|Finizzle the fizizzle! Halo haters be damned, our boy in green is back! Two week's since release, Dig's still a wee bit excited. Incidentally the game's amazing web integration and snapshot feature mean I could quite easily have gone in and taken all these pics myself, rather than steal 'em directly from Microsoft as per usual. If I weren't a big lazy|
Halo 3 starts off pretty poorly to be honest. The jungle themed opener's not just fairly run-of-the-mill, gameplay-wise, but visually somewhat bland and janky too. The introductory sight of your fellow marine buddies looking so blocky, low in detail and worryingly similar to how they did back in 2002, doesn't help either. This is all nothing compared to the downright poop second level though, one so darn repetitive it literally makes you replay the same section three times in a row
The game's sound is also fairly disappointing. While the traditional Halo music excites and erects, the overall audio mix is seriously iffy, with weapons coming off quiet and puny, while cinematic voices sound muffled and hard to make out amidst key points of the...cool, yet hugely confusing plot.
Perhaps worst of all are Cortana's telepathic whinings throughout the entire single player game, those which pop up perhaps once every 15 minutes. They begin to seriously grate after a while, precious five second snippets one could have been using to bash Grunts' skulls in or headshot Jackals. You silly holographic sex bitch. Nice arse though.
Oh, and the much-hailed new "Theatre" mode - that which lets you save your single and multiplayer matches for later viewing? Seriously temperamental. It's chug-central when fast-forwarding, and you can't even rewind properly. What kinda bullshit's that?! I need to re-watch that impeccable quad-kill now
god damn it.
Hmmm, I guess I'm starting to pick at straws a little there, but I whip out the above list of grievances as they're pretty much the only things wrong with Halo 3
. Once you get past those opening two levels...one you begin to see
the true beauty of this game materialize before your very eyes...both graphically, thematically and, um, level designingly...Halo 3 truly cometh. It's the game we've all been waiting for.
And bloody hell, it's a bit good.
Just what is it that makes this game so special? First and foremost would be the Brutes. Truly brilliant, they are.
Battling the Elites in Halo 1 and 2 was always a high point, sure - their exquisite AI seldom matched in the FPS field to this very day - but the harder you pushed the difficulty in either game, the more aggravating those battles became in my eyes. Elites were essentially mirror images of The Chief after all, their recharging energy shields and identical health - not to mention ability to dodge, flank and even melee bash when appropriate - rendering them just as lethal as you were. Each show-down felt more like something out of a multiplayer game as a result - as opposed to fighting bog-standard henchmen - and as amazing a feat as that was...it was a little exhausting, truth be told.
|3 takes some flack for its graphics - and rightly so in places - but the engine does allow for the most insanely large, busy and action-packed vistas ever, with slow-down seldom a prob, even with four of ya|
The Elite's removal in Halo 3 and subsequent replacement with the Brutes makes for a far more enjoyable experience in light of all this. They are just as smart, just as fun to fight, and just as worthy a foe...but in a far more manageable fashion. They use equipment when needed, they combine in packs, and they even hulk out and charge you down like spasticated gorillas if you really
piss 'em off. Which you will. They never cross that line of annoyance though, leaning just
on the right side of do-able at all times, making the single player campaign an endlessly exciting, yet forever fair experience in their wake.
Of course, weasly Jackals, bad arse Hunters and the ever hilarious Grunts help out on this front too, rounding Halo 3 off with a pleasing roster of superb enemies to blast your way through from start to finish. Time and time again though, it remains those demented Brutes who are responsible for the coolest and most tensest of encounters. Compared to how forgettable they came off in the last game, this deserves some serious highlighting.
I swear to god I even heard one tell me to fuck off at one point. Another proudly proclaimed, "He was my lover!" when I bashed his nearby accomplice to death too. Ahh, that good old Halo sense o' humor. How I missed thee.
Joining the enemies on the greatness tip would be the guns. Halo's always boasted fab handling in its vast array of weaponry, but my single biggest peeve with Halo 2 if you cast your mind back
, was that it ditched the two very best - not to mention iconic - guns of the series in favour of a bunch of duds. You were left with little more than the Covenant water pistols as a result, and the campaign suffered drastically in response. Not so here. The good old Assault Rifle returns - thank friggin' christ - while the classic silver pistol is back too, albeit sans scope. The scarce few pleasing additions Halo 2 did
bless us with return too though, resulting in a "best of the best" of Halo load-outs that shines like no other.
