Halo 3 review. Just what the Xbox 360 ordered!

23 January 2008
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Halo 3 for Xbox 360Halo 3 is the third game in the Halo Trilogy and the Xbox 360-exclusive gives a thrilling conclusion to the events begun in Halo: Combat Evolved on the Xbox back in 2001. Halo 3 picks up where Halo 2 left you hanging… The Master Chief is returning to Earth to finish the fight. The Covenant occupation of Earth has uncovered a massive and ancient object beneath the African sands, an object who’s secrets have yet to be revealed. Earth’s forces are battered and beaten. The Master Chief’s A.I. companion Cortana is still trapped in the clutches of the Gravemind, a horrifying Flood intelligence, and a civil war is raging in the heart of the Covenant.

“This is how the world ends…”

Halo 3 Xbox 360 screenshot
System: Xbox 360
Genre: First-Person Shooter
Release dates: September 25th 2007 (USA), September 26th 2007 (EURO)
Players: single player, 1-4 (online) co-op and 1-16 multiplayer
Developer: Bungie Studios
Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
Origin: America

Halo 2 for XboxHalo: Combat Evolved for Xbox
If you want to start playing Halo 3 without having played 2001’s first Halo game or its 2004 sequel Halo 2, I suggest reading and watching the videos and storyline text for both Halo games, as well as the summary of the books on that page that fill out the blanks in between the games.

This Halo 3 short movie shows what’s happening down on Earth as Master Chief returns and UNSC troops move to intercept him. This feature clears up how Halo 3’s campaign starts. Watch the Landfall video:

The Mission: The Covenant control Earth. The Flood is unleashed. With the fate of the galaxy hanging in the balance, Master Chief is the only one that can save the human race. The entire epic story arc has led up to this moment. Master Chief, the last of his kind, is a warrior born for combat, bred for war… and humanity’s only hope.

The Blockbuster Saga Concludes. After stowing away on a Forerunner spacecraft, Master Chief, a genetically altered, cybernetically enhanced Spartan supersoldier, must race back to Earth to stop the Covenant once and for all and save mankind. With his artificial intelligence companion Cortana in the grip of the Flood’s intelligent embodiment, Gravemind, Master Chief and his allies are vastly outnumbered. But the stakes are too high to do anything but face them head on.

A Desperate Enemy: A Desperate War. In Halo 3, the third installment of this legendary epic, the war has come to a climax – the Flood continue to grow in numbers and strength, the armies of Earth are scattered and decimated, and the Covenant threaten to activate the Halo, effectively destroying all life in the galaxy. Master Chief’s mission: to stop the Covenant, destroy the impending Flood threat and ultimately save mankind.

Watch the Halo 3 launch trailer.

The first-person shooter gameplay of Halo 3 is similar to the previous games in the series, taking place mainly on foot, but also includes sections focused on vehicle combat, be it on the ground or airbound. The balance of weapons and objects in the game was adjusted to better adhere to what Bungie Studios Multiplayer Designer Lars Bakken describes as the “Golden Triangle of Halo”. These are “weapons, grenades, and melee”, which are available to a player in most situations. Halo 3 contains the ability to dual-wield to get the combined firepower of two weapons at the same time, instead of fighting with grenades and melee attacks.

Your arsenal of weapons available includes many series’ favorites that have received that look a little better and their power has been tuned. Halo 3 introduces “support weapons”, which are exceptionally large, powerful, and cumbersome two-handed weapons which drastically limit the player’s normal combat options and slow them significantly, offering greatly increased firepower in return. For example, you can rip a turret from its Warthog or fort mounting and take it with you. In addition to new weapons, there’s a new class of usable items called Equipment of which you can carry one at a time: these items are found like weapons and have various effects and functions, ranging from defensive screens to shield regeneration and enemy confusion. New vehicles like the Brute Chopper and UNSC Hornet can be controlled, but some are A.I.-controlled like the Anti-Air Wraith and sadly Scarab. Certain vehicles controllable in campaign are not available by default in multiplayer and then some are only controllable in multiplayer.

