I absolutely hate myself for writing this. You really have no idea how much this hurts me. Halo 3 is great. There, I said it.
After the Halo 2's
unforgivably poor ending and numerous technical issues I promised myself Halo 3
would be better. Then came the years of hype. I gradually became more and more sceptical that the game could ever live up to this level of expectation. In the end I think that was what saved it. I almost expected Halo 3
to be so bad that it was a pleasant surprise when it actually turned out to be... well, not bad at all really.
It's a long way from the fantastic pacing and story of the original Halo
, but Bungie's third outing goes some way to restoring my faith in the series.
Once again players reprise the role of the Master Chief, the last of a group of super soldiers known as Spartans. You stand as the last line of defence between Earth and the mighty force of the Covenant, a conglomerate of many different alien species all united in their religion. The covenant seek to propel themselves on their journey to paradise by activating the 7 Halo rings (which incidentally will destroy all life in the universe). There's also another alien race called The Flood involved somewhere along the line, who are controlled by some kind of hivemind (who, by the way, has kidnapped your artificial intelligence helper, Cortana).
It's not that the story is bad, it's just that you'll find it difficult to care. The elements of story that are there aren't very well presented, the cutscenes aren't very impressive and for a lot of the time the character's voices are just too quiet.
At the best of times it's disjointed and confusing, and it's not hard to believe that the game would have been much better without it.
Ultimately though, the (lack of) story is just about the worst criticism I can fairly level at Halo 3
. Maybe the single player campaign is a little on the short side, but Bungie have added a lot of replayability to it by including a score based meta game. The collectable skulls return, as does the insanely challenging legendary difficulty. The gameplay itself feels incredibly balanced, with weapons always feeling like they do an appropriate amount of damage. Enemies are smart, and not slow to lob a few grenades your way to try and flush you out when you're camping in a corner.
The graphics, whilst not the best the XBOX 360 has to offer, are nonetheless stylish, and evoke much of the feel of the previous two titles. The H.U.D has been streamlined slightly, and everything looks sharp in Hi-Definition. Grenade explosions are impressive, blink-and-you'll-miss-them affairs.
However, to really show off the technical prowess of the graphical engine you really need to check out the replay function. The one main innovation of Halo 3
turns out to be one of the best additions to a game (certainly one of the most revolutionary) in recent memory. Every FPS game with an online multiplayer component should incorporate this kind of replay function, because it's that damn good.
And ultimately, it's the multiplayer where this game shines. This really is the definition of next-gen. The level of 'net integration within the game is spectacular. You can take screenshots and upload them to the Bungie website for perusal later. You can recommend videos of your best moments to your friends. You can create and upload levels and game types using an incredibly robust editor. Going online gives you a detailed breakdown of all your stats, including who you've killed, what you killed them with and even where you killed them. The attention to detail is astounding.
Even the multiplayer itself has been tweaked to give the best player experience. You'll automatically be matched to people who are of the same skill levels as you, ensuring you get the best challenge without it ever feeling overwhelming. The wide variety of game modes is only hampered by the relatively small number of maps. Even trash talking, loud, screaming twelve year olds (the bane of console gamers everywhere) are reduced to humping your corpse in silence, thanks to a handy quick mute button.
I really wanted to hate Halo 3
. And to a certain extent I still do. I hate it for what it's done to me. It's turned me from a cynic into a drooling , gushing zealot.
And I couldn't be more grateful.