering these skulls lead to unlocking achievements and once accessed and activated via the start menu, added modifiers to the game. These modifiers ranged in effects and difficulty. Some made no change in difficulty or scoring during the campaign, but made for a more amusing gameplay with certain sound effects and commentary being stepped up. Other skulls added a considerable amount of challenge to gameplay as well as help boost your scoring ability once activated. A second hunt of sorts (along with being an achievement to unlock) is finding and accessing a series of computer interfaces throughout the game.
Speaking of Achievements, Bungie also created a wide range of achievements for players to strive after. Some being fairly easy in accomplishment, and others taking several brutal and frustrating hours that can try even the most veteran of gamers. As they added map packs, Bungie also added several new Achievements to give gamers new things to strive for long after the game was originally released.
The multiplayer aspect of Halo 3, while drastically improved overall, was met with some criticism by Halo fans. The original maps and subsequent maps released thereafter were plagued with several bugs that players could exploit during matches to their advantage. Players could fight either in the social matches or in ranked matches, but the original ranking system had a bug that also allowed players to ’boost’ by backing out of a game early while their team was still ahead and be awarded the XP’s needed to count towards ranking up. Over time most of these issues were addressed in updates or overhauling the ranking system however, and ‘boosting’ became near impossible to achieve afterwards.
New features were added to the multiplayer aspect of the game which made Halo unique and got the fans more involved. One such feature was “Forge” which allows players to create and customize their own maps for multiplayer use. After some time, Bungie -who monitors all online gameplay - started taking some of the best fan created maps and game-types and adding them into the rotation of play lists. A feature was also added that allowed the player the ability to go back and watch films of either campaign or multiplayer matches and saving film clips of your best kills or funniest deaths, and also create screen grabs of your most memorable moments. Another fun addition was that you could share these clips and grabs with your friends and the rest of the Halo community, and Bungie created a program called Halo Waypoint in which the company celebrated some of the best clips with recognition in their weekly updates.
Halo 3 was one of those games where people either loved it or hated it. In talking with other gamers, I found very few who didn’t have strong feelings one way or another. Personally, I loved the game, but then when Halo 3 came out I had just gotten back into gaming and had crammed through the first two games on the original Xbox and Fable. Halo was the first game I played on the Xbox 360, and I had only been back into gaming for a few months by then. The difference in graphics, playability, sound, etc was so incredible that I doubt I could really give a truly unbiased opinion. When I upgraded my TV and added a Surround Sound system, I will freely admit that Halo 3’s intro scene was what I played several times over as I adjusted the controls and drooled over the cinematic glory before me.
Epic new experience aside though, there were a lot of things that I truly enjoyed about the game itself that made the whole experience of playing it a great one. The first is the story. I love shooters, but I am also a sucker for a good story. And after following the partnership between Spartan 117 and his AI, I was dying to know what was going to happen to her after the ominous ending in Halo 2. The fact that Cortana ‘haunts’ the Master Chief throughout the first half of the game really built up the strength of their relationship. The writers also tied everything up pretty nicely, and there was none of the confusion that I felt in Halo 2. I loved he ending of the game because it wrapped up the story arc, but left things open for the continuation of Master Chief’s story.
Like many gamers I did find the campaign to be a bit on the short side - I finished the game in about 8 hours. However all the extras that Bungie threw into this made the re-playability factor extremely high and worthwhile. The hunt for and even just trying to get a few of the skulls presented some exciting and unique challenges. Locating all the terminals and reading some of the cryptic data on them was also interesting. Several of the Achievements required one to party up with their friends and spend a few hours laughing and cajoling one another as you attempted to get through a few difficult sections.
Halo 3 was also the first time I had attempted multiplayer on Xbox LIVE. I later went back to play Halo 2 while it was still available on the servers to compare and I have to say that the game-play on Halo 3 was incredible. Yes, there were some glitches and bugs that were frustrating until Bungie fixed them, but the overall experience was incredible. While I was not proficient, nor did I have the time or patience to create new maps and games in the Forge world, several of my new LIVE friends were. I admit to spending many nights with a few of my buddies laughing and just having fun on some of the crazy and insane maps and contests they thought up. That was another thing about multi-player that I loved - meeting people from all over the world. Like any online gaming, there were those who took the game a tad too seriously, but I met some fun and incredible cool people through LIVE and several of them are good friends down to this day.
As for overall game-play and controls, I have mixed reviews on that. I was happy that they refined the vehicle control and that new equipment was added that could be accessed by the player. But they went and changed the controls…AGAIN. Unfortunately, that is a complaint that pretty much holds through ever Halo game made so far. There was some ability to adapt your controls to your preferences, but nothing that moved them to original settings from Halo 2. Since a good portion of your time is spent in vehicles however, I do appreciate the increased drivability of the vehicles. In fact of all the Halo games to date, the Warthog and Scorpion handling in Halo 3 are my favorites.
The graphics were a huge step up from the previous Halo games. While the game itself wasn’t created in HD, the Xbox 360 can upscale it to 1080p. Despite not being HD, the various other techniques and engines used to create the lighting, depth, and dynamic range of the game make Halo 3 one of the most stunning early Xbox 360 games to play. The sound in the game will blow you away as well. All Xbox 360 games support 5.1 surround sound, but Bungie put a lot of time and effort into the sound, dialogue, and music for the game. The commentary by the NPC’s was hilarious throughout the game. And the higher the difficulty you played the more…interesting it would get. In surround sound, intense firefights and battles were made all the more epic as bullets, plasma, and vehicles roared around you. Martin O’Donnell once again composed the music for the game. It was yet another brilliant score that carried throughout the entire game enhancing the player’s emotional response at any given moment.
Overall, Halo 3 was a definite success in my book. It was a great wrap up by Bungie to this story arc. I was a little sad that they left it open because Bungie made it clear that they were no longer going to develop any more games based on Master Chief’s experience. Thankfully they sold the rights to 343 Industries who will be picking up the story and continuing it in a game due to be released late 2012.
Rating on a scale of 1-10
Overall Gameplay: 9