Xbox 360 Live 12 Month Gold CardPlease remember that online multiplayer on the Xbox 360 is only available if you’re subscribed to Xbox Live Gold, luckily for those of you with an Xbox Live Silver account, as far as I’m aware every copy of Halo 3 comes with a free 2-day trial for Xbox Live Gold. Try it out, because 4-player online co-op and up to 16-player online multiplayer are such crazy fun and fine-tuned modes, that you have to have experienced them at least once in your life.

New features in Halo 3 include: 1. Forge, a map-editing tool that enables players to insert game objects, such as weapons and crates, into existing multiplayer maps. Almost all weapons, vehicles, and interactive objects can be placed and moved on maps with Forge. Forge allows multiple players to work on maps at the same time, players can turn into a Forerunner Monitor and edit and manipulate objects in-game. 2. Saved films, which allows players to save up to 100 films of gameplay to their Xbox 360’s hard drive, viewing the action from any angle (the camera can be detached from first-person view) and at different speeds. The Saved films are only game data (not an actual video) and this allows the file sizes to be smaller than a true recording and they’ll be recreated in real-time. Saved films can be replayed at whatever resolution the Xbox 360 is currently set to, regardless of which resolution was used when the film was recorded. Halo 3 offers a form of file sharing, where items such as saved films, screenshots (you can take these from films), custom game modes, and Forge settings can all be uploaded to the File Share. Anyone can browse user created content that has been uploaded to Bungie’s website on a PC and tag it to automatically download to their console next time they sign into Xbox Live.

The multiplayer designer at Bungie goes in-depth about the new features of Halo 3 multiplayer. Watch the multiplayer developer walkthrough.

Take a look at the third-person support weapons, bubble shield, and more, in the second part of the multiplayer developer walkthrough.

Key gameplay features:

* Next-generation experiences. With the power of the Xbox 360, Halo 3 raises the bar on the next-generation gameplay experience with non-stop action, an incredible story, massive battles, and visually stunning worlds.

* Stunning single-player action. Epic and compelling storytelling on a scale never before seen in interactive entertainment with new weapons, characters and challenges. You can experience Master Chief’s greatest battle as he transcends greatness and becomes a legend.

* Xbox Live multiplayer redefined. Working in concert with Xbox Live on Xbox 360, Halo 3 builds upon the unique social multiplayer experience of Halo 2 and promises to enhance the innovative and evolving online gameplay of Halo 2 on Xbox Live.

Halo 3 4-player co-op screenshot

Key technology features:

* Evolution of a Blockbuster. Taking full advantage of the power of Xbox 360, Halo 3 will expand on everything that has made the Halo franchise great and will add a wealth of technical advancements.

* Next-generation, high-definition visuals. Presented in stunning HD with a resolution of 720p and 1080i/p (scaled from 1152×640), see the well-known Halo universe as it’s never been seen before. State of the art HDR (High Dynamic Range) lighting makes every scene look and feel like the real thing, from terrifying gloom to dazzling sunshine, adding more detail to every weapon, more texture to every character, and more realism to every battle.

* Enhanced A.I. Countless foes, each with their own distinct personality, strategy and fighting style, make for better encounters and more replay value, which will culminate in larger scale combat than ever before witnessed on the Halo battlefield.

* Split-screen support. Staying true to the original games, Halo 3 will support four player split-screen and system link gameplay, letting gamers battle it out both online via Xbox Live or with a group of friends right in their own living rooms.

* In-depth stat tracking and standings. Made famous as a key component of the renowned Halo 2 multiplayer experience, Bungie.net will continue to innovate how gamers track their progress, as they view their rankings and stats in real-time.

* Fully positional Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound. Duck as a rocket sizzles over head. Take action as the footsteps of a Covenant adversary echo in the distance. Every sound in Halo 3 is fully positional, bringing the world of Halo to an even more vivid level of realism.

Watch a Halo 3 gameplay montage.

In conclusion let’s see how much fun Halo 3 is on a scale from 1 to 10?

