Aaahh, Halo 3. One would thing that this was the pinnacle of gaming; that it was the absolute end-all be-all of what video games had to offer our society. And, while it definitely falls short of the lofty titles that many a-Halo fans have bat around, it's ultimately a game you'll feel pretty "meh" about.
Allow me to explain in this short-ended segment here.
I believe, for all that Bungie set out to do, for all that they had time to do, and for every good idea that made it and every bad one that was cut, Halo 3 was destined to be a let-down. Bungie got away with two solid games that managed to catch on with the mainstream public and grow a cult-following until it became a massive media sensation. How the hell do you follow up something like that?
Bungie and Microsoft would like you to believe it's "Halo 3". I however, believe otherwise.
And that isn't to say that there isn't good content to be found here. There's plenty of it. However, it's usually few and far between and, the most important aspect to me (the story) is largely forgotten. The single-player is schizophrenic almost to the point of beyond repair, the story has been stapled and tacked on in hopes of people focusing on the game instead of that they have **** writers, and while the highly touted new features work well enough, my mind can't help but wander back to the point.
Where's the ****ing story?
That's what I paid $80 for, anyway. I wanted to see how it ended and, like others, wanted a gigantic, epic conclusion. We got a conclusion all right, but it wasn't epic.
I think, personally, that the defining aspect of Halo 3 is in its multiplayer, and, obviously, I'll discuss that first.Multiplayer
The idea behind it, I think, is to get a bunch of angry, angst ridden, pimple-faced, prepubescent children together and give them billy clubs to see who will prevail in an all-out battle to the death. However, since this practice would be considered illegal (and immoral), we have Halo 3's Multiplayer.
It's a solid system from the lobby, to matchmaking, to partying up and playing with random strangers for a few hours. It's a solid experience the whole way through (provided you're paired up with people who're just about even with you in terms of skill). While I had run into my fair share of idiots (most of them blindly calling me "Nigger"), I had persevered to find that there is actually a breadth of content in the multiplayer setting. The skill-based matchmaking system has been drastically improved in Halo 3 as opposed to Halo 2, so now you can actually stand a chance and won't get shanked right out of the gate in any match-type. There are a few odd times that this will still happen, but for the most part, it's still a pleasant experience.
The Forge mode is definitely a riot. There were many times where my friends and I decided to buddy up and instead of trying to find new ways of killing each other, see just what we could do with the physics. What we managed to create was a carnival of death that almost guaranteed your bloody end by stepping merely one foot away from any form of safety. If the carpet-bomb style barrels of explosives don't catch you, then something else will. Guaranteed.
I'm obviously not really that well versed in multiplayer games; I don't usually play that aspect, and the ones I do play tend to be lesser-known titles than that of the gargantuan Halo 3. It is because of this that I feel I am inadequately rating this system, or perhaps it's naivity. Either way, I think it deserves a nice, solid, B+ for solid matchmaking, solid game types, and a plethora of customization options that I really haven't seen outside outside of the Halo franchise. If you're a huge Multiplayer fan, I'd definitely recommend it on this alone. However, if you're into something that's more meaty on the single-player or even co-op side, you may want to look elsewhere.Single-player
The single-player experience which--for me, at least--makes up the majority of content for games, is relatively thin. This is supposed to be Bungie's magnum opus, and yet it comes off as little more than a pipe dream. All of the would'ves, should'ves, and could'ves that're packed into Halo 3 could rival that of Project Ego, to be honest. The game begins honestly enough with a cryptic, almost melancholy monologue from Cortana, and from there, the Chief is blasted to Earth and all hell breaks loose. Halo 3 does not pull any punches in and ignores long cut-scenes and story development to give you pulse-pounding, frantic shooting that can't be rivaled.
At least, that's what they said they'd deliver.
The truth about the single player is that it's neither horrible, nor great. The real killing blow I think, is the fact that's merely "okay". There are some bright moments, but those usually take place in the short cutscenes that are provided to you. The rest of it is mostly corridor or open field shooting that doesn't require much than a few equipment items and a well-honed sniping/tagging ability. The story, mostly, is you hopping from one section to another trying to stay alive in order to arrive at a certain place for another cutscene, in which case you'll be hopping to another place, killing Covenant and Flood all on the way, for yet another cutscene and another fetch quest. And while this may appear horrible on paper, the truth of it is, Bungie did an excellent job in only making it mediocre.
In comparison to the other games in the franchise (or even others in the genre), Halo 3 seems like a little child frantically screaming "Me, too!" at all of its competition. Other games have done this better. Although I think it's still an achievement that Halo 3's single player is merely "okay", while it should be downright awful, by all things considered.
There is a specific section that many have hate for; and that'd be the second-to-last level of the game. Since the game was not doled out in "levels", I can only assume that the press and fans alike are speaking of the snow-ridden run to shut down the Ark.
I can definitely see the frustration, and I can definitely understand why many are calling Bungie to give them a slap on the wrist for such a glaring, jarring, schizophrenic sense of pace. I honestly don't feel that it was an accident or even intentional on Bungie's part. I think they just ran out of things to cram into Halo 3 and decided on this.
And I think I have stumbled onto why I believe that Halo 3 has not lived up to all of its hype. I think, in all honesty, it has something to do with Bungie's creative end. Their idea of dramatic flare consists of killing off characters with little to no reason other than they could. While it could be lauded as "brave" of Bungie to kill off characters that were never essential to the series and would probably never be missed, I could definitely see the point they were trying to make. Honestly, I believe that point is "We had no idea how to proceed after Halo, so this is what you're getting".
I think the best way to define Halo 3's single player campaign is that, yes, it's short on story, and yes, it's terribly easy, and yes, it can be beaten in three hours with co-op enabled. I think I'm finding that, I (much like Bungie) am running out of things to say about the campaign. It didn't prove to be poignant like many hoped it would, and it didn't prove to be the colossal "Return of the King" final chapter that the fans had dreamed about. Instead it seems like the single player campaign is nothing but a boot camp for the multiplayer, and that's a sad state of affairs.Closing Thoughts
I honestly don't know how to feel about Halo 3, and that's the problem. If it was a horrible game, I could give it an F and be done with that. If I thought it was an orgasmic mecca of gaming that should be prayed to and fasted for, then I'd give an A.... but I think, sadly, I'm destined for the middle ground here. What we have with Halo 3 is not the mecca of gaming many thought it'd be, but instead another, ordinary first person shooter. All of the things that were mischievously eluded to and promised do not make the cut here. Things like the implied Battle for New Mombasa and even the Chief's epic, heroic sacrifice for the good of Earth is either completely fabricated for the sake of advertisements, or has had a bait-and-switch laid upon us. The latter being the most angering.
The graphics are not my gripe here. I found them slick and polished. The sound design is again, not a problem for me. I liked the orchestral music and thought it brought a real sense of importance to an otherwise average game. The problems I find are in the incoherent, schizophrenic pacing and the lack of any real direction. Not to mention the complete lack of story.
I know this is sounding like a negative review, but it's really not. These are genuine feelings that I had to conjure up because, quite honestly, Halo 3 didn't give any feeling. Was it great? no. Was it horrible? No.
The most damning thing, in the end, is not that Halo 3 was horrible or great, but that it was the most average shooter I've played in a long time.