Review By: David Pulgar
|# Of Players:||1-4 (16 online)|
|Accessories:||Xbox Live (online play), HDTV 720p, Includes Spartan Mjolnir Mark VI helmet case, storyboard collection, Legendary Edition disc, and bonus disc|
Halo 3 is the biggest launch the video game industry’s seen – ever. Raking in over 100 million dollars on launch day alone (with over 300 million to date), there’s no denying that Halo 3 has been a massive hit. But is that success thanks to successful marketing by Microsoft, or is there something greater? I’d say it’s something greater. Halo’s fan base is a dedicated core of gamers as much in love with Master Chief’s story as they are with blowing stuff to pieces. I myself started with Halo: Combat Evolved, which I first experienced at weekly LAN parties at my friend’s house. Slowly, I grew from a noob who couldn’t kill an AFK player into a one-man army, dispensing entire teams with a single grenade. What’s unique about the Halo franchise, however, is its expanding fan base. The Halo series isn’t just for die-hard fans: Bungie has made it easy for new players to join the fight too. Because of this, Halo has seen an ever-expanding audience through its trilogy of games.
Halo 3 comes in a variety of flavors. Standard edition is just the game and retails for $59.99. The Limited Edition comes in a silver metallic case and contains one of the bonus disks from the Legendary package. This version goes for $69.99. Legendary Edition is the daddy of them all. For $129.99 gamers can purchase this version complete with a replica of Master Chief’s helmet and game stand that fits Halo 1, 2 and 3. Watching the two bonus discs, there’s quite a bit of content. One video is a lengthy behind the scenes at Bungie featuring the creation of Halo 3, which is actually pretty good. Several Xbox themes and a variety of gamer pictures also come on the disks, along with some episodes of Red Vs Blue and This Spartan Life. However, the best bonuses on these discs are the original cinematics from Halo: Combat Evolved and Halo 2. For fans that never played through the first two games, it’s a nice recap of the story.
Well, this is already getting to be a long review, so let me start talking about the actual game. It all started on launch day. As is custom for my friends and I, we all took the day off work. (It’s something we do for all big launches). From our midnight pickups of Halo 3, we went straight into the co-op campaign. I’m sure many gamers can appreciate 4-player co-op over Xbox live. Sure, it’s great to not having to drive down the street to Jimmy’s house, but when your friends are 800 miles away (as in my case) online co-op becomes a necessity. But I digress; Halo 3’s campaign is elegantly done. Environments are lush and the amount of detail is painfully good. I can only imagine the hours developers spent crafting each of these battlefields (thanks Bungie). In the game’s first level, players will see miles of lush greenery and vegetation. Trees have branches (that Jackals snipe from) and water ripples as you walk through it. The water effects really wowed me. If you shoot the water, it splashes. If a dead body falls into a stream, the current carries it away. Amazing. Bungie makes effective use of the 360’s capabilities, so much that my words cannot do it justice. Even the music is great. Halo 3’s orchestrated score really brought me into the fight. It’s much better than the scores from Halo or Halo 2, even though music from the first two games was also really good. Sound effects from weapons and explosions in Halo 3 are what I expected – good quality. I didn’t notice much of a difference from the other games, but I’m also not an audio engineer. Suffice to say I felt satisfied each time I knocked a player back to Reach with the gravity hammer.
Combat progresses well too. Even on normal difficulty, enemies react to your presence and take action accordingly. It never ceases to amaze me when a Brute drops a bubble shield to protect his pack of grunts, or when two Jackals pin you behind a rock while enemies flank you. The AI is insane. If you’re playing on Legendary, co-op is a must (unless you’re a masochist). It’s also important to note Bungie’s taken great care in adding a little strategy to Halo 3. Enemies are positioned in a way so there’s more than one way to defeat them. While the direct approach is always clear and visible, there may be a hidden back path to make things easier. Players will notice these alternate paths more and more as they progress through the game (especially playing in Legendary mode). Sneaking up like this also allows a gamer to watch enemies interact. They talk to each other and do other things while idle. In some cases you might even watch a brute mercilessly beat a marine to death, another excellent example of Halo 3’s level of detail.
No game is without fault, however, not even Halo 3. I have to say, while the campaign is entertaining, I think the story could have used more tightening. It’s almost as if Bungie tried to pack too much into one game. Playing through Halo and Halo 2 I remember looking forward to the next plot twist. In Halo 3, I didn’t know which plot to follow. Should I care about what’s found on Earth? What about Cortana? And the Arbiter? There’s too much going on. I found Cortana’s communications to the Master Chief particularly annoying. You can’t take 12 steps without hearing from her. I also noticed some discrepancies in level design. Later in the game, it’s clear that Bungie didn’t have time to properly polish up later levels in the game. Instead of a rendered landscape, these stages are back dropped by a static image. Sure, it’s an incredibly beautiful and well-done image, but it still looks out of place somehow. It’s almost as if another game studio designed the environments for latter parts of the game.
Posted: 2007-10-14 20:17:56 PST