Even sweeter? Some fab new beauties join the fray, including the sickly sweet Brute Spikers and surprisingly bad ass twin shotguns. Not to mention of course, the greatest weapon of the entire series. I talk of course, about the demonic new Gravity Hammer. The equivalent to swinging around pure hate.
Continuing down my checklist of shit to praise, I also have to touch upon the Flood. They don't feature too prominently in this game - with only two or three Flood-centric levels seen in the entire campaign - but the species themselves just feel fully realised at last. Not only decked out in grotesque new varieties that make you wanna hurl (in a good way), they've incorporated some exciting new abilities this time around too. They talk. They move in an all manner of new fucked up ways. And coolest of all? They can even infect on the fly. Indeed, there's nothing more alarming than seeing a fellow marine, or even a buddy Elite get face-hugged right in front of you, start sprouting big arse tentacles, then turn on you at a moment's notice. All unscripted. All absolutely terrifying.
All cool as shit.
|Halo 3's about as epic as they come, giving even Dig-fave Shadow of the Colossus a run for its money in the latter half|
Okay, many'll bitch about the infamous "Cortana" level towards the end of the game. A Flood-ified remake of Halo 2's "High Charity" that's since turned into something of a diarrhea stained rendition of an HR Giger painting. With Flood coming at you from every direction, reviving their fallen comrades constantly, while sniping at you from afar via their new wall-climbing spider form, it can be hella frustrating, no doubts there. But honestly? It's one half hour level that you can blaze through pretty darn quickly with an energy sword. Yep, one half hour of frustration amidst so many of pure joy. And to be honest, one only particularly conspicuous due to the sheer amazing-ness of the two that surround it.
In fact, from level three onwards - when the Warthogs come out to play - I'd even say Halo 3 boasts the best levels of the entire series. As much as I love to run and gun you see, Halo's always been at its greatest in the vehicles. Whether it be the first time you burned rubber across the surface of that original Halo
, or you took to the Scorpion tank on that humungous bridge in the sequel, vehicles have forever been what turned me on to this game more than anything else. Literally. Halo 3 wisely emphasizes those same such shenanigans.
Whether blazing down the "Tsavo Highway" in the utterly bad arse new Brute Chopper, tearing up sand on "The Ark" in a good old triple-packed Warthog, or blowing the shit outta Banshees in the sky throughout "The Covenant", it forever piles on the vehicular porn in thick, heavy doses, keeping you consistently grinning like a mad cat wrapped in bacon the entire time. Each and every one of these sights and locations forever out-doing themselves in the "epic" stakes. My jaw become firmly reacquainted with the ground throughout the seven odd hours it took to see 'em through.
Return of the Mack
Another reason you'll be grinning like a loon this entire time is - you guessed it - that good old co-op mode. No longer relegated to just two mere players though, the beefing up to four here - not to mention the ability to play with 'em online at last - turns Halo's previously greatest asset into something of borderline perfection. It's just so much damn fun in fact, it defies words. But hell, I'll sure try.
|Four player co-op is absolutely crazy. Some speak of lag, but every one of our games has been smooth as a lubed up tool|
Halo's always been about those "moments", right? The culmination of superb AI, fab combat and mind-blowing physics creating those split second unscripted snapshots you just don't get in other games. Whether it be a stray grenade sending you off in hilarious directions, or a rogue vehicle performing a super-human stunt that you can't believe you just witnessed, it consistently fires off these second-by-second nuggets of brilliance that forever leave you gasping for air in fits of laughter. Unrepeatable ones at that, which you'll likely never see again, even if you were to reload and replay the same section over and over. That's the mark of a truly great game.
