My H3 review ported over from GS
(Old review that I wrote on GS)
Halo’s popularity isn’t doing it any favors. The flagship title for the
The story picks up hours after H2 left off, with Master Chief bailing out of the Prophet of Truth’s ship on its way to New Mombassa. I won’t say anything more about the story, except that it does a wonderful job of tying up (most of) the loose ends from H2’s much-detested cliffhanger while still delivering the usual quotient of surprises. It draws from both of its predecessors, bringing genuine and satisfying closure to the epic. Unfortunately, it doesn’t handle the details as well as the plot arc. After H2, it looked like the Prophet of Truth was thinking things he wasn’t saying, and the most glaring hole in H3’s plot is that Truth is essentially a different (and boring) character, a total waste of voice actor Terence Stamp’s considerable talent. Miranda Keyes has some equally excruciating dialogue, but they’re the exceptions to the rule. Ron Perlman (Lord Hood), David Scully (Sgt. Johnson), and Jen Taylor (Cortana) give their best work yet, especially Perlman, whose haggard performance as the man in charge of humanity’s last stand brings some real gravity to the story.
To go with the great story and great storytelling, Halo 3 has some gorgeous graphics. Some of them, anyway. The facial models are kind of weak, and Truth looks like he came out of a G.I. Joe mold, but the environments are spectacular. From the forests of the first level to futuristic structures (one day, rich folks will live in Forerunner facilities as well as Hobbit holes), the scenery is a great excuse to upgrade your TV. Flood lairs, by the way, look like a cross between a badly mildewed basement and a diseased intestine. Playing these levels is cemetery-after-dark times a thousand, and the Flood themselves are more disgusting and horrifying than ever. So is smashing them into a steaming pile of zombie chunks.
The core gameplay remains the same, and in spite of the revised controls, it should feel instantly familiar to fans of the series. Everyone’s favorite toys are still here, with some additions; the one-handed Brute Spiker, spike and firebomb grenades, an anti-vehicle laser, a flamethrower (is there anything better than setting hordes of zombies on fire?), the endlessly fun Gravity Hammer (yes, it’s that hammer) and more. The needler and assault rifle are both happily improved. New vehicles, including the UNSC Hornet, whose massive firepower makes up for its poor maneuvering, and the Brute Chopper, a variant on a Ghost that looks like something from a futuristic Dukes of Hazzard, round things out.
With the Elites now at war with the Covenant, the Brutes are now the main enemies. Fighting them works a little differently this time, and while the tried and true strategies still work, the revisions allow for other play styles as well. Sometimes, I’m disappointed at how easy they are to fight compared with the Elites of old, but I’m bloody well not disappointed when I’m outnumbered twenty to one. These “brute packs” present some of the game’s toughest, and most thrilling, moments, and finding a brilliant and effective strategy through them is simply the best experience in gaming. Epic vehicle battles are still awesome, like leading an airstrike against a Brute stronghold, and especially taking on the massive Covenant Scarab tanks. Warthog battles suffer from the incompetent friendly AI, which loves to unload the chaingun at a lone Grunt while a pair of enemy ground vehicles tears them apart. I do wish Bungie had implemented some sort of basic squad command system. But perhaps that’s an argument for co-op play. The enemy AI is still one of the best out there, although the Brutes lack the original Elites’ keen survival instincts. As I’ve noted in a few of my other reviews, I generally hate boss fights in shooters—the first game’s masterstroke was getting rid of them entirely, and Halo 3 gets back to this. (I don’t count the Scarabs as bosses, they’re just really big tanks.) Well, okay, there is one boss, but it’s 1) absurdly easy, even on Legendary, and 2) the answer to your prayers.
Great, you say, but what about the multiplayer? As awesome as the campaign is, the multiplayer has always been the main draw of the Halo franchise, and Halo 3 is the best one yet. Okay, so it plays a lot like it did in H2. But who cares? It’s still the best multiplayer out there, and the new features make it even better. “Equipment” is a new feature, allowing you to deploy portable grav lifts, drain your opponents’ shields, maintain your own, cloak on command, etc. New maps are diverse and well-designed. Online play is hiccup-free with minimal lag, Bungie.net’s online leaderboards and stat sheets are awesome, and then there’s the forge…
The Forge is Halo 3’s new map editor. You can move weapons, equipment, vehicles, props, etc. all over the map, set teleporters, revise spawn points, and more. Everyone starts out stacking fusion coils and plasma cores, then blowing them up. Hey, it’s fun. But everyone gets bored with that eventually. You can balance out an asymmetric map for 2 flag CTF, make one base into an impenetrable fortress for Assault, or invent entirely new gametypes. I revised “Epitaph,” a 2-level map full of walkways and gravity lifts, with teleporters that can lead you to better weapons…or into the abyss. One reviewer claims to have invented Gravity Hammer baseball with the forge. The possibilities are literally endless.
Another great, why-didn’t-they-think-of-this-sooner idea is Theater mode, which lets you review your campaign and single-player games in first person, or even from a custom third-person camera. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that they did this for Red vs. Blue, but anyone with an Internet connection can have endless fun with it. You can record that game of Slayer where you and your assault rifle took on five guys at once and won, document your brilliant strategy for killing that horde of Brutes, make your own video walkthrough, and more. You can even add voiceover with your headset, no fancy editing software required.
So is it worth it? Was it worth pre-ordering and joining a quarter-mile line at the stroke of midnight? Is the online multiplayer the new best reason to upgrade your internet connection? Does Halo 3 justify the hundreds you spent for your Xbox 360? Probably, yes, and mostly. The storytelling won’t win any Oscars, but it’s still just about the best ever put in a video game. The campaign gameplay is food for the soul. You can practically dedicate the rest of your life to the multiplayer without things ever getting repetitive. The endless list of things Halo 3 does well adds up to its most impossible achievement: just living up to the hype.