|Halo 3 (2007)
Available for: Xbox 360
Well, it’s finally arrived and taken over the world. Yes, the hotly anticipated “Halo 3” from the Bungie team finally dropped and like a proverbial atom bomb, it has taken everyone with it in its wake. Much hype (tie-ins such as "Halo 3"-themed Mountain Dew “Game Fuel”), record-breaking pre-orders (millions, people), and a first day opening take of $170 million (more dough than you or I will undoubtedly ever see) have made the game more than just a “huge success.” But of course, the question remains: does it live up to all the madness? Is it really a killer game worth the wait? OK, that’s two questions, but they’re related.
The answer is “yes,” my friends. Even the Magic 8 Ball says so without hesitation.
Look, I came into the Xbox 360 universe as a former Sony fan. When the first Xbox debuted, all anyone seemed to hear about it was how great the original “Halo” was…and that was about it. When I finally jumped over to the 360, I picked up “Halo” and gave it a try. It was fine, but I didn’t see what all the fuss was about. I had played other FPS games that I had enjoyed much more. I skipped on picking up “Halo 2” and promised myself that I wouldn’t give in to any of the “Halo 3” hype. But then just last month I had this twinge in the back of my head. What if this game truly was going to be amazing? What if I missed out on it and everyone else with a 360 had it, and was having a great time without me? Damn, the pressure! So I placed my pre-order.
I’m just telling you all this to give you my own personal background with this series. I wasn’t a “Halo” nut going into playing this game, but I have certainly plunked down the same amount of cash for far worse games. So, truth be told, I was basically playing this with a fresh set of eyes and ears, as I had never even bothered to finish the original “Halo.” This review is not written with a former love or obsession built in to its opinions.
That said, “Halo 3,” along with “BioShock,” gave me one of the most exciting and best experiences I’ve had so far on the 360 in 2007. In this closing episode of the game’s trilogy, The Covenant has taken control of Earth and our hero, the ever-enigmatic Master Chief, must search deep in Africa for the answer to saving the world. Not only that, but his former cyberbabe assistant, Cortana, has crashed planetside on the ship from which Master Chief jettisoned himself. His quest ultimately becomes one about finding her to fix the destruction set in motion by the Covenant.
Prior to its release, much speculation was given to whether or not “Halo 3” was going to live up to the greatness of “Gears of War,” or even be just more than a graphic update of “Halo 2.” As far as the latter goes, don’t even consider that a serious question. As far as comparing this to “Gears of War,” don’t bother. They’re both excellent games, each featuring a different sort of shooter-type experience. What I can say, though, is that if you were like me and previously could have cared less about “Halo” overall, you’re going to absolutely love this game if you like shooters even just a little bit.
The scope of the game is tremendous. Yes, you start out in the jungle with your fellow troops and quickly get into some close combat, but then the whole thing just opens up wide and the next thing you know, “Halo 3” has gone epic. Granted, the battlefields in the original game were large at times, but this time around they have become huge, and battles will often take quite a while to work through. “Halo 3” excels because it isn’t a mindless run and gun game. The myriad enemies each react in their own way to what weapon you’re using and how tactically you’re attacking them. Many times, you’ll think the Brutes you’re gunning down should have fallen 50 shots ago, but instead they’re still giving it to you with everything they’ve got. All this, as well as being able to wield two weapons at the same time on this outing – fantastic. But yes, some actual thinking and taking one’s time in battle is essential here.
However, players will also have super AI assisting them throughout some of the skirmishes. Bungie has developed computer-controlled players on the good guys’ side that are every bit as helpful as the bad guys. So yes, you’re able to rely on them to go out and start attacking first, doing damage, and living through it without having to do all the work yourself. This is especially true when it comes to the vehicular battles.
And it’s these battles that are some of the best moments of “Halo 3.” You wanna talk about variety? We’ll get to the vehicles themselves in a minute, but this time around you can choose to drive, operate the guns on a vehicle, or ride shotgun and assist with secondary fire. Pretty damn cool. As far as the vehicles go, there are 10 in all that you’ll encounter, five of your own and five of the enemy’s. The Scorpion tanks and Hornet small-plane-type-thingies are the most fun. And you’ll be glad to have these whenever they show up for different missions as you’ll definitely need to utilize them.
Battle within “Halo 3” is amazingly immersive. The best example of this is the first time Master Chief encounters the enemy’s Scarab weapon. The Scarab is this huge, mechanized spider-looking vehicle that Chief must jump onto and then into and shoot out the core to start a self-destruct mode. The Scarab looks gigantic from a reasonable distance, but then having to actually go up on an elevator and jump off some scaffolding onto the damn thing, and seeing just how huge it is while battling the enemy outside and in controlling the damn thing while it’s wreaking havoc at the same time is jaw dropping. That’s worth 60 bucks alone right there.
The rest of the game is just as exciting and addictive, with the ending stretch being either one of the most aggravating or exciting things you’ve ever played. It’s actually a little bit of both, and that’s good. It makes you want to beat the damn thing and finally stick it to the Covenant once and for all. Aside from this, though, “Halo 3” offers up a great online Matchmaking system that seeks out similarly-skilled players, allowing them to work up to greater battles. This is nice in that you know you’re basically going in with people who might not be so great, and will be able to get some kills in yourself. There’s also the Campaign mode in which players can get together and play through specific “Halo 3” campaigns, as well as the Forge that allows everyone to customize a game map themselves in real time and then go at it. Innovative and certainly something to keep the gas going for a long time with this game.
There’s even an option that allows players to take in-game pictures and/or videos of their action and share them with the world. Truly, Bungie thought of it all this time around and threw it in there. Kudos must also go to the soundtrack for the game, which kicks in at the best moments and features a ton of different themes. It’s really like watching a movie with the musical cues reacting to the action on the screen. And on that screen you’ll see some fantastic graphics. To put it definitely, no, “Halo 3” doesn’t look like “Gears of War.” It looks less photo-realistic, but still fantastic. The details on the trees and leaves in the jungle settings are outstanding, and the huge outdoor sections are impeccable. It’s pretty damn near perfect, save some slightly retro-looking angular jobs on some of the characters’ heads.
In all, “Halo 3” is a definite must-buy. It doesn’t matter if you’re a huge fan or not, you will dig this game, I promise. The single-player storyline is excellent and enthralling, and the multiplayer options are just incredible, and will keep gamers going long after they’ve played the solo campaign. Apparently the single-player story in “Halo 2” wasn’t great (even Bungie has said so themselves), so they can certainly rest easy knowing they created a terrific game all around this time. All while enjoying that insane pile of cash that will just keep growing. All you need to do is add to that pile and have yourself a blast. Get it now.