It's finally upon us. The most anticipated game of all time, the one that millions of people have been waiting for, is finally here. And it was worth the wait. (Please note that I've worked hard to keep this spoiler free. This review won't ruin the game for you, unless you want to be totally surprised of everything of course.
Love it or hate it, it isn't possible to deny the huge impact that the Halo series has had on gaming. Bringing together a fantastic story, excellent gameplay and astounding multiplayer, the first two games are known all over the world as some of the greatest first person shooters of the modern age.
That's a whole lot for Halo 3 to live up to. Luckily for us though, it betters the previous two games in almost every way.
As some people reading this may know, I'm not a fan of judging games by their graphics. I mean hardly a pre-rendered video goes by without someone commenting on how “Amazering dis gaim iz omg did u c teh grafics?” It just doesn't make any sense to do so. That's why the amount of people dissing Halo 3 during and after the Beta based on its graphics annoyed me. It's almost as if gameplay doesn't count these days. So ok, while the Beta graphics were admittedly a little bland, the full version of the game features much improved texturing and animation. Basically? They're amazing. Foliage, weapons, characters, vehicles, dirt, buildings and objects are all brilliantly designed and rendered perfectly. The level of detail is astonishing. I frequently found myself just stopping and looking at stuff. Mostly destroyed stuff, but hey, even that looks good.
Overall, Halo 3 does not have the greatest graphics on the 360. It more than makes up for this however with the fine polishing job Bungie have done. Their are very few graphical hiccups which as we all know, are much more damaging to immersion than less-than-perfect graphics are.
Near perfection has been achieved. At least in the sound department. Halo 3 from start to finish has some of the most epic music ever to be heard in a videogame. Whether you find yourself fighting a battle with a booming rock beat blasting from your speakers, or creeping through a corridor with a gentle, almost ethereal classical tune softly drifting out, the music always perfectly fits the situation.
The sound effects too are great, with almost every action having an exclusive accompanying sound. Guns crack loudly as you pump out round after round, plasma weapons... shwing? As bolt after bolt of energy is fired back at you. The significance of the sound is not to be overlooked. It is the most immersive feature of the game and with a good surround sound setup can cause aural orgasms. (In some cases, this may actually be possible. Care is advised.)
As for voice acting, it too is nearly flawless. All the characters are distinctive, with the actors managing to convey personality and emotion with their words. No small achievement considering they're just standing in front of a mic in a studio somewhere! Worthy of special note are Jen Taylor (Cortana), David Scully (Sgt. Johnson) and Keith David (The Arbiter). All three provide astounding voice work and make the game just that little bit more believable.
The only problem seems to be with the Master Chief. (Steve Downes) Though Steve is a great voice actor and is well suited to the role, the Chief is quite... wooden. As with the previous two games, the character of the Chief is quite bland, never showing any sort of emotion or even the slightest interest in the events unfolding around him. While this is fixed to a certain extent with Halo 3, the Chief is still wholly underdeveloped. I can't help but wonder how different the game would be if he had more personality. Again, this is a small point and is an improvement from the statue like Master Chief of the last two games.
Jen David Keith Steve
Fun. An important word in the world of videogames, fun has become somewhat of a legend these days. With more and more serious, politically or religiously charged games, rehashes and sequels and just plain old stinkers rearing their ugly head, few games have any or enough fun. The ability to make you smile, to make you have a good time while playing. To care about what's happening in the game. That's how I define fun. Using this definition, I have come up with a graph to show Halo's fun factor compared to several other First Person Shooter games.
As you can see in this highly scientific study, Halo is the clear winner.
Taking the classic Halo gameplay, injecting some steroids into it and then running through a war zone with only a kilt on is just what Halo 3 does. Perhaps not in that order. Everything that was good about the last two games is here, everything that made them special has been taken and improved upon. The action comes thick, fast and frantic as the game throws dozens of enemies at you again and again. The small spaces in between battles (really small spaces) can sometimes feel a bit on the platformish side, with the Chief running around jumping over conveniently placed obstructions. Then back into another firefight, or perhaps a vehicular situation. With the choice of vehicles much larger this time around, certain events can be approached in a variety of ways. Will you fly over to that clump of enemy soldiers peppering them with fire, or drive straight through them? They aren't major descisions, but decisions they are and that has got to be worth something.
Perhaps the games strongest overall single player component is the AI. While the ally AI can be.. retardedly retarded at times, the enemy AI shines as a true achievement. They flank, they ambush, they hunt, they work together, they flee and they are smart. Smarter even perhaps than the developers. Smarter even than you. Truly outstanding, the AI can certainly give you a run for your money on Legendary and depending on your skill, Heroic difficulty too. (If it challenges you at any difficulty below them, get out of my review now.)
The controls are slightly changed from the last game. RB has replaced our beloved X button as the main action button, with X taking the role of equipment deployer. (Equipment being the new grenades, shields etc. All of which are well balanced and suit the game well I might add) Other than that, there aren't really any changes. The 360 controller suits the game well and playing never gives you a hand strain or causes you to tear your controller apart in frustration. So yeah... controls are ace. Overall, Halo 3 has honest-to-Goldie Hawn brilliant gameplay. Nuff Said.
Do I even need this paragraph? Is it even necessary? Will anyone not know that the best thing about Halo is it's multiplayer? Is anyone blind enough not to love it's amazing four payer co-op which completely changes the game and allows you to experience it with friends having a jolly good laugh all the way? Can you resist the charms of the forge mode, a map editor that allows you to jump into a game, edit the map to your liking and duke it out, throwing warthogs and tanks at your enemy or crushing them under a giant crate?
How about the file sharing? Anyone not interested in taking screenshots, videos, gametypes and maps and sharing them with friends? Surely no-one doesn't like its perfect (yes I said perfect) match-making system that pits you against people of similar talent! You know what, I don't think this paragraph is necessary after all. I mean, I'd only be talking non-stop about how brilliant it is and the hoursdaysweeks (depending on your survival-without-anything-else ability) of fun to be had schooling noobs in the art of teh teabag.
Though not without its faults (some of which are not mentioned above) Halo 3 is certainly the best overall game of this generation. An amalgam of a great single player experience and a groundbreaking multiplayer one, it's sure not to disappoint all but the most hardened anti-MSBungieXbox fanboys. I can see no reason why not to buy this game if you have an Xbox 360. You have nothing to lose, but a hell of a lot to gain.
Lock and load ladies and gents, it's time to finish the fight.