Throw in three buddies though? And both the quality and quantity of such moments shoots through the roof. Clambering aboard vehicles together, running each other over, taking down bosses in inventive new ways, or simply saving the day while your buddies lay there dead...the good times never end. I'm forever telling myself, "Yep. There goes another. One of my best videogame moments ever
Oddly enough, Halo 3's just as much a blast by yourself though, albeit in a completely different way. I say that with a disclaimer mind you, as it rings true only on the harder difficulty levels. Played via bog-standard "Normal"? It's pretty damn bland, truth be told. Ramped up to Heroic or Legendary though, the game springs to life. Random showdowns mutate into intense tactical warfare. Ammo becomes a luxury. Your radar, a godsend. And the aforementioned new "equipment"? The vital fourth dimension often seeing you through to victory amidst the darkest of times. I highly recommend a play through of the game is this way alongside the obligatory co-op fests.
All of the above culminate in a hell of a ride through the singl...err, quadri-player campaign mode then, but while I ramble on and on about the brilliance of these missions, let us not forget that two or three months from now, chances are they'll be long forgotten in favour of Halo 3's online versus mode. The mutated virus that's already infecting Xbox Live like the Flood itself, you could call it The World of Warcraft of the console universe.
While this game's multiplayer rendition is strikingly similar to that of its insanely popular predecessor - from game-modes to match-making to even the odd remade level - as I touched upon back in beta
-ville, it still manages to feel like a marked improvement at the same time. Tighter. Sleeker. Once again...more fun. For that, perhaps it deserves its no-doubt immense future popularity.
|The Arbiter returns, albeit for co-op reasons, and seems oddly cooler than since we last saw him. I wish they'd Flood-ed him up in the second half or something however, making his arc a wee bit more climactic|
That Theatre mode is what sold it to me though. Nailing a multiplayer match, single round or even an individual kill, then being able to save the video, re-watch it, and send it out to all your friends is that final piece of the puzzle that just brings it all together perfectly. A simple, beautiful feature that we've, well, arguably seen in one or two other games over the years, but certainly not to this extent, it deserves amazing kudos. Vital web integration with Bungie.net proves particularly impressive icing on the cake.
Ain't that enough? Has Halo 3 not made its case for game of the sodding century by now? Hell no, I haven't even touched upon the Forge. The weirdest damn thing
I think I've ever seen in a game, Forge can only be described as half level-editor, half-god mode, half multiplayer game...that's sorta impossible to do justice on
web site. Your chance to play Halo 3 truly unleashed though, it allows you to move and create items, weapons and vehicles, rework player spawn locations, and even alter game rules and settings, crafting both crazy new multiplayer modes, and utterly bizarre fun at once. But like I say, descriptions do it no justice, and your best bet would be to simply fire it up with some pals and discover its ludicrous joy for yourself. It's...just...freakin'...nuts.
Being able to save your results here as well, then (once again) share 'em over Live rounds off the Halo 3 suite with a huge old clump of originality, in a feature that could well give the game's multiplayer portion startling longevity as people grow bored of the bundled game-types and start crafting their own replacements. One such creation known as Rocket Race has already become a fan favorite across the world...and the game's only been out a bleedin' fortnight.
Finish the Fookin' Fight Already
|Pssst...truth be told, I think I still prefer the first game in spite of all the above gushings. Just by a minge hair though. Nostalgia's a powerful thing, I guess|
2500 words in and I could go on praising the game though, discussing the amazing new vehicles for instance, the superb "Skull" unlocks, the stroke of genius that is campaign scoring, the fan service of a final level, Grunt pi?atas, "You must be SILENCED!", and of course the hintings of that ambiguous "Legendary" ending to name but a few.
Why bother though? I don't really need to post a Halo 3 review do I? You've already got it. You know if you like it. I've just had so much bleedin' fun with this game for the past week or so that I felt the unbridled urge to share some of my thoughts, feelings and experiences so far. From the triumphant moment Tom beat the game for us on 4-player co-op, to the nail-biting draw of a multiplayer match I just had with Jam prior to scribbling down these words, Halo continues to dominate due to those aforementioned "moments". Snapshots in time that I'll never forget. And those - thanks to the scrumptious new Theatre mode - I can now watch over and over and over again until the end of time. Oh yes.
And for that reason, fellow Teepers, Halo 3 nabs itself our first ever and well-deserved...