FUN FACTOR – 10
Halo 3 Legendary Edition for Xbox 360Halo 3 takes the best parts from Halo 1 and 2 and improves them to first-person shooter perfection. As epic as it was anticipated. It’s like your favorite comfy chair, sit down and relax, because you know you’ll have some fun. It’s no surprise that as of January 3rd, 2008, Halo 3 has sold 8.1 million copies worldwide. Daily around 1 million of those gamers are actively playing the multiplayer online for hours. A true statement of it’s playability thanks to the community features as a level creator (Forge), saved films (for bragging rights) and all the addictive multiplayer modes. As for the story mode with its huge scale, the best tip I can give you without spoilers is that after you finish the main campaign, keep watching your TV screen until after the credits stop rolling! You’ll be replaying it a lot too thanks to the brilliant 4-player online co-op. Since I bought my copy at launch, now that I’ve waited almost four months for the hype to die down, I can safely recommend Halo 3 for shooter and sci-fi fans. But really, it’s a must-have for every Xbox 360 owner!

Graphics – 9.0
While maybe not the best on the system, the graphics are technically impressive in such a way that they allow you to see distances of up to ten miles away in 3D and conjure up amazingly huge explosions. Halo 3 uses normal, bump, and parallax mapping to give surfaces more detail and then there’s tech in action that allows for High Dynamic Range, motion blurring, global lighting and depth of field effects within cutscenes, all the while maintaining a steady framerate as you play. The enemies look cool yet fierce. Maps are better designed than in the previous games and while the buildings are all very dark, the game’s art style is very colorful overall. Which you’ll see in both the many flashy special effects and in the environments, as you move from locations like jungles to deserts to snow planes.

Audio – 10
The music is a bombastic mix of old and new tunes composed again by Marty O’Donnell and performed by large orchestras that sound completely epic in 5.1 surround sound. You can also add your own custom soundtracks to the game background music. The sound effects are fantastic and make for an immersive ambiance, gunshots sound real and are satisfying. All in all there are over 50,000 pieces of audio, with nearly 40,000 of those being non-playable character dialogues! Reprising their fantastic and believable roles in Halo 3 are Jen Taylor as Cortana, David Scully as Sergeant Johnson and the Elites, Keith David as the Arbiter, Tim Dadabo as 343 Guilty Spark, Ron Perlman as Lord Hood, Robert Davi as Rtas Vadum, and of course Steve Downes as the voice of Master Chief. The game also features new voices from the likes of former Firefly cast members Nathan Fillion, Adam Baldwin, Alan Tudyk, and there are appearances from Battlestar Galactica’s Katee Sackhoff and Gears of War lead John DiMaggio.

Ingenuity – 9.5
All your Halo controls are back, feels like home. Halo 3 is built the way fans of the series want it to be with easy controls for the four player online co-op, a level editor, screenshots (the one at the start of the review is of me playing with Master Chief), and the best matchmaking system in the world. It has a full theater mode. Level editing is live and collaborative, and even part of the multiplayer itself. Co-op includes a deep scoring system that provides welcome competition while battling together. While the difficulty can be unbalanced in the later campaign levels, what action there is, is thrown at you for maximum adrenaline-pumping action. It’s advised to play with people as the team A.I. isn’t perfect in its teamwork execution and driving skills, but you’re the star of the story filled with chaos so who cares. On top of all that’s great the game allows players to share their film clips, screenshots, Forge maps and custom gametypes with each other, with additional gameplay statistics collected on Bungie.net. While none of these features are new to video games, they have never been so honed to perfection and thoroughly and accessibly incorporated into an extremely full-fledged experience.

Replay Value – 10
Depending on the difficulty mode you choose and your play style (facing matters head-on is quick, but explorers take their sweet time) you can expect to spend anywhere from 8 to 10 hours playing through the single player campaign, and you’ll want to revisit the action-filled levels multiple times, especially to play (online) co-op with up to four players, it’s fun if they are your friends. The multiplayer mode is what drives the game with what feels like near-infinite replayability thanks to the Forge map editor, downloadable map packs and lots and lots of fun multiplayer modes that have a community in the millions. What I’m trying to say is that if you enjoy the multiplayer only so-so you’ll still be playing Halo 3 for weeks if not months, but if you LOVE the multiplayer in the Halo series you’ll be able to play Halo 3 until probably 3-6 years from now when “Halo 4” or whatever Bungie will call it comes out.

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About the author

Ferry Groenendijk By Ferry Groenendijk: He is the founder and editor of Video Games Blogger. He loved gaming from the moment he got a Nintendo with Super Mario Bros. on his 8th birthday. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook and at Google